Writing Portfolio

rmolar13 (at) aggienetwork.com

I have covered a lot of ground writing about science, health, and engineering. I love the challenge of exploring research that is in the weeds, and writing about it in ways that other people can learn and love as well. As a science writer at research centers including the Carnegie Institution for Science, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA, I also have regularly contributed to reports and translations, multimedia, and other types of communications.


News & Features

What it’s like to run a lab that churns out thousands of coronavirus test results per day
Thousands of coronavirus swabs from Northeastern’s Boston campus end up in the Life Sciences Testing Center. Jared Auclair, an associate teaching professor of biotechnology, is at the helm. “All of my efforts are turned towards maintaining quality while scaling up our effort,” he says. “If we’re not going to produce quality results, there’s no point.”

Scientists are baffled by this magnet. Shooting it with lasers might help.
Magnetite, a mineral that has informed scientists about magnetism for ages, can still puzzle modern physicists. Northeastern professor Gregory Fiete and postdoctoral researcher Martin Rodriguez-Vega are trying to unlock its riddles.

What’s going on in your brain (when you’re scared out of your mind)
There isn’t one single circuit of brain activity that controls fear in humans. Ajay Satpute, an assistant professor of psychology at Northeastern, is mapping the neural activity that underlies fear in people, which can serve as the basis for tracing other emotions in the brain.

Using the International Space Station to improve radiation detection
Two investigations that launched to the International Space Station in 2017 are studying special crystals under microgravity to help scientists improve technologies to distinguish between different types of harmful radiation on Earth.

What NASA satellites show about Arctic climate change
It is not news that Earth has been warming rapidly over the last 100 years as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. But not all warming has been happening equally rapidly everywhere.

2015 State of the Climate: Carbon Dioxide
Using measurements taken worldwide, scientists estimated that 2015’s global average carbon dioxide concentration was 399.4 parts per million (ppm), a new record high. At Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawai’i, where atmospheric carbon dioxide has been recorded longer than anywhere else in the world, the annual average carbon dioxide concentration was 400.8—also a new record, and a new milestone.

NASA researchers improve hazardous weather forecasts
Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, are combining satellite images with novel algorithms to monitor hazardous thunderstorms. With this method, they can identify where severe winds, hail or tornadoes are more likely to occur within storm clouds.

NASA Goddard technology helps fight forest pests
Northeastern forests in the United States cover more than 165 million acres, an area almost as big as Texas. Soon, millions of pine and ash trees in those forests could be wiped out, thanks in part to two types of voracious insects—each smaller than a penny.

2015 State of the Climate: Ocean heat storage
Ocean heat storage has increased substantially since 1993, hitting a record high in 2015, according to the State of the Climate in 2015 report. Ocean warming accounts for over 90% of the warming in Earth’s climate system.

How many disasters could this new fire detector prevent over 10 years?
Northeastern researchers in electrical and computer engineering have been awarded a patent for a smart sensor that consumes no power and can operate for years without a battery change. They plan to use it to prevent fires in places including forests and construction sites.

It’s hard to anchor wind turbines to the ocean floor. He’s building one that floats.
Magnetite, a mineral that has informed scientists about magnetism for ages, can still puzzle modern physicists. Northeastern professor Gregory Fiete and postdoctoral researcher Martin Rodriguez-Vega are trying to unlock its riddles.

A twisting vortex of laser light might solve our internet congestion woes
There isn’t one single circuit of brain activity that controls fear in humans. Ajay Satpute, an assistant professor of psychology at Northeastern, is mapping the neural activity that underlies fear in people, which can serve as the basis for tracing other emotions in the brain.

Superconductor or not? They’re exploring the identity crisis of this weird material.
Northeastern researchers have used a powerful computer model to probe a mysterious class of copper-based materials that can be turned into superconductors. Their findings offer tantalizing clues for a decades-old mystery, and a step forward for quantum computing.

These new sensors can detect coronavirus particles on your breath, instantly
Instead of sticking swabs up our noses, what if we could instantly detect viral particles we breathe out? That is precisely the kind of technology that Nian Sun, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working on.

This nanomaterial could be our best tool to make renewable energy cheaper
Using a combination of unique nanocrystals extracted from wood, Hongli (Julie) Zhu, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern, has created a biodegradable material that makes better and cheaper batteries—the kind we need to power entire communities.

Our drinking water was always full of microbes. Are the wrong ones thriving in the pandemic?
It’s been months, and life has changed dramatically across the planet. Zooming in where only a microscope can see, Northeastern researchers are trying to determine how the lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19 might be helping harmful bacteria grow in our water.

We know exercise is good for your skin. This protein mimics those effects in mice.
Skin cells lose their ability to heal themselves with age. Northeastern biologist Justin Crane is testing how a new treatment to heal wounds in older mice can help researchers understand the cellular mechanisms of aging and healing in the skin cells in elderly people.

This model can help hospitals prepare for a surge of COVID-19 cases
Engineering professor James Benneyan helped create a tool to calculate when hospitals might run out of essential resources, such as staff and ventilators, as COVID-19 cases peak.

He’s on a quest to find the patterns that built everything around us
Gregory Fiete, a professor of physics at Northeastern, is exploring the electrons of materials that could catalyze a new technological era based on quantum systems.

He’s launching his research into space
By studying the way the microscopic particles in gels respond to microgravity on the International Space Station, Safa Jamali, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, wants to better understand complex fluids—and eventually help make better consumer goods and materials.

A US Army veteran who tinkered with machines in Afghanistan dives into computer science
Theresa Todd, a U.S. Army veteran who led logistical operations in Afghanistan in 2014, tinkered with machines and electronics retrieved as U.S forces withdrew. Her fascination with computers brought her to Northeastern, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in computer science in the Align program at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences.


Trend Stories

The person walking past you isn’t wearing a mask. What should you say?
It’s best to avoid hostility and communicate with empathy when it comes to helping people understand why covering their faces can slow the spread of the virus, say Northeastern researchers.

Here’s why washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds protects you from COVID-19
In soap lather, a combination of molecules assemble into bubble-like structures that trap viral matter and other biomaterials—grease, oil, dirt—and rinse them down the drain, says Thomas Gilbert, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern.

A COVID-19 vaccine won’t mean a swift end for wearing masks or physical distancing
It’s a long process to get a vaccine out to 7.5 billion people, and an even longer one to answer important questions about its efficacy.

Open for Discussion: Surviving on Mars
NASA and other aerospace corporations are working to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. But when astronauts arrive, living on the Red Planet could be harder than the trip itself.

For #Apollo50th, 3 things we didn’t know before landing on the Moon
A groundbreaking achievement for aeronautics and space travel, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission contributed extremely valuable science for our understanding of Earth and what the Solar System might have looked like in its early, planet-formation phase.

Growing Green on the Red Planet
In The Martian, a science fiction book by Andy Weir and a Hollywood movie blockbuster, NASA astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. How exactly did Watney fertilize Martian soil to survive? Is it possible to make water on Mars?

Interviews

Looking at planetary system evolution with Meredith MacGregor
Gas, dust, and small objects. In the beginning, it’s a whole lot of nothing. After these materials collide and combine to eventually make planets, the material that’s left behind forms debris rings around the mature planetary systems. Astronomers call these rings circumstellar disks

‘It’s like being an archaeologist, but for the Solar System’
Scientists consider stony meteorites known as chondrites to be the archives of the Solar System. These space rocks are fragments of primitive asteroids. Even though most chondrites undergo some rough travels before landing on Earth, they are still a major source of information about the conditions of the material surrounding our star when it formed billions of years ago.

Hélène Le Mével: To understand how magma moves and evolves in the crust, use gravity
For centuries, scientists have used gravity to study the shape of our planet. But it wasn’t until recently that instrumentation caught up with them to precisely measure aspects of Earth such as the magmatic processes that lead to an eruption.

Institutional News & Announcements

Everything moves through networks. Here’s one to rule them all.
Most complex issues can be explained using the basics of network science and mathematical equations, says Alessandro Vespignani, who directs the Network Science Institute at Northeastern. A new project led by Northeastern University is building a global team to solve those equations and help tackle issues in sustainability, misinformation, and public health.

They’re using virtual reality to ensure patients get safe and effective drugs.
Northeastern’s Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Laboratory is teaming up with Agilent, a lab equipment manufacturer, to expand its ability to help researchers worldwide make quality drugs.

Northeastern’s Life Sciences Testing Center secures certifications to process the university’s coronavirus tests
With state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to conduct the complex tests that can determine whether someone has contracted the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and a growing team of medical, clinical, and other laboratory technicians with specialized training, the new facilities are designed to process up to 5,000 samples a day, and turn around results in about 24 hours.


Additional clips and samples available upon request.