IGERT Summer Institute

 The Brandeis IGERT program is hosting its first summer institute starting Wednesday, July 31 and running weekdays through Friday, August 9. This will be a series of lectures by experts inside and outside of Brandeis, together with some student seminars, aimed at graduate students across the sciences, especially (but not exclusively!) those doing theoretical work.

The lectures will run from 9:30-4 every day, with coffee at 9am, and ample time between lectures for questions and conversations.  They will be held in room 055 of the Lemberg Academic Center (note that Domenic’s will be open at that time, so lunch is available nearby).  Those interested in attending should RSVP to Tony Bottaro (bottaro@brandeis.edu) so that we can get a head count for coffee.

The lecturers are:

Parongama Sen (University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India), lecturing on applications of statistical physics to social science problems.
Henry Cohn (Microsoft Research, New England), lecturing on symmetry and optimization.
Ben Allen (Emmanuel College and Harvard), lecturing on evolutionary dynamics
Paul Miller (Brandeis), lecturing on aspects of theoretical neuroscience.
Blake LeBaron (Brandeis), lecturing on empirical puzzles in financial data, and applications of agent-based modeling.
Albion Lawrence (Brandeis), lecturing on fiber bundles (“gauge theory”) and their applications to deformable bodies (falling cats, swimming bacteria).

In addition, we will have seminars by IGERT students:

Sumantra Sarkar
Blake Stacey
Daniel Goldstein

and a schedule can be found on this webpage:


Brandeis Café Science held this Monday, June 3 with Prof. Bulbul Chakraborty

sandStrolling on the beach we notice that our feet create dry spots around them.  The sand around the leopard’s feet flows while it speeds along the desert.  Close to the ocean, we often notice dark striations on the sand.  These phenomena are so familiar to us that we hardly ever pause to wonder their origin.  The surprising fact is that we do not really understand why sand behaves the way it does.

Join us THIS Monday, June 3, at 6:00pm at the Elephant Walk in Waltham for our next Brandeis Café Science! Professor of Physics Bulbul Chakraborty will take you on a journey through the world of granular matter: matter made out of large objects for which gravity is important and temperature is not.  This is stuff that we see around all around us but know very little about.

For the last five years Prof. Chakraborty has been working on developing a theory of granular materials that can predict their collective behavior. How do sand grains assemble into sand dunes and what causes them to avalanche?  Her research has led to a new paradigm for the emergence of solid-like properties.  Prof. Chakraborty will take you along on her journey to the discovery of this new paradigm as she asks you the questions that she asked herself.


Asher Preska Steinberg ’13 receives NSF Graduate Fellowship

steinbergAsher Preska Steinberg ’13, who majored in both chemistry and physics at Brandeis, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in materials research.  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.

At Brandeis, Asher worked on his senior thesis in chemistry with Professor Milos Dolnik as part of the Epstein Group. They studied the growth dynamics of Turing patterns in photosensitive reaction-diffusion systems. As part of the 2011 NYU MRSEC Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program Asher worked with Paul Chaikin to study active colloids, and they recently published an article in Science entitled “Living Crystals of Light-Activated Colloidal Surfers”. The article received attention from the press, including the LA Times, Wired, and Ars Technica.  Last summer Asher participated in the Columbia EFRC Research Program for Undergraduates (RPU) and studied silver plasmonic nanoparticles with Louis Brus.

Asher will be attending California Institute of Technology this coming fall in the field of Chemical Physics.

Dogic Lab Wins Andor Insight Award

The ‘Insight Awards‘  is a video contest showcasing research imagery from the physical and life sciences which utilize Andor technology to capture data.  This year, the Dogic Lab submitted a research video to the competition and garnered first prize in the Physical Sciences division for their video of Oscillating Microtubule Bundles.

From the competition notes:

Microtubules are a bio-polymer composed of the protein tubulin and are used extensively in the cell for cellular division, cell motility, and transportation of cargo within the cell. Here, we investigate the material properties of mixtures of microtubules, a depletion agent, and the molecular motor Kinesin. The microtubules, driven by Kinesin motors, spontaneously organize into bundles of microtubules that oscillate in a manner reminiscent of flagella and cilia found in biology. This engineered system will allow us to studying systems of self-propelled and self-organized matter that exist far from equilibrium in the field known as Active Matter.

We use standard fluorescent microscopy to image labeled microtubules in a thin, flow cell microscope chamber. An Andor Clara camera was used in conjunction with a Nikon Ti Eclipse microscope to capture this video.

Video and Entry by Stephen DeCamp.

For this, and more videos from the Dogic Lab, visit their YouTube page or their website at Brandeis University.

Brandeis undergrad research on cover of Astronomical Journal

3C345CoverWithAuthors1kThe editors of the Astronomical Journal chose an image from a Brandeis research paper to adorn the cover of the February issue of the Journal (see right). What is sweet about this is that the image was made by Valerie Marchenko, a senior physics major who has been doing research since her freshman year, initially with Dave Roberts, and presently with John Wardle in the Physics Department. Several of the images in the paper were made by Valerie, and of course she is a co-author. This is actually her second publication in a mainline astronomical journal.

Roberts DH, Wardle JFC, Marchenko VV. The Structure and Linear Polarization of the Kiloparsec-scale Jet of the Quasar 3C 345. The Astronomical Journal. 2013;145(2):49.

Brandeis undergraduates publish upward of 20 papers a year in scientific journals along with their faculty, postdoc and grad student mentors.

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.

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