2012 Brandeis Achievement Awards

Four out of five 2012 recipients of Brandeis Achievement Awards are science majors.

  • Fiona Aguilar  (biology, Haber lab)
  • Daniel Boyle (biochemistry and neuroscience, Lovett lab)
  • Ariana Boltax (biology and chemistry)
  • Sara Shahanaghi (economics and mathematics)

For the full story, see Brandeis NOW.

Rosbash, Hall, and Young Honored with Canada Gairdner International Award

Brandeis science faculty members Michael Rosbash and Jeff Hall were named today as 2012 recipients of the Canada Gairdner International Award, one of the world’s top prizes for biomedical research. Together with Michael Young (Rockefeller Univ.), they were honored “for pioneering discoveries concerning the biological clock responsible for circadian rhythms”. The trio has previously been honored with the 2011 Louis Gross Horwitz Prize and the 2009 Gruber Neuroscience Prize for this research.

The Gairdner Foundation in Toronto began giving awards in 1959 to recognize and reward the world’s most creative and accomplished biomedical scientists. So far about a quarter of the recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize. Also honored this year (for other work) were neuroscientist Tom Jessell and immunologist Jeffrey Ravetch.

Hall is now Professor Emeritus of Biology, and his influence is felt strongly in the strong Drosophila genetics community at Brandeis even though his lab is gone. The Rosbash lab continues to be a force for innovation in research on circadian regulation and mRNA processing. To hear more about Rosbash lab research, come to Wednesday seminar on April 4, when Michael will be the speaker. The title of his seminar is: 37 years at Brandeis (but who’s counting): Gene Expression and Circadian Rhythms.

Here’s some video the Gairdner Foundation posted on YouTube:

More information about this story at the following sites:

Pololi receives leadership development award

Linda Pololi, Senior Scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center, is the recipient of the 2011 Women in Medicine and Science Leadership Development Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Pololi serves as director and principal investigator for the National Initiative on Gender, Culture and Leadership in Medicine: C – Change. The goal of the Initiative is to foster change in the culture of academic medicine to support realizing the full potential of all faculty.

James P. Allison to deliver Gabbay Award Lecture

James Allison, PhD  from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center will receive the 2011 Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine “for his development of strategies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and for immunotherapy of cancer”. The award, administered by the Rosenstiel Center at Brandeis, consists of a $15,000 cash prize and a medallion. Dr. Allison will deliver the award lecture on Mobilizing the immune system to treat cancer: Immune checkpoint blockade, on Monday, Nov 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm in Gerstenzang 121.

Allison and his lab are interested in the mechanisms that regulate T cell responses and using that understanding to improve clinical outcomes in areas ranging from autoimmunity, to allergy to vaccination to  tumor therapy.

Horwitz Prize for Hall, Rosbash and Young

Columbia University will award the 2011 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young “for their work on the molecular basis of circadian rhythms, the first demonstration of a molecular mechanism for behavior”. Hall is a Professor Emeritus of Biology at Brandeis, and Rosbash is an HHMI Investigator and Professor of Biology at Brandeis. The prize is awarded annually for outstanding basic research in biology or biochemistry. In the early 1980s, working at Brandeis, Hall and Rosbash combined their expertise in fly genetics and molecular biology to clone the Drosophila gene period, a key regulator of the circadian rhythm, as Young and his lab at The Rockefeller University did independently.

In subsequent years, research in the Hall and Rosbash labs at Brandeis led to transcriptional feedback models for the clock, discovery of additional genetic factors involved in the behavior, and discovery of neuroanatomical features involved in circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms have been found in a very wide variety of organisms, and seem to be important in metabolism and disease.

Hall and Rosbash will receive their award in November at  a ceremony at Columbia University.

Turrigiano Receives HFSP 2012 Nakasone Award

The Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) has announced that the 2012 HFSP Nakasone Award has been conferred upon Professor of Biology Gina Turrigiano for introducing the concept of “synaptic scaling”.

Gina is the third recipient of the HFSP Nakasone Award. This award, first given in 2010, honours the vision of former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone for his efforts to launch a program of support for international collaboration and to foster early career scientists in a global context. The HFSP Nakasone Award is designed to honour scientists who have undertaken frontier-moving research in biology, encompassing conceptual, experimental or technological breakthroughs. Awardees receive an unrestricted research grant of USD 10,000, a medal and a personalised certificate. The award ceremony will be held at the annual meeting of HFSP awardees to be held in the Republic of Korea in July 2012, where Gina will give the HFSP Nakasone Lecture at the annual meeting of HFSP awardees to be held in the Republic of Korea in July 2012.

From the press release:

The concept of “synaptic scaling” was introduced to resolve an apparent paradox: how can neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility? The number and strength of synapses shows major changes during development and in learning and memory. Such changes could potentially lead to massive changes in neuronal output that could have deleterious effects on the stability of neuronal networks and memory storage. Homeostatic mechanisms are therefore required to control neuronal output within certain limits while still maintaining the relative weights of synaptic inputs that underlie information storage. The work of Gina Turrigiano’s laboratory has shown that neurons can “tune” themselves by responding to an increase in firing rate by scaling down all excitatory synaptic strengths and vice versa. Such global changes in synaptic input limits the rate of firing (output) while maintaining changes in the relative strengths of individual synapses (input). She continues to explore the mechanisms that underlie such scaling phenomena and their function in vivo using a variety of molecular, electrophysiological, imaging and computational approaches.

Beckman Scholarships and URP Awards for Summer 2011

Beckman Scholars and Undergraduate Research Program Winners

Summer 2011

Beckman Scholars

The 2011 Beckman Scholars are:

Frank Scangarello (mentor: Suzanne Paradis, Biology)
Multivalent Metalloproteases Inhibitors to Increase Small Molecule Avidity and Selectivity to Study Semaphorin4D-Cleavage Mediated Synaptic Nerve Development

Zhequan Xu (mentor: Christine Thomas, Chemistry)
Novel Catalyst Design for Green Fuels

URP Recipients

(only students from the Division of Science are included in this list)

Heather Bernstein ’12 (Language & Linguistics; Neuroscience) with Prof. Stephen Van Hooser
Stimulus Therapy & its Implications for Rehabilitation: Using Channelrhodopsin-2 to determine spike time-dependent plasticity in neurons of the primary visual cortex in postnatal ferrets at eye opening

James En Wai Chin ’14 (Chemistry) with Prof. Lizbeth Hedstrom
IMP dehydrogenase nucleic acid association (How do IMPDH mutants affect IMPDH nucleic acid binding?)

Nimrod Deiss-Yehiely ’12 (Biology) with Prof. Sacha Nelson
A mouse model for Infantile Spasms involving TTX

Scott Finkelstein ’12 (Biology) with Prof. Paul Miller
Comparative Success of Strategies in a Continuous Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma

Jessica Friedman ’13 (Biochemistry) with Prof. Tom Pochapsky
Insights into Substrate Recognition in Cytochrome P450cam

Julie Miller ’12 (Neuroscience) with Prof. Stephen Van Hooser
Roles of Inhibitory Neurons in Cortical Development

Anna Slavina ’12 (Psychology) with Prof. Art Wingfield
Selective syntactical attention among bilingual speakers

Sophie Travis ’13 (Biochemistry) with Prof. Dagmar Ringe
In vitro characterization of VPS35

Akash Vadalia ’12 (Biology; HSSP) with Prof. Angela Gutchess
Cross-Cultural Differences in the Specificity of Memory for Objects and Contexts

Alison White ’13 (Psychology) with Prof. Art Wingfield
Monitoring the Capacity of Short Term Memory

Abigail Zadina ’13 (Psychology) with Prof. Michael Rosbash
Huntington’s Disease: Insights into Mechanisms Involving Circadian Systems

2010-2011 Outstanding Teaching Fellows in Chemistry

Chemistry graduate students Mark Bezpalko, Xiachuan Cai and Fan Zhao will
be awarded Outstanding Teaching Fellow Awards this week for their excellent
work in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and advanced chemistry lab
sections, respectively. Their efforts were appreciated in many dimensions:

Mark was very effective, extremely reliable, and always well prepared and
patient with his students. During the lab he was very attentive, making sure
that his students were on the right track and showing a genuine interest in their
progress and development. He consistently did an excellent job evaluating
student work and providing advice and guidance to help them improve.

Xiaochuan had the highest numerical ratings of the graduate TFs in organic
chemistry and garnered such positive comments such as “Being very easy going
and always being ready to help a student in need” and “Very approachable and
knew the material to be covered”. Moreover, he was able to accomplish this while
still challenging his students and grading at the appropriate level.

Fan undertook the challenge to be the TF of a completely new lab course
focused on a frontier of chemistry—materials chemistry. He not only diligently
prepared each experiment, but also helped students with discussions of
background information and potential applications of the products targeted in
each experiment. He communicated well with the students, and the students
liked him very much.

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