Grace Han named Landsman Career Development Chair in the Sciences

Grace Han, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has been appointed the Landsman Career Development Chair in the Sciences. Lisa Lynch, Provost and Dorothy Hodgson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, noted that Han’s work as a “scholar, a teacher, and an advisor, makes [her] highly deserving of the Landsman Chair.”

Grace directs the Han Group at Brandeis. This lab, whose scientific inquiry focuses on light-matter interaction in various material systems that range from photo-switching molecules to inorganic 2D crystals.  Her team seeks to develop optically-controlled molecular switches for energy conversation and storage and optoelectronic applications.

Grace’s research has resulted in a project, “Optically-Controlled Functional Heat Storage Materials,” which was featured in Chemical and Engineering News upon being granted Brandeis SPROUT Awards in 2019 and again in 2020.  In this work, the Han Group developed materials that recycle waste heat from a running engine and warm up frozen oil upon triggering to facilitate car startups in northern climes.  The Han Group is currently developing the initial prototype for the device containing the functional energy material.

At Brandeis, Grace teaches “Inorganic Chemistry,” “Polymer and Inorganic Materials Chemistry,” and “Chemistry Colloquium.”  She is co-chair of the Graduate Student Admissions Committee and of the Departmental Colloquium Committee and is also a member of the Graduate Studies Committee. Grace has most recently co-authored articles for the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Chemistry of Materials, and ACS Nano.

The Landsman Chair was established in 2015 through a gift from Dr. Emanuel Landsman. The Landsman Chair reflects his deep commitment to nurturing rising young scientists.

Longtime supporters of the University, Manny and his wife, Sheila Landsman, also gifted the funds used to build the Landsman Research Facility. This is the structure that houses an 800 MHz magnetic resonance spectrometer. The 15,000-pound superconducting magnet is used by scientists to search for solutions to neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.  Dr. Landsman co-founded the American Power Conversion Corporation, served on the Brandeis University Science Advisory Council for many years, and was named a Brandeis Fellow in 2008.  The Landsmans’ grandson, Wiley Krishnaswamy, is a member of the Class of 2020.

Bruce Foxman Elected American Crystallographic Association Fellow

Bruce FoxmanThe American Crystallographic Association (ACA) has elected Bruce Foxman, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, as a member of the 2020 class of ACA Fellows. The ACA recognized his leadership of the solid-state chemistry research community and his research in topotactic relationships, solid-state dimerization and polymerization, and polymorphism. Foxman has also contributed extensively to the development of new methods for X-ray crystal structure determination. Bruce joined the Brandeis faculty in 1972 and is still research-active and also collaborating with many colleagues at Brandeis and elsewhere. He is a superb teacher (2009 Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching) and has developed widely-used downloadable tutorials on Symmetry and Space Groups and An Introduction to X-ray Structure Determination for High School Students.

Hedstrom Receives NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award

Liz HedstromBrandeis University chemical biologist Lizbeth Hedstrom received one of nine Director’s Transformative Research Awards this year from the National Institutes of Health under its High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program.  The 5-year, $3.5 mil grant will support the development of new methods for drug design relying on targeted protein degradation.  This emerging strategy has several potential therapeutic advantages over traditional approaches, including the development of more potent, longer acting, drugs.

The rational design of ‘degraders’ has focused almost exclusively on degradation induced when the target protein is modified with ubiquitin.  In contrast, Hedstrom will be developing ubiquitin-independent strategies.

Former Marder Student Receives Prestigious Award

Vatsala Thirumalai

Photo: NCBS

A former graduate student from Eve Marder’s lab has received the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for 2020.  Vatsala Thirumalai was a graduate student in the Marder lab from 1996 to 2002. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2002.

Thirumalai was one of twelve researchers to receive India’s highest science award. She is a faculty member in the Biochemistry, Biophysics and Bioinformatics department at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. Her lab is focused on neural circuits that control movement during development and adulthood in animals.

The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize is awarded by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to Indian scientists below the age of 45 for outstanding research in seven fields—Biology, Chemistry, Environment Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics.

After receiving her degree from Brandeis, Vatsala did post-doctoral fellowships in Neuroscience at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

More info: CSIR Announces Awardees of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for 2020Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize 2020: 12 researchers receive India’s highest science award.

Alum, Past Postdoc Receive Awards from Breakthrough Prize Foundation

Netta Engelhardt

Netta Engelhardt. photo: MIT

Lisa Piccirillo

Lisa Piccirillo. photo: Quanta Magazine.

Lisa Piccirillo, a recent Brandeis postdoc and Netta Engelhardt, a Brandeis undergraduate alumni have received two awards from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. While the Breakthrough Prizes are intended to help scientific leaders gain financial freedom, the New Horizons award and the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize focus on young scientists early in their careers.

The Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize is awarded to early-career women mathematicians. Lisa Piccirillo received this prize for her work in resolving the Conway Knot problem. Piccirillo was a postdoc working with Daniel Ruberman, Professor of Mathematics, from 2019 until her recent appointment as Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Netta Engelhardt, is part of a group that received the 2021 New Horizons in Physics Prize. Netta and three other scientists were awarded for their research in calculating the quantum information content of a black hole and its radiation. Engelhardt is currently an Assistant Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a 2011 graduate who majored in Physics. She received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship prior to graduating from Brandeis.


Andrea Guerrero and Gina Turrigiano Receive 2020 Gilliam Fellowship

Gina Turrigiano & Andrea Guerrero

Andrea Guerrero (left) and Gina Turrigiano (right)

Andrea Guerrero, a Neuroscience PhD student working in the Turrigiano lab, a 2020 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study recipient. The Gilliam Fellowship is awarded to the student and dissertation adviser, therefore Gina Turrigiano will also participate in this fellowship. Turrigiano said, “I am really pleased that Andrea was awarded this fellowship, which recognizes her potential to become a scientific leader.  I am also really excited at the opportunity to improve my mentoring skills that this terrific program provides to me as her PhD advisor.”

The purpose of the Gilliam Fellowship is to increase diversity among scientists who are preparing for leadership roles, particularly as college and university faculty members.  Fellows receive up to three years of support for dissertation research, typically in years three, four, and five of their PhD study. The Gilliam Fellowship is part of HHMI.

In response to receiving the award Guerrero said, “I am honored and excited to be selected as a 2020 HHMI Gilliam Fellowship recipient as it will aid my own advancement in an academic-track career and will importantly promote diversity and inclusion within the Brandeis science community.”

Andrea describes her research as follows:

“The human Shank3 gene is strongly associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Shank3 protein functions as a scaffold that plays a crucial role in synapse formation and maintenance. Prior work in our lab supports the idea that differential Shank3 phosphorylation alters its activity. Phosphomimetic and phosphodeficient mutants show dysfunction in the mechanisms that normally maintain brain circuitry homeostasis. In order to understand how Shank3 is able to do this, I will investigate how the phosphorylation state of Shank3 changes its synaptic localization, protein binding interactions, and cellular signaling pathways in vitro. Additionally, I will assess the effects of overexpression of Shank3 phosphorylation mutants on synaptic plasticity within the rodent primary visual cortex. My research project has the potential to uncover novel cellular pathways that can be targeted for ASD therapeutic development.”



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