Barry and Dogic receive 2010 Cozzarelli Prize

Physics graduate student Edward Barry and Professor Zvonimir Dogic have been selected to receive the 2010 Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) for their work entitled “Entropy driven self-assembly of non-amphiphilic colloidal membranes.”

The work of Barry and Dogic was selected for exploring a novel pathway for the self-assembly of 2D fluid-like surfaces or monolayer membranes from non-amphiphilic molecules. Amphiphilic molecules consist of immiscible components, such as a hydrophobic tail and a hydrophilic head, which are irreversibly linked to each other, thus frustrating their bulk separation. When added to water, these molecules self-assemble into a variety of structures in order to satisfy competing affinities for the solvent. One particular structure, a bilayer membrane, which is a thin flexible sheet with remarkable mechanical and chemical properties, plays an essential role in biology, physics, and material science. Over the past decade the paramount example of conventional amphiphilic self-assembly has inspired the synthesis of numerous amphiphilic-type building blocks for studies of membrane self-assembly including various block-copolymers, heterogeneous nanorods, and hybrid protein-polymer complexes. Underlying all of these studies is the belief that amphiphilic molecules are an essential requirement for membrane assembly.

Barry and Dogic, using a combination of theory and experiments, describe for the first time a set of design principles required for the assembly of non-amphiphilic membranes in which the constituent rod-like molecules are chemically homogeneous.  Using a simple mixture of filamentous bacteriophages and non-adsorbing polymer, they were able to assemble macroscopic membranes roughly 4-5 orders of magnitude larger than the constituent molecules themselves. Due to unique properties of their system, Barry and Dogic were able to characterize the physical behavior of the resulting non-amphiphilic membranes at all relevant length scales and provide an entropic mechanism that explains their stability. The importance of these results lies in their potential to establish a fundamentally different route toward solution based self-assembly of 2D materials.

Papers selected for the Cozzarelli Prize were chosen from more than 3,700 research articles published by PNAS in 2010 and represent the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sciences is organized. The award was established in 2005 and named the Cozzarelli Prize in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. The annual award acknowledges recently published papers that reflect scientific excellence and originality. The 2010 awards will be presented at the PNAS Editorial Board Meeting, and awardees are recognized at the awards ceremony, during the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on May 1, 2011, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Susan Band Horwitz (PhD ’63) receives AACR Lifetime Achievement Award

Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D., will receive the Eighth AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research. Horwitz is being recognized for pioneering research in the mechanism of the anticancer drug Taxol and for contributions to the understanding of how this microtubule-stabilizing drug arrests cell division, which eventually leads to cell death, especially of cancer cells.

Horwitz received a bachelor’s from Bryn Mawr, then came to Brandeis to do her graduate studies. According to a profile in PNAS by Tinsley H. Davis,

“At that time, there were few graduate schools that were very receptive to women,” [Horowitz] recalls. “Women were not very prominent on the faculty or in the student body.” One university stood out from the others, however. Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) had just started its graduate program in biochemistry. “Brandeis was a new and exciting place, and the people there wanted it to succeed,” says Horwitz, “yet it also had a relaxed atmosphere that was really perfect for me.”

Once at Brandeis, Horwitz worked with Nathan Kaplan, chairman of the newly formed Biochemistry Department. Her Ph.D. dissertation (1963) involved bacterial metabolism of sugar alcohols.

While juggling raising children and doing part-time postdoctoral research (some things haven’t changed so much over the years!), Horwitz became interested in pharmacology and anticancer agents. She joined the faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1970, where she has remained since, currently serving as the Rose C. Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and co-chair of the department of molecular pharmacology.

Horwitz’s academic career has been vastly productive, in terms of research, publications and awards, but perhaps more significantly in terms of her research’s impact on millions of cancer patients worldwide. Her current research focuses on new natural products with similar mechanism to Taxol, looking for ways to enhance therapeutic value and to avoid drug resistance.

The AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 2004 to honor an individual who has made significant fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. These contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer. Horwitz will receive the award at the Opening Ceremony of the AACR 102nd Annual Meeting.

Hedstrom named AAAS Fellow

Professor of Biology Liz Hedstrom has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of  Science (story on Brandeis NOW).

BrandeisNOW ran a follow-up profile on Liz. Moral: always ask your undergraduates whether they’ve thought about  going to grad school.

Quantitative Biology Bootcamp 2011

The 5th Annual Quantitative Biology Bootcamp will be held on January 16 & 17, 2011.  Paul Miller will preside over the 2nd annual QB Computational Challenge:  When space trumps time: modeling dynamic spatial patterns with Matlab. This year’s panel discussion topic is “Writing interdisciplinary papers. What to do. What not to do.”  We’re delighted to announce the HHMI Interfaces Scholar award went to Adelajda Zorba (Kern lab).  Adelajda was selected from among several exceptional submissions this year.  The topic is HIV-1 assembly.

Members of the Brandeis community are invited to attend. If you are interested, please contact Trisha Murray no later than Jan. 4, 2011.

Melissa K-C wins Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize

Brandeis NOW reports:

At the 2010 Brandeis commencement exercises this week, Assistant Professor of Biology Melissa Kosinski-Collins was awarded the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Melissa’s enthusiasm and energy in teaching are infectious, and her efforts in the development of our undergraduate teaching lab and other courses are vastly appreciated.


Brandeis professor and postdoc alumni win Searle Scholars grants

One Brandeis professor and two of our former postdocs are among the 15 recipients of the competitive Searle Scholars awards for 2010. Nelson Lau, an assistant professor in the Biology Dept., won for his work on “Germline Genome Regulation by Piwi Proteins and Small RNAs”. Katie Henzler-Wildman is a former postdoc from the Kern lab in Biochemistry who now has a lab at Washington Univ. in St. Louis. Katie received a grant to study “The Role of Protein Dynamics in Multidrug Resistance Transport Activity”. David Biron, an alumnus of the Sengupta Lab who is now an assistant professor at U. Chicago, received a grant to study “Understanding Lethargus: The Sleep-Like Behavior of the Nematode C. Elegans“.

Congratulations to all the winners!

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