Biochemistry Senior Research Talks on April 29

The Department of Biochemistry presents senior research talks by the 2010/2011 Biochemistry Honor and BS/MS Candidates on Friday, April 29, 11:30-1:30pm in Gerstenzang 121.

Benjamin D. Hornstein – BS/MS
Seq A: construction and analysis of mutants
Advisor: Sue Lovett

Marcus R. Kelly- BS/MS
Replacement Matrices for Transmembrane Proteins
Advisor: Douglas Theobald

Yuliya Y. Mints – BS/MS
Inosine Monophosphate Dehydrogenase and Transcription: a mechanism for retinitis pigmentosa?
Advisor: Liz Hedstrom

Sarah Naomi Olsen – BS/MS
Isolation, Purification, and Characterization of (+)-4R-limonene synthase
Advisor: Dan Oprian

Benjamin M. Whitlock – BS/MS
PABPN1 and SKIIP: A putative mechanism for the onset of Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy
Advisor: Dagmar Ringe

Philip D. Lessans – BS
Developing a Method of Extracting Native U snRNPs from eukaryotic cells using Snurportin 1 constructs
Advisor: Daniel Pomeranz Krummel

Jessica P. Liken – BS
Deletion Library Screen for Enhancers and Suppressors of ALS-associated FUS/TLS Toxicity in Yeast
Advisor: Greg Petsko

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come. Pizza will be provided.

Two more NSF GRFP fellowship winners

Brandeis had 1 current undergraduate, 7 undergraduate alunmi, and 1 incoming graduate student win NSF graduate research fellowships this year. In addition to those cited below, Richard Stefan Isaac ’10 and Orly Wapinski ’09 were also selected. Isaac graduated magna cum laude with a BS/MS degree with high honors in Biochemistry. His thesis work “Functional Characterization of Regulators of Bacterial Pathogenicity and
Metabolism
” was done in the Petsko/Ringe lab. His work teaching in the Biology laboratory also resulted in a paper  in CBE Life Science Education. Isaac is currently a graduate student at Univ. of California, San Francisco. Wapinsky received a BS degree with Highest Honors in Biology, doing in her thesis work “Characterization of Interferon Regulatory Factor-4 mutants” with Professor Ruibao Ren. Wapinski is currently studying at Stanford.

Daniel Graham ’10, and Aaron Gell ’10, and Jeffrey Dobereiner ’09 awarded 2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Former chemistry majors Daniel Graham ’10, Aaron Gell ’10, and Jeffrey Dobereiner ’09 have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. These Fellowships, geared towards ensuring the vitality of the country’s scientific workforce, support the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in scientific research.  Dan and Aaron are currently first year graduate students at MIT, pursuing Ph.D.s in inorganic chemistry.  Dan received highest honors in chemistry for thesis research conducted in the lab of Professor Christine M. Thomas, and is currently continuing to investigate chemical approaches to renewable energy strategies in the lab of Professor Daniel Nocera at MIT.  Aaron, also an inorganic chemist, conducted undergraduate research in the Brandeis chemistry department under the supervision of Professor Bruce Foxman. Jeff was a double major in anthropology and chemistry at Brandeis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Archaeology at Harvard University, where he is applying his chemistry knowledge to the analysis of ancient artifacts. In addition, Delora Gaskins, a 2011 incoming graduate student in the area of physical chemistry, was awarded an NSF Fellowship.  Delora is completing her undergraduate degree at Cal. State. – Long Beach and hopes to join the lab of Professor Irving Epstein in the fall of 2011.

Keith Cheveralls ’09, Daniel Beller ’10, and Netta Engelhardt ’11 awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Former physics majors Keith Cheveralls ’09 and Daniel Beller ’10 and current physics major Netta Engelhardt ’11 have been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the US who have demonstrated exceptional promise in science research. Keith is currently a first year graduate student at UC Berkeley; while at Brandeis he did his senior thesis with Professor Jane Kondev and was a co-author on a paper that appeared last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dan, a first year graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, completed his senior thesis at Brandeis with Professor Zvonimir Dogic and Professor Robert Meyer.  Currently, Dan is conducting research on liquid crystals in the group of Professor Randall Kamien at UPenn. Netta is currently doing her senior thesis with Professor Matthew Headrick, and is planning to attend graduate school in physics next year.

Detecting Mutations the Easy Way

Recent Brandeis Ph.D graduate, Tracey Seier (Molecular and Cell Biology Program), Professor Sue Lovett, Research Assistant Vincent Sutera, together with former Brandeis undergraduates Noor Toha, Dana Padgett and Gal Zilberberg have developed a set of bacterial strains that can be used as “mutational reporters”.  Students in the Fall 2009 BIOL155a, Project Laboratory in Genetics and Genomics, course also assisted in the development of this resource. This work has recently been published in the journal Genetics.

These Escherichia coli strains carry mutations in the lacZ (β-galactosidase) gene that regain the ability to metabolize lactose by one, and only one, specific type of mutation. This set allows environmental compounds to be screened for effects on a broad set of potential mutations, establishing mutagen status and the mutational specificity in one easy step.

This strain set is improved over previous ones in the inclusion of reporters that are specific for certain types of mutations associated with mutational hotspots in gene. Mutations at these sites occur much more frequently than average and involve DNA strand misalignments at repeated DNA sequences rather than DNA polymerase errors. Such mutations are associated with human diseases, including cancer progression, and have been under-investigated because of the lack of specific assays. Using this strain set, Seier et al. also identified a mutagen, hydroxyurea, used in the treatment of leukemia and sickle cell disease, which affects only the “hotspot” class of mutations. This strain set, which will be deposited in the E. coli Genetic Stock Center,  will facilitate the screening of potential mutagens, environmental conditions or genetic loci for effects on a wide spectrum of mutational events.

 

 

Left: E. coli colonies showing lacZ mutant revertants (blue pimples) arising on a white colony on growth medium containing the beta-galactosidase indicator dye,  X-gal

 

NEUCS-2011

Brandeis is one of the co-organizers of the third annual New England Undergraduate Computing Symposium which will be held on Saturday April 9th at Tufts University. This symposium is designed to build community among undergraduate Computer Science majors in New England and also to increase the diversity of our undergraduate majors by actively reaching out to under-represented groups and encouraging them to participate. Students register online at https://sites.google.com/site/neucs11/ by completing a simple form describing the project they plan to demo or present as a poster. We expect to have 60-80 students projects and around 150 students and faculty attending the symposium. If you are an undergrad that has written an interesting mobile app, or completed a creative project in one of your classes, or are working in a research lab on an exciting problem involving computation, please visit the site and register to present your project and/or demo your code.

NEUCS2010

(EL)2 2011

(EL)2 2011. the Experiential Learning, Engaged Learners Symposium held each Spring at Brandeis, will take place on the afternoon of Thursday, March 24th, in the Levin Ballroom and International Lounge. Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence will be the keynote speaker. Student presenters include undergraduates from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Physics, Psychology, as well as a wide range of other disciplines across the university, will present results from research, internships, and other learning experiences.

For more information, see the symposium website or download the symposium program (PDF).

Older Adults are Better at Spotting Fake Smiles

Studies of aging and the ability to recognize others’ emotional states tend to show that older adults are worse than younger adults at recognizing facial expressions of emotion, a pattern that parallels findings on non-social types of perception. Most of the previous research focused on the recognition of negative emotions such as anger and fear. In a study “Recognition of Posed and Spontaneous Dynamic Smiles in Young and Older Adults” recently published in Psychology and Aging, Derek Isaacowitz’s Emotion Laboratory set out to investigate possible aging effects in recognizing positive emotions; specifically, the ability to discriminate between posed or “fake” smiles and genuine smiles. They video-recorded different types of smiles (posed and genuine) from younger adults (mean age = 22) and older adults (mean age = 70). Then we showed those smiles to participants who judged whether the smiles were posed or genuine.

Across two studies, older adults were actually better at discriminating between posed and genuine smiles compared to younger adults. This is one of the only findings in the social perception literature suggesting an age difference favoring older individuals. One plausible reason why older adults may be better at distinguishing posed and spontaneous smiles is due to their greater experience in making these nuanced social judgments across the life span; this may then be a case where life experience can offset the effects of negative age-related change in cognition and perception.

This was the first known study to present younger and older adult videotaped smiles to both younger and older adult participants; using dynamic stimuli provides a more ecologically valid method of assessing social perception than using static pictures of faces. The findings are exciting because they suggest that while older adults may lose some ability to recognize the negative emotions of others, their ability to discriminate posed and genuine positive emotions may remain intact, or even improve.

The Emotion Laboratory is located in the Volen Center at Brandeis. First author Dr. Nora Murphy (now Assistant Professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University) conducted the research as a postdoctoral research fellow, under the supervision of Dr. Isaacowitz, and second author Jonathan Lehrfeld (Brandeis class of 2008) completed his Psychology senior honors thesis as part of the project. The research was funded by the National Institute of Aging.

Fostering leaders into a new scientific generation

Brandeis SACNAS Chapter Symposium
Saturday, March 26, 2011
10:00 am-3:00 pm
Shapiro Science Campus lobby

On March 26th the Brandeis SACNAS chapter will be holding their 2nd Brandeis SACNAS Chapter Symposium 2011: Fostering leaders into a new scientific generation. This year, we hope to expand our circle of influence even farther as we look forward to hosting students and mentors from Brandeis and other institutions in the greater Boston Region. We want to create a forum for students to network and learn about the different pathways that the sciences have to offer.

This year we will have Dr. Daniel Colon-Ramos, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at Yale University, talk about his journey from early undergraduate to PhD. Dr. Jim Morris from Brandeis will discuss his track towards earning his MD/PhD at Harvard Medical School. Lastly, we will also hear from our own chapter President Kerwin Vega, fourth year undergraduate, as he speaks of his first steps towards pursuing a career in science and his networking experiences thus far. We will also host a Career Development Panel where professionals from various scientific backgrounds will briefly speak of their personal professional anecdotes as well as answer any questions. There will also be a poster session for students to present their work.

See story in The Jusiice

Biology research experiences at Brandeis (Summer 2011)

Thanks to new funding from the National Science Foundation, starting in Summer 2011 Brandeis will offer a new research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program in Cell and Molecular Visualization. This new grant, organized by principal investigator Susan Lovett, will provide funding for 10 undergraduates to spend 10 weeks at Brandeis in the summer doing independent research projects in close collaboration with faculty mentors. NSF REU programs place special emphasis on providing research opportunities for under-represented groups in science, and for students whose colleges cannot provide cutting-edge research facilities.

The new program will join Brandeis’s  existing MRSEC REU and other summer research activities in providing a lively atmosphere for young researchers. This competitive program will provide stipends of $5000 each plus housing and meal allowances. Participants must be US citizens or permanent residents, and should have completed their sophomore or junior year of study and be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate college or university. Further information including an application form is available on the Biology website.

Being given the opportunity to do research as an undergrad was amazing, fun, intellectual, and extremely useful; I’ve done it for two summers now.   At the beginning of my college career I was pre-med, but it only took a summer of research to help me realize that I actually want to do science over the course of my career [...]

(see more quotes from undergraduates about summer research)

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