AJC Merit Research Scholars Spring into Research Co-ops

We’re delighted to share the names of those students who earned our AJC Merit Research Scholarship to fund a spring 2024 co-op in the laboratory of a Northeastern University STEM faculty member. Nearly 300 applicants forwarded materials for this highly competitive opportunity, with nine students ultimately earning the award. The AJC Merit Research Scholars will be taking on a wide-range of exciting projects (read below), all the while earning wages equivalent to what they would encounter in industry-focused co-ops. Throughout the next six months, the applicants will also be participating in a rich slate of enrichment opportunities with the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships team and their mentors, all of which are designed to help them develop as researchers and thinkers, while giving them insight into what advanced graduate study looks like and how they might best approach those future opportunities. If you are interested in pursuing an AJC Merit Research Scholarship for the July through December co-op cycle, please contact our office at

Thank you to our co-op colleagues in the colleges for their assistance in seeing our candidates placed in these positions: Arwa Alkhateeb, Steve Savitsky, Lucy Lu, Cheryl Arruda, Yasmil Montes, Anis Abdulle, Kathleen Dioli, Corrine Condon, and Max Sederer.

Joseph AllenKris DorseyAJC Merit Research Scholar: Joseph Allen COE’26, Computer Engineering/Physics
Mentor: Professor Kris Dorsey, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Joseph (Joey) Allen will be working in the PARSES Lab led by Professor Kris Dorsey as an AJC Merit Research Scholar this spring. He will be working on a project exploring jamming actuation techniques such as layer jamming for the use of variable stiffness materials in soft robotics. He hopes to study the widespread applications of soft reconfigurable transducers, including wearable devices for human health. As a Computer Engineering & Physics major, Joey wants to apply his interdisciplinary interests and knowledge from classes to advance the field of soft robotics. Prior to this co-op, Joey has worked as a teaching assistant and as an intern in the Department of Public Works. This is Joey’s first experience in research and he hopes to gain research and engineering skills as well as learn more about robotic design and physical modeling. Joey looks forward to becoming a part of the scientific community at Northeastern and wishes to learn more about graduate study in engineering or physics. Outside of class, Joey participates in intramural soccer and enjoys being outside, watching movies, and listening to music.

Devin BrownIva HalachevaAJC Merit Research Scholar: Devin Brown COS’25, Mathematics
Mentor: Professor Iva Halacheva, COS, Mathematics

Devin Brown will continue his capstone project work with Dr. Iva Halacheva focusing on the action of the cactus group on Kashiwara crystals, which are a type of directed graph with colored edges arising from the representation theory of quantum groups. Representation theory is a field of mathematics broadly concerned with the study of symmetries. It has deep and striking applications both within innumerable other fields of mathematics as well as in chemistry, statistical mechanics, particle physics, and robotics. The AJC co-op project will involve using various tools from algebraic combinatorics such as Gelfand-Tsetlin patterns, reverse plane partitions, and combinatorial toggles to understand this action. Previously, Devin has completed several advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics, as well as an REU program focusing on combinatorial representation theory. After graduation, Devin plans to continue pursuing math research by attending graduate school and obtaining a PhD in math. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends, playing card games, and playing chess. He also serves on the executive board of Northeastern’s Math Club and Mathematics Engagement and Mentoring club, and helps organize a directed reading program pairing undergraduates with PhD students.

Matthew CoughlinXiaoyu TangAJC Merit Research Scholar: Matthew Coughlin COE’25, Mechanical Engineering
Mentor: Professor Xiaoyu Tang, COE, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Matthew Coughlin is excited to join the Multiphase Transport Research Lab, led by Professor Xiaoyu Tang, as an AJC Merit Research Scholar this spring. He will study viscous fingering instability in non-Newtonian fluids. An unstable interface defined by finger-shaped protrusions develops when a less viscous fluid displaces a more viscous fluid. This phenomenon is known as viscous fingering instability. Most existing research addresses the case when both displacing and displaced fluids are Newtonian. Observations and published literature indicate that fingering instability in the Newtonian and non-Newtonian case are distinct. The objective of this co-op is to identify and study the controlling physics of viscous fingering instability in non-Newtonian fluids. A mechanical engineering major and math minor, Matthew’s enthusiasm for this co-op stems from his interest in understanding the mechanics of fluid behavior from a mathematical perspective. Prior to this co-op, Matthew completed two Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. One was in the University of Delaware Quantum Materials and Engineering Lab, where he authored code to perform quantum experiments, and the second was in the Stanford University Nanoheat Lab, where he used high heat fluxes to study the thermomechanical properties of liquid metals. After graduation, Matthew hopes to continue his research career and attend graduate school. Outside of classes and co-ops, Matthew is an avid skier, an active member in the club AeroNU, and heavily involved in the Student Government Association as the Executive Vice President of the undergraduate student body.

Vivian de la PazRandall HughesAJC Merit Research Scholar: Vivian De La Paz COS’26, Environmental & Sustainability Sciences
Mentor: Professor Randall Hughes, COS, Marine & Environment Sciences

Vivian de la Paz will join the lab of Professor Randall Hughes this spring, working on understanding the effects of warming on marsh plants, specifically, Spartina alterniflora. Vivian will help genotype the DNA of leaf samples that have endured warming to determine if there is any effect on genetic diversity across treatments. Additionally, Vivian will assist in the Eastie Farm project, which involves raising marsh seedlings and preparing a youth engagement program meant to communicate the importance of shoreline biodiversity. As an Environmental Science major, Vivian has always been curious about research, and through classes like Ecology and Biostatistics she has learned that she enjoys the processes of experimental design, data collection and data analysis. As this is Vivian’s first co-op, she has no professional experience in a laboratory setting and is excited to learn more about DNA genotyping and the process. Apart from academic pursuits, Vivian enjoys exploring new music and movies, photography, and of course traversing the great outdoors through activities like hiking and camping.

Bradford DerbySijia DongAJC Merit Research Scholar: Bradford Derby Khoury’26, Computer Science
Mentor: Professor Sijia Dong, COS, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Interested in the intersection of computer science and chemistry, Bradford will join the Dong Lab this spring. Under the mentorship of Professor Sijia Dong and fellow group members, Bradford will be developing computing workflows to construct and simulate molecularly imprinted polymers as enzyme-mimicking catalysts. Molecularly imprinted polymers present several advantages over natural enzymes, such as simpler preparation, lower cost, higher stability, better selectivity, and catalytic activity. MIPs have various applications, such as chemical separation, selective extraction, catalysis, and molecular sensing. In the later part of the Co-op, Bradford will implement machine learning models to predict the reactivity of enzymes and enzyme mimetics using data from first principles simulations. Despite this being Bradford’s first research and Co-op experience, they are very excited to learn and develop new skills. During their free time, Bradford will study machine learning foundations and practical implementation as preparation for the later part of their research. Bradford plans to continue their studies as a graduate student at Northeastern University. They are particularly interested in learning more about computer vision and applying that to solve medical imaging problems. Outside of class, Bradford plays soccer and works on the FinishLine project at Northeastern Electric Racing as a software developer.

Maxwell HeSrirupa ChakrabortyAJC Merit Research Scholar: Maxwell He Khoury’25, Computer Science/Biology
Mentor: Professor Srirupa Chakraborty, COS, Chemistry and Chemicaly Biology

Maxwell He will join the Simulation of Biomolecular Systems lab led by Professor Srirupa Chakraborty. At SimBioSys, he will utilize machine learning and molecular dynamics (MD) simulation techniques to elucidate the antibody-antigen relationships of viral proteins. The focus of this research has the potential to improve vaccine development, with computational analysis development for refractory glycosylated systems that are difficult to measure experimentally. As a computer science and biology student, he has had a variety of interdisciplinary experiences leading up to the AJC Merit Scholars Co-op, including previous wet lab work at the mPIRE lab with Dr. Lykourinou, studying the effect of metallopeptide binding in Alzheimer’s progression. He has also been a teaching assistant for the Biology Project lab course and tutors through Northeastern’s peer tutoring program, both of which serve as sources of inspiration to pursue research at the undergraduate level. Last spring, he was involved with Oasis, a software incubator, creating optimized web apps to compare healthy eating options. Outside of research, he serves as the secretary of the club badminton team and plays for the collegiate chess team.

Rupsa JanaSrinivas SridharProfessor Needa BrownAJC Merit Research Scholar:
Rupsa Jana COS’25, Biochemistry
Mentor: Professor Srinivas Sridhar, COS, Physics & Professor Needa Brown

Rupsa Jana will join the Sridhar and Brown Lab, led by Professors Srinivas Sridhar and Needa Brown, to develop liposomal nanoformulations of STING-agonists in order to overcome PARP inhibitor (PARPi) resistance of BRCA-deficient breast and ovarian cancer tumors. BRCA genes mediate DNA breakage in cancer cells. The poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) enzyme plays a key role in DNA repair and is released from cellular DNA damage sites. PARPi inhibits PARP release to further DNA damage and tumoral cell death. However, prolonged PARPi therapy has been associated with tumoral immunoresistance. Combinational PARPi and STING-agonist immunotherapy has been shown to combat tumoral immunoresistance to PARPi, however, its current intratumoral delivery strategies have been associated with toxic systemic inflammation. Rupsa’s project focuses on harnessing the intersection of immunology, oncology, and bioengineering to develop safer strategies for tumoral PARPi-STING delivery in patients using nanotechnology. As a third-year Honors biochemistry student with research interests in the biological- and nano-sciences, Rupsa brings in experiences from her projects involving the development of early-stage cancer diagnostic techniques as an NIH-CaNCURE trainee in the Weissleder Lab and the analyses of amyloid-beta sequences to understand the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s Disease in Professor Vaso Lykourinou’s mPIRE Lab. Rupsa aims to pursue an MD/PhD in biochemistry with a focus in nanomedicine so that she can tackle diagnostic and therapeutic challenges related to chronic disease. Apart from research, Rupsa is a director of the ViTAL Healthcare Innovation Club, and a member of Sigma Xi Research Honors Society and No Limits Dance Crew.


Molly JohnsonCarolyn Lee ParsonsAJC Merit Research Scholar: Molly Johnson COE’25, Bioengineering/Biochemistry
Mentor: Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons, COS, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Molly Johnson will return to the Lee-Parsons Lab, led by Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons, to optimize the production and extraction methods for the anti-cancer drugs vinblastine and vincristine from the C. roseus plant. This optimization will be done by developing transgenic C. roseus plants with increased levels of vinblastine and vincristine’s precursors, vindoline and catharanthine, and by improving the enzymatic conversion of the precursors to increase the production of the anti-cancer drugs. This co-op project has the potential to make two highly in-demand and expensive drugs mass-producible and widely available to cancer patients. As a bioengineering/biochemistry combined major with a passion for marine science, Molly has previously completed research at the Ocean Genome Legacy Center on methods of DNA preservation for marine species and assisted in research at Northeastern’s Geisinger Lab on the cellular division of the bacteria A. baumannii. Molly hopes to expand her research and laboratory skills and foster connections with the scientific community at Northeastern during this co-op. Upon graduation, Molly plans to gain a PhD in the marine science field and go on to conduct research on oceanography and the impacts of climate change on the ocean. In her free time, Molly is a member of Northeastern’s Huskiers and Outing Club and enjoys hiking, climbing, and sailing.

Georgios VassilakisJuner ZhuAJC Merit Research Scholar:
Georgios Vassilakis COS’25, Applied Physics
Mentor: Professor Juner Zhu, COE, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Georgios (George) Vassilakis will join the Juner Zhu Group, led by ProfessorJuner Zhu, as an AJC Merit Research Scholar to create physics-informed neural networks to solve the governing equations of solid-state batteries (SSBs), which is part of a research project funded by NASA’s Ames Research Center. Solid-state batteries have the potential to revolutionize clean energy with up to 50%-250% higher energy density, improved safety, and longer lifespans compared to traditional liquid electrolyte-based batteries. By using neural networks to model these governing equations, we can integrate and enhance our understanding across different scales – from micro to macro – efficiently bridging the gap between experimental data and theoretical physics, leading to more accurate predictions and innovative solutions for these SSBs. Last year, George completed his first co-op at Northeastern’s Cosmology Group, working with ProfessorJacqueline McCleary on galaxy cluster-level weak gravitational lensing analysis for NASA’s SuperBIT Telescope. As an honors Applied Physics student with a concentration in Astrophysics, George is deeply engaged in utilizing AI and Machine Learning to enhance and revolutionize astrophysical research on both observational and instrumentation/hardware levels. Following graduation, he intends to obtain a PhD in Astronomy/Astrophysics with this focus in mind. Outside of research and classes, George is a competition member of the Northeastern Club Olympic Weightlifting Team and loves playing guitar, being outside, and watching movies.