Biotech Students Move From Associate to Master’s to Employment

Linde Foundation award will ease challenges faced by learners in the final year of their studies

Amid a national workforce shortage, Northeastern’s unique Biotech A2M Scholars Program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), offers accelerated pathways for students from their associate to their master’s degree in biotechnology. The NSF grant supports students in the Biotech A2M program who start at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, MA, where they earn an associate degree with courses designed to map onto the Biotechnology bachelor’s degree at Northeastern. Students then go on to earn their MS in Biotechnology within the College of Science with one additional year of coursework. An additional philanthropic gift from the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation offers tuition assistance during their master’s studies at the Northeastern University College of Science. These robust scholarships bring the out-of-pocket cost to zero for these learners with demonstrated financial need, and who are eligible for federal Pell grants.

Biotechnology students in the lab

Bridging the Gap

While the Biotech A2M program has been extraordinarily successful in terms of retention and graduation rates, evidence has emerged that learners face unique challenges in their final year of studies as they seek to finish their degree and start a career.

A new grant from the Linde Foundation is set to help these students connect with employers, bridging the gap between school and jobs. The Linde Foundation grant funds the new “Degree to Career” program, helping learners finish their degrees and transition to employment in their chosen fields while also teaching soft skills essential to career advancement. Additionally, the Linde Foundation provides scholarship support for students in their last year of study, ensuring learners are able to complete their degrees without the cost of tuition as a barrier.

“The A2M programs create accessible pathways to in-demand fields with high-paying jobs,” says Dr. Liz Zulick, Director of the Lowell Institute School and Associate Dean for Research, Innovation, Discovery and Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. “This new grant will help biotech students stay on track in their crucial final year, supporting their transition from academia to industry.”

Path to a Career

The Biotech A2M is designed for full-time, domestic students, so far serving 154 learners. Over 66% identify as underrepresented minorities in STEM, 61% as first-generation learners and 66% as female. The average age is 29.

Zulick notes that many students must work full-time while attending classes and completing coursework online and at night. Nevertheless, the Biotech A2M program boasts impressively high rates of retention and job placement. While the retention rate nationally for a Bachelor of Science degree for STEM students is 56%, according to STEM Education Data and Trends 2014 the A2M degree pathway so far has retention rates that exceed 82% at all three degree levels. And 97% of those who have earned bachelor’s degrees are now working full-time in the biotech industry or have continued on to the next degree in the pathway.

Building on the success of the Biotech A2M program, the A2M4Tech program, with support from by the Akamai Foundation, was established in 2022 to serve the same function for students seeking careers in information technology and computer science.

More Than Degrees

“Education not only provides a pathway to high-paying jobs, but also provides access to social mobility to our learners and their communities,” Zulick says. “Thanks to the National Science Foundation, the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation, the Akamai Foundation, and now the Linde Foundation, we can create pathways designed for adult learners and their needs, allowing those who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost or time investment of a degree to enter the biotech and tech sectors.”

Biotechnology manufacturing is a rapidly growing industry that offers excellent career growth, but the sector faces both a shortage of skilled employees and a lack of racial and social diversity. In light of these factors, Zulick points out, the program is also a boon to employers.

“Importantly, these pathways also offer industry partners a talent pipeline that is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and income,” Zulick says, “which is an increasingly high priority for many employers. So, these programs are truly win-win.”

A Gift Across Generations

In funding a named scholarship, Jean A. Kovacs pays forward a debt of gratitude for the life-altering education she received at Northeastern

When Jean A. Kovacs, who graduated from Northeastern’s University College in 1983, left foster care in Wilmington, MA, at age 18, the career paths for a woman of her background looked extremely limited.

“As a female,” she told students and families at the 2022 CPS Undergraduate Scholarship Celebration, “you were either going to be a nurse or a teacher, or maybe you’d get a job as a clerk, typist, or a secretary.”

Kovacs started as a clerk-typist at a small company near Wilmington, and soon fell in love with the world of business. She knew she would need an education to rise in the field, and she started taking evening classes—marketing, computer science, accounting—at Northeastern’s Burlington campus. A few years later, thanks to the availability of evening and weekend classes, she finished her degree.

“I was learning things in class that I could then bring and apply at work, so it made the learning process so much more real for me,” Kovacs said. “My job got better, my work performance got better, but also the effort that I put into my classes got better, because I could see the application.”

“That,” she said, “is what I love about the College of Professional Studies.”

Decades later, the entrepreneur, venture capitalist, angel investor, and onetime finance major was present at the Scholarship Celebration to present the inaugural Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment she established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She has come a long way from those early days, and now she wants to pay it forward.

Jean Kovacs ’83 (third from left), Dean Radhika Seshan, Cynthia Thin, ’23 pictured with her family at the 2022 Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

“My head and my heart go out to you and all the work you’ve done,” she told students. “My story is probably very similar to a lot of you.”

Among those in the room was Cynthia Thin, ’23, a finance and accounting management major and the first recipient of the Kovacs Scholarship. The daughter of Cambodian immigrants, Thin worked from a young age to support herself and her family. At 16, she recalled in the speech she gave at the reception, she was working seven days a week, even as she maintained her studies in high school.

One reason Northeastern has been such a good fit, Thin says, is that it has offered the flexibility her family needs. On a typical day, she’ll help her partner with his bakery until 7 a.m., arrive at the office by 8 a.m., work until 5 p.m. and then attend class in the evening. When she completes her degree next spring, Thin plans to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.

“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”

Reflecting on her scholarship in her remarks at the reception, Kovacs said she was thrilled to meet Thin, and that the experience “sort of brings everything back full circle.” As she introduced Thin, she also offered her an invitation to continue the circle of giving.

“I’d also like to challenge you that in 20 or 30 years you’re up here because you’ve established the Cynthia Thin scholarship,” she said with a smile. “Congratulations.”

Gifts to support scholarships for CPS undergraduate students in any amount can be made by clicking here .

Annual Undergraduate Scholarship Reception Honors Students, Benefactors

Supporting scholarships is all about giving back. Dozens of Huskies who received scholarships to support their education—dating back to the time of University College in the 1960s—have made the choice to establish named scholarships to support future generations of students following in their footsteps. Paying it forward is a long-standing tradition at the College of Professional Studies; so, it’s no surprise that in her speech at the annual undergraduate scholarship reception on August 23, 2022, Jean Kovacs, UC’83, challenged her own named scholarship recipient to do just that in the future when she is able.

Jean Kovacs, UC'83 speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian
Jean Kovacs, UC’83 speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, is the inaugural recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment that Jean established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Cynthia happens to be interested in both. Once she completes her degree in Finance and Accounting Management next spring, Cynthia intends to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.

“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said in the speech she gave at the reception. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”

Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian
Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, speaks at the 2022 CPS Scholarship Reception. Photo by Aram Boghosian

The financial benefit of a scholarship is most often compounded by the human connection and encouragement of a benefactor. “There is no doubt in my mind that Cynthia has the passion and drive to achieve the lofty goals she has set for herself, just as Jean did before her,” added Dean Radhika Seshan as she closed the annual reception.

The College of Professional Studies celebrates 224 undergraduate students who received scholarships totaling $421,000 for the 2022-2023 academic year, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of Northeastern.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Try Microdosing Bravery

To overcome anxiety and cultivate resilience, CPS behavioral science professor and psychotherapist Kristen Lee recommends taking small, strategic risks on a day-to-day basis that align with our values.

In her new book, Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More and Offer Yourself to the World, Lee offers a practical toolkit designed to help readers build confidence and invite a deeper level of satisfaction into their lives.

Novel Biomanufacturing Apprenticeship Program Helps Diversify Talent Pipeline for Life Sciences Industry

The MassBioEd Apprenticeship Biomanufacturing Program, launched in 2021, meets a significant industry demand by connecting unemployed or underemployed people to high paying, stable jobs in a growing field that is in need of diverse talent.

Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies has collaborated with MassBioEd to be the educational partner, teaching apprentices basic content in biology, chemistry, biotechnology, lab math, and more. “This innovative workforce development program pays learners to participate and guarantees a job at the end of the apprenticeship,” explains Liz Zulick, Associate Teaching Professor and Associate Dean, Research, Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship. “Learners can continue their studies and enroll into our bachelor’s degree in biotechnology with eight credits from the apprenticeship program.”

Please Don’t Eat Raw Meat, Warns Food Safety Expert

A former TV star was walking around the streets of Los Angeles with a peculiar snack recently – a raw bison heart in a plastic bag.

While there may be some health benefits to eating raw meat, CPS assistant teaching professor and food policy expert Darin Detwiler warns that mitigating risk is a lot more complicated than “throwing it in a bag and walking around town eating it like it’s a pretzel.”

Graduation 2021

College honors master’s and doctoral graduates, citing ‘ingenuity and resilience’, with ceremonies that emphasize service, perseverance and experiential learning.

Doctoral Hooding

A doctoral candidate gets hooded by her advisor at the September 9 doctoral hooding and graduation ceremony at Matthews Arena.

The words of Brent Musson, (Doctor of Law and Policy ’20), captured the mood at the Doctoral Hooding and Graduation Ceremony of the College of Professional Studies in Matthews Arena Sept. 9—and at the Master’s Graduation Ceremony in the same location the following day: “Humanity at its best,” the 2020 Dean’s Medal recipient said in his remarks to the successful doctoral candidates, “is humanity in gratitude.”

Gratitude was in abundance both days as faculty, administrators, students and their families—as well as friends of the College worldwide via livestream—celebrated the graduates’ achievements in the face of extraordinary challenges. Speakers at the ceremonies praised the degree recipients for their perseverance in scholarship despite a global pandemic, their passionate commitment to learning and their determination to address real-world problems in their project-based learning and research.

‘Both humility and pride’

In his opening remarks on Sept. 9, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Madigan, Ph.D., welcomed the College of Professional Studies (CPS) community, expressed his faith in the graduates’ future success and his pride in their accomplishments and celebrated their membership in Northeastern’s “powerful knowledge network” dedicated to the dream of a more just and equitable society. He was followed at the podium by Interim Dean of CPS Dr. David Fields, who noted the unusual degree to which CPS students break down the barriers between work and learning.

“Our doctoral students are already fulltime professionals and leaders in their fields,” Dr. Fields observed. “In true Northeastern fashion, they are researching what they live, and living what they research, every day.”

Dr. Fields went on to explain the significance of the hooding ceremony—so-called because doctoral students traditionally have the hoods of their academic regalia lifted over their heads by faculty.

“The symbolism of the hooding ceremony at our doctoral commencement honors both the doctoral candidate’s work and the network of relationships that make that work possible,” Fields said. “[It] embodies both humility and pride, on both sides of the relationship, as faculty members welcome a new peer into their community.”

Faculty speaker Dr. Mounira Morris (B.S. ’91, M.S. ’95), assistant teaching professor and the co-lead for the Master of Education in Higher Education Administration program, offered her congratulations to the graduates and acknowledged the special challenges that had arisen during their studies, including the pandemic and the persistence of racial injustice. She quoted James Baldwin, noting his achievements as a playwright, novelist and civil rights activist: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

“To me,” Dr. Morris said, “this means that at times we will collectively endure hardship; however, we can use these experiences, especially as doctors, to offer wisdom, hope, and a better path forward.”

A longtime leader in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)—and currently working with colleagues at Northeastern to develop a new academic credential in DEI—Dr. Morris emphasized the power for good inherent in the attainment of an advanced degree, encouraging the graduates to find creative solutions to the challenges in their professions, communities and personal lives.

“We, as faculty,” she said, “ask that you take your research, and go out and change your world, your profession, your workplace and make it just a little bit better than before. We, as faculty, believe you can persevere and persist.  We know you can.”

Intellectual explorers

Dr. Musson, whose acceptance of the 2020 Dean’s Medal had been previously postponed due to Covid-19 precautions, suggested in his remarks that the attitude of an academic researcher is “not that of an author or maker, but rather that of an explorer.” He praised the selflessness and commitment of his peers and made a critical distinction between an undergraduate education—which, he said, “teaches a student how to learn”—and a graduate education, in which students learn “to use tools … to solve other people’s problems” and to create value, going “from inward-facing to outward-facing.”

He noted that, soon after a doctoral candidate’s academic journey begins, “we become acutely aware of what we’re signing up for; to spend the next few years engaged in the most rigorous intellectual exercise of our lives, to extract a single, pure, tiny drop of insight to ever-so-slightly raise the sea level of the ocean of human knowledge.”

And he described a moment of inspiration in what he termed a spiritual awakening: a street soccer game he had observed in West Africa more than a decade earlier, where, when a beautiful goal was scored, both teams celebrated. Drawing a parallel between the players’ selfless joy and the academic community he had found at Northeastern, Dr. Musson said, “These happy boys had purpose; and that purpose made them work together, against all odds to orchestrate a moment of greatness—a moment of pure, unselfish greatness.

“I’ve never circled a soccer field making wings with my arms,” he continued, “but research has made me part of our team, and this humbling honor is our winning goal.”

As Dr. Musson finished his speech, the audience rose to deliver a sustained standing ovation.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dr. Madigan returned to the stage to offer closing remarks, praising the successful doctoral candidates for their “drive, dedication and sense of purpose.”

“The world is ever changing,” he said, “but you are prepared to meet—and conquer—its challenges.”

Master’s Ceremony

844 graduates across 28 programs walked the stage at the September 10 master’s degree graduation ceremony at Matthews Arena.

‘A day full of promise’

The following afternoon, Dr. Madigan returned to welcome master’s graduates to the arena on “a day full of promise.” He praised their “clear-eyed determination, discipline and hard work,” and offered special recognition to the faculty who, he said, by guiding the graduates to success, “have strengthened a legacy of knowledge and helped shape the future in scores of fields of professional endeavor.”

Following Dr. Madigan’s remarks, Dr. Fields spoke, celebrating the graduates’ global engagement and their cultivation of “the cultural competencies needed for a lifetime of contribution in a fast-paced, diverse, global society.” He went on to emphasize the benefits of their embrace of experiential learning, noting that in so doing, they had “addressed pressing, real-world problems” and become “well-prepared to lead from experience in the workplace.”

Dr. Fiona Creed, associate teaching professor and faculty director of the Global Studies and International Relations program, next introduced student speaker Ebony Small, ’21.

Reflecting on a year of adversity, Small observed “the pandemic itself could neither make nor break us” and asked graduates to consider the ways in which the challenges of the past 18 months had taught them to know their own courage, ambition, and steadfastness.

“We did not make it to this moment merely because we just-so-happened to survive a global pandemic,” Small said. “No, we made it here because we made the choice to value education and then fiercely pursued it. My dear friends and colleagues, despite the unexpected challenges of this year, we thrived. We grew. We changed.”

“This,” she concluded, “is what it looks like to turn a choice into a change. This is what it looks like to champion growth. Congratulations.”

From humble roots to world-renowned

Following an introduction by Dr. Earlene Avalon, associate professor and lead faculty for Health Administration and Health Sciences, graduation speaker Carl H. Whittaker, a philanthropist whose life path has spanned business, engineering and music, addressed the community.

A director of the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation—which supports the College’s “A2M” or “Associates to Masters” program, offering an accelerated pathway from a community college associate’s degree to a bachelor’s at the College of Professional Studies and a master’s degree in Biotechnology at Northeastern’s College of Science—Whittaker began by invoking Northeastern’s origins as a vocational school offering evening classes, run by the YMCA.

“We all know that Northeastern is now a world-renowned university, highly ranked in many fields,” Whittaker said. “But inside this world-class institution is still the legacy of that 1898 night school.”

Whittaker linked this history with Northeastern’s emphasis on internship experiences, co-ops, and other programs that connect students to “great employers and great jobs.” He applauded the graduates for their effort and creativity in juggling jobs, families, and studies, urged them to embrace the role of mentor for other aspiring scholars, and invited them to fight income inequality—as his foundation does in part by supporting scholarships at Northeastern.

“I am inviting each of you to join my fight against economic inequality by encouraging at least one or two others to join you in earning an advanced degree,” Whittaker said. “Just be ready when you see a family member or neighbor who would value your guidance. Your friendly support might be thing that leads someone to a more prosperous and fulfilling life.”

The Doctoral Hooding and Master’s Ceremony were livestreamed from Matthews Arena. Click the links below to view recordings of the ceremonies.

Watch the Ceremonies

The Doctoral Hooding and Master’s Ceremony were livestreamed from Matthews Arena. Click the links below to view the graduation pages and watch recordings of the ceremonies.

Doctoral Hooding

Master’s Ceremony

Learn more about our programs

“I Know He Would be So Proud” – Scholarship Donors Connect with Students

Written by Stephanie Krzyzewski

“Always, always be grateful to those who helped you.” These are the closing words of Marisa Lemus-Reynoso (Biotechnology, Class of 2023) as she addressed a crowded Raytheon Amphitheater at the annual College of Professional Studies undergraduate scholarship reception on the evening of August 19, 2021 on Northeastern’s Boston campus.

Marisa Lemus-Reynoso

Marissa has good reason to be thankful, as do the dozens of other students in the room. A few weeks ago, they received the news that they would be receiving additional financial aid for the 2021-2022 academic year thanks to philanthropic contributions made by alumni and friends of Northeastern.

The College of Professional Studies has more than 50 scholarship funds established and supported through philanthropy throughout the past 40 years. For the upcoming academic year, this translates to approximately $400,000 in scholarship funding being awarded to more than 200 undergraduate students. Each summer the College hosts an event on campus to celebrate scholarship recipients and recognize their generous benefactors.

Marissa Lemus-Reynoso is receiving two scholarship this year – the Charles E. and Gail A. Evirs, Jr. Scholarship and the David R. Johnson Memorial Scholarship – and her benefactors were in the room on August 19 to hear her personal story and support her academic journey.

Nancy Johnson, who spoke just before Marissa, established the David R. Johnson Memorial Scholarship in memory of her late husband in 2019 along with her sister and brother-in-law, Joan and Pete Johnson. Dave, who earned his business degree from Northeastern in 1976, passed away in June 2018, and establishing the scholarship was a way for his family to find solace in his loss.

Nancy Johnson

It was a special moment when Nancy introduced Marissa and invited her to take the stage, giving her an elbow-bump by way of welcome. Nancy had just finished sharing the story of Dave’s academic and professional journey, and you could hear her voice crack with emotion as she said, “Receiving this scholarship means Marissa’s life will forever be connected to Dave’s legacy, and I know he would be so proud of her if he’d had the chance to meet her.”

That sentiment is a tidy way to describe the purpose of this annual event – celebrating the impact of scholarships and the ability they have to transform lives and to foster lifelong connections among the Northeastern community.

College of Professional Studies Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Learn more about undergraduate scholarships at the College of Professional Studies and view photos and video from the 2021 annual reception event.

Read more

If you have any questions about the undergraduate scholarship program at the College of Professional Studies, please contact Stephanie Krzyzewski, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Funds, at [email protected].

Meet Our New and Promoted Faculty

This year, the College of Professional Studies welcomed 15 new faculty colleagues and celebrated 11 faculty colleagues who earned a promotion, whose accomplishments are listed below.

The faculty of the College of Professional Studies create exceptional learning experiences that are essential to our students’ success. Along with that demonstrated excellence, the faculty also share a commitment to exploring new ways of responding to the changing needs of our students. Our faculty members’ ingenuity, expertise, and creativity in program and curriculum development prove that education can persist and even flourish during difficult times.

New Faculty:

Heidi Liu Banerjee

EdD (Applied Linguistics), Teachers College, Columbia University

Heidi Liu Banerjee is an assistant teaching professor in the NU Immerse and Global Pathway programs. Dr. Banerjee’s research and teaching interests include developing game- and scenario-based assessment and implementing learning-oriented assessment in language classrooms. Her dissertation, which investigates the construct of topical knowledge in a scenario-based language assessment, received a TIRF (The International Research Foundation for English Language Education) Doctoral Dissertation Grant and as well as ETS TOEFL (Educational Testing Service Test of English as a Foreign Language) Small Grants for Doctoral Research in Second or Foreign Language Assessment, and it was selected as the finalist for the Jacqueline Ross TOEFL Dissertation Award. Previously, Dr. Banerjee was a lecturer in the NU Immerse and Global Pathway programs where she taught English for academic purposes to international students. She also taught second language assessment to students enrolled in the TESOL Certificate program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Banerjee lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Alex Fronduto

DHS (Health Sciences), Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Alex Fronduto is an assistant teaching professor in the Graduate School of Education, where he teaches on topics that include strategic leadership in enrollment management, assessment and accreditation and the foundations of higher education. Dr. Fronduto’s research has ranged from the lab-based study of “Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus and Yeast-Two Hybrid System” to an investigation of team-based learning in health professions education and its impact on student achievement. He has also served as a Teaching Fellow in biochemistry at Boston University and as a Teaching Assistant in biochemistry at Simmons College. Dr. Fronduto previously worked for a decade in admissions at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, where he became Associate Director of Admissions in 2017. His responsibilities included recruitment of students, supervision of staff and student workers, operations and data management, educating students on affordability and financial aid and managing events and marketing. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Susan Gracia

PhD (Educational Measurement, Research and Evaluation), Boston College

Susan Gracia is an assistant teaching professor in the Analytics program. She is also a former faculty member in the college’s Graduate School of Education, where she taught courses in learning analytics, data mining, data visualization, text mining and classroom assessment. For the past 20 years, Dr. Gracia has directed her own consultancy in educational research and evaluation. She previously served as a tenured associate professor at the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College, designing and teaching a variety of research and evaluation courses. She also served as the Director of Assessment at Rhode Island College and at Simmons College, where she assessed student learning outcomes and teaching effectiveness and evaluated programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She has been a visiting professor of evaluation and learning analytics at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú since 2013. Dr. Gracia lives in Providence, RI, and teaches in Boston and online.

Fareed Hawwa

PhD (Mathematics), Louisiana State University

Fareed Hawwa is an assistant teaching professor in the Foundation Year program. Before joining Northeastern, Dr. Hawwa worked in the financial industry, first as an equities and exchange traded funds trader in New York City, then as an analyst, partner and head of trading at a financial firm in Chicago. In these roles he provided technical analysis and risk management using logic, quantitative analysis, and expertise in the mechanics of capital markets, leading trading and strategy for funds valued at $250 million in assets under management. In the course of his graduate studies at Louisiana State University (LSU), Dr. Hawwa was a three-time recipient of the LSU Mathematics Department Teaching Excellence Award for his work with LSU students. He was also named one of eight National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellows. He managed workshops for high school students on the LSU campus and at nearby high schools and implemented technology such as video conference teaching and online learning. Dr. Hawwa lives in Rhode Island and teaches in Boston and online.

Sarmann I. Kennedyd

PhD (Strategy, Program and Project Management), SKEMA Business School of Lille, France

Sarmann I. Kennedyd is an assistant teaching professor in the Project Management program. With more than 20 years of experience in business process reengineering, information technology systems development, managing complex projects and data analysis, Dr. Kennedyd has served as a strategic financial and business analyst, consultant, and project manager with companies that include AOL, Fannie Mae, Charles E. Smith, Verizon, and USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company). He has provided corporate training sessions in project, program, and agile management to professionals from all backgrounds in many countries. Previously, Dr. Kennedyd served as an Assistant Professor of Management at Kean University – Wenzhou China and at Northern New Mexico College, where his responsibilities included teaching, research, and developing undergraduate curricula for courses in operations management and project management. His research is focused on agile project management, electronic commerce, virtual communication in projects and topics related to the connected workplace. Dr. Kennedyd lives in the greater Seattle area and teaches at Northeastern’s Seattle campus and online.

Varsha S. Kulkarni

PhD (Information Sciences), Indiana University Bloomington

Varsha S. Kulkarni is an assistant teaching professor in the Analytics program. Dr. Kulkarni has worked at the Harvard Business School as a researcher specializing as a statistician and in applied math areas, as a research affiliate at the Harvard Institute of Quantitative Social Science. Her research encompasses quantitative data analysis, mathematical modeling and socioeconomics, and she has lectured on data analytics in business, socioeconomics and applied mathematical sciences. Her research on topics of the evolution of social innovation, inflation and volatility and rising food prices is published in academic journals including the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems. She has received numerous awards and fellowships. An affiliate of Harvard University, Dr. Kulkarni conducts research in various fields. Her interests are in dynamic models in social networks, social innovation modeling, health, development, macroeconomic modeling, market volatility, financial markets, and analysis of socioeconomic systems.

Todd Loeb

MBA, Boston University

Todd Loeb is an assistant academic specialist in the Project Management program. Professor Loeb is a consultant, speaker, author and blogger in the areas of project management tactics and strategy, communications and soft skills, and staff recruiting and development. In more than 30 years in the financial services industry, his professional roles have encompassed project management, leadership and technology. He has worked with organizations including State Street Corporation, Bank of New York Mellon, Thomson Financial, Barclay’s, and Liberty Mutual Insurance, where he managed the design, development, and implementation of several multi-million dollar technology platforms and helped clients improve project management practices. Currently a vice president and program manager at a large Boston investment management firm, Professor Loeb has been a certified Project Management Professional since 2003. In 2013, he published No Project Management by Powerpoint, a book on project management in the financial services industry. Professor Loeb lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Tim Mills

MBA (Global Management), Golden State University

Tim Mills is an assistant academic specialist in the Leadership and Project Management programs. He joined Northeastern as an associate professor in 2015. An executive management consultant, Professor Mills has led global projects with KPMG Consulting and IBM Global Services, focusing on information technology strategy and design, project management and e-commerce projects. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, where he managed acquisition and implementation of fighter aircraft, integrated telecommunications and ballistic missile programs. He also earned a Master of Science in Logistics Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Professor Mills has taught on topics including global project management, agile methods, and project portfolio management at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education, California State College Sacramento and as a guest lecturer at the US Naval Postgraduate School. He is a member of the Project Management Institute, a certified Project Management Professional, and an Agile Alliance-certified Scrum Master. Professor Mills lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Mikhail Oet

PhD (Designing Sustainable Systems), Case Western Reserve University

Mikhail Oet is an associate teaching professor and the faculty lead in the Commerce and Economic Development graduate program. Currently the Director of Analytics at Financial Network Analytics, a deep technology analytics innovator, Dr. Oet began his career with the Federal Reserve System, working to strengthen the resilience of risky and complex financial service organizations. He later led research, development and the extension of supervisory technologies and financial stability analytics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. In 2016, he started the Economic Forecasting Group at the Bank of New York Mellon, the world’s largest asset servicing company. Dr. Oet has held teaching positions in economics, finance, and supervisory analytics at the Federal Reserve System, Cleveland State University, and Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of numerous articles in refereed journals including the Review of Finance and the European Journal of Finance. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Lindsay Portnoy

PhD (Educational Psychology), Fordham University

Lindsay Portnoy is a cognitive scientist and associate teaching professor in the Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership concentration in the Doctor of Education program. Dr. Portnoy’s research focuses on the use of immersive technologies and systems thinking to enhance cognition and create a more equitable and authentic system of education. She is a former public school teacher and a co-founder of the National Science Foundation and Institute of Education Sciences funded learning-games company Killer Snails. Dr. Portnoy has been published in academic journals and popular media outlets including The Washington Post, World Economic Forum, and EdSurge. She is the author of Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom and the forthcoming Game On? Brain On! The Surprising Relationship Between Play and Gray (Matter). A member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network, a former Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Emerging Leader, and an Assessment Fellow at Hunter College, City University of New York, Dr. Portnoy lives in New York City and teaches online.

John Terpinas

JD, California Western School of Law

John Terpinas is a professor of the practice and faculty lead in the Homeland Security, Strategic Intelligence & Analysis and Criminal Justice programs. Professor Terpinas’ experience encompasses leadership, law enforcement, intelligence, and international diplomacy. His 21-year career as a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI included serving as Director of the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary, and as the FBI Chair and Assistant Professor of National Security Studies at the Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Professor Terpinas held numerous managerial positions within the FBI’s National Security Division and Counterterrorism programs including serving as Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations in the White House. Previously, he was a counterterrorism specialist in the FBI Chicago Division. Before joining the FBI, he was an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Criminal Division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in Chicago. Professor Terpinas lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Youngbok Ryu

PhD (Policy Analysis), Pardee RAND Graduate School

Youngbok Ryu is an assistant teaching professor in the Commerce and Economic Development graduate program and the undergraduate Management program. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, Dr. Ryu has conducted research with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT), the RAND Corporation, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, South Korea’s Incheon Development Institute and other institutions. This work has included analyses of science, technology and environmental policy issues as well as the study of global special economic zones. Previously, Dr. Ryu was an instructor at NMT, where he taught courses including Business Policy and Corporate Strategy, Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship and Engineering Economics and served on thesis committees and as an advisor to independent studies and student clubs. At NMT, he founded the Tech Policy Group, the first science policy group in New Mexico affiliated with the National Science Policy Network. Dr. Ryu lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Adel A. Zadeh

PhD (Civil & Environmental Engineering), University of Cambridge

Adel A. Zadeh is an associate teaching professor in the Project Management program. A civil engineering and project management educator and consultant with more than 10 years of experience, Dr. Zadeh has managed complex public/private construction projects including planning, estimating, engineering, procurement and construction. He is a certified Project Management Professional, and accredited LEED BD+C (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Building Design and Construction). Dr. Zadeh’s research and teaching focus on organizational transformation, construction management, sustainability initiatives in green building construction, and how sustainability trends impact the building and construction industry. He previously served as program director and lecturer at a number of colleges in Ontario, teaching and supervising students in advanced project management and strategic leadership, construction management and engineering, and applied research. He is the director of the Toronto chapter of the Project Management Institute. Dr. Zadeh lives in the greater Toronto area and teaches in Toronto and online.

Lin Zhou

PhD (Second Language Studies), University of Hawai’i

Lin Zhou is an assistant teaching professor in the NU Global program.

An expert in pedagogical game design and innovative course design, Dr. Zhou promotes and practices teaching that revolves around experiential learning, project-based instruction and game-supported pedagogies using new online technologies. A frequent speaker at international conferences, she has presented papers on topics including Learning Chinese in Chinatown with an Augmented Reality Mobile Game, Translanguaging in Pedagogical Drama Gaming, and An Ecological Approach to an Online Second Language Writing Course.

Dr. Zhou has taught in the Department of Second Language Studies and the English Language Institute at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Her research focuses on game and course design to empower educators and foster differentiated instruction. For her PhD dissertation, she created a game-supported critical writing course for second-language learners in which students could work with peers and game characters to explore socio-political issues.

Dr. Zhou lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Promoted Faculty:

Congratulations to 11 faculty members of the College of Professional Studies who have been promoted, effective May 1, 2020. The following faculty members have been recognized for their excellence in teaching and curriculum development. Promotion also recognizes their contributions to the college and university through their leadership, service, educational innovation, discovery and professional engagement in their fields.

Dr. Jacques Alexis

Jacques Alexis, PhD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

Dr. Alexis joined Northeastern in 2012. He teaches in the Master of Science in Project Management program and has served as Principal Instructor for the “Foundations of Project Management” and the “Project Quality Management” courses. He developed a guide for innovation in teaching the latter, has revised existing courses and developed a new course in project finance. Dr. Alexis participates in recruiting, outreach, and orientation events, and is a founding advisor to a student network for the Project Management program. He has served on the Faculty Academic Council, on the Professional Standards committee of the Council and on a task force examining college practices in faculty merit review. Dr. Alexis previously worked in the manufacturing and power-generation industries. An active member of several management-oriented professional organizations, he earned his Doctor of Management degree from the University of Maryland in 2018. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Dr. Earlene Avalon

Earlene Avalon, PhD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

Dr. Avalon designed and piloted both the Health Management Capstone and Public Health courses and has co-authored numerous conference presentations and articles, including one in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics. Other collaborations with colleagues include a grant to map the opioid epidemic in Boston using geospatial technology. An advocate for first-generation student success and a co-founder and steering committee member of the First Generation, Undocumented, Low Income (FUNL) Network at Northeastern, Dr. Avalon also serves on faculty governance committees and has been an organizer and presenter at Northeastern’s Women of Color in the Academy Conference since 2018. Dr. Avalon’s career has included roles as a financial analyst for Partners Healthcare, as Director of Nursing Diversity Initiatives at Boston Children’s Hospital and in various leadership roles in higher education. She earned her PhD in Health Professions Education from Simmons University in 2009 and joined Northeastern as a lecturer in 2010. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Cynthia Baron

Cynthia Baron has been promoted to Full Academic Specialist in the Professional Programs.

Professor Baron has contributed uniquely to the development of the Digital Media program at Northeastern, recruiting faculty, serving as the program’s Academic Director and adapting it for changing student populations. She designed and implemented a bridge program, Connect, that prepares students without undergraduate backgrounds in digital media for success in the master’s program. Professor Baron has also served as Chair of the Academic Programs Committee of the Faculty Academic Council and is the former Chair of the Council’s Agenda Committee. The co-founder and former Executive Vice President of Serif & Sans, Inc., a Boston graphic design company, Professor Baron was a partner in LeWinterBaron Graphics Multitasking, Inc., and a principal in her own firm, Phoenix Design & Communications, and she has edited, authored, or co-authored more than a dozen books. She joined Northeastern in 1988 and earned her MBA in Marketing at the university in 1993. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Dr. Darin Detwiler

Darin Detwiler, LPD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

Dr. Detwiler helped relaunch the college’s Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program and serves as its lead faculty member. The Assistant Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs, he oversees Academic Quality Assurance across the professional programs. The 2016 recipient of the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award, Dr. Detwiler has advised the Department of Agriculture and is the author of two books on food safety. He consults internationally on food safety and regulation, serves on advisory and editorial boards, and received the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the International Association for Food Protection. Dr. Detwiler earned the Doctor of Law and Policy degree from Northeastern in 2016 and joined the university the same year. Prior to completing his doctorate, he served in the US Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Force and was an award-winning teacher in Redmond, WA. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Constance Emerson

Constance Emerson, EdD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

Dr. Emerson has served as Academic Quality Assurance lead for the Project Management program and as a Master Teacher, ensuring the risk management and capstone courses teach relevant curricula in innovative ways. She teaches a number of courses in the program. She contributed to the Project Management program’s reaccreditation in 2017, took a leading role connecting the Project Management program with the needs of regional businesses, and is working to build and implement the bachelor of science program in Project Management. She also served on a task force that evaluated instructor feedback and presence and the use of best practices in online and hybrid learning across courses in the college. The principal of her own project-management consultancy, Dr. Emerson joined the university in 2015. She earned her EdD from Northeastern in 2018 and previously worked with firms that included Inland Steel Company and Mitchell Management Systems. She lives in Sarasota, Florida, and teaches online.

Patricia Goodman

Patricia Goodman, EdD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Communications, Media and Human Resources Programs.

A faculty member since 2015, Dr. Goodman led the development and implementation of the concentration in Cross-cultural Communication for the Master’s in Corporate and Organizational Communication and has served as chair of the college’s faculty development conference and on its Task Force for Diversity and Inclusion. She worked with students and faculty across the university to generate definitions and expressions of global citizenship and organized the university-wide “Visions of Peace” event with Northeastern’s Center for Intercultural Engagement. She serves on the Faculty Academic Council and chairs the Faculty Development Support Committee. A frequent presenter at international conferences, Dr. Goodman earned her EdD from The George Washington University in 2004. She previously served as Human Resource Director at Florida mental health provider The Centers and in finance and program delivery at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Dr. Goodman lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

David Hagen

David Hagen, JD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Security Programs.

Professor Hagen serves as Special Assistant to the Dean for Veteran and Military Affairs, acting as a liaison to Northeastern’s Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Service Members, to external agencies, and to faculty and student veterans and members of service families. He has served on committees including the Professional Standards Committee, which he currently chairs; the Academic Policy Committee; the Ad hoc Grievance Committee; and the Academic Policy Committee of the Faculty Senate. In 2019, he received the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Professor Hagen earned his JD from the New England School of Law in 1984. His teaching appointment at Northeastern in 2016 followed a distinguished career in military service, and he volunteers in the military and veteran community. In 2016, he was Military Volunteer of the Year at Veteran’s Inc., a shelter in Worcester, MA. He lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Cristine McMartin-Miller

Cristine McMartin-Miller, PhD, has been promoted to full Teaching Professor in NU Global.

The program coordinator of the International Tutoring Center (ITC), Dr. McMartin-Miller recruits, trains and supervises tutors who collectively deliver more than 2,000 appointments per term. She is course coordinator of the courses “Writing for Graduate School,” “Advanced Listening and Speaking for Graduate School,” and “Foundations of Professional Communication,” and she has served on curriculum committees and university-level search committees. The Vice Chair of the Faculty Review and Promotion Committee of the Faculty Academic Council, Dr. McMartin-Miller is also a member of the university-wide International Student Academic Success Team. She regularly presents at conferences, and her team’s findings on student engagement with the ITC were presented at NAFSA: Association of International Educators meetings. She also serves as a manuscript reviewer for two journals in language learning.Dr. McMartin-Miller earned her PhD in English, with a specialization in Second Language Studies, from Purdue University in 2012, joining Northeastern the same year. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Dr. Pamela Wojnar

Pamela Wojnar, EdD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

Dr. Wojnar’s contributions to the Master of Sports Leadership Program since 2016 have included curriculum development; supporting the Academic Quality Assurance assessment process; representing the program at the university’s Charlotte campus; helping maintain accreditation with the Commission on Sports Management Accreditation (COSMA); and engaging students in volunteering. She served on the planning committee for the college’s 2017 Faculty Development Conference, as Chair of an ad hoc Bylaws Review Committee for the Faculty Academic Council, and as co-chair of the Faculty Senate Full-Time Nontenure-Track Faculty Committee. She has also served on COSMA’s Nominating Committee and as Chair of the Program and Abstract Review Committee for COSMA’s annual conference. Dr. Wojnar earned her Doctor of Education from the United States Sports Academy in 2008. Previous professional roles included serving as Director of the Athletics at both Notre Dame of Maryland University and Rosemont College. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Dr. Xiamou Zhou

Xiaomu Zhou, PhD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

As lead faculty member for the Informatics program, Dr. Zhou has expanded and restructured the curriculum in collaboration with colleagues to address cutting-edge technology needs, emphasizing academic honesty and incorporating real-world projects. Enrollment has risen under Dr. Zhou’s leadership, and she continues to guide the college’s work towards a cross-program integrated computing environment. Dr. Zhou served on the Professional Standards Committee of the Faculty Academic Council and currently serves on the Academic Program Committee and Faculty Development and Support Committee. She is a frequent journal referee, and her participation in Boston-area professional meetings on platform strategy and open data science support her leadership in the digital transformation of teaching and learning. Dr. Zhou earned her PhD in Information Science from the University of Michigan in 2010. Before joining Northeastern in 2016, she taught in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Dr. Elizabeth Zulick

Elizabeth Zulick, PhD, has been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Professional Programs.

A faculty member since 2016, Dr. Zulick is Faculty Director for Health Care and Biotechnology programs, Director of the Lowell Institute School, and Special Assistant to the Dean for Research, Innovation, Discovery and Entrepreneurship. In collaboration with faculty in the College of Science (COS), she designed the first “Plus One” pathway from the College of Professional Studies (CPS) into a degree in another college of Northeastern. She secured a $4.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support students moving from a partner community college into CPS and COS earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree. She has collaborated with colleagues on another NSF grant assessing the efficacy of experiential learning in increasing the persistence of young women and underrepresented minorities in STEM careers. Dr. Zulick earned her PhD in Molecular Medicine from Boston University’s School of Medicine in 2015. She lives in the greater Boston area and teaches in Boston and online.

Fighting Fire with Information

In California, Rachael Brady’s Northeastern master’s capstone has yielded an award-winning method for identifying arson.

On her 18th birthday, Rachael Brady (right, CPS ’16) stared through the windshield of her mother’s Hyundai at a steadily growing plume of gray smoke. The family was headed directly toward the ominous cloud, on their way to celebrate at Red Lobster on the east side of Redding, California, but they weren’t fazed.

“It wasn’t close enough to be afraid of,” Brady says. It was just a fact of life: “Summers in California, smoke columns in the air. It’s just one of those things. As common as snowstorms in Massachusetts.”

That fire, dubbed the Bear Fire because it had been sparked near Bear Mountain, burned out of control for five days in 2004, scorching 11,000 acres and destroying 80 homes. It had started when a local resident, disregarding fire warnings, had decided to mow his lawn in 106-degree August heat. For his carelessness, he was later convicted of arson and sentenced to four years in state prison.

More than a decade later, Brady would devise a method to reduce the number of such disasters—and to help authorities catch some of those responsible for them. She grew up in Redding, a city of about 92,000 nestled into the foothills of the Cascades at the northern end of California’s storied Central Valley. It’s a place where wildfires are a constant concern, and one she describes as “very rural” and community-minded. 

“Where I grew up, one of the things when you got to be about 18 was you did some type of community service,” Brady says. “The day I turned 18 was the day the Bear Fire broke out, which was one of our more devastating fires around the Redding area, until last year and the Carr Fire. So that was how I got into it.”

She started as a volunteer at her local fire department, then applied for a job as a night dispatcher at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, widely known as Cal Fire. She got the job, and she found she loved the industry and her colleagues at Cal Fire, and that she was good at staying calm while dispatching rescuers to help people in need. The hours, however, weren’t ideal.    

“About three or four years in,” she says, “I found GIS. And I figured out the night shift was not where I wanted to spend my life.”

Brady’s introduction to Geographic Information Systems came when a Cal Fire captain nearing retirement handed her responsibility for managing the department’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, a tool that uses layers of GIS data to help users map the best response routes in emergencies. As new data and technologies come online, the system requires continual upkeep to ensure that help arrives as soon as possible. New to GIS and CAD, and with little other technical experience, Brady plunged in. 

“I teach GIS now to some of our new CAD people,” she says, “and I tell them, ‘I’ve been where you are.’ [For instance,] at first, I didn’t know that you could make a major road and a smaller road different colors. I lived in a black and white map for six months before somebody came along and said, ‘You know you can symbolize the roads, right?’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ But then I thought, ‘Well, what else can I do?’ And that’s kind of how I fell in love with it.”

The technology had captured her imagination, and she wanted to take it further. Based on her experience with GIS as a dispatcher, she gained a promotion—and a ticket out of the night shift—to Cal Fire’s Northern Region Office in Redding in 2013. Then, when she finished her bachelor’s degree in 2014 while working full-time, her husband suggested she continue her education. She searched the web, found the College of Professional Studies’ online offerings, applied and was accepted. Being able to complete the coursework remotely, she says, was critical.

“I think having the online option gives people who have an idea of what they want to do, or are already working, that opportunity to still do school, versus having to go to campus and be on-site,” Brady says. “I live in California. I would have had to move [to Boston] for two years. I’m married, and I have a job, you know? It just wouldn’t have worked.”

Brady’s coursework at Northeastern included classes on crime analysis and the use of open-source GIS software, as well as a “Crisis Mapping for Humanitarian Action” course in which she and other students used GIS technology to support relief efforts in Nepal following a devastating 2015 earthquake. What really brought her professional and academic worlds together, however, was her work on a capstone project with Professor Cordula Robinson, now a senior research scientist at Northeastern’s Kostas Research Institute. The idea for the project, which would crown Brady’s master’s degree in Geographic Information Technology, originated back in Redding.

“A couple of the chiefs and I were sitting around, probably about six months before I started the project,” Brady says, “and I said I need a good capstone project. It’s coming up. What are some ideas?”

They tossed a few thoughts around, and then someone suggested trying to find a way to identify cases of serial arson.

“I asked, ‘Well do you guys think we could identify serial arson using GIS?’” Brady says. “We all stared at each other. Then they said, ‘Well, that’s the question for you.’ And I said, ‘I think we could do it. I mean, it’s just human behavior—it should cluster. And that’s [something] GIS identifies. It identifies clusters. We should be able to make this work.’”

When Brady proposed the idea, Robinson saw its merit immediately, and in the months that followed, she provided expert coaching as Brady designed just such a system. As part of the testing process, Brady’s boss at Cal Fire had given her data on many past fires. Some had already been identified and adjudicated as serial arson cases, while other data described fires caused by lightning strikes, discarded cigarettes and other natural or accidental ignitions. Brady wasn’t told which were which.

“I really liked what her boss did,” Robinson says. “Rachael had to do her analysis and then go back and say, ‘this is where I suspect there is serial arsonist behavior, based on the patterns that we’re seeing in these data, and this is where I don’t think we are seeing serial arsonist behavior.’ Her boss looked at her work and found that there was a really high correlation.”

After that proof of concept, Brady was set loose on real data. Her analysis combined GIS with crime pattern theory (Brady also holds a certificate in crime and intelligence analysis) using techniques pioneered by Canadian criminologist D. Kim Rossmo. Whereas before, Brady says, between 30 and 50 fires would have to be lit before Cal Fire could conclude there was an arsonist at work, her innovative application of GIS has brought that number as low as 10.

“Our reaction times are getting better,” she says. 

The results in her first year were eye opening. 

“We had had three serial arson arrests in 2015 already,” Brady says, “So we had the data set, and we knew there were three already in there that we could easily identify as a baseline of whether we were on the right path or not. So, we ran the analysis. The system pulled out the serial arson groupings that we knew about already, but it also identified a bunch more.”

Stakeouts ensued, cameras were placed in areas of suspicion, and arrests soon followed. At least one suspect later pleaded no contest to setting four wildfires. In the years since, other cases have been opened, and Brady has been called to testify as an expert witness, preparing maps for courtroom exhibits and explaining her work to juries. She was recognized in June by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), which honored her with its Government Achievement Award, and the most recent conviction stemming from her analysis was secured in October, when another California man was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for lighting a series of fires.

For Brady, success in identifying the patterns of serial arsonists has been the culmination of a professional passion. It has also meant a boost in her career. In February, she was promoted to the role of Research Data Specialist. Officials from Cal Fire’s southern region have begun to embrace her approach, and in January, for the first time, she will have the opportunity to analyze data from the entire state of California. She also believes the techniques she has developed hold the promise of putting even more powerful tools in the hands of fire and law enforcement officials at a time when the imperative to stop fires before they start is more urgent than ever.

“One of the next questions that I want to see if GIS can answer is, can we predict where the offender will next light their fire?” Brady says. “We never know where the next one’s going to be, but that’s the next step. We’re always working backwards, and I want to try to work forwards. Can it be predictive? If I know what your pattern is to this point, can I take that and feed it in and have it tell me where you’re most likely to do it next?”