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Budding NU science writers

Turritropsis nutricula. Image via Thinkstock.
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.