Ira Gessel Is Honored at May 8 Conference

gesselIra Gessel, the Theodore W. and Evelyn G. Berenson Professor of Mathematics, is retiring from Brandeis University after more than 30 years of teaching and research. During this time, he has made significant contributions to mathematics and the field of combinatorics. Additionally, he has provided invaluable assistance to both colleagues and students.

A conference was held on Friday May 8, 2015 that celebrated Ira’s contributions and featured the following speakers:

Andrew Gainer-Dewar (Hobart and William Smith College)
Kyle Petersen (DePaul University)
Richard Stanley (MIT)
Dennis Stanton (University of Minnesota)
Guoce Xin (Capital Normal University)

The conference was followed by a dinner in his honor.

BrandeisNow provides additional information.

Isaac Krauss Wins the Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching

Isaac Krauss

Isaac Krauss

Isaac Krauss, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has won the 2015 Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching. This award is given every year to a tenure track faculty member who “combines superlative scholarship with inspired teaching.”

Isaac teaches “Organic Chemistry” for undergraduates and “Advanced Organic Chemistry: Synthesis I and II” at the graduate level. His departmental service includes participation in the Chemistry department’s graduate admissions and graduate studies committee, colloquium committee and curriculum committee. His interactions with students include advising first years and majors; supervising students in his lab; serving on senior thesis and dissertation committees, and organizing a Chamber Music Brunch and playing chamber music with undergraduates on campus.

A few comments from student nominators include:

“Isaac cares about every single one of his students. Not only does he excel at teaching large lecture classes, he is a fantastic mentor to students.

“He makes sure to know every students name in a class of 200.”

Isaac is the recipient of the 15th Annual Strage Award for Aspiring Young Science Faculty, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the 2012 Thieme Chemistry Journal Award. His expertise is in the field of chemical glycobiology, and he and his lab are researching possible HIV vaccines, using directed evolution of modified DNA and petides to create antigenic mimics of the virus.

He is a graduate of Stanford University and earned his MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees from Columbia University. Isaac joined the Brandeis faculty in 2008, He has received grants from NIH and NSF, and his articles have been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and the Journal of Organic Chemistry, with his work highlighted in Chemical & Engineering News  and reviewed in Nature Chemical Biology and Current Opinion in Chemical Biology.


Phi Beta Kappa Elects 51 Division of Science Students

Phi_Beta_Kappa_KeyThe Brandeis chapter of Phi Beta Kappa recently elected 97 new members. Of the 97, at least 51 undergraduate students are majors in the Division of Science (Biochemistry, Biological Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Physics and Psychology).

Congratulations to the following new Phi Beta Kappa members from the Division of Science:


Malia Barbra McAvoy
Yehonatan Otzar Meschede-Krasa
Juhee Park
Lior Rozhansky
Hanchen Zhao (double major with Chemistry)

Biological Physics

Abigail Rose Knecht


Ignatius Ang
Zachary Ian Fried
Jenna Leah Kahane
Ariel Jennifer Katz
Yang Li
Yixuan Liao
Alice Yuan Meng
Khang Vi Nguyen (double major with Chemistry)
Danielle Marie Quintin
Sarah Shin


Khang Vi Nguyen (double major with Biology)
Soobyung Park
Noam Isaac Saper
Hanchen Zhao (double major with Biochemistry)

Computer Science

Kenneth William Foner
Huy Quang Mai
Grady Berry Ward (double major in Mathematics)


Cameron Zhang Fen
Trevor Weiss Kafka
Linda Li
Huy Quang Mai
Stefan Stanojevic
Zhengyang Zhou
Daniel Jackson Kutner (double major in Physics)
Murielle Claire Tugendhaft
Grady Berry Ward (double major in Computer Science)


Jessica Allison Haley (double major with Psychology)
Kiera Gillian Sarill (double major with Psychology)



Wei Zhong Goh
Stefan Stanojevic
Daniel Jackson Kutner


Kyra Jordana Borenstein
Hannah Dvorah Caldwell
Nicole Danielle Cardona
Avi David Cohen
Annie Cui
Jason Michael Desimone
Emily Rose Friedman
Jonathan David Gilman
Clara Emily Gray
Cecilie Gromada
Sarah Jessica Hack-Chabot
Jessica Allison Haley (double major with Neuroscience)
Jessica Lynn Lieberman
Danielle Mizrachi
Emily April Mostow
Linda Sue Nakagawa
Talia Michelle Portal
Jenna Louise Rice
Kiera Gillian Sarill (double major with Neuroscience)
Aliza Naomi Shapiro

See full story on BrandeisNow.

Physics students win awards

The Physics Department recently held its annual Student Research Symposium in Memory of Professor Stephan Berko. At the symposium, the undergraduate speakers describe their senior thesis honors research as the final step in gaining an honors degree in physics. The graduate student speakers are in the middle of their PhD research, and describe their progress and goals.

The prize winners are nominated and chosen by the faculty for making particularly noteworthy progress in their research. Here are the Berko prize winners for 2015:

Undergraduate Prize Winners:

Adam Wang
Title: “Controlling Coupled Chemical Oscillators: Toward Synchronization Engineering and Chemical Computation”

Jacob Gold
Title: “Inhibitively Coupled Chemical Oscillators as a Substrate for Logic Gates and Larger Circuits”

Graduate Prize Winners:

Lishibanya Mohapatra
Title: “How cells control the size of their organelles?”

Feodor Hilitski
Title: “Measuring mechanics of active microtubule bundles, one filament at a time”

Other Physics Prize winners this year:

Cesar A. Agon Falkoff prize
Hannah Herde Falkoff prize
Matthew Cambria Physics Faculty prize
Stefan Stanojevic Physics Faculty prize

Jané Kondev wins the Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring

Kondev_labThe 2015 recipient of the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ‘69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring is Jané Kondev, Professor of Physics. This prize requires its recipient to be not only be an exceptional teacher, but also a person known to be an outstanding mentor and advisor.

Jané has advised first year students and majors, served on senior thesis and dissertation committees, and supervised undergrads, grads and post-docs working in his lab. Additionally, he had chaired the Physics department, served as chair and Undergraduate Advising Head of the Biological Physics program, and co-directed the Quantitative Biology graduate program. His courses include the first year seminar, “Nature’s Nanotechnology,” as well as “Advanced Introductory Physics,” “Biological Physics” and “Quantum Mechanics.”

Jané earned his BS at the University of Belgrade and his PhD at Cornell University, and a postdoc at Brown University, where he won two Excellence in Teaching Awards. The goal of his research at Brandeis is to develop quantitative models of biological structure and function that can be tested experimentally. His current projects include the study of cell-to cell variability in gene expression, homologous recombination in yeast, synthetic genetic circuits, and formin assisted actin assembly.

Jané’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the MIT Whitehead Institute. His co-authored undergraduate textbook, Physical Biology of the Cell, won the 2013 Society of Biology Book Award, and his articles have been published in such journals as the Physics Today, Genetics, Cell Reports, and Biophysics.

Students in his courses write:

“Jané is an awesome instructor. He really cares that the students understand the material.”

“I learned a lot from informal conversations with Professor Kondev, and I appreciate all the energy and passion that he brings to the classroom.”


3 Division of Science Undergrads Win 2015 Giumette Academic Achievement Awards

lab_imageThree of five Guimette Academic Achievement Awards were recently given to Division of Science sophomores, according to Meredith Monaghan, Academic Services.  Each award is worth $5000 per semester for the remaining four terms of study.  In order to qualify for consideration, applicants must be sophomores with at least a 3.50 GPA who are not already receiving other merit awards. All 2015 recipients have been named to the Dean’s list in every semester.

The Giumette Academic Achievement Award began in the 2004-05 academic year to recognize currently enrolled sophomores who have distinguished themselves by their outstanding scholarship and academic achievements at Brandeis. The Academic Achievement Awards have been re-named after Peter Giumette, in honor of his twenty years of service to Brandeis as the head of Student Financial Services.

The Division of Science Giumette recipients are:

Zoe Brown ’17 is double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology and has worked as a research assistant in Professor Arthur Wingfield’s Memory and Cognition Lab. This experience led Zoe to an internship at McLean hospital, where she works in the Bipolar and Schizophrenia division. Zoe will be a Bauer Foundation Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow in the Wingfield lab this summer. After graduating from Brandeis, Zoe plans to enter a Ph.D. program in either neuroscience or psychology and hopes to work in clinical neuropsychology, research, or teaching.

Kahlil Oppenheimer ’17 is double majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. He serves as both a Teaching Assistant and an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Computer Science department. He has worked as an intern for both Draper Laboratories and HP Vertica, where he has utilized his academic knowledge in a real-world setting. Kahlil will be a software engineering intern at Kayak this summer and hopes to continue to explore both applied and abstract mathematics.

Leah Shapiro ’17 is majoring in both Biological Physics and Mathematics. Leah has been conducting independent research with Professors Jané Kondev (Physics) and Jeff Gelles (Biochemistry), on an interdisciplinary project investigating gene regulation and expression.  This summer Leah will be participating in research at the Yang Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

See story on BrandeisNow.

Undergraduate Lab Tours Begin

Are you an undergraduate interested in gaining research experience by working in a lab at Brandeis? Not sure how to find a lab to work in?

The Biology Undergraduate Department Representative (UDRs) have created the Lab Tour Program. The first tour was held on Monday, April 13th. Lead by Biology junior, Sarita Biswas ’16, undergraduates toured the Dorothee Kern, Daniel Oprian and Chris Miller labs. Although a Biology major, Sarita has worked in Kern’s Biochemistry lab for nearly a year. During the tour, students were shown lab equipment and specialized research rooms (cold room, autoclave room) in the Volen Center. Throughout the tour, Sarita discussed the research that is being done in the labs.

Following the tour, Rashieda Pugh ’16 (UDR) and Sarita sat down with the students. Sarita discussed the kind of projects that she has worked on in the past year. Both Sarita and Rashieda shared their experiences in finding a suitable lab to work in, how they find a project to work on once in the lab, and the time commitment during the summer and academic year.

Some of the many questions asked:

  • Will there be a someone there to guide me? There is always a graduate student or postdoc mentoring you.
  • How do you find a lab to work in? Review the faculty webpages, find research that interests you and then email the professors. Do not write all the professors a generic email about opportunities in their lab. It’s unlikely to work. Take the time to find out what kind of research goes on in each lab. Target labs in which you have a genuine interest. Be prepared to show up in person and talk intelligently about research projects with the faculty member. Be prepared to emphasize what you have to offer – skills acquired in courses or other jobs, your dedication and willingness to apply yourself, your reliability and punctuality, your ability to communicate clearly and concisely, etc.
  • Is lab research considered an internship? Yes, it is very much like an internship.

Their advice is that there are a lot of labs here at Brandeis and a lot of ways to find rewarding research experience in a lab!

The Lab Tour continues on April 16th.

Rachel Woodruff Promoted to Assistant Professor

Rachel WoodruffRachel Woodruff has been promoted to Assistant Professor of Biology. Rachel joined the Brandeis faculty almost three years ago as an Instructor in Biology. During this time, Rachel has taught several Biology courses for undergraduate and Master’s students and recently guided Biology students as an Undergraduate Advising Head.

James Morris, Associate Professor, recently detailed Rachel’s importance to the Brandeis community:

“Rachel teaches courses for biology majors and non-majors. She regularly teaches Biology 14a-Genetics and Genomics, which is part of the introductory biology sequence. This course is taken by many first and second-year students. In addition, she teaches upper-level courses focusing on DNA damage and repair, as well as cancer, drawing on her research experience on DNA damage in bacteria and yeast. These classes include Biology 150b DNA Research and Mechanisms and Biology 172b Growth Control and Cancer. These seminar-style classes include opportunities to read and interpret scientific papers. She also teaches Biology 101b Molecular Biotechnology for advanced undergraduate and Master’s students, introducing students to techniques in molecular biology and teaching students to write their own research proposals. Finally, she teaches BISC 9b Biology of Cancer for non-majors, introducing this important topic to students in an accessible and engaging way.”


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