Steve Goldstein ’78 named provost

Steve A. N. Goldstein ’78, an undergraduate and postdoctoral alumnus of the Biochemistry department at Brandeis, has been appointed the next provost of Brandeis University.

see: story at The Justice ; story on BrandeisNOW ; Goldstein’s research website at U.Chicago.

Yeast genetics and familial ALS

In a recent paper in PLoS Biology, “A Yeast Model of FUS/TLS-Dependent Cytotoxicity“, Brandeis postdoc Shulin Ju and coworkers applied yeast genetics to examine the function of the human protein FUS/TLS. The gene for FUS/TLS is mutated in 5-10$ of cases of Familial ALS. The yeast model expressing the mutant protein recapitulates many important features of the pathology.

A particular feature of interest is that  FUS/TLS form cytoplasmic inclusions of this protein which is normally localized to the nucleus. Over-expression of a number of yeast proteins rescues the cells from the toxic effect without removing the inclusions. The results are suggested to implicate RNA processing or RNA quality control in the mechanism of toxicity, which I find really interesting in light of the talk Susan Lindquist (an author on this paper) gave at Brandeis about yeast prions and regulatory proteins earlier this month.

Other authors on the paper include Brandeis professors Dagmar Ringe and Gregory Petsko, and Brandeis alumni Dan Tardiff (PhD, Mol. Cell. Biol.,  ’07), currently a postdoc in the Lindquist lab at the Whitehead Institute,  and Daryl Bosco (PhD, Bioorganic Chem, ’03), currently on the faculty at U. Mass. Medical School.

For more information, please see the paper itself or the longer article about the research on Brandeis NOW.

Helfgott ’98 wins Adams Prize in mathematics

Harald Helfgott ’98 has been awarded the Adams Prize by the University of Cambridge (UK), one of its oldest and most prestigious prizes. The prize, awarded jointly to Helfgott and to Dr. Tom Sanders (University of Cambridge), honors young UK-based mathematicians  doing “first class international research in mathematical sciences”. Helfgott, currently a Reader at Univ. of Bristol and researcher at the CNRS/ENS (Paris), has been the recipient of additional prestigious prizes. In 2010 he was awarded the Whitehead Prize by the London Mathematical Society for his contributions to number theory and in 2008 he was awarded the Leverhulme Mathematics Prize for his work on number theory, diophantine geometry, and group theory.

Helfgott was a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science while at Brandeis, graduating summa cum laude with highest honors in both disciplines. Professors from both departments recall Harald as a top student, extremely well prepared, outspoken, and as one who truly loves to learn and  exchange ideas. He took full advantage of the opportunities for independent research in both departments, resulting in several conference papers and publications. In Computer Science, working with James Storer completed significant research projects on genetic algorithms for lossless image compression, Lempel-Ziv methods for two dimensional lossless compression, predictive coding, and maximal parsings. He formulated an approach to two dimensional coding that equaled one of the best methods in the literature at the time and had a number of computational advantages. According to Storer “He had an impact on nearly every research group in the Computer Science Department at that time.”

Regarding Helfgott’s work in the Math department, Ira Gessel remembers:

Although I never had him for a course, I did write a paper with him when he was an undergraduate here (the only paper I’ve ever written with an undergraduate).  Harald was involved in an undergraduate  research program with Jim Propp on tilings, and he had made some progress on solving some open problems on counting certain types of tilings. He was having trouble evaluating some determinants, and I helped him with that technical aspect of his work. But the main ideas of the paper were all Harald’s.

On graduation, Helfgott chose to focus on mathematics, doing his Ph.D. at Princeton and post-doctoral stints at Yale and at Concordia University before moving to his current position at Bristol. In addition to his current active research career, Helfgott also has been “strongly committed to the free sharing of information in all areas of intellectual activity“, giving lecture series to students and young researchers in the Third World, including lecture series in India, Cuba, Bolivia, and his native Peru.

According to Gessel:

It’s difficult to give a nontechnical account of most of Harald’s work, but here’s one of his results that’s not too hard to state.  He proved a difficult conjecture of Paul Erdős that if f(x) is a cubic polynomial with integer coefficients (satisfying some additional obvious necessary conditions that I’ll omit) then there are infinitely many primes p such that f(p) is not divisible by a square.

Susan Band Horwitz (PhD ’63) receives AACR Lifetime Achievement Award

Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., will receive the Eighth AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. Horwitz is being recognized for pioneering research in the mechanism of the anticancer drug Taxol and for contributions to the understanding of how this microtubule-stabilizing drug arrests cell division, which eventually leads to cell death, especially of cancer cells.

Horwitz received a bachelor’s from Bryn Mawr, then came to Brandeis to do her graduate studies. According to a profile in PNAS by Tinsley H. Davis,

“At that time, there were few graduate schools that were very receptive to women,” [Horowitz] recalls. “Women were not very prominent on the faculty or in the student body.” One university stood out from the others, however. Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) had just started its graduate program in biochemistry. “Brandeis was a new and exciting place, and the people there wanted it to succeed,” says Horwitz, “yet it also had a relaxed atmosphere that was really perfect for me.”

Once at Brandeis, Horwitz worked with Nathan Kaplan, chairman of the newly formed Biochemistry Department. Her Ph.D. dissertation (1963) involved bacterial metabolism of sugar alcohols.

While juggling raising children and doing part-time postdoctoral research (some things haven’t changed so much over the years!), Horwitz became interested in pharmacology and anticancer agents. She joined the faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1970, where she has remained since, currently serving as the Rose C. Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and co-chair of the department of molecular pharmacology.

Horwitz’s academic career has been vastly productive, in terms of research, publications and awards, but perhaps more significantly in terms of her research’s impact on millions of cancer patients worldwide. Her current research focuses on new natural products with similar mechanism to Taxol, looking for ways to enhance therapeutic value and to avoid drug resistance.

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer. Horwitz will receive the award at the Opening Ceremony of the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting.

Thomas named 2011 Sloan Research Fellow

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Christine Thomas has been named a 2011 Sloan Research Fellow. These two-year fellowships are awarded to early-career scientists in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. Research in the Thomas laboratory focuses on the design and synthesis of new transition metal complexes to examine the fundamental interactions between different components of bifunctional catalysts with the ultimate goal of uncovering new transition-metal catalyzed bond activation processes related to renewable energy. Since starting in the Chemistry department at Brandeis in 2008, Thomas and coworkers have developed a series of bimetallic catalysts that utilize metal-metal interactions to attenuate redox potentials and promote the activation of small molecules such as hydrogen, alkyl halides, and carbon dioxide.

The Thomas lab has an energetic and talented team of researchers

Arne Ekstrom ’96, PhD ’04 and Mikhail Ershov MA ’00 were also named as 2011 Sloan Research Fellows. Ekstrom received a B.A. in Biology and Psychology from Brandeis, and after getting an M.S. at U. Arizona, returned and completed a Ph.D. in Neuroscience here in 2004, working with Michael Kahana. After a postdoc at UCLA, Arne took a position as an Assistant Professor in the Center for Neuroscience at U. California, Davis. His lab studies spatial memory using EEG and fMRI techniques. Ershov came to Brandeis from Moscow State Univ. and received an MA in Math in 2000 bofore going on to Ph.D. work at Yale and a faculty position at U. Virginia. Ershov is being recognized for research contributions to various aspects of group theory.

Andy Berglund (PhD ’97) to talk about Myotonic Dystrophy

Professor Andy Berglund from the Institute of Molecular Biology at U. Oregon will be on campus on Wednesday, Jan. 19 to talk about Understanding Protein-RNA Interactions in Myotonic Dystrophy and a Small Molecule Approach to Target the Toxic Element in this Disease at the year’s Kaplan Lecture in the Joint Biology/Biochemistry Semester Series. Berglund received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brandeis in 1997, working on RNA processing, yeast splicing more specifically, in Michael Rosbash’s lab. He did a seminal piece of work for his thesis, which showed that the yeast branchpoint binding protein BBP, also known as SF1 in mammals, recognizes the yeast branchpoint sequence UACUAAC. After doing postdocs with Steve Schultz and Tom Cech at U. Colorado, Berglund assumed a faculty position at U. Oregon in 2002, where he is now an Associate Professor. His current research aims in part to understand and develop therapies for a specific form of human muscular dystrophy, which is called myotonic dystrophy. This disease is caused by expression of a toxic RNA,  which interacts with the RNA binding protein muscleblind and thereby indirectly interferes with RNA splicing. So Berglund has continued his interest in splicing, but with this more human disease focus. Indeed, his lab has identified small molecules that could potentially be used to counter these splicing defects .

The Kaplan Lecture is held annually to honor the memory of Nate Kaplan, who was the first chair of the Graduate Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis, playing a huge role in the emergence of Brandeis as a major research university. Kaplan lecturers are members of the Brandeis Biochemistry community who have gone on to distinguished research careers elsewhere. The talk will take place in Gerstenzang 121 at 4:00 pm, Brandeis community members are invited to attend.

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)