Collaboration – 12.2.22

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

My first collaboration was during an undergraduate research project, titled ‘An Investigation into the Effect of Crowding on Growth of Xenopus laevis Tadpoles’, a creative melding between the fields of ecology and developmental biology. Turns out that crowded tadpoles grow less rapidly than those spread out, and my project was to figure out why. I thought that the crowded populations might eat less than uncrowded and measured this using a radioactive tracer. Later, I harvested each tadpole and counted the number of radioactive emissions. There were hundreds of tadpoles, so I got lots of data, and had no idea what to do with it. My advisor told me to do statistics, but I had no idea what that meant. You need a collaborator! he said and sent me to his colleague in the Math department. It was a bit daunting, but the senior Professor listened respectfully and kindly as I explained the point of the project, what data I’d collected, and how I had been advised to do statistics. He recommended using the Students T-Test, writing on a piece of lined paper the steps to figure out whether crowded and uncrowded tadpoles ate significantly different amounts. (They did not, so a re-think was needed there). I was so grateful for the guidance, and that collaboration was an empowering life event.

I’ve collaborated many times since on science research. In general, there’s a steep learning curve from each group involved, to understand what each needs to contribute to the study. You need to have confidence in one another, as no-one is expert in everything. But collaborative outcomes can be stunning and indeed, most research is done collaboratively, often across disciplines. Our Northeastern Academic Plan promotes the power of cross-disciplinary research, and College of Science investigators are building outstanding proposals for Impact Engines, collaborative approaches to solve key problems.

The Tadpole Crowding Report is well-preserved in my treasure drawer, and the Acknowledgements refer to another collaborator. In those pre-laptop, pre-internet days, my mom Penny Sive expertly typed the Report from a longhand draft using her Olivetti manual typewriter. Forty typed pages of text, numbers, superscripts, and a lot of statistics. I’m even more grateful to my mom for that gracious work now than at the time. In the Northeastern College of Science, our culture of collaboration makes everything work better, and maximizes the important contribution that each person makes. THANK YOU! for your crucial, collaborative work to promote the Good Power of Science.