Navigating Complexity Empowering Connections Driving Solutions 2020/21 ANNUAL REPORT
Just over a year ago, I became dean of the Northeastern College of Science. It was shortly after Mr. George Floyd had been murdered by police, and in the midst of a terrifying global pandemic. Northeastern and the College of Science were new to me. It was clear that if we were to go forward in the landscape of racial injustice and within the uncertain pandemic framework, we needed to work together as one community. We needed an overarching value of respect, with a clear statement against systemic racism and toward an equitable college. Northeastern was my destination because it seemed the most innovative university around, a place where we could invent the future of science and higher education, and that is true! I am so honored to be part of this great college and university. The Northeastern College of Science is a place of highest sophistication, a great nexus of powerful research, top-quality education, dynamic innovation, and outstanding administration that runs our departments and units. The overarching goals I set out can be readily stated as “promoting excellence across all spheres of the College of Science—research, education, and innovation.” A corollary is to promote the brightest trajectory for every member of our College— students, faculty, and staff. I further set out a more granular set of crucial goals that are flexible and can evolve.
Last year was tough by anyone’s standards. It was scary, unexpected, and required enormous effort to get through. Taking education online at a moment’s notice, taking it into NUflex, closing research, painstakingly reopening it, dealing with the pandemic as a kind, calm, and creative community. Keeping our administration running, but also reorganizing and expanding. Providing careful financial stewardship. Hiring new college members. Working remotely and productively. Keeping Northeastern open safely, which has been so successful. We are proud that the Northeastern Life Sciences Testing Center, so expertly monitoring COVID-19 infection, is directed by Jared Auclair, faculty in chemistry and chemical biology and associate dean.
Across a culture of respect and equity, we are solving the greatest challenges of our planet, with groundbreaking fundamental and applied research.
And I’m delighted to report that together, we achieved a great deal. We are building a respectful, equitable community. We’ve built new communications mechanisms. We’ve made brilliant staff and faculty hires across the demographics of society, including through our INVEST mechanism. Our Connected PhD (joint with The PhD Network) promotes vast career opportunities. We have raised many millions in research funding for projects that will solve the great challenges of society and the planet. And we’ve developed a hybrid work landscape, freeing up valuable research space.
Through innovative, research-linked, experiential education, our students are empowered to be confident, entrepreneurial problem-solvers, with
Indeed, congratulations! We have exceeded all expectations! I am deeply grateful for the thoughtful and extensive contributions of every College of Science member this past academic year. I am enormously appreciative of our donors and supporters for being part of this important journey toward ever-greater excellence. Thank you for the honor of this collegial, productive, mind-expanding first year at Northeastern University.
flexible skills for a vast set of careers.
The College of Science
Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Marine & Environmental Sciences
College of Science Leadership
Hazel Sive, Dean College of Science, Northeastern University
PRIORITIES OF DEAN SIVE FOR THE NORTHEASTERN COLLEGE OF SCIENCE • Build a Culture of Respect and Equity • Communicate the Good Power of Science • Solve the Greatest Research Challenges of Our Planet • Reinvent the PhD • Promote Innovative Education Across the World • Increase Undergraduate Research • Construct an Entrepreneurship Landscape • Define Science Space and Work of the Future
A year like no other. A college like no other. Applying research excellence to solve the most pressing challenges of humanity, our planet, and beyond. Promoting bold collaborations across the college and around the world. Devising creative, flexible training to prepare graduates for brilliant careers, across the changing face of work. Building a framework of respect, equity, and kindness. These are the accomplishments that helped the College of Science soar to new heights this year. PRIORITIZING EXCELLENCE, RESPECT AND CONNECTION
Through a complex pandemic year, the College of Science remained committed to groundbreaking research and the highest quality education. Our philosophy embraces connection, within an overarching culture of respect and equity. Through cycles of connection, our research excellence advances science education. At the same time, those educated in the college advance scientific research. That research then becomes the source of applied innovations, while our experiential learning model powers the next generation of innovators. Most important, everyone connected with the college—from students and researchers to faculty to staff—is valued for their contribution to COS success. This is the empowering connectivity that drives COS to powerful solutions.
A Culture of Respect and Action Toward Equity The College of Science is committed to promoting a culture of respect and action toward equity in every sphere. In July 2020, COS appointed the first Associate Dean of Equity at Northeastern. Our actions reinforce our commitment—a cross-college survey gathered data concerning experiences from all members, helping to inform, establish, and evaluate college equity-focused efforts. A powerful Equity, Justice, Inclusion, and Diversity committee includes students, faculty, and staff who are helping to catalyze COS actions. We are committed to promoting college representation across the demographics of society.
During the year, Northeastern took bold steps to successfully navigate the pandemic and provide in-person education, which included a huge effort from the College of Science. NUflex, a high-tech hybrid education program, was rapidly instituted, allowing classes and training labs to proceed in person and online simultaneously. The Northeastern Life Sciences Testing Center was opened, providing bestin-the-world monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 infection across our community, which kept the campus safe. Through the pandemic, signature Northeastern experiential education continued. Research breakthroughs advanced. And innovation in myriad forms flourished. This is the power of Northeastern University and the College of Science.
Solving the greatest challenges of our planet through the power of science.
COS CONNECTS encompasses who the Northeastern College of Science is and what we do. We connect as one community, working together, across the college. Through groundbreaking cross-disciplinary research, we connect with collaborators across Northeastern and the world. Our students connect with employers and vast opportunities in experiential education. We connect through our global campuses for broad student experiences, as well as across Boston and the world for powerful research and education. We connect with our Boston community, for example, through our math department’s Bridge to Calculus program for students in the Boston Public Schools community. And in our COS Connects program for alumni, parents, and friends, COS faculty members give insight into our research projects at the frontiers of science.
College of Science At-a-Glance
HIGHEST LEVEL OF DONOR SUPPORT Our fundraising results this year demonstrate commitment from our alumni, parents, friends, and industry partners. This year we surpassed our goals across all strategic areas of the college. This will enable us to continue to provide funding for our top priorities: • Support undergraduate student access and scholarship • Expand resources for graduate and PhD training • Provide experiential learning experiences • Reaffirm the college’s priority of equity and inclusivity • Enhance our research profile • Engage the community in powerful science education
DEPARTMENTS Broad-ranging programs in physical sciences, life sciences, and mathematics that provide a deep understanding of emerging research and technology • Biology • Chemistry and Chemical Biology • Marine and Environmental Sciences • Mathematics • Physics • Psychology In addition, we also offer programs such as linguistics, professional master’s degrees, graduate certificate programs, and a pre-health track open to all undergraduate majors.
square feet operated and managed by COS in Boston and Nahant, Massachusetts.
of our space is occupied by research laboratories and facilities.
buildings on the Boston and Nahant campuses, with additional presence at other Northeastern locations, including the Innovation Campus at Burlington.
newly hired faculty members brought our faculty to 267, including 126 tenured, 36 tenure track, and 105 non-tenure-track; 30 faculty members have joint appointments.
invested this year in renovating research facilities and associated projects to create more lab space.
MAJOR INSTITUTES Hubs of research, discovery, and innovation • Network Science Institute • Chemical Imaging of Living Systems Institute • Coastal Sustainability Institute • Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis
A VIBRANT, THRIVING COLLEGE OF SCIENCE
Making an impact: equity-focused programming Equity-focused programming within the college is reaching participants through dynamic programming such as the COS Black History Month Science Symposium, which attracted COS faculty, students, staff, and alumni.
RESEARCH CENTERS Focusing on common goals in health, sustainability, and security • Antimicrobial Discovery Center • Center for Cognitive and Brain Health • Center for Complex Network Research • Center for Drug Discovery • Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Complex Systems • Marine Science Center • Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology • Center for Translational NeuroImaging • Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Lab • Nanomedicine Innovation Center • New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute
Northeastern undergraduates are renowned for their high level of scholarship and achievement, as evidenced by their attainment of extremely prestigious academic awards. In 2020, a College of Science student was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the premier national merit-based award for undergraduate students in STEM fields. In 2021, two College of Science undergraduates earned the award. All three represent the best of Northeastern’s model of experiential education focused on use-inspired research to solve pressing global challenges. They all intend to pursue PhDs or combination MD/PhDs. 5
Research excellence focused on our planet’s greatest challenges.
Using sediment and bacterial markers to reconstruct climate history. Creating biologically fabricated materials from engineered microbes. Understanding and classifying uniform polyhedra. As a key part of an R1 national research university, COS focuses on both fundamental and applied research, primarily in the areas of health, sustainability, and security. Our research teams include undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, research staff, and administrative support people, working with faculty from widely varied disciplinary backgrounds, national origins, and cultures. Hundreds of College of Science undergraduates participated in some form of research activity last year, whether for credit, as part of a co-op experience, or in a volunteer capacity. Research is an important way that students learn to think about solving complex problems— training that is useful for any next career or educational step.
COLLABORATIVE AND CONNECTED At COS, research spans across our departments to other Northeastern colleges and into the global scientific community beyond. Our external research partners include Harvard University, Tufts University, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rice University, the University of Illinois, and the University of California system. International collaborations include projects with Tel Aviv University, the University of Cape Town, the Helmholtz Association, and Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
SEX DIFFERENCES AND THE RESPONSE TO FEAR AND STRESS Because women are twice as likely as men to develop stress-related disorders such as major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, COS psychology department researchers led by associate professor Rebecca Shansky understand that relevant research in female animals is particularly important. The team is focusing on neural connections and sex differences to define how a specific circuit processes fear and responds to stress. By correlating structural information with behavioral measures, they can identify indicators of vulnerability and resilience.
STRONG FUNDING GROWTH COS faculty were awarded nearly $44.7M in research funding in FY 21. Sources included the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as numerous industry partners, foundations, conservancies, and research centers, including:
Advent Technologies Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Biogen Idec Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Department of Veterans Affairs VA Boston Genzyme National Academy of Sciences Novartis Pharmaceuticals Retina Research Foundation The Nature Conservancy Thermo Fisher Scientific
HOW KEYSTONE PREDATORS CAN MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE Sea otters are “keystone species”—meaning that their presence keeps an entire ecosystem in balance. Justin Ries and researchers in the COS marine and environmental sciences department are looking at the vital role that keystone predators play in protecting their ecosystems that may help mitigate the effects of climate change. 7
SELECTED COS RESEARCH FUNDED SINCE JULY 2020 DEPARTMENT
AREAS OF INVESTIGATION
• Antibiotic discovery • Stem cells and regeneration • Movement neuroscience
Chemistry and Chemical Biology
• Theoretical and computational chemistry • Drug discovery and design • Ultra-high sensitivity proteomic analysis
Marine and Environmental Sciences
• Evolutionary patterns and mechanisms of trait diversification in the antarctic fishes • Adaptation and resiliency of species to climate change • Dynamics and impacts of plastics in our oceans
• Geometric analysis, microlocal partial differential equations, mathematical physics • Probability theory in discrete systems and statistical physics • Applied algebra, biomedical applications, machine learning
• Astronomy and astrophysics; search for dark matter and dark energy • Advanced bioimaging • Quantum information
• Neurobiology, environment, and behavior • Brain plasticity and adaptability • Perceptual learning and spatial vision
AWARDS, RECOGNITION, AND FELLOWSHIPS National Science Foundation CAREER Awards were won by COS faculty members Katie Lotterhos, Assistant Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences, and Max Bi, Assistant Professor of Physics. This prestigious recognition honors early-career faculty who combine innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology with education and community engagement. Lotterhos’s research projects include responses of marine invertebrates to ocean acidification and pollution, the population dynamics of fisheries with applications to management and marine reserve design, and methods development in statistical genomics. Bi’s research explores how cells migrate in tissues, with the aim of improving our fundamental understanding of cancer, asthma, and other diseases associated with skin and similar tissues within the linings of the body. Other notable awards and recognitions include: • Juliet Davidow, American Psychology Association Rising Star • Penny Beuning, American Chemical Society Fellow • Charles Hillman, Geoffrey Trussell and Lisa Feldman Barrett, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows • Alessandro Vespignani, 2020 Euler Award, for his foundational role in the field of network epidemiology
FIGHTING COVID THROUGH INFECTIOUS DISEASE MODELING The COS Network Science Institute, led by physics professor Alessandro Vespignani, discovers fundamentally new ways to measure, model, predict, and visualize interconnectivity of social, physical, and technological systems. Since COVID-19 struck, the institute’s leading experts in infectious disease have been working closely with public health agencies and government leaders to model COVID-19 spread prediction. Their deep knowledge, powerful models, and connection to real-time events helped NetSci members become the go-to people for media communications.
BREADTH OF PUBLICATIONS: FROM SPECIALIZED JOURNALS TO MAINSTREAM PRESS
Celebrating our STARS Seven incoming COS PhD students were awarded the prestigious two-year Strategic Advancement of Rising Scholars (STARS) fellowships from the National Science Foundation. These awards are given to students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science.
In 2020–2021, COS researchers published more than 500 articles describing fundamental discoveries and addressing critical societal issues; many of their findings are already being cited in professional journals. COS researchers have also been featured broadly, appearing in National Geographic, Wired, Bloomberg, Stat News, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Washington Post, and others. Books published by College of Science faculty include Lisa Feldman Barrett’s highly popular Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain.
CONNECTING STUDENTS, PARENTS, ALUMNI, AND DONORS TO OUR IMPORTANT RESEARCH
To streamline the grants process and bolster college stewardship of sponsored research, we effectively reorganized grants administration in 2020. What was once a single entity is now composed of two teams, one dedicated to preaward administration and the other specializing in post-award management.
CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH DEMANDS STATE-OF-THE-ART INSTRUMENTATION AND TECHNOLOGIES
Two initiatives are bringing our research to broader audiences. The new monthly Cross-COS Colloquium bridges all departments, showcasing our faculty, their interdisciplinary research, and their professional journeys. COS Connects: Research at the Frontier highlights top research areas and engages a wide-ranging audience with presentations and discussion of cutting-edge discoveries.
These are just some of the powerful tools at the disposal of COS scientists, providing key data to understand processes that govern optimal organ function that may be disrupted in disease and to assess pioneer therapeutic compounds. • Zeiss LSM 880 Airyscan Confocal Microscope: provides super-resolution imaging • Zeiss Lightsheet Z1 Microscope: allows large-scale 3-D tissue imaging • Bruker Biospec 3T MRI: allows imaging of brain activity in small animals
• Beckman Coulter Cytoflex SRT Cell Sorter: enables populations of cells to be characterized, sorted, and analyzed • Nanotemper Microscale Thermophoresis Instrument: facilitates characterization of protein-protein and protein-compound interactions 9
Empowering entrepreneurial problem solvers.
Designing innovative, research-linked curricula that attract the most promising learners. Delivering rich, experiential learning opportunities. Creating a culture of respect that builds confidence and belonging. This is the exciting educational environment that empowers students at the College of Science and sets them up for outstanding careers. RECORD ENROLLMENTS ACROSS THE COLLEGE Undergraduate programs continue to flourish. Graduate programs are thriving. The year 2021 was a banner one for COS undergraduate enrollments, topping 3,000 for the first time, with an average student GPA of 4.35. This incoming class was 68% female and 32% male, reflecting our commitment to bring more women into the STEM fields. In 2021 COS had almost 1,000 graduate students across our master’s, PhD, and certificate programs.
PROFESSIONAL MASTER’S PROGRAMS MEET RAPIDLY EVOLVING NEEDS
94% CO-OP PLACEMENT SUCCESS Northeastern’s signature cooperative education program brings academic learning to life for COS students at every level. Students gain unparalleled pathways to develop or advance their professional skills, engage with valuable contacts, and explore career options. Despite furloughs, hiring freezes, and a world on lockdown, the College of Science achieved 94% co-op placement last academic year. In the 2020–2021 school year, 1,332 undergraduate and graduate students worked in top healthcare institutions and clinics, biotechnology companies, and research labs, learning the work landscape and making essential contributions—from the race for COVID-19 vaccines to tackling climate change.
SAMPLE COLLEGE OF SCIENCE CO-OP EMPLOYERS 2020–2021
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Harvard University Mass. Bay Brewing Company Massachusetts General Hospital Moderna Therapeutics New England Aquarium PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC Ropes & Gray LLP Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
COS partners with cutting-edge companies to develop work-aligned learning opportunities beyond the co-op. Professional master’s programs are designed with input from our industrial advisory board to ensure that curriculum and content address industry needs. Students master in-demand technical skills, as well as the problem-solving, critical-thinking, and communication capabilities necessary for leadership roles. Students in our master’s in biotechnology program receive advanced interdisciplinary training in biology, chemistry, chemical engineering, and pharmaceutical science as well as high-value business skills. Ten concentrations allow students to customize and specialize their training.
REINVENTING THE PhD
CO-OPS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The rigid structure of the traditional PhD does not prepare trainees for the vast set of careers open to graduates. Today, scientists are called upon to be not only experts in their discipline, but also skilled communicators, managers, leaders, policymakers, and innovators. To meet this need, COS has created the Connected PhD, which infuses professional training, crossdisciplinary research, and work experience, and is already attracting a new generation of doctoral candidates.
Through the co-op education program, psychology undergraduate Yolanda Whitaker had the opportunity to work on research projects targeting cognitive processes, such as impulsivity and interpretation bias. Together with knowledge gained in the classroom, the student will be presenting her research project at a national conference.
Summer Bridge program goes university-wide For the past five years, the College of Science has partnered with the College of Engineering to offer a joint Summer Bridge diversity program for pre-matriculated freshmen. In 2021, this program will expand across the university.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION Many COS undergraduate and graduate students are recognized for their achievements in the classroom, in research groups, in co-ops, and across the university community. Here are some of the 2020/2021 recipients: Barry Goldwater Scholarship For the fourth year in a row, students from the college received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship: Shellaina Gordon in 2020, and Sabrina Bond and Cameron Young in 2021. COS Compass Award Jingwen Ren
NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship Jessica Gould GEM Fellowship Program Melissa Liriano CMS Experiment Award Abraham Tishelman-Charny
Garnet Award Ari Zlota
INNOVATIVE PROGRAMS FOR OUTSTANDING STUDENTS PlusOne Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Degrees and Accelerated PhDs The PlusOne program provides a unique opportunity to work toward the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a condensed period of time. Accelerated PhD programs in biology and physics provide opportunities for top students.
Pre-Med and Pre-Health Pathways College of Science students on the Pre-Med and Pre-Health Pathway take coursework and participate in experiential learning in research, clinical, and community service settings. COS students are accepted to many top medical, dental, podiatry, and veterinary schools.
Interdisciplinary Master’s Degrees Our important environmental science and policy master’s degree lies jointly between COS and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities’ School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, combining acumen in environmental problem-solving in the broadest societal context.
Undergraduate Teaching Fellows This program was created to enable highly qualified students to gain experience as teaching assistants, working alongside faculty in the classroom. Deployed in fall 2020, it had two unexpected benefits. First, it smoothed the transition to hybrid teaching in classes with a large enrollment. Second, it provided additional academic support to the students who were learning remotely.
Combined Undergraduate Majors Our combined majors program empowers students to understand and address complex problems. Whether combining music with physics, international affairs with environmental studies, or data science with biochemistry, students can conduct research and work experiences related to each subject, while making connections with faculty, experts, and peers in both fields. The college offers a wonderful array of 54 combined undergraduate majors. Advancing Women in Science Scholarship Fund The College of Science has enhanced the Advancing Women in Science scholarship fund, which will provide $10K to undergraduate women to expand their opportunities for experiential learning, in addition to building a community of female explorers.
Biotechnology Co-op Research Fellowship Program (Matz Scholars) This unique program, funded by Bob Matz, ’62 (Biology) and his wife, Eileen, has supported the research of nearly 70 COS undergraduate students since its founding, enabling them to spend six months working in worldclass labs on campus and around Boston. This year’s projects included: • Searching for light-promoted cancer therapeutics with quantum chemistry and machine learning Fatemah Mukadum, ’22 (Chemistry) • Method Development for Copper II Chelation Ligand Testing Benjamin Rich, ’21 (Chemistry) • Function prediction for host and symbiont proteins in a bivalve mollusk: Can these creatures guide us to biotech production of biofuels? Hoang Yen Vu, ’21 (Biochemistry)
A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS Our innovative programs in the physical sciences, life sciences, and mathematics inspire creativity and fuel discovery in today’s most exciting areas of study.
Applied Physics Behavioral Neuroscience Biochemistry Biology Cell and Molecular Biology Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Environmental and Sustainability Science Marine Biology Mathematics 50+ Combined Majors
Master’s Degrees A flexible learning environment (on campus, online, and hybrid) to accommodate students at any stage of their career. Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics and Engineering, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Environmental Science and Policy, Marine Biology, Operations Research, Physics
PhD Degrees, plus the new Connected PhD With flexible, customizable experiential learning opportunities outside of student’s primary research group. Biology, Chemistry, Marine and Environmental Science, Mathematics, Network Science, Physics, Psychology
Graduate Certificate Programs Stackable certificates give students the flexibility to quickly jump-start their education to meet their goals.
PlusOne Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Degrees and 2 Accelerated PhDs
FACULTY: DISTINGUISHED IN THEIR FIELDS AND AS MENTORS AND ADVISORS One example is Gordana Todorov, a pillar of the math department. Her outstanding contributions to algebra are surpassed only by her deep devotion to her students, both graduate and undergraduate. Each spring, she co-organizes the Maurice Auslander International Conference and Distinguished Lecture at Northeastern, a departmental highlight.
Pushing the boundaries of use-inspired innovation.
Developing precise methods of visual function assessment for clinical ophthalmology. Using MRI and SPECT/PET technology to expedite drug discovery for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Facilitating precision clinical trial placements for patients and researchers. At COS, we are driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and boundless commitment to drive connections between discovery and implementation, with impact on personal and societal challenges. In fact, the COS community is immersed in a thriving environment of high-impact, use-inspired entrepreneurship and intellectual property development. This year alone, COS researchers filed 16 invention disclosures and 40 patents and were awarded 13 patents for their inventions, including a sensor system for measuring electric activity of the brain, a nanopore diagnostic system for detecting biomarkers of disease, and an ultrasensitive method for mass spectrometry.
SPARKING VENTURE CREATION Tantu Therapeutics, a life-sciences venture co-founded by COS associate professor Neel Joshi, was one of the 2021 recipients of funding through the University’s Spark program. Tantu is developing oral, microbe-based therapeutics to treat inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal diseases, without debilitating side effects. Founders project that this will improve and hasten mucosal healing and surgery-free remission.
EUROPEAN INVENTOR AWARD FINALISTS Two Northeastern University microbiologists, Slava Epstein and Kim Lewis, were finalists in the “non-EPO countries” category of the 2021 European Inventor Awards. Their invention, the iChip—a thumb-sized plastic chip with minuscule holes—can culture a wide range of microbes. The technology will facilitate discovery of new drugs capable of tackling the “superbugs” that are immune to existing antibiotics.
“Part of my responsibility as a co-op student is to help the company rewrite and rework approximately 30 standard operating procedures and streamline them across several departments in the company and with our external partners around the world. I am also involved in the IND hiring strategy for the Boston and Pennsylvania locations, where I will continue to help with developmental opportunities. What makes this so exciting is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and in these four months I have accomplished more than I ever did in my three years postgrad.” APOORVA CHALOORI Co-op Student, GlaxoSmithKline Biotechnology Master of Science ’22
SPINNING OUT NEW VENTURES COS faculty, staff, and students connect in an entrepreneurial culture, leading to new commercial ventures aimed at solving our planet’s most complex challenges. Flightpath Biosciences This Northeastern spinout combines business acumen and clinical research with the goal of developing new therapies capable of providing relief to patients suffering from both Lyme disease and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).
NIRa Biosciences Co-founded by a research team from the chemistry and chemical biology department, NIRa looks to discover and develop novel photoimmunotherapy medicines for the treatment of dermatological conditions and diseases.
Foodome This spinout from the Barabási group is a venture-backed startup using food, data, and network science to empower people and brands to take steps toward prioritizing healthier choices in their diets.
COS students are immersed in innovation and entrepreneurship through student-led organizations such as ORIGIN, which supports science-based innovation and communication.
INVESTing in innovation and equity Keeping our innovative edge to bring brilliant junior faculty into COS, we established a new, ambitious cross-COS hiring program called INVEST (Initiative to adVance Excellence in Science and Technology). This program is designed to attract candidates right into faculty positions. We are committed to hiring across the diverse demographic of society. In its first year, INVEST received over 600 applications, resulting in four outstanding faculty hires.
FROM GRAD STUDENT TO ENTREPRENEUR Imagine the benefits of a sunscreen that can protect both the body and the environment! That’s the innovation that Seaspire Skincare hopes will disrupt the $10 billion sunscreen industry by replacing harmful UV-filtering ingredients with technologies innovated by co-founders Leila Deravi and Camille Martin, a PhD graduate from the Deravi group. Their breakthrough technology recreates the sun-blocking chemical that provides natural sun protection to squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish. 17
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Empowering Learning and Breakthrough Discoveries Harnessing technology to move beyond our biological limits. That’s the focus of the COS Department of Biology. Our expertise spans the realm of the biological sciences, driving advances in medicine, healthcare, biotechnology, education, and public policy. The department is committed to helping undergraduates maximize their potential for success. In 2020, we developed a new Biology Education Fellowship to train anatomy and physiology lab undergraduates in cutting-edge pedagogical practices. The initial program was so successful, we are on track to hire two more fellows this fall. As biological inquiry moves into new spheres, we’ve responded by developing a new area of study: the cell and molecular biology major. This program is designed to prepare students for graduate school, medical school, or other advanced training, as well as for careers in the biotechnology/biomedical sector, and in academic and/or industrial settings. We also refined our existing biology minor so that students take coursework across all biological levels.
HIGHLIGHTS NSF STARS Fellowship winners The National Science Foundation STARS Fellowship funds recruitment and retention of talented graduate students from groups that traditionally have not sought out STEM careers. Two of our new biology PhD students were STARS recipients, receiving two full years of PhD fellowship funding, plus an additional three years’ support through research and teaching assistantships.
• Human Movement and Rehabilitative Science • Discovery of New Antibiotics • Stem Cells and Regenerative Biology • Healthy Aging • Genetics and Genomics • Reproductive Fitness and Healthy Babies
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS
undergraduate students in the biology, cell and molecular biology, and biology combined majors
undergraduate students in the biochemistry major, which is co-managed with the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
undergraduate students in the behavioral neuroscience major, which is co-managed with the Department of Psychology
• ThinkSwiss Scholarship (Brian Best) • Sigma Xi Society Research Award (Iona Stephens) • Huntington 100 (Shellaina Gordon, Bouchra Benghomari) • Schafer Research Co-Op Scholarship (Sabrina Bond) • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Jackson Griffiths) • National Science Foundation STARS Fellows (Judene Thomas, Fausto Capelluto)
• Harry S. Truman Scholarship nominees (Bouchra Benghomari, Ramya Kumar)
faculty members • 10 professors • 7 assistant professors • 5 associate professors • 2 teaching professors • 12 assistant teaching professors • 7 associate teaching professors
Fostering outreach and inclusion Faculty members instituted virtual service-learning courses that resulted in hundreds of hours of outreach to Boston-area youth and adults, while providing a learning practice that is helping to foster inclusion among our students.
Safe return to research The college’s flagship experiential research lab, the Biology Project Lab, provides critical hands-on laboratory experience to prepare students for their first co-op positions. By investigating and implementing recommended health precautions, the team overcame significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrolling almost 300 students in a safe and effective return to research.
UNDERSTANDING THE SCIENCE OF MOVEMENT Researchers in the Action Lab are studying ballet dancers to understand how to help people regain their balance in old age. Their findings could help us improve our mobility, design better robots, and discover how to treat stroke patients more effectively.
HELP FOR CHRONIC LYME AND DRUG-RESISTANT TUBERCULOSIS? Two discoveries that may offer novel solutions to intractable clinical problems emerged this year from the Antimicrobial Discovery Center. The first found a unique pattern in the gut microbiome of patients suffering from post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, a chronic debilitating condition that has been challenging to diagnose. The team also revealed a new antimicrobial target against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, representing new hope in the battle against drug-resistant tuberculosis. 19
CHEMISTRY & CHEMICAL BIOLOGY
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Harnessing the Nature of Matter COS is proud to be home to a new generation of scientists who are driving solutions to improve our health, the environment, and our lives—from lifesaving vaccines to renewable energy sources. Department researchers are leading the national and worldwide effort in developing the fuel cells of the future based on platinum-free catalysts, as well as novel chemistries for advanced rechargeable batteries. Team members helped draft a bill to make Massachusetts 100% renewable by 2035. Another faculty team was among the four Grand Prize winners for the National Science Foundation Idea Machine 2026 challenge announced in February 2020. They are looking into the ways that engineered living materials—substances made of or by reprogrammed cells—could improve on and replace plastics, concrete, and other materials. One line of inquiry: How a biofilm created by E. coli bacteria could be used to create a protective layer in the gut of someone with Crohn’s or other diseases.
HIGHLIGHTS The 37th International Symposium on Microscale Separations and Bioanalysis was held virtually from July 12–15, 2021. This prestigious conference was organized and chaired by Alexander Ivanov, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Faculty Fellow at the Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis.
SACNAS initiatives The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) invited COS chemistry professor Mary Jo Ondrechen to discuss her professional journey, the importance of mentorship, and her research into developing treatments for COVID-19.
Chemistry & Chemical Biology
• Energy Conversion and Storage • Analysis of Cells and Biomolecules • Drug Discovery and Delivery • Materials Science • Structural and Molecular Biology and Biophysics
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS
undergraduate students in the chemistry and chemistry combined majors
undergraduate students in the biochemistry major, which is co-managed with the Department of Biology
• MIRA grant (Alexander Ivanov) • American Chemical Society Fellow (Penny Beuning) • Polymer Chemistry Pioneering Investigator (Ian Zhang) • Journal of Materials Chemistry Emerging Investigator (Ian Zhang) • Eastern Analytical Symposium 2020 Graduate Student Research Award (Kendall Johnson)
chemistry master’s students
biotechnology master’s students
• COS Excellence in Teaching Award (Jude Mathews) • D. E. Shaw Research Graduate and Postdoc Women’s Fellowship (Nathalie Myrthil)
faculty members • 15 professors • 3 assistant professors • 9 associate professors • 1 teaching professor • 3 assistant teaching professors • 7 associate teaching professors • 4 research faculty
Developing inclusive teaching and mentoring skills COS faculty members have been awarded a $1M grant by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for training faculty on inclusive teaching and mentoring skills to increase the participation and persistence of nontraditional students in the science majors.
WINNING THE WAR AGAINST COVID-19
Supported by National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Research funding, our scientists combined machine learning with their knowledge of amino acids to identify chemical probe binding sites on SARS-CoV-2 proteins, locating weak points that can help in the development of future therapeutics.
USING AI TO DISCOVER LIGHT-ACTIVATED CANCER DRUGS Research teams affiliated with the Lopez Lab are using quantum mechanical calculations and artificial intelligence tools to speed the discovery of new light-activated molecules that could target a cancer patient’s tumor without harming healthy tissue. 21
MARINE & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES
Connecting on the Front Line of Climate Change
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
• Biogeochemistry and Climate Change Science • Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics • Marine Ecology and Evolution • Coupled Human-Natural Systems • Fisheries and Ecosystem Valuation
AWARDS • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (Katie Lotterhos)
The COS marine and environmental science department is driving solutions across a broad range of issues—from reclaiming coral reefs and oceans to preventing fisheries collapse, from minimizing coastal erosion and pollution to promoting sustainability.
• Academic Technology Scholar Award (Jess Gould)
Supported by a $697K grant from the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, MES researchers are using coupled natural-human systems approaches to examine the range distribution and associated ecosystem function of black mangroves from Cedar Key, Florida, to Port Arthur, Texas. Existing data on the black mangrove’s distribution and ecosystem function, as well as analysis of the current attitudes, beliefs, and decisions of stakeholders in the region, will inform projections of the future of this critical species and its place in the local environment.
• Academic Technology Scholar (Mallarie Yeager)
Two grants from the National Science Foundation totaling $1.1M are helping MES researchers understand how climate forcing and other factors are influencing patterns of adaptation in marine and terrestrial organisms.
• Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (Jess Gould) • Geological Society of America Research Award (Charlotte Wiman)
marine and environmental science master’s students
• Huntington 100 Award (Ffion Titmuss) • American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow (Geoff Trussell)
undergraduate students in core marine and environmental sciences majors and combined majors
faculty members • 11 professors • 8 associate professors • 3 assistant professors • 4 associate teaching professors • 1 research faculty
• COS Excellence in Teaching Award (Richard Bailey)
HIGHLIGHTS A $1.1M grant from the National Science Foundation will fund a project examining genetic mechanisms that facilitated the successful radiation of Antarctic Notothenioid fishes in the Southern Ocean. Project lead Bill Detrich co-authored a paper in Polar Biology outlining controlled breeding efforts of the blackfin icefish and published in PLOS Genetics examining genome evolution and erythrocyte loss in Antarctic fishes following paleoclimate change. The 2020 Muckenhoupt Scholarships were awarded to Allison Noble, ’21 (Marine Biology), and Hayley Bayne, ’20 (Environmental Science). These scholarships are given to undergraduate students who plan to use their training in science “to benefit the environment of the earth and those upon it.”
Marine & Environmental Sciences
A welcoming initiative for LGBTQ+ students The You Are Welcome Here (YAWH) campaign initiated in January 2021 affirms that LGBTQ+ individuals are welcomed, valued, and supported by the MES community.
IDEA Funding The MES IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advancement) Program received external funding for a program that includes paid summer research internships at NUMSC (Northeastern University Marine Science Center) for students from regional community colleges, plus opportunities to engage in workshops and seminars for networking and training, as well as for participation in a tiered mentoring network to promote sustained student success.
THE FUTURE OF BIODIVERSITY Using eco-evolutionary genomics, the Lotterhos Lab is working to understand how climate has shaped biodiversity and how a now rapidly changing climate will affect biodiversity in the future. 23
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Supporting Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and Innovation Mathematics is the greatest language of the universe! Our department balances fundamental mathematics with the increasing demand in areas that underlie critical applications in the sciences and engineering. Toward this goal, in 2020–2021, we began expanding our representation in mathematics and machine learning, with topological data analysis as a particular area of concentration. Accomplishing this means supporting up-and-coming math innovators. We are currently hosting seven junior faculty on the highly prestigious three-year Zelevinsky Postdoctoral Fellowship. We are also reaching out to the next generation of students through our Bridge-to-Calculus program, now named Bob Case Academy, in honor of its founder. This year, the program— which empowers youth from Boston’s underserved communities to take and achieve in advanced math classes—included the Math Question Center. This quickly became the primary place for students to ask questions of anything academic and to network with other people and groups.
• Algebra, Algebraic Geometry, and Representation Theory • Analysis and Partial Differential Equations • Combinatorics and Discrete Mathematics • Mathematical Physics and Geometry • Probability and Statistics • Topology
undergraduate students in the mathematics and mathematics combined majors
mathematics master’s students
faculty members • 30 professors • 13 teaching professors
• 2020 College of Science Excellence in Teaching Award (Prasanth George) • 2020 Simons Foundation Fellowship in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (Ting Zhou) • Appointment as Visiting Professor, Dyson School of Engineering, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom (Christopher King)
HIGHLIGHTS National Alliance for Doctoral Studies The department became a member of this prestigious organization for the mathematical sciences (Math Alliance). The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a virtual program supported by a Research Training Grant from the National Science Foundation, ran for two months in summer 2021. High-profile online weekly colloquia, part of the prestigious Brandeis-Harvard-MIT-Northeastern Joint Mathematics Colloquium, rotating among the four schools, were presented virtually in 2020–2021.
PPE TO AFRICA The math department’s worldwide activism was on full display during the pandemic as an associate professor founded a start-up that used 3D printers to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
AID FOR REMOTE LEARNING Since its founding by a group of undergraduates in 2019, the Northeastern chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics has hosted weekly meetings, academic talks, research and career panels, and educational workshops. During the pandemic, AWM secured funding to distribute remote learning care packages to all members. 25
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Everything (in Theory and Practice) Whether they’re exploring fundamental principles or advanced applications, COS physicists are in on everything. For instance, as the COVID-19 pandemic gained speed, the initial reaction from countries around the globe was to shut their borders. Quickly, COS Network Science Institute researchers got to work to test the efficacy of this approach. In a paper published in Science in early March 2020, their findings showed that closing borders could delay, but not stop, the spread of the disease.
• Astrophysics • Biological Physics • Condensed Matter and Nanophysics • Network Science • Particle Physics
AWARDS • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (Max Bi)
Innovative work at the intersection of biology and physics In a major accomplishment for the university, the National Science Foundation announced the expansion of its Physics Frontier Center, the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, to Northeastern. It is one of only 10 such centers in the United States.
• 2020 Department of Energy Early Career Award (Louise Skinnari)
physics master’s students
• 2020 CMS Young Researcher Prize (Louise Skinnari)
• 2020 American Physical Society Fellow (Emanuela Barberis) Can polyphenols prevent disease? Network Science Institute researchers developed a network medicine framework to uncover mechanisms to study the health effects of polyphenols, natural products present in plant-based foods.
undergraduate students in the physics and physics combined majors
• Network Science Society’s 2020 Euler Award (Alessandro Vespignani)
• 2020 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers List (Arun Bansil and Albert-László Barabási)
• Huntington 100 (Ishaan Lohia) • Undergraduate Research Award for Women in Physics (Allison Cross and Anika Padin) • Altshuler Alumni Research Award (Cy Elliott and Asher Solnit)
faculty members • 18 professors • 10 assistant professors • 9 associate professors • 3 assistant teaching professors • 4 associate teaching professors • 1 professor of the practice • 1 associate research faculty
• NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (Jennifer Garland and Isabel Kain)
Sharing in a $20M AI grant In 2020, the National Science Foundation funded the founding of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions. Led by MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science, it will be populated by more than 25 physics and IA senior researchers from MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, and Tufts.
Supporting women in physics The Women in Physics program, sponsored by the Marom Family, fosters mentorship and community among women undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members. It seeks to address and overcome barriers to success for women pursuing studies and careers in Physics. The program also encourages undergraduate women to participate in research early in their studies, by awarding annual undergraduate research awards.
Discovering a new state of matter? COS physicists have discovered a new way to manipulate electric charges that has the potential to change everything from the way signals are detected and communicated to the storage of information.
GOING BEYOND DARK MATTER Using the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, COS researchers are studying collisions of protons at the world’s highest center of mass energy (currently 13 TeV) in search of new physics beyond the Standard Model.
THE LUIGI MORELLI FUND AWARD Named for the COS class of ’72 alumni, this award provides summer research awards to graduate students in the Department of Physics. In 2020, the award supported the work of Sree Kankanala, who was investigating how laser-driven phonon modes can influence the topological and magnetic properties of a material. 27
KEY RESEARCH AREAS
Exploring the Deepest Inner Workings of the Brain “Why do we do what we do?” The COS Department of Psychology is exploring this question on a variety of fronts, looking for insights that help predict what factors might correspond to thoughts and behavior. In February 2020, just as news of a pandemic began to creep into general awareness, a COS Department of Psychology researcher and writer had the foresight to publish an article in the New York Times, entitled “How Fear Distorts Our Thinking About the Coronavirus,” based on behavioral research he and colleagues had conducted. Subsequent articles in major newspapers focused on other timely issues, including thoughts on approaching social distancing with compassion and cooperation (Los Angeles Times, March 2020), and exploring the concepts of hypocrisy and self-interest (Boston Globe, September 2020). These are just some examples of the real-world benefits and implications of scientific research at COS.
• Affective Neuroscience • Behavioral Neuroscience • Cognitive and Brain Health • Cognitive Psychology • Perception
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS • Researchers recently received a two-year National Research Service Award, a predoctoral training grant from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This funding is enabling researchers to employ state-of-the-art computational methods to model individual differences in the dynamics of real-world emotional experiences and assess their consequences for well-being. • Association for Psychological Science (APS) Fellow, 2020 (John Coley) • 2020 American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Lisa Feldman Barrett)
undergraduate students in the psychology majors and 645 psychology combined majors
students in the behavioral neuroscience major, which is co-managed with the Department of Biology
• President, Association for Psychological Science 2019–2020 (Lisa Feldman Barrett)
faculty members • 12 professors • 4 assistant professors • 4 associate professors • 2 joint appointment professors • 3 assistant teaching professors • 6 associate teaching professors
• Honorary Doctorate from University of Waikato, New Zealand (Lisa Feldman Barrett) • 2021 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in Psychology, American Psychological Association (Lisa Feldman Barrett)
HIGHLIGHTS Expanded PIE This year, the Department of Psychology’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee rebranded itself as Psychologists for Inclusion and Equity (PIE) and expanded from three to seven members, including faculty, department staff members, and graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, several existing PIE initiatives were expanded in the 2020–2021 academic year.
Mirroring success The department’s Graduate Student Mentoring Program gives students the option of being matched on identity criteria as well as research interests to help undergraduates from backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM fields see someone like them succeeding.
Journal of Vision An article published by department researchers showed that feedback-based oculomotor training may provide a noninvasive method for the rehabilitation of ocular alignment defects.
REVOLUTIONARY RESEARCH Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett is among the top 1% most-cited scientists for her revolutionary research in psychology and neuroscience. Her research focuses on how the human brain, in continual conversation with the human body and the world, regulates the body and creates mental events, such as episodes of emotion.
College of Science Leadership HAZEL SIVE, PhD
PENNY BEUNING, PhD
Dean, College of Science PhD Rockefeller University Dean Hazel Sive is a research pioneer, a bold innovator, and a leader in higher education. Dean Sive is promoting excellence across the College of Science, through powerful science research including interface with industry, innovative education and training, and a landscape of entrepreneurship. Dean Sive is committed to a culture of respect and action toward equity, extending across every sphere of the college.
BRENT NELSON, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs PhD University of California, Berkeley Prof. Nelson provides strategic oversight to undergraduate education. He also leads PhD education, including expansion of doctoral programming and the development, management, and assessment of curricula.
JARED AUCLAIR, PhD
Associate Dean for Professional Programs PhD University of Massachusetts Prof. Auclair’s focus is on a future of higher education where practical, hands-on experiences and varying levels of credentialing prepare a skilled workforce.
ERIN CRAM, PhD
Associate Dean for Research PhD University of California, Berkeley Prof. Cram provides strategic support for research in COS, including developing resources, mentoring faculty, and promoting entrepreneurship.
RANDALL HUGHES, PhD
Associate Dean of Equity PhD University of California, Davis Prof. Hughes manages and develops initiatives to promote diversity, inclusion, equality, and justice in the College of Science, and to foster a culture of respect in the college community.
SAM INMAN, MBA
Associate Dean of Administration and Finance Associate Dean Inman Inman provides strategic oversight and leadership for college finance, human resources, research administration, and operations.
OYINDASOLA OYELARAN, PhD
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs PhD Harvard University
Prof. Oyelaran provides leadership for faculty affairs as related to hiring, tenure, promotion, sabbatical, governance, mentoring, and professional development.
JONATHAN L. TILLY, PhD
Chair, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology PhD University of Minnesota
Chair, Department of Biology and University Distinguished Professor PhD Rutgers University
Prof. Beuning has been the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award, a Cottrell Scholar, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar, and the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, among other accolades. Her research aims to determine how cells respond to DNA damage and maintain the accuracy of genetic information.
Prof. Tilly was named one of the top 12 innovators in science and biotechnology in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe, as well as a Champion in Healthcare by the Boston Business Journal. His areas of expertise cover reproductive biology, developmental and stem cell biology, mitochondrial function, regenerative medicine, infertility, women’s health, and aging.
PETER BEX, PhD
Chair, Department of Psychology PhD Cardiff University Prof. Bex had previous faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School, University College London, and Essex University (UK). His research uses cross-disciplinary approaches to study basic and clinical vision science.
EGON SCHULTE, PhD
GEOFFREY TRUSSELL, PhD
Chair, Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences PhD College of William and Mary
Prof. Trussell holds a joint appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is vice-president of the Nahant, Massachusetts, campus operations, and serves as director of the Coastal Sustainability Institute. His research program focuses on issues in evolutionary, community, and ecosystem ecology.
MARK WILLIAMS, PhD
KEVIN THOMPSON, MPA
Associate Dean for Development
Chair, Department of Mathematics PhD University of Dortmund
Chair, Department of Physics PhD University of Minnesota
Associate Dean Thompson connects college leadership and faculty with alumni, parents, and partners to secure support for strategic college priorities such as endowed chairs, capital projects, scholarships, and research.
Prof. Schulte held previous appointments at MIT, the University of Washington, and the University of Dortmund. His areas of expertise include discrete and combinatorial geometry, combinatorics, and group theory.
Prof. Williams was awarded a Research Corporation Research Innovation Award as well as a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His research specializes in the development of single-molecule methods for quantitatively probing the biophysical properties of DNA and RNA and for understanding the biophysics of their interactions with proteins and other DNA binding ligands.
A degree in science places you among the most employable people on the planet, with skills to weather any economy and to transcend the changing face of work. Forever you will be part of the college and the university. I look forward to connecting with you as you go forward as Northeastern alumni and wish you the warmest congratulations on your graduation.
Hazel Sive, Dean College of Science, Northeastern University
Photos by Benjamin Bertsch, Brooks Canaday, Adam Glanzman, Mary Knox Merrill, Matthew Modoono, Dominick Reuter, Alyssa Stone, Mariah Tauger, Ruby Wallau, Billie Weiss / Northeastern University
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