Division of Science Hosts the 2016 Undergraduate Science Symposium

Written by Jena Pitman-Leung.

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The Division of Science Graduate Affairs group hosted the 2nd annual Brandeis University Undergraduate Science Symposium on Saturday 17th, 2016. More than 60 students representing institutions from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire attended the event, which was held in the Shapiro Science Center. The morning session included research talks from faculty in the Life Sciences (Don Katz, Liz Hedstrom) and the Physical Sciences (Matt Headrick, Christine Thomas), followed by panel discussions with faculty in the Life Sciences (Liz Hedstrom, Bruce Goode, and Maria Miara) and Physical Sciences (Gabriella Sciolla, Isaac Krauss, Jordan Pollack) on how to apply to graduate school. The students then came together for a networking lunch with Brandeis students, postdocs, and faculty. Lunch was followed by a well attended poster session, where 38 students had the opportunity to present their independent research. The day ended by awarding prizes for the best posters in five disciplines. The winners were:

Biology: Rahim Hirani, Hampshire College, “The regulatory role of Beta-Arrestin 1 in prostate cancer cell proliferation”
Neuroscience: Paige Miranda, Wellesley College, “Metabolic Processes Driving Hippocampal Long Term Potentiatio”
Biochemistry: Myfanwy Adams, Wellesley College, “Expression of a Cardiac ATP-sensitive Potassium Channel in a Heterologous Cell Line”
Chemistry: Natsuko Yamagata, Brandeis University, “Exploring the Unexplored: Supramolecular Hydrogels of Retro-Inverso Peptides for 3D Cell Culture”
Physics: Jameson O’Reilly, Northeastern University, “A capillary-mimicking optical tissue phantom for diffuse correlation spectroscopy”

The Division of Science is committed to supporting local undergraduate research, and is excited about the possibility of these bright young scientist choosing Brandeis for their graduate study. We look forward to hosting similar events in the future!

SciFest VI recap and stats

photo credit: Mike Lovett

photo credit: Mike Lovett

The Brandeis University Division of Science held its annual undergraduate research poster session SciFest VI on August 4, 2016, as a record number of student researchers presented posters with 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, and senior administrators.

More pictures and abstract books are available at the SciFest site.

SciFest VI by numbers

REU Students Arrive for 2016 Summer Research

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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.

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: http://goo.gl/forms/ksygMGGu3p (Brandeis login required).

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

Research Funding For Undergrads: Div Sci SURF

The Division of Science announces the opening of the Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship competition for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research in Summer 2016.  These fellowships are funded by generous alumni donations.

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

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows will receive $5000 in stipend support to do summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19), who in addition are working in a lab in the Division of Science at the time of application, are eligible to apply. A commitment from a Brandeis faculty member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2016 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 – Aug 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.

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 brandeis.edu>.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

Research Funding for Undergrads: M. R. Bauer Fellows

The Division of Science is pleased to announce that a generous gift from the M. R. Bauer Foundation will fund ten M. R. Bauer Foundation Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (“M. R. Bauer Fellows”) in Summer 2016. The due date for applications  is February 24, 2016 at 6:00 PM EST. 

M. R. Bauer Fellows will receive $5000 as a stipend in support of their summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19), are eligible to apply. A commitment from a Brandeis Division of Science faculty member to serve as mentor in Summer 2016 on a project leading to a senior thesis is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 to Aug 5, 2016. M. R. Bauer Fellows 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 August 4, 2016. M.R. Bauer Fellows are also expected to give back to the University in ways that promote science and research.

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 brandeis.edu>.

IMG_1293The M.R. Bauer Foundation has been a generous and steadfast friend of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems for over 20 years. Established at Brandeis University in 1994, the Volen Center brings together faculty, students and postdocs from across the sciences with a common goal of understanding the brain, from the level of molecules to cognition.

The foundation recognizes that the advancement of science takes place not only in the lab, but in the seminar room and lecture hall, and in the countless conversations that help to spread ideas and spark new research. The size and intimate setting of the Volen Center has made it an ideal environment for forging connections among investigators from diverse fields.  A central part of these connections is the M.R. Bauer Foundation Colloquium Series, Distinguished Lecturer Series, and Annual Scientific Retreat program. This support has now been substantially widened through this new program of supporting undergraduates in summer research, which will enable greater participation by the youngest group of Brandeis researchers.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

 

Research Funding for Undergrads: Computational Neuroscience Traineeships for 2016-17

The Division of Science is pleased to announce the availability of Traineeships for Undergraduates in Computational Neuroscience through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Traineeships will commence in summer 2016 and run through the academic year 2016-17.

Please apply to the program by February 24, 2016 at 6 pm to be considered.

Traineeships in Computational Neuroscience are intended to provide intensive undergraduate training in computational neuroscience for students interested in eventually pursuing graduate research. The traineeships will provide a $5000 stipend to support research in the summer, and $3000 each for fall and spring semesters during the academic year. Current Brandeis sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. In addition, to be eligible to compete for this program, you must

  • have a GPA > 3.0 in Div. of Science courses
  • have a commitment from a professor to advise you on a research project related to computational neuroscience
  • have a course work plan to complete requirements for a major in the Division of Science
  • intend to apply to grad school in a related field.compneuroimage

The curricular requirements are listed on the program website.  The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Also, see Frequently Asked Questions.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

Weighing in on CTE diagnosis

We noticed a new paper this week in Brain Research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (brain damage from repeated blows to the head, which has been all over the news this year) from a Brandeis author, Madeline Engeler ’16, a Biology/HSSP double major.

We reached out to Madeline for the inside scoop, here’s what she told us:

Yes this is my paper. I am so excited it is finally published! […] This research came from the summer of 2014 when I was at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. I was funded through Brandeis’ World of Work fellowship program and I gained credit for my HSSP hands-on experience.
This research came about from some of us in the lab reading papers about post-mortem diagnosis of CTE in NFL players. What was intriguing was that very similar morphologies were seen in the epileptic brain resections we were studying. So we decided to depart from our epileptic brain research and stained these samples with the same antibodies as in the CTE papers. We also obtained NFL brain samples from Dr. Mckee at BU to do our own staining. Our results showed remarkably similar images from the epileptic and CTE brains. This caused us to posit that perhaps the post-mortem diagnosis of CTE is too broad because it encompasses other neurological conditions, such as epilepsy.

You can read the paper for yourself online:

Puvenna V, Engeler M, Banjara M, Brennan C, Schreiber P, Dadas A, Bahrami A, Solanki J, Bandyopadhyay A, Morris JK, Bernick C, Ghosh C, Bazarian JJ, Janigro D. Is phosphorylated tau unique to chronic traumatic encephalopathy? Phosphorylated tau in epileptic brain and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Brain Res. 2015.

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