“Lessons from the Lobster” details Eve Marder’s research

Lessons from Lobster. Photo courtesy of MIT.By Eve Marder

Students often tell me that they don’t want to be scientists because it is too lonely. That always surprises me, because laboratories are filled with people. One of the conclusions that readers of Charlotte Nassim’s “Lessons from the Lobster” should take from the book is that laboratories are communities of scholars of all ages. Lifelong friendships are often formed and sustained as laboratory colleagues may spend as much time together as they do with other friends and family. When Charlotte approached me about writing the story of my research, I was very surprised because there are many eminent neuroscientists, including many other eminent female neuroscientists. What convinced me to work with Charlotte was her wish to reach teenage girls, before they decided that a career in science was not for them. And this decision was validated when a few days ago, one of the students (now working in a neighboring lab) whom I had taught in NBio 140, Principles of Neuroscience, told me that she loved the book, but wished she had had it when she was in high school. We agreed that after she finished the book, that she would donate it to her small home town library, in the hopes that it would encourage other high school students to consider becoming scientists.

Charlotte’s book is a piece of science history. She read our lab notebooks, and talked to many ex-lab members. Her choices of what to emphasize and how to frame the scientific issues speak as much about what she finds scientifically and sociologically interesting as it does about what I was thinking. By reading deeply, she relied not only on my flawed memory, but on what I and others had written. For me, it is an extraordinary reminder that even scientists who revere data have only partial recollections of their own intellectual paths.

Science Communication Lab Completes 1st Academic Year

Whether it’s preparing a “pizza talk,” or writing a grant, fellowship or senior thesis – all of those activities can be stress-inducing.  The Science Communication Lab (CommLab) at Brandeis was created to help undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, laboratory-staff and faculty with the skills they need to effectively communicate their work through a variety of media.

Since its inception in November 2017, the six Graduate Fellows from the CommLab have conducted nearly 150 appointments (39% appointments with undergraduates; 52% with graduate students). Most appointments provided assistance in preparing for the graduate qualifying exam (18%); oral presentations like “pizza talks” (18%) or writing applications for fellowships or scholarships (15%).

Participants are surveyed after each appointment. When asked how they would rate their experience at the CommLab, participants rated it 5.95 out of a possible 6.00.

Some of the feedback includes:

“This is such a good resource!!! Many graduate students have come to accept that this process hard, but there are some parts of a graduate degree that don’t have to be. CommLab people are super helpful, welcoming, and effective at making grad school just a bit easier.”

Interested in making an appointment? There are three ways to schedule a meeting. The CommLab is located in Bassine 122.

Leslie Griffith speaks at all-girl school in Spain about STEM careers

leslie griffith at guadalaviar school

Leslie Griffth (second from right) at the Guadalaviar School in Valencia, Spain.

On June 6th, Leslie Griffith, Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Volen Center, spoke to approximately 50 high school seniors at the Guadalavair School about science as a career. This was part of the Jornadas Matemáticas (“Mathematical Working Day“) event.

The Guadalavair School is a Roman Catholic, all-girl school located in Valencia, Spain. The school has been working for more than fifty-five years for the comprehensive education of women and equal opportunities, offering a quality education focused on the importance of each person. Currently, it is considered by different rankings as one of the best schools in Valencia.

For 27 years, the Guadalavair School has been celebrating Jornadas Matemáticas in cooperation with other schools.

The objectives of the project:

  • Enhance memory and reasoning
  • Provide new strategies
  • Participation of student teachers
  • Investigate causes of school failure
  • Improve personal performance
  • Exchange procedures
  • Encourage students
  • Living with other school children
  • Equality opportunities for students

From PhD to Life

By Craig W. Stropkay, (PhD ’13, Molecular and Cell Biology, Ren lab)

Reach for the stars, they said. You should definitely go get your PhD, you’d be great for it, they said. Well, I guess they did have a point. Pursuing my doctorate degree in Molecular Biology at Brandeis was definitely one of the most challenging things that I have ever had to do in my life. I could spend hours telling you about the long hours I spent trying to construct my dissertation or the countless nights that I had to wake up and drive into the lab from Medford just to “feed” my cells — but that’s not the point of this article. I want to talk about something that I wish was more openly discussed when I first started my journey towards pursuing a PhD. Something that I believe is important to anyone who is currently working their way towards earning their doctoral degree: a job.

Now I know what you may be thinking: why would I need to worry about a job when I know I will continue onto a postdoc and then a tenure-track academic post? Isn’t that what everyone does? That is precisely my point. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing a career in academia upon completion of your doctorate. It takes a lot of patience, skill, and dedication to remain in the field after you have literally spent years becoming an expert in everything dealing with Life Science. Maybe you’ve considered going that route, feeling that your choices are limited. Many people believe that apart from academia, their only “alternative” option is to go into industry and work in biotech or pharma.

Image from Naturejobs article

[Read more…]

68th New England Complex Fluids Workshop, September 23, 2016

The 68th New England Complex Fluids Workshop will be held 9:00 am – 4:00 pm Friday, September 23, 2016 at the Shapiro Campus Center on Brandeis University. NECFW68 will feature two research talks, two soundbite sessions and one panel of scientists who are thriving after leaving academia for industry.

Online registration for the meeting is required, but thanks to the NSF Brandeis MRSEC, it is free. However, please register by 8 am, September 20 so we can order enough food for you.

NECFW‘s goal is to encourage collaboration among researchers from industry and academe in the New England area studying Soft Condensed Matter. We hold one day workshops four times a year which offer the opportunity for discussion and exchange of ideas between students, post-docs, and professionals. An additional objective is to further the career development of students and post-docs by introducing them to the local academic and industrial research community.

Please register at the complex fluids website: http://www.complexfluids.org. If you would like to present a 4:00 minute soundbite, submit your talk title and abstract when you register for the meeting. Soundbites are restricted to the first 25 submissions. Additional information such as maps, directions, schedule and a list of registered attendees is available at the website as well.

This year will feature an Industrial Panel to tell tales of life after academia. Entrepreneurs and industrial scientists will describe their pathway to creating companies, discuss which qualities they seek in applicants and answer the following questions. What kind of training and education do industrial labs seek in job applicants? What scientific and other knowledge should applicants possess? experience? skills? creativity? business knowledge? What should the universities do to better prepare students for a career in industry? What do the panel members wish they did differently in college to better prepare themselves for industry? What should students / postdocs be doing now to prepare for an industrial career? How can students find an internship? How should students build a network of contacts to help them find a job? How does research done in industry compare to that done in universities? What (if any) is the relevancy of research being done at universities to entrepreneurs, industrial scientists and managers?

7 Division of Science Faculty Recently Promoted

Congratulations to the following 7 Division of Science faculty members were recently promoted:

katz_dbDonald B. Katz (Psychology) has been promoted to Professor of Psychology. Don came to Brandeis as an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the Volen Center for Complex Systems in 2002 and was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded tenure in 2008. Don’s teaching and research serve central roles in both Psychology and the Neuroscience program. His systems approach to investigating gustation blends behavioral testing of awake rodents with multi-neuronal recording and pharmacological, optogenetic, and modelling techniques. Broad themes of the neural dynamics of perceptual coding, learning, social learning, decision making, and insight run through his work on gustation. For his research, Don has won the 2007 Polak Award and the 2004 Ajinomoto Young Investigator in Gustation Award, both from the Association for Chemoreception Sciences. Don has taught “Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience” (NPSY11b), “Advanced Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience” (NPSY197a), “Neuroscience Proseminar” (NBIO250a), “Proseminar in Brain, Body, and Behavior II” (PSYC302a), “How Do We Know What We Know?” (SYS1c). For his excellence in teaching, Don has been recognized with the 2013 Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ’69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, the 2006 Brandeis Student Union Teaching Award, and the 2006 Michael L. Walzer Award for Teaching and Scholarship.

Nicolas RohlederNicolas Rohleder (Psychology) has been promoted to Associate Professor in Psychology. Nic is a member of the Volen Center for Complex Systems and on the faculty of the Neuroscience and Health, Science, Society and Policy programs. His course offerings include “Health Psychology” (PSYC38a), “Stress, Physiology and Health” (NPSY141a), and” Research Methods and Laboratory in Psychology” (PSYC52a). Nic’s research investigates how acute and chronic or repeated stress experiences affect human health across individuals and age groups. His laboratory performs studies with human participants using methods than span behavioral to molecular to understand how the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) regulate peripheral immunological responses and how these processes mediate cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and aging. His research and teaching fill unique niches for all his Brandeis departmental and program affiliations. Nic’s research excellence has been recognized outside Brandeis with awards including the 2013 Herbert Weiner Early Career Award of the American Psychosomatic Society and the 2011 Curt P. Richter Award of the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Matthew HeadrickMatthew Headrick (Physics) has been promoted to Associate Professor of Physics. He works at the intersection of three areas of modern theoretical physics: quantum field theory, general relativity, and quantum information theory. In particular, he uses information-theoretic techniques to study the structure of entanglement — a fundamental and ubiquitous property of quantum systems — in various kinds of field theories. Much of his work is devoted to the study of so-called “holographic” field theories, which are equivalent, in a subtle and still mysterious way, to theories of gravity in higher-dimensional spacetimes. Holographic theories have revealed a deep connection between entanglement and spacetime geometry, and Headrick has made significant contributions to the elucidation of this connection. Understanding the role of entanglement in holographic theories, and in quantum gravity more generally, may eventually lead to an understanding of the microscopic origin of space and time themselves.

Isaac Krauss

Isaac Krauss (Chemistry) has been promoted to Associate Professor of Chemistry. He is an organic chemist and chemical biologist whose research is at the interface of carbohydrate chemistry and biology. His lab has devised tools for directed evolution of modified DNA and peptides as an approach to designing carbohydrate vaccines against HIV. Krauss is also a very popular teacher and the recipient of the 2015 Walzer prize in teaching for tenure-track faculty.

Xiaodong Liu (Psychology) has been promoted to Associate Professor in Psychology. Xiaodong provides statistical training for graduate students in Psychology, Heller School, IBS, Neuroscience, Biology, and Computer Science, he serves as a statistical consultant for Xiaodong LiuPsychology faculty and student projects, and he performs research on general & generalized linear modeling and longitudinal data analysis, which he applies to child development, including psychological adjustment and school performance. He teaches “Advanced Psychological Statistics I and II” (PSYC210a,b), “SAS Applications” (PSYC140a), “Multivariate Statistics I: Applied Structural Equation Modeling” (PSYC215a), and “Multivariate Statistics II: Applied Hierarchical Linear Models” (PSYC216a). He is developing a new course on “The R Statistical Package and Applied Bayes Analysis”, and he recently won a Provost’s Innovations in Teaching Grant for “Incorporating Project-based modules in Learning and Teaching of Applied Statistics”.

Gabriella SciollaGabriella Sciolla (Physics) has been promoted to Professor of Physics. She is a particle physicist working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Sciolla and her group study the properties of the newly discovered Higgs Boson and search for Dark Matter particles produced in high-energy proton-proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider. Sciolla is also responsible for the reconstruction and calibration of the muons produced in ATLAS. These particles are key to both Higgs studies and searches for New Physics.

Nianwen Xue (Computer Science) has been promoted to Associate Professor of Computer Science.  The Computer Science Department is pleased to annNianwen Xueounce the promotion of Nianwen (Bert) Xue to Associate Professor with tenure. Since joining Computer Science he has made significant contributions to the research and teaching efforts in Computational Linguistics, including growing a masters program from zero up to 18 students this year. His publications are very well regarded, and focus on the development and use of large corpora for natural language processing, especially in Chinese. He has built a sizable lab with diverse funding that students from around the world are vying to enter.

Thank you to the following department chairs for their contributions to this post:

  • Paul DiZio, Psychology
  • Jane Kondev, Physics
  • Jordan Pollack, Computer Science
  • Barry Snider, Chemistry

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