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From science to ‘Suits,’ Northeastern community shows off its research in the 2024 RISE Expo

Over 400 Northeastern students presented research inside Matthews Arena, a record-breaking number for the RISE Expo.

Rows of students presenting posters at the 2024 RISE Expo.
Over 400 Northeastern students presented research inside Matthews Arena for this year’s RISE Expo. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

A line of people snaked around the block outside Matthews Arena on Northeastern’s Boston campus Thursday afternoon, each of them eager to get inside to see the research presented by students, faculty and graduates during the 2024 RISE Expo.

The RISE Expo gives participants the chance to show off their research and creative projects. A record 448 posters were presented in person on topics ranging from Brexit to breast cancer treatment. (An additional 55 posters were shared online, allowing students on Northeastern’s 13 global campuses to partake.)

Jethro Lee, a data science and psychology major, focused his research on a little-studied sport: field hockey. His study looked at success probabilities in the sport based on factors such as whether the team was playing at home or whether the shot occurred after a penalty corner.

“My supervisor and I believe that field hockey is very underrepresented in literature, especially in regards to sports literature,” Lee said. “A lot of empirical studies generally focus on sports like basketball or baseball. We want to collaborate with coaching staff to tailor our findings to areas that are most important for improvement and feedback for players and coaches.”

Lee collected data from Northeastern’s field hockey website for the study. His goal is to use this data to eventually spearhead the development of a machine-learning model to help inform decisions on the field hockey field.

Paul Ambarus, a health sciences student, presented research he’s done in his job at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, looking at ovariectomized pigs as a way to study women’s heart health. Removing the ovaries of a pig creates a model to study the postmenopausal cardiovascular system of a human woman.

Amabarus’ team removed the ovaries from four young pigs. He then studied the heart tissue and found an increased expression of a certain protein that the team hypothesized was due to a lack of protection of estrogen, indicating that certain sex hormones produced by the ovaries may have a protective effect on the heart.

“That’s something we’ll be looking into in the future,” Amabarus said. “Seeing these differences helps us understand what is going on at a very micro level, specifically in menopausal women that ended up having heart disease.”

Many of the presentations focused on complex science, but others dealt with public health issues. Sarah Abukwaik, a health sciences major, spent months studying the role religion has on people’s sexual health education and attitudes toward sexuality. She surveyed over 80 people and ranked their level of religious devotion with their knowledge of sex education-related issues and their views on sexuality.

Ultimately, she found that being religious does not mean a person has a higher or lower level of sex education, but religious beliefs do influence people’s decision-making about sex.

“There has been somewhat of a cultural battle between religion and sex education,” she said. “That’s why you’ll see mostly across the nation abstinence-only programs even today, and not a standard form of sexual education curriculum. 

Matthews Arena filled with people attending the RISE Expo 2024.
Over 400 Northeastern students presented research inside Matthews Arena for the 2024 RISE Expo. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“There is definitely a need to not only to reform our sex education so we do have more of a standard, but also bridge the connection between religion and sex education, so that it does not seem because it isn’t as incompatible as we believe it to be.”

But not all the research focused on STEM. Naz Ozturk, a theater and communication studies major, presented research on the TV show “Suits” and the male friendships presented in it.

“When I was first watching ‘Suits,’ I thought it was really, really interesting how it’s centered around male characters,” Ozturk said. “And two of the male characters, Louis and Harvey, they’re completely at odds with each other … whereas Harvey and Mike (get along).”

Ozturk decided to look into what this says about masculinity in the West. To do so, she analyzed seasons one and two of the show, taking notes on interactions between the male characters. She also reviewed literature on research on what traits are considered masculine versus feminine and developed cognitive schemas to group the traits together.

What she found was conflict between Louis and Harvey often occurred when Louis was presenting a more feminine trait such as negotiating. On the flip side, Mike had many masculine traits that made Harvey more keen toward him.

“I found out Harvey is this kind of idyllic male persona that we would see in the West,” Ozturk said. “He sees parts of himself in Mike (who’s also) competitive, self-serving, competent and very intelligent. Whereas even though Louis is also intelligent, and self-serving, he presents a lot more feminine traits. Every time they have a spat, it’s because Louis is showing female behavior.

“My conclusion that I came to is that our gender presentation mediates the formation of friendships. … We are so addicted to media nowadays but then looking deeper and seeing what it says about our society is really big. It’s super significant.”