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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Behavioral Neuroscience
Biochemistry
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Marine and Environmental Sciences
Mathematics
Network Science Program
Physics
Psychology
26 Total Labs and Research Groups
Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program
Marine and Environmental Sciences
Behavioral Neuroscience
Biology

Dr. Ayers’ research focus is on the neuroethology of motor systems in invertebrates and lower vertebrates and the application of this knowledge to the development of advanced robots.

Faculty
Bowen Lab
Marine and Environmental Sciences

Much of the research in the Bowen Lab is focused on how salt marsh microbial communities, and in particular those microbes that are important in the nitrogen cycle, respond to global change drivers.

Faculty
Center for STEM Education
Biology
Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Physics
Marine and Environmental Sciences

This university-wide center aspires to play a key role in shaping and implementing the K-20 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education strategy at Northeastern University, and to impact STEM teaching and learning at all levels, both locally and nationally.

Coastal Sustainability Institute at the Marine Science Center
Marine and Environmental Sciences

The MSC’s research topics relate to understanding how the projected impacts of climate change will affect marine habitants, and how urban communities along the coast can best prepare for these impacts.

Faculty
Detrich Lab
Marine and Environmental Sciences
Biochemistry

One central strategy of the Detrich Lab’s work is the comparative approach to adaptational evolutionary biology – they use phylogenetically controlled contrasts to evaluate molecular causation in natural experiments, such as the evolution of proteins to function efficiently at cold temperature. Once they establish potential explanations for such phenomena, they exploit genetically tractable systems, such as the zebrafish, to test their hypotheses under controlled laboratory conditions.

Network Science Institute
The NSI works to discover and inspire fundamentally new ways to measure, model, predict and visualize meaningful interactions and interconnectivity of social, physical and technological systems.
Chemical Imaging of Living Systems Institute
The Institute develops imaging tools to highlight chemical processes - enabling clinicians to better diagnose and treat disease.
Coastal Sustainability Institute at the Marine Science Center
The MSC's research topics relate to understanding how the projected impacts of climate change will affect marine habitants, and how urban communities along the coast can best prepare for these impacts.
The Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis
The Institute was established in 1973 as a center for advanced interdisciplinary research in the chemical analysis sciences at Northeastern University, in the educational hub of Boston, Massachusetts. Today, with over 50 scientists and an $8 million endowment, the Institute is recognized internationally as one of the premier centers for cutting-edge research and advanced training in analytical chemistry for biomedical applications.
Affective Science Institute (ASI)
The ASI is a nexus for collaboration, training, and the exchange of ideas for researchers, clinicians, and other professionals in affective science in and around New England.
Antimicrobial Discovery Center
The Center translates basic discoveries into novel antimicrobial therapies to combat Biowarfare and conventional pathogen threats. The rise of multidrug resistant pathogens and the threat of genetically engineered bioweapons represent an urgent need for antimicrobial therapies. The Center is funded by grants from the NIH, NSF, and DOE.
Center for Cognitive and Brain Health
The Center investigates the effects of lifestyle choices and health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, diet) and their physiological sequelae (e.g., fitness, adiposity) on brain and cognition. From a neuroimaging perspective, the researchers’ interests lie in understanding how health influences brain and behavior as it relates to increased health and effective functioning for individuals across the lifespan.
The Center for Complex Network Research (CCNR)
The Center’s objective is simple: think networks. Research focuses on how networks emerge/evolve, how they look, and how they impact our understanding of complex systems. CCNR’s research has developed to unexpected areas, including the topology of the World Wide Web; complex networks inside the cell, and the Internet’s Achilles’ Heel.
Center for Drug Discovery
The Center for Drug Discovery is dedicated to the discovery of novel medications and the development of approaches and technologies aimed at improving the discovery of new therapeutic drugs. Faculty include: Raymond Booth, Sergiy Tyukhtenko and Jeff Agar
Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Complex Systems (CIRCS)
CIRCS fosters collaborations between researchers from different scientific and engineering disciplines who share a common interest in elucidating fundamental aspects of the structure and function of complex physical and biological systems across multiple levels of organization using a combination of quantitative state-of-the-art experimental and theoretical research tools. Faculty include: Williams and Stepanyants.
Marine Science Center
An internationally recognized research institution that focuses on the ocean environment, marine life and ecology, and discovering biotechnological and medical potentials in the sea. Projects include building underwater robots and creating genetically engineered seaweed to clean wastewater from agriculture facilities.
Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center
The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center is providing a world-class computational infrastructure, indispensible in the increasingly sensor and data-rich environments of modern science and engineering discovery.
Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology
This center aims to be at the frontier of science and technology of clean energy conversion and storage. Faculty include: Sanjeev Mukerjee and Serge Pann
Center for STEM Education
This university-wide center aspires to play a key role in shaping and implementing the K-20 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education strategy at Northeastern University, and to impact STEM teaching and learning at all levels, both locally and nationally.
Center for Translational NeuroImaging
The Center for Translational NeuroImaging endeavors to provide services to the academic community interested in  animal modeling and drug testing to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of CNS diseases. The Center is also committed to training the next generation of imaging scientists to meet the needs of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Lab (BATL)
Directed by Dr. Jared Auclair, BATL is a state-of-the-art facility offering a unique hands-on training opportunity to the pharmaceutical industry in form of affordable, practical and comprehensive courses. Experienced faculty and staff provide in-depth knowledge applicable to the lab environment.
The Electronic Materials Research Institute (eMRI) 
The Electronic Materials Research Institute (eMRI) at Northeastern University has access to extensive facilities, unique laboratories, and special instrumentation for materials research in the areas of nanotechnology and biotechnology. Faculty include: Srinivas Sridhar, Don Heiman, Latika Menon, Paul Champion, Sergey Kravchenko, Nathan Israeloff, Mark Williams, Mary Jo Ondrechen, Sanjeev Mukerjee, Max Diem, Robert Hanson, Graham Jones David Budil, William Hancock, Patricia Mabrouk, Barry Karger and William Reiff
New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute
This institute focuses on the role of tissue inflammation in fighting disease and infection, and the mechanisms that control tissue inflammation in the body. The Institute’s work has immediate implications for anti-cancer strategies and approaches to improved vaccines.

News

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Don’t worry about the koi fish on campus this winter–they’re just chilling

Tucked into the heart of Northeastern’s Boston campus is a tiny oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life. A koi pond, located between the Curry Student Center and Robinson Hall, sparkles in the sun and gurgles as a small waterfall splashes into it. Vibrant, nearly fluorescent koi flash just under the surface.

But what happens to these fish—a dozen or so live in the pond—during the winter?

“They chill out,” says William Detrich, professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern. He means it literally.

Read the full story at [email protected]

January 21, 2021
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The Ribosome: Is it the Key to the Next Generation of Antibiotic Therapies?

Imagine a novel antibiotic treatment that instantly kills bacteria and poses zero risks to humans. This therapy may be closer to reality than we once thought possible, thanks to the Whitford Research Group. Their recent publication in the esteemed journal Nature highlights opportunities for the next generation of antibiotics through the study of the ribosome. The ribosome is a biomolecular machine responsible for producing the proteins that make up all living organisms. Every cell requires ribosomes to survive, including pathogens, like bacteria, that can be harmful to human health. Shutting down a ribosome means rendering a cell unable to survive – while bad news for destructive bacteria remains good news for scientists. A team at Northeastern University may have found a way to harness the functionality of the ribosome, elucidating a tremendous opportunity for the development of novel broad-spectrum antibiotics.

The team’s most recent published research, “A steric gate controls P/E hybrid-state formation of tRNA on the ribosome” was performed at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC). Funded by the National Science Foundation since 2014, Dr. Mariana Levi, Kelsey Walak, and Dr. Paul Whitford of Northeastern performed hundreds of simulations on structural elements of the ribosome using high performance computers. Their research focuses both on understanding the structure and function of the ribosome as well as finding key features that control its motion, with the ultimate goal of using them as experimental targets for potential antibiotics. “This is the first study where we actually have a strong signature of an antibiotic target,” said Dr. Whitford.

Harnessing the power of high-performance computing, a tool used for intensive computational tasks, the team developed a model that has identified a region on the ribosome unique to bacteria but absent from humans. Targeting this region pharmaceutically could kill bacterial cells without harming human ones. This finding is historic: “[Most previous studies] didn’t know where to look…it might take a thousand graduate student years to try out all of the possible regions that could be important…We’ve reduced this by maybe 95 percent,” says Dr Whitford. Working with the Research Computing Group at Northeastern, they went through hundreds of simulations to narrow down this target region using an in-house model developed by Dr. Levi. She credits the success of this model to the resources available to researchers for free at the MHPCC: “Our lab is our computer, so we really have to have a deeper understanding of what’s going on.

This study is just the foundation for what is yet to come from this group. “We have something to say and add to the discussion,” says Dr. Levi. Their contributions extend not only to the community of ribosomal study but to those looking to leverage these innovative solutions to treat bacterial disease. “It’s much more than just computational simulation,” Dr. Levi adds, “This is just the beginning.”

Computer Simulation of Ribosome.

Computer Simulation of Ribosome. [“An in-house computer model uncovered a location on the ribosome that is unique to bacteria. Targeting this location could allow antibiotics to disable bacterial ribosomes without harming human ones.”/Image Credit: Whitford Research Group]

January 20, 2021

College of Science Connects: Research at the Frontier of Psychology & Neuroscience

Hear from Hazel Sive, Dean of the College of Science, as she talks to Lisa Feldman Barrett, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology. Professor Barrett, among the top one percent most cited scientists in the world, will discuss her groundbreaking research in psychology and neuroscience and how the human brain, in continual conversation with the human body and the world, regulates the body and creates mental events, such as episodes of emotion.

January 18, 2021
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Diseases spread differently, region by region. This Mathematical model shows how.

Considering how many factors contribute to the worldwide spread of airborne infectious diseases, forecasting pandemics can be a daunting task.

In an attempt to reflect that complex reality, Northeastern’s Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Sociotechnical Systems (MOBS Lab) has developed a new, data-driven model that factors in patterns of interpersonal behavior down to the state or province level, enabling epidemiologists to get a closer, more specific look at how diseases spread.

“There’s no one model that fits all nations,” says Ana Pastore y Piontti, an associate research scientist in the MOBS Lab and co-author of a paper outlining this new model, which was published in the journal Nature. “We can break down contact patterns into subnational levels where the people are interacting.”

Read the full story at [email protected]

January 14, 2021

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