Brandeis Science online tidbits

Science Club for Girls Event on April 25

Science Club for Girls is a Cambridge based organization which reaches out to Boston area communities with the goal of increasing the self-confidence and literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) of K-12th grade girls belonging to groups that are underrepresented in these fields, through free programs that include hands-on learning, mentorship, and leadership opportunities. Girls work with mentor-scientists who model and foster leadership, affirm college as an expectation, and promote careers in science and technology as goals and options.  A group of dedicated undergraduates here at Brandeis have started a college chapter this year, and hope to begin hosting events for young girls in Waltham next year.  In the mean time, the club plans to host an event to bring together female faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to socialize, get to know one another, and share their experiences as women in the scientific community here at Brandeis.  It should be a fun event, and there will be pizza!  Hope to see some of you there!
THURSDAY APRIL 25th 5:30-7:00 pm - Pizza with Professors – Shapiro Science Center First Floor Library: Have questions about classes, med/grad school, getting into labs at Brandeis, etc.? We will be hosting a great event where some Brandeis professors (like Dr. KC) and grad students will be available to talk about these and other questions that you might have. It will be a great way to mingle with some excellent Brandeis faculty and learn a bit more about your future at Brandeis and beyond!

P.S. – If you have any questions please contact us at brandeis@scienceclubforgirls.org

Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A Brandeis Science Pirate’s Life for Me

Ahoy mateys! Greetings from the Acton Discovery Museum.  With sponsorship by the Brandeis Materials Research and Engineering Center (MRSEC), Division of Sciences undergraduate and graduate students, post docs and faculty pirates took a journey down to the Discovery Museum and interacted with those visitors who dared board our ship on November 18th.

Our visitors ranged in age from pre-school to middle school, and all those who came to see us joined our cause and wore eye patches. These “new” pirates were given mini telescopes and museum maps to navigate how to get to the pirate stations across the high seas of the museum. Our visitors collaborated with their families to figure out which direction they were going in the museum using the compasses placed strategically (at visitor eye level) throughout the exhibits. When the new young science pirates found their way, some had to walk the plank with eyes open and closed, experiencing what it would like to be actually at sea. Afterwards, they learned how our ear physiology helps us keep our balance, especially when aboard a shaky vessel.

Others got to see how far they could throw objects and understand the projectile motion behind cannons on pirate ships and test object density with dry ice and balloons. Some young pirates tried to balance buried treasure coins in aluminum foil boats, and others tested their ability to make a variety of pirate-approved knots with rope. Of course, many our visitors discovered their favorite amino acid was ARGGGGG-inine. We can’t wait to return in the spring and teach more visitors at the upcoming “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Science” exhibit! For more information or to participate in our Discovery Museum events, please contact Melissa Kosinski-Collins (kosinski<at>brandeis.edu)

Amanda Winn ’13 is a Biology major, undergraduate teaching assistant in the General Biology lab, and occasional science pirate.

“Hunting the Elements” to air on PBS on April 4

PBS will be airing a NOVA special on April 4th called “Hunting the Elements“, with a substantial segment on “The Elements of Life” filmed right here at Brandeis (and featuring Prof. Christine Thomas). The program is meant for a general audience, so it won’t be terribly technical and it should certainly be fun to watch. Definitely tell your friends and families to tune in!

I knew something was up when i ran into cameramen while going into Gzang 123 to teach…

Brandeis has a long history of working with PBS in making educational television, dating back to the early days of the university. You can read more about it on the Archives and Special Collections webpage and in Abram Sachar’s book Brandeis University: A Host at Last.

 See also story at Brandeis NOW.

Thomas, Epstein to Collaborate with Discovery Museums on Dreyfus Foundation Grant

The Discovery Museums (Acton, MA), in collaboration with Professors Christine Thomas and Irv Epstein (Brandeis chemistry department) and Brandeis’s American Chemical Society Student Affiliates Chapter have received funding from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to develop and implement a project called Reaction Station: Adventures for Young Chemists.

Pilot tests of a prototype Reaction Box with students

The project aims to enhance and promote hands-on chemistry experiences for youth in schools and museums. Implementation of the project involves first designing “Reaction Stations,” comprised of large plastic boxes with holes cut out for gloved hand access, and then carrying out educational and experiential programming for children using these Reaction Stations. As children are often enticed by messy, smelly, or otherwise highly-reactive experiments, these portable Reaction Stations (similar in concept to gloveboxes used by members of Professor Thomas’s Lab) will provide a safe way for children to engage in experiments that are often avoided in school or museum settings due to their messy nature.

Denise LeBlanc, Director of Learning Experiences at The Discovery Museums (and also a former research scientist in the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center on campus), anticipates much success from the Reaction Stations. LeBlanc and Thomas will devise various experiments for children to carry out. Possibilities include: identifying a mystery substance as part of a “crime scene,” testing the pH of common household items, exploring reactivity of everyday chemicals that, at first glance, seem inert, and other experiments that introduce children to topics of polymers, chromatography, phase changes, etc.

Undergraduate students in the American Chemical Society Student Affiliate Chapter will work with the children as model scientists and helpers. Throughout the duration of the year, undergrads from the chemistry department will partake in demonstrations and lessons at the museum in Acton, MA, as well as offsite through various after-school programs. Beyond conducting demonstrations in a museum or school setting only, the Reaction Station will be a teaching tool that educators can bring to their own classrooms or other venues to perpetuate their students’ engagement in chemistry and hands-on research. Says Thomas, “Making research understandable and accessible to children at a young age is pivotal in the development of new generations of chemists.”

The Reaction Station: Adventures for Young Chemists proposal was one of 19 grants awarded this year. Other recipients include universities and museum/science outreach organizations who intend to advance the chemical sciences through innovative projects.

Low-energy physics

Emeritus Professor of Physics Bob Lange will be on campus today at 2:30 pm and on Nov. 30 at the “Maasai hut” outside Usdan to discuss his work in Tanzania. Lange has been investigating ways to reduce carbon emissions and bring technology to remote communities in collaboration with the local population. For more, see the stories at BrandeisNOW and in The Justice

Illuminating career paths in the sciences for high school students

On November 5th, the Van Hooser lab in the Biology Department hosted nine high school students from Hyde Park’s Boston Preparatory Charter Public School (BPCPS) for both a tour of the lab and an open question session about the specific goals of the lab’s research, and about science careers in general.

Boston Prep serves students from disadvantaged areas of Boston, with 76% qualifying for free and reduced price lunch and 92% being of minority racial backgrounds. As part of a rigorous educational program that seeks to prepare them for college and beyond, BPCPS sophmores visit various area businesses twice a year for hands-on learning about the careers open to them. The school has been nationally recognized for its academic excellence. It also bucks trends in the sciences — while nationwide there is a noted drop-off in interest in the sciences as students enter high school, particularly among young women,  (Osborne, Simon, and Collins 2003; American Assoc. of University Women, 1992), students at Boston Prep retain a high interest in the sciences throughout their tenure there, and female students actually become more interested in the sciences in high school.

Assistant Professor Steve Van Hooser led the students through a brief introduction to life in an academic science lab and his personal career path, before discussing his lab’s focus on the visual system and the impact that basic research has on everyday life and understanding. The students then took a tour of the lab, and were able to visualize neurons under the lab’s 2-photon microscope. After the visit, Steve noted, “It was terrific to be able to talk with such promising young people and to share a little of the brain science we are doing here at Brandeis.  The students asked really insightful questions about our studies, the use of animals in research, and the clinical applications of basic research.  It is exciting to think about what these students will be doing in 15 years.”

Those interested in hosting a future visit from students can contact Jenn Wolff from the Van Hooser lab (jwolff at brandeis.edu), or contact Danielle Pape at BPCPS directly ( dpape at bostonprep.org (617)333-6688 ext. 126 )

Brandeis Undergrad chooses Science Museum over the Dorms

…but the housing lottery is a lot more competitive!

Alex Dainis, an undergraduate student in the Garrity Lab, has made it to the final five of over one-thousand people competing to spend an entire month living in the Chicago Museum of Science.  Her responsibilities will include blogging, tweeting, plus getting her typing hands dirty doing science demonstrations– ultimately communicating science to the public using diverse media.  Alex comes well-equipped with a double major in film and biology, and wants to use her expertise to shatter (nay, “DESTROY”)  stereotypes regarding both science and scientists.

So please take a moment to vote for Alex, and help her help Science make friends with the public!

See coverage of the competition on Wired.com and Huffington Post here and here, respectively.

Congratulations, Alex!

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