Mark Williams, Professor of Physics, sits down with the College of Science Graduate Program staff to talk about his research at Northeastern University.
Tell us about your current research.
In my lab we study individual biological molecules such as DNA and proteins to try to understand how they work and what drives their interactions with each other. For example, we have instruments called optical tweezers that allow us to capture a single DNA molecule in between two polystyrene beads. We then use the tweezers to stretch the DNA, which can convert it from the double-stranded helical form (the form that stores our genetic information) to the single-stranded state, a state that is used by our cells to read and copy our genetic information.
The theme of the most recent issue of NU Sci, Northeastern’s student-run science magazine, is “Rivalry,” a nod to its publication after an especially contentious presidential election. To pull it off, however, more than 50 students needed to work together to write, edit, design, and market the magazine.
Throughout the year, students report on complicated scientific issues both happening at Northeastern and in the world at large, and then write about them in a way that is accessible to the layperson. These articles eventually find homes in the magazine, either in its twice-per-semester print edition or online.
Bio-inspired materials chemistry is a fascinating field that focuses on understanding natural biological systems and mimicking their properties in synthetic materials. In November the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Dr. Leila Deravi, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemistry Biology, a $389,999 grant over the next three years to investigate the “mechanisms behind adaptive coloration in cephalopods.”
Axolotl salamanders are extremely resilient, but very little research has been done on their incredible ability to regenerate internal organs and eggs—also called oocytes. In a study published in the journal Stem Cells, Northeastern University biology professor James Monaghan and his team have discovered that these salamanders not only have the capability of re-growing limbs, they can also regenerate their ovaries and produce eggs throughout their lifespan. “When we remove a large portion of the ovary, it activates many endogenous stem cells to repair the organ,” said Monaghan, whose graduate student, Piril Erler, and research technician, Alexandra Sweeney, performed the study. “These salamanders can repair after injury, continue to make large amounts of eggs, and continue to have a hyper-prolific female reproductive system. It’s pretty incredible.”
Srinivas Sridhar, University Distinguished Professor of Physics, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering at Northeastern, who has led pioneering research and education initiatives in the field of nanomedicine, has received the 2016 Biomedical Engineering Society Diversity Award.
This month, the National Institutes of Health recognized Nikolai Slavov, assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Northeastern University with its Director’s New Innovator Award. The five-year, $2.35 million award is part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which supports highly creative early-career researchers taking out-of-the-box approaches to major challenges in biomedical research.
Diomedes Logothetis, the new chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy, has a vision: To advance Northeastern’s standing as a go-to institution for academic researchers interested in drug discovery.
Network scientist Albert-László Barabási, Robert Gray Dodge Professor and University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern, is part of an interdisciplinary research team selected to receive the One Brave Idea Research Award, an unprecedented $75 million award to support the most innovative collaborative strategy for ending coronary heart disease.
After spending a decade in the pharmaceutical industry, Chemistry Professor and Interim Department Chair Michael Pollastri came to Northeastern to focus on finding cures for neglected tropical diseases. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded him a $2.6 million grant to continue his work in drug discovery for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), commonly called sleeping sickness. This grant will be a huge step toward furthering his preclinical research program that focuses on finding drug analogs to combat this deadly disease, with minimal side effects.
New research led by Northeastern University suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may not progress like falling dominoes, as conventional wisdom holds, with one molecular event sparking the formation of plaques throughout the brain. Instead, it may progress like a fireworks display, with a unique flare launching each plaque, one by one.