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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. 

 

  

December 01, 2021
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This student’s interdisciplinary research lands him a Churchill Scholarship nomination.

Cameron Young COE/COS’21, Chemical Engineering/Biochemistry 

What was your experience like at Professor Ambika Bajpayee’s Northeastern University lab? 

I couldn’t have asked for a better first research experience than the one I had in Professor Bajpayee’s lab at Northeastern. I started working with her during my freshman year after receiving an Honors Early research Award through the Honors Program. During the beginning of my time in the lab, I assumed the role of the stereotypical undergraduate research assistant: helping the graduate students and doing a lot of necessary, basic tasks around the lab. But as I spent more and more time there, I learned so much about the lab research and started to ask my questions and propose my experiments and ideas.  

 Professor Bajpayee was incredibly open to having me take on an independent project. I applied for funding through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships to kickstart that project and pursued a directed research class. During this time, Professor Bajpayee encouraged autonomous leadership of the project and to think like a graduate researcher. This experience was instrumental in helping me become the researcher I am today as I learned so much about academic research, independent scientific thinking, and problem-solving. Professor Bajpayee was an incredible mentor to many other students and me, and I’m very thankful that I could find this opportunity so early on in my career at Northeastern. 

 

You’ve experienced undergraduate research opportunities with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, MIT, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Boston Children’s Hospital. Tell us about these experiences. 

At Brigham and Women’s and MIT, I worked in clinical research in radiation oncology. My primary research project was developing a novel class of personalized radioprotective devices that could mitigate the harmful side effects of radiation therapy for patients receiving cancer treatment. I worked in a large lab led by Professor Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist, and mechanical engineering professor. His work focused mainly on incorporating engineering into medicine, and this opportunity was a perfect fit for me and my career research goals. In the lab, I had a lot of autonomy and the ability to make my own decisions and solve problems as they arose. Through this constant problem-solving, trial and error, and success and failure, I learned to be a successful researcher and made several meaningful contributions to lab efforts.  

 For my second co-op, I accepted a position in the lab of Dr. Adrienne Randolph, whose research expertise is in influenza. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, her research focused on severe pediatric COVID-19-related illness. Dr. Randolph leads an extensive, multicenter network of pediatric hospitals that collaborate and share data on patient cases to better understand emerging diseases like COVID-19. The CDC funded this work, and we worked very closely with officials from this organization to understand COVID-19 better together. One unexpected challenge was identifying multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a severe postinfectious complication that some children experience after COVID-19 infection. It was unique to join the leading officials to understand, address, and treat this severe and unknown disease. 

 

Can you speak about your research on MIS-C? 

MIS-C is a rare post-infectious hyperimmune response that some children experience after exposure to SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. This illness presents four to six weeks after the initial COVID infection and is characterized by severe inflammation and rashes all over the body, persistent fever, and in extreme cases, heart failure and shock. Many of these children are in the ICU for long periods and require intensive treatment to mitigate their symptoms. This illness appeared out of nowhere during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and stumped many pediatric infectious diseases and critical care experts. As a member of Dr. Randolph’s lab at Boston Children’s, I’ve had the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of MIS-C research. We have worked with more than 70 medical centers across the country, collecting patient case report data and analyzing the results to better characterize, treat, and understand this unknown illness. We’ve made several impactful findings regarding MIS-C through this work, including identifying factors that contribute to severe disease, analyzing effective treatment strategies, and showing that there are predictable sub-phenotypes of illness. It’s been amazing to witness the thought process that these leading infectious disease experts go through daily as they work to understand a previously unknown condition. Additionally, it has been incredible to be a small part of the solution to understand and treat the tens of thousands of our children worldwide with MIS-C. 

 

How has your research with different institutions shaped your academic career?  

It’s been beneficial to experience multiple perspectives at different institutions and with various mentors and lab personnel. Each lab and research group has its own feel, culture, and mentality, and as a researcher, it’s essential to figure out what works best for you and what types of people and environments you prefer. These experiences in different places have exposed me to many diverse mentorship styles, settings, and cultures and helped me fine-tune who I am as a researcher, what I’m looking for, and how I can be my best in the lab. We’re so lucky to be in Boston – a city with a wealth of biomedical research, resources, and world-renowned institutions. It’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of cutting-edge and groundbreaking science. 

 

What has been your most rewarding moment as an undergraduate student? 

The most rewarding and exciting moment during my undergraduate career was when I accepted my first co-op. Before the co-op application process, I had little experience talking about research and advocating for myself in a professional matter. It was a very eye-opening learning experience to go through the interview process and speak about my strengths, accomplishments, weaknesses, and areas that I needed to improve. Looking back, this was the first time I really reflected on myself and who I was not only as a researcher, scientist, and engineer but also as an individual. It was very exciting when all of these thoughts and ideas came across positively, and I was offered a position in my first co-op lab, which I then accepted and thoroughly enjoyed. 

 

What areas of research would you like to focus on in the future? 

 Cancer is incredibly complex. This diverse collection of diseases features a never-ending assortment of clinical manifestations; molecular, genetic, and environmental mechanisms; and responses to therapeutic strategies. Simply put, each case of cancer and the individual associated with it is unique. The ever-growing field of oncology contains a vast number of treatments, yet many patients continue to receive a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There is tremendous potential to develop precision and personalized cancer therapeutics that harness each patient’s individual disease characteristics to better target and address their specific condition. This represents a monumental challenge but has the power to improve outcomes for millions of cancer patients each year. One primary objective I have identified for my future medical career is to create the next generation of precision and personalized cancer therapeutics. 

 

How have your interdisciplinary studies advanced your professional career? 

The combined major in chemical engineering and biochemistry has been a really unique opportunity for me to really explore all of my engineering and scientific interests during my undergraduate career. Engineering is a very math-heavy and problem-solving-focused set of courses. In contrast, science classes provide information on medicine’s molecular and chemical basis, which I find very interesting. It has been great to obtain the content knowledge in the sciences from all the science classes I’ve taken and then apply my engineering thinking and problem-solving mindset to address significant challenges through my research. I think this interdisciplinary study has been incredibly beneficial in helping me combine all of my interests and passions. Additionally, it has helped me uncover new research areas and questions. Finally, this interdisciplinary study has exposed me to individuals from all different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Being a part of these different groups has taught me how to communicate with scientists, engineers, and physicians alike. 

 

What is it like to find out you were nominated for the Churchill Scholarship? 

I was honored to find out I was nominated for the Churchill Scholarship. I’ve always looked up to my peers who have been nominated for these prestigious post-graduate fellowships, and it’s incredible to finally be the one in their shoes. I think this represents a culmination of all of my research experiences at Northeastern, and it’s truly an honor to be recognized in this way. In addition, this scholarship is a unique opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom for a year, something I’ve never done before and something that I didn’t necessarily plan to do. So, in a way, this scholarship could represent a new opportunity and a change in life trajectory that I didn’t expect. 

December 01, 2021
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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! 

December 01, 2021
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Northeastern’s Covid-19 testing center is ready to identify the omicron variant

As the world scrambles to make sense of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, Northeastern is ready to spot it if it enters our community.

Northeastern’s COVID-19 testing laboratory can already detect the omicron variant through existing protocols. And that could save the university community precious time in identifying and responding to any threat the variant might pose.

We take a more targeted approach, which gives us a head start,” says Jared Auclair, who runs Northeastern’s COVID-19 testing facility, the Life Sciences Testing Center in Burlington, Mass. “We have a test in line that really helps us identify these variants. We, as a university, did the right thing and continue to do the right thing to be able to track these things, so the population should feel confident that they are still safe

Read more at [email protected]

November 30, 2021

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