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

Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships

In 2018, the Division of Science will offer seven Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SMURF) for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research, sponsored by the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

The fellowship winners will receive $5,000 stipends (housing support is not included) to engage in an intensive and rewarding research and development program that consists of full-time research in a MRSEC lab, weekly activities (~1-2 hours/week) organized by the MRSEC Director of Education, and participation in SciFest VIII on Aug 2, 2018.The due date for applications is March 1, 2018, at 6:00 PM EST.

To apply, the application form is online and part of the Unified Application (Brandeis login required).


Students are eligible if they will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2018 (classes of ’19, ’20 and ’21). No prior lab experience is required. A commitment from a Brandeis MRSEC member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2018 is however required. The MRSEC faculty list is:

Conflicting Commitments
SMURF recipients are expected to be available to do full time laboratory research between May 29 – August 3, 2018. During that period, SMURF students are not allowed to take summer courses, work another job or participate in extensive volunteer/shadowing experiences in which they commit to being out of the lab for a significant amount of time during the summer. Additionally, students should not be paid for doing lab research during this period from other funding sources.

Application Resources
Interested students should apply online (Brandeis login required). Questions that are not answered in the online FAQ may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at>.

Summer Research Funding For Undergrads in 2018

The Division of Science announces the opening of the Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship competition for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research in Summer 2018.  These fellowships are funded by generous alumni donations and by grants.

New this year is the Dan Getz Endowment for Cardiovascular Research Fellowship. This fellowship is for a student working with a Brandeis faculty member on a topic relevant to cardiovascular health. See the Div Sci website for details of additional programs which fund students across all the sciences. We expect to fund at least 30 students this summer.

The due date for applications  is March 1, 2018,  at 6:00 PM EST.

Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2018 (classes of ’19, ’20, and ’21), who in addition are working in a lab in the Division of Science at the time of application, are eligible to apply. A commitment from a Brandeis faculty member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2017 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 29 – Aug 3, 2018. Recipients are expected to be available to do full time laboratory research during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session (SciFest VIII) on Aug 2, 2018.

Interested students should apply online (Brandeis login required). Questions that are not answered in the online FAQs may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at>.

Introduction to Microfluidics Technology Course Offered June 25-28

Microfluidics courseThe Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) has announced that the annual Introduction to Microfluidics Technology summer course will take place at Brandeis University from June 25th-29th 2018. This is a week-long course that runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. Graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and industrial scientists and engineers are invited to apply. Registration closes March 31, 2018.

The hands-on course was developed for scientists and engineers interested in utilizing microfluidic technology in the physical and life sciences. Students enrolled will have the opportunity to learn different microfluidic fabrication techniques and create custom-made microfluidics devices relevant to their research or work.

Course details and application instructions can be found on the MRSEC site.

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