Fly cake

Science related cakes can been seen in Alex Dainis’s post “Cake Geek” on the Life @ Deis blog

Brandeis Profs are Pretty Fly

Last week the Genetics Society of America (or GSA) held their annual Drosophila Research Conference in sunny San Diego.  Following a 52 year tradition, the meeting brought together some of the world’s greatest scientific minds to discuss all things fruit fly (formally known as Drosophila melanogaster).  Brandeis Professor Leslie Griffith and alumnus Giovanni Bosco (PhD ’98), now at the University of Arizona, were among the meeting’s head organizers, and were visible figures throughout the course of the entire conference.

Brandeis was also a commanding presence throughout the keynote talks, with Biologist Michael Rosbash kicking off the first night’s festivities.  His lecture, which documented the history of fruit fly behavioral research, recounted a number of both professional and personal experiences with some of history’s most renowned Drosophila researchers, including Seymour Benzer and Brandeis’ own Jeff Hall.  Neuroscientist Paul Garrity further represented Brandeis with his keynote address, titled “From the Cambrian to the Sushi bar: TRPA1 and the Evolution of Thermal and Chemical Sensing”.   The talk, which discussed the molecular underpinnings of thermosensation in fruit flies, also demonstrated that these mechanisms are well conserved between many invertebrate and vertebrate species, and likely date back to a common ancestor that walked (crawled?) the earth millions of years before humans existed.  Other presentations encompassed a number of exciting topics, including aging, immunity, population genetics, evolution, and models of human disease.

Brandeis Professors Michael Rosbash (left) and Paul Garrity (right), both of whom were featured in this year’s Drosophila Research Conference Keynote Lectures.

 

The next meeting will be held on March 7-11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  For more information, visit http://www.drosophila-conf.org/2012/.

History of Smallpox Vaccination

For those interested in the History of Science, Medicine, and Public Policy: Brandeis Associate Professor of History Michael Willrich has a new book out, entitled Pox: An American History. The book discusses the smallpox epidemic of the early 1900’s and efforts to vaccinate the public, occasionally by force, to stave off the epidemic.

For more information see the interview from NPR’s Fresh Air or the Wall Street Journal

Keith Cheveralls ’09, Daniel Beller ’10, and Netta Engelhardt ’11 awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Former physics majors Keith Cheveralls ’09 and Daniel Beller ’10 and current physics major Netta Engelhardt ’11 have been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the US who have demonstrated exceptional promise in science research. Keith is currently a first year graduate student at UC Berkeley; while at Brandeis he did his senior thesis with Professor Jane Kondev and was a co-author on a paper that appeared last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dan, a first year graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, completed his senior thesis at Brandeis with Professor Zvonimir Dogic and Professor Robert Meyer.  Currently, Dan is conducting research on liquid crystals in the group of Professor Randall Kamien at UPenn. Netta is currently doing her senior thesis with Professor Matthew Headrick, and is planning to attend graduate school in physics next year.

Sugars in Old and New Guises

Spontaneously formed sugar polymers have long been recognized as important components of soil (as humins) and cooked foods (as melanoidin products of non-enzymatic browning).  More recently, it has been suggested that they were also important in the advent of life on earth because they form micro-spherules that can encapsulate reactions, potentially acting as precursors of modern cells.  However, the molecular structures of these polymers has been difficult to determine because of their amorphous and insoluble nature.  All that was clear is that they contain aromatic rings that include oxygen (furans) and nitrogen (pyrroles). The further supposition was that these rings were directly linked in chains.  Now, using solid state NMR, Professor Judith Herzfeld, undergraduate Danielle Rand, graduate students Melody Mak-Jurkauskas and Irena Mamajanov, and postdoctoral research associates Yoh Matsuki and Eugenio Daviso, have shown that the polymer is much more complicated, with the aromatic rings cross-linked by variously dehydrated sugar molecules. Their paper, entitled “Molecular Structure of Humin and Melanoidin via Solid State NMR“, appeared online on April 1 in Journal of Physical Chemisty B.

Are You a Budding Entrepreneur? Find Out by Applying for a Seed Grant Now.

This semester, up to $50,000 in entrepreneurial research grants will be awarded to as many as four winning applicants. Undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty at Brandeis are eligible to apply. The seed grants will support research designed to step up the licensing and commercial potential of Brandeis technology. Projects may range from a new mobile app to initiating animal studies of a potential drug compound, to building a prototype of a microfluidics device, said Irene Abrams, Associate Provost for Innovation and Executive Director, Office of Technology Licensing.

The deadline for sprout grant preliminary proposals is April 13, 2011. Final applications are due April 29, 2011. Finalists will be invited to present to a panel of judges, made up of industry exerts, on May 5, 2011. For more information and application forms, email Irene Abrams at iabrams@brandeis.edu or contact OTL at (781) 736-2128, or visit the website at www.brandeis.edu/otl. The office is located on the first floor of Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Center.

Information Sessions (along with application help) will be held April 8, 10 a.m., and April 12, 11a.m. in the fourth floor conference room of the Ros-Kos connector, which is located in the Science Complex between the Rosenstiel and Kosow buildings.

Earlier this month, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marty Krauss introduced the Virtual Incubator as a “program to help foster entrepreneurial students and faculty in the sciences at Brandeis by providing mentorship, education and small seed grants to help them move inventions from the lab to the marketplace.”

Said Abrams, “the Virtual Incubator can become a community for science and business at Brandeis — an interdisciplinary center promoting commercial application of Brandeis science and technology.”

Susan Lindquist talks about prions on Apr 8

Susan Lindquist of the Whitehead Institute will speak about at Brandeis on April 8 at 11;30 am in Gerstenzang 121 in the Biochemistry/Biophysics Friday Pizza Talks series, by special invitation of the Biochemistry graduate students. Lindquist’s talk is entitled “25 New Prions: surprising biology, surprising biochemistry“. The Lindquist lab has made remarkable progress in understanding the role of protein folding, elucidating the role of heat shock proteins (molecular chaperones) and most recently in discovering new prions (proteins that can change into a self-perpetuating form) and suggesting new roles for prions in processes such as memory. Lindquist has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science, Max Delbrück Medal, the Mendel Medal, and the Otto Warburg Prize.

 

NSF CAREER Award for Headrick

Assistant Professor of Physics Matthew Headrick has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation. Headrick’s project “CAREER: Holography, Quantum Information, and Elliptic Relativity” will fund his research exploring issues in string theory and classical and quantum gravity. The two projects address 1) study of the thermal and statistical physics of holographic systems, and quantum gravity more generally, through the lens of quantum information theory, and 2) continuing the development of practical, general methods for numerically solving the elliptic Einstein equation to find static, stationary, and Euclidean metrics for higher-dimensional black holes and compactification spaces. NSF grants require broader impact activites. Headrick will participate in TheoryNet, an NSF-funded program in which high-energy physicists visit high-school science classrooms, and will also work with the Brandeis Science Posse program.

Associate Professor Zvonimir Dogic, also in the Physics department, was a 2010 recipient of an NSF CAREER award.

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