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NU Science Issue 6

NU Science Issue 6

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Published by: NuScience Mag on Apr 08, 2012
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Issue 6
Life in theDARKNES
How Hydrothermal VentsCreate Complex BiologicalCommunities Absent from
Music Heals!
Meghan Cahill’sexperience abroadin Costa Rica
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Is it even a contest? The Waterbear. It’s practically a DC superhero. If it was fifty feet tall it would have a legitimate shot against Superman.
 Deinococcus radiodurans 
. Vaccuums? Loves them. Acids? Eats them forbreakfast.Ionizing radiation? Please. Give it a challenge, like digestingheavy metals. Oh wait,it can do that too.Metal-extremophile: known to live in the amps of onlythe most heavy of the metal legends. Thought to originate in the ampof Dimebag Darrell, and were the only creature able to withstand hisinsane riffs.I would have to say
We may soon have to learn to implementhow they thrive with hardly any water!The GFAJ-1 strain of the Gammaproteobacteria family, the first knownextremophile to thrive in an arsenic-based environment, which is some-thing scientists always thought impossible. It’s the little extremophile thatcould!
 Denocooccus radiodurans 
. It is the worlds toughest bacterium in TheGuinness Book of World Records. It can survive, extreme cold, dehydra-tion, a vacuum, acid and high levels of radiation. I wish I could do that.My favorite would have to be the Antarctic krill. They live beneathsheets of ice, in water around -30 °F. They’re bioluminescent and createswarms as dense as 10,000 - 30,000 krill in a single cubic meter.My favorite would have to be hypoliths, they live in deserts, beneathrocks.Mine is a halophile!!!My favorite is an osmophile. We share the same NEED for sugar :)
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Can you tell us about your educational background?
I grew up in Scotland, in the UK. My rst degree is in Physics,from the University of Aberdeen. It is actually in Natural Philoso
 phy, that’s what they called Physics in the old days. I graduated in1975 and moved to University of Cambridge to complete a PhDin Physics. My research, which I started as a PhD student, is in thearea known as condensed matter physics or materials physics. Iuse electron microscopes to look at the structure of materials andunderstand how that relates to their functions and properties.
Would you describe your research and career positions in the
scientifc feld?
I graduated in 1978, and I came to the US. I was motivated tocome to New York because I had been there as a student andthought it was the greatest place on earth. I was very lucky andfound a great job as a post-doc at IBM Research. That got me intothe world of semi-conductors. They were doing basic science un
derlying silicon technology. Then I got a job in Bell Laboratoriesin 1980. It was a great place to work. I was there for eleven years.Their approach was to give you half a million dollars and a lab andtell you to go in and do whatever you want. If you were successfulafter ve years you got more. And it was very inter-disciplinary;I interacted with many different people. It was an incredibly pro
ductive place; many Nobel prizes were given to those that workedthere and key technologies were invented. It was an environmentthat was supportive for scientists to do work to benet the entirecountry instead of just the company itself. Then in 1991, I movedto the University of Illinois as a professor of Physics and MaterialSciences and Engineering.
What motivated you to make the switch from researching in
the feld to academia/education?
It actually wasn’t such a switch. And this comes back to my phi
losophy about the College of Science. Research and education areso intimately linked. In my opinion, you can’t teach science if youdon’t do science. And doing science is research. There has to bea strong connection between the two. I was attracted to teaching because there is a limit to what you can do as a scientist on your own. It’s wonderful to work with young people, bringing in un
dergraduate and graduate students, getting to interact with them. Ihave always enjoyed teaching. And I was able to expand my re
search at Illinois in how to control the structure of materials on thenano-scale. I was professor there for about seven years before Imoved on to Argonne National Laboratory, a government researchlab funded by the Department of Energy in Chicago.I was initially the director of the Materials Science division, andthen I became the director of a major national user facility calledthe Advanced Photon Source for about nine years until I camehere. It was similar to this environment running a college at NU inthat we operated a stand-alone facility within a large lab. We werefunded directly by the government so I had to ensure we wouldhave the necessary monetary resources and make sure they werespent strategically. That is the model that Northeastern Universityhas chosen to move to with Deans. It allows autonomy - if youhave a benecial idea, you have the resources and authority to ac
complish it. It is a good system that creates an environment whereyou can facilitate new directions. I was attracted to this opportu
nity at NU because this type of model is new for the university. Itcame from the desire to help the university go to the next level, toempower the deans. Breaking up the College of Arts and Sciencesallows individual deans to be more knowledgeable about what’sgoing on. When you look at journalism and political science, theyare very important, but they are so different from say, physics, interms of how they work and use resources. That doesn’t meanyou put boundaries between science and political science that aredifcult to cross. In our model, the deans are entrepreneurs. Theysee the value in working together. They can talk to each other.Two deans can operate together, seeing the value in each other’sexpertise. This change in model had to occur in order to liberateus to go further.
What was the reasoning behind your decision to come to NU?
 Northeastern is different; it is unique because it is, in fact, the bestof its kind. But we have places that we can improve. We have places to go, and we have to gure that out together. I am inter 
ested in change. It is a fascinating opportunity to make a differ 
ence. There is a signicant amount of hiring right now. Within theCollege of Science, there is a tremendous opportunity to inuencein what areas of science to hire new faculty.I chose this position because I love the people side of science,interacting with the faculty and the students. The university hasfantastic experiential learning and research opportunities withinthe university and outside with co-op. We need to expand thatin the sense that we need to provide new faculty who will bringresearch in new areas that will be important in the future. Just torandomly expand research doesn’t make sense. That is the part Ind so interesting- working with the faculty to nd areas (to ex
 pand) strategically.
How will the recent division of the College of Arts and Sciencesinto three different colleges impact the students that now be-long under the new College of Science in terms of academics,co-op and research opportunities?
Ultimately we are all pursuing the best in faculty and students, butthat shows in different ways in different disciplines. In the sci
ence research lab I worked at previously, it wasvery large and it was a great place with quite afew students. But it did not have areas beyondscience; there was no political science or eco
nomics. I think that many of the really important problems require teaming of these areas. For ex
ample, one issue that excites me is urban sustain
ability. Science and engineering are critical toolsto solving the energy crisis. But understandingand predicting what will happen requires socialand political understanding and economics of course. Those things have to be tied together,which they haven’t been previously. The rightsolution will actually involve discussion betweenthese different groups. The College of Science pertains to science, but at the university the deanswork closely together so it’s an opportunity to in
teract and discuss. It is one of the key things thatrst attracted me to come back to academia.
Northeastern has a strong emphasis on experi-ential learning, as demonstrated through our co-op program.What is your perspective on co-op, and how do you hope to see
it evolve and/or progress in the coming years?
Soon after I was contacted about a job at Northeastern I ran downto the bookstore to check out the college guide and discovered that Northeastern was one of the top 50 schools to go to- why? Experi
ential education, co-op. There are two things about the co-op thatI think are critically important. One is that students come, and go back and hopefully they work to make their education interact bet
ter with the co-op experience. That is something that we can do better perhaps. The second part I knew as someone who has hadstudents in the lab in industry - if you have a student who comesfor a period of time, say three months, it’s just not long enough toreally engage with a student. If a student comes more than oncefor six months, the student gets a real exposure to the world, andgets engaged in the world outside the university that otherwise justdoesn’t happen. That’s a unique aspect of the co-op that we havethat we can perhaps build on in the future.
What do you particularly enjoy within the Undergraduate Sci-ence community in terms of students, faculty and undergradu-ate research?
I think this is a very exciting place to be. The combination of the extent to which students are involved (in co-op), and the highresearch prole- those things don’t come together anywhere else.We should be capitalizing on this strength and making it better.It’s great to work with young people becausethey are the future. The whole thing is a part
nership, it is important to get the undergradu
ates involved in working with us, planningwith us. I see the students as playing an in
tegral role in my success, hopefully having agood dialogue with them. I started a councilof undergraduate students. My idea is to havean opportunity for the students to raise issuesand for me to bounce ideas off of them, to gettheir perspective. It’s meant to be an info
mal channel to communicate better with thestudents. It’s the feeling that we are all on a
 journey together.
What changes do you hope to see madewithin the College?
There is nothing broken, there is just a tremen
dous opportunity. I just see the excitement indeciding among the options of how we invest.We have the commitment of the university to invest resources, wehave the luxury and challenge of deciding where we make thoseinvestments, and my job is to lead that process. I enjoy it; it’sexciting.
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Health Science and International Affairs,2013
NU Science had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. J. MurrayGibson, the Dean of the newly founded College of Science, to discusswhat the recent division of the College of Arts and Sciences will mean for NUstudents and to learn more about the establishing dean himself.
The Newly Established College ofScience’s Dean DemonstratesInterest in Pursuing InnovativeTechnologies as well as a Commitment toExperiential Education 

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