Drew Weissman ’81, MA ’81 Receives the Lasker Award

Drew WeissmanKatalin Karikó and Drew Weissman ’81, MA ’81 have received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Weissman is a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. The Lasker award is in recognition of their research into messenger RNA and the resulting therapeutic technology. It was their work that was so crucial in the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines. It should be noted that many winners of the Lasker award go on to receive the Nobel Prize.

Weissman and Kariko also received the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research award earlier this year.

The Washington Post profiled Weissman and his work in a recent article, “A scientific hunch. Then silence. Until the world needed a lifesaving vaccine.”

View Lasker acceptance remarks from Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman.



Brandeis Alumnus Receives Breakthrough Prize

Drew WeissmanBrandeis alumnus, Drew Weissman, ’81, MA ’81, P’15 along with Katalin Karikó have been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.  Weissman and Karikó received the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research from Brandeis earlier this year.

While the Breakthrough Prize is considered the world’s largest science prize at $3 million, it is one of the many awards that Weissman and Kariko have been receiving as a result of their decades of research into mRNA therapies. It is this research that has led to the innovative COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

After earning his BA and MA degrees from Brandeis, Weissman went on to receive his PhD in Immunology from Boston University in 1987. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health under Anthony Fauci. He is now a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Additional information:

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.


Brandeis grad is the first woman to receive the Abel Prize in Mathematics

Karen Uhlenbeck giving a talk

Credit: Andrea Kane

By Ruth Charney, Theodore and Evelyn Berenson Professor of Mathematics

We are thrilled to announce that Karen Uhlenbeck has won the 2019 Abel Prize in Mathematics.  Uhlenbeck received her PhD from Brandeis in 1968 and was awarded an honorary degree by Brandeis in 2008.  The Abel prize, which is given out by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics and has never before been awarded to a woman. The prize recognizes Uhlenbeck “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”  Hans Munthe-Kaas, Chair of the Abel Committee, notes that “Her theories have revolutionized our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as those formed by soap bubbles, and more general minimization problems in higher dimensions.”  She has also been a strong advocate for women in mathematics.  www.eurekalert.org, www.nature.com

Eve Marder and Liqun Luo receive 2019 NAS awards

Eve Marder NAS award

Eve Marder, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience, has received the 2019 National Academy of Sciences Award in the Neurosciences. The National Academy of Sciences is recognizing “Marder’s research of over more than 40 years that has provided transformative insight into the fundamental processes of animal and human brains.” NAS also called Marder “one of the most influential neuroscientists of her generation”.

Liqun Luo

In addition to her research, NAS acknowledged Marder’s impact upon young scientists working in her field. She has served as a mentor to “generations of neuroscientists”.  A book titled “Lessons from the Lobster: Eve Marder’s Work in Neuroscience” by Charlotte Nassim and was published in 2018.

The NAS Award in the Neurosciences is given only once every three years.

In addition to Marder, a Ph.D. alumnus is among the 18 scientists that are being recognized this year. Liqun Luo received the Pradel Research Award.  In the press release, NAS cited Luo’s “pioneering research into neural circuits of invertebrates and vertebrates.”

Luo earned his Ph.D. in Biology from Brandeis in 1992. He worked in Kalpana White’s lab. He is now a Professor and HHMI Investigator at Stanford University.

Read more at Brandeis Now.

Brandeisians Receive 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

NSF Graduate Research FellowshipFive Brandeisians (past and present) have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships for 2018. Also, one current graduate student received an honorable mention.

This program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based advanced degrees at U.S. institutions. In 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) received over 12,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers. This fellowship provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution).

Alyssa Garcia, a Brandeis Physics graduate student, received a fellowship. Marcelle Soares-Santos, Assistant Professor of Physics, is Alyssa’s advisor. Marcelle said “Alyssa will work on obtaining a sample of neutron star collisions with the goal of using them as standard sirens to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe.  This is very timely after the discovery of the groundbreaking neutron star collision GW170817 as the gravitational wave detectors are now being upgraded and when they come back later this year, they are expected to yield almost 10 times more detection’s per year. That wealth of data, is a very exciting prospect for a student starting their PhD career!”

Christopher Konow, a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry, received an honorable mention. He works in the Irving Epstein lab analyzing the Turing Pattern formation in Growing Domains using the CDIMA (chlorine dioxide-iodine-malonic acid) chemical reaction.  For the NSF GRF, he proposed developing a novel self-oscillating hydrogel that could have uses in drug delivery.  He plans to start this project in late summer/early fall of 2018.

The Brandeis undergraduate alumni receiving 2018 NSF GR fellowships are:

  • Caroline Cappello graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Theater Arts. She is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington.
  • Emma Chad-Friedman received a BA in Psychology and Anthropology in 2014 and is in the PhD. Psychology program at the University of Maryland at College Park.
  • Jung Park also graduated in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and Psychology. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University.
  • Stanislav Popov received his B.S. degree in Mathematics and Chemistry only 2 years ago (2016). While at Brandeis, Stanislav worked in Isaac Krauss’ lab. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UCLA.

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