Clint Valentine, S’15
Whether tunneling into lobsters’ brains or ascending mountain peaks, Clint Valentine, S’15, has a passion for taking his work outside the classroom.
Last summer, he set off on a 600-mile cycling and mountain climbing adventure through Colorado that, as part of a new wave of “civilian science,” culminated in a story published in National Geographic’s Explorers Journal. In all, Valentine and his climbing partner ascended 10,000 vertical feet on the monthlong adventure.
Through the organization Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, the duo provided on-site observations for researchers across the nation. They recorded sightings of the American pika, temperatures at various altitudes, and even roadkill along the way—all to help scientists determine the impacts of global warming at high altitudes.
“I want to travel for adventure, but I love having a scientific, purposeful mission,” he says. “It makes the trip even more satisfying.”
When Valentine isn’t scaling mountain peaks, he’s often exploring in the opposite direction. One of his latest go-to spots is the sea floor, where the fourth-year student is building off the groundbreaking robotic lobster research of his mentor and former co-op leader, Joseph Ayers, a neurophysiology professor at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Mass.
Valentine is exploring the minds of live lobsters and applying what he learns to their robotic counterparts. Using small “backpacks” designed and printed on Northeastern’s 3-D printers, he tracks the neurological patterns of live lobsters. His goal is to gather and analyze data transmitted remotely by his backpack-toting lobsters and use that information to determine how lobsters respond to stimuli not only physically, but also neurologically.
If successful, Valentine then hopes to work with Ayers to create autonomous robo-lobsters that can respond to touch and water flow, helping them to avoid obstacles and underwater wave energy. One practical application will be the ability to sense the compounds in underwater mines and, in an act of robotic hara-kiri, detonate the mines to spare ships, divers, and other underwater life.
Valentine’s penchant for environmental activism doesn’t stop there, however. Two summers ago, he studied glacial topography on a Dialogue of Civilizations in Iceland, and he’s about to embark on a co-op at MIT to study grain-based toxins that cause liver cancer. In his spare time, he leads climbing trips from the Brown Memorial Lodge owned by Northeastern University and the Northeastern University Huskiers and Outing Club, and serves as president of the Terra Society, the university’s earth and environmental
After graduation, Valentine plans to travel the Silk Road from Europe to India before pursuing his doctorate.
“What inspires me as an adventurer and scientist is the same—a fervor and curiosity for embedding myself within nature,” he told National Geographic’s Explorers Journal.
Tori Porell, SSH’14
Tori Porell wrote the book on challenging tyranny. Literally.
During her co-op in 2012, the international affairs major co-authored Making Oppression Backfire, a handbook for activists. The 80-page manual is the first of its kind to instruct activists on how to engage in nonviolent struggle for democracy, freedom, and human rights.
The book was conceived while Porell was on co-op in Belgrade, Serbia, at the nonprofit Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies. While serving as a research associate, Porell was approached by the organization’s founder, Srdja Popovic, to co-write the handbook. Popovic was an original member of the youth movement that helped remove from power Slobodan Milosevic, the brutal Serbian president who was overthrown in 2000.
Porell’s handbook offers steps for nonviolent struggle to confront dictatorships, and the methods it outlines are applicable universally.
The Phoenix native is no newbie to social activism. While taking Professor Denise Horn’s “Globalization and International Affairs” class during her freshman year at Northeastern, Porell learned about grass-roots activism and helped organize the 2011 Occupy movement in Boston. The movement, which started as Occupy Wall Street, is focused on ending economic inequality.
“That was an unprecedented phenomenon,” she says. “It raised awareness about the fundamental systemic problems in the United States.”
Now a senior, Porell has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship so she can continue her work with CANVAS after graduation.