Science funding over the cliff

Jim Haber forwarded the following from the Coalition for the Life Sciences.

Nobel Laureates Warn Against Going over the Fiscal Cliff

Bethesda, Maryland – Nobel Laureates from across the country are warning Congressional leaders and President Obama about the danger the fiscal cliff poses to research and innovation.

Starting December 3, the Coalition for the Life Sciences has sent a letter a day from a Nobel Laureate in either Chemistry or Physiology and Medicine. Twenty Nobel Laureates are engaged in this campaign. In these letters, each Laureate emphasizes the importance of federally funded research and the dire consequences of funding cuts. Of particular concern, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will face an 8.2% across-the-board cut starting January 1, 2013, if Congress and the Administration refuse to agree on solutions to the fiscal cliff.

Coalition Board member H. Robert Horvitz, from MIT shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He said, “This potentially very deep cut to the NIH as well as to all other federally-funded science would negatively impact job creation and seriously jeopardize the long-standing leadership position of the U.S. in research and innovation.”


All the Nobel Laureates are concerned that cuts to the NIH will stifle discoveries that improve health, save lives, and drive our economy […]

the full release is on the Coalition for the Life Sciences website.

Summer undergraduate research fellowships for 2013

The Division of Science wishes to announce that, in 2013, we will again offer up to ten Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research.  These fellowships are funded by generous alumni donations.

The due date for applications is February 15, 2013

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships will provide $5000 in stipend support to allow students to do summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2013 (classes of ’14, ’15, and ’16), 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 2013 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 29 – Aug 2, 2013. 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 on Aug 1, 2013.

The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Questions may be addressed to Steven Karel <>.

Other programs available in 2013 will include the two NSF-funded REU programs sponsored by the MRSEC and the Program in Cell and Molecular Visualization. The REU programs are primarily aimed at students visiting for the summer from other institutions. There are also Traineeships for Undergraduates in Computational Neuroscience through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The computational neuroscience traineeships run through the summer and continue into the academic year.

Ye Zhang wins Materials Research Society Poster Award

Ye Zhang, a Postdoctoral Fellow from Prof. Bing Xu’s research group at Brandeis, won the 2012 MRS Fall Meeting Poster Awards for her poster titled Self-oscillatory Hydrogels Driven by Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction within the symposium on Bioinspired Directional Surfaces-From Nature to Engineered Textured Surfaces & Precision Polymer Materials-Fabricating Functional Assemblies, Surfaces, Interfaces, and Devices. The goal of the project is to make materials that operate like synthetic cardiac or intestinal muscles; feed them and they will pump forever, or as long as the arteries remain open. Ye, the poster’s lead author, is a member of the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) working on project involving the groups of Profs. Bing Xu, Irving Epstein and Seth Fraden of the Chemistry and Physics Departments.

Ye’s work focuses on the development and study of active matter based on non-linear chemical dynamics, specifically the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. Beginning two years ago she systematically modified a class of gels that exhibit periodic volume oscillations which were produced by other groups. First, Ye succeeded in significantly improving the amplitude of volume oscillations. Next, she developed several novel self-oscillatory systems and established a systematic way to improve the bulk material properties of the synthetic heart.  To build a reliable beating heart, Ye optimized the molecules building the material at the molecular level of tens to hundreds of atoms, or scales of 1 nm and then figured out how to assemble them into networks of polymers on the scales of 10 – 100 nm, and then further assembled them on a longer length scale, into elastic networks on the scales of microns, and finally sculpted the resulting rubbery materials using photolithographic and microfluidic methods into useful shapes for study and application. Ye’s award is a recognition of her contribution to molecular engineering and serves as a quintessential example of the  “bottom-up” construction methods exemplified by the interdisciplinary teams of the Brandeis MRSEC.

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>

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

Taste affects your sense of smell in the olfactory cortex

Professor Don Katz’s lab is interested in learning and behavior related to the gustatory system (the sense of taste). In a new paper in Journal of Neuroscience, also covered by the Washington Post website, Katz and  postdoc Joost Maier together with Univ. of Utah professor Matt Wachowiak, studied how tastes affect the processing of odors.

When any animal eats, it both smells and tastes the food, and has to make a split-second decision — is it nutritious or poisonous? Do I swallow it or spit it out? Accordingly, there has to be a processing system in the brain to integrate the information and make rapid decisions. It has been known for some time that odors affect the processing of taste in gustatory cortex. In the new article, the researchers demonstrate the effects of taste inputs on olfactory cortex. According to Maier, “this means is that the different senses are really interacting with each other at a much earlier level than previously thought,”.

Lovett, alumni named AAAS Fellows

Professor of Biology Susan T. Lovett was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS fellows will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology on 16 February 2013 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston. Brandeis alumni elected as fellows are Steve Alexander (PhD ’76), Patrick Casey (PhD ’86), Rui-Ming Xu (PhD ’90) and Charles Brenner (postdoc 93-96).

Lovett, who works on DNA repair mechanisms in bacteria, has recently been profiled on Brandeis NOW.

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