Around Campus

Brandeis and Hampton University renew science partnershipPosted: Aug. 13, 2018
Photo: Mike Lovett

Seth Fraden

Brandeis has received a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to continue to collaborate on research into cutting-edge materials with Hampton University, a historically black institution in Virginia.

The $3.6 million, 6-year grant is part of the NSF's Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). The program partners historically black colleges and universities with 20 universities that have been designated Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC).


The PREM program seeks to improve the research capacity of minority-serving universities. It also aims to boost diversity in the sciences by increasing the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of individuals from underrepresented groups.


As part of their partnership, Brandeis and Hampton will focus on developing optical materials for applications in biomedical devices and integrated photonics, which involves using light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons) to process information.


"The United States benefits from greater innovation and a more diverse materials workforce, one that will drive cutting-edge innovations in the decades to come," Linda Sapochak, director of NSF's Division of Materials Research, said in a press release. "Now in its second decade, PREM brings innovative research teams that may lack the resources of larger institutions into fully reciprocal collaborations with some of NSF's leading materials research facilities."


The principal investigator on the grant is Hampton Professor Demetris Geddis. Brandeis Professor of Physics Seth Fraden is serving as co-principal investigator.


Fraden, the director of the Brandeis MRSEC, said, "Brandeis is grateful for this opportunity from the NSF to support our collaboration with Hampton, which began in 2013, to advance materials science research and increase the diversity of the scientists in the USA." 
Startups powered by STEAMPosted: Aug. 2, 2018

Jonathan Thon was a scientist researching platelets — tiny blood cells that help form clots — when he first tried his hand at entrepreneurship.

“I got into science to make a difference,” said Thon. “I never conceived of starting a business, but it became a vehicle to translate the work that I was doing.”

Thon is now the co-founder, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of Platelet BioGenesis, a Massachusetts-based company that makes human platelets from stem cells. Last month, the company was awarded a $3.5 million U.S. Department of Defense research grant to help develop new treatments for battlefield and civilian casualties.

On July 26, Thon gave the keynote address at Brandeis Innovation’s second-annual HackMyPhD event, a daylong introduction to entrepreneurship and startups for PhDs and postdoctoral scholars. The event was cosponsored by the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center, which is supported by Brandeis International Business School (IBS) and Brandeis University’s Office of Technology Licensing.

Thon told the more than 50 students and postdocs in attendance that entrepreneurship is for everyone — especially those working in the STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

At HackMyPhD, attendees built career action plans, engaged in team-building exercises, previewed startup demos and networked with like-minded entrepreneurs who are now leveraging their STEAM expertise.

Thon said a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology helped him achieve his business goals. That sentiment was echoed by a panel featuring Irena Ivanovska and three Brandeis graduates — Nathan Cohen, PhD (Brandeis undergrad ’77), Sena Biswas, PhD (Brandeis undergrad ’84) and Vipin Suri PhD ’08.

“The credibility that you get (with a PhD) is very powerful in the business world,” said Biswas, founder of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals.

The panelists shared advice they wish they received as students. Cohen, who is the CEO of Fractal Antenna Systems, explained that learning from failure is an important aspect of being a successful entrepreneur.

“You better be willing to fail,” he said. “It is not a failure to you, it is an experience.”

Throughout the event, attendees were able to take free professional headshots and stop by resource tables staffed by the Brandeis Science Communication Lab and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Center for Career and Professional Development. Here, students were able to seek advice on improving their resumes, LinkedIn profiles and communication skills.

The latter part of the day also featured presentations by National Science Foundation I-Corps fellows, during which audience members could vote for their favorite team. The winner was GreenLabs, comprised of David Waterman, Brenda Lemos, Shen Wang and Yi Jin. GreenLabs aims to reduce the amount of plastic discarded by science labs by collecting and recycling the plastic waste generated as raw material.

A second panel, focusing on career opportunities beyond academia, featured Anne Joseph PhD ’16, Ajoy Basu PhD, Benjy Cooper PhD ’16 (Brandeis undergrad ‘11) and Eric Furfine PhD ’87. The panelists highlighted various opportunities available to Brandeis students, such as SPROUT grants, the SPARK program, ongoing NSF I-Corps funding, consulting competitions and the 3 Day Startup Challenge.

Cooper said companies are looking for people with experience in a variety of disciplines.

“You have to either show deep knowledge or be a quick learner,” he said.

Composers Conference moves to Brandeis for its 73rd season with free concerts on campusPosted: Aug. 1, 2018
After 35 years at Wellesley College, the Composers Conference is making its new home at Brandeis University. The Conference offers a unique opportunity for emerging composers, professional musicians, amateur chamber players, and conservatory-level instrumentalists and singers. Members of the Brandeis community and the general public will be able to attend evening concerts that mix everything from Mozart and Bach to music just composed, performed by some of the finest musicians from New York and Boston.

The two-week conference will take place from July 29 to August 12, and concerts will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. For more information, including the programming and performance schedule, visit the conference website. Works by classical masters as well as premieres by current composers will be performed throughout the conference.

“This is the oldest and most respected program of its kind,” says Eric Chasalow, the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Irving Fine Professor of Music. “Several prestigious universities were considered, and I am delighted that Brandeis, with our storied history in music and in composition, was chosen to host the Conference.” Chasalow is a member of the board of trustees for the conference.

For each year’s festival, ten composer fellows are selected from a pool of highly accomplished applicants to participate in intensive seminars and public colloquia with two honored guest composers and artistic director, Mario Davidovsky. Their music will be performed publicly and professionally recorded by the Conference Ensemble. The ensemble consists of new music specialists, many of whom are members of highly regarded groups such as Talea, ICE, counter)induction, the Network for New Music, New York New Music Ensemble, the Argento Ensemble, BMOP, Talujon, the Momenta Quartet, and others. James Baker, who will direct the ensemble, is the principal percussionist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, principal conductor of the Talea Ensemble, and former conductor of the New York New Music Ensemble.

Davidovsky, a Pulitzer Prize winner, regards Brandeis as “one of the most important centers for music in the United States.” He remembers the University’s founding being major news among the Jewish community in Argentina because his mother was so excited when she read about it in the newspaper. After moving to United States in 1958 to study under Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, Davidovsky “became aware of Brandeis’ outstanding faculty–which at that time included luminaries like Arthur Berger and Seymour Schifrin.” He received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award in 1966.

Another conference program is the Chamber Music Workshop, which allows amateur chamber musicians to be coached by world-class professionals. These adult students rehearse and perform throughout the conference. In addition, the Contemporary Performance Institute will bring a group of conservatory-level students to study, rehearse, and perform repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries. Fred Sherry, a faculty member at The Juilliard School and former artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, will direct.
In memoriam: Alice Brandeis PopkinPosted: July 25, 2018
Alice Brandeis Popkin

Alice Brandeis Popkin

Alice Brandeis Popkin, the only granddaughter of late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, was a good friend to the university that carries his name. Together with her brothers Frank and the late Louis Gilbert, she was instrumental in providing a number of the justice’s personal belongings to the university, including two Supreme Court robes and the desk on which he wrote his famous “Brandeis Brief,” the first Supreme Court brief to heavily incorporate scientific information and social science. These items are on permanent display in the library.

Mrs. Popkin had been a Brandeis University Fellow since 1960 and was a life member of the Brandeis National Committee. She was also a supporter of the Susan Brandeis Gilbert Scholarship in memory of her mother.

Her family will hold a Celebration of Alice's Life on August 18th at 4 p.m. at the Eldredge Public Library to which the Brandeis community is invited.

Mrs. Popkin’s obituary was published in the Boston Globe on July 25:

Lifelong Commitment to Public Service

Alice Brandeis Popkin of Washington, DC and Chatham, MA passed away on July 18, 2018 at Liberty Commons in Chatham. She was born on May 14, 1928 in New York City and was raised there and in Chatham by her parents, Jacob H. and Susan Brandeis Gilbert. She is lovingly remembered as a remarkable and caring woman who provided inspiration to those who knew her. 

Alice was the only granddaughter of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and followed his footsteps into the law, graduating from Radcliffe College and the Yale Law School. She and her husband of 48 years, Jordan Popkin, were married in 1963 and moved to Morocco for three years. They returned to Washington, DC in 1966, where she raised her three daughters as she worked. Alice dedicated most of her career to public service law until 1987 when she returned to Chatham, MA, her family's summer home, and established a family law practice. 

Alice's lifelong commitment to public service began during her time at Yale Law School where she was an active member of the National Student's Association with fellow young Democrats, Sargeant Shriver, Allard Lowenstein, and Terry Sanford. After practicing law in New York City and Washington, DC, she joined the Kennedy Administration as one of the first administrators of the newly formed Peace Corps, traveling to India and other countries to establish Peace Corps offices and programs. When she and Jordan returned to Washington from Morocco, she worked for the Georgetown Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure and then was the Special Counsel to the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency chaired by Senator Birch Bayh. In 1976, she became the Associate Administrator for International Affairs for the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1987, she became the first family member since Justice Brandeis to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and she was of counsel at Toabe & Riley until she retired in 2010. 

Alice was an avid reader and sailor throughout her life, two passions that she shared with her daughters and grandchildren. She particularly enjoyed mysteries, often skimming at least one a night, and could be seen accompanying her grandchildren to the Eldredge Public Library when they were in Chatham. She grew up sailing at the Stage Harbor Yacht Club and raced with her cousin, Walter Raushenbush. As a young mother, she took her family sailing in Stage Harbor in her parents' cat boat, the White Seal, and 40 years later loved watching her granddaughter sail from the yacht club's benches. 

Alice was also engaged politically both nationally and locally, holding fundraisers and campaigning for dozens of Democratic candidates. A high point was a 1984 fundraiser for women at her DC home in support of Geraldine Ferraro, Mondale's running mate, where attendees spilled out onto the front lawn and mini blueberry muffins, the candidate's favorite, were served. She was devoted to her family and often said that her greatest accomplishment were her three daughters despite a busy professional life.

When Alice became a full time resident of Chatham, having come for summers for close to 60 years at that point, she and Jordan became immediately engaged in all aspects of the town's civic and cultural life. She was also a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, of the legal profession as a member of the New York, DC and the Supreme Court Bars, and of education serving as a Trustee of Radcliffe College. She and her daughter, Anne, formed a scholarship at Harvard in math and science and a research fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute in support of environmental policy. 

Like they had done on a national level, she and Jordan worked tirelessly for what they believed were the needs of others and the community they shared. She served on the Community Preservation Committee; was a Trustee of the Eldredge Public Library (President 2005-2010) and served on the Harbor Management Committee. They were also fixtures on the "arts" circuit playing an instrumental role in Friends of the Monomoy Theater. They rarely missed a show. In addition, Alice liked seeing Jordan act in several shows. They were also members of the First Night Committee and avid supporters of the Cape Cod Opera.

While life in Chatham was full, Alice always looked forward to holiday and family celebrations and summers when her family visited. These times were marked by special meals ending with ice cream, local baseball games, and time on the water. Morning activities were a continuation of their life in DC with coffee, the New York Times and political discussions. In her later years, she was a passionate Red Sox and Patriots fan, enjoying games with her son-in-law and grandchildren. In her last years, her daughter Louisa sought to ensure many of those activities remained a part of her life. 

She is survived by her three daughters, Susan Cahn, Anne Popkin and Louisa Popkin, her son-in-law, Leon Cahn, and her grandchildren, Allison and Ascher Cahn, her brother, Frank Gilbert, and his wife, Ann Gilbert, and the Raushenbush cousins. She was predeceased by her brother, Louis Gilbert. 

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: The Eldredge Public Library (In Memory of Alice B. Popkin), 564 Main Street, Chatham, MA 02633. The family will hold a Celebration of Alice's Life on August 18th at 4 p.m. at the Eldredge Public Library. Notes of comfort may be made to her family at MorrisOConnorBlute.com
Brandeis: A year in the newsPosted: June 29, 2018
Looking ahead: A Q&A with WSRC Director Karen HansenPosted: June 21, 2018
Karen HansenPhoto/Mike Lovett

Karen Hansen

In July 2017, Professor of Sociology Karen Hansen became just the second person to serve as the director of the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis since it was established in 2001.

Featuring the Scholars Program, the Student-Scholar Partnership Program, and the Arts Program, among other initiatives, the center brings together scholars, students, and faculty who study gender issues and women’s lives. Hansen took some time to talk with BrandeisNow about what she's done in her first year, what she hopes to do in the future, and what she wants people to know about the WSRC.

What has been your primary goal since becoming director of the WSRC?

One of goals in accepting this position was to bring the faculty into the center and bring the center more squarely into campus. There is kind of a structural separation that some centers and institutes on campus are able to cross, but it can be challenging. One of the first things I did was set up a "kitchen cabinet" to advise me on strategic matters related to the university and the Center. It includes representatives from the faculty, the scholars program, and the National Advisory Board. They've met every other month this academic year. The Kitchen Cabinet has focused on how we can build more bridges between the Center and the university and find common intellectual projects. I see the project of integrating the Center with the university as a major priority.

What will that integration ultimately look like?

I think the Student-Scholarship Partnership is a good example of something we would like to build upon. It's a longstanding program that partners undergraduates with scholars and faculty. Through the center, and funding from generous donors, we pay undergraduates for up to 50 hours of research in a semester in partnership with a research scholar. This partnership puts Brandeis students out there in the world, getting their hands dirty doing research, and being enterprising. Through the research, they are building a special mentoring relationship. I have opened the program to faculty as well as WSRC scholars. In the future we would like to expand the SSP to include graduate students as well.

As far as something new, the provost has just awarded us seed money to organize a common intellectual project. This next year, we will be running an interdisciplinary workshop to explore the phenomenon I call cascading – multiple, linked downward mobilities – and its intersectional consequences.  As a process of falling from a particular status, cascading triggers additional declines shaped profoundly by gender and race-ethnicity. Downward mobility is not something experienced by just middle-class white men. Ideally, the workshop will bring people with common interests together to discuss the issues with national leaders in this research.

Has the recent heightened awareness around issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination placed a greater emphasis on the need for the type of research coming out of the WSRC?

Without question. The erupting evidence of workplace sexual harassment reveals how extensive it is and the importance of studying gender and racial-ethnic inequality in all its forms, but particularly how men exercise power and the multiple negative consequences for women's employment and well-being. Not only do we have to study power, working conditions, and the repercussions of various kinds of harassment and violence directed against women, but we have to insist on changing destructive and exclusionary practices. 

What is the one thing you want people on campus to know about the center?

The center is here to further the mission of the university and the faculty, to engage in discovery and research and to educate the next generation of scholars. The doors are open.


Two Brandeis professors win Mass Cultural Council FellowshipsPosted: June 13, 2018
Caitlin Rubin (assistant curator at the Rose), Sarah Lubin PB'08, Susan Lichtman, Tory Fair.Photo/courtesy, Susan Lichtman

Caitlin Rubin, assistant curator at the Rose; Sarah Lubin; Susan Lichtman; and Tory Fair at the State House for the Mass Cultural Council award.

Brandeis professors Tory Fair and Susan Lichtman have each been named recipients of Mass Cultural Council 2018 Artist Fellowships.

The annual fellowships are awarded by anonymous judges in six categories: choreography, fiction/creative nonfiction, painting, drawing and printmaking, poetry and traditional arts.

Fair, associate professor of sculpture, was awarded a fellowship in the drawing and printmaking category. Lichtman, Charles Bloom Chair in the Arts of Design, was awarded a fellowship in the painting category.

Winners were selected based on the creative ability and artistic quality of the submitted work. Applications were open to all eligible Massachusetts artists. In all, 19 artists received fellowships and 17 were named finalists out of a pool of over 900 applicants. Fellowship winners were awarded $12,000 each, and finalists were awarded $1,000. Along with Fair and Lichtman, Sarah Lubin, who received a post-baccalaureate certificate in studio art in 2008, was named a finalist in the painting category.

The Mass Cultural Council website features an online showcase of winners and finalists, including works from Fair and Lichtman.

New York Review of Books recognizes published work by Brandeis University PressPosted: June 12, 2018

The New York Review of Books highlighted a quartet of literary works about famed Zionist Gershom Scholem in its June 2018 edition.

Among the works featured is “Gershom Scholem: From Berlin to Jerusalem” by Noam Zadoff, translated by Jeffrey Green and published by Brandeis University Press.

Zadoff’s book offers a close look at Scholem’s family life with a particular emphasis on his identity as a German immigrant.

Scholem, a philosopher and historian, is credited by many as the father of Kabbalah, a type of Jewish mysticism.

Citing Zadoff’s research, Adam Kirsch of the New York Review of Books explains that Scholem was “A man who spent his whole life in the study of Judaism yet never practiced it, while still claiming to believe in God; who dedicated his life to Zionism yet was disappointed in what Zionism created; who wrote about obscure texts and ideas yet made them feel dramatic and urgently relevant.”

Kirsch’s complete review is available at the New York Review of Books.

Brandeis set to 'Turn it Off' this summerPosted: June 1, 2018

This summer, Brandeis will again encourage community members to “Turn It Off” – its annual, university-wide campaign designed to reduce campus energy use during heat waves when electricity demand rises to its highest levels.

Reducing electricity use during peak times results in environmental gains as well as financial savings. In New England, electricity demand during very hot days necessitates the operation of older, oil- and coal-fired power plants, leading to an increase in air pollution and some of the most carbon-intense ​​days for the electric grid.

Through previous Turn It Off initiatives, Brandeis has seen as much as a 20-percent decrease in its peak day electricity demands.

The community’s combined efforts demonstrate that individual conservation actions do add up to meaningful results​​. ​​Because the university’s year-round electricity rates are partially based on our demand during the summer’s hottest days, our success in this year’s Turn It Off Program may result in significant savings in Brandeis’ electric bills in the future.

To​ continue the success​ of Turn It Off, Brandeis needs help from every community member.

  • On the days that are predicted to be the summer’s hottest, community members will be alerted via email to “Turn It Off” by:
  • Turning off unnecessary lights in offices, classrooms, laboratories and hallways — this simple action will have the most impact.
  • Shutting windows and exterior doors.
  • Pulling down shades and closing blinds.
  • Shutting off unnecessary computers, printers and other energy-consuming equipment.
  • Refraining from charging portable devices.
  • Unplugging everything you can from wall outlets, even if the device is shut off.
  • Being tolerant of higher temperatures across the entire campus as we raise building temperatures a bit between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. (The temperature inside particularly temperature-sensitive areas will not be raised).

Anyone with questions about "Turn It Off" should contact sustainability manager Mary Fischer.