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Roux PhD Student Aims to Make Maine the Next Biotechnology Hub

Most kids dream of being an astronaut or a racecar driver. Griffin T. Scott was a little different.

“Even when I was little, I was always drawn to the ‘mad scientists’ on TV, like Dexter’s Lab or Dr. Who,” he says, laughing.

It makes sense that, today, Griffin is pursuing a career in the sciences, working on a project that seems straight out of science fiction, asking the question, “if salamanders can regrow lost limbs, eyes, even parts of the heart, why can’t we?”

Griffin, who recently earned a master’s in bioinformatics at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute, is not afraid to make bold claims about the possibilities of biotechnology. “I’ve always thought, medicine is about helping people live longer, healthier lives. Yet, when it comes to aging, the degenerative disease we all get, we’re just supposed to experience it naturally rather than pushing back.”

In speaking with Griffin, it’s clear his passions are deep and many. His academic journey began as an undergraduate student at McGill University in Montreal where he double majored in history and biology. He enjoyed the convergence of the two topics, particularly thinking about the impact of scientific development on human society. Griffin witnessed this firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the virus altered global structures while also driving advancements in biotechnology.

Read more from The Roux Institute

Photo Courtesy of Griffin T. Scott

June 10, 2024

Graduate Student Experience Spotlight: Andrea Pires, MS in Cell & Gene Therapies

What is your major, and when are you graduating?  

My major is Cell and Gene Therapies. I am expected to graduate in the Fall or Spring of 2025 depending on how long my co-op is.  

Why did you decide to enroll at Northeastern University and pursue an advanced degree in Cell & Gene Therapies?   

Northeastern has always been a dream school of mine. I wanted a program that would help me hone my skills and knowledge in cellular and molecular biology. I wanted to be as prepared as possible when I enter the workforce. The Cell and Gene Therapies program’s curriculum had everything I was looking for, but the co-op opportunity is what really sold me. I wanted to join a program that would not only allow me to hone my skills and knowledge but also gain real hands-on work experience.  

Tell us about your experience in the program. 

My experience in the program thus far, has been beyond what I expected. In just two semesters, I learned so much about the history and current landscape of stem cell research, breakthrough cell and gene therapies, and how to develop python programs to handle bioinformatic datasets. All of which will hopefully help me stand out amongst other candidates as I begin applying to co-ops and beyond. 

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

My favorite part of the program so far was probably the Stem Cell and Regeneration Course. I found it extremely informative and fascinating. This field of research is constantly changing, and Dr. Monaghan did a really good job of providing us with the necessary background knowledge which put the more recent research breakthroughs of the field into context. I am also enjoying the Bioinformatics course. I don’t have much coding experience but have really grown to enjoy it throughout this course.  

Did a COS faculty or staff member help you excel in this program?   

The professors and TAs that I have encountered have all been extremely helpful with any questions that I might have. The Program Director Sahar Tavakoli and Associate Director Suzzette Turnbull have also been extremely helpful and attentive throughout the program. They have set up program mixers and provided internship opportunities. I was able to meet fellow CGT students and start an internship to get more hands-on research experience.  

What are your post-graduation plans?   

I plan to work in the biotechnology industry in the research and development of cell and gene therapies. I have not specialized in any specific sub-field just yet.  

Tell us about your work experiences. 

I am fresh out of my undergraduate studies and have no industry experience. However, I did conduct research in my undergrad on marine bacterial isolates. Specifically, we investigated the growth rates of known isolates and characterized unknown isolates to inform antifouling mechanisms. Currently, I am participating as an intern in the research of intact protein analysis at Northeastern’s Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Lab.  

Do you have any advice for students (both grad and undergrad) pursuing Cell & Gene Therapies? 

For students considering Cell and Gene Therapies, I would say it is a great program and is perfect for those who enjoy molecular and cellular biology, especially genetics. The curriculum does a great job of exposing its students to the newer and more innovative topics in cellular and molecular biology.  

As for students currently in the Cell and Gene Therapies program, the key to success is utilizing every single resource that is provided to you. Taking advantage of office hours and extra lecture reviews is the key to being successful. Ask for help whenever you feel you may need it. 

June 10, 2024

How many steps should you be taking a day? ‘There’s certainly nothing special about 10,000,’ a longevity expert says

Feel that buzz? It’s your fitness tracker reminding you to move so you can hit your goal of 10,000 steps a day.

But many users of these devices are already aware of the reality that this is an arbitrary benchmark that, according to Ram Hariharan, an associate teaching professor at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering.

“There’s certainly nothing special about 10,000,” says Hariharan, who focuses on human longevity and machine learning. “Is there anything special about any of the values we look at in (health)? (Baseline numbers) are based on statistical averages rounded up or rounded down. This one is not based on statistical averages.”

So, how many steps should you be taking a day?

Set health and fitness goals

Finding ways to fit exercise into your schedule, even if you have little time, is also more important than trying to work out longer and hitting an arbitrary number of steps, says Charles Hillman, a psychology and physical therapy professor at Northeastern University.

“The number one reason people cite for why they don’t exercise is lack of time,” says Hillman. “There are lots of ways to be physically active that fit into most people’s schedules. If you only have a little bit of time, maybe go for a high-intensity, shorter workout.”

Read more from Northeastern Global News.

Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

 

June 07, 2024

This Northeastern physicist is revolutionizing astronomy with unprecedented dark matter mapping through space observatory in Chile

A new astronomical observatory nearing completion atop a desert mountain in northern Chile will reveal the workings of the universe as never before.

It might even revolutionize our understanding of the mysterious forces shaping the cosmos, such as dark energy, says Northeastern assistant physics professor Jonathan Blazek.

With a telescope as wide as a tennis court and the world’s largest digital camera — about the size of an SUV — the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will collect data and images from the entire visible Southern Hemisphere sky every three nights for a decade.

“This lets you map out large chunks of sky very quickly,” says Blazek, adding that the quality of the images will be “unprecedented.”

The deep and wide survey of the skies is called the Legacy Survey of Space and Time, or LSST. Some are calling it the greatest time-lapse movie ever made, and it’s easy to see why.

The LSST will identify a mind-boggling 10 million changes in the sky every night and discover billions of new stars and galaxies as well as cosmic explosions known as supernovae.

Read more from Northeastern Global News.

Illustration by Renee Zhang/Northeastern University

June 06, 2024

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