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Student Club Spotlight: Community Palette

Looking for a creative way to give back? 

Community Palette is a new club on campus that aims to serve individuals in underprivileged, clinical, and community settings in Boston through creative and visual arts initiatives. To learn more about this organization, I interviewed the founder and president, Seher Abbasi. 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you’re studying at Northeastern? 

I’m a third-year pre-med student majoring in behavioral neuroscience. I found my passion for neuroscience in high school when I did my first research project and since then it’s continued to grow as I learnt more about the human brain and relative behaviors. I love being the reason for someone’s smile so during my free time I work at various hospitals and volunteer where I can. My goal is to ease the journey of patients impacted by mental health and diseases of the brain.  

What is Community Palette and how did you come up with this idea? 

When I was younger, arts and science were my thing. I used to make polymer clay figurines and paintings with Arabic calligraphy all the time to express myself and still use it as a creative outlet to this day. When I was working at Mass Eye and Ear for my co-op, I could visibly see patients’ mood shift the longer they stayed there. Boredom and lack of motivation from being in a hospital setting, specifically a surgical in-patient unit, can be stressful and impact healing in some ways.  

To give an example, I had a patient who was incredibly bored and agitated from having to stay in his room all the time. He wasn’t allowed to get up or walk around because he’d risk falling or accidentally hurt himself. So, I made paper airplanes with him and we raced it down the hallways which he really enjoyed. Although the activity was only 10 minutes long, it boosted his mood for the rest of the day and he cooperated with the nurses and doctors slightly better.  

These experiences led me to creating a visual arts program at Mass Eye and Ear and volunteering around the Boston community. I volunteered at elementary schools and adult centers where we did arts and crafts together and socialized. When I’d tell my friends stories of my volunteering, they would show eagerness to help saying things like “This sounds really cool, I would do that!”   

So, then I created a club for Northeastern students who, like me, enjoy arts and would like to use it as a therapeutic exercise but also share using art as a coping mechanism in various communities in Boston 

What are your goals for Community Palette this semester? 

This semester, our goal is to introduce art therapy within Northeastern and diverse populations around Boston. We work with 3 main demographics: adults, kids, and clinical setting. We’d love to get more volunteers and continue to build more community partners.  

Who can join and when do you meet? 

Any Northeastern student, undergraduate and graduate, and we meet every other Tuesday! 


Learn more about Community Palette by checking out their Instagram @nupalette and if you have any questions feel free to email [email protected]. 

February 20, 2024

International Day of Women and Girls in Science with Carla Mattos

Calling all Women in STEM! 

February 11th was International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an annual observance adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the full and equal access and participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. 

To celebrate this day, read about Northeastern’s very own third-generation female scientist and professor, Carla Mattos! 

What’s your relationship with science and when did you know that this is what you want to pursue? 

I was born in Brazil, and I come from a line of three generations of women in science. My grandmother was one of Brazil’s first female physicists and my mother was a physicist too. My father and two grandfathers were also scientists.  

I don’t remember not having science around me, it’s part of who I grew up to be. From a very early age, my grandfather, a biologist, used to take us into the backyard to look at the chickens and flowers, in a way that made us ask questions and talk about how life works. I learned about the concept of atoms, with their protos, neutrons and electrons almost as early as I learned to read. It’s hard to separate science from who I am. I went to conferences with my parents, listened to them talk about science at the dinner table and watched them prepare lectures and work on their research problems. As a result, I grew up with a familiarity with what science is, how scientists communicate and how their research is disseminated both formally and in social circles where science is discussed. My relationship with science was from birth and I knew that science would be a big part of my life from a very early age. 

Did having female mentors in your life, including your mother, contribute to your career path? 

Well, absolutely! And it gave me the confidence to do it while building a family from early on, just like they had done, starting at age 23. I have three sons and they were all born when my husband and I were graduate students in Chemistry. A lot of people will say to me, Carla, how did you do it all? How did you become a scientist and have children during graduate school, when the stakes were so high? While it was not a piece of cake, I know that having had my mother and grandmother as role models, and a partner that was all in, were enabling privileges that I will never take for granted.  

Growing up around academics made it easier for me to navigate the academic world and, combined with the constant curiosity of wanting to understand the world by asking questions, really sent me on my career path. I saw how my mom did it, and how her mom did it, and it just became very natural. 

In all my comfort with being a scientist, I also learned not to take the issue of being a woman in science lightly. Over the years I have experienced countless misguided perceptions that come with being a woman and a mother doing science. I know I am not the only one, I see it all the time, and am surrounded by many female scientists with whom to share the good and the challenging aspects of being a woman in science. Many are my colleagues right here at Northeastern, many are my students making progress for the future. We all stand on the shoulders of countless courageous and brilliant women that came before us here in the United States and all over the world. I am proud to count my grandmother and mother among them. I am glad to be able to mentor and support young women who are continuing to forge change for the future and young men that move forward with a mindset of equity and respect for their women colleagues, collaborating and supporting each other.  

What advice do you have for young women thinking about studying science in college? 

Go for it unapologetically and with confidence! It’s important to engage through questions and let curiosity flourish. Given how much information is out there and how we are all pulled in different directions with so much responsibility, it’s tempting for students to approach courses based on the homework to complete, a box to be checked in a list of many tasks. Instead, let the material and homework be a venue of engagement, of asking more questions and taking the time to really enjoy finding the answers. When we do this, curiosity becomes a driving force and science is much more fun.  

Also, it’s important to understand, you don’t have to dedicate 100% of your life to science to be a great scientist. You can have hobbies, go out with friends, take vacation, whatever is important to you. It won’t make your work any less relevant and meaningful if you are also fully engaged with science when you do it. You will diversify your thoughts through different things in your life, which enriches everything you do, including science. 

Do you have any female STEM role models that have guided you? 

Well, of course, my mother and grandmother. But beyond that, as a young structural biologist and chemist, I looked up to a couple of women who were changing the way we looked at and understood proteins. One is Jane Richardson, at Duke University in North Carolina, and the other is Janet Thornton, at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK. They focused on understanding protein structure, how we represent them, and how the patterns in protein structure are related to their function. I have always admired their impact in our field of research and take what I learned from their work to enrich how I do science to this day. 

I was also fortunate with my PhD and postdoctoral mentors: Gregory Petsko, Martin Karplus, and Dagmar Ringe. They were open and supportive when I was in graduate school and accepting as each of my three children were born. I do need to say that my husband, John Roberts, was absolutely an equal partner in all of this. He took care of our babies as much as I did, and to this day we continue to support each other in our careers. Role models come in many forms, and I have many female role models and friends that inspire and teach me new things all the time. Here at Northeastern I continue to learn from female leaders and colleagues who I greatly admire, our Dean Hazel Sive, the chair of my department Penny Beuning, and our colleagues Oyinda Oyelaran and Mary Jo Ondrechen, among others. I also have friends in the Boston area who I see frequently, among them Karen Allen and Cathy Drennan, structural biologists and colleagues at BU and MIT. There is a vast network of women scientists here in the Boston area and beyond. We learn from and support each other, and we care about mentoring the new generation of women who will contribute to our future understanding of the world. 

February 12, 2024

What are the best products to prevent, relieve chapped lips?

When the cold temperatures hit your lips and dry them out this winter, you might turn to some sort of lip product for a solution. But with a plethora of options to choose from, which will work best?

When finding a product for your chapped lips, going with something simple is best, says Leila Deravi, an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern University.

“Less is more, especially for the lips, which are so sensitive,” Deravi says. “There’s products that have menthols … you’re lucky if you don’t get irritated by that stuff. I’d say the majority of people get irritated with those types of additives because it’s messing with the equilibrium of your skin barrier. … You start adding things, it’s going to irritate you.”

Read more from Northeastern Global News

Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

February 09, 2024

Yes, the moon is shrinking. Here’s what that means for the planned Artemis III mission — and future lunar visits

As NASA gears up to send human beings back to the moon during the still-to-be-scheduled Artemis III mission, researchers with the federal agency are learning more about the geologic profile of Earth’s lone satellite — including that it, apparently, has been shrinking.

A study published recently found that a proposed landing site for NASA’s long-anticipated manned trip is flush with steep surface ripples caused by “moonquakes” — the lunar equivalent of earthquakes, which occur through a combination of interior cooling and the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Read more from Northeastern Global News

Photo by Getty Images

February 06, 2024

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