Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,
Right at the start of the pandemic, last March, when we were truly terrified, and the whole thing seemed a nightmare in which we were stuck, I was walking my now routine loop. Dropped on the sidewalk was a Ziploc bag of green grapes – twelve, taken off their stalks. Some water droplets told me these were carefully washed, perhaps someone was taking them to work, perhaps an essential worker. I walked by, but kept imagining what would happen – over days the grapes would start to rot, and someone would stand on them to make a squishy mess. This bothered me so much that next day I went back. The grapes were untouched, and I opened the bag then tumbled them onto the verge. I took the bag home, washed it and put it in my ready-to-use box. Next day, two of the grapes had disappeared, three the next, then all were gone. I suspected a family of racoons I’d seen crossing the road nearby had been pleased to find the delicious fruit. The whole thing made me feel a bit better, that even in this unbelievably scary moment, one could take a tiny step of useful action.
There’s a lot of bad news this week, and every week. The trial of Derek Chauvin emphasizes once again the importance of our College and University commitment to stand against racial violence and injustice, and to promote a culture of respect with action towards equity. Every day brings another horrific instance of mass violence. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached record highs, even though emissions have dropped during the pandemic.
Any good counterpoint is welcome. And of course, there are many ‘good’ actions taken all the time. Like helping a grateful colleague understand a Northeastern policy or procedure. Take a look at our COS Intranet that is being filled with useful information. Thank you!! to the expert staff who help me and other COS members navigate every day.
Some good actions are as huge as the United States rolling out free COVID vaccines to 330 million people. There are accessibility issues, and hesitancy in some cases, but overall, it’s a fantastic program. Soon everyone in the College will be able to sign up for a vaccination! A good action you can take is to explain to anyone nervous that you cannot catch COVID from the vaccine, rather, it’s a clever way to get your body to make its own anti-COVID medicine. That world-wide half a billion COVID vaccinations have been given successfully, it’s just a small shot, and another example of how science is useful, not scary. A related good action is that Northeastern has taken a leadership role in requiring students be vaccinated against COVID by the start of the Fall semester. It’s another great action from our University to deal with the pandemic clearly and effectively.
The good actions of award nominations can have wonderful consequences, and our faculty who have received prestigious NSF CAREER awards are emblematic. This week Assistant Professor of Physics Max Bi was featured by News@Northeastern, including as a NSF CAREER Award recipient. Other outstanding COS faculty who have received this top award in recent years include Javier Apfeld (Biology), Jenn Bowen (MES), Yurong (Win) Chai (Biology), Leila Deravi (CCB), James Halverson (Physics), Paul Hand (Math), Randall Hughes (MES), Katie Lotterhos (MES) and Dori Woods (Biology). Congratulations to all!
CAREER Awards, or vaccinating an entire country are big actions. I think a lot of life’s best moments are about taking small but empowering steps. Some small ‘good’ action is a way to offset the bad news, better than letting the grapes rot.