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Faculty Spotlight: Jason Pontrello

Jason K. Pontrello
Jason K. Pontrello, Associate Professor of Chemistry, will be teaching Organic Chemisty this summer at Brandeis.

Brandeis Summer School interviewed Jason Pontrello, Ph.D, an assistant professor in Chemistry at Brandeis University.  Jason has been teaching at Brandeis since the Fall of 2008 and will be teaching two courses this summer.  Check out the great interview below:

 

Brandeis University Summer School: How are your lab classes different than most?

Jason Pontrello: My lab courses focus on hypothesis development and interpretation of data rather than reproduction of expected or anticipated results from prior work. Half the lab experiments in the Fall semester incorporate the synthesis of a small molecule designed to inhibit the Tat protein/TAR-RNA interaction necessary for HIV replication. The experiments in the Spring semester incorporate the synthesis of metalloprotease inhibitors as well as compounds designed to affect protein aggregation in Huntington’s Disease. Students find, follow, and adapt procedures recently published in scientific literature, rather than relying on standardized textbook experiments. To carry out the reactions, students must learn how to use equipment that is commonly used in synthetic chemistry research labs. In addition, the Huntington’s Disease project represents a collaboration between introductory organic and biology teaching labs. The compounds organic chemistry students synthesize are tested in both in vitro and in vivo assays in the biology lab.

BUSS: What courses will you be teaching this summer?

JP: Organic Chemistry Lectures (Chemistry 25a/b) and Organic Chemistry Laboratories (Chemistry 29a/b)

BUSS: What do you think are the benefits of Brandeis Summer School for students?

JP: While the pace of a summer course is challenging to adapt to and required commitment to the enrolled course, the structure of the program and small size of the class (about 40 students) compared with the Fall/Spring semesters carry substantial benefits. Students are immersed in the subject of organic chemistry during 2 hour lecture, 4 days a week. This makes it possible to begin talking about a topic, and to finish during the same lecture or the next day. During the Fall/Spring semesters, with 3 lectures a week, topics often become fragmented and relevance can be lost as students are focusing on many other course requirements as well. I also noticed a strong group dynamic created among students in the summer classes. This same dynamic is experienced during Fall/Spring semesters, but it is more focused around the smaller recitations rather than the larger lecture course as a whole.

Brandeis Anthropologist Javier Urcid teaches 2 courses this summer

Photo of Anthropology Professor Javier UrcidBrandeis Associate Professor and Chair of the Brandeis Anthropology Dept., Javier Urcid, will be teaching two classes this summer.  Prof. Urcid will be teaching ANTH 5a: Human Origins and ANTH 116a: Human Osteology. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Prof. Urcid studies the development of ancient complex societies in Mesoamerica: the origin and societal functions of early writing, political economy and settlement patterns, and the social and ideological dimensions of mortuary practices.

Recently, Prof. Urcid was the feature of a video on his work helping students understand ancient societies using Brandeis’ rich collection of artifacts.

Several Anthropology courses are being offered this summer:

ANTH 1a: Introduction to the Comparative Study of Human Societies with Ieva Jusionyte
Sage class number: 2109

ANTH 5a: Human Origins with Javier Urcid
Sage class number: 2070

ANTH 61b: Language in American Life with Laura Ann John
Sage class number: 2110

ANTH 105a: Myth and Ritual with Adam Gamwell
Sage class number: 2111

ANTH 116a: Human Osteology with Javier Urcid
Sage class number: 2072

ANTH 129b: Global, Transnational, and Diasporic Communities with Noah Tamarkin
Sage class number: 2073

ANTH 144a: The Anthropology of Gender with Anna Jaysane-Darr
Sage class number: 2112

To register for 2012 Brandeis Summer Classes, visit:

http://www.brandeis.edu/summer/registration/ready.html

The Benefits of the Brandeis Summer Program

Summer registration is just around the corner, making this weekend the perfect time to think about enrolling in the Summer Program at Brandeis University.  The unique programs that our University has this summer will gladly facilitate the learning experience of your undergraduate career.

Some of you may believe that Summer School is attached with the negative stigma that it had in the 90’s, along with detention and demerits.  This is one of the greatest misconceptions of the Summer Program.  In fact, those who enroll in summer courses are of the most proactive students at this campus.  In order to redesign the phrase “Brandeis Summer School,” I would strongly advise you to read the following:

Major(s)/Minor(s) – As Brandeisian students, we know many individuals who have decided to declare everything more than the single major that we are all required to have.  Since Brandeis students typically have only 7 or 8 semesters at the University, sometimes it is difficult to find the time to take all of the requirements for the various majors and/or minors.  These students should be strongly encouraged by an advisor, parent, or even a peer to enroll in summer courses. 

Midyears – Even though Brandeis makes the Midyear transition extremely easy and manageable for all of these students to graduate with the rest of their class, it could be helpful for a student who arrived as a Midyear to enroll in a summer course or two.  There is no reason why anyone should have anxiety over the number of credits that he or she has. 

Internship Opportunities – There are countless majors and minors that require some sort of internship along with the rest of the required courses.  If you are like me, then it is difficult to imagine putting in an additional 10 hours every week for an internship on top of all of your classes.  Every summer there are different internship opportunities available.  If you know that your major or minor requires some sort of internship, keep posted on the summer course announcements.

Going Abroad – Going abroad is a right of passage that many students choose to take in their college  years.  Although it is not necessarily for everyone, there are some concerns for those who are on the fence.  One of the largest reasons that I believe students do not go abroad is because of academic requirements that need to be finished on the home front.  That being said, the Summer Program is the perfect place to knock a few courses out of the way.  This will free up your schedule and allow you to take interesting courses abroad that are not available here at Brandeis.

Graduating Early – Attention, eager beavers that want to get into the “real” world as quickly as possible, Summer School can, yet again, be used to your advantage.  By taking a few summer courses and maybe one or two extra courses over your years at Brandeis, you will be able to receive enough credits to graduate early!

University Requirements – In order maintain the liberal nature that Brandeis has come to be, we are required to take many courses outside what we are comfortable with an expand our academic horizons.  That being said, sometimes certain University Requirements escape out from under us and are found to be offered during inconvenient times (schedule conflicts, early in the morning, etc.).  In order to receive the proper credits for these courses, Brandeis University allows you to enroll in courses that satisfy many, if not all, of the University Requirements.

Location, Location, Location!! – Last, but not least, we have one of the most positive reasons to be at Brandeis University over the summer, which is being at Brandeis University over the summer.  With incredible weather and its close proximity to Boston, there are countless things to do to enjoy yourself over the summer weeks.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As we find ourselves anxiety ridden from all of the midterms and papers that are due just a few days before the February break, we also find ourselves wondering what to do on this lovely Tuesday.  Why is this Tuesday so LOVE-ly?  Well… it’s Valentine’s Day!  For all of the lovers out there today, here is another Unofficial Brandeis Guide to Valentine’s Day.

Boys, this is your holiday to step it up.  Treat your girlfriend to SOMETHING.  There are so many things to do in the area, and if you want to keep it within your budget you can always make a quick stop to Hannaford, the BranVan goes right there!  Hannaford is really your one-stop-shop with flowers, chocolates, and stocked shelves with endless possibilities.

However, you know your relationship better than I do.  If your Valentine likes to keep things more casual, then surprise him or her with a movie and a bottle of champagne (sparkling cider for those under 21). And, who doesn’t like chocolates (points them!)?  If you forgot to buy flowers, you can always pick up balloons in the game room in Lower Usdan.

If you aren’t really feeling the whole movie and champagne idea, then check out the Stein.  They have great prices and can be paid using a meal plan!  We all know at least one person who says that their parents met/dated here.  Who’s to say that they didn’t go to the Stein back in the day?  Actually, who’s to say that the Stein was even around then?  Regardless, it’s definitely an option.

Oh wait, what about Boston!?  Boston is only a train ride away.  I know that I am personally guilty of not using the Commuter Rail as often as I could or should, but Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to venture off to the Middle-Sized Apple (Sorry, I’m a New Yorker).  Unfortunately, restaurants tend to be overbooked and prices are much more expensive knowing that their demands will be met.  Maybe make a whole evening out of it.  Walk around, but bundle up!

If Boston seems a little bit out of reach, then book two spots on the BranVan and head over to Marcellino (11 Cooper Street)!  This hidden gem is around the corner from Skellig.  It is an amazing Ristorante Italiano with so many choices on the menu, every one of them being just as delicious as the last.

Ladies, kick back and enjoy the rest of the day.  If you feel the need to do something for your man, you can make a quick run to Natick and pick up some cologne.  I would strongly recommend Bleu de Chanel, Burberry Touch, or Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme.  If you want to do something a little bit more personal, think about your boo’s interests.  Does he like music festivals?  Get him concert tickets or neon apparel. Does he like big teddy bears? Who doesn’t?!  Tip: Walgreens has many different sizes, all within budget!  If you want to put on your Julia Child apron, you can definitely bake some cookies.  Try something new, like a peanut butter heart on top of a sugar cookie.  It’s fun, creative, and it’ll make your heart melt (literally, let your cookies cool slightly before doing this!).

Better luck next time!
This is addressed to both of you!  Everyone loves cupcakes.  There’s no better way to anyone’s heart that a scrumptious Crumb’s Cupcake.  For next year, look into getting the 12-pack Gourmet Taste Pack or the 6-pack Signature Collection.

Most importantly:
Today should not be the only special day for you and your partner.  Be sure to always be nice, never start fights, and throw in a few surprises throughout the year.  It’s the perfect way to keep your relationship fun and exciting.  Enjoy the rest of your day and be safe!