Research

Groundbreaking work and published results in peer reviewed journals across disciplines.

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Topic

  • Need a new CEO? Should you hire or promote?

    Associate professor John Bai, in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, writing with Anya Mkrtchyan from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, uses “rich microdata” from the United States Census Bureau to examine the “relative performance” of new CEOs within a company, comparing CEOs promoted internally with those who are hired externally. Ultimately, their findings “suggest that inside successors might benefit from adopting an outside perspective, demonstrating a sensitivity to change, and challenging legacies and relationships that might diminish their effectiveness.” Read “What Do Outside CEOs Really Do? Evidence from Plant-Level Data” at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

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  • Breaking through the COVID-19 virus’ shell

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    A result of a collaboration between labs in Northeastern University’s departments of physics and chemistry, this paper expands on our understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Using optical tweezers, researchers gained “direct measurements” of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein, the “N” protein. These new observations on the virus’s binding process set the stage for future attempts at disrupting the process entirely, targeting the nucleocapsid protein and striking at the virus’s interior. See the full list of authors and read their research, “Structural domains of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein coordinate to compact long nucleic acid substrates,” in Nucleic Acids Research.

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  • Phonological knowledge shared by signers and non-signers

    In this article, professor of psychology Iris Berent, with professor Judit Gervain from the University of Padua and Université Paris Cité, argues that the knowledge of sign language and of a non-sign language can mutually inform one another. “Informed by recent findings from adults and infants,” they write, “we argue that the phonological system is partly amodal. We show that hearing infants use a shared brain network to extract phonological rules from speech and sign.” Read this discussion paper, “Speakers aren’t blank slates (with respect to sign-language phonology)!” in Cognition.

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  • ‘Optimal Recursive Expert-Enabled Inference in Regulatory Networks’

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    “Accurate inference of biological systems, such as gene regulatory networks and microbial communities, is a key to a deep understanding of their underlying mechanisms. Despite several advances in the inference of regulatory networks in recent years, the existing techniques cannot incorporate expert knowledge into the inference process. … This letter models the regulatory networks using Boolean network with perturbation. We develop an expert-enabled inference method for inferring the unknown parameters of the network model using expert-acquired data.” Read the paper and see the full list of authors IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

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  • ‘Towards a Unified Drag Coefficient Formula for Quantifying Wave Energy Reduction by Salt Marshes’

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    “Coastal regions are susceptible to increasing flood risks amid climate change. Coastal wetlands play an important role in mitigating coastal hazards. Vegetation exerts a drag force to the flow and dampens storm surges and wind waves…. As wave height increases, highly flexible vegetation causes reduced wave attenuation, whereas relatively rigid vegetation induces increased wave attenuation. The leaf contribution to wave attenuation is highly dependent on the leaf rigidity. It is recommended that leaf properties, especially its Young’s modulus be collected in future field experiments.” Read the paper and see the full list of authors in Coastal Engineering.

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  • ‘Combining Rules and Discretion in Economic Development Policy’

    “We evaluate the effects of one of a new generation of economic development programs, the California Competes Tax Credit (CCTC), on local job creation. Incorporating perceived best practices from previous initiatives, the CCTC combines explicit eligibility thresholds with some discretion on the part of program officials. … The structure and implementation of the program facilitates rigorous evaluation. We exploit detailed data on accepted and rejected applicants.” Find “Combining rules and discretion in economic development policy: Evidence on the impacts of the California Competes Tax Credit” and the full list of authors in the Journal of Public Economics.

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  • A virtual home for Antarctic samples around the world

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    Antarctica provides a remarkable source of biodiversity and serve as “a major sink” of human-made carbon emissions. In “The Time is Right for an Antarctic Biorepository Network,” the authors, from numerous institutions around the United States, argue that there is “an extensive, largely untapped wealth of Antarctic specimens” around the world. “The majority of Antarctic biological specimens are invisible and inaccessible.” With a virtual “biorepository network of Antarctic specimens,” scientists could better address “the most critical questions in Antarctic science, [including] improving human welfare, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.” Find the paper and the full list of authors…

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  • ‘Leveraging Structure for Improved Classification of Grouped Biased Data’

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    “We consider semi-supervised binary classification for applications in which data points are naturally grouped (e.g., survey responses grouped by state) and the labeled data is biased (e.g., survey respondents are not representative of the population). The groups overlap in the feature space and consequently the input-output patterns are related across the groups. To model the inherent structure in such data, we assume the partition-projected class-conditional invariance across groups, defined in terms of the group-agnostic feature space.” Find the paper and the full list of authors at ArXiv.

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  • Quantifying ‘race’ in translingual scholarship

    Qianqian Zhang-Wu, assistant professor of english and director of multilingual writing, with Cherice Jones, PhD. student in the department of english, “quantify, contextualize and investigate race in translingual scholarship.” Using data analysis methods like—n-grams, collocation and concordance—on “five of the high-impact journals in the field,” they track the frequency of discussions of race and its proximity to additional topics like intersectionality and power relations. Read their article, “Anti-racist translingualism: investigating race in translingual scholarship in US Writing and rhetoric studies over the past decade,” in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

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  • ‘Calibration of Computational Tools for Missense Variant Pathogenicity Classification’

    “Recommendations from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the Association for Molecular Pathology for interpreting sequence variants specify the use of computational predictors as ‘supporting’ level of evidence for pathogenicity. … Previously, we described a probabilistic framework that quantified the strengths of evidence … within ACMG/AMP recommendations. We have extended this framework to computational predictors and introduce a new standard that converts a tool’s scores to PP3 and BP4 evidence strengths.” Read “Calibration of computational tools for missense variant pathogenicity classification and ClinGen recommendations for PP3/BP4 criteria” and see the full list of authors in AJHG.

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  • ‘The Birth of a Relativistic Jet Following the Disruption of a Star by a Cosmological Black Hole’

    This highly collaborative, multi-institutional effort models black holes when they become relativistic jets “after… tidally disrupt[ing] a star.” These events, when they point toward Earth, “have the potential to unveil cosmological… quiescent black holes and are ideal test beds.” The results of their modeling “implies a beamed, highly relativistic jet akin to blazars… and challenges our theoretical understanding of jets.” Find the paper and the full list of authors at Nature Astronomy.

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  • How to keep houses warm while reducing emissions

    Joan Fitzgerald, professor of public policy and urban affairs, argues that “Reaching the goals of the Massachusetts clean energy and climate bill… will require a massive shift from heating our homes with gas and oil to electric heat pumps that do both heating and cooling.” Fitzgerald details some of the problems that average homeowners experience when they face the prospect of shifting to heat pumps, describes the costs and involved, and reiterates the importance of moving to more carbon-efficient heating units.

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  • Why fishers distrust what the science says when it comes to protecting fish stocks

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    In collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, this paper looks at why “Fishers commonly disagree with stock assessment results, particularly when a stock declines and strict harvest controls become necessary.” This counterintuitive effect, which leads to “distrust in scientific advice,” was explored through “a scientific-industry cooperative trawl survey and a telephone survey of fisher perceptions.” Read “Lost in Translation: Understanding Divergent Perspectives on a Depleted Fish Stock” and see the full list of authors in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

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  • Story map demonstrates how to rebuild Massachusetts cod stocks

    Professor of marine and environmental science Jon Grabowski, along with recent Northeastern PhD. Micah Dean, have had their research featured in an interactive story map from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF). The MADMF coordinated surveys and studies across the fisheries, employing both scientists and commercial fishermen. Their work is “already being applied at multiple levels to improve fishery management and stock assessments.”

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  • Emerging countries and the global legal economic order

    “Emerging countries have been able to make use of the liberal trade and investment regime to support their development strategies without having to adopt the full gamut of neoliberal prescriptions… Recent research explores how different emerging countries are positioned in regards to trade and investment law, how tensions develop between development policies and the demands of trade and investment legal frameworks, and how alternative visions will be driven by pragmatism and strategic self-interest rather than neoliberal orthodoxy.” Read “Reshaping the Global Legal Economic Order” in the Insights @ Center for Emerging Markets.

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  • Professor Yun Raymond Fu awarded patent for ‘Multi-Person Pose Estimation Using Skeleton Prediction’

    The patent offers “Embodiments [that] provide functionality for identifying joints and limbs in images.”

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  • ‘Manipulating Polydispersity of Lens β-Crystallins Using Divalent Cations Demonstrates Evidence of Calcium Regulation’

    “Of the three most common vertebrate subtypes, β-crystallins exhibit the widest degree of polydispersity … [and] it is unclear why there is such a high degree of structural complexity within the β-crystallin subtype. … While the direct, physiological relevance of these divalent cations in the lens is still under investigation, our results support that specific isoforms of β-crystallin modulate polydispersity through multiple chemical equilibria and that this native state is disrupted by cation binding.” Read the paper and find the full list of authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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  • Topology, symmetry and quantum band theory

    In this review, “Topology and Symmetry in Quantum Materials,” the authors present an overview of “band theory,” and “presents a cross section through the recent work on understanding the role of geometry and topology in generating topological states and their responses to external stimuli, and as a basis for connecting theory and experiment within the band theory framework.” Find the paper and the full list of authors at Advanced Materials.

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  • Rotating shapes with the mind: Perspectives from psychology and philosophy

    Northeastern University professor of psychology and philosophy Jorge Morales, along with frequent collaborator Chaz Firestone of Johns Hopkins University, provide a review of new research conducted by E.E.M. Stewart, et al., “Mental object rotation based on two-dimensional visual representations.” This paper, they say, describes how “a core assumption” about spacial thinking “has missed something important about the perceiver’s point-of-view.” Read their review, “Visual cognition: A new perspective on mental rotation,” in Current Biology.

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  • Modeling floodplain lakes after extreme flooding

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    This study of floodplain lakes—which accumulate “sediments, organic matter, and pollutants”—adds to our understanding of their evolution, especially after flooding events. While pre-existing models of floodplain lake evolution exist, they are “not well suited to guide the interpretation of individual flood events in sedimentary records.” This paper “combine[s] sediment samples collected in and around a floodplain lake with hydraulic modelling simulations to examine inundation, flow velocity, and sedimentation patterns,” especially helpful after “extreme” flood events. Read “A Hydraulic Modelling Approach to Study Flood Sediment Deposition in Floodplain Lakes” and find the full list of authors in Earth Surface Processes and…

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  • Why was ‘Maus’ banned?

    In response to a Tennessee ban on Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel “Maus,” professor of English and art + design Hillary Chute has authored a new article in The Atlantic, “Why Maus was banned: What makes the book controversial is exactly what makes it valuable.” The article (behind a paywall) goes into what makes the graphic novel, about Spiegelman’s father’s experience of the holocaust, both provocative and important. Chute previously edited “Maus Now,” a collection of critical writings on the graphic novel.

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  • ‘Quench Dynamics in the One-Dimensional Mass-Imbalanced Ionic Hubbard Model’

    “Using the time-dependent Lanczos method, we study the non-equilibrium dynamics of the one-dimensional ionic-mass imbalanced Hubbard chain driven by a quantum quench of the on-site Coulomb interaction, where the system is prepared in the ground state of the Hamiltonian with a different Hubbard interaction. A full exact diagonalization is adopted to study the zero temperature phase diagram in equilibrium, which is shown to be in good agreement with previous studies using density matrix renormalization group (DMRG).” See the full list of authors and read their research in ArXiv.

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  • Music is good for the brain, and not just among professionals

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    This study, “Musical Experience Relates to Insula-Based Functional Connectivity in Older Adults,” a collaboration between the department of physical therapy, the department of music and the department of psychology at Northeastern University, in addition to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, looked at “general musical experiences” across a subject’s lifespan, particularly in older adults. Their findings show that “older adults with more musical experience showed greater functional connectivity” between insulae and various regions of the brain. “Sensorimotor function and cognitive control” especially seem to benefit. See the full list of authors and read their research in Brain Sciences.

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  • Advances made against trypanosomiasis, ‘sleeping sickness’

    Researchers compared the perturbations of proteins in response to two treatments to human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness. The workflow identified the differences between NEU-4438 (“a lead for the development of drugs against Trypanosoma brucei,” the parasite responsible for sleeping sickness) and acoziborole, a more common treatment. See the full list of authors and read their research paper at iScience: “Hypothesis-generating proteome perturbation to identify NEU-4438 and acoziborole modes of action in the African Trypanosome.”

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  • Photography for the past and present at San Francisco subway station

    Mills photography professor Catherine Wagner installation “Arc Cycle” was on display at the Yerba Buena/Moscone Subway Station in San Francisco. The work “aims to reflect San Francisco’s past and present.” Professor Wagner was interviewed about the installation in the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook.

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  • ‘Public Investment in Hazard Mitigation: Effectiveness and the Role of Community Diversity’

    In his abstract, professor Ivan Petkov writes, “I estimate the loss-reducing effect of local public investments against natural hazards with new measures of damages, weather risk, and spending for a panel of 904 US coastal counties in 2000-2020. I distinguish federally- and county-funded projects and rely on a quasi-experimental strategy, matching counties by economic development, population, and weather risk. Risk predictions come from the Random Forest learning algorithm, using granular data on resident vulnerability and severe weather frequency.”

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  • Why only ‘six’ degrees of separation?

    This preprint interrogates the concept of “six degrees of separation,” which postulates that, within a social network, no one person is removed from any other by more than six steps. But is this the case? And if so, mathematically, why would this hold true? The authors propose that “six degrees of separation” constitutes the “equilibrium state of any network where individuals weigh between their aspiration to improve their centrality and the costs incurred in forming and maintaining connections.” See the full list of authors and read their research, “Why are there six degrees of separation in a social network?” at…

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  • ‘Scaling Laws for Two-Dimensional Dendritic Crystal Growth in a Narrow Channel’

    “We investigate analytically and computationally the dynamics of 2D needle crystal growth from the melt in a narrow channel. Our analytical theory predicts that, in the low supersaturation limit, the growth velocity V decreases in time t as a power law V∼t−2/3, which we validate by phase-field and dendritic-needle-network simulations.” See the full list of authors and read this pre-print at ArXiv.

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  • How personal hardship affects partisan responses to COVID-19 and climate change

    While both the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change issues have been characterized by highly contentious, partisan political responses, this study finds that those partisan responses reduced in the face of personal hardship. They conclude “that partisan messaging can increase polarization and suggest that personal experience can, under some conditions, narrow it.” See the full list of authors and read their research paper, “Personal Hardship Narrows the Partisan Gap in COVID-19 and Climate Change Responses,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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  • Functional insights into protein signaling

    This review in the journal Life provides “Functional Insights into Protein Kinase A (PKA) Signaling from C. elegans.” PhD. students Fereshteh Sadeghian and Perla Castaneda, along with postdoctoral researcher Mustafi Amin and professor of biology Erin Cram, write that Caenorhabditis elegans, an unsegmented nematode, “provides a powerful genetic platform for understanding how [PKA] can regulate an astounding variety of physiological responses.”

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