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Science and math shine in PRISM

Photo by Lauren Horn

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