Fostering leaders into a new scientific generation

Brandeis SACNAS Chapter Symposium
Saturday, March 26, 2011
10:00 am-3:00 pm
Shapiro Science Campus lobby

On March 26th the Brandeis SACNAS chapter will be holding their 2nd Brandeis SACNAS Chapter Symposium 2011: Fostering leaders into a new scientific generation. This year, we hope to expand our circle of influence even farther as we look forward to hosting students and mentors from Brandeis and other institutions in the greater Boston Region. We want to create a forum for students to network and learn about the different pathways that the sciences have to offer.

This year we will have Dr. Daniel Colon-Ramos, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at Yale University, talk about his journey from early undergraduate to PhD. Dr. Jim Morris from Brandeis will discuss his track towards earning his MD/PhD at Harvard Medical School. Lastly, we will also hear from our own chapter President Kerwin Vega, fourth year undergraduate, as he speaks of his first steps towards pursuing a career in science and his networking experiences thus far. We will also host a Career Development Panel where professionals from various scientific backgrounds will briefly speak of their personal professional anecdotes as well as answer any questions. There will also be a poster session for students to present their work.

See story in The Jusiice

Mobile Applications and Game Development (JBS Summer 2011 Program)

Justice Brandeis Semester Programs for Summer 2011 are accepting applications – deadline is March 15, 2011. Among the programs is Mobile Applications and Game Development, run by Tim Hickey and Pito Salas, which is being offered for the second time this year. Last year’s student projects:

  • Cakewalk, a way to share routes and the information along them.
  • Social Market is a application which let you invest anytime and anywhere.
  • Definitious,  an online dictionary whose definitions are submitted and voted on by the online community.
  • Roommate Helper, an online resource for improving communication between roommates, in order to promote more harmonious living.

Undergraduate Biology Lab Students All Get Cataracts

After a series of renovations and modifications, the fall semester of introductory biology (Biol18b) is now an 11 week project-based lab course focused on Molecular and Structural Biology.  Students in the course now design their own mutant of γD crystallin (a human protein implicated in congenital and age-onset cataractogenesis) using site-directed mutagenesis, purify and express their protein, and then study its stability using fluorescence and AFM.

A new paper in CBE – Life Sciences Education by Brandeis undergraduates Dan Treacy, Rebecca Miller, Stefan Isaac, Danielle Saly, and Saumya Sankaran, together with grad student Susannah Gordon-Messer and Assistant Professor of Biology Melissa Kosinski-Collins,  discusses a two-year study focused on assessing both student perception of the course and analyzing the levels conceptual understanding and knowledge retention of participants.  This paper marks the second in a series of articles highlighting studies performed by life science undergraduates enrolled in an educational internship course (Ed92a) with Kosinski-Collins.

Biology research experiences at Brandeis (Summer 2011)

Thanks to new funding from the National Science Foundation, starting in Summer 2011 Brandeis will offer a new research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program in Cell and Molecular Visualization. This new grant, organized by principal investigator Susan Lovett, will provide funding for 10 undergraduates to spend 10 weeks at Brandeis in the summer doing independent research projects in close collaboration with faculty mentors. NSF REU programs place special emphasis on providing research opportunities for under-represented groups in science, and for students whose colleges cannot provide cutting-edge research facilities.

The new program will join Brandeis’s  existing MRSEC REU and other summer research activities in providing a lively atmosphere for young researchers. This competitive program will provide stipends of $5000 each plus housing and meal allowances. Participants must be US citizens or permanent residents, and should have completed their sophomore or junior year of study and be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate college or university. Further information including an application form is available on the Biology website.

Being given the opportunity to do research as an undergrad was amazing, fun, intellectual, and extremely useful; I’ve done it for two summers now.   At the beginning of my college career I was pre-med, but it only took a summer of research to help me realize that I actually want to do science over the course of my career […]

(see more quotes from undergraduates about summer research)

Biology study abroad

The Biology Dept. and the Office of Study Abroad will hold a joint presentation about studying abroad as a Biology major at 3:30pm on Tuesday, March 8 in the Alumni Lounge in Usdan Student Center (event listing on facebook). Come and learn about the many study abroad programs available, how you can fit study abroad into your schedule, and the exciting places you can go!

There will be presentations from J. Scott Van Der Meid, the Director of Study Abroad, Dr. Dan Perlman, the Biology Department Study Abroad Liaison, and Dr. Joan Press, the Biology Undergraduate Advising Head. Students will also get the chance to ask talk to Biology majors who have studied abroad in the past, and learn how their experiences have enhanced their academic experience at Brandeis.

Hope to see you all there!

Biology UDRs

Phosphatases and DNA double strand break repair

When cells suffer DNA damage – as little as a single break in one chromosome – they respond by activating the DNA damage checkpoint, which prevents cells from entering mitosis until there is enough time to to repair the damage.  The principal biochemical events in the checkpoint pathway are the phosphorylations of protein kinases by other protein kinases and eventually the phosphorylation of other proteins that regulate mitosis.    When repair is complete, the checkpoint must be turned off.  Not surprisingly, the enzymes that turn off the checkpoint are phosphatases that can remove the phosphates added by the protein kinases.

The Haber lab has previously shown that, in budding yeast, a pair of PP2C phosphatases known as Ptc2 and Ptc3 were important in turning off a key protein kinase, Rad53.  A member of another phosphatase subgroup, the PP4 phosphatase Pph3, dephosphorylates a target of the checkpoint kinases, histone protein H2A.  There is one aspect that they didn’t understand at all: It seems that the intensity of the checkpoint signals must grow the longer it takes to repair DNA damage, because deletions of ptc2 and ptc3 or a deletion of pph3 prevented cells from turning off the damage signal when it took a long time – 6 hours – to repair the damage, but they had much less effect on different repair events that could complete in 3-4 hours or in less than 2 hours.  So they decided to see what would happen if they created a yeast strain lacking all three phosphatases (ptc2 ptc3 pph3), leading to a paper appearing this month in the journal Molecular and Cell Biology.

To their surprise, these cells had a new defect: they couldn’t complete the repair event itself, rather than simply being defective in resuming mitosis after repair was completed.  The mutants could not properly initiate the small amounts of DNA copying that are required for repair.  Again, the severity of the defect depends on the length of the delay it takes to initiate the repair event itself.  The figure (right) shows that the triple mutant is also much more sensitive to DNA damaging agents such as the anti-cancer drug camptothecin (CPT) and to methylmethansulfonate (MMS). These data show a complex connection between DNA damage signaling and the repair process itself, and reveal new roles for the phosphatases in DNA repair.  The work was carried out primarily by graduate student Jung-Ae Kim, now a postdoc at Rockefeller University, with help by another grad student, Wade Hicks, and by an undergraduate Sue Yen Tay, and postdoc Jin Li. The work was supported by a research and a graduate student training grant from the NIH.

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