Brandeis’ Pioneering Science Posse Program

Photo: Mike Lovett

Samia Tamazi ’20

BrandeisNow has posted an article about the history and accomplishments of the Brandeis’ Science Posse program. Read the following excerpt or the entire article:

In June, Macareno and his posse, all Class of 2020, get off Amtrak’s Acela Express train and take a shuttle bus to Brandeis for science boot camp. On the first day, they gather in a classroom in the Abelson physics building […]

(Melissa) Kosinski-Collins, who earned a PhD at MIT, tells them college science is profoundly different from high-school science. With equal parts candor and caring, she sets high expectations, describing the intense workload. The students know that they will be held to lofty standards and that she will support them.

Later in the day, they gather around a long lab table in the Shapiro Science Center, in an area Kosinski-Collins calls Hufflepuff — a nod to one of the houses at Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School. An array of equipment is scattered before them — pipettes, balances, bottles of acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). There are also aluminum foil, Kimwipes, Scotch tape and Ziploc bags.

The students’ assignment is to build an air bag. When acetic acid combines with sodium bicarbonate, they produce carbon dioxide. The students must figure out how much of each chemical to add to fully inflate a quart-size Ziploc bag. But they also have to protect an egg placed inside the bag. This is where the foil, tape and extra bags come in. Along with the cushion of air, these items can be used to keep the egg from cracking when they drop the bag from the Science Center steps, about 15 feet above the ground.

There’s an important catch. Several months earlier, at a meeting in New York, the students got the same assignment. They also completed lab reports describing the quantities of chemicals they used and how they arranged the materials inside the bag to protect the egg. These lab reports are now handed out to different students. They have 10 minutes to repeat the earlier experiment using the reports as a guide […]

Read more at BrandeisNow

DIY your own Programmable Illumination Microscope

The Fraden Group describes how to build your own Programmable Illumination Microscope in the American Journal of Physics

Have you ever marveled at the equipment used in a research lab? Have you ever wondered how a specialized piece of equipment was made? Have you ever wondered how much it would cost to build your own research microscope? Have you ever considered trying to make your own research microscope? The details on how the Fraden Group builds their Programmable Illumination Microscope for under $4000 was recently published in the American Journal of Physics.

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The Programmable Illumination Microscope or PIM is a highly specialized microscope where the illumination for the sample being imaged comes from a modified commercial projector, nearly identical to the ones mounted in every classroom. For the PIM the lens that projects the image onto the screen is removed and replaced with optics (often the same lens in reverse) that shrinks the image down so that it can be focused through the microscope objective onto the sample. The light coming from the projector, which is the illumination source for the microscope, can be modified in realtime based on the image being captured by the camera. Thus the illumination is not only programmable but can also be algorithmic and provide active feedback.

This new publication in the American Journal of Physics, which is published by the American Association of Physics Teachers, is intended to help small teaching and research labs across the country develop their own PIMs to be built and used by undergraduate students. The paper includes schematics and parts lists for the hardware as well as instructions and demonstration code for the software. Any other questions can be directed to the authors Nate Tompkins and Seth Fraden.

Ira Gessel Is Honored at May 8 Conference

gesselIra Gessel, the Theodore W. and Evelyn G. Berenson Professor of Mathematics, is retiring from Brandeis University after more than 30 years of teaching and research. During this time, he has made significant contributions to mathematics and the field of combinatorics. Additionally, he has provided invaluable assistance to both colleagues and students.

A conference was held on Friday May 8, 2015 that celebrated Ira’s contributions and featured the following speakers:

Andrew Gainer-Dewar (Hobart and William Smith College)
Kyle Petersen (DePaul University)
Richard Stanley (MIT)
Dennis Stanton (University of Minnesota)
Guoce Xin (Capital Normal University)

The conference was followed by a dinner in his honor.

BrandeisNow provides additional information.

Rachel Woodruff Promoted to Assistant Professor

Rachel WoodruffRachel Woodruff has been promoted to Assistant Professor of Biology. Rachel joined the Brandeis faculty almost three years ago as an Instructor in Biology. During this time, Rachel has taught several Biology courses for undergraduate and Master’s students and recently guided Biology students as an Undergraduate Advising Head.

James Morris, Associate Professor, recently detailed Rachel’s importance to the Brandeis community:

“Rachel teaches courses for biology majors and non-majors. She regularly teaches Biology 14a-Genetics and Genomics, which is part of the introductory biology sequence. This course is taken by many first and second-year students. In addition, she teaches upper-level courses focusing on DNA damage and repair, as well as cancer, drawing on her research experience on DNA damage in bacteria and yeast. These classes include Biology 150b DNA Research and Mechanisms and Biology 172b Growth Control and Cancer. These seminar-style classes include opportunities to read and interpret scientific papers. She also teaches Biology 101b Molecular Biotechnology for advanced undergraduate and Master’s students, introducing students to techniques in molecular biology and teaching students to write their own research proposals. Finally, she teaches BISC 9b Biology of Cancer for non-majors, introducing this important topic to students in an accessible and engaging way.”

 

JBS Course Focuses on “Food, Lifestyle, and Health”

Elaine Lai, Senior Lecturer in Biology at Brandeis University, will be teaching a Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) this summer titled Food, Lifestyle, and Health. The class runs from 6/1/2015 to 7/24/2015. The student receives 12 credits upon successful completion of the course. Food, Lifestyle, and Health will provide an immersive academic experience by combining academic training in the classroom with experiential learning in food labs.

The focus of this course will be to explore the link between food and health, specifically focusing on the factors that have lead to our national diabetes epidemic. Some of the issues studied will be the link between poverty and diabetes and diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

Applications for the Justice Brandeis Semester open on February 13, 2015. The application deadline is March 16, 2015.

Eve Marder Receives SfN Award

marderEve Marder, PhD, from Brandeis University and Richard Olivo, PhD, from Smith College will receive the Award for Education in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). The award will be presented at Neuroscience 2014, SfN’s annual meeting to be held on November 15-19 in Washington, DC.

The $5,000 prize will be split between Drs. Marder and Olivo. It recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions to neuroscience education and training. Dr. Marder played a critical role in the establishment of one of the first undergraduate neuroscience training programs at Brandeis almost 25 years ago. Since then, she has continued to provide advice and support at all academic levels.

Read the SfN press release to learn more about this prestigious award.

 

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