Taking Time to Play – 9.23.22

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

Last week I joined a tour of the CILS Imaging Facility in ISEC, with the expert guidance of Professor James Monaghan (Biology). CILS is an important part of the Northeastern research landscape, and the Imaging Facility is wonderful, with highest tech microscopes, that can see deep into cells, often in a living animal. There are microscopes for K-12 students to experience the magic of imaging through Biobus-Northeastern, led by Assistant Professor Vivek Venkatachalam (Physics) and James Monaghan. It’s the best imaging facility in Boston, and a great place to play.

When was the last time you played? Your phone apparently does not count, sorry. The cartoonist and MacArthur Foundation awardee, Lynda Barry is a big fan of playing. Sitting on the floor and drawing type of playing. Barry has paired PhD and kindergarten students, to help free graduate students’ minds, to loosen and relax them and open their thoughts. I think this is great, and part of a thread relevant to us all: play → creativity → better problem-solving.

Good Science research, great education and top administration can benefit from play. Creating methods, asking ‘what if’ questions, rethinking an approach and seeing what happens. When I was a postdoc there was no-one else in the lab working with frog embryos, so I taught myself. Hours under the microscope, gently dissecting embryos, uncovering what cells knew, it was fantastic play, that has continued in my group. And it led to new insights into how early the nervous system forms, led to newly identified genes linked to brain disorders. I know many of you have stories around the benefits of playfulness in your Science. It’s tremendous, serious fun that opens the unexpected and is essential to solve even the translational research questions addressed by our innovative Northeastern Impact Engines.

While we must all meet our individual job expectations, may I suggest that we (faculty and staff) take a bit of time every week or so to play a bit. Take a new approach, read something new, go to the next building and see what’s going on. Let me know what you think. Let’s see whether life becomes even more exciting, even more productive in our College of Science at Northeastern University.

For College members celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, next week, Shana Tovah! May your year ahead be sweet and peaceful.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University
[email protected]