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Why a groundbreaking brain simulation machine promises new health insights

Northeastern will soon be home to a “revolutionary” new brain stimulator that could unlock frontier research opportunities across a range of scientific fields.

A group of researchers, with funding from the National Science Foundation, will acquire a machine capable of delivering transcranial magnetic stimulation(TMS), a type of non-invasive brain stimulation that scientists say could be used to study a range of health problems, brain functions, and behaviors.

Potential applications for this kind of non-invasive brain stimulation are endless, says Gene Tunik, associate dean of research and innovation at Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and the principal investigator who is overseeing the funding for the project. The technology can be used to study everything from cognition, emotion, and memory to movement disorders, motor function, and aging, he says.

Read more at [email protected]

September 16, 2021

Meet our new COS faculty: Hannah Sayre

This Fall, Hannah Sayre will be joining the chemistry and chemical biology department at the College of Science as an associate professor with a secondary appointment in the chemical engineering department at the College of Engineering. She recently completed her post-doc work at Princeton University, and her plans at Northeastern include starting her interdisciplinary lab designing new photocatalysts.

Why did you choose to apply to work at Northeastern?

There’s so much opportunity for collaboration here! I was impressed by the number of researchers who wanted to engage in a discussion to find common ground and opportunities to work with one another.

What areas of research are you focused on or have focused on in the past?

I’m focused on designing new photocatalysts – molecules that absorb energy from light to initiate a reaction and using time-resolved spectroscopy to understand how light-activated reactions work.

What are you currently working on?

We are synthesizing photocatalysts with enhanced light absorption. These photocatalysts will be used to drive high-energy chemical reactions.

Are you actively part of any labs or have plans to join/start a lab at Northeastern?

Yes! I am starting a lab with the Chemistry and Chemical Biology department and the Chemical Engineering department. 

What excites you the most about continuing your career at Northeastern?

I’m really excited to do photocatalysis research because of the applications for solar energy. I can’t wait to work with excellent students who want to solve the critical challenges of our time.

What do you hope to get out of your time as a Northeastern College of Science faculty member?

I’m looking forward to doing research with students and seeing them thrive as scientists.

What courses are offering this semester, and which are you most excited to teach?

I’m teaching General Chemistry for Engineers this semester. I’m hoping to teach a class on photochemistry too.

What is a fun fact our community should know about you?

This has become so commonplace since the pandemic, but I enjoy baking bread. Whole wheat, challah, pumpernickel, yes, please!

Is there anything you’d like to touch on that we didn’t ask?

I grew up in the Midwest, where there are no trains. So I think commuting by train every day is really cool!

 

September 16, 2021

To safeguard key coastal ecosystems, this scientist starts by talking to the local anglers

To find out what’s going on below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, Steven Scyphers often starts by turning to the people who know it best: anglers.

An assistant professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern, he helps lead studies anchored in what he calls “collaborative science,” or the process of partnering with people whose lives are shaped by the marine systems he studies.

The partnerships shed light on the need to balance the health of coastal communities with the industries that rely upon it and offer a model for how scientists can capture the depth of local knowledge in their research.

“Fishermen spend the bulk of their year, if not every day, on the water and the vast majority of scientists only get to spend a small number of days on the water,” Scyphers says. “But we’re both trying to understand the same system.”

Read more at [email protected]

September 14, 2021

Meet our new COS Faculty: Jorge Morales

This fall, Jorge Morales, PhD, joins the psychology department at the College of Science as an assistant professor. He will also hold a secondary appointment in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Morales is currently completing post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University and starting his interdisciplinary lab at Northeastern.

Why did you choose to apply to work at Northeastern?

Northeastern’s vision of what research and higher education should look like is very forward-looking. It’s exciting to be at a university that invests in both basic types of research of sciences and of the humanities and, with the co-op program, on a practical approach. I will have a joint appointment in psychology and philosophy. People from both departments were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about my work—which makes me excited about learning more about theirs too! I also really appreciated their commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research and diversity.

What areas of research are you focused on or have focused on in the past?

I work at the intersection of philosophy, neuroscience, and philosophy, focusing on understanding the mind’s subjective point of view: how we perceive the world around us, how the brain creates conscious experiences, and how introspection opens a window into our own minds. My interdisciplinary work aims to provide an “objective” understanding of intrinsically “subjective” phenomena involved in visual processing, attention, awareness, and metacognition.

What are you currently working on?

My work involves understanding subjective mental phenomena. I am currently working on “seeing what’s not there” or the perception of absences in vision science. In a way, an absence is not different from mere empty space, but absences can be special! If you notice your laptop is missing, can you “see” its absence? We are using psychophysics and online testing to assess whether absences attract subjects’ attention in a similar way as objects do. I am also working on understanding better the intensity of conscious experiences. When you experience an intense pain and when you vividly imagine a red apple, do the intensities of those two otherwise different experiences have anything in common? Can conscious awareness come in degrees? And if these degrees exist, can subjects offer reliable introspective judgments of them? We are planning to use fMRI and advanced machine learning techniques to find these pure conscious intensity signals in both behavior and the brain, which will help us advance our understanding of consciousness in general.

Are you actively part of any labs or have plans to join/start a lab at Northeastern?

I am starting The Subjectivity Lab! And we’re recruiting graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduate research assistants!

What excites you the most about continuing your career at Northeastern?

The opportunity to run my lab in the heart of Boston, alongside fabulous researchers both from Northeastern and other great universities in the area, is just wonderful. I’m also very excited to teach Northeastern students!

What do you hope to get out of your time as a Northeastern College of Science faculty member?

I’m looking forward to learning a lot from my colleagues and students!

What courses are you offering this semester, and which are you most excited to teach?

I start teaching in the spring—but I haven’t decided what I’ll teach yet. However, in the following years, students can expect courses on Human Perception, The Neuroscience of Consciousness, Philosophy of Psychology and Neuroscience, and more!

What is a fun fact our community should know about you?

All my degrees are in Philosophy.

 

September 13, 2021

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