Gieseking Receives NSF CAREER Award

Figure from Rebecca GiesekingRebecca Gieseking, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has received an NSF CAREER award from the Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods program. This award will enable her research group to develop computational models that provide chemical understanding of how light interacts with metal nanoclusters.

Harnessing solar energy is crucial to reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels and alleviate the environmental impact of our ever-increasing demand for energy. Noble metal nanoclusters containing tens to hundreds of metal atoms have the potential to revolutionize solar energy technologies by harnessing light to produce chemical fuels. These nanoclusters strongly absorb light because they support plasmons, which are collective oscillations of the electrons. Understanding, controlling, and manipulating the plasmon properties is key to improving the efficiency of solar energy storage.

Rebecca has shown that efficient computational models can accurately model the light absorption of metal nanocluster, and her group is now extending these models to understand the decay processes after metal nanoclusters absorb light. They are using these models to understand how these decay processes change as a function of nanocluster size, shape, and composition to design metal nanoclusters with controllable decay time scales for efficient solar energy storage.

New Undergraduate Engineering Science Program Approved

Technology is central to our society. Universities play a key role as innovation hubs in new technology development, by linking knowledge creation, workforce development and commerce. After a multi-year planning process with Brandeis stakeholders and Engineering education experts, the Brandeis Faculty and Board of Trustees has approved the creation of a distinctively Brandeisian undergraduate Engineering Science program, designed for ABET accreditation. Unlike other models in which Engineers are siloed in their own department or school, this interdepartmental program is designed to  maximize horizontal integration across and beyond the Sciences.  All hands are now on deck to make this program a reality.  Institutional Advancement is working closely with faculty to raise the funds necessary to meet our ambitious goals.

Science Engineering LogoTo build up this program, we will  capitalize on the existing synergy between the life and physical sciences, while enhancing core research areas with an emphasis on translating basic research to technological applications.  Our goal is to integrate the engineering curriculum with the social justice mission that is integral to Brandeis. We envision providing opportunities for our students and faculty to deeply engage in science, design, and problem-solving while participating in a curriculum and culture that grapples with issues of social justice, business ethics and sustainability. The curriculum will be designed with these aspirations by engaging faculty from all of arts and sciences, IBS and Heller.  Ultimately, we hope that this new program will give our students the tools to intervene in the world and challenge them to build a better one.

We welcome input from our friends and alums as we begin to engage in the task of building up this exciting new program.

Summer Research Program back to (nearly) normal in 2021

SciFest 2019With increasing vaccination rates and declining positive Covid test rates, the Division of Science is looking forward to a vibrant, in-person summer undergraduate research program kicking off right after Memorial Day. 

The Division of Science summer program pairs first-hand research, community building, and guidance from Brandeis graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to provide undergraduate students a high-quality research experience. Past summer undergraduates have gone on to make substantial contributions (even as first authors!) to peer-reviewed research publications in fields such as materials chemistry (Shi et al., “Sunlight-activated phase change materials for controlled heat storage and triggered release”), molecular biology (Lamper et al., “A phosphorylation-regulated eIF3d translation switch mediates cellular adaptation to metabolic stress”) and neuroscience (He et al., “Rapid adaptation to Elevated Extracellular Potassium in the Pyloric Circuit of the Crab, Cancer borealis).

For Summer 2021, we are excited to announce that 58 Brandeis undergraduate researchers will be supported through the Division of Science programs and funding sources including NSF, NIH, and generous Brandeis alumni and foundation donors.

Additionally, the MRSEC Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program will support 6 undergraduate students from Hampton University for a 10-week, hands-on research program that runs in parallel with the MRSEC Summer Materials Undergraduate Research Fellowship. REU participants are mentored by MRSEC graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and contribute to materials science research efforts on Brandeis’s campus.

We will conclude the summer with SciFest, our annual summer poster session showcasing undergraduate research in the sciences, on August 5. Check the SciFest website for updates about the time and details for the session. 

Congratulations to all fellowship recipients! 

Brandeis Psychology PhD Alumna Elected to AAAS

Brandeis University congratulates Judith Kroll for her election as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, April 22, 2021.  Dr. Kroll received her Masters and PhD degrees in the Brandeis Department of Psychology and is currently Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics, and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Irvine.  The election honors the rigor and breadth of Dr. Kroll’s research into the science of bilingualism.

Over her career, she has studied bilingualism for its own sake and as a tool for unveiling general cognitive and brain process.  She has discovered how a second language is learned and how it co-evolves with the native language, what brain systems are shared, what previously unknown cognitive processes must be present to permit bilingualism.  For example, she showed that when a bilingual speaks or listens to one language the other language is active, as measured by brain activity and cognitive priming.  Her work has also changed the perspective on bilingualism from being a capacity that competes with others to being one that enhances non-language specific capabilities such as information filtering and multi-tasking.  One of her intriguing findings in this domain is that monolinguals in a bilingual compared to a monolingual living situation show increased sensitivity to distinctions between heard language features in measures of brain activity before behavioral distinctions are evident.  Her discoveries have had impacts in education and medicine, where, for example, the task-switching and perceptual discrimination advantages of bilinguals have been shown to accelerate learning for children in a range of school subjects and to be associated with delayed onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in aging.  Dr. Kroll has pioneered multiple new linguistic technologies and analytic systems that were necessary for the rigor of her own work and have become widely used by others.

Dr. Kroll is active not only in the laboratory but has taken the lead in science in society.  For example, she is the principal investigator for an NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education Grant for “Translating Cognitive and Brain Science in the Laboratory and Field to Language Learning Environments”, and she is the co-Founder of Women in Cognitive Science.  An enduring trait of Dr. Kroll is her gracious, generous acknowledgement of the collaborators who have contributed to her scientific and societal work.  Many current Brandeis faculty have inspiring memories of visiting Dr. Kroll when she at Penn State, and seeing her dedication to mentoring such a large and vibrant group of students of all levels.

 

Brandeis Innovation Announces 2021 Sprout Program

Brandeis Innovation logoBrandeis Innovation is pleased to announce the kickoff of its annual Sprout program that supports bench research with grants up to $25,000, funded by the Office of the Provost and Office of Technology Licensing. Teams and individuals working on innovative projects and research within the Division of Science are eligible to apply.

Sprout helps bring scientific research and entrepreneurial ambitions to life by providing seed funding. As an added bonus, recipients will also have the option to choose to participate in our spring cohort of the NSF I-Corps fellowship, which provides training in technology commercialization and a stipend up to $750 for related expenses.

Interested applicants can complete this pre-application form, due on February 19th.

Ruth Charney to become AMS President on Feb. 1

Ruth CharneyRuth Charney, the Berenson Professor of Mathematics, will become the President of the American Mathematical Society on February 1.  The Notices of the American Mathematical Society recently published an interview with Charney. In the interview, Charney was asked about COVID’s impact on her own teaching, AMS’s response to COVID and the impact of the crisis on job prospects for new PhDs and postdocs.

Charney, whose research focus is geometric group theory, discussed how she first became involved with AMS and AWM (Association for Women in Mathematics) at a time when there were very few women in the field. One of Charney’s priorities as AMS president will be to increase diversity and inclusion into the study of mathematics.

Charney finished the interview by discussing the importance of professional societies like AMS to the mathematics community.

 

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