September 23, 2018

Announcement: Magnify the Mind

Brandeis has long had one of the best neuroscience programs in the country. Nobel Prize winner Michael Rosbash, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Gina Turrigiano and world-renowned neuroscientist Eve Marder are all pioneers in the field. Their breakthroughs have helped transform our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism.

But to remain cutting edge — and continue to make advances in our understanding of human health — Brandeis needs to upgrade its microscopes. The university currently owns an aging fluorescence microscope that uses a technique called two-photon excitation to image intact brain circuitry in the living brain. This technique has allowed Brandeis researchers to study how genes and experience interact to produce functioning brain circuits. However, this equipment is no longer state-of-the-art because it uses old and slow scanning technology that takes only one image per second. This speed severely limits the type of research questions that can be answered.

The Brandeis National Committee would like to provide Brandeis with a next generation resonant scanning two-photon microscope. This new technology would enable Brandeis researchers to take 30 to 50 images per second. This increase in speed can be used to observe the brain much closer to its native processing speed, or can be used to take many photographs of the same tissue that can be averaged together to create very high resolution views, allowing Brandeis researchers to study structures as small as single synapses in the living brain.

Brain plasticity — how neurons react to changes in the environment — is one of the most important areas in brain research, understanding what brings about changes in behavior. When the processes responsible for plasticity malfunction, it can give rise to neurodegenerative illnesses. Resonant scanning will generate a trove of new insights and data to understanding why this happens.

Researchers at Brandeis will further be able to explore the role of molecules, dendrites and synapses in the brain and reveal operating principles. The Brandeis National Committee’s campaign to raise $500,000, launches July 1, 2018. Contact 781-736-7588 to donate today.

View the video here.

Brandeis News: $1 Million Grant for Science

Brandeis University has been awarded a $1 million, 5-year grant from The Howard Hughs Medical Institute (HHMI) to aid in fostering undergraduate diversity in the sciences. The funding will help the Brandeis support undergraduates in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — especially those students who are first generation college students, from low-income backgrounds and military veterans.

Brandeis is one of 33 institutions of higher educations to receive the HHMI Inclusive Excellence award this year for its commitment to increase its capacity for inclusion. Part of the funding will be used to continue the success of the Science Posse program which focuses on attracting and retaining talented, underrepresented student in science.  Another part of the grant will go towards the Galaxy Program, a mentoring program intended to provide extra support and guidance to undergraduate students in the early stages of a scientific education.

These programs, as well as initiatives enabled by the grant, will further Brandeis’ commitment to social justice by helping all talent shine through in the sciences field, regardless of background.

We would like to thank all of our BNC members for your continued support of Brandeis’ sciences and libraries. Your generosity makes it possible for students from all walks of life to excel even when grants are not available.

Read the full article here.

Summer Reading Recommendations

As we officially enter summer, we hope all our members have some time to kick back and enjoy the sun. What better way to enjoy the warmth (or the AC) than with a good book? Brandeis University has released its list of summer reading recommendations from various professors and librarians. This extensive list ranges from historical and political analysis, to graphic novels and crime thrillers.

Here is the list:

The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker by Kathy Cramer and recommended by Jill Greenlee, Associate Professor of Politics.

No Fire in the Ashes: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore and recommended by Chad Williams, Samuel J. and Augusta Spector Chair in History

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire Series #1) by Craig Johnson and recommended by Matthew Sheehy, University librarian

In the Skin of a Jihadist: A Young Journalist Enters the ISIS Recruitment Network by Anna Erelle and recommended by Jytte Klausen, Lawrence A. Wien Professor of International Cooperation

Biogea by Michel Serres and Highway Kind by Justine Kurland, both recommended by Peter Kalb, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art on the Cythia L.and Theodore S. Berenson Chair and Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 by Edward Sorel and recommended by Thomas Doherty, Professor of American Studies

Haifa: City of Steps by Nili Scharf Gold, Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s by Marc Dollinger, and The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropmand and Sonya Gropman, recommended by Sylvia Fuks Fried, Director of Publications at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and Executive Director of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

 

See the original article for further details about each book.

The Nobel Prize and the Brain

This week, Nobel laureates from around the world gather in Sweden to receive their awards. During the week known as Nobel Week, winners will attend dinners, ceremonies, and concerts in their honor. They will meet Swedish royalty, deliver lectures to be broadcast across the globe, and receive their Nobel medals and diplomas as VIP guests of the Swedish government. Swept up in the excitement are Michael Rosbash and Jeff Hall, biologists from the Brandeis community.

Rosbash, currently a professor in Brandeis’ biology department, and Hall, a professor emeritus of biology, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Michael Young of Rockefeller University. While winning the most prestigious prize in the world and the various perks that come with it (such as a personal attaché, first-class trip to Sweden, and intellectual celebrity status) is exciting, it is far from the main reason for Rosbash and Hall’s work. Their discovery of the fundamental workings of the circadian rhythm have far reaching implications, especially in the medical world. The circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock, has connections to many bodily functions including sleep cycles, hormone balances, enzyme production, body temperature, and metabolism. This internal clock is also connected to several neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have linked chronic sleep disorders with higher levels of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, while Parkinson’s is often marked by sleep disorders. Three quarters of patients with Parkinson’s disease have a sleep disorder and disordered sleeping may be an early indicator of the disease. It is necessary to understand the body’s underlying workings in order to develop targeted treatments. Foundational research like Rosbash and Hall’s is critical for advancing medical knowledge.

As the scientific and medical communities, and the world acknowledge the significance of Rosbash and Hall’s discovery, the two biologists recognize Brandeis University’s role in their research as a whole. Not only was Brandeis the place they met, but its collaborative, intellectual environment and financial support allowed them to perform critical research. In a time when pharmaceutical companies rely heavily on research coming out of universities; government funding for scientific research is more competitive than ever; and research in flashier, more profitable areas is more attractive; Brandeis provides a haven for an exploratory approach to the base questions, without which we can never full answer the bigger questions. Brandeis University’s attention to foundational research and specialization in neuroscience fosters an environment of research and discovery for both faculty and students. Cognizant of the costs of research, the University provides financial support in the form of grants, fellowships, and scholarships, allowing minds like Roshash and Hall’s to stretch and push the limits of conventional science.

We must also recognize the role the Brandeis National Committee plays in Brandeis’ science. Through funding campaigns, and general support for the libraries and scientific journals, BNC members ensure Brandeis scientists have access to the resources and stability necessary to perform quality work. The Sustaining the Mind Fund for research in neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases and scholarships in science specifically targets the needs of Brandeis’ science departments. Without the generous support of BNC members research into these diseases and progress towards their treatment and cure would be significantly slowed, and the future less secure. So in addition to congratulating Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall on their Nobel Prize, the Brandeis community and the Brandeis National Committee would like to recognize the role our members play and extend our thanks for your support in this meaningful discovery.

Special Event: Professor Sarna at The Jewish Center, NYC – October 27th and 28th

Brandeis University invites you to a special event in New York City on October 27th and 28th. Join us at the Jewish Center’s Centennial Celebration that features Shabbat programming and The May and Samuel Rudin Lecture Series. The series’ speaker is Brandeis’ very own Dr. Jonathan Sarna, a professor in Brandeis’ Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department.

Friday Night Lecture and Oneg: The Immigration Clause that Changed American Orthodoxy

Shabbat Morning Public Lecture: 1917: The Year that Changed American Orthodoxy

Seudah Shlishit: A Historian’s Perspective on the Future of Modern Orthodoxy

Further details can be found on the Jewish Center’s website.

 

Brandeis News: Brandeis Professors Win Nobel Prize

Left to right: Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey C. Hall. Photo by Mark Lovett.

On October 2nd the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey Hall, and Michael Young for their research on circadian rhythms. This year’s award is especially exciting as Rosbash and Hall share a history of teaching and research in Brandeis’ biology department in addition to being the first long-term Brandeis faculty to win the Nobel Prize. Rosbash, whose research continues in the labs of the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center, is a current professor at Brandeis while Hall has retired to Maine. Young is currently on the faculty of Rockefeller University.

Rosbash and Hall met at Brandeis in the 1970s striking up a friendship over basketball. This friendship evolved into a working partnership in the biology labs researching circadian rhythms using fruit flies as a model organism. The work that won them the Nobel Prize was the discovery of molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm, colloquially known as the biological clock or body clock, is the 24-hour physiological cycle that regulates certain internal processes. It plays a role in when we go to sleep, wake up, and feel hungry, as well as hormone balances and other brain activity. In 1984, Rosbash and Hall successfully sequenced the per gene which led to discovering its control over PER protein production. The per gene triggers the production of messenger RNA (mRNA) which carries information out of the cell nucleus. The information from the mRNA triggers PER protein production which peaks just before dawn and then declines until the protein is undetectable by night time. PER protein molecules then travel back into the nucleus, repress their own synthesis, and degrade. The decay causes the per gene to make mRNA, beginning the cycle over. The process was a mystery until Rosbash and Hall came along and connected the dots. Understanding the mechanisms behind the circadian rhythm has opened the door to a host of possible applications. Some mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes have been linked to issues with the circadian rhythm. Rosbash and Hall’s work could potentially lead to better treatments for these diseases as well as applications in plant science and environmental science.

Both men commented on Brandeis’ unusually collaborative atmosphere which allowed for such scientific innovation. The school’s small size and interdisciplinary values encourage interaction between departments resulting in collaborations drawing from many sources. Rosbash also acknowledged the hard work, creativity, and brains of Brandeis students in his work, undergraduate as well as graduate. Brandeis students of all levels often have the opportunity to work alongside professors on ground-breaking research, a chance students at many other schools only get at the graduate level. Rosbash, who regularly hires around 12 students a year, is known around the lab as a wonderful mentor with a knack for fostering talent.

The Brandeis National Committee would like to congratulate Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall on their win, and warmly thank our members for your continued support of Brandeis, its libraries, sciences, and scholarships. Your support makes it possible for students to learn from the great minds of today, such as Rosbash and Hall, and work towards the solutions of the future.

Read more about the professors in Brandeis NOW.

Read the Nobel Prize press release.

Featured Alumni: Debra Messing

Debra Messing graduated from Brandeis University in 1990 as a Theater Arts major before continuing to pursue acting at New York University. She is perhaps best known for her title role in the situational comedy Will & Grace. In the show, which aired from 1998-2006, Messing plays Grace Adler; an interior decorator living with long-time friend Will Truman (played by Eric McCormak) in New York City. The addition of their friends Karen (Megan Mullally), Jack (Sean Hayes), a clever script, and a live audience resulted in a show the country couldn’t resist tuning in to every Tuesday evening. The show was a tremendous hit despite worries at the time of cancelation due to certain themes. At the end of its eight season run the four co-stars went their separate ways and Messing moved onto other projects. Since the end of Will & Grace, Messing has acted in many productions including the show Smash, created by fellow Brandeis alumna Theresa Rebeck ’83 MFA ’86 PhD ’89, and The Mysteries of Laura. Most recently she contributed to the remake of Dirty Dancing in the role of Marjorie Houston which was released in May. Later this summer Messing will return to her roots as Grace in NBC’s revival of the groundbreaking series, due to begin airing in late September. In an interview with Haute Living Magazine Messing stated filming will begin in August in Los Angeles, “but New York is where [her] heart is.”

Though Messing has moved on from Waltham, she has never fully left Brandeis behind. In an interview with Scott Feinberg ’08 for The Hollywood Reporter about her time at Brandeis, Messing said she loved the school’s size and that “the kids were very serious about everything.” She attributes the late Ted Kazanoff, a professor in the theater department, for convincing her to pursue acting after graduation. “He is really the one who made me decide to do this for my life… I remember Ted Kazanoff got me ready for my audition for NYU for the graduate program and one of the graduate playwrights wrote my monologue.” In 2014 Messing greeted fellow alumni at an event in NYC. She said Brandeis taught her to believe in herself and her career would follow. “I knew I would work and not give up. I am a proud Brandeisian.”

In these months following graduation, Brandeis’ class of 2017 is stepping into the working world, for the first time for some. These graduates will go on to make great contributions to their fields, as Messing has done, and carry forward the lessons and inspirations Brandeis has bequeathed to them. For some of these students, Brandeis would not have been an option due to prohibitive costs. The Brandeis National Committee’s continued support of student scholarships, in addition to the libraries and scientific research, has enabled these students to chase their dreams. Join the Brandeis National Committee today to help ensure students have the resources to reach their full potential, both in the classroom and beyond.

Learn more about Debra Messing’s filmography here

Read Debra Messing’s full interview with Haute Living here

Brandeis Science: Exploring Active Matter

Brandeis University, despite its youth, has become known as a prestigious research institution. In the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center students are immersed into the world of science in the biology and chemistry labs. In the same building, and spanning 3 floors of research labs, researchers sharpen their minds and curiosity on the cutting-edge questions of the day. Today’s question concerns active matter.

Active matter is a relatively new field of study which has only attracted serious attention in the past 20 years. The term “active matter” refers to groups of individuals that act independently, but whose respective movements collectively cause much bigger motions. Examples of active matter most people are probably familiar with are large flocks of birds that seem to create a swarm-like cloud or a large school of fish. But these independent actors could be much simpler such as individual cells, molecules or, in the case studied at Brandeis, specific cell structures. While the concept of active matter may sound like something the general public has no reason to care about, the potential applications with real world consequences could significantly improve the way we live.

In 2008 Brandeis became one of seventeen major research universities to take part in an initiative by the National Science Foundation to develop new machines and materials. The university was granted $20 million for 12 years of research and labeled as a Material Research Science and Engineering Center. These institutions focus on studying active matter with Brandeis’s team consisting of 16 scientists from physics, biology and mathematical backgrounds.

The minds leading the charge in the Brandeis labs are Seth Fraden PhD ’87, Zvonimir Dogic ’95, PhD ’01, Tim Sanchez PhD ’12, and Aparna Baskaran. Fraden, a Brandeis physics professor, and Dogic, a Brandeis associate physics professor, run the lab and have emerged at the head active matter exploration effort. They have a history of collaborating on soft matter – matter that is between a liquid and a solid, such as gels — research where they use innovative methods to combine biological material with inanimate matter.

While some scientists may study active matter on large scales, Fraden and Dogic study it on the cellular level. More precisely, on the cell’s structural level. They have been examining microtubules, tiny hollow tubes that provide a cell’s structural integrity, from cow neurons. Microtubules also aid the delivery system within the cell by allowing kinesin, a protein that delivers nutrients and genetic material, to “walk” around the cell powered by adenosine triphosphate (ATP). These microtubules expand and contract individually, but when the movements are taken collectively they allow the cell to stretch, shrink and change shape in response to its environment.

Sanchez, while working as a postdoc fellow under Dogic, discovered that by adding a polyethylene glycol to the microtubule-kinesin-ATP mix the microtubules bunched together and began moving like cilia. Motile cilia are the hair-like structures on the outside of some cells that whip back and forth. In nature, cilia are made from hundreds of proteins and move much more rapidly than the ones Dogic’s team created. While these faux-cilia are no replacement for naturally occurring cilia, they could eventually be used in new medication delivery systems among other potential applications.

The discovery of the faux-cilia led to further experimentation with the microtubules regarding how they interacted with their environment. In collaboration with postdoc Kan-ta Wu, a Brandeis physics lecturer, the team discovered not only that a certain shaped container cause the microtubule concoction to move by itself, but when placed on a flat surface it would flow by itself as well. Self-flowing liquid is fascinating for several reasons. It is something straight from science-fiction, reminiscent of 1958’s the Blob, and has potential for multiple applications such as a replacement or supplement to scenarios where a pump is limiting. One example is moving oil across large areas.

Aparna Baskaran, a physics associate professor at Brandeis, bridges the gap between the lab and real world application. She takes on the task of figuring out the math within Dogic’s team’s trial-and-error approach by trying to create mathematical models predicting the matter’s movement. Without her work the uses of a self-moving liquid can’t be fully realized until we are sure it won’t take on Blob-like tendencies. Developing models to predict active matter movements are made especially difficult by the number of individual actors and that there is no distinctive leader, as seen in the case with birds called Starlings. If Baskaran and other active matter scientists are successful, we could be entering an era of self-moving, self-repairing material in both the commercial and medical industries. Imagine a world where 3D printed transplant organs, a technology actually in development, could repair and maintain themselves.

The science happening in Brandeis labs is absolutely ground breaking, but likely would not be possible without the minds and resources Brandeis provides. Among the schools involved with the National Science Foundation and active matter research, Brandeis is especially well suited to this research due to the interdisciplinary requirements. The university values academic diversity and encourages interdisciplinary study and cooperation. Without scientists from such diverse fields and knowledge, and the top-notch resources provided by university, this research would be incomplete and our world would be worse off for it.

Since 1948 Brandeis National Committee has supported the Brandeis sciences in addition to the libraries and student scholarships. Brandeis strives to provide the proper support and resources necessary for bright minds to thrive. Join us in the world’s largest friends-of-a-library network to help ensure Brandeis remains an institution of inspiration for scientists, scholars, future leaders, and artists.

Read the full article by Lawrence Goodwin in Brandeis Magazine here

Watch a video of microtubules in action at BrandeisNOW here

Brandeis News: Brandeis Receives $50 Million Gift

On Tuesday, June 27th 2017, Brandeis University announced it had received a $50 million bequest from the estate of Rosaline and Marcia Cohn. This gift is significant for several reasons. Since its founding in 1948, this is the first time Brandeis has received a gift of this size in a single donation. As per the wishes of the Cohn family, the money will go towards scholarships for deserving and outstanding students through the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Endowed Scholarship Fund. This generous gift will allow hundreds of students to pursue their academic aspirations. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the gift is that nobody in the Chicago-based Cohn family had a direct connection to Brandeis University.

In 1951, Rosaline Cohn became a life member of the then Chicago chapter of the Brandeis National Committee. Her interest and support of the school, inspired by the first president Abram Sachar, continued to flourish. In true BNC fashion, Rosaline and her husband Jacob, who the fund is named for, chose to support Brandeis because of its values and commitment to academic excellence and openness. The future the Cohn family envisioned is filled with students that will carry Brandeis’ values with them as they go on to do great things. It is with these values in mind that the Brandeis National Committee would like to extend our thanks and deepest appreciation to our many members who did not attend Brandeis, but understand the unique experiences an institution of its caliber provides.

Read the full story on BrandeisNOW.

To continue supporting the Brandeis National Committee, libraries, student scholarships and scientific research visit BNC giving.

 

 

 

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