New England Complex Fluids Workshop at Brandeis Sept 21

The 52nd New England Complex Fluids Workshop will be held on September 21, 2012. hosted by the Brandeis MRSEC. The workshop will feature a panel of researchers from industry exploring the academic / industrial relationship. Additionally, we will have one session of invited academic speakers, plus  two contributed “sound bite” sessions. Please consider submitting your work for an oral presentation.

In addition to taking questions from the floor, the panel will address questions such as  what kind of training and education do industrial labs seek in job applicants? What (scientific) knowledge should applicants possess? experience? skills? creativity? business knowledge? What should the universities do to better prepare students for a career in industry? What opinion do the industrial scientists and managers have on the research being done at universities? And how does research done in industry compare to that done in universities?  How common are collaborations between industry and academic researchers? What makes a successful collaboration? When does industry use academic consultants?

Registration (free) required: (deadline: 8am, September 19, 2012)


 Registration & Coffee9:00 – 9:30 AM Shapiro Campus Center, Room 236.1 Talk9:30 PM – 10:10 AM  (30 mins + 10 disc)
Shapiro Campus Center Theater

Michael Aizenberg, Wyss Institute, Harvard
     Responsive Gel-Based Dynamic Materials

Sound Bites10:15 AM – 11 AM
Shapiro Campus Center Theater
            Five minute updates of current research

Coffee11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Shapiro Center, Room 236

Panel11:30 – 1:00 PM 
Shapiro Center, Room 236
Industry / Academic relations
Rick Jacubinas (BASF), Darren Link (Raindance), Ian Morrison (Harvard)
Chris Harrison (Schlumberger), Patrick Spicer (Procter & Gamble)

Lunch1:00 – 2:00 PM
 Shapiro Center, Room 236

1 Talk2:00 PM – 2:40 PM  (30 mins + 10 disc)
Shapiro Campus Center Theater
Shekhar Garde, Chem & Bio Eng, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Hydration Phenomena at the Interface of Physics and Biology

Sound Bites: 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM
Shapiro Campus Center Theater
            Five minute updates of current research

Coffee4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Shapiro Center, Room 236

Memorandum of Understanding between the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and the Robot Research Initiative (RRI), Chonnam National University, South Korea


Dr. Jong-Oh Park (left) and Dr. Seth Fraden pause in front of the MOU banner during the inauguration ceremony.

On August 10, 2012 Dr. Jong-Oh Park and Dr. Sukho Park, Director and Principal Investigator of the Robot Research Initiative (RRI), respectively, visited Brandeis as part of an inauguration ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) (Director: Seth Fraden, PhD) and the RRI (Director: Jong-Oh Park, Dr.-Ing). The RRI is a world leader in the field of robotics, focusing on microscale engineering applications and surgery, while the Brandeis MRSEC program focusses on biomaterials and active matter. The two institutions have agreed to work together to transform cutting-edge biophysical science into engineering applications for drug delivery.

Collaboration between the two institutions was first established on March 1, 2012, with a three-year subcontract (KRW  120,000,000 / yr) awarded to the MRSEC by the RRI for the development of micro-swimming robots based on synthetic cilia (PI: Dongshin Kim, co-PI: Zvonimir Dogic). Dr. Fraden welcomed the new Memorandum, saying that it would fortify the collaboration efforts of both institutions.

As part of the exchange program laid out by the MOU, Dr. Sukho Park is planning to visit Brandeis in 2013 to spend a year working on the development of micro-actuators based on microtubules and active hydrogels. There are opportunities for the exchange of students between our two universities.

Baskaran Wins NSF-CAREER award to pursue research on active fluids

Dr. Aparna Baskaran of the Physics Department has been awarded the prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation that is a highly competitive development grant for early career tenure track faculty members. This grant will fund the research ongoing in Dr. Baskaran’s group on dynamics in active materials. Active materials are a novel class of complex fluids that are driven out of equilibrium at the level of individual entities. Examples of such systems include bacterial suspensions, cytoskeletal filaments interacting with motor proteins and inanimate systems such as self-propelled phoretic colloidal particles. The theoretical challenge in understanding these systems lies in the fact that, unlike traditional materials, we no longer have the scaffold of equilibrium on which to base the theoretical framework.  At the practical front, these materials exhibit novel properties not seen in regular materials.  Further, they form the physical framework of biological systems  in that regulatory mechanisms modulate the mechanical properties of this material in response to environmental stimuli.  Dr. Baskaran’s research in this field will be done in collaboration with the groups of Dr. Michael Hagan, Dr. Zvonimir Dogic and Dr. Bulbul Chakraborty. It will enhance and complement the MRSEC research activities in the active materials thrust.

Figure Caption : Videos of example systems for active materials. A) A fish school exhibiting complex collective swimming. B) Swarming at the edge of an E. Coli Bacterial Colony. C) Cytoplasmic streaming inside the yolk of a fertilized cell.

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Winners Announced

It’s April, and planning is well underway for another exciting summer of research at Brandeis. In 2012 we have several new programs to provide financial support for undergraduates doing summer research; winners for several of those programs are announced below.

Jordan-Dreyer Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantships in the Department of Chemistry

Helen Stolyar ’14 (Krauss Lab)
Stephanie Chun ’13 (Krauss Lab)
Brian Williams ’13 (Agar Lab)
Alex de Denko  ’13 (Thomas Lab)
Charlene Liao  ’14 (Pontrello Lab)

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Michal Dichter ’13, Physics/Philosophy, Chakraborty
Lien Phung ’13, Biochemistry, Kern
Shakara Scott ’13, Biochemistry/Chemistry, Pontrello
John Shen ’13, Biology/Chemistry, Thomas
Matthew Zunitch ’13, Neuroscience , Rodal
Elizabeth Allen ’14, Neuroscience/Classical Studies, Paradis
Daniel Boyle ’14, Biochemistry/Neuroscience, Lovett
Kaitlin Hulce ’14, Biochemistry, Pontrello
Michael Kosowsky ’14, Physics/Math, Roberts
Yasmin Marrero ’14, Biology, Katz

Undergraduate Traineeships in Computational Neuroscience

James Chin ’14, Biochemistry, Hedstrom
Gabriel Colton ’13, Psychology/Neuroscience, Gutchess
Brendan Hasz ’13, Neuroscience/Computer Science, P. Miller
James McGregor ’14, Biology, Turrigiano
Brian Slepian ’14, Neuroscience/Computer Science, Marder
Abigail Zadina ’13, Neuroscience, Rosbash

Beckman Scholar

Yisha Cheng ’14, Biology, Lovett

MRSEC Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

Jon Chavis, UMBC, Epstein Lab
Pengfei Li, UMass Dartmouth, Baskaran Lab
Alyssa Schwartz, University of Rochester, Xu Lab
Victoria Wu, Smith College, Chakraborty Lab
Reed Bay, RPI. Dogic Lab
Meaghan Molloy, UMass Amherst, Nicastro Lab

MRSEC Summer Courses 2012

The Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center announces two new one week summer 2012 courses:

  • Introduction to Microfluidics Technology (June 18-22, 2012)
  • Modern Optical Microscopy  (June 25-29, 2012)

Introduction to Microfluidics Technology will be taught by the director of the Brandeis Microfluidics Center. The course is based on strategies employed when teaching new users of the facility how to utilize microfluidic technology in research work.

Modern Optical Microscopy will be taught by Professor Zvonimir Dogic of the Physics department at Brandeis. It is based on a very successful one semester graduate course offered at Brandeis on the same topic. (see a review of this course from last year).

See the MRSEC website for application materials.

A new twist on interfacial tension

In a mixture of two molecular components, the surface tension is defined as the energetic cost per unit area of moving molecules from the bulk and bringing them to the interface. The higher the magnitude of the surface tension, the greater the tendency of two components to demix. Surface tension allows trees to carry nutrients from the roots out to the branches, and water striders to walk on the surface of water.

The interface between hydrophobic and hydrophilic components has very high interfacial tension. A common way to adjust the magnitude of surface tension is to add amphiphilic molecules (like soaps), which contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components. These amphiphilic molecules prefer to be at the interface between the two components, and effectively lower the interfacial tension, allowing the components to mix more easily. This is how detergent causes oily stains to dissolve in water.

In a recently published article in Nature, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Brandeis headed by Zvonimir Dogic, and consisting of experimental, theoretical, and computational physicists as well as biologists, has demonstrated a new way of controlling interfacial tension using a molecular property called chirality, or lack of mirror symmetry. The study was performed on a model system of two-dimensional colloidal membranes composed of the rod-like bacteriophage virus fd, which are about one micrometer in length and 7 nanometers in diameter. The electrostatically repulsive virus particles are condensed into membranes through the depletion mechanism by adding non-adsorbing polymer to a virus suspension. Because the fd rods are chiral, they tend to twist by a small angle with respect to neighboring rods. However, the geometry of the membrane prevents twisting in the structure’s interior; only along the perimeter can the rods twist. Thus, increasing the strength of chirality of the rods both lowers the energy of the rods along the membrane’s edge and increases the frustration of untwisted rods in the bulk, lowering the interfacial tension. This contrasts the standard method of controlling interfacial tension using amphiphilic molecules, since the rod-like particles are completely homogenous, and do not contain any hydrophilic components.

The strength of chiral interactions in fd is temperature sensitive; the rods are achiral at 60o C, and the strength of chirality increases with decreasing temperature. By increasing the strength of chiral interactions in-situ, the team of researchers was able to dynamically vary the membrane’s interfacial tension in order to drive a dramatic transition from a membrane to several twisted ribbon structures (Movie 1). The twisted ribbons have much more interfacial area than the membranes, but are much “twistier” structures, and are therefore favored when the strength of chirality is relatively high. Additionally, the team was able to drive the same membrane-to-ribbon transition using optical tweezers, as shown in Movie 2. Membranes and ribbons are only two of a myriad of structures that were observed in the fd system. This work presents a powerful new method to control the assembly of materials by tuning interfacial tension with chirality.

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