Budding NU science writers

Turritropsis nutricula. Image via Thinkstock.

Tur­ritropsis nutricula. Image via Thinkstock.

Last night I finally got a chance to finish reading all of the sto­ries in the 14th issue of NUScience, which hit the shelves a few weeks ago. The mag­a­zine is Northeastern’s first and only sci­ence mag­a­zine, and, as far as I know a pretty unique under­taking in the under­grad­uate world. They’ve been around since 2009 and cover every­thing from sci­ence co-​​ops to on-​​campus research to recent find­ings in the broader sci­en­tific community.

Issue 14 was pretty infor­ma­tive for me. For instance, I was not aware of the under­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mush­room research in the world, nor how much poten­tial these humble het­erotrophs hold. I learned about an immortal jel­ly­fish called Tur­ri­topsis nutricula and the fact that the part of our brain called the cin­gu­late is “respon­sible for the unpleas­ant­ness of pain, rather than the phys­ical sensation.”

There was a great little piece about how Google works, and while I’ve heard it before, reading it here drove home the point that an incred­ible amount of stuff hap­pens in the frac­tion of a second between entering a search term and receiving results.

The mag­a­zine has a nice orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture (although a table of con­tents would have helped me nav­i­gate it all), leading off with a stu­dent inter­view and closing with a con­ver­sa­tion with fac­ulty member Albert-​​László Barabási. Between these two book­ends, the nar­ra­tive flows from a few space-​​related sto­ries, to a a few about the internet and net­working  (yes, Mr. Murray, I do remember the dial up days of yore). Next it hits the mush­room story, which also ref­er­ences mycelial net­works in a nice tran­si­tion between tech­nology and biology. From there we move to the health-​​focused sto­ries, including one about Northeastern’s new pro­gram in Per­sonal Health Infor­matics. Finally, a couple envi­ron­mental sto­ries, the immortal jel­ly­fish, and the pain-​​sensing cingulate.

The mag­a­zine doesn’t just cover sci­ence find­ings, but also touches a little on the polit­ical world behind it all. One writer’s bio of Aaron Swartz was lovely and infor­ma­tive, calling atten­tion to the need for a better approach to copy­right laws in the age of the internet.

The mag­a­zine appears twice a semester, with 1000 print copies (it’s a lim­ited edi­tion find, friends) and an online ver­sion. I’m totally impressed by the ini­tia­tive of these stu­dents, and only wish I could have thought of some­thing this cool when I was an under­grad. As it hap­pens, I didn’t realize the career of sci­ence writing even existed until well after grad­u­a­tion. NUScience isn’t Sci­en­tific Amer­ican, but it’s on its way toward becoming the North­eastern version.