Around Campus

Yehudah Mirsky’s book wins Choice Award, $25,000 prizePosted: April 13, 2016

Brandeis professor Yehudah Mirsky won the 2016 Choice Award and a $25,000 prize from the Jewish Book Council for “Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution.”

The book, (Yale University Press, 2014) depicts this seminal figure of 20th-century Judaism as a product of the zeitgeist in which he lived, full of revolution, the search for personal meaning, and serious attempts to improve and redeem mankind, according to the Jewish Book Council.

“Rav Kook was perhaps the greatest Jewish mystic of the 20th century,” said Mirsky, associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. “Indispensable though he is to understanding present-day Israel and modern Jewish thought, he’s little known and less understood in the English-speaking world. I’ve tried to change that at least a little, with this brief volume aimed at general and scholarly readers alike.

“This award is a sign of the interest his life and works have sparked thus far, and I hope others will be moved to study and write on him even more.”

Mirsky will be honored on May 18, 2016 at 7 p.m. at a public program sponsored by the Jewish Book Council at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

The HistoryMakers partners with Brandeis to modernize video archive of African-American experience Posted: April 11, 2016

Sixteen years ago, oral historian Julieanna Richardson '76 began recording first-person interviews with African Americans from all walks of life to create a one-of-a-kind archive of the African-American experience called The HistoryMakers. Since then, more than 2,700 oral histories totaling 9,000 hours have been recorded on video, making The HistoryMakers the single largest archival project of its kind in the world.

Gen. Colin Powell, children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, entertainer and civic activist Harry Belafonte, and President Barack Obama are represented in the archive, as are countless other less well known African Americans who have told their personal stories.

Now, with the support of a generous $725,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Brandeis University, Ms. Richardson’s alma mater, will work with The HistoryMakers to modernize the technological foundations of the digital archive. The one-year grant, which also funds the creation of a new client for the digital archive to be produced by Carnegie Mellon University, is a crucial first step toward enhancing online access to the collection for students and scholars across the country and around the world.

In addition, Brandeis is one of 11 elite universities to gain access to The HistoryMakers’ archive through a first-ever digital subscription partnership. The digital subscription partnership will give scholars and students unprecedented access to the most significant archive of African-American life.

“It means the world to me that my alma mater is leading the modernization of the archive and has joined as a digital subscriber. It’s all come full circle for me,” said Julieanna Richardson ’76, founder and executive director of the The HistoryMakers. “This important modernization of the digital archive will ensure the oral history of thousands of African Americans lives on for generations.”

Ms. Richardson first began to understand the power of oral history as a Brandeis sophomore when she interviewed African-American actors Thelma Butterfly McQueen and Leigh Whipper for a research project on the Harlem Renaissance. These personal narratives inspired her, and gave her the idea to establish The HistoryMakers many years later.

“We are honored that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has selected Brandeis to modernize and secure the future of The HistoryMakers’ prized archive, with the goal of eventually making this singular collection available to scholars, students and the general public,” said Brandeis’ Interim President Lisa M. Lynch. “It is fitting that we will partner with Ms. Richardson, who has made a remarkable contribution to the rich chronicle of the African-American experience.”

Brandeis’ Library and Technology Services project team, in tandem with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, will implement improvements to the video collection’s web platform; establish a higher-education advisory board to develop a strategy for promoting use of the video archive by institutions of higher learning across the country; and identify a video-host provider that can deliver responsive video on a variety of platforms, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

“The nation is indebted to Julieanna Richardson for her tireless effort in establishing and building this extraordinary collection of the oral histories of contemporary African Americans,” said Donald J. Waters, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation. “HistoryMakers needs to be more widely known and studied, and this collaboration among HistoryMakers, Brandeis and Carnegie Mellon promises to increase both the visibility and usability of the collection.”

John Unsworth, Brandeis University’s librarian, vice provost and chief information officer, is the project’s principal investigator.

“We are looking forward to working with The HistoryMakers to put this collection of oral histories on a sustainable technological platform,” Unsworth said. “This work will make it possible to improve The HistoryMakers’ website, and pave the way to make the archive available for generations to come to learn from and enjoy.”

Interviews with more than 200 of the nation’s leading African-American scientists are already publicly available at the Library of Congress, The HistoryMakers’ official repository.

Rosenstiel Award winner speaks on campusPosted: April 7, 2016

It’s not very often you hear this about a scientist visiting Brandeis — "He’s a rock star."

Anna Kazatskaya, a doctoral candidate in biology, was talking about Yoshinori Ohsumi, this year’s recipient of the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research.

Ohsumi, a cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, pioneered research into autophagy, an adaptive mechanism of cells where they rid themselves of certain parts either to rebuild strength, fight infection, or, on the downside, trigger disease.

Ohsumi’s work focuses on yeast, though it’s also broadly applicable to humans as well. His talk was entitled, "Lessons from yeast: Cellular recycling system, autophagy."

In introducing Ohsumi, James E. Haber, the director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, said there’d been roughly 23,000 scientific papers written about autophagy. "It’s possible to trace their lineage back to a single person and that person is Professor Ohsumi," Haber said.

He said Ohsumi’s research tapped into the "awesome power of yeast genetics” to identify the 18 different proteins that direct the degradation of protein aggregates as well as huge organelles such as damaged mitochondria.  Having worked out the biochemical roles of each of the core autophagy components and how they are assembled into complex “machines,”  Ohsumi and his students went on to show that this apparatus is completely conserved in mammals and even plants.  Defects in autophagy have recently been associated with many human diseases including cancer.  

Ohsumi said in his talk that when he began researching autophagy, "not very many people were interested." It was assumed the cell dumped internal components into a "garbage can" full of junk. He took an interest in autophagy, he said, "because I’m not a very competitive person so I wanted to work in a field where not a lot of people were working."

Since the Rosenstiel Award was created in 1971, 34 recipients have later won the Nobel Prize. "It’s a great honor to be here," Ohsumi said in his speech. Perhaps he will soon be saying the same in Sweden.

SPARK Competition Highlights Diverse Innovation at BrandeisPosted: April 6, 2016

The 2016 SPARK Awards program, coordinated by the Brandeis Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) and sponsored by the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center (HFIC), is proud to announce that six teams from across Brandeis University have been awarded funding. The SPARK program, established in 2015, encourages the entrepreneurial spirit across the Brandeis community and engages students, faculty and staff members in pursuit of funding for innovative projects with a focus on social, educational or financial impact.

“Innovation is a natural occurrence on our campus,” said Rebecca Menapace, associate provost for innovation and executive director of both OTL and HFIC. “It’s important to us as a center that we provide access to SPARK seed funding and similar resources in order to further encourage this culture of entrepreneurial collaboration.” After sponsoring a series of trainings and mentorship meetings, the program received 24 original applications, 11 of which ultimately presented to a panel of industry judges.

This year’s winning proposals included:

Preparing for the Unfamiliar: An app for individuals with autism to prepare for doctor’s office visits (Heller)
Team Lead: Leah Igdalsky  
A technology-based solution to help improve the experience of doctor visits for individuals with autism from team lead Research Associate Leah Igdalsky’14, this mobile app harnesses the power of social stories, which are similar to visual guides, to inform patients about what to expect and how to interact with healthcare providers. Future plans include a feature that allows customization, ensuring the app’s usefulness across various medical practices.

Biotech Elements (Brandeis IBS)
Team Lead: Tomer Goldstein  
Brandeis International Business School (IBS) student Tomer Goldstein, MBA’16 and his partner, Eran Shriker of the Biotech Elements team, recognized the looming threat of climate change and developed an alternative energy source to reduce fossil fuel dependency. Having already developed a prototype, the team will use their award to scale up their technology and assess its feasibility.

Cleanfield Capital Partners (Brandeis IBS)
Team Lead: Debarshi Nandy  
This initiative will repurpose land that has been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution for industrial or commercial purposes. The collective will reduce the liability risk of the entire portfolio via the implementation of an innovative new financial model. The resulting properties will be re-deployed into a combination of clean renewable energy, commercial and residential sites.

Mapping the human eye with Sclervey (Physics)
Team Lead: Hermann Wellenstein
Corneas can develop deformities that inhibit and eventually eliminate sight in many individuals. Hermann Wellenstein’s team will generate a prototype that can quickly map deformed corneas and digitize them to make custom lenses more easily accessible, restoring sight to those who have lost it due to these mutations.

Developing an Integrated Medical-Social-Legal Service Delivery System (Heller)
Team Lead: Rajan Sonik   
Using SPARK funding, Rajan Sonik’s team will create a system to detect the social and legal needs affecting the health of individual citizens of Vermont. It will provide coordinated services that integrate the medical, social, and legal aspects of health care to keep people informed of the rights and services available to them.

Discover Deis (Computer Science)
Team Lead: Ziyu Qiu  
Discover Deis is a mobile application to help those new to or visiting the Brandeis campus navigate it more easily. Providing turn-by-turn instructions and notable features of the campus environment, this app will provide valuable information on what goes on in each building and how to arrive at your intended destination.

To learn more about SPARK, past recipients and additional resources, visit brandeis.edu/otl/grants.  

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About the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center

The Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center’s mission is to create a hub for campus-wide collaboration on a wide range of activities including new technologies, scientific breakthroughs, patenting and licensing. It also supports commercialization of faculty discoveries and research, corporate outreach to leading-edge firms as well as new education and employment opportunities for students. This partnership between Brandeis University’s Office of Technology Licensing and Brandeis International Business School was created in 2015 through funding from Hassenfeld Family Initiatives.
Brandeis students Take Back the NightPosted: April 5, 2016
Brandeis students rallied and marched against sexual assault worldwide on Monday evening as part of an annual “Take Back the Night” event to raise awareness of the issue.
 
Take Back the Night’s mission is to eradicate sexual assault globally.
 
Hundreds of Brandeis students, faculty and staff gathered for a candlelight vigil before marching across campus together. Participants stopped at most residence halls and major campus buildings and were invited to share statistics, general thoughts and feelings and sometimes even deeply personal stories about sexual violence.
 
The march ended at Spingold Theater, though those who wanted to continue sharing found a more confidential setting inside Merrick Theater.
 
Rape Crisis Center peer advocates were on hand to offer support to participants.
 
“It’s important to have a setting in which students can share their stories, hear from their peers and be in solidarity with survivors in a way that supports a community of care,” said Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist Sheila McMahon.
 
The event was sponsored by Students Talking About Relationships, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Brandeis Students against Sexual Violence, Queer Resource Center, the Office of Prevention Services and the Rape Crisis Center.
 
“Take Back the Night was established to empower survivors to claim for themselves the spaces that had been taken from them, either literally or figuratively,” McMahon explained.
 
“By lighting up the night, they take back the spaces taken away by the experiences of harm they’ve had.”
Student Support Services program celebrates 25th anniversaryPosted: April 1, 2016
Photo/Mike Lovett
Brandeis University community members celebrated the 25th anniversary of Student Support Services (SSSP) at the annual “I am a Movement” event on March 31 in  Levin Ballroom.
 
SSSP is part of a network of outreach and student services programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education to promote access to higher education among first-generation and low-income students.
 
Nationally recognized singer/songwriter Kevin So took the stage and sang about his immigrant experience, while Interim President Lisa M. Lynch, Daniel Acheampong ’11 and Cesar Pineda ’16 each offered prepared remarks and joined in the celebration.
 
"Brandeis is distinguished among highly selective universities in having a student support services program for 25 years,” said SSSP director Jennifer Morazes. “The graduation rate for SSSP scholars — 97 percent and 100 percent during 2008 and 2009, respectively — exceeds the university average.
 
“Whether our students are activists, economists, biologists or artists; whether they’ve earned Segal, Sorensen or Fulbright Fellowships — they expand knowledge and innovate through their contributions. They are truly a movement."
Brontë Velez ’16 wins a 2016 Davis Projects for Peace GrantPosted: April 1, 2016
Bronte Velez
Bronte Velez '16. Photo/André Wagner
Brontë Velez ’16 has been awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Grant for a plan that aims to create a collection of “plantable” books filled with Ecuadorean ancestral knowledge that will sprout into trees.

Velez’s project, “SeluSemilla,” is one of 120 across the country to receive the $10,000 grant. Her project centers on creating a collection of “plantable” books conceived, written and cultivated by Ecuadorean indigenous counterparts working with Pachaysana, a community development and education group in Ecuador. The books are biodegradable in design and will sprout into trees that are endangered in Ecuador.

“As a social entrepreneurship project, we hope these books will decorate the land with a library of trees, while also revitalizing local economies,” Velez said. “We hope to encourage externalized reforestation projects to consider educating themselves about the histories of not only the land but its direct correlation to the people, while also seeding transformation through a kinetic act of re-inserting oppressed voices into the economy of language and justice.”

The Davis Projects for Peace grant program was established in 2007 on the occasion of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis’ 100th birthday. Davis was intent on advancing the cause of peace and sought to motivate tomorrow's promising leaders by challenging them to find ways to “prepare for peace.” The Davis family continues to honor her legacy by funding Projects for Peace. This year, students submitted winning proposals that address conflict resolution and reconciliation;
foster understanding; provide opportunity, and help to build community.
Brandeis hosts 2016 NCAA Fencing ChampionshipsPosted: March 22, 2016
Photo/Sportspix
Brandeis University will host the 2016 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships March 24-27.
 
In all, 144 student-athletes from 25 universities across Divisions I, II and III will represent their teams in separate events for women and men: foil, epee and saber.
 
The competition will take place at Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, which hosted the national championships in 1994, 1999 and 2004.
 
“It’s a great privilege for Brandeis to host the NCAAs and it shows that we’re well thought of in the college fencing community,” said Judges head coach Bill Shipman. “We’re glad to welcome the national fencing community to Brandeis.”
 
Fencers will compete in a round-robin competition of five-touch bouts. After the round robin, the top-four finishers in each weapon will fence in semifinal 15-touch bouts, with the winners fencing to determine first and second place, and the non-advancing fencers tying for third place.
 
An institution’s final placement in the championships is based on points earned by each individual. A team is awarded one point for each victory by its student-athletes for the duration of the championships.
 
The women’s events will take place on Thursday and Friday, while the men compete on Saturday and Sunday.
 
Admission is free for Brandeis students; others can purchase tickets at the door. Visit the Brandeis Athletics website for more information on tickets.
Mirsky’s book nominated for prestigious Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish LiteraturePosted: March 7, 2016
Brandeis professor Jehudah Mirsky is one of five finalists for the 2016 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for his book “Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution.”
 
The honor, which was established in 2006 and carries a prize of $100,000, recognizes the unique role of contemporary writers in the transmission and examination of the of the Jewish experience.
 
In order to be nominated for the award, candidates must have written a book of literary merit that stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern.
 
The prize is coordinated and administered by the Jewish Book Council and awarded by an independent panel of judges.
Mirsky is an Associate Professor for Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.
Judges Swimming and Diving teams offering swim lessonsPosted: March 1, 2016
Brandeis is offering swim lessons for children this spring.
 
Each lesson is 30 minutes long and is taught in a one-on-one setting by a member of the Brandeis University Swimming and Diving Teams.
 
Enrollment is currently for Session II, which takes place on April 1st, 8th and 15th.
 
Through the sign-up form, applicants can select which 30-minute slot works best for their family’s needs.
 
The swim lessons, which run every fall and spring, are a fundraiser for the Swimming and Diving teams and cost $65.