MRSEC offers 2 one-week courses in Summer 2017

Brandeis’ MRSEC is offering two one-week courses in June 2017. “Introduction to Microfluidics Technology” and “Biomaterials: Kinesin Production for Beginners” are both hands-on laboratory courses with no prerequisites.

  • Introduction to Microfluidics Technology
    Date: June 19-23, 2017
    This course is intended for graduate students, post docs, faculty, and industrial scientists/engineers interested in utilizing microfluidic technology in their work, both in the physical and life sciences
  • Biomaterials: Kinesin Production for Beginners
    Date: June 26-30, 2017
    This course is intended for graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and industrial scientists/engineers interested in laboratory-scale expression and purification of kinesins, the biomolecular motors that power Brandeis MRSEC’s highly regarded active liquid crystals. The course is suitable for non-biologists who do not have access to any major specialized equipment at their home institution, since the goal of the course is to make protein production accessible to a wider variety of labs.

Register early (by March 1) for a $50 discount. Regular registration for both courses closes March 31, 2017.

Both courses are sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Bioinspired Soft Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Brandeis.

REU Students Arrive for 2016 Summer Research


Amber Jones and Susan Okrah

Alongside the more than 100 Brandeis science undergrads doing research this summer, there are 19 students who are participating in our Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs. Some students are from Brandeis, but most call universities in Kansas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey their academic homes. Eight students are from Hampton University as part of the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) initiative between Hampton and Brandeis. The two universities are focused on fostering interest in research science in under-represented groups of undergraduates.

The two independent REU programs were each created 6 years ago with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a goal of providing a 10-week period of intensive lab research experience to rising sophomores and juniors interested in scientific careers. Professor Susan Lovett is the director of the Cell and Molecular Visualization REU and Dr. Anique Olivier-Mason is the director of the Material Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) REU.

The online application process required each student to submit a transcript, two letters of recommendation and write two essays describing their research experience (if any) and their academic and research goals. This year, 8 students are participating in the MRSEC site; 11 students are working in the Biology-based Cell and Molecular Visualization REU.

Amber Jones, who is going to be a junior at Hampton University this fall, is working in the Avi Rodal lab where she is researching how proteins can be taken on and off of cell membranes. From here, she is hoping to target specific proteins that will ultimately aid in disease research.

Amber has worked in a lab before, but believes nothing could have prepared her for her experience at Brandeis. Her REU lab work has been very involved, but she wasn’t expecting the ups and downs that are a part of lab research. The graduate students and other lab members have been supportive. She has been told “it’s okay; it’s science!”

Returning REU student, Alex Cuadros is working in the Liz Hedstrom lab, says he can go to Cell and Molecular Visualization REU coordinators Cara Pina and Laura Laranjo for assistance. They “have more experience in the lab and they tell me that things don’t always work for them. They say that ‘it’s just part of the science’.”

Nicholas Martinez, who is working in Timothy Street’s lab said, “The biggest challenge I have encountered this summer with my research is being able to do cope with disappointment. Since I am working on a defined timetable and my time here at Brandeis is limited, I want to make as much progress as possible with my research.”

Susan Okrah is working in the Seth Fraden lab this summer. She believes this experience is different from a Chemistry class at Hampton University where you are given an experiment and the results are known. In the REU program, students are given a project that is a subset of their lab’s research. Unlike school, the outcome of their research is unknown. Susan said, “We are given a direction and told to see if it works.”

Alex said that in class he has learned how to do experiments, but at Brandeis he is “doing something that has not been done before so there’s no right method.” It’s also helpful to be able to ask advice about how to approach his research and “Then you go back and you figure out how to do it. You are forced to think independently.”

During the academic year, Alex works in a Biochemistry lab at UMass Amherst. He landed the job last fall as a direct result of his 2015 REU research. How did he get the job in a very competitive environment on the large UMass campus? He presented the poster that he prepared for SciFest 2015.

The most valuable lesson learned this summer? “Resilience” said Amber. Learning to cope with the changing tides of research is important. As Susan said, “people don’t really understand what goes into research until they’re here.”

Part of the REU program involves attending journal clubs and lab meetings, but the most valuable experience of this program is simply being in a lab. Both Amber and Susan agree that anyone thinking about a career in research should go through an intensive research experience such as this. Jones noted, “I wasn’t really expecting to get this type of understanding. I really appreciate that now that I’m here.”

Both Nicholas and Alex ultimately would like to attend graduate school. For Nicholas, “being able to participate in the Cell and Molecular Visualization REU program at Brandeis has been a great opportunity for me to diversify my knowledge and skill set in scientific research prior to applying for graduate school next year. This It has been a great way for me to gain experience in a new area of research that I am interested in and to become part of a different scientific community.”

The REU students are hard at work wrapping up their research and preparing their posters for the SciFest 2016 poster session that is scheduled for Thursday, August 4.

Introduction to Microfluidics Technology – June 13-17, 2016

2016 MRSEC Summer Course Announcement

Registration for our annual, one-week summer course, “Introduction to Microfluidics Technology” at Brandeis University, near Boston, MA, is now open. The application deadline is March 31, 2016.

Introduction to Microfluidics Technology is a hands-on laboratory course sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Bioinspired Soft Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Brandeis. It will be offered during the week of June 13 ‐ 17, 2016. The course is intended for graduate students, post docs, faculty, and industrial scientists/engineers interested in utilizing microfluidic technology in their work, both in the physical and life sciences. The course does not assume any specific prerequisites.

“Introduction to Microfluidics Technology” (June 13 – 17, 2016)
will be taught by Dr. Nathan Tompkins.

The $750 fee covers course tuition, housing in double-occupancy rooms, and breakfast/lunch/coffee from Monday through Friday. Single rooms are not available. Local students who do not need housing will pay a non-resident fee of $500 (cash and check only please).

More information is available.

2016 Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SMURF)

The Division of Science wishes to announce that, in 2016, we will offer five Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research, sponsored by the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

The due date for applications is February 24, 2016, at 6:00 PM EST.

SMURF Fellowships will provide $5000 in stipend support to allow students to do summer research in MRSEC labs (housing support is not included). Students are eligible if they will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19). No prior lab experience is required. A commitment from a Brandeis MRSEC member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2016 is required.

mrsec-studentThe Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 – August 5, 2016. 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 (SciFest VI) on Aug 4, 2016. Five positions are available.

To apply, the application form is online: (Brandeis login required).

Questions that are not answered in the online FAQ may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at>. Additionally, there will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123.

Hampton University & Brandeis Promote Diversity in the Sciences

Hampton University and Brandeis University have formed a new initiative called the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). Using a 5-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the  two universities have joined forces to foster interest in research science in under-represented groups of undergraduates.

A joint Pathway to Professorship (PtP) program will offer a path for under-represented research assistant professors to advance their research and possibly reach a tenure-track professorship at Brandeis or Hampton. These unique training positions could be filled by applicants in most disciplines including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering. They involve one-year residences at Brandeis and Hampton Universities. Recruiting has started – interested applicants should start at the Hampton Career Opportunities website.

Greater Boston Area Statistical Mechanics Meeting on Oct 24

Brandeis will host the 17th annual Greater Boston Area Statistical Mechanics Meeting (GBASM) on Saturday, October 24, 2015, from 9:30-3:00. GBASM brings together researchers interested in statistical mechanics, nonlinear dynamics, condensed matter physics, biophysics, and related topics for a day-long workshop.  The meeting consists of four invited talks (30 min.), and a larger number of contributed “table talks”. The invited speakers for 2015 are:

Contributed talks will follow the format adopted the last two years. Contributors will give a brief announcement of their work in the lecture hall. We will then move to the adjacent room where each contributor will sit at a table with their laptop or tablet and discuss their research with interested participants. This format eliminates the expense associated with posters and provides greater feedback to contributors. The time preparing for a “table talk” should be similar to preparing for a short talk.

GBASM Sponsors for 2015 include the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Brandeis University; the Department of Physics, Boston University; the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Harvard University; the Department of Physics, UMASS Amherst; and the Department of Chemistry, MIT. Thanks to these subsidies, bagels, coffee, tea, and lunch will be provided at no cost if you register for GBASM by the deadline of Saturday, Oct 17.

SciFest V is in the books

The Brandeis University Division of Science held its annual undergraduate research poster session SciFest V on July 30, 2015. Despite the 90 degree heat (and the steam leak) outside, the student presenters in the Shapiro Science atrium admirably kept their cool and showed off the results of their summer’s (or last year’s) worth of independent research. We had a great audience of grad students, postdocs, faculty, proud parents, members of the Brandeis senior administration, visiting neuroscientists at Brandeis helping evaluate our Computational Neuroscience training program, and physicists at Brandeis attending the IGERT Summer Institute.


If you’re a student who didn’t get to present, or you’re a community member who just wanted a chance to talk about science with our energized undergrads, we’re planning another session for Fall Fest 2015. Stay tuned for details.

For a few more impressions of the event, see the story at Brandeis NOW. More pictures and abstract books are available at the SciFest site.

SciFest V by numbers


Science Policy: Science for Policy or Policy for Science?

This article was written by Jacqueline Jeon-Chapman. She is an undergraduate student who attended the MRSEC AAAS Policy event.

The Bioinspired Soft Materials MRSEC invited Dr. Šeila Selimovic, a Brandeis Physics Ph.D.’10, to campus on Wednesday, June 17th. In a room full of students, post-docs, staff, and faculty, Selimovic talked about her experiences working in science policy and gave practical advice to the audience about the career pathway. Her presentation was titled, “Science Policy: Science for Policy or Policy for Science?”

After working as a post-doc in a lab at Harvard-MIT, Selimovic began her current fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. Through this job, Selimovic has attended a UN conference, arranged meetings between diplomats and scientists, and developed a course for educating government workers about nuclear energy. She said her job involves being able to do extensive research in a given field because she provides government officials with the most recent and relevant statistics on scientific questions.

During her presentation, Selimovic talked about her initial lack of understanding regarding decision making. As she learned more about her job, she came to accept that science is not the only important factor in making decisions.

Selimovic also gave advice about how to find a job as an AAAS fellow. She said she thought that her strong publication record made her stand out as an applicant. Interestingly, she noted that not all of her publications were primary journal articles. Her publication list included many short reviews on recent scientific publications that concisely explained the significance of the work in simpler terms. To future policy fellows, she recommended writing and publishing often and seeking out opportunities to enhance science communication skills. Selimovic also recommended the website Cheeky Scientist Association for learning how to network, writing a resume, and gaining other career skills.

Overall, she said that working in science policy involves more teamwork than in academic research—one person plays a smaller role in a project.



Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)