Landmark study into the genetic disorder offers clues into links between metabolism and mental health

Researchers at Northeastern and neighboring colleges say they’ve made a landmark discovery that takes a deeper look at the metabolic and biochemical origins of a debilitating genetic disease known to cause a range of symptoms and health problems.

A new study, published Wednesday, focused on a severe neurodevelopmental disorder referred to as 16p11.2 Deletion Syndrome, a condition often associated with autism, intellectual disability, language impairments, seizures, obesity and movement disorders, among a range of other health problems. People with the condition are missing a region of genetic material in chromosome 16 responsible for coding proteins in the body.

Researchers were able to show that genetic disruptions affecting the way fats and proteins bind to each other inside the cells of those with the condition resulted in abnormalities in nerve cell, or neuron, function, which in turn led to behavioral changes and other symptoms, says Hazel Sive, dean of the College of Science and professor of biology at Northeastern.

Read more at [email protected]

Q&A with Greg Coppola, MS Environmental Science and Policy

What program are you a graduate of? 

I’m a graduate of the Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy Program. 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree at Northeastern University? 

I’ve always been passionate about environmental studies and policy. I felt that I had a strong foundation in the policy aspect of environmental studies, but I was lacking in the economics, engineering, and science aspect. I felt that I needed to gain a balance between these focuses. It was evident that Northeastern’s program offered the holistic education I was looking for and the resources required to build my connections and networking ability.  

How did your experience meet or exceed that expectation? 

Northeastern exceeded my expectations. The professors were hands-on, incredibly knowledgeable about their field, and approachable. 

How long was your program? 

I was able to complete my degree in four semesters which lasted roughly 16 months. 

What was your favorite course in the program? Why? 

 My favorite course was Cities, Sustainability, and Climate Change, with Joan Fitzgerald. Each week of the course was dedicated to different ways cities can mitigate and adapt to climate change. The most interesting aspect of the course was that it offered practical examples of “leading cities” in various policies, such as EV incentives, renewable energy, district heating, cooling, etc. The stories from Joan’s international travels to these leading cities and her numerous guest speakers were a breath of fresh air from the typical theoretical course that simply recycles textbooks each semester. 

Did any specific faculty member help you excel in this program? 

Joan Fitzgerald was one professor who helped me succeed throughout my program and even after graduation. During my third semester, I emailed Joan to inquire about any potential opportunities to boost my resume as a student. I was hoping for the chance to work as a TA or perhaps even do some background research for her next op-ed. Within two weeks of my initial email, she reached out to a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority connection about potential internship opportunities. Her connection and recommendation opened the door to an amazing year-long paid internship. With this experience, Joan and I co-authored and published an op-ed shortly after graduation in CommonWealth Magazine. 

Tell us about your current role at Resonant Energy. 

I recently accepted a position as project manager with Resonant Energy in Boston. Resonant Energy provides outreach, analysis, and project management expertise to public and private clientele to install solar panels on buildings to clients who would not be able to afford the attachments. We routinely cater to schools, affordable housing buildings, houses of worship, etc. I hope to continue working in this sector to alleviate the hardships of vulnerable groups in our fight against climate change. 

How did your experience at Northeastern prepare you for your professional career?

Northeastern gave me the holistic education that I was looking for when I decided to attend graduate school. The professors frequently offered practical lessons and realistic scenarios that were beneficial to my understanding of this sector. 

Do you have any advice for graduate students looking for work experience in similar fields?

Connections are crucial to starting a new career. First, utilize every opportunity to learn from the Northeastern faculty. Many of them had had professional careers before they began their tenures as educators. Second, use the services at the library and all the research organizations on campus. My resume was filled with experiences that I would not have gained if I didn’t reach out to faculty, ask questions, and explore new opportunities that were at my fingertips. 

 

  

Caroline Consoli shares her Northeastern University Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society experience

Caroline Consoli, S’23, will share an inside look at her membership experience with the Northeastern University Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society on Instagram stories Thursday, Dec. 2. Follow along

Q: What is your major, and when are you graduating? 

A: I’m a chemistry major with a physics minor, graduating in May 2022! I’m interested in synthetic organic chemistry and am currently applying to PhD programs.  

Q: What is the Northeastern University Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society? 

A: Northeastern University Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (NUSAACS) is our school chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS), one of the world’s largest scientific organizations. Our purpose is to cultivate a close community where students who love chemistry can commune. We have weekly meetings, most of which are professional development or feature speakers, to expose our members to different subfields of chemistry. These meetings help them figure out all the possible career paths they could take with their degrees. We also have several fun meetings a semester, like our annual mafia game and trivia night, and go on occasional outings around Boston, like our annual Kimball Farms and snow tubing trips! 

Q: Why did you decide to join NUSAACS?  

A: NUSAACS has a robust mentorship program – every year, each incoming freshman chemistry major pairs with an upperclassman based on their interests (both chemistry and non-chemistry). I was introduced to NUSAACS through this program at orientation and came back for our annual Labor Day Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social. This event was so much fun. The subsequent speaker meetings (specifically the medicinal chemistry and MFA Art & Chemistry talks) were so interesting that I decided to keep coming back! I’ve made some of my closest friends through this club. I’ve learned so much – it’s definitely one of the main highlights of my college experience. 

Q: Tell us about your role as director of social media. 

A: My primary role as the director of social media and historian (beyond just keeping our Instagram and website updated and taking pictures at events) is to reinforce the sense of community and belonging we try so hard to cultivate at NUSAACS. I make an effort to get to know each of our new members by name, learn about their interests in chemistry, and make sure they know they can ask us any questions, chemistry-related or not. One of my more significant projects falls during November, where each day on our Instagram, we celebrate a new chemist for our NUSAACS Chemist Appreciation Month! I have been in this position for two years, and I love getting to know all of our members so I can highlight each of them for a day and have the opportunity to flex my creative muscles by making graphics for our page. 

Q: How can joining NUSAACS enhance a student’s experience at Northeastern? 

A: Joining NUSAACS can give you a welcoming, wholesome, chemistry-loving community to relax and learn with every week! Honestly, by joining this club, you’re gaining a whole new group of friends, who you can also nerd out with on occasion. Through NUSAACS, I’ve gotten to know so many new people and learned more about the different fields of chemistry and future career opportunities. In addition, this club provides an essential community-building aspect for freshman members through our well-established mentorship program. If you’re a freshman chemistry major and haven’t been able to make it to many events yet, we’d love to see you at an upcoming one! 

Q: Tell us about being recognized as an Outstanding Student Chapter by ACS and what it means. 

 A: We are so grateful to have received the Outstanding Student Chapter Award from the ACS this year. From the ACS website: “The Society Committee on Education (SOCED) selects ACS Student Chapters to receive special recognition on the basis of their programs and activities, as described in their chapter reports. Awards are classified as outstanding, commendable, and honorable mention.”  

 We were one of only a few clubs in New England to receive this award and one of 49 overall. 

Q: What initiatives and events are upcoming this spring? 

A: This spring, keep an eye out for our annual Futures in the Sciences event, in which, with other COS student organizations, we comprise a panel of esteemed scientists to come to talk to students about their fields, work, and career opportunities! We will host our annual Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social (pushed back from the fall semester), so pop by and grab some ice cream crafted by your favorite chemists. We also plan to host weekly speaker meetings – some of the topics our speakers will be covering in the spring include food chemistry, forensics, photocatalysis, and green chemistry. 

Q: How can students get involved? 

A: There are several easy ways students can get involved. If you have a deep love for chemistry and want to learn more about it and the various subfields, come to one of our weekly speaker meetings! They are held every week in Chem Central (Hurtig Room 115) on Thursdays at 6:30 PM. Follow our Instagram (@nusaacs) to keep up-to-date on meetings and events, and, if you’re interested, reach out to us at [email protected], and we can add you to our mailing list! 

Where others see walls, she looks for bridges

There was something familiar about the murals and graffiti, says Sarah Bernt. “It just evokes something that I had seen before.”

Stretched across the Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, were messages of harmony and love. Bernt, who graduated from Northeastern in 2019 with a degree in political science, was on a political tour of Belfast during a day trip from Dublin when the similarities struck her.

The artwork on the wall in Belfast reminded Bernt of sentiments of peace that melded with statements of resistance scrawled across the remnants of the Berlin Wall she had observed on a trip to Germany, and on the Palestinian side of the still-standing barrier along the Green Line between Israel and Palestine. Intrigued, Bernt decided she would have to return to Belfast for more than a day to learn more—and to see if the walls there hold any lessons about building bridges. Next year, she’ll be doing just that.

Read more at [email protected]

Plantains, laundry, and skiing: students look forward to Thanksgiving

Toting an overstuffed backpack and a sturdy wheeled suitcase, pharmacy major Ocean Kenfack had little time to chat.

She had to get going to celebrate Thanksgiving at her home in Maryland. She hasn’t seen her family since June. And her mother can hardly wait for Kenfack’s return.

“My mom literally couldn’t stop calling me. She’s like, ‘What do you want me to make? What do you want me to make?’ I told her she doesn’t have to make anything. I just want to go home,” said Kenfack, a third-year student at Northeastern.

So what special dish did Kenfack finally ask for?

“I couldn’t decide. I like plantains,” she said before heading toward the Ruggles subway station on Northeastern’s Boston campus. “I’m just excited to go home.”

Read more at [email protected]

Nobel Physics Colloquium: Replica Symmetry Breaking theory for complex disordered systems: from spin-glasses to random lasers.

The Physics Department holds an annual colloquium on a topic related to the year’s Nobel Prize. This year, the prize was awarded to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi “FOR GROUNDBREAKING CONTRIBUTIONS TO OUR UNDERSTANDING OF COMPLEX PHYSICAL SYSTEMS”. We are fortunate to have Dr. Luca Leuzzi of Sapienza University of Rome, a close collaborator of Giorgio Parisi, presenting a colloquium on this exciting topic.

https://northeastern.zoom.us/j/95126113529?pwd=Y2UzK0liRTkwY3dsYTFQWUJlQ3BRQT09

Meeting ID: 951 2611 3529
Passcode: 124745

This bioengineering co-op gets hands-on with Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine

All Northeastern students hope to land a co-op that lets them wrestle with real-world problems while exploring their own academic interests.

For Ella Strzegowski, that combination of hands-on engagement and intellectual curiosity has been delivered in high doses. Since mid-July, the 20-year-old bioengineering student has been working for Moderna, maker of one of several widely distributed COVID-19 vaccines, in the company’s Norwood, Massachusetts, facilities.

Strzegowski’s specific task at Moderna is part of the company’s quality control measures, which both reduce production costs and are part of federal safety requirements. She uses a technique called chromatography to examine the molecules in the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine solution.

Simply put, chromatography is a method of separating molecules in a mixture, which in this case is the vaccine itself. As the pharmaceutical giant continues to scale up vaccine production, Strzegowski says the work of improving the vaccine solution is important because it ensures the vaccine remains safe, on top of reducing manufacturing costs.

Read more at [email protected]

The human genome has been mapped. Here’s the next monumental step.

Jeffrey Agar, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern, and colleagues from around the world are on a mission to deepen our knowledge of the human body. And their plan, which they’ve dubbed the Human Proteoform Project, could help humanity develop treatments for hundreds of currently untreatable diseases.

The initiative, Agar says, is the next logical step after the Human Genome Project: outlining the millions of forms of proteins that make up the human body.

“When they talk about the genome being a blueprint, guess what it’s a blueprint for,” Agar says. “Proteins.”

Much of the human body is made up of protein. But protein isn’t just one thing. There are thousands of different kinds of protein molecules that make up all kinds of things in our bodies.

Read more at [email protected]

Do I Have Covid-19 or flu? Northeastern will test you for both.

Maybe you have a headache, or a stuffy nose, or a sore throat, or a cough. You might feel fatigued, achy, or a bit feverish. After the last year and a half, you might immediately think that you have COVID-19.

But those symptoms also describe the flu.

Autumn marks the beginning of flu season. That’s why flu testing has been integrated into Northeastern’s symptomatic COVID-19 testing protocols.

People who are experiencing flu- and COVID-like symptoms get tested at the Huntington Testing Center, where their swabs are now tested for COVID-19, influenza A, and influenza B. They don’t need to get two separate tests for COVID-19 and the flu. People without symptoms who are on the Boston campus are tested at the Cabot Testing Center once a week; their swabs are not part of this program.

Read more at [email protected]

Africa Global Initiative Speaker Series: Consul General Tawana of South Africa

Join us for a conversation with Dr. Motumisi Tawana, Consul General of South Africa. Consul General Tawana will discuss South Africa’s role in the world today, including its pledge at COP26 in Glasgow to renounce coal by 2030—a critical step in containing global warming and avoiding a full-blown climate catastrophe. Moderating the discussion will be Ademidun Mary Ajibade, a Northeastern graduate student in International Relations and Affairs. Ajibade is from Nigeria and works as a project manager for Northeastern’s Africa Global Initiative.

This conversation will also feature Professor Janet Garvey, who formerly served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon, as well as representatives of Northeastern’s African Student Organization NASO.

Register here

People with disabilities have been locked out of spaceflight. But that is changing.

As the airplane tilted steeply upward, Mona Minkara experienced gravity like never before.

“It feels like a huge pressure is on you, and the skin of your face is being pulled over the bones of your skull,” she says. “It’s a really bizarre feeling.”

And then, as the plane reached the top of its arc-shaped path, those pressures of gravity lifted. Minkara began to float as her body was introduced to the feeling of zero gravity.

For Minkara, who is legally blind, such weightlessness could have easily been disorienting. “As a blind person, walking around, gravity is always a constant,” she explains. “You always know what’s down. You use your cane because it’s touching the floor. We can’t use a cane in zero gravity because it will just whack whatever all around you, and you don’t want to do that.”

Read more at [email protected]

Nishaila Porter

Nishaila is a Master’s student in the Environmental Science & Policy Program and currently a MLK Fellow at Northeastern University. She holds a B.A. in Earth and Environmental Science from Wesleyan University. Nishaila has 6 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. She has lead green infrastructure trainings, assisted with nature-based solutions projects, and engaged with communities in advocacy efforts. With hopes to reduce preventable environmental stress factors in urban environments, Nishaila aspires to further her education specifically in urban resilience and climate adaption practices with a focus on environmental justice communities. Dedicated to servicing her community Nishaila serves on the LEAH Project advisory board as the President and the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry Board of Directors as the Clerk. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, and spending time with her family.

 

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Declaration of mental health ‘emergency’ among children and teens brings calls for more early intervention

It’s official: the rising rates of mental health problems among the youth today, made worse under the COVID-19 pandemic, constitutes a national emergency, three of the country’s top associations of psychiatrists, pediatricians, and doctors announced last week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement on Wednesday declaring a national emergency of worsening “child and adolescent mental health” that is “inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.”

While the emergency declaration sends a strong message about the state of children’s mental health, it’s unclear whether it will translate into action. But it underscores the urgent need to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health distress early on in a child’s life, where many psychiatric disorders actually begin, experts at Northeastern University and Mills College say.

Read more at [email protected]