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>.

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.

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.

Pairs of Supermassive Black Holes May Be Rarer Than Earlier Thought

Image by David Roberts

Image by David Roberts

Recent research by David H. Roberts, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Astrophysics at Brandeis, has shown that pairs of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies are less common than previously thought. This suggests that the level of gravitational radiation from such systems is lower than earlier predicted. This work was in collaboration with Lakshmi Saripalli and Ravi Subrahmanyan of the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, and much of the work was done by Brandeis undergraduate students Jake Cohen and Jing Liu. It has recently been published in a pair of papers in the Astrophysical Journal Supplements and Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein’s 1915 General Theory of Relativity. Propagating at the speed of light, they are produced in astrophysical events such as supernovae and close binary stars.

No direct experimental evidence of the existence of gravitational waves has been found to date. We know that they exist because they sap energy from the orbits of binary systems, and using ultra-precise radio astronomy it has been shown that the changes in binary orbits of pairs of pulsars (magnetized neutron stars) are precisely as predicted by General Relativity. Hulse and Taylor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to this work.

The largest source of gravitational waves is expected to be the coalescence of pairs of supermassive black holes in the centers of large galaxies. We know today that galaxies grow by mergers, and that every galaxy harbors a massive black hole at its center, with mass roughly proportional to the galaxy’s mass. When two massive galaxies merge to form a larger galaxy, it will contain a pair of black holes instead of a single one. Through a process involving the gravitational scattering of ordinary stars the two black holes migrate toward each other and eventually coalesce into a single even more massive black hole. The process of coalescence involves “strong gravity,” that is, it occurs when the separation of the two merging black holes becomes comparable to their Schwarzschild radii. Recent developments in numerical relativity have made it possible to study the coalescence process in the computer, and predictions may be made about the details of the gravitational waves that emerge. Thus direct detection of gravitational waves will enable tests of General Relativity not achievable any other way.

In order to predict the amount of gravitational radiation present in the Universe it is necessary to estimate by other methods the rate at which massive galaxies are colliding and their black holes coalescing. One way to do this is to examine the small number of radio galaxies that have unusual morphologies that suggest that they were created by the process of a spin-flip of a supermassive black hole due to its interaction with a second supermassive black hole. These are the so-called “X-shaped radio galaxies” (“XRGs”), and a naive counting of their numbers suggests that they are about 6% of all radio galaxies. Using this and knowing the lifetime of such an odd radio structure it is possible to determine the rate at which massive galaxies are merging and their black holes coalescing.

Roberts et al. re-examined this idea, and made a critical assessment of the mechanism of formation of XRGs. It turns out that other mechanisms can easily create such odd structures, and according to their work the large majority of XRGs are not the result of black hole-black hole mergers at all. They suggest as a result that the rate of supermassive black hole mergers may have been overestimated by a factor of three to five, with the consequence that the Universe contains that much less gravitational radiation than previously believed. In fact, recent results from searches for such gravitational waves have set upper limits below previous predictions, as might expect from this work.

For more information:


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


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