Maria de Boef Miara Promoted to Assistant Professor

Maria MiaraMaria de Boef Miara was recently promoted to Assistant Professor of Biology. Since joining Brandeis five years ago as an adjunct instructor, she has particularly enjoyed teaching the Human Physiology course and is excited to be developing an accompanying lab course for Fall 2018. This course will give students the opportunity to learn about human physiology experientially, using the most up-to-date technology. It will also allow students interested in health careers an opportunity to complete an important prerequisite.

By studying how their physiology changes under a variety of conditions, students will get a hands-on feel for the subject. For instance, they will observe how cardiovascular and respiratory systems change when they exercise. They will witness how muscle activation differs between different body positions, such as the difference between winning and losing an arm wrestling match. They will determine whether they are able to respond more quickly to visual or auditory stimuli. And, by the end of the semester, they will be able to design and conduct their own experiments to study a physiological phenomena of their choosing.

Maria is excited for the opportunity to work more closely with her students in these smaller lab sections. She feels very fortunate to be able to work with the motivated, curious, and collaborative undergraduates found at Brandeis and she looks forward to giving them the space and support to explore their interests in human physiology.

Congratulations to Maria!


Brandeisians Receive 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

NSF Graduate Research FellowshipFive Brandeisians (past and present) have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships for 2018. Also, one current graduate student received an honorable mention.

This program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based advanced degrees at U.S. institutions. In 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) received over 12,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers. This fellowship provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution).

Alyssa Garcia, a Brandeis Physics graduate student, received a fellowship. Marcelle Soares-Santos, Assistant Professor of Physics, is Alyssa’s advisor. Marcelle said “Alyssa will work on obtaining a sample of neutron star collisions with the goal of using them as standard sirens to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe.  This is very timely after the discovery of the groundbreaking neutron star collision GW170817 as the gravitational wave detectors are now being upgraded and when they come back later this year, they are expected to yield almost 10 times more detection’s per year. That wealth of data, is a very exciting prospect for a student starting their PhD career!”

Christopher Konow, a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry, received an honorable mention. He works in the Irving Epstein lab analyzing the Turing Pattern formation in Growing Domains using the CDIMA (chlorine dioxide-iodine-malonic acid) chemical reaction.  For the NSF GRF, he proposed developing a novel self-oscillating hydrogel that could have uses in drug delivery.  He plans to start this project in late summer/early fall of 2018.

The Brandeis undergraduate alumni receiving 2018 NSF GR fellowships are:

  • Caroline Cappello graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Theater Arts. She is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington.
  • Emma Chad-Friedman received a BA in Psychology and Anthropology in 2014 and is in the PhD. Psychology program at the University of Maryland at College Park.
  • Jung Park also graduated in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and Psychology. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University.
  • Stanislav Popov received his B.S. degree in Mathematics and Chemistry only 2 years ago (2016). While at Brandeis, Stanislav worked in Isaac Krauss’ lab. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UCLA.

Two new faculty members join the Chemistry department

The Chemistry department welcomes two new Assistant Professors who will be arriving on-campus in the summer/fall 2018.

Rebecca L.M. Gieseking

Rebecca GiesekingRebecca Gieseking‘s research is focused on developing computational models to understand materials for emerging energy technologies in the fields of solar energy, batteries, and fuel generation. The critical steps in these technologies involve electron transfer at complex interfaces. Her work will focus on revealing design principles that connect molecular structure to the important material properties required for these applications.​​

She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University working with George Schatz and Mark Ratner. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Georgia Tech and a B.S. in Chemistry and Studio Art from Furman University.​

Grace Han

Grace HanGrace Han will be joining the Department of Chemistry as a new Assistant Professor in July 2018. Her research focuses on the design and synthesis of light-responsive organic materials for various applications such as energy conversion, storage, and optoelectronics.

Grace received her PhD from the Department of Chemistry at MIT in 2015. She has been a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT after the graduation. At Brandeis, she will be teaching Inorganic Chemistry (CHEM 121) in the Spring 2019.

Advanced spectroscopy reveals mechanism of vectorial action in a membrane pump

Judith Herzfeld research imageSome proteins in cell membranes are responsible for actively pumping desired molecules in or unwanted molecules out. Since their discovery, it has been expected that their vectorial action involves the existence of two protein conformations, one in which the active site has a low affinity for substrate and is open to the discharge side of the membrane and the other in which the active site has a high affinity for substrate and is open to the uptake side of the membrane. The driver of the pump is a source of energy that converts the pump from the lower energy state to the higher energy state, from which it can relax back and begin the cycle anew.

However, this model has never fit the longest-studied pump, the light-driven ion pump bacteriorhodopsin. At rest, the active site has a high proton affinity but is open to the discharge side of the membrane. Disruption of the active site by light reduces the proton affinity, but it has been a decades-long mystery how this occurs while maintaining access to the discharge side of the membrane. This mystery has now been solved through advanced spectroscopic studies of photocycle intermediates trapped at low temperatures. Obtained collaboratively by Judith Herzfeld’s group at Brandeis and Robert Griffin’s group at MIT, the spectra trace the establishment of an essential U-shaped pathway to the discharge side of the membrane. The results also explain how this pathway is broken as soon as the proton is released, thereby preventing back flow and enforcing the vectorial action of the pump.

“Primary transfer step in the light-driven ion pump bacteriorhodopsin: an irreversible U-turn revealed by DNP-enhanced MAS NMR.” Qing Zhe Ni, Thach Van Can, Eugenio Daviso, Marina Belenky, Robert G. Griffin, and Judith Herzfeld. J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b00022. Publication Date (Web): February 28, 2018

Papaemmanouil Receives Funding from Huawei Technologies

Olga PapaemmanouilShenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, the largest manufacturer of telecom equipment in the world, is supporting Associate Professor of Computer Science Olga Papaemmanouil‘s efforts to develop machine learning approaches for managing the performance of data management systems. The grant will support research on workload management, that is the task of query placement, query scheduling and resource allocation for database applications. Workload management is an extremely critical task for database systems as it can impact the execution time of incoming processing tasks as well as the overall perceived performance of the database  and the quality of the service (QoS) offered to end-clients. The complexity of the problem increases for applications that involve dynamically changing workloads and concurrently executing queries sharing the same underlying resources, as well as applications that are deployed on data clusters with fluctuating resource availability.

Dr. Papaemmanouil’s research aims to design frameworks that can be trained on application-specific properties and performance metrics  to automatically learn how to effectively dispatch incoming queries across a cluster of servers, implicitly solving the resource allocation challenge. These techniques will rely on machine learning algorithms (reinforcement learning and deep learning)  that model the interaction of concurrently running queries  as well as the relationship between database performance and the underlying resource availability in the cluster. The project will lead the way towards the development of workload management solutions that eliminate ad-hoc heuristics often used by database administrators to address these challenges and replace them with software modules capable of providing custom workload management strategies to end-clients.

Jonathan Touboul is new Associate Professor in Mathematics

Jonathan Touboul is a new associate professor in the Department of Mathematics. He is also associated to the Neuroscience program, and member of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems. His research deals with mathematical equations modeling the behavior of neurons and networks of the brain. He is also interested in understanding how the brain is interconnected and if or how these interconnection patterns play a role information processing, learning and memory.

Prior to joining Brandeis, Jonathan Touboul led for a research team at Collège de France in Paris, within the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology. He received his PhD in Mathematics from École Polytechnique (Paris) and spent some time as a postdoc at Pittsburgh University with Bard Ermentrout and at the Rockefeller University with Marcelo Magnasco.

At Brandeis, he intends to pursue his researches in models of large-scale neural networks, learning, memory and synchronized oscillations in Parkinson’s disease.

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