Irving Epstein has been named AAAS Fellow


In recognition of his contribution to the study of oscillating chemical reactions, Irving Epstein, the Henry F. Fischbach Professor of Chemistry, has been selected as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Epstein, who in his 45 years at Brandeis has served as Provost and Dean of the Arts and Sciences, said he was honored to receive the award from the AAAS. “I’m delighted and grateful for the recognition,” he said. “It’s always nice to be appreciated by fellow scientists.”


IrvFest 2015 – Friday, July 17

The IrvFest 2015 talks will be held in the Shapiro Campus Center tomorrow (Friday, July 17), starting around 8 am and running all day. The IrvFest 2015 schedule is available.

IrvFest 2015 is a celebration of Irv Epstein’s great contribution to science and the science community.

Here is datum from the Epstein group: A GIF of a spiral where the wave move toward the center of the spiral ( antispirals). If you find it hypnotizing, you might also find the talks tomorrow beautiful and interesting.

Here’s another cool GIF. For a more detailed explanation of the experiment see:

There will be survey of work in the field presented by well respected members of the community, as well as some work that is semi- far afield where students and collaborators of Irv have settled down. Some of these talks will be more on the theoretical side and some will be experimental. Irv’s legacy is diverse!

Irving Epstein Interviewed by NPR about Alan Turing

Alan_Turing_photob_0Irving Epstein, Professor of Chemistry, was recently interviewed by NPR about Alan Turing and a paper (Testing Turing’s theory of morphogenesis in chemical cells) that he co-authored with Nathan Tompkins, Ning Li, Camille Girabawe, Michael Heymann, Seth Fraden and G. Bard Ermentrout earlier this year. The paper discussed an experiment that they performed that confirmed and improved upon Alan Turing’s theory about morphogenesis.

Alan Turing is credited with inventing the modern computer and breaking the German Enigma code during World War II. That work is spotlighted in the upcoming movie titled “The Imitation Game”. After World War II, Turing turned his focus to biology. He investigated how a single embryonic cell develops into a complex organism with hundreds of different kinds of cells. He wrote The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis in 1952.

Listen to the interview …

Brandeis Posse at the White House

President Fred Lawrence and Chemistry Professor Irving Epstein visited the White House on March 31 to discuss the Brandeis Science Posse at an event celebrating the expansion of the program to a total of 10 institutions across the country.  Attendees included Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren and other representatives of the executive branch, presidents of the STEM Posse schools, and current and former members of the Brandeis Science Posse.  The program began at Brandeis in 2008 under Epstein’s direction with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

white house 3-31-14

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.

Epstein named Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Fellow

Professor of Chemistry Irving Epstein has been named a Fellow of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences. Epstein joins Brandeis Professors Emeritus Carolyn Cohen and Jeff Hall, as well as Professor of Biology Eve Marder, as fellows of this academy.

The Massachusetts Academy works to promote public understanding and appreciation of the sciences, to support scientific research and education in areas relevant to the needs of the state, and to provide consultative or advisory services on matters of science to the Governor, and to local, state, and federal agencies. Epstein is an expert on dynamical systems, with a current focus on theory and experiment in oscillatory and pattern-forming chemical reactions. Epstein has also been enormously influential in the development of science education and research since coming to Brandeis. Epstein has served Brandeis among other roles as Provost, and recently has been the driving force behind the Brandeis Science Posse.

See also story at BrandeisNOW.

Six scientists secure fellowships

One current undergraduate, and five alumni, from the Brandeis Sciences were honored with offers of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships in 2012. The fellowships, which are awarded based on a national competition, provide three full years of support for Ph.D. research and are highly valued by students and institutions. These students are:

  • Samuel McCandlish ’12 (Physics) , a current student who did research with Michael Hagan and Aparna Baskaran, resulting in a paper “Spontaneous segregation of self-propelled particles with different motilities” in Soft Matter (as a junior). He then switched to work with Albion Lawrence for his senior thesis research. Sam will speak about “Bending and Breaking Time Contours: a World Line Approach to Quantum Field Theory” at the Berko Symposium on May 14.  Sam has been offered a couple of other fellowships as well, so he’ll have a nice choice to make. Sam will be heading to Stanford in the fall to continue his studies in theoretical physics.
  • Briana Abrahms ’08 (Physics). After graduating from Brandeis, Briana followed her interests in ecological and conversation issues, and  in Africa as a research assistant with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Briana previously described some of her experiences here in “Three Leopards and a Shower“. Briana plans to pursue as Ph.D. in Ecology at UC Davis.
  • Sarah Robinson ’07 (Chemistry). Sarah did undergraduate research with Irving Epstein on “Pattern formation in a coupled layer reaction-diffusion system”. After graduating, Sarah spent time with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, returning to study Neurosciene at UCSF.
  • Si Hui Pan ’10 (Physics) participated in a summer REU program at Harvard, and continued doing her honors thesis in collaboration with the labs at Harvard. Her award is to study condensed matter physics at MIT.
  • Elizabeth Setren ’10 was a Mathematics and Economics double major who worked together with Donald Shepard (Heller School) on the cost of hunger in the US. She has worked as an Assistant Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and her award is to study Economics at Harvard.
  • Michael Ari Cohen ’01 (Psychology) worked as a technology specialist for several years before returning to academia as  PhD student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Making Freshman Chemistry Relevant

Professor Irving Epstein was recently interviewed about teaching introductory chemistry by the HHMI Bulletin in a story titled Better Living Through Chemistry (Class):

I remember the first time I went to my doctor and mentioned that I teach college chemistry. He cringed a little and said, “Oh, that almost kept me out of medical school.” Like my doctor, many students take their two years of required chemistry, breathe a sigh of relief, and then go on with their lives and don’t look back.

Students today also have many distractions to draw them off course—Facebook, Twitter, blogs. I suspect they tend to have less time to devote to their studies in high school, and when they get to college they don’t know how hard they’re going to have to work.

We need to reach out more to these students. We can’t expect them all to love the beauty of the subject for its own sake. We can, however, lure them in by showing them that chemistry is relevant to the things they’re really interested in—like life sciences, medicine, or environmental issues. Once we’ve gotten their attention and they recognize that it’s useful to understand how chemistry works, we can also convince them that it’s fun and interesting—maybe even worth tweeting about […]

You can read more at the HHMI Bulletin.

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