Physics professor Mark Williams talks about his research

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.

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Student-​​produced magazine strives to make science more accessible

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.

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Northeastern chemistry faculty awarded $390K NSF grant for cephalopod research

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.”

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Ovary regeneration in salamander could provide solutions to human infertility

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.”

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Engineering professor receives NIH ‘New Innovator Award’ for pioneering biomedical research

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.

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Northeastern network scientist part of international research group selected for $75M One Brave Idea Research Award

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.

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Northeastern chemistry professor awarded $2.6M NIH grant for neglected disease research

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.

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New research offers ‘critical insights’ for treating, preventing Alzheimer’s disease

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.

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