Gina Turrigiano, the Joseph Levitan Professor of Vision Science
Gina Turrigiano, the Joseph Levitan Professor of Vision Science

Magnifying the Mind

On July 1, the Brandeis National Committee launched Magnify the Mind, an ambitious campaign to raise $500,000 for a new resonant two-photon microscope. This technology, which will support neuroscience labs and allow Brandeis scientists to increase their understanding of how the brain works, will enhance Brandeis’ research into neurodegenerative disorders.

BNC members have already raised more than $3 million for such research through the organization’s Sustaining the Mind campaign. “When the circuitry in the brain goes awry, you end up with developmental and neurodegenerative problems,” says Susan Birren, dean of arts and sciences, and professor of neurobiology. “Before you can treat these diseases, you have to understand the processes, and this is where Brandeis excels, because there is so much interactive research happening.”

“Everyone knows someone affected by these illnesses,” says BNC Executive Director Beth Bernstein, MA’90. “I had a good friend who recently died from ALS, and my son’s good friend’s 6-year-old daughter is suffering from Rett syndrome. Both disorders affect motor neurons in the brain. This initiative at Brandeis gives me hope for both the young and the old. The new Magnify the Mind campaign will strengthen the capability that Brandeis needs to maintain itself as a cutting-edge research institution.”

Able to take 30 to 50 images of live tissue per second, the new microscope works at a speed on par with the brain’s proc­essing speed. It can be used to take many photographs of deep tissue and neurons at a very high resolution, allowing scientists to watch synapses as they occur.

“In order to understand what brain circuits do, we have to watch those patterns of activity as they happen,” says Gina Turrigiano, the Joseph Levitan Professor of Vision Science and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient. Her lab will use the new microscope to advance what they know about the brain.

“That’s where neuroscience is going,” Turrigiano says. “There’s a renaissance right now, and methods to watch what happens are becoming more advanced. It means there’s more we can do that we couldn’t years ago.”

Message From the BNC President

As the BNC celebrates our 70th anniversary, I want to thank you all for your continuing support of Brandeis University.

Throughout our partnership with Brandeis, we’ve fully embraced and supported lifelong learning, the libraries, student scholarships and, now, pioneering efforts to help renowned university researchers reach new levels of understanding about how the brain works.

Our ties with the university’s community of scholars and investigators are strong. At our recent national board meeting, we were honored to welcome BNC Sachar Award recipient Steve Whitfield, PhD’72, professor emeritus of American studies, and Nobel Prize winner Michael Rosbash, the Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience (pictured here with BNC Executive Director Beth Bernstein, MA’90, and me).

I invite you to be part of our vibrant network.


Madalyn Friedberg

A Legacy 70 Years Strong — and Growing

As Brandeis marks its 70th anniversary, the 25,000 members of the Brandeis National Committee, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary, have much to boast about: Over seven decades, their organization has raised $141 million in support of Brandeis. Today, in 41 chapters across the country, the BNC continues its support of the university it helped found in 1948.

The organization has made significant contributions to Brandeis, including funding neurobiologist Piali Sengupta’s lab, enabling the expansion of the Gerstenzang Science Library, establishing the University Librarian chair and supporting student scholarships.

“BNC efforts have significantly advanced the goals of the Brandeis library, the heart of our institution,” says Matthew Sheehy, Brandeis National Committee University Librarian. “Like all libraries, ours is evolving to reflect the different ways people access and use scholarly resources. Throughout our history, the BNC has helped us launch many new endeavors, and stay relevant to the community and the academic lives of our robust student body. I am thankful the BNC provides such strong support for our mission.”

“Brandeis has a treasure in the BNC,” says Ron Liebowitz, the university’s president. “From book drives to fill the shelves of our libraries, to a campaign to bring the latest brain-imagery technology to campus, the BNC has supported Brandeis for 70 years, helping whenever asked. I am incredibly grateful for all the BNC and its members have done and continue to do for Brandeis.”

BNC Roundup

President Liebowitz and others at a book event in Phoenix.
President Ron Liebowitz addressed an audience of 900 during the Phoenix Chapter’s Book and Author event in March. In honor of the president’s visit, Garry and Sharon Shuster hosted a special gathering at their home. (From left: Liebowitz; the Schusters; and Phoenix Book and Author chair Carol Abrams and her husband, Chuck.)
* * * * * *
Several BNC members will join the organization’s National Executive Committee this year: Judy Dorfman, of Somerset, New Jersey; Janice Fineman, of Newton, Massachusetts; Merle Carrus, of Hollis, New Hampshire; Audree Dyson, of East Walpole, Massachusetts; and Joy Shuman, of Greater Washington, D.C.
* * * * * *
The BNC is mourning the death of Elaine Lisberg, who passed away in April. An active member of the Tucson Chapter, Lisberg served as BNC national president from 1979-82 and was a fellow of the university.