MRSEC & RTI Hosts Science Outreach to Waltham Teachers

The Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and the Brandeis Research Technology and Innovation (or MakerLab) hosted a day of science and technology outreach on November 5, 2019. In the morning and for the fifth straight year, 23 Waltham High School Science teachers participated in a professional development workshop with 15 Brandeis scientists called, “Brandeis Scientists in the Classroom.” The teams of scientists and teachers visited laboratories and developed curriculum for the scientists to make future classroom visits to the High School to increase awareness of Brandeis science and to encourage WHS students to pursue STEM careers. In the afternoon, the teams were joined by more than 60 Brandeis students, staff and members of the greater community for a public event called, “Watch:City Science and Technology Forum.” This event celebrated Waltham and Brandeis as hubs of technology and discovery and promoted SciLinkR.com as a way to connect with professionals and promote science. There were short talks about public engagement with science by Waltham High School teachers Marisa Maddox and Ellen Stanton and by Brandeis scientists, Professor Avi Rodal, Dr. Anique Olivier-Mason, Dr. Vivek Vimal, and Raul Ramos. Participants also networked with each other during the poster session (20 posters by Brandeis scientists) and explored the gallery of Brandeis contributions to the Journal of Stories in Science. The organizers’ goal was for attendees to gain new perspectives in science and technology.

The event was sponsored by the Brandeis MRSEC, Research Technology & Innovation, Library, Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center, Nova BioMedical, AstraZeneca, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

 

 

 

 Basketball, Dancing Proteins, and Life-saving Drugs

Dorothee Kern, Brandeis Magazine article

Dorothee Kern (center) with students in her Brandeis lab. (Image: Mike Lovett)

The Fall 2019 issue of Brandeis Magazine features a cover story on Professor of Biochemistry and HHMI Investigator Dorothee Kern.  The article describes Kern’s trajectory from her youth and education in the former East Germany to her current research and teaching at Brandeis to her co-founding of Relay Therapeutics, a Cambridge company pioneering new approaches to anti-cancer drug discovery.

 

John Wardle part of team that produces first-ever black hole image

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

John Wardle, Professor of Astrophysics and the Head of the Division of Science, has been playing an integral role in bringing the first-ever image of a black hole to realization. Announced today, the image of the M87 black hole is being hailed as a major scientific breakthrough. Wardle serves on four of the Event Horizon Telescope’s 23 working groups, helps analyze the polarization of the M87 black hole’s radio emissions, and serves on the publication working group. This announcement was made in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Read more: BrandeisNow, Event Horizon Telescope, NSF News Release

The Volen Center Turns 25 Years Old

Construction of Volen Center

Since its construction at the heart of the Brandeis campus, the Volen National Center for Complex Systems has been a key focal point of the Brandeis campus. The structure was dedicated on October 20, 1994 and has served as a gateway to the Brandeis Science Complex for the past 25 years. Planning for the construction of the building began in 1989 with funding from the federal government. Additional funding from the government and donations from benefactors followed. The total cost of construction was over $31 million.

The Center’s primary focus is the study of one of the most complex of complex systems – the human brain and mind. When the Volen Center was formed in 1989, its mission statement was “to advance our understanding of cognitive processes, perceptions, neuroscience, and the development and application of parallel computer systems.” As part of this mission, a retreat was first held in May 1989. This retreat has evolved into the annual Volen Retreat. True to the collaborative focus of the Center, the Volen Retreat includes talks from multiple disciplines of Brandeis faculty. Thanks to the M. R. Bauer Foundation, a lecture series and week-long Distinguished Lecturer Visitors series brings scientists from all over the world  to the Brandeis campus to talk about their research and interact with faculty, postdocs and graduate students.

The bricks and mortar of the Volen Center provided essential office and lab space. In addition to the building, new Brandeis faculty became a part of the Volen Center. Leslie Griffith joined the Center in September 1992. Susan Birren followed in July 1993 and Jordan Pollack in September 1994. Faculty and labs of Computer Science, Linguistics, Biochemistry and Neuroscience moved into the completed structure in May 1994.

What has been impact of the Volen Center? Barbara Wrightson, who was the Program Project Coordinator during the Volen construction and is now the Director of Budget and Planning in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, said that “the Volen Center helped to nurture the fabulous growth of the neuroscience program at Brandeis.” Additionally, shortly after moving into Volen, the Computer Science department experienced a boom in enrollment. The department saw its enrollment double in the decade after the Center opened.

 

“Lessons from the Lobster” details Eve Marder’s research

Lessons from Lobster. Photo courtesy of MIT.By Eve Marder

Students often tell me that they don’t want to be scientists because it is too lonely. That always surprises me, because laboratories are filled with people. One of the conclusions that readers of Charlotte Nassim’s “Lessons from the Lobster” should take from the book is that laboratories are communities of scholars of all ages. Lifelong friendships are often formed and sustained as laboratory colleagues may spend as much time together as they do with other friends and family. When Charlotte approached me about writing the story of my research, I was very surprised because there are many eminent neuroscientists, including many other eminent female neuroscientists. What convinced me to work with Charlotte was her wish to reach teenage girls, before they decided that a career in science was not for them. And this decision was validated when a few days ago, one of the students (now working in a neighboring lab) whom I had taught in NBio 140, Principles of Neuroscience, told me that she loved the book, but wished she had had it when she was in high school. We agreed that after she finished the book, that she would donate it to her small home town library, in the hopes that it would encourage other high school students to consider becoming scientists.

Charlotte’s book is a piece of science history. She read our lab notebooks, and talked to many ex-lab members. Her choices of what to emphasize and how to frame the scientific issues speak as much about what she finds scientifically and sociologically interesting as it does about what I was thinking. By reading deeply, she relied not only on my flawed memory, but on what I and others had written. For me, it is an extraordinary reminder that even scientists who revere data have only partial recollections of their own intellectual paths.

Science Communication Lab Completes 1st Academic Year

Whether it’s preparing a “pizza talk,” or writing a grant, fellowship or senior thesis – all of those activities can be stress-inducing.  The Science Communication Lab (CommLab) at Brandeis was created to help undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, laboratory-staff and faculty with the skills they need to effectively communicate their work through a variety of media.

Since its inception in November 2017, the six Graduate Fellows from the CommLab have conducted nearly 150 appointments (39% appointments with undergraduates; 52% with graduate students). Most appointments provided assistance in preparing for the graduate qualifying exam (18%); oral presentations like “pizza talks” (18%) or writing applications for fellowships or scholarships (15%).

Participants are surveyed after each appointment. When asked how they would rate their experience at the CommLab, participants rated it 5.95 out of a possible 6.00.

Some of the feedback includes:

“This is such a good resource!!! Many graduate students have come to accept that this process hard, but there are some parts of a graduate degree that don’t have to be. CommLab people are super helpful, welcoming, and effective at making grad school just a bit easier.”

Interested in making an appointment? There are three ways to schedule a meeting. The CommLab is located in Bassine 122.

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