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

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!

In local news: translating Chinese, pre-meds at Brandeis, experiential learning

While the editor of this blog has been busy with other tasks, several new stories about Science at Brandeis have appeared at Brandeis NOW, the main campus news site:

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Winners Announced

It’s April, and planning is well underway for another exciting summer of research at Brandeis. In 2012 we have several new programs to provide financial support for undergraduates doing summer research; winners for several of those programs are announced below.

Jordan-Dreyer Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantships in the Department of Chemistry

Helen Stolyar ’14 (Krauss Lab)
Stephanie Chun ’13 (Krauss Lab)
Brian Williams ’13 (Agar Lab)
Alex de Denko  ’13 (Thomas Lab)
Charlene Liao  ’14 (Pontrello Lab)

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Michal Dichter ’13, Physics/Philosophy, Chakraborty
Lien Phung ’13, Biochemistry, Kern
Shakara Scott ’13, Biochemistry/Chemistry, Pontrello
John Shen ’13, Biology/Chemistry, Thomas
Matthew Zunitch ’13, Neuroscience , Rodal
Elizabeth Allen ’14, Neuroscience/Classical Studies, Paradis
Daniel Boyle ’14, Biochemistry/Neuroscience, Lovett
Kaitlin Hulce ’14, Biochemistry, Pontrello
Michael Kosowsky ’14, Physics/Math, Roberts
Yasmin Marrero ’14, Biology, Katz

Undergraduate Traineeships in Computational Neuroscience

James Chin ’14, Biochemistry, Hedstrom
Gabriel Colton ’13, Psychology/Neuroscience, Gutchess
Brendan Hasz ’13, Neuroscience/Computer Science, P. Miller
James McGregor ’14, Biology, Turrigiano
Brian Slepian ’14, Neuroscience/Computer Science, Marder
Abigail Zadina ’13, Neuroscience, Rosbash

Beckman Scholar

Yisha Cheng ’14, Biology, Lovett

MRSEC Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

Jon Chavis, UMBC, Epstein Lab
Pengfei Li, UMass Dartmouth, Baskaran Lab
Alyssa Schwartz, University of Rochester, Xu Lab
Victoria Wu, Smith College, Chakraborty Lab
Reed Bay, RPI. Dogic Lab
Meaghan Molloy, UMass Amherst, Nicastro Lab

The Pulse – Brandeis University’s Pre-Health Journal

The Pulse is the Brandeis Pre-Health Society’s journal, written by students about their experiences in science, research, health policy, health care, health policy, and other fields relating to medicine and science. Students collaborate on this publication by contributing articles from personal experiences and together edit and format the journal to be published and distributed around campus.

The goal of The Pulse is to provide Brandeis pre-health and science undergraduates with the opportunity to write about and share experiences, be published in a university-wide distributed journal, and learn about opportunities that fellow undergraduates have had. The array of articles included in the journal vary from scientific research abstracts to reviews of internship programs to anthropological work in medicine. The diverse scope of topics and writing styles allows The Pulse to give readers a comprehensive insight into the interests, activities, and experiences of science and health undergraduate students at Brandeis.

A past issue of The Pulse from Spring 2011 is available online. Feel free to use this link to browse through the issue and learn more about the publication.

For more information about The Pulse, or to find out how to get involved, contact the co-editors: Sarah Azarchi and Amanda Winn

Jordan-Dreyer Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantships in the Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce the availability of the Jordan-Dreyer Summer Research Fellowships for the Summer of 2012 to work in a lab in the Department of Chemistry. The fellowships provide a total of $3000 for a ten week period. It may be possible to supplement the stipend with research funds from other sources. A commitment from a Chemistry faculty member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2012 is required.

The program will run from May 30 – Aug 3, 2012. Recipients are expected to be in residence during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session on Aug 2, 2012.

The application deadline is 01 March 2012. Applications from declared chemistry majors will receive a strong preference. Please send either paper or electronic materials to Anna Battista, Undergraduate Senior Coordinator, Department of Chemistry, MS015,

Required Material:

  1. Current CV for the applicant;
  2. Unofficial Transcript;
  3. One page description of proposed research, with student and supervisor names clearly identified at the top of the page;
  4. Two letters of reference, one of which must be from the summer supervisor.

Please contact Prof. Foxman ( for questions/further information.

Funding for undergraduate research in Summer 2012

The Division of Science wishes to announce two new opportunities for Brandeis undergraduates seeking funding to support their undergraduate research in Summer 2012 and beyond. First, there are six available Traineeships for Undergraduates in Computational Neuroscience through a new grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition, generous alumni donations have enabled us to offer up to ten Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Followships. These programs are in addition to the two NSF-funded REU programs sponsored by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and the Program in Cell and Molecular Visualization. While the REU programs are primarily aimed at students visiting for the summer from other institutions, the two new programs are aimed at current Brandeis undergraduates.

The due date for applications to the new programs will be February 15, 2012.

Undergraduate Traineeships in Computational Neuroscience

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).

Students considering applying for the traineeships are strongly encouraged to sign up for NBIO 136b Computational Neuroscience in Spring 2012.

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships will provide $5000 in stipend support to allow students to do summer research. Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Summer 2012, and 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 2012 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 30 – Aug 3, 2012. Recipients are expected to be in residence during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session on Aug 2, 2012.

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

You want to work in a lab, do you?

The Biology and Neuroscience Research Workshop on Nov 29 was very successful. Organizers estimated that between 60 and 80 eager undergraduates attended, most looking for advice on finding a research lab.  For those who could not attend, the powerpoint presentation, now available on the web, entitled “You want to work in a lab, do you?” has a lot of very practical advice on the process of finding a lab that is equally applicable to students in other disciplines.

see also:

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