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Q&A with Mehak Gupta, MS in Biotechnology

What is your major, and when are you graduating?

I’m enrolled in the Master of Science in Biotechnology program and will be graduating in 2023.

Why did you decide to enroll at Northeastern University and pursue an advanced degree in biotechnology?  

Northeastern’s co-op program was a critical factor in my decision to come here, in addition to the wide variety of specialization offerings in biotech. I’m unsure of my exact future career path, and this flexibility lets me explore various options.

What has your experience been like in the program so far?

The program is highly detailed, and the best part is the faculty. My professors are always ready to help both in the classroom and outside of it. I have learned a lot from my peers too, the level of engagement in the classes really pushes you to think critically about discussion topics.

What is your favorite part of the program, and why?  

My favorite aspect of the program is the biotech enterprise. I never thought that it would be something that would interest me, but I was so wrong. The subject is extremely engaging and is an excellent introduction to the business of biotech. It has widened my viewpoint of the industry.

What are your post-graduation plans?  

For now, my goal is to gain practical knowledge and experience in the biotech field. I’ll be looking for a co-op position in about a year. In the long run, I’m thinking of pursuing a PhD. 

 

 

 

October 25, 2021
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These co-ops are taking part in creating the next model organism, one cephalopod at a time.

It’s not every day you get the chance to work with cephalopods. That, however, is not the case for Northeastern students Sarah Beecy and Sonia van Stekelenborg.

Sonia van Stekelenborg and Sarah Beecy on co-op at MBL.

Beecy, a third-year marine biology student, and van Stekelenborg, a third-year environmental science student, are currently on their first co-op as marine cephalopod aquarists at Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The MBL is a non-profit organization dedicated to scientific discovery, attracting researchers across all fields of marine biology to conduct research at their facilities. They have been a Northeastern co-op employer for ten years, providing a unique hands-on experience for numerous students during this time.

Coming from two similar yet varied educational backgrounds, both students had different approaches to their co-op search. Beecy spent countless summers vacationing on Cape Cod and cultivated a passion for the ocean during her time there.

“Back then, the idea of me ending up there [MBL] was just an exciting ‘imagine that’ kind of dream,” she says.

With the help of her co-op advisor, Emily Condon, Beecy secured an interview with MBL, reinforcing her desire to work there.

Van Stekelenborg’s journey towards this co-op was not as straightforward. With such a wide range of career options available under environmental sciences, she explains that she was hesitant to do her first co-op in marine biology.

“I envisioned myself doing an environmental science-related co-op such as conservation/restoration, clean energy, sustainability, etc. I’ve always loved marine biology, but I didn’t know that was an option for me,” says van Stekelenborg.

Sonia van Stekelenborg doing lab work at MBL

However, after her interview, her doubts disappeared, and she joined the team, eager to work in a hands-on research setting.

“I thought the opportunity was one-of-a-kind and exciting,” says van Stekelenborg.

Although van Stekelenborg had never worked with cephalopods before, during past experiences she did work in animal husbandry, vet clinics, and dog shelters.

Beecy and van Stekelonborg’s work contributes to the overall goal of the cephalopod program at the laboratory, which is to create the next model organism. Along with other co-ops from Northeastern, they are responsible for the caretaking of the cephalopods and the maintenance and upkeep of the mariculture systems.

“These are extremely intelligent animals, and some are very rare. Cephalopods that most people will never see in their lifetime have inked on me, and that’s something I never thought I would get to say,” says Beecy.

By working in teams with people from different academic backgrounds, labs, and research institutes, Beecy explains that they often share ideas based on previous classwork or work experiences, enhancing each other’s knowledge in various related subject areas. Not only does their day-to-day include caring for the cephalopods, but it also involves studying them for groundbreaking research purposes.

“Cephalopods are interesting for several reasons. For example, they have a huge nervous system, unmatched camouflage abilities, and the ability to edit their own RNA, making them amazing candidates for every field of study from neurology to robotics,” says Beecy.

In the upcoming weeks, the co-ops will have the chance to embark on independent research projects, meaning that they will either assist ongoing studies or design their own, making their experience all the more fulfilling.

As their co-op cycle continues, both students are grateful for the opportunity and have learned many about their future career goals.

“Field work has definitely become a stronger interest of mine,” says van Stekelenborg.

Beecy also looks forward to hands-on experience and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in marine biology as well as participate in Northeastern’s Three Seas program. 

Knowing many of their peers are currently searching for a spring co-op, Beecy and van Stekelenborg offer valuable advice based on their own experiences.

“I think that everyone owes it to themselves to consider every opportunity given to them.

Northeastern provides you with lots of opportunities; you just must be receptive to them and willing to put in the work,” says Beecy.

Van Stekelenborg echoes Beecy’s sentiments and encourages fellow students to interview for roles even if at first they don’t seem like the perfect fit.

“Job descriptions don’t always do the job justice, and you can gain more insight from interviews. You never know; you might be surprised by what catches your eye,” says van Stekelenborg.

More than halfway through their co-op cycle, the two hope to absorb as much more knowledge as they can at MBL, even if it means getting “inked” a few more times.

Meet the cephalopods:

 

 

 

October 22, 2021

Q&A with Yash Shrinivas Bichu, MS Biotech

What is your major, and when are you graduating?  

My major is biotechnology, and my expected graduation date is May 2023.Headshot of Yash Shrinivas, MS biotech

Why did you decide to enroll at Northeastern University and pursue an advanced degree in biotechnology?  

I decided to enroll at Northeastern University because it provides various voluntary research opportunities for students, not just specific to biotechnology but several other interdisciplinary areas, such as tissue engineering, neuroscience, pharmaceutics, drug delivery systems etc.

What is your experience in the program like?

My experience in the program has been great so far! However, the most important thing that stands out to me is the interactions and discussions-based sessions included in almost all of the courses in my program.

What research are you interested in and why?

My field of interest mostly lies in different therapeutic approaches and proteins associated with oncology and Immunology as I was inclined towards this field of research when I started my first project during my undergraduate studies. Learning and exploring different aspects related to oncology and working on various cancer cell lines during this project caught my interest.

What field corresponds with this research?

There are different fields that are all inter-related to one another in Immunology and Oncology. For example, in oncology we study different therapeutic approaches for treatments of cancer etc. whereas in immunology we deal with different ways of using own immune system for tackling tumor cells in the body.

Will you try to do research as a member of this program?

I’m currently conducting research in a lab and will continue to do so as a member of this program.

What are your post-graduation plans? 

My post-graduation plans include getting some industrial work experience in the field of research that I am interested in and then enroll for a doctorate program in the same.

 

October 18, 2021

Can we mimic the chemistry of the sun to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere?

Steven Lopez is looking for a molecule that can create a new material to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The task poses many challenges, but foremost among them is: Where to begin?

“Imagine all the grains of sand on earth and under the oceans. Now multiply that by a million. That’s how many possible molecules there are,” says Lopez, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern. Put another way, there are about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 potential molecular combinations to choose from, far more than any one computer can analyze.

“Right now, we can have about one billion molecules in the database,” he continues. “That’s enough to at least scratch the surface.”

Lopez will conduct this research as one of four principal investigators in the newly launched Institute for Data-Driven Dynamical Design. The goal of the institute, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is to use machine learning to sift through information and discover new sustainable materials.

Read more at [email protected]

October 14, 2021

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