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Recent ChE Grad Reflects Back on NU Experiences

Recent ChE Alumni Alexander Colville reflects back on his NU career where he helped create the Bioengineering department and Biomedical Engineering Society, participated in an exchange program, and most importantly learned to apply his classroom problem solving skills to real world scenarios. He was also featured by his hometown newspaper, Scarborough Leader for all the work he has accomplished.


Source: News @ Northeastern

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.

Related Faculty: Lee Makowski, Anand Asthagiri

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering