Sloan-Swartz Computational Neuroscience Meeting July 26-28

sloan-swartz-illustThe annual summer meeting of Sloan-Swartz Centers for Computational Neuroscience will be held at Brandeis this weekend (July 26-28). Neuroscientists from centers at 11 major US educational institutions will convene to talk about research progress from the last year. Talks by professors, postdocs, and grad students will be held Friday through Sunday in the Shapiro Campus Center Auditorium – the schedule is online. The poster session, including posters from Brandeis undergraduates and grad students, will be held on Friday evening. All welcome to attend talks. Food available for those who have preregistered.

Summer Seminars Start on the Sixth

Science is a year-round endeavor, so science seminars will continue over the seminar, though the venues and times may shift.

D-Day for summer seminars this year is June 6, when the Biochemistry & Biophysics Summer Pizza Talks series kicks off with Dr Markus Grütter of the University of Zurich. Grütter will give a special summer on his recent breakthrough-structure of the first heterodimeric ABC transporter. This structure is important because the ABC transporter is a homologue of the CFTR channel (disrupted in cystic fibrosis, one of the most common human genetic diseases). The talk will be in Gerstenzang 121 at Noon on Thursday, June 6.

The Life Sciences Summer Research Seminar Series will start on Monday, June 24, with a talk by distinguished alumna Leslie Meltzer ’03, who has returned to the Boston area as Associate Director of U.S. Medical Affairs at Biogen IDEC, having paid a visit to the other coast to get a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Stanford in 2008, working with Karl Deisseroth. The Life Sciences Summer Research Seminar Series is organized by the Brandeis University Postdoctoral Association and will be held on Mondays at noon in Gerstenzang 121.

Brandeis Café Science held this Monday, June 3 with Prof. Bulbul Chakraborty

sandStrolling on the beach we notice that our feet create dry spots around them.  The sand around the leopard’s feet flows while it speeds along the desert.  Close to the ocean, we often notice dark striations on the sand.  These phenomena are so familiar to us that we hardly ever pause to wonder their origin.  The surprising fact is that we do not really understand why sand behaves the way it does.

Join us THIS Monday, June 3, at 6:00pm at the Elephant Walk in Waltham for our next Brandeis Café Science! Professor of Physics Bulbul Chakraborty will take you on a journey through the world of granular matter: matter made out of large objects for which gravity is important and temperature is not.  This is stuff that we see around all around us but know very little about.

For the last five years Prof. Chakraborty has been working on developing a theory of granular materials that can predict their collective behavior. How do sand grains assemble into sand dunes and what causes them to avalanche?  Her research has led to a new paradigm for the emergence of solid-like properties.  Prof. Chakraborty will take you along on her journey to the discovery of this new paradigm as she asks you the questions that she asked herself.


Haber 70th Bday Symposium on May 31/Jun 1

Jim Haber as a young professorWe’re holding a 70th Birthday Celebration for Jim Haber on Friday and Saturday this week (May 31 and June 1, 2013). Haber lab members past and present, as well of some of Jim’s colleagues and collaborators, will be giving talks to celebrate the occasion. Come learn about DNA repair and wish Jim a happy birthday! Talks will be held in the Shapiro Campus Auditorium, starting with keynote speaker Fred Alt at 1:15 Friday. The full speaker list is available.

Active Matter workshop on Feb 20, 2013

Ever wondered what do bacterial colonies, algae, the cytoskeleton of a cell and self-diffusive colloids have in common? They are all examples of active materials! What are active materials? What makes them special?

The Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center will host a hands-on workshop on Active Matter on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. The workshop involves experiments, simulations and theory, together with an overview of active materials research at the Brandeis MRSEC. It will be held in Shapiro Science Center from 9:00 am – 7:30 pm. Prof. Azadeh Samadani is hosting the workshop. The application deadline is Jan. 10, 2013 – apply here.

Human evolution and barefoot running

Jim Haber writes:

Our speaker [in the Joint Biology/Neuroscience Colloquium at 4 pm  in Gerstenzang 121] on Nov 14 is Prof. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard.  He is the second of our Distinguished Biology Lecturers.  Dan is one of the world’s experts on human evolution and running (how our necks balance our stride, among other things) .  His interests have also made him a major advocate for barefoot running.


Here’s a summary:

Ever since the human lineage diverged from the African apes, hominins have been bipeds of some sort.  Comparative and fossil evidence suggest that the earliest hominins were capable, habitual bipedal walkers but were also adept at climbing trees.  At some point, however, hominins lost the ability to climb trees very well, and became superlative long distance runners.  Comparisons of human endurance running performance with other mammals show that we excel at speed, distance, and running in the heat. Further, human distance running capabilities far exceed those of any other primate, and they match or even surpass the best mammalian runners in hot conditions over very long distances.  The human body is thus replete with many adaptations that improve endurance running performance, and many of these adaptations first appear about two million years ago in the fossil record of the genus Homo.

The evolution of human running is also relevant from the perspective of evolutionary medicine.  Perhaps the most important legacy is that humans evolved to be physical active endurance athletes compared to other apes, which helps explain why an absence of physical activity is not only abnormal but also pathological.  Another interesting legacy of our evolution history is that since humans ran barefoot for most of the last two million years, the study of barefoot running provides an opportunity to study how natural selection adapted the human body to run, potentially offering insights on preventing injury.

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