Around Campus

Brandeis appoints new Hindu advisorPosted: Aug. 14, 2017
Brandeis University has appointed Shrestha Singh, a recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School, as its new Hindu advisor.

In her new role, Singh will provide a focus for the Hindu community’s spiritual life on campus; she will lead Hindu festivals as well as talks on Hindu religion and tradition. She will support students of all Dharmic faiths and traditions and will coordinate the use of Brandeis’ Dharmic prayer center. She will guide students and other members of the campus community in ways of spiritual growth and provide support to students and staff and their families in times of personal crisis.

Singh is also the Hindu Chaplain at Wellesley College, where she has planned cultural events and facilitated conversations about race, class, gender and sexuality in the South Asian community, among other activities.

“Shrestha has an excellent understanding of the spiritual and cultural needs of students from all Dharmic traditions, and will be a great asset to our Department of Spiritual and Religious Life and the Multifaith Chaplaincy,” said Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel.

Singh, who hails from the Bay Area in California, earned her Master of Divinity from Harvard in May. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. She has served as a chaplain intern at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and was a member of the Racial Justice & Healing Initiative at Harvard, where she helped organize student and faculty support for discussions, forums and workshops around healing racial injustice through sharing stories and experiences. She lives in Arlington with her pit bull mix, George Clooney.

“I’m honored to have the chance to work with students at Brandeis. My passion is facilitating deep and reflective conversations at the intersections of spirituality and our work in the wider world. I’m also the child of immigrants, and am committed to working with students who are similarly navigating multiple cultures and identities, and hope to help their voices feel more heard on campus,” Singh said.
The Physics of SandPosted: Aug. 7, 2017

Pick up a handful of sand, toss it in the air, then try to predict where each grain will land.

Obviously, the task is beyond the ability of most people to compute, but you’d expect a physicist with a state-of-the-art supercomputer to be able to figure it out. Actually, she too may find herself stymied.

Like rocks, snowflakes, coffee grinds and grains of rice, sand is an example of a granular material — discrete solid, macroscopic particles often found together in large numbers.

We know how one unit of a granular material will behave. Throw a ball, for example, and with the right information, a scientist can predict how far it will go and where it will land. It’s basic Newtonian physics.

But when lots of units of a granular material are in motion, they exert so many forces on each other that even our most powerful computer can’t predict the dynamics with sufficient accuracy.

When granular materials move, they often behave like liquids. Think of sand flowing through an hourglass. But at other times, they become jammed and behave like a solid. Think of salt particles coming out of a shaker. If there are enough particles trying to get through a hole at the same time, none will make it through. That’s when they stop moving and become jammed. This can happen as well when marbles try to get through the spout of a funnel. One or two may pass, but when several make the attempt at the same time, they get stuck.

In the late 1980s, the British physicist Samuel Edwards proposed the radical idea that all jammed states — and there might be trillions — were equally possible.

In June, Enid and Nate Ancell Professor of Physics Bulbul Chakraborty, postdoctoral fellow Kabir Ramola and several colleagues at the University of Cambridge in England published a study in Nature Physics that put Edwards’ conjecture to the test through computational modeling. The researchers focused on what happens when, right after the jamming occurs, the granular material is unsettled. They found that when it resettles, there is no particular pattern of the particles that can be predicted, thus proving that Edwards was correct.

It’s the first computational confirmation of Edwards’ conjecture and represents a major breakthrough in our ability to model the arrangement of granular materials, even if that means determining the arrangement can’t be predicted.

The research also opens up avenues for analyzing and understanding granular flows such as the ones we see in avalanches, which are caused when jammed states of rocks and debris become unjammed.

It may also one day prove useful to businesses that use granular materials such as the drug and food industries, agriculture and oil companies.

The other authors on the paper are Stefano Martiniani, K. Julian Schrenk and Daan Frenkel, all at the University of Cambridge.

Brandeis names Rabbi Elisabeth Weiss Stern acting director of religious and spiritual life and Jewish chaplainPosted: Aug. 4, 2017
rabbi liza stern

Rabbi Liza Stern

Brandeis University announced today that Rabbi Elisabeth “Liza” Weiss Stern, a longtime leader in the Boston-area Jewish and interfaith community, will serve both as acting director of religious and spiritual life and as Jewish chaplain. Her two-year appointment at Brandeis will begin on Aug. 7.

Stern served last year as a part-time Jewish chaplain at Brandeis, and had previously been an associate faculty member. In her new role as director of religious and spiritual life, Stern will work with the other members of Brandeis’ Multifaith Chaplaincy to support the spiritual needs of Brandeis students, faculty and staff of all faiths. As Jewish chaplain, she will enhance Jewish spiritual and cultural life on campus, in concert with Brandeis Hillel.

“I have loved my previous work at Brandeis and am familiar with its deep respect for all faiths, and with the rich diversity of spiritual traditions among students, faculty and staff. I am eager to continue collaborating with my colleagues in the Multifaith Chaplaincy to support the spiritual growth of the whole community,” she said.

“Assisting young people with their Jewish journeys has been one of the most gratifying parts of my career,” Stern added, “I look forward to serving as Jewish chaplain and working with other religious leaders on campus and in the community.”

“Over the course of Rabbi Stern’s impressive career, she has attended to the spiritual and cultural needs of her congregations and made lasting contributions to the U.S. Jewish community.” said Andrew Flagel, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment. “Rabbi Stern’s energy and passion for her work is palpable. I know that she will provide tremendous support for students of all faiths and to her colleagues in the chaplaincy.”

Stern is well known as the rabbi at Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, Mass., a diverse, socially-active urban Jewish community. She will continue to provide rabbinical support to Eitz Chayim. Stern has also been involved in a variety of interfaith efforts in the greater Boston area. She is a member of the board of Boston Area Gleaners, a nonprofit organization that harvests surplus produce at area farms and provides it to food banks, pantries and meal programs.  

A graduate of Vassar College, Stern was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. In recognition of her 25-year tenure as both a rabbi and an insightful scholar, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by HUC. She has five adult children with her husband Rabbi Keith Stern, who is rabbi of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton.

As a faculty member at Brandeis, Stern served as an adjunct professor of Judaic Studies in the Hornstein Program of Jewish Communal Service. She supervised student internships and taught courses in contemporary Jewish issues, studying Jewish text, and the evolution of Jewish theory and practice.Stern’s appointment come shortly after the university also announced a new executive director of Brandeis Hillel, Rabbi Seth Winberg, who will begin in August and will serve as a senior Jewish chaplain in addition to his role with Hillel.
Professor Karen V. Hansen named director of the Women’s Studies Research Center at BrandeisPosted: June 28, 2017
Karen V. Hansen
Provost Lisa Lynch announced today that Karen V. Hansen, Professor of Sociology, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University, has been named director of the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) upon the retirement of Professor Shulamit Reinharz, founding director, effective July 1.

“I am delighted that Karen has agreed to serve in this position,” said Lynch. “Her scholarship and teaching on the sociology of gender, class, race and ethnicity and her commitment to knowledge advancing positive change for women and their families makes her the ideal person to lead the WSRC in this next phase of its development.”

Hansen’s latest book, Encounter on the Great Plains:  Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, has received support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and received the 2016 Chaudhuri Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians.  Professor Hansen’s scholarship also focuses on contemporary families. She authored Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender, and the Networks of Care, which received the William J. Goode Book Award, Honorable Mention, and was a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award. Combining theoretical frameworks and rich empirical accounts, she has also edited two anthologies with Anita Ilta Garey, At the Heart of Work and Families in the U.S.
Hansen has served as department chair in sociology at Brandeis from 2007-2012 and again since 2016.  She is currently a member of the board of directors for the consortium for graduate studies in Gender, Culture, Women and Sexuality based at MIT, and she is series editor for the Families in Focus series at Rutgers University Press.

Diane Rubin ’81, co-chair of the WSRC advisory board, said “I know that her scholarship and personality with make her a terrific new leader for the Center.”  Rosalie Ripaldi Shane '66 said, “Karen's understanding of women's issues and her commitment to scholarly research make her a perfect choice to lead the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center as we move forward. It will be a pleasure for Diane Rubin and me to serve as her co-chairs of the WSRC advisory board.”

“As someone who has been engaged with Women’s Studies at Brandeis for more than twenty years, I look forward to building on all that my colleague Shula Reinharz has achieved as founding director of the Women’s Studies Research Center,” said Hansen. “Shula has built an extraordinary interdisciplinary research facility of scholars, students and faculty who study gender issues and women's lives.”
Brandeis names Samuel Solomon Chief Financial Officer and TreasurerPosted: June 13, 2017
Samuel Solomon M.B.A., Ph.D., C.F.A., has been named by Brandeis University as chief financial officer and treasurer. He will join the university on July 31.

Solomon joins Brandeis from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the world-renowned art and design institute and museum. At RISD, he served as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer since early 2014, where he led the finance, risk and information technology areas overseeing a $150 million budget, $150 million debt portfolio and a $325 million endowment fund. He strengthened RISD’s financial operations and structure while leading its strategic financial planning, working closely with the institution’s senior leadership and Board of Trustees.  

Solomon began his higher education career as a business manager in the Northeastern University Athletic office, and was subsequently named budget director and later named assistant treasurer. In 2008, he became treasurer and director of finance leading the treasury, debt, cash management and financial planning areas.

Solomon is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and has an MBA and Ph.D. from Northeastern University. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst and an officer of the Boston Consortium of Higher Education. He has served on the board of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

Solomon succeeds Marianne Cwalina, senior vice president for finance and treasurer, who is retiring at the end of June.

Schuster Institute, WGBH News Explore interracial marriage through commemorative “Loving Day” seriesPosted: June 13, 2017
WGBH News, in collaboration with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, has launched “Loving Day,” a commemoration series on interracial marriage airing on 89.7 WGBH June 12-14.
Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 12, 1967 landmark civil rights decision in Loving v. Virginia legally allowed interracial marriage, the effects of the case continue to reverberate.
Mildred Jeter Loving, a woman whose disputed racial heritage has been called both African American and Native American, and Richard Perry Loving, a white man, had been legally married in Washington, D.C. in 1958. But two weeks later, after they had returned to Virginia, they were arrested on charges of violating the state’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act and sentenced to one year in prison. The Lovings challenged their conviction and lost in state court.
Instead of giving up, they moved to Washington, D.C., and took their case all the way to the highest court in the land. And in 1967, they won.
The Supreme Court's groundbreaking civil rights decision in Loving v. Virginia invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the U.S. At the time of the decision, 16 other states banned marriage between people of different races. Such anti-miscegenation laws date back to 1664, when Maryland, still a colony, was the first to adopt this kind of law.

The June 12 anniversary is known as Loving Day.
The three-part radio series, “Loving Day,” reports on interracial marriage over the past 50 years, and real-life repercussions as experienced by individuals, couples and families today. How have they dealt with continuing discrimination aimed at them? How have children with interracial parents approached their search for racial identity? And why is one the Lovings’ descendants protesting a new commemorative monument in Richmond?
“This anniversary is an ideal time to revisit the Loving decision and examine the evolution of interracial marriage over the past several decades, as we do on our website,” said Florence Graves, founding director of the Schuster Institute. “As with previous stories from the Institute's Race & Justice reporting project, Sally's work illuminates a complex aspect of race that continues to affect Americans today.”
The stories were produced by reporter Sally Jacobs and producer Josh Swartz and edited by executive editor and producer Aaron Schachter and senior editor Ken Cooper.
“This landmark decision is just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, and there are important stories to be told by those most greatly affected by it,” said Schachter. “Sally did extensive, thorough reporting for this series, including visiting the Lovings’ hometown and speaking with sources who have never spoken to the media.”
Related resources, including a timeline of state anti-miscegenation laws and important case law, an excerpt from Sheryll Cashin’s recently released book, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy, and links to maps, relevant websites and other resources to spark learning and discussion can be found on WGBH News’ and the Schuster Institute’s websites.

Waltham youth organization honors Dean Jamele Adams with award for community leadershipPosted: June 13, 2017
Dean of Students Jamele Adams speaks to a group of high school students in the summer of 2016
Dean of Students Jamele Adams received a Community Leadership Award from the Waltham Youth and Community Coalition, a project of the Waltham Partnership for Youth, on June 7.

Adams was nominated by Luke Kirkland, a teen specialist at the Waltham Public Library. In his nomination, Kirkland said that Adams’ support of activities at Waltham High School and the Waltham Public Library are making a difference with the young people of Waltham.

“Jamele has been an unbelievably powerful inspiration to Waltham youth and those who work with Waltham youth. He is a magnetic presence, someone who speaks to the experiences of youth of color and inspires their agency, but who also fuels the fire of youth of all backgrounds,” Kirkland said. “He is an invaluable model for us adult mentors who hope to similarly nurture our youths’ potential…he is an irreplaceable engineer and collaborator in our citywide efforts to build an inclusive community.”

The awards were given to individuals for having the courage to address challenging issues that affect youth; for showing leadership in health and wellness, substance use prevention and treatment; and racial, ethnic and gender equity and justice.

The Waltham Youth and Community Coalition’s mission is to support a culture of mental health and wellness, free of substance misuse, for Waltham youth by connecting all sectors of the community, addressing root causes, and promoting advocacy, education and policy change.
Lisa Fishbayn Joffe named interim director of Hadassah-Brandeis InstitutePosted: June 12, 2017
Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

Brandeis University has appointed Lisa Fishbayn Joffe to serve as interim director of Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI), effective July 1. Joffe will begin work in the role upon the retirement of HBI founding director Shulamit Reinharz.

Joffe is currently HBI’s associate director, and director of HBI’s Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and of the Boston Agunah Task Force. In addition to serving as interim director of HBI, Joffe will teach “Gender, Multiculturalism and The Law,” cross-listed in the Philosophy and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies departments. Professor Sylvia Barack Fishman will continue to serve as Co-Director of HBI.

Founded in 1997, HBI is a research institute at Brandeis with a mission to develop fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide, by producing and promoting scholarly research, artistic projects and public engagement.

“I am thrilled that Lisa has agreed to serve in this position,” said Brandeis Provost Lisa M. Lynch, Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy. “Her background and scholarship is a perfect match for HBI’s international and interdisciplinary focus on Jewish women’s issues and gender issues in diverse contexts.” 

Phylllis Hammer, chair of HBI’s board of directors said, “With Lisa’s appointment, I know that HBI’s leadership will be in wonderful hands. Lisa is a rising star, and over the past 10 years we have watched her guide the HBI into new areas of inquiry with excellent scholarship and leadership.”

Joffe received her bachelor of laws from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and graduate degrees in law from Harvard Law School. Joffe joined HBI in 2007 and created the Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law (GCRL) project with founder and chair, Sylvia Neil.

“At HBI we seek to highlight the multicultural, multi-racial and economically diverse identities of Jewish women; to fully explore the experience of LGBTQ Jews and to engage in interreligious dialogue with women of other religious traditions around shared struggles,” said Joffe. “It is a great privilege to succeed Shula as director of HBI, who has been a mentor and friend since I arrived at HBI.  I look forward to building on the ebullient, entrepreneurial spirit Shula cultivated at HBI, and the institute will continue to be open to new ideas and collaborations.”

Joffe’s scholarship includes Gender, Religion and Family Law: Theorizing Conflicts Between Women’s Rights and Cultural Traditions (with Sylvia Neil, Brandeis University Press, 2012); The Polygamy Question (with Janet Bennion, Colorado University Press, 2015); Women’s Rights and Religious Law (with Fareda Banda, Routledge Press, 2016) and a special issue of Nashim on New Historical and Legal Perspectives on Jewish Divorce (Volume 31, forthcoming 2017). She is editor, with Sylvia Neil, of the Brandeis University Press Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law.  A more complete list of her publications is available here.

Brandeis neuroscientist Eve Marder '69 receives honorary degree from Tel Aviv UniversityPosted: May 30, 2017
Eve Marder receives honorary degree from Tel Aviv University

Eve Marder '69, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience, was awarded an honorary degree by Tel Aviv University May 18.

While in Tel Aviv, Marder met with scientists, post doctoral researchers and graduate students, and gave two talks, one on scientific publishing titled "Owning your Mistakes," and a scientific talk titled "Variability, Robustness and Neuromodulation in Oscillatory Neurons and Networks."

Marder’s research on small neural circuits found in lobsters and crabs has revolutionized the understanding of the fundamental nature of neuronal circuit operation, including how neuromodulators control behavioral outputs and how the stability of circuits is maintained over time. In 2016, she was awarded the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, along with Carla Shatz and Mike Merzenich, for her groundbreaking research.

She was among a group of nine researchers and leaders from around the world to receive honorary degrees from Tel Aviv University this year.