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Biology

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Discover our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program
Small Pharma: Inside the World of Orphan Diseases

It All Started with a Single Cell

In this brave new world of CRISPR gene-editing, implantable microchips, and artificial organs, human beings have begun to harness technology to move beyond their biological limits.

The science of the 21st century will fundamentally change the concept of life. Yet as complex as life has become, it all started with a single cell.

 Your journey starts there.

The College of Science Biology program provides students with a broad understanding of the organization and processes of life, from molecules and cells through tissues and organs, to populations, ecosystems, and evolution. 

Our scientific expertise spans the realm of biological sciences to drive advances in medicine and healthcare, biotechnology, education, and public policy.

Degree Options

Coursework and Requirements
A sampling of the types of courses you could take here.
Bioethics
2329 BIOL

Offers students an opportunity to explore ethical issues arising from biological research and emerging technologies, to learn to identify and critically analyze potential ethical implications of biological research, and to evaluate theory-based arguments while respectfully engaging with a diversity of perspectives.

Biology Project Lab
2309 BIOL

Offers an inquiry-based, intensive laboratory experience in which students have an opportunity to design and conduct independent research projects, applying approaches and techniques used in cell and molecular biology.

Biological Clocks
5306 BIOL

Examines the expression of endogenously generated twenty-four-hour (circadian) rhythms in eukaryotic life, emphasizing theoretical foundations as well as current research strategies for understanding how biological clocks work.

Co-Op

With Northeastern situated in the heart of Boston, there is no shortage of co-operative education opportunities in the fields of biotechnology, biomedical, and healthcare. From penguin tanks at the New England Aquarium to infectious disease research as Massachusetts General Hospital, students have the chance to explore careers paths or simply use co-op for experiences they never thought possible.

CHECK OUT WHERE OUR CO-OPS HAVE WORKED

Faculty Research

Biology
Godoy Lab
The Godoy lab seeks to learn about the mechanism(s) regulating the activity of potentially mutagenic DNA polymerases.
Biology
New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute
This institute focuses on the role of tissue inflammation in fighting disease and infection, and the mechanisms that control tissue inflammation in the body. The Institute’s work has immediate implications for anti-cancer strategies and approaches to improved vaccines.
Biology
Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Complex Systems (CIRCS)
CIRCS fosters collaborations between researchers from different scientific and engineering disciplines who share a common interest in elucidating fundamental aspects of the structure and function of complex physical and biological systems across multiple levels of organization using a combination o..
Biology
Emergent Epidemics Lab
Research in the Emergent Epidemics Lab spans a broad range of topics in complex systems and network science, with an emphasis on infectious disease dynamics and forecasting/predictive models.
Biology
Center for STEM Education
This university-wide center aspires to play a key role in shaping and implementing the K-20 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education strategy at Northeastern University, and to impact STEM teaching and learning at all levels, both locally and nationally.
Biology
Monaghan Lab
Dr. Monaghan’s lab uses the axolotl salamander to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of complex tissue regeneration. Axolotls have the amazing ability to regenerate large portions of their limbs, tail, heart, and spinal cord. His lab studies the development and regeneration of the nervo..
Biology
Action Lab
Motor skills such as throwing a ball, eating with knife and fork or dancing are uniquely human and key to functional behavior. Optimizing the acquisition and preventing or reverting the degradation of skill requires a rigorous quantitative understanding. The Action Lab analyzes how human neurop..
Biology
Crane Lab
The Crane Lab investigates why cells deteriorate with aging and other diseases with a focus on cell metabolism. 
Biology
Center for Complex Network Research (CCNR)
The Center’s objective is simple: think networks. Research focuses on how networks emerge/evolve, how they look, and how they impact our understanding of complex systems. CCNR’s research has developed to unexpected areas, including the topology of the World Wide Web; complex networks inside th..
Biology
Dr. Rosengaus’ Lab
Dr. Rosengaus’ research tries to understand the factors that may have selected for the evolution of insect sociality. This work is at the interface of evolutionary biology, behavioral and chemical ecology, immunology and genetics. Social insects represent excellent social test organisms to answer..
Biology
Geisinger Lab
The Geisinger lab investigates the molecular basis of antibiotic resistance and disease development in infections with hospital-acquired pathogens.
Biology
Khrapko's Lab
Khrapko's lab is studying mutations in mtDNA and their effects on cellular physiology, aging and disease. THey also use mtDNA mutations to trace mtDNA lineages and to study human evolution.
Biology
Apfeld Lab
The Apfeld Lab seeks to dissect the interplay between redox processes and age-dependent changes in tissue function in the nematode C. elegans, in order to shed light on the association between the dysregulation of the cellular redox environment and many human diseases of aging.
Biology
MoBS Lab
Alessandro Vespignani’s research activity is focused on the study of “techno-social” systems, where infrastructures composed of different technological layers are interoperating within the social components that drives their use and development.
Biology
Slavov Laboratory
The Slavov Lab studies Ribosome-mediated translational regulation, and single-cell proteomics by mass-spectrometry
Biology
Day Lab
The Day Lab investigates the molecular role of G quadruplex DNA in genome stability and human diseas
Biology
Tilly's Lab
Tilly's lab seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the genetic and epigenetic drivers of cell lineage specification, differentiation and death, and to then utilize the information gained from these studies for development of innovative new technologies to improve human health within and across ..
Biology
Woods Laboratory
The Woods Laboratory is interested in studying the role of mitochondria in normal and disease states, with a major emphasis on female reproductive function and health. 
Biology
Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program
Dr. Ayers' research focus is on the neuroethology of motor systems in invertebrates and lower vertebrates and the application of this knowledge to the development of advanced robots.
Biology
O'Malley Lab
Dr. O’Malley studies the computational capabilities of neuronal populations at the core of nervous systems, including everything from sensorimotor transformations to more complex behaviors. Current projects are aimed at understanding symbolic operations in mammalian cortex.
Biology
Lewis Lab
The Lewis Lab studies persister cells responsible for tolerance to antibiotics, uncultured bacteria of the environment and the microbiome, and works on drug discovery.
Biology
Cram Lab
The Cram Laboratory utilizes the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans as an in vivo system to examine how mechanical forces are sensed and interpreted by cells and how this influences cell migration. In  addition, they collaborate with Chemical Engineers to improve production of drug compound..
Biology
Yunrong Chai's Lab
Yunrong Chai's lab is interested in understanding fundamental mechanisms controlling bacterial biofilm formation and the role of beneficial biofilms in bacteria-host interactions. They are also interested in inhibitory mechanisms targeting key processes during bacterial biofilm development.
Biology
Menon Lab
Professor Menon is the Principal Investigator of the Advanced Nanomaterials Research laboratory at Northeastern University where she conducts and supervises research in the area of nanomaterials, specifically porous alumina, titania nanotubes, gallium nitride nanowires, etc. She is particularly..
Biology
Laboratory of Neurobiology
Research in Prof. Zupanc’s laboratory focuses on the exploration of neural mechanisms underlying structural plasticity in the adult central nervous system of vertebrates. 
Biology
Epstein Lab
The Epstein lab works on microbial discovery in the environment and human microbiome. They uncover novel microbial life forms by inventing novel cultivation strategies that depart from conventional wisdom and provide access to the greatest part of microbial diversity: unexplored species missed ..
Biology
Chemical Imaging of Living Systems Institute
The Institute developes imaging tools to highlight chemcial processes - enabling clinicians to better diagnose and treat disease.
The Minds Behind COS Biology
Faculty Spotlight
Dagmar Sternad
Biology
Dagmar Sternad is looking to ballet dancers to find answers for people with disabilities through studies of human motor control and learning.
Kim Lewis
Biology
Led by Kim Lewis, researchers at Northeastern have discovered a new antibiotic that could treat infections caused by some of the nastiest superbugs humanity is facing in the antibiotic resistance crisis.
Gunter Zunpac
Biology
In a recent paper, Zunpac and his fellow researchers showed that new cancer tumors may grow even more aggressively after treatment. This was due to a mechanism that allowed them to thrive in the empty space previously inhabited by the pre-treatment tumor.
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Biology and Bioinformatics With Julian Stanley

 

What motivated you to pursue a PlusOne master’s degree?

I joined Northeastern in the biochemistry program on a 5-year, 3-co-op plan. I already had an interest in bioinformatics, but the Bioinformatics PlusOne program had not been approved yet. During my third year, I wanted to learn more technical skills, so I briefly switched to the “Biology and Computer Science” combined program.By the beginning of my fourth year, I learned that the Bioinformatics PlusOne had been approved. I also learned that I could finish the BS Biology/MS Bioinformatics PlusOne in the same amount of time and credits as my 5-year undergraduate program.

My choice to join the program came after consultation with a variety of members of the faculty and staff. Professor Steve Vollmer initially told me about the program, and I also received thoughtful advice and guidance from Professors Veronica Godoy-Carter and Erin Cram, academic advisors Amy Carmack and Mark Bresnihan, and program assistant Melisa Brown, among others.

Can you tell me about your overall experience as a participant in the PlusOne program? 

The two biggest benefits for me were in teaching and co-op. I spent my PlusOne year as a TA for BINF6308 and BINF6309, the two core introductory courses in the Bioinformatics curriculum. As a graduate TA, I was given much more independence and responsibility than as an undergraduate TA. I felt really lucky to be able to practice teaching and curriculum development, and that experience solidified my interest in continuing to teach after finishing the program.

I also completed a 6-month co-op through the PlusOne program, where I worked as a student in the Silver Lab at Harvard Medical School. In the Silver Lab, I was given a lot more freedom and independence as a graduate student than as an undergraduate. My experience during my co-op helped to convince me that I was ready to join a Ph.D. program and further develop my ability to conduct research independently.

Would you recommend PlusOne to other students?

For me, the PlusOne program was a relatively clear choice because it took the same amount of time and money as a 5-year undergraduate degree program. Since I knew that I was interested in Bioinformatics (and not, for example, software development), and there was no undergraduate Bioinformatics program, the PlusOne program also meshed very well with my academic and professional interests.

Other students may have a more complex decision to make, especially since the PlusOne program usually requires additional tuition costs. In broad terms, the PlusOne Bioinformatics program is likely a good investment for students looking to immediately join the workforce as bioinformaticians. Students who prefer software development or intend to complete a Ph.D. are less likely to benefit from the program. I highly recommend that any student considering the program weigh their options carefully with help from family, academic advisors, and faculty mentors.

How did PlusOne and COS help shape your interests and/or prepare you for your future?

COS as a whole has played a huge role in shaping my interests and plans.

My research in COS, advised by Professor Javier Apfeld and supported by the Honors Program and Undergraduate Office of Research and Fellowships, was undoubtedly the activity that had the largest impact on my interests and future. In conjunction, advice and mentorship that I received from faculty and staff like Professors Sue Powers-Lee, Erin Cram, and Veronica Godoy-Carter (to name just a few), academic advisors like Danielle Massey, and my friends and classmates were invaluable.

The PlusOne program itself also helped to shape my interests. It gave me a year to focus on my skills in bioinformatics and computational biology and to hone my specific research interests before beginning my Ph.D. Through the program, I spent a year splitting my time between learning, teaching, and conducting research, which helped convince me that I would be comfortable continuing to learn, teach, and conduct research during my Ph.D. and beyond.

What do you plan on doing post-graduation?

Right now (Summer 2020), I am working as a software engineering intern for the R Project for Statistical Computing (funded by Google Summer of Code). In the fall, I will join the Biology Ph.D. program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I hope to continue teaching and conducting increasingly-independent research professionally.

Best of luck in your future endeavors, Julian, from everyone at the College of Science! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

July 04, 2020
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On the Front Lines of COVID-19 with COS Alumna Dr. Ali Wallace

Dr. Ali Wallace ’13 works as a Pediatric Resident Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. She took time out of her increasingly busy schedule to give us an inside look at COVID-19 preparations, as well as to discuss how her experience at Northeastern shaped her into the doctor she is today.

Can you tell me about your experience at Northeastern?

I started my journey at Northeastern as a Chemistry major. I quickly realized the lab environment wasn’t for me (thanks co-op!) so transitioned into Biochemistry, with a minor in Psychology.

I lived on campus for a majority of college, which I absolutely loved (don’t ever take for granted those floor-to-ceiling-window-Boston-views in West Village).

I also did a Dialogue Program abroad in Italy. I spent my free time dancing in a few club groups (first season of No Limits Dance Crew!) and going on hikes with NUHOC, which I will forever be grateful for because that is how I met my now husband!

I graduated in 2013 and miss college all the time!

 

What kind of co-ops did you go on?

My first co-op was doing Immunology research at Biogen – a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge. I worked with cell lines and mice, and learned a ton, but mostly that I wasn’t cut out for an entire career in a lab.

I knew I wanted to work with people and I found a more clinical co-op as a Newborn Hearing Screener at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which I still believe to be the best job ever! I cuddled newborns all day and got to congratulate new parents when their baby passed its “first test”! This was my first clinical experience in Pediatrics and it obviously left an impression on me. I really enjoyed the Pediatricians I worked with, the hospital environment, and being a part of special moments on a daily basis.

 

How did Northeastern and COS help shape your interests and/or prepare you for what you’re doing today?

I am forever grateful for the flexibility that Northeastern gave me while trying to find my ideal career path.

I came to college passionate about Genetics, inspired by my older sister who is developmentally disabled. I just didn’t quite know what that looked like in terms of a future career. You’ll never know if you like something until you try it!

I always loved science, but never really considered clinical medicine until after I realized I didn’t want to work in a lab. I always wonder where I would have ended up if I didn’t have that first co-op experience early in my college career. But every experience along the way has helped me to learn more about myself and the things that kept me going each day.

 

Where did you land after you left the University?

I was lucky enough to be accepted to Tufts University School of Medicine – right down the road from NU! I was one of 5 fellow Huskies in my class, which was awesome! Medical school was an awesome experience, and my time at Northeastern definitely prepared me for the trials and tribulations of life as a med student.

 

You’re currently at MGH as a Pediatric Resident Physician. What’s a normal day look like for you?

Yes! I am currently in my third and last year, and will be graduating in June! Every day is truly different and unpredictable.

We rotate through various parts of the hospital (Emergency Room, PICU, newborn nursery, NICU etc) and with various sub-specialties (Oncology, Cardiology, Pulmonary, etc) so each block is very different and your role is ever-changing.

This makes life as a resident exciting, but also stressful. We work days, nights, weekends, and 24 hours shifts. On a typical day on an inpatient unit (just to give you a rough idea), we get sign out from the overnight team at around 6:30 am.

We have lectures around 8 am, and spend the morning rounding, or going room to room to see each patient. The team usually consists of a senior resident, and intern, and a couple of medical students. We examine our patients, make a treatment plan, talk with families, and order any tests or labs that are needed.

The afternoons are for learning, following up on results, and admitting new kids to the hospital! There are rarely dull moments. I see sick children in the Emergency one day, and well children in clinic the next! I love attending deliveries of newborns – my favorite thing ever is showing a brand new dad how to cut the umbilical cord. The various reactions and responses are priceless!

 

Do you find the work rewarding?

I may be bias, but it is hard for me to imagine anything more fun or rewarding than taking care of children.

They are incredibly resilient, wise, and loving. We dress up for holidays at work, partake in crafts, birthday parties, and last day of chemo celebrations.

The work is hard, but there aren’t many days when I’m not smiling. My co-residents are also amazing, and I like to think that Pediatricians in particular are just nice and genuine people- one of the biggest things that drew me to the field in the first place!

 

With the COVID-19 outbreak, can you talk about your current role is and how work at MGH has evolved over the past couple weeks?

What an unprecedented time.

Today is March 16th, and I know things will be much different 1 week from now. MGH is full of incredibly smart and hard working people who having been working endless hours to keep our community safe, and I am honored to be part of such an institution.

Life as a resident has changed dramatically – all elective rotations or roles that are not necessary have been cancelled. We have actually been cutting back on the number of residents in the hospital to limit potential exposures amongst staff. Many of us are at home on back-up call, practicing social distancing and staying healthy until we will have to replace others that become sick.

We have continued having educational conferences virtually, while supporting those on the front lines until we get called in to work.

Based on some recent research, children are less severely affected by the virus, so our department is prepared to help out on the adult side when necessary. There has been a lot of careful preparation for whatever the next few days/weeks throw at us.

 

Is there anything you’re not hearing discussed enough when it comes to the outbreak that could help people be proactive and stay safe?

I encourage people to visit the CDC website for the most up to date information, as recommendations have been changing by the hour.

But I will say, this is not a time to be cavalier about the coronavirus. While you may not feel at risk as a young, healthy, college student, the downstream effects of transmission are extremely frightening.

We need to prevent the collapse of our medical system and every decision you make counts. Wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, and don’t hang out with large groups of people.

Help each other out! Grab groceries for an elderly neighbor; offer to pick up things for friends if making a trip to the store.

And finally, stay connected with friends and families virtually! These are trying times, and we can all use each other’s support. Keep an eye out for virtual concerts (ie Dropkick Murphy’s St. Patrick Day show, or the MET Opera, who will be streaming shows for free!) and free yoga and exercise classes that can be done from home.

July 04, 2020
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Six Northeastern Professors Named to 2019 List of ‘Highly Cited Researchers’ Around the Globe

Treating cancer and other diseases in novel ways. Discovering a new antibiotic. Understanding why people become successful.

These groundbreaking research achievements are among the accomplishments of six Northeastern University professors who have been named to a list recognizing the high rate at which their papers have been cited by other researchers.

The 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list features more than 6,000 scientific researchers around the world who have produced papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations in their fields between 2006 and 2016. The list, produced by Clarivate Analytics, was compiled based upon data from Web of Science, an online service that indexes the citations that research papers receive.

  •  Arun Bansil, who is a University Distinguished Professor of Physics, studies how electrons behave in complex materials. His work provides novel insight into how to design new materials for quantum information systems, more efficient batteries, and superconductors that could eventually work at room temperature.
  • Albert-László Barabási, who is the Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science and Distinguished Professor of Physics, studies complex systems such as sub-cellular networks and the extent to which complex systems can be controlled. His research into the science of success shows that the top performers aren’t always recognized as the best in their fields.
  •  Lisa Feldman-Barrett, who is a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology, studies the nature of emotion from the perspectives of both psychology and neuroscience. Her lab research uses experiential, behavioral, psychophysiological and brain-imaging techniques to study emotions.
  •  Arthur Kramer, who is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Cognitive & Brain Health, focuses on understanding cognitive and neural plasticity across the lifespan. His research includes aging, cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and human factors.
  •  Kim Lewis, who is a University Distinguished Professor of Biology, has produced major discoveries in the fight against bacterial infections. He has discovered a new antibiotic that kills pathogens without encountering any detectable resistance and investigated promising new treatments for Lyme disease. 
  • Vladimir Torchilin, who is a University Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, has produced pioneering methods that aim to diminish the side effects of chemotherapy by delivering drugs directly into diseased cells and leaving healthy ones unharmed.
July 04, 2020
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Food, Forests and Fisheries: A Journey In Conservation and Food

Among budding wildflowers stood Vlad, a man waving a long metal hook as he gestured excitedly at our group. Despite him being slightly shorter than me and capped with a large and friendly-looking sunhat, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated. Laughing, Vlad explained how he voluntarily chased off poachers out of this wetland with the same hook before being hired as a field biologist and educator. I looked around me at the low bushes, marshes, lakes, and the trees that only barely concealed the skyscrapers of Bucharest towering around us and wondered what exactly I had gotten myself into.

My dialogue of civilizations was quite simply an experience that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. We began our journey in Romania at Văcărești Nature Park, an accidental wetland in the vibrant capital of Bucharest. Next, we headed into the Făgăraş Mountains. There, we worked with Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), an organization that is working to protect the Carpathian Mountains and its biodiversity, with the goal of establishing the largest forested national park in Europe. Our typical day would consist of a group breakfast and paper discussion with our dialogue leader, Dr. Tara Duffy, followed by a day of hiking, exploring, and learning from a team of biologists, rangers, and conservations experts. I learned about invasive species, tracking and monitoring large carnivores, ecosystem services, and biodiversity indicators, which are traditional aspects of conservation biology. The FCC team took this several steps further, talking to us about government policy and the distinction of protected lands, what that means for the people who use or own these lands, and how the communist history of the country has influenced conservation.

The best part was that most of the learning was done in the field; I was able to see the concepts that we discussed in action. I hiked in ‘virgin’ beech forest, waited quietly in a bear hide, and collected samples with field rangers patrolling for scat, fur, and DNA of wolves, bears, and lynx. Most of the field professionals we worked with were locals, so I also learned about herbal medicines, how to dance traditional Romanian folk dances, and a two-way exchange of knowledge. One of my favorite memories is of the time I got to hear a traditional Romanian folk band while sitting on hay bales at a working farm. After the performance, I was able to talk with the group about music, tradition, and learning.

Next, we flew to Greece, learning about food sustainability in the Mediterranean with NYT bestselling author, Paul Greenberg. We started on the large island of Crete to focus on the definition and evolution of the traditional Mediterranean diet. This part of the dialogue was built mostly around outings to farms, wild areas, and even locals’ homes. I learned from different professionals each day on site visits to the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, local markets, and olive oil processing plants.

Heading to a snorkel site on the island of Crete. For being an oligotrophic (low nutrient) sea, we found a lot of sea cucumbers and other fauna! Photo from Caitlyn Ark

Heading to a snorkel site on the island of Crete. For being an oligotrophic (low nutrient) sea, we found a lot of sea cucumbers and other fauna! Photo from Caitlyn Ark

We examined how the Mediterranean diet has evolved due to globalization, tourism, and climate change. This was intertwined with cultural experiences; hiking the Samaria Gorge, snorkeling in caves, and visiting the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Learning about the historic culture was crucial to my understanding of the Mediterranean diet. We visited ancient cemeteries and historical sites to look for evidence of food and what that meant to Greek culture to frame our investigation in a historical context.

This is us building nesting sites for European pond turtles in Văcărești. These specific sites are on an east-facing slope, which is favorable for the temperature and incubation of the turtles, and will hopefully boost the hatching success rates.

This is us building nesting sites for European pond turtles in Văcărești. These specific sites are on an east-facing slope, which is favorable for the temperature and incubation of the turtles, and will hopefully boost the hatching success rates. Photo from Caitlyn Ark

In Glyfada, a town just outside of Athens, we visited an aquaculture facility, organic farm, and volunteered at the only turtle rescue center in Greece over our remaining week. This experience culminated in an individual research paper based on an aspect of the Mediterranean diet that interested us and we presented our findings to our peers.

Even though our time abroad was limited to a summer semester, I was able to learn about the cultures in a way that only immersion allows. I loved picking up bits of the language, learning relevant phrases like how to ask for more water (we hiked a lot!), and figuring out that the Romanian word for lynx also means laugh. I admired how the Greeks praise everything as ‘beautiful’, and how their generosity reaches past language barriers. These pieces of culture made this trip significant and irreplaceable. It encouraged my passion and desire to travel and learn through the exchange of ideas. This experience is for wanderers, people who thirst for knowledge, and those who are searching for spontaneous adventures that build memories and cross cultural boundaries.

 

July 04, 2020

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