Brandeis Posse at the White House

President Fred Lawrence and Chemistry Professor Irving Epstein visited the White House on March 31 to discuss the Brandeis Science Posse at an event celebrating the expansion of the program to a total of 10 institutions across the country.  Attendees included Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren and other representatives of the executive branch, presidents of the STEM Posse schools, and current and former members of the Brandeis Science Posse.  The program began at Brandeis in 2008 under Epstein’s direction with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

white house 3-31-14

Deep inside a worm’s nose

In a new paper in eLIFE, a team spearheaded by Brandeis postdocs David Doroquez and Cristina Berciu provide a strikingly detailed look at key structures called cilia on neurons involved in sensory perception in the nematode C. elegans. Primary cilia are the antenna-like structures onsensory neurons that gather information about the animal’s environment, such as chemicals, temperature, humidity, and touch. The genetic tools available to manipulate individual, identifiable neurons in C. elegans make worms an excellent model organism to study the assembly and function of cilia. This study requires a description of the structure of the cilia and their immediate surrounding glial support cells, and this new paper, a collaboration of the Sengupta and Nicastro labs, provides high-resolution 3D models showing how diverse and specialized these structures are.


A bouquet of sensory antennae. The 3D ultrastructure of all sensory cilia
and other neuronal projections in the head of the soil roundworm C.
elegans have been reconstructed using serial section transmission electron
microscopy. Shown are 3D isosurface-rendering models emerging from a
transmission electron microscopic cross-section of the worm.

The key techniques in this study were serial section transmission electron microscopy and electron tomography, with structures well-preserved by high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution. With these techniques, the authors achieved the first high-resolution 3D reconstructions of 50/60 cilia from C. elegans. They describe several previously uncharacterized features — for example, there are distinct types of branching patterns – in one, the two cilia originate from independent basal bodies (as previously seen in Chlamydomonas). In the second, the cilia branch after the basal transition zone, the ciliary gatekeeper region. In the latter case, this basically means that whatever is needed for the cilia to branch has to be transported through the transition zone, suggest there might be novel mechanisms of ciliary protein trafficking. In a third pattern, the branching occurs proximally before the transition zone, and represent therefore dendritic microvilli, rather than ciliary branching. The study also showed different organizations  of microtubules in different cilia types and vesicles in regions of the cilia which have never been seen before, again pointing to new mechanisms of protein transport. They also describe new cilia-glial interactions, which might suggest that cilia and glia talk to each other.

For more about these structures (with lots of pretty pictures and movies), see:

Professors Seth Fraden and Irv Epstein interviewed on NPR

Professor Seth Fraden (Physics) and Professor Irv Epstein (Chemistry) were interviewed on Radio Boston, WBUR  about their research confirming Alan Turing’s Morphogenesis Theory.

Here’s the story:

Here’s how to listen:

Undergraduate Science Symposium

workshop-poster-no-bkgd-comp-imagesBrandeis is hosting an Undergraduate Science Symposium and Career Development Workshop on April 12, 2014 (Saturday) (see attached poster). The goal of this program is to try to encourage interactions between the sciences at Brandeis and local universities, and to provide career mentoring to students interested in the sciences. Registration is free, food is provided, and there will be a poster session with prizes.  Students from a wide variety of institutions have already registered:

  • UMass Boston
  • Brown
  • Endicott
  • Clark
  • Mount Holyoke
  • Framingham State
  • Stonehill

and more.  Register soon before it fills up!

Noam Saper ’15 named Goldwater Scholar

Noam Saper ’15, a Brandeis Chemistry major, has been named a Goldwater Scholar by The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. An exceptional student, Noam has been doing research with Christine Thomas and also with Barry Snider, seeking out experience in both organic and inorganic synthetic chemistry, with publication in press already from each lab.  Noam was a 2013 recipient of a Division of Science Summer Research Fellowship and a Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry Lab. He is also a Lerman-Neubauer Fellow, an Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Chemistry, and an active member in the Brandeis Orthodox Organization, In short, Noam is a hard-working and engaged member of the Brandeis community, and very deserving of this distinctive honor.


Noam presenting at a recent ACS national meeting

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

Schmidt-Rohr to join Chemistry faculty

Klaus Schmidt-RohrThe Department of Chemistry is looking forward to welcoming Klaus Schmidt-Rohr to the faculty this July.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr is a highly regarded spectroscopist, with a background in both physics and chemistry.  His research is focused on materials and his recent studies have revised our understanding of the structure of Nafion membranes (the proton selective membranes on which most hydrogen fuel cells now depend), the surfaces of nanodiamonds, the molecular bases of bone strength, and the molecular composition of biochar.  Schmidt-Rohr approaches materials primarily through solid state NMR, with a distinctive emphasis on skillful spectral editing.  He has also complimented these experiments with innovative analyses of small angle x-ray scattering data.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr received his Ph.D. from the University of Mainz in Germany and continued at the Max-Planck Institute in Mainz as a staff scientist. Following postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley, as a fellow of the BASF AG and the German National Science Foundation, he took a faculty position in the Department of Polymer Science & Engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  More recently, he has been a Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr’s pioneering work has been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Rudolph-Kaiser Prize from the German Physical Society, a Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the John H. Dillon Medal of the Polymer Division of the American Physical Society, and fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in the American Physical Society.

Getting clotting factors to last longer in the blood

The BCH blog Vector talks about the progress of rFIXFc, a recombinant hybrid of Factor IX and an Fc receptor fragment, a new long lasting clotting factor which recently passed a phase 3 clinical trial. The technology is the result of a collaboration Wayne Lencer, a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, Richard Blumberg from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Associate Professor of Biology Neil Simister from Brandeis. We’re all excited to see this technology emerge from the labs, and progress to the point where it’s poised to make a significant impact in the lives of hemophilia patients.

Eisenbud Lectures in Mathematics and Physics, March 11 – 12, 2014


Cumrun Vafa

The Departments of Physics and Mathematics and Brandeis are incredibly excited to announce that this year’s Eisenbud Lectures in Mathematics and Physics will be given by the world-renowned theoretical physicist Prof. Cumrun Vafa, the Donner Professor of Science Harvard University.  Prof. Vafa is one of the leading figures in the fields of string theory and quantum gravity, and he has been on the forefront of the exchange between string theory and geometry that has revolutionized both fields over the last thirty years. He is known for his immense intuition, creativity, and depth of thinking in physics and mathematics.

The Eisenbud Lectures are the result of a bequest by Leonard and Ruth-Jean Eisenbud, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Eisenbud’s birth.  Leonard Eisenbud was a mathematical physicist at SUNY-Stony Brook; upon his retirement he moved to the Boston area, as his son David was a member of the Mathematics faculty at Brandeis, and was given a desk here.  The bequest is for an annual lecture series by physicists and mathematicians working on the boundary between the first two fields.

The Eisenbud lectures consist of three lectures.  The first is a colloquium-style lecture meant for a broad scientific audience.  The following two lectures are more technical lectures meant for experts in the field.  The schedule is:

Lecture 1: “String Theory and the Magic of Extra Dimensions”, Tuesday, March 11 at 4PM in Abelson 131.  Tea, coffee, and refreshments will be served at 3:30 outside of the lecture hall. A reception will follow the talk.

Lecture 2: “Recent Progress in Topological Strings I”, Wednesday, March 12 at 11 AM in Abelson 333.

Lecture 3: “Recent Progress in Topological Strings II”, Wednesday March 12 at 4 PM in Abelson 229.

We hope to see you all at what promises to be a very exciting series of talks!

– Albion Lawrence, Dept. of Physics. and Bong Lian, Dept. of Mathematics

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