This spring, more than 20 freshmen and sopho­mores com­pleted a course cov­ering such diverse sub­jects as evo­lu­tionary genetics, poly­gons and the dynamics of bouncing balls.

The inter­dis­ci­pli­nary course, “Explo­ration and Research: Math­e­matics, Physics, Biology,” is co-​​taught by five fac­ulty mem­bers through an ini­tia­tive that con­nects North­eastern math­e­mati­cians, physi­cists and biol­o­gists with first– and second-​​year stu­dents who want to explore those fields. The course also intro­duces stu­dents to math and sci­ence research-​​related co-​​ops and internships.

The pro­gram, Proac­tive Recruit­ment in Intro­duc­tory Sci­ence and Math­e­matics (PRISM), was devel­oped by mem­bers of Northeastern’s math and sci­ence fac­ulty and
is sup­ported by a five-​​year, $1.98 mil­lion grant from the National Sci­ence Foundation.

PRISM’s strongest asset is pro­viding stu­dents with the oppor­tu­nity to work on research projects with fac­ulty at North­eastern,” said pro­fessor and math depart­ment chair Richard Porter, the initiative’s prin­cipal inves­ti­gator. “They develop con­nec­tions with fac­ulty, which helps rein­force or find their pas­sion.  If their pas­sion is in sci­ence, they are paving the way for great research co-​​ops.”

Stu­dents praised the pro­gram for intro­ducing them to inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research oppor­tu­ni­ties in fields they oth­er­wise might not have explored.

PRISM shows what oppor­tu­ni­ties are there, and they’re inter­esting,” said Matthew Taylor, a freshman behav­ioral neu­ro­science major. “I don’t want to limit my expo­sure to only behav­ioral neuroscience.”

Sopho­more Molly Bruckman, who men­tors PRISM stu­dent, spoke highly of the program’s net­working oppor­tu­ni­ties. “The pro­gram can intro­duce (under­grad­u­ates) to higher level pro­fes­sors instead of the grad stu­dents teaching their other classes,” she said.

Stu­dents who have com­pleted the pro­gram have gone on to pursue high-​​profile research co-​​op jobs, said Porter. Some have had their research pub­lished in promi­nent sci­ence publications.

Matthew Cham­ber­lain, a third-​​year physics major and a PRISM mentor, par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram last year, and spent his first co-​​op researching nanomed­i­cine for cancer appli­ca­tions at Northeastern’s IGERT Nanomed­i­cine Sci­ence & Tech­nology center with pro­fessor Srinivas Sridhar. He con­tinues to work in the lab this semester. 

“PRISM is a fan­tastic oppor­tu­nity for freshmen and sopho­mores who want to learn more about research oppor­tu­ni­ties on campus,” he said.

Stu­dents inter­ested in learning more about PRISM should visit the or con­tact pro­fessor Richard Porter, r.​porter@​neu.​edu.

– Lauren Horn