Science, Our Endless Frontier
The big questions of today require more than the sum total of our knowledge and ingenuity—they demand data, and lots of it. By harnessing powerful tools and algorithms, researchers can decode scientific complexities faster and at greater scales than ever before. A new, data-driven frontier has emerged, empowering scientists to transform our understanding of the world.
And with 37 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes, 15 of which are housed in the College of Science, Northeastern stands at the edge of the frontier. Come be a part of the next era of discovery.
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The focus of the Advanced Biomaterials for Neuroengineering Laboratory (ABNEL) is developing novel and transformative devices, biomaterials, and biophysical-based therapies for neuropathies in the Central, Peripheral, and Enteric nervous systems.
The ADDRES Lab studies interactions between materials and biological systems, with a current focus on the intestinal environment, via development of theoretical and tissue-engineered cell culture models.
The research effort in the Laboratory of Biomaterials and Advanced Nano-Delivery Systems (BANDS) is focused on the development of biocompatible materials from natural and synthetic polymers, target-specific drug and gene delivery systems for cancer, CNS, inflammatory, and infectious diseases, and nanotechnology applications in medical diagnosis, imaging, and therapy.
The Apfeld Lab seeks to dissect the interplay between redox processes and age-dependent changes in tissue function in the nematode C. elegans, in order to shed light on the association between the dysregulation of the cellular redox environment and many human diseases of aging.
The Auguste lab engineers solutions to address current challenges in medicine. They design, synthesize, and evaluate new biomaterials that change the way we deliver drugs and cells.
Northeastern recently lost a key influencer in its journey to becoming a top-tier research institution. A renowned chemical engineer, a pioneer in the plastics industry, generous benefactor, and devoted member of the university community, Dr. Louis Barnett, B’44, H’77, passed away just one week shy of his 102nd birthday.
Born on November 22, 1918, in Malden, Massachusetts, to first-generation American parents, Louis Barnett earned degrees in chemical engineering and industrial management before starting his business, Loma, in 1948 with an order for plastic fishing lures. By 1965, Loma had grown by leaps and bounds, and Barnett had many firsts to his credit, including the plastic garbage can, the plastic roll-top bread box, plastic the paper towel dispenser, and the plastic clothes hamper. He sold the company in 1966. Dr. Barnett was a true renaissance man who was also devoted to his family. He was known as an author, a gourmet cook, connoisseur of fine wines, and cigar afficionado. He has served on the boards of banks, companies, hospitals, arts organizations, and universities in the U.S. and Israel.
Through his philanthropy, the Barnett institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University was established and named in his honor in 1973. Today, with more than 50 scientists and an $8 million endowment, the Institute is internationally recognized as one of the premier centers for cutting-edge research and advanced training in analytical chemistry for biomedical applications. The Barnett Institute’s active program of spin-outs and licensing technology provides for many real-life applications of research advances, which have led to more than 1,000 published papers and 75 patents. Its more than 400 graduates are leaders in prestigious academic institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Barnett would often reflect on how proud he was of the Barnett graduates. Barnett served as chair of the advisory board for the Institute, and held volunteer leadership roles at Northeastern as both Corporator and Overseer. He was awarded an honorary degree in 1977.
Dr. Barnett was recently chosen as the 2020 Northeastern University Pioneer Award. The Northeastern University Pioneer Award is reserved for individuals who create opportunities, forge new paths and have a deep and lasting impact on the University. Dr. Barnett could not be a more fitting embodiment of this spirit.
Dr. Barnett’s leadership and innovation helped position Northeastern University as a leading research institution. He was a champion and generous supporter of our students and his unwavering commitment to learning and discovery helped shape the Northeastern of today and will propel us into the future. We remember Dr. Louis Barnett with appreciation and admiration for his exceptional service and extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues.
We invite you to read more about him in his published memorial.
Cellaria Inc. Partners with Researchers at Northeastern University to Advance New Photomedicine Therapies for Key Cancers
The Spring Lab at Northeastern University and Cellaria of Wakefield, MA were awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant to extend and advance the application of innovative new photomedicine-based therapies for hard-to-treat cancers. The grant provides $3.2M funding to develop precision therapeutics closely tailored to the requirements of specific patient populations. The Spring Lab uses Cellaria’s next generation, patient-derived, customized cell models that boost the effectiveness of in vitro studies.
“We’ve demonstrated proof of concept and seen significant interest from clinicians,” said Dr Bryan Spring, Assistant Professor of Physics. “However, we initially targeted just a single ovarian cancer biomarker. To capture the heterogeneity of the disease and efficiently study multiple biomarkers we needed to upgrade our cell models. Developing new models in-house would have taken years and instead we chose to partner with Cellaria. This has really accelerated progress by providing rapid access to rigorously characterized cell models for specific molecular subtypes and patient populations.”
Dr Spring’s research focuses on the use of antibody-photosensitizer conjugates to make cancer cells susceptible to light-induced destruction, targeting microscopic cancer cell deposits left behind by conventional therapies. Primary areas of application are pancreatic and ovarian cancer. With these cancers, cells left behind by surgery and other conventional therapies can metastasize in the peritoneal cavity and abdomen, attacking other organs and increasing the severity of the disease. The new NIH research grant is entitled “Multiplexed and dynamically targeted photoimmunotherapy of heterogeneous, chemoresistant micrometastases guided by online in vivo optical imaging of cell-surface biomarkers”.
Cellaria’s cell models help the researchers in Dr. Spring’s lab to determine which biomarkers are most actionable when it comes to targeting drug resistant cells and applying photomedicine. These cell models robustly represent the full heterogeneity of the cancers, which is essential for the development of precision therapies.
Marine Biology student Gwendolyn McManus is co-author of a new paper in Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology examining behaviors of the Flamboyant Cuttlefish.
She chatted with our team recently about her work as a co-op at Marine Biological Laboratory that led to the publication, and her current projects.
What drew you to MBL’s Hanlon Lab for your co-op?
I chose the Hanlon lab because they studied cuttlefish camouflage, which I thought sounded interesting, but also because the job involved animal care, and because there was a possibility I could do some scientific illustration work, which is one of my hobbies. I did end up creating the illustrations that are featured in the paper, which was such a cool experience!
Since the lab studies primarily European cuttlefish (which aren’t found in the Americas), my co-op was much more lab-based than field-based. I did, however, go to the beach every week or two and spend a few hours shaking seaweed into plastic tubs to collect gammarid amphipods that we used to feed our youngest cuttlefish!
What was your favorite part of the work?
My favorite part of the work was getting to interact with the cuttlefish day-to-day. Our animals were very aware of the fact that humans = food, so they liked to come up to the surface when you approached and raise their eyes above the water just to see what was going on. All of them had different personalities and tendencies as well! By the end of my co-op, I got good at telling them apart, even in tanks with 3-4 identical animals.
What are you up to now, and what’s next?
I worked in the Hughes Lab at the Marine Science Center during my Spring 2020 co-op, and transitioned to virtual work after COVID. I’m currently collaborating on a project to develop a video game that will teach students about the ecology of seagrass beds. We’ve got a long way to go on the project, but it’s fun work!
I’m hoping to get my master’s degree with the Three Seas Program in 2021-22, and I haven’t decided exactly what to do after that. I really enjoy the intersection between science and art, so I can see myself ending up in research, conservation, or educational/awareness work of some kind.
Roger T. Hanlon, Gwendolyn McManus. Flamboyant cuttlefish behavior: Camouflage tactics and complex colorful reproductive behavior assessed during field studies at Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2020; 529: 151397 DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2020.151397
The black mangrove, Avicennia germinans, is the most abundant of the three mangrove species found along the Gulf coast, and its range is expanding. Marine Science Center researchers Randall Hughes and Steven Scyphers have just been awarded a grant to explore the impacts of this expansion on the region’s ecosystem and communities.
Avicennia germinans has several clever adaptations to ensure success in the unforgiving coastal environment; it is the most cold-tolerant of the region’s mangroves, it can take up saltwater and expel the salt through its leaves, and can grow pneumatophores, roots that rise up out of the soggy mud and seawater like snorkels to provide air to the tree. This resiliency also means mangroves are displacing salt marshes along coastlines in the Gulf of Mexico, which can have significant impacts on communities dependent on marshes for coastal protection and habitat health.
Drs. Hughes and Scyphers have begun research to examine range expansion of the black mangrove in the northern Gulf of Mexico from Cedar Key, Florida to Port Aransas, Texas, supported by a 697K grant from the Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. This was one of 6 projects awarded by the GRP this year, $5.3 million in total, to enhance understanding of gulf ecosystems.
The Marine Science Center researchers are teaming up with Dr. Christine Shepard, Director of Science at The Nature Conservancy, Gulf of Mexico and Dr. Michael Osland, Research Ecologist at the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, to use coupled natural-human systems approaches to study the black mangrove.
The project will examine the current and future geographic distribution and associated ecosystem functions of black mangroves, and how these are impacted by the social and policy landscape in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Existing data on the black mangrove’s distribution and ecosystem function, as well as analysis of the current attitudes, beliefs and decisions of stakeholders in the region, will inform projections of the future of this critical species and its place in the local environment.
The researchers ultimately hope to connect this valuable ecological and social data with enhanced Coastal Resilience decision support tools, including a Mangrove Explorer interactive app to help determine the communities most at risk due to these ecosystem changes.
Learn more about the Gulf Research Program Awards.