Pump without pumps

By Kun-Ta Wu, Ph.D.

Pumping water through a pipe solves the need to provide water in every house. By turning on faucets, we retrieve water at home without needing to carry it from a reservoir with buckets. However, driving water through a pipe requires external pressure; such pressure increases linearly with pipe length. Longer pipes need to be more rigid for sustaining proportionally-increased pressure, preventing pipes from exploding. Hence, transporting fluids through pipes has been a challenging problem for physics as well as engineering communities.

To overcome such a problem, Postdoctoral Associate Kun-Ta Wu and colleagues from the Dogic and Fraden labs, and Brandeis MRSEC doped water with 0.1% v/v active matter. The active matter mainly consisted of kinesin-driven microtubules. These microtubules were extracted from cow brain tissues. In cells, microtubules play an important role in cell activity, such as cell division and nutrient transport. The activity originates from kinesin molecular motors walking along microtubules. In cargo transport, microtubules are like rail tracks; kinesin motors are like trains. When these tracks and trains are doped in water, their motion drives surrounding fluids, generating vortices. The vortices only circulate locally; there is no global net flow.

Wu-Pump without Pumps

Figure: Increasing the height of the annulus induces a transition from locally turbulent to globally coherent flows of a confined active isotropic fluid. The left and right half-plane of each annulus illustrate the instantaneous and time-averaged flow and vorticity map of the self-organized flows. The transition to coherent flows is an intrinsically 3D phenomenon that is controlled by the aspect ratio of the channel cross section and vanishes for channels that are either too shallow or too thin. Adapted from Wu et al. Science 355, eaal1979 (2017).

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Physics Graduate Student Receives Kavli Fellowship

Cesar Agon at Kavli Institute Cesar Agon, a graduate student in the High-Energy and Gravitational Theory group, was awarded a prestigious Graduate Fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. KITP is one of the world’s leading centers for research in all areas of theoretical physics. In addition to having its own faculty and postdocs, it hosts visiting faculty from around the world and holds conferences and semester-long programs on topics of current interest. The Graduate Fellowship program allows exceptional students to benefit from this activity and the scientific ambience of KITP by spending a semester there. This is a very competitive program, with only about half a dozen students coming from around the world each semester. Agon, who is advised by Profs. Matthew Headrick, Albion Lawrence, and Howard Schnitzer, is currently spending the spring term at KITP, before heading off to Stony Brook University as a postdoc in the fall.

Back in the summer of 2015, Agon had the opportunity to visit KITP during two important programs on the physics frontiers, both of special interest to him, namely ”Entanglement in Strongly-Correlated Quantum Matter” and ”Quantum Gravity Foundations: UV to IR”. That was a great opportunity to meet in person the leaders of the field from around the world in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the KITP. Discussions among the researchers and students were tremendously common all around the institute and there were many activities that facilitated such discussions such as daily coffees, lunches, and dinners.

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New Faculty Member Joins the Physics Department

A new faculty member is joining the Physics department starting on January 1, 2016.

W. Benjamin RogersW. Benjamin (Ben) Rogers is currently a research associate in Applied Physics at Harvard University under the supervision of Professor Vinothan Manoharan. Before coming to Harvard, he completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware.

Ben’s research focuses on developing quantitative tools and design strategies to understand and control the self-assembly of soft matter. He is interested in elucidating the role of specificity in complex self-assembly, designing responsive nanoscale materials by controlling phase transitions in colloidal suspensions, and understanding how coupled chemical reactions give rise to active materials, which can move, organize, repair, or replicate. At the intersection of soft condensed matter, biophysics, and DNA nanotechnology, his research utilizes techniques from synthetic chemistry, optical microscopy, micromanipulation, and statistical mechanics.

Jané Kondev wins the Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring

Kondev_labThe 2015 recipient of the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ‘69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring is Jané Kondev, Professor of Physics. This prize requires its recipient to be not only be an exceptional teacher, but also a person known to be an outstanding mentor and advisor.

Jané has advised first year students and majors, served on senior thesis and dissertation committees, and supervised undergrads, grads and post-docs working in his lab. Additionally, he had chaired the Physics department, served as chair and Undergraduate Advising Head of the Biological Physics program, and co-directed the Quantitative Biology graduate program. His courses include the first year seminar, “Nature’s Nanotechnology,” as well as “Advanced Introductory Physics,” “Biological Physics” and “Quantum Mechanics.”

Jané earned his BS at the University of Belgrade and his PhD at Cornell University, and a postdoc at Brown University, where he won two Excellence in Teaching Awards. The goal of his research at Brandeis is to develop quantitative models of biological structure and function that can be tested experimentally. His current projects include the study of cell-to cell variability in gene expression, homologous recombination in yeast, synthetic genetic circuits, and formin assisted actin assembly.

Jané’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the MIT Whitehead Institute. His co-authored undergraduate textbook, Physical Biology of the Cell, won the 2013 Society of Biology Book Award, and his articles have been published in such journals as the Physics Today, Genetics, Cell Reports, and Biophysics.

Students in his courses write:

“Jané is an awesome instructor. He really cares that the students understand the material.”

“I learned a lot from informal conversations with Professor Kondev, and I appreciate all the energy and passion that he brings to the classroom.”


“Scientist of small things”

IMAGE: BMXIMAGE (from Forbes India)

IMAGE: BMXIMAGE (from Forbes India)

Forbes India recently named Brandeis post-doc alumna Prerna Sharma as one of India’s “30 under 30”. Sharma, who worked in Prof. Zvonimir Dogic’s group in Physics, is currently an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

Read the original at Prerna Sharma: The scientist of small things, or perhaps her 2014 Nature paper on Hierarchical organization of chiral rafts in colloidal membranes


SPROUT grant opportunity for 2015 announced

From the Brandeis Office of Technology Licensing:

The Brandeis Virtual Incubator invites members of the Brandeis Community (faculty, staff and students) to submit an application for the SPROUT Program. These Awards are intended to stimulate entrepreneurship on campus and help researchers launch their ideas and inventions from the lab to the marketplace.The SPROUT Program will provide pilot funding for innovative scientific projects within the Division of Science that require bench research, lab space, and/or lab equipment.

We will be awarding $50,000 to be shared among the most promising proposals.
Come get your questions answered at one of our upcoming information sessions.
Info Sessions: 
Thursday, February 26,  11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (Volen, room 201)
Monday, March 2,  2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.   (Shapiro Science Center, 1st Floor Library, room 1-03)
Deadlines: Preliminary Proposals are due by Friday, March 6th
Please note, the introduction of the new SPARK Program geared towards innovative non-bench projects that have impact. An additional email will be sent detailing this program.
For more information on each program go to our website or contact the OTL program leaders,  Melissa Blackman for SPROUT and  Anu Ahuja  for SPARK.

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