NEPTUN Biography



SALVATORE LARUSSA, Northeastern Alum, now a biochemistry PhD student




Major: Biochemistry

College/Employer: NEU

Year of Graduation: 2019

Picture of Salvatore LaRussa

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Hi, I'm Sam! I used to be on the board of NEPTUN, and now I'm a PhD student at Brandeis studying biochemistry and biophysics.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Take one Pill a Day and Cry in Splash Spring 2020
"The pharmaceutical industry is now the most poorly regarded industry in Americans' eyes." --Gallup Polls, 2019. Somehow, Americans still have time to hate on Big Pharma, even despite a tumultuous Federal Government (ranked second worst on the above list, by the way), fears of Facebook selling your grandma's contact info to the Russians or something, and an oil industry that still hasn't done anything to fix sea levels that threaten to drown all of the parts of the world that aren't currently on fire. It turns out that the pharmaceutical industry just seems that evil. Of course, nothing in the world is actually that simple, and nothing changes overnight. The real story of why drugs are expensive, making new drugs is even more expensive, and why we still don't have a cure for cancer* is over a hundred years in the making. In this class, I will attempt to explain why, when it comes to pharmaceuticals, we still can't have nice things. *I will also explain why having "a cure for cancer" is probably impossible.


How (not) to Die in a Chemistry Lab in Splash Spring 2020
Ah, yes, chemistry labs. One of the only places in the world where people hand you-- no, make you handle-- substances that you otherwise aren't supposed to touch with a ten-foot-long pole. Of course, high school chemistry labs are only mildly very dangerous, so for this class we're going to kick things up a notch, and give a brief, sometimes ridiculous introduction to some chemicals that ought to be kept in a fume hood behind several locked doors, and some other that you may come across if you study chemistry in the future-- even though they too probably ought to be locked up as well.


You Can't Get there From Here: A History of Why Getting Around Boston is Hard in Splash Spring 2020
If you manage to get to Splash, you probably know a thing or two about getting around Boston. For example, we have an excellent public transit system that only catches on fire every other week, roads that are so well-arranged that Google Maps only gets confused once every ten minutes, and well-maintained brick sidewalks that are great at teaching you to have really good balance on uneven surfaces. But do you know why Boston is the way it is? In this class, I'm going to attempt to explain why Boston is the mess that it is. It's a story that involves geography, geology, and some fairly nasty politics, as well as quite a few moments of just dumb luck. I may not succeed, but I can guarantee that it will be definitely more fun than an hour of being on a rush-hour orange line train.


How to Use Biochemistry for Fun and Profit (but mostly fun) in Splash Fall 2019
Have you ever wondered how science REALLY gets done? Sure, you've probably had to tame an ancient Bunsen burner or stared at some petri dishes of some common strain of bacteria in a class in school, but what about the cool stuff? We're talking about the sort of things news anchors explain poorly after some "researchers" did a "study" somewhere, and then maybe some movie messes up by making it look like graduate students actually sleep or something. In this class, you get to come up with the questions you want to answer, whether it's how to cure cancer, how to grow cantaloupes on the moon, or how to make enough spider silk to be able to sew it into a sofa, and I'll try to walk you through the sorts of cutting-edge methods real scientists would use to try to solve your problem, no matter how ridiculous it is. That being said, I am mostly familiar with biochemistry, so that's roughly what I want this discussion-based class to focus on. Warning: nothing discussed in this class should be attempted at home, even if for some reason you have the resources to do so. That's what labs are for-- providing a nice safe space so you don't make a massive fire or unleash genetically engineered grasshoppers on your neighborhood.


How to Get Caught Being a (totally not) Russian Spy in Splash Spring 19
In the past ten years, Russian operatives have absolutely not poisoned a man with radioactive materials, nor poisoned another man with a deadly neurotoxin, and they certainly didn't accidentally shoot down a commercial airliner. Because that would be ridiculous. This class will cover how forensics teams cracked a few infamous international incidents. It will have a focus on the techniques and evidence involved in figuring out the likely players in international crime, and explains why the international community implicated the people that they did.


How (not) to Die in a Chemistry Lab in Splash Spring 19
Ah, yes, chemistry labs. The only place in the world where people hand you-- no, make you handle-- substances that you otherwise aren't supposed to touch with a ten-foot-long pole. Of course, high school chemistry labs are only mildly very dangerous, so for this class we're going to kick things up a notch, and give a brief, sometimes ridiculous introduction to some chemicals that ought to be kept in a fume hood behind several locked doors, and some other that you may come across if you study chemistry in the future-- even though they too probably ought to be locked up as well.


Solving Crazy Problems Using Biochemistry in Splash Spring 19
Have you ever wondered how science REALLY gets done? Sure, you've probably had to tame an ancient Bunsen burner or stared at some petri dishes of some common strain of bacteria in a class in school, but what about the cool stuff? We're talking about the sort of things news anchors explain poorly after some "researchers" did a "study" somewhere, and then maybe some movie messes up by making it look like graduate students actually sleep or something. In this class, you get to come up with the questions you want to answer, whether it's how to cure cancer, how to grow cantaloupes on the moon, or how to make enough spider silk to be able to sew it into a sofa, and I'll try to walk you through the sorts of cutting-edge methods real scientists would use to try to solve your problem, no matter how ridiculous it is. That being said, I am mostly familiar with biochemistry, so that's roughly what I want this discussion-based class to focus on. Warning: nothing discussed in this class should be attempted at home, even if for some reason you have the resources to do so. That's what labs are for-- providing a nice safe space so you don't make a massive fire or unleash genetically engineered grasshoppers on your neighborhood.


How (not) to Die in a Chemistry Lab in Waterfall Fall 18
Ah, yes, chemistry labs. The only place in the world where people hand you-- no, make you handle-- substances that you otherwise aren't supposed to touch with a ten-foot-long pole. Of course, high school chemistry labs are only mildly very dangerous, so for this class we're going to kick things up a notch, and give a brief, sometimes ridiculous introduction to some chemicals that ought to be kept in a fume hood behind several locked doors, and some other that you may come across if you study chemistry in the future-- even though they too probably ought to be locked up as well.


How to Get Caught Being a (totally not) Russian Spy in Waterfall Fall 18
In the past ten years, Russian operatives have absolutely not poisoned a man with radioactive materials, nor poisoned another man with a deadly neurotoxin, and they certainly didn't accidentally shoot down a commercial airliner. Because that would be ridiculous. This class will cover how forensics teams cracked a few infamous international incidents. It will have a focus on the techniques and evidence involved in figuring out the likely players in international crime, and explains why the international community implicated the people that they did.


How (not) to Die in a Chemistry Lab in Splash Spring 2018
Ah, yes, chemistry labs. The only place in the world where people hand you-- no, make you handle-- substances that you otherwise aren't supposed to touch with a ten-foot-long pole. Of course, high school chemistry labs are only mildly very dangerous, so for this class we're going to kick things up a notch, and give a brief, sometimes ridiculous introduction to some chemicals that ought to be kept in a fume hood behind several locked doors, and some other that you may come across if you study chemistry in the future-- even though they too probably ought to be locked up as well.


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Splash Spring 2018
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get a photo into the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Of course, there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).


Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed: Why Poison Kills in Splash Waterfall 2017
Ever wonder why you shouldn't eat cyanide, or should avoid breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide? This class explores the reasons that all sorts of "nasty chemicals" really are nasty, and what this says about biology. Chemicals that will be discussed are cyanide, carbon monoxide, several kinds of neurotoxin and whatever else you're interested in (so long as we know something about it).


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Splash Waterfall 2017
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get a photo into the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Of course, there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).


Fermi Calculations: Using Estimation to Solve Ridiculous Problems in Spring Splash 2017
On the 25th of August, 1957 a nuclear test was held in the deserts of Nevada. Although this was an underground test, there was an exhaust vent for the explosion to follow. On top of this hatch was a 900kg manhole cover. After the test took place, scientists were quick to discover that the manhole cover was gone. Upon reviewing footage, they were able to calculate that the cover had been blasted into space at a speed of 60km/s by the force of the explosion. Although this situation is interesting, wouldn’t it be fun to calculate what would happen if another object were in place of the manhole cover? Say, perhaps, an indestructible potato. In this class we will delve into Fermi Problems, discover how they can be useful in real engineering scenarios, and perhaps touch on Einstein and relativity on the way.


Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed: Why Poison Kills in Spring Splash 2017
Ever wonder why you shouldn't eat cyanide, or should avoid breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide? This class explores the reasons that all sorts of "nasty chemicals" really are nasty, and what this says about biology. Chemicals that will be discussed are cyanide, carbon monoxide, several kinds of neurotoxin and whatever else you're interested in (so long as I know something about it).


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Spring Splash 2017
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get a photo into the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Of course, there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).


Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed: Why Poison Kills in Splash Waterfall 2016
Ever wonder why you shouldn't eat cyanide, or should avoid breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide? This class explores the reasons that all sorts of "nasty chemicals" really are nasty, and what this says about biology. Chemicals that will be discussed are cyanide, carbon monoxide, several kinds of neurotoxin and whatever else you're interested in (so long as we know something about it).


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Splash Waterfall 2016
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get into a the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Turns out there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).


Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed: Why Poison Kills in Splash Spring 2016
Ever wonder why you shouldn't eat cyanide, or should avoid breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide? This class explores the reasons that all sorts of "nasty chemicals" really are nasty, and what this says about biology. Chemicals that will be discussed are cyanide, carbon monoxide, several kinds of neurotoxin and whatever else you're interested in (so long as I know something about it).


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Splash Spring 2016
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get into a the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Turns out there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).


Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed: Why Poison Kills in Splash Waterfall 2015
Ever wonder why you shouldn't eat cyanide, or should avoid breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide? This class explores the reasons that all sorts of "nasty chemicals" really are nasty, and what this says about biology. Chemicals that will be discussed are cyanide, carbon monoxide, several kinds of neurotoxin and whatever else you're interested in (so long as I know something about it).


Why Your Photos don't Look as Good as Their Photos in Splash Waterfall 2015
Ever go on Instagram and wonder why some other peoples' pictures look so much better than yours? They might have a better camera than you, but then there's those people who seem like they could get into a the MFA with an old iPhone. What gives? Turns out there's more to taking pictures than just finding something pretty and tapping the shutter button. In this class, I'll discuss some basic elements of composition and then show you some free editing software available on the internet and how to use it (and yes, it's perfectly legal).






Pretty cool eh? This slide is proof the content can be anything.