The Magic of Science – 12.10.21

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

Some years ago, I organized a conference on Developmental Biology and set it to music. The opener was ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’, by my favorite band Queen. The audience seemed taken aback at being blasted with rock music, but I wanted to acknowledge that the embryo seems truly magical. Every talk was based on the extraordinary truth that each of us came from one tiny starter cell, that made 100 trillion more cells, and those built themselves into your organs, which connect seamlessly to make your whole self. Check out the amazing process in zebrafish. Though I’ve worked in the field for decades, the magic (and music) never diminish for me, even though we know actual mechanisms involved.

Indeed, much of our Science research appears magical. But, unlike the entertaining magic shows you’ve attended, the Magic of Science is real. There is the magic of viruses, invisible specks with power to spread across an entire planet. The magic of RNA vaccines, tiny stretches of code that awaken your magic immune system so you can fight off the viruses. The magic of using light to move objects around. The magic of miniscule molecules that can build medicines. Of looking inside the brain as it thinks. Of exotic quantum materials. This is a tiny handful of the Magic of Science, and there is nothing pretend. All of it can be understood, and the understanding can be used to build new cures, new energy sources, new materials, new ways to protect our planet.

There is a caution, however. In magic shows, the audience knows all is illusion, the magician a talented trickster. The Magic of Science is not pretend, but it can be hard to understand, opening scientists and science to claims of untruths and conspiracy. It’s up to us to educate every student and the public that science is no illusion, no political ploy, rather information that is correct and incredibly useful.

In the Northeastern University College of Science, we do outstanding research that seems like magic, and we educate trainees to gain powerful research acumen. Our research effort is intertwined with our missions of education and innovation, and our success takes huge work by everyone in the College. Thank you all, for helping to make the Magic of Science real.

At the end of the conference, I played another Queen track – ‘One Vision’ to highlight shared goals and resources among the participants. The track has an upbeat, grand view of working together to make the world better. It would make an interesting anthem for the College of Science, where our Real Magic and Vision extend far across Northeastern University, across neighboring communities and across our planet.

Have a pleasant weekend.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University
[email protected]
Pronouns: she/her