Some people begin playing Christmas music the moment the clock strikes 12 on Dec. 1 (or on Nov. 1 if they’re really spirited). Usually included on that playlist? Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
It’s been nearly 30 years since the elusive chanteuse released her Christmas hit. Since then, it’s become a holiday staple, topping the Billboard charts each holiday season and resulting with fans dubbing Carey “The Queen of Christmas.”
But what’s made this tune particularly synonymous with this time of year? A mix of things, including pure old nostalgia, says Psyche Loui, an associate professor of music and psychology at Northeastern University.
Read more from Northeastern Global News.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for MC
Chakraborty awarded with $1.99 Million NIH Grant to Revolutionize glycoprotein Understanding and Biomaterial Design
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Srirupa Chakraborty has secured a substantial $1.99 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a breakthrough project aimed at transforming our understanding of mucin related diseases and paving the way for innovative biomaterials. This five-year grant, known as the NIH R35 MIRA is awarded to young faculty members who demonstrate exceptional promise, as part of NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative. Mucins, which are densely glycosylated proteins, are central players in numerous biological processes, disease conditions, and potential therapies. These “sugar-coated molecular machines” are notoriously difficult to study due to their intricate structural dynamics. Understanding mucins’ role in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, mucosal inflammation, lung and GI infection, and mucin-mediated cancers has been a challenging task. Professor Chakraborty’s research seeks to revolutionize the field. Harnessing the high performance computing capabilities at Northeastern, her team is pioneering innovative computational tools to model densely glycosylated systems. These tools are set to provide robust alternatives to costly and resource-intensive experimental studies, unlocking a world of new possibilities.
Professor Chakraborty and her team aim to enhance existing glycan modeling tools and develop new in silico techniques to understand the intricate structural dynamics of glycoproteins, particularly mucins. Using their cutting-edge computational tools, the researchers will build interconnected mucin glycoprotein gel systems that mimic the natural glycosylation patterns. This will offer profound insights into the physical properties of mucins and how they function. The research project will employ a range of approaches, including atomistic modeling, coarse-grained methods, and data-driven machine learning to study mucin networks at different scales. Inspired by mucosal gels, Professor Chakraborty and her team will use their computational tools to design novel mucin-like nanomaterials constructed from glycan-peptide heteropolymer networks. These materials hold the promise of being customized for various biomedical applications. The research aims to optimize a machine learning-driven method for arranging glycans in polymers, much like building with molecular “LEGO” blocks, offering enhanced control over material properties. This research not only promises to deepen our understanding of mucins and their vital role in health and disease but also opens the door to a wide range of innovative, mucin-inspired biomaterials with potential applications in various fields of biomedicine. The NIH’s generous grant acknowledges Professor Srirupa Chakraborty’s exceptional promise as an Early-Stage Investigator and represents a significant step forward in promoting the growth, stability, and diversity of the biomedical research workforce. This transformative research has the potential to revolutionize disease understanding and pave the way for cutting-edge biomaterials, ushering in a new era of possibilities in the field of biomedicine. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting scientific journey!
Climate modelers can’t agree on the Mississippi River’s future. Northeastern professor Samuel Muñoz is settling the debate.
The Mississippi River, an ecological, cultural and economic hub of activity, is dangerously misunderstood — at least, by climate modelers. The river supplies drinking water for more than 50 cities and 15 million people, and it supports almost 40% of the bird and fish species in North America. And yet, we still don’t know whether in the coming decades it will flood into surrounding land or shrink down to a dry shadow of its former self. That’s because, among the three global climate models that can actually simulate the Mississippi River’s water level, there is stark disagreement.
“We’re at a point in terms of uncertainty where the models don’t even agree on the trend, let alone the magnitude,” says Samuel Muñoz, Associate Professor at Northeastern in the Coastal Sustainability Institute, Department of Marine & Environmental Sciences and Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Muñoz’s research team tests which models are most likely to accurately predict the river by looking at the models’ track records.
Read more from Northeastern University Research.
The Aramaki Lab at Northeastern University, led by assistant professor Tsuguo Aramaki, is making exciting advances in the field of astrophysics. The lab is currently working on the GRAMS (Gamma-Ray and AntiMatter Survey) project, and the lab recently received a grant from NASA for this project.
We spoke to professor Aramaki about how his lab functions and the impact the GRAMS project is expected to have.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
- What is the goal of your research?
The goal of the GRAMS project is to study astrophysical observations with MeV gamma-rays while searching for dark matter with antimatter. The GRAMS project uses a LArTPC (Liquid Argon Time Projection Chamber) detector surrounded by plastic scintillators. Argon is cost-effective, so we can make our detector larger, which means we can have a better sensitivity. The larger the better! This means we will have a better chance to achieve our research goal.
- How will your research impact the field of astrophysics?
I believe that GRAMS can observe our universe uniquely with gamma rays in the poorly explored MeV energy domain, including annihilating dark matter and evaporating primordial black holes. With the GRAMS project, we are also capable of exploring dark matter parameter space via antimatter measurements. Especially low-energy antideuterons and antihelium measurements can offer background-free dark matter searches. I really hope that GRAMS will make a positive impact on the way we understand our universe.
- How does your past research with astrophysics contribute to your decision to pursue the endeavor stated in your grant?
When I reflect back on my academic career, I genuinely do think that all my past research projects and experiences have contributed to receiving a NASA grant for GRAMS. I conceptualized the GRAMS project a couple of years ago by drawing from my experiences and knowledge of GAPS and SuperCDMS. At first, I felt that the project was not convincing enough; however, I had input from many colleagues and continued to refine my ideas. And I found wonderful collaborators to work with along the way. There is a Japanese saying, “Experience is an asset,” which I strongly agree with.
- Who is helping you conduct this research and what responsibilities does this person/people have?
I currently have one postdoc, three Ph.D. students, and five undergraduate students (and two M.A. students and one undergraduate student in the past) who help me in the lab. Each person has different responsibilities, from data analysis to building the actual hardware. Although my students tend to work independently, they also work together when building instruments in the lab.
- What does a normal day in your lab look like?
We have daily morning meetings with senior members to discuss any issues encountered and how they can be resolved. During the problem-solving discussions, everyone has the opportunity to speak and present their ideas. We had many constructive and meaningful conversations, and each person contributed to the project in many ways! After the meeting, some stay in the lab to finish their tasks, while others work on data analysis at their office or go to class.
- Is there anything else we should know about your research?
The GRAMS collaboration is working towards the prototype flight scheduled in 2025/2026. At Northeastern University, we are building and optimizing a small-scale detector, MiniGRAMS, in our lab to demonstrate its performance for future balloon flights. It is an exciting time for our group, and we are now in the trial-and-error stage and trying to measure light and charge signals in the detector. I always tell my students to be creative and to think from a different perspective.
Photos by Noah Haggerty and the Science Media Lab.