Science Undergraduate Poster Session on August 1

Photo by Emma GriffithBrandeis Summer Scifest, an Undergraduate Research Poster Session, will be held on Thu, Aug 1 2013.   Undergraduates from laboratories and research groups throughout the Division of Science, including summer visitors and Brandeis students, will present posters on their research.  The poster session will run from 1-3 pm in the Shapiro Science Center atrium.

Update: Abstract submission has closed — the abstract book containing the abstracts of all 75 posters is now online.

How does the brain decide whether you like what you eat?

When we encounter a taste, we appreciate both its chemosensory properties and its palatability—the degree to which the taste is pleasurable or aversive. Recent work suggests that the processing of this complex taste experience may involve coordination between multiple brain areas. Dissecting these interactions help understand the organization and working of the taste system.

F4.largeThe lateral hypothalamus (LH) is a region of the brain important for feeding. In a rodent, damage the LH, and the rodent may starve itself to death; stimulate it, and you get a curious mix of voracious eating and expressions of disgust over what is being eaten. Such data suggest that LH plays a complex game of balancing escape and avoidance, palatability and aversion, during the evaluation of a taste stimulus. Little is known, however, about how neurons in LH actually respond to tastes of different valences.

Brandeis postdocs Jennifer Li and Takashi Yoshida. undergraduate Kevin Monk ’13, and Associate Professor of Psychology Don Katz have recently published a study of neuronal reponses in LH in the Journal of Neuroscience. They have shown that taste-responsive neurons in LH break neatly down into two groups–one that responds preferentially to palatable tastes and one to aversive tastes. Virtually every taste neuron in LH could be identified as a palatable- or aversive-preferring neuron. In addition, even without considering the specific tastes to which a particular neuron responded, these two groups of neurons could be differentiated according to their baseline firing rate, shape of response, and tuning width. While these neurons were spatially intermingled, several pieces of data (functional connectivity analysis, relationship to responses in amygdala and cortex) suggest that they are parts of distinct neural circuits. These results offer insights into the multiple feeding-related processes that LH manages, and how the hypothalamus’ role in these processes might be related to its connection to other parts of the taste system.

Li JX, Yoshida T, Monk KJ, Katz DB. Lateral Hypothalamus Contains Two Types of Palatability-Related Taste Responses with Distinct Dynamics. J Neurosci. 2013;33(22):9462-73.

Electronic senior thesis submission takes effect this year

Sarah Shoemaker, Director of Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, recently announced that Senior Theses for students can be submitted electronically, staring in Spring 2013 (now!).

We’re excited about this — it will make student research easier to share, and it will save student time and effort and paper. Students will upload their final theses into the Institutional Repository directly. Instructions for uploading are at the LibGuide for Thesis Writers.

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.

Computational Neuroscience Traineeships for 2013-2014

The Division of Science wishes 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 2013 and run through the academic year 2013-14.

The due date for applications to the new programs will be February 25, 2013.

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. Trainees are appointed for at least a year and up to two years.  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 in computational neuroscience
  • have a course work plan to complete requirements for a major in the Division of Science and this program (see below)
  • intend to apply to grad school in a related field.

The curricular requirements are listed on the program website.  The application form is online (Brandeis login required).

Summer undergraduate research fellowships for 2013

The Division of Science wishes to announce that, in 2013, we will again offer up to ten Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research.  These fellowships are funded by generous alumni donations.

The due date for applications is February 15, 2013

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships will provide $5000 in stipend support to allow students to do summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2013 (classes of ’14, ’15, and ’16), 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 2013 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 29 – Aug 2, 2013. 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 on Aug 1, 2013.

The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Questions may be addressed to Steven Karel <karel@brandeis.edu>.

Other programs available in 2013 will include the two NSF-funded REU programs sponsored by the MRSEC and the Program in Cell and Molecular Visualization. The REU programs are primarily aimed at students visiting for the summer from other institutions. There are also Traineeships for Undergraduates in Computational Neuroscience through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The computational neuroscience traineeships run through the summer and continue into the academic year.

Provost announces new fund to support undergraduate research

The Justice reports that there will be a new $25,000 fund in 2013 to support undergraduate research. Funds will come from the Office of the Provost and be administered through the office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, according to Provost Goldstein’s remarks at faculty meeting. Details of the application and award process will be forthcoming

What a failed drug does (and is there hope for latrepirdine?)

Latrepirdine (Dimebon) was initially used as an antihistamine drug in Russia. It was later found to be neuroprotective, and entered phase II clinical trials in the US for both Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. However, Dimebon failed in a US-based phase II replication trial of a prior successful Russian phase II trial of mild-to-moderate AD. Given the initial promise of the drug and split results,  as well as the lack of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, there in is significant interest in understanding the underlying molecular mechanism(s) for the drug’s effects.

In a paper appearing this week in Molecular Psychiatry, Brandeis researchers in the Petsko-Ringe lab, including postdoc Shulin Ju and undergraduate Jessica Liken ’11, used yeast models of neurodegenerative disease associated proteins to show that Dimebon specifically protects yeast from the cytotoxiciy of α-synuclein, a protein involved in Parkinson’s disease. They further showed that protection is mediated through its up-regulation of autophagy pathway. In collaboration with Sam Gandy‘s group at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these findings were further confirmed and validated in neuronal cell and animal models.

Given these observations, disparities in the contribution of α-synuclein to the neuropathology between the Russian and US Dimebon studies might also explain, at least in part, the inconsistency of the cognitive benefit in the two trials. If this speculation is correct, then it may be interesting to test for benefits of Dimebon in treating synucleinopathies such as Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, REM sleep disorder and/or multiple system atrophy.

see also: press release from Mt. Sinai Alzheimer’s Diesease Research Center

Steele JW (*), Ju S(*), Lachenmayer ML(*), Liken J, Stock A, Kim SH, Delgado LM, Alfaro IE, Bernales S, Verdile G, Bharadwaj P, Gupta V, Barr R, Friss A, Dolios G, Wang R, Ringe D, Protter AA, Martins RN, Ehrlich ME, Yue Z, Petsko GA, Gandy S. Latrepirdine stimulates autophagy and reduces accumulation of alpha-synuclein in cells and in mouse brain. Molecular psychiatry. 2012.

Steele JW(*), Lachenmayer ML(*), Ju S, Stock A, Liken J, Kim SH, Delgado LM, Alfaro IE, Bernales S, Verdile G, Bharadwaj P, Gupta V, Barr R, Friss A, Dolios G, Wang R, Ringe D, Fraser P, Westaway D, St George-Hyslop PH, Szabo P, Relkin NR, Buxbaum JD, Glabe CG, Protter AA, Martins RN, Ehrlich ME, Petsko GA, Yue Z, Gandy S. Latrepirdine improves cognition and arrests progression of neuropathology in an Alzheimer’s mouse model. Molecular psychiatry. 2012.

Brandeis Summer SciFest 2012

Brandeis Summer Scifest, an Undergraduate Research Poster Session, will be held on Thu, Aug 2 2012.   Undergraduate students from across the Division of Science, including summer visitors and Brandeis students, will present posters on their research.  The poster session will run from 1-3 pm in the Shapiro Science Center atrium.

Abstract submission for this event has now closed.

Speaker names, titles, and poster abstracts are available on line at http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/UG/scifest-2012.pdf

Followup: story at BrandeisNOW

Six scientists secure fellowships

One current undergraduate, and five alumni, from the Brandeis Sciences were honored with offers of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships in 2012. 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. These students are:

  • Samuel McCandlish ’12 (Physics) , a current student who did research with Michael Hagan and Aparna Baskaran, resulting in a paper “Spontaneous segregation of self-propelled particles with different motilities” in Soft Matter (as a junior). He then switched to work with Albion Lawrence for his senior thesis research. Sam will speak about “Bending and Breaking Time Contours: a World Line Approach to Quantum Field Theory” at the Berko Symposium on May 14.  Sam has been offered a couple of other fellowships as well, so he’ll have a nice choice to make. Sam will be heading to Stanford in the fall to continue his studies in theoretical physics.
  • Briana Abrahms ’08 (Physics). After graduating from Brandeis, Briana followed her interests in ecological and conversation issues, and  in Africa as a research assistant with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Briana previously described some of her experiences here in “Three Leopards and a Shower“. Briana plans to pursue as Ph.D. in Ecology at UC Davis.
  • Sarah Robinson ’07 (Chemistry). Sarah did undergraduate research with Irving Epstein on “Pattern formation in a coupled layer reaction-diffusion system”. After graduating, Sarah spent time with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, returning to study Neurosciene at UCSF.
  • Si Hui Pan ’10 (Physics) participated in a summer REU program at Harvard, and continued doing her honors thesis in collaboration with the labs at Harvard. Her award is to study condensed matter physics at MIT.
  • Elizabeth Setren ’10 was a Mathematics and Economics double major who worked together with Donald Shepard (Heller School) on the cost of hunger in the US. She has worked as an Assistant Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and her award is to study Economics at Harvard.
  • Michael Ari Cohen ’01 (Psychology) worked as a technology specialist for several years before returning to academia as  PhD student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

Congratulations to all the winners!

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