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Global citizen. Budding scientist. Model. For one Northeastern student, ‘adaptability’ is key

Yaa Kyeremateng, S'19, a behavioral neuroscience major who speaks multiple languages, conducts research, is fascinated with the brain, and has modeled for the past year. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Meet Northeastern student Yaa Kyeremateng, a behavioral neuroscience major whose diverse interests and activities span from the research lab to the runway. She speaks multiple languages, conducts undergraduate research, is fascinated with the brain, and has modeled for the past year. Here, she discusses these aspects of her Northeastern experience and why “adaptability” is perhaps her strongest trait.

A global citizen

Kyeremateng was born in Ghana and moved to the United States with her mother and two of her siblings at age 9. She attended public school in New Jersey until her senior year, when she applied for and received a State Department-sponsored fellowship to study abroad in Germany through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program. For her final year of high school, she lived with a host family and immersed herself in the culture while attending classes at a German public school.

“I’ve always had to adapt to whatever environment I’m in.”

Yaa Kyeremateng S'19

The experience, she said, helped prepare her for college by forcing her to live away from home and take charge of her life both academically and personally. It also helped her hone perhaps one of her strongest traits: adaptability. “I’ve always had to adapt to whatever environment I’m in,” said Kyeremateng, S’19.

Through this fellowship, Kyeremateng also strengthened the German language skills she’s gained from having studied the language her first three years of high school. She now speaks four different languages: English, German, Twi (the dialect spoken throughout much of Ghana), and Arabic. Although she only speaks beginner Arabic, she built upon her Arabic language skills this summer by participating in a Dialogue of Civilizations program in Amman, Jordan.

A budding scientist, with a particular interest in the brain

Kyeremateng first learned about professor James Monaghan’s research when he delivered a lecture about his lab while she was participating in Northeastern’s Summer Bridge program prior to freshman year. Kyeremateng was immediately intrigued and, after much persistence, earned a spot working in his lab as an undergraduate researcher. She has worked for about 14 months in Monaghan’s lab, which uses the axolotl salamander to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of complex tissue regeneration. She co-authored a recently submitted research paper, currently under review, that shows how this salamander’s lungs are capable of regeneration and explores the molecular mechanisms behind this process.

Yaa Kyeremateng, S’19 works with assistant professor James Monaghan in Monaghan’s lab, which uses the axolotl salamander to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of complex tissue regeneration. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Monaghan said Kyeremateng has made the lab her go-to spot when she’s not in class and always brings energy and an eagerness to help her lab mates on their projects. “She’s the exact type of student I look for,” Monaghan said. “She brings a lot of excitement and collaborative spirit to the lab.”

As a neuroscience major, Kyeremateng is also further exploring her interest in the brain. She just started her first co-op, at the University of Florida in a lab run by professor Jay McLaughlin, a former Northeastern faculty member. The lab studies how HIV affects the brain.

A model

“Modeling happened for me by accident,” Kyeremateng explained. About a year ago, she met a friend’s roommate who happened to be an assistant working for StyleWeek Northeast and suggested that Kyeremateng try out. One of the designers at the casting call noticed her and asked her to model knitted fashion wear at the event, and that opportunity served as a springboard to network within the industry and land many new modeling gigs. She recently modeled new clothing for Neiman Marcus at a company meeting.

Kyeremateng said modeling has been a natural fit and a pleasantly surprising outlet for her outside the classroom and lab. She’s also met new and interesting people—including designer and former Project Runway contestant Nathalia JMag. Kyeremateng modeled items from JMag’s collection for a video in which she wore chrome paint, head to toe. “It was crazy getting into an Uber afterwards,” she said, with a laugh.

Kyeremateng recalled feeling pensive and grew quiet before she first walked a runway, at StyleWeek Northeast last year. But she psyched herself up, comparing the experience to playing sports. “You just kind of get in the zone,” she said. “I’m not Yaa the scientist, or Yaa the student. I’m Yaa the model right now.”

As part of work she’s done in assistant professor James Monaghan’s lab, Yaa Kyeremateng co-authored a recently submitted research paper, currently under review, that shows how the axolotl salamander’s lungs are capable of regeneration and explores the molecular mechanisms behind this process. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University