Meet the graduates: Alexander Colville

Name: Alexander Colville

Major: Chemical engineering

Campus activities: Co-founder and inaugural president of the Northeastern Biomedical Engineering Society; undergraduate representative on the Bioengineering Chair Search Committee; president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; chemical engineering mentor; and member of the Northeastern Business Advisory Club

Also completed an eight-week research exchange program with the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain; the nanoparticle drug delivery research culminated with his co-authorship of two papers in Langmuir and the Journal of Chemical Physics

What will be your best memory from Northeastern?

I think one of my favorite things I accomplished here, together with a couple of my remarkable friends, was helping to form the Department of Bioengineering. This team effort started back in my freshman year with the formation of the Northeastern Biomedical Engineering Society, a student group, and creation of mock undergraduate curriculum to present to administrators. It was just the process of giving the world-class bioengineering research already taking place at Northeastern a home and paving the way for undergraduates interested in bioengineering to thrive as Huskies.

Now here I am in my senior year and it has all come to fruition. Thanks to the tireless work of professor Lee Makowski, associate professor Anand Asthagiri, and countless other faculty and administrators, the Department of Bioengineering is a reality with a great deal of momentum to become one of the premier programs in the world. With some additional investment, it has the potential to even further accelerate Northeastern’s impressive growth and position as a leader in the Boston healthcare hub. That’s definitely something I can look back on and be happy about.

What was your most significant learning experience at Northeastern?

I learned the importance of problem solving and staying technically sound. Those are two core fundamentals in engineering that my brilliant chemical engineering professors have impressed upon me again and again throughout my four years here. You can memorize facts and details all day, but if you don’t understand the larger concepts behind what is going on your knowledge is useless. It is imperative to have a systematic way of attacking problems in order to find an optimal solution.

What were your co-op experiences like?

My two co-ops were on different ends of the biotech spectrum. My first one was at Selecta Biosciences and it was true research and development, focusing on formulating nanoparticle vaccines. I learned a lot about the nature of biotech startups, the patience required with research, and the extreme amount of effort it takes to get a discovered drug to regulatory approval.

On my second co-op, I worked as an associate consultant at Putnam Associates building strategic recommendations for top global biopharmaceutical clients in such fields as cancer immunotherapy and vaccines. This involved portfolio strategy, market access, corporate strategy, and a lot of research and modeling. At Putnam, I learned a great deal about the decisions biotech executives have to make on a daily basis and the tools they use to make intelligent choices. There is great power in the ability to clarify very complex business climates into palatable decisions. The problem solving skills I learned from chemical engineering applied a great deal more than I ever would’ve imagined.

What’s your advice for next year’s incoming class?

Get involved with what you want to do early on. If you are passionate about something, go out there and I guarantee there will be a bunch of other students passionate about it, too. It’s just a matter of finding them.

What are your post-graduation plans?

For the summer, I’ll be working in David Sinclair’s lab at Harvard Medical School conducting research on small molecules that can slow the pace of aging. In the fall, I’ll be returning to my second co-op employer, Putnam Associates, to work full time as an associate consultant to biopharma. My long-term goal is to tackle human aging and age-related disease.