Of Note

Meet the Author: Charlotte Nassim discusses her new book with scientist Eve MarderPosted: Oct. 10, 2019

Eve Marder Excerpt from Institutional Advancement on Vimeo.

On September 24, 2019, neuroscientist Eve Marder and author Charlotte Nassim discussed Nassim's book, "Lessons from the Lobster: Eve Marder's Work in Neuroscience" (MIT Press).

Marder is the University Professor and Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience.

Nassim is a London-based independent scholar and writer.

Below is a transcript of the video: 


NASSIM: I wanted to write science in a long narrative form. I had been thinking about science writing for some time and in particular thinking about science writing for non-specialists audience, and a quotation I used yesterday to different events which all still strikes me is Carl Sagan saying, "We live in a world in which science and technology is hugely important and most of the human race knows nothing about science and technology, and this is, therefore, a dangerous state of affairs.

Well, you can't counter that with one book, but you can try to write books that are of a broader interest than pure science, and yet are real science, unlike some of the science writing that you may see in the daily papers which is popular, popular science where the science has been massaged out to a point where it is often simply wrong and people go away with the wrong idea. One example that I hear comes up in ordinary conversation or on the radio or on television is the primacy of the vole in affection.

Everybody out there knows about voles and how they are a metaphor for bonding an affection and if you fall on the right person, they know that there are two sorts of voles and some of them do and some of them don't, but it's become a meme and it doesn't actually add anything to general science knowledge. I think that it illustrates a difficulty in writing about science for non-specialists, which is how far do you go to make it accessible. I hadn't fully realized that when I started this book. I knew I didn't want it to be entry-level science. I knew I didn't want it to be fully academic and it was actually as the book grew that it found its own level curiously, or I found its level or we found its level.


NASSIM: I remember a conversation where I think I challenged you about what was the positive thing that one could do for women who were already in science and you said money.

You said, "Women should be given discretional funds because money is power and if you can fund certain things in your departments, you have that power." I think you also said that, "Whenever there were committees set up that might have discretional funds, you always ended up with, excuse me, a panel of men," I'm sorry about that to the men in the audience, but you intended to find that the men had proposed themselves and Eve's point was that women have got to be at the source of money. I think I'm not...

MARDER: No, but actually this to be fair, this was less true in my world at Brandeis and it was true of my female friends with other institutions. We were not as excluded from money and power at Brandeis as all of my colleagues who started at about the same time and other institutions who would tell terrible stories and who still tell terrible stories, and you guys all know those stories well, departments that were very nice and pleasant to people until they became full professors and started asking for shares of the financial resources.


NASSIM: Science writing, you can divide it into several different areas. One area where I haven't gone at all is what I would call science journalism, which is short articles and it's usually about some piece of new science or something that the general public might be interested in. I've never done that. It's quite interesting. You've got to be really flexible and change subjects from Monday tea time. You've got to have something about musculoskeletal problems by Wednesday and then it's a bit of neuroscience for Thursday, and the good people do it really well. I'm much more interested in long-form science, long-form science books and books that actually tell a story.


NASSIM: I reinvented myself because the first 25 years of my adult professional life following training in architecture school and intermediate technology and energy and so on were very interesting, fruitful undoubtedly, but involves an enormous amount of traveling, and I specialized very early on in architecture and acoustics and therefore in buildings for the performing arts. These are mostly big public buildings and they don't come to you, you have to go to them. I did a horrendous amount of traveling and at a certain point, I just didn't want to do it anymore, and I was offered a very big project and it would have meant going to Japan eight times a year for 10 years, and I thought I really do not want to commit to it.

I just don't want to do it. My husband doesn't want me to do it. I've done big projects, I don't need to do that one and then I thought, "Well, what am I going to do next? I'm not going to sit and twiddle my thumbs," and I thought it's got to be something that will interest me for the rest of my life and neuroscience was very high up on that list, was up there with astrophysics and just seemed to be a little bit more attainable. I went back to school and I did a biology and neuroscience degree and a master's, and then I got myself into a lab working for a PhD, which in the end, I didn't finish.


MARDER: Well, my mother did that. She had left school after her freshman year. Yeah, she was 18 and she always regretted not having finished and we kept on saying, "You should go back to college, go back to college," and she said, "Oh no, I'm too old, I'm too old." She was 61 when she went back to school and she faced the same thing, all of a sudden being in the classroom with a lot of much younger people and she got all As, but it cost me a lot.

NASSIM: Yeah. It was a very good experience apart from a couple of moments in the exam halls. It was a very good experience and it really made me quite much more sensitive to the problems young people have as students because I could see why I didn't have them and I could see them actually fussing about things that didn't matter because they hadn't yet learned that it didn't matter, and I would sit there saying, "You'll be all right. You know it, you'll be fine," but they were chewing their fingernails 'till the last moment and a lot of the problems that you have when you're young get in the way of your studies. If you do studies later, you can manage that, you don't have those problems.


NASSIM: I have found that children of course if you're enthusiastic, mostly they're enthusiastic because small children learn enormously with their emotions. If you say, "Ah, look at this grasshopper," that's what they're going to look at and do you know what it does, do you know how it does it and that sort of thing. I've always got a microscope at home and every child who comes looks at things in the microscope and we've got 8-year-olds playing a couple of summers ago and one of them comes rushing in. He says, "Quick, come quickly Mike. He's fallen. His knee's bleeding." I start going out and he says, "But bring a slide. We need to look at his blood." You can get kids going quite easily.

If you start too late in school and unfortunately, a lot of school programs you get into serious science at 14 or 15. By that time, people have got some pretty entrenched ideas about what they're interested in or not interested in.


NASSIM: People are extremely bad at estimating how little they know about something. If there is a subject like invertebrate neuroscience and I know that Eve knows if I asked her a question, her answer will either be what she knows or she'll say, "Oh I don't know that or somebody else is working on it or that would be a good field of research." She knows what she knows and she knows what she doesn't know. The problem with people who half know a bit about something is that they really don't know what they don't know, and this is what happens when you have to vote on anything that has to do with science. This is half the problem with climate science.


Scientists who imaged a black hole receive the Breakthrough PrizePosted: Oct. 1, 2019

The consortium of scientists who captured an image of a supermassive black hole for the first time in history have received the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, one of science’s most prestigious awards. The prize brings with it a $3 million award.

Professor of astrophysics John Wardle, an expert on radio astronomy, serves on four of the  23 working groups that are part of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, which was awarded the prize. The consortium of scientists at 60 institutions operating in 20 countries and regions used eight radio telescopes positioned around the world to create a synchronized, earth-sized telescope to capture the image, which was released in April.

Wardle helps analyze the polarization of the M87 black hole’s radio emissions, which will enable the researchers to study the black hole’s surrounding magnetic fields. He also serves on the publication working group which shepherded papers through the writing, reviewing and publication process.

In its citation, the Breakthrough Prize committee explained:

“Using eight sensitive radio telescopes strategically positioned around the world in Antarctica, Chile, Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona and Spain, a global collaboration of scientists at 60 institutions operating in 20 countries and regions captured an image of a black hole for the first time. By synchronizing each telescope using a network of atomic clocks, the team created a virtual telescope as large as the Earth, with a resolving power never before achieved from the surface of our planet. One of their first targets was the supermassive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy – its mass equivalent to 6.5 billion suns. After painstakingly analyzing the data with novel algorithms and techniques, the team produced an image of this galactic monster, silhouetted against hot gas swirling around the black hole, that matched expectations from Einstein's theory of gravity: a bright ring marking the point where light orbits the black hole, surrounding a dark region where light cannot escape the black hole's gravitational pull.”

When the image was released, Wardle said scientists felt some satisfaction in proving Einstein’s gravitational theory, explaining that it “makes you feel that you really do understand some small part of our universe.”


Professor Emerita Susan Lanser wins the Wayne C. Booth Lifetime Achievement AwardPosted: Sept. 20, 2019

Brandeis Professor Emerita Susan Lanser has won the International Society for the Study of Narrative’s 2020 Wayne C. Booth Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognizes “outstanding scholar-teachers who have made sustained contributions to narrative studies over the course of their careers.” In its Sept. 20 award announcement, the International Society for the Study of Narrative praised Lanser for her contributions as an “eighteenth century scholar and pioneering feminist narrative theorist.”

Lanser is the author of “The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction” and “Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voices,” which are both considered important classics in narratology, the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception.

Along with her work in feminist studies narratology, Lanser has published widely in eighteenth-century European studies. Her newest monograph “The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic 1565-1830won the Joan Kelly Award in Women’s History and Theory from the American Historical Association, received honorable mention for the Louis Gottschalk Prize in Eighteenth-Century Studies, and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

Lanser has also co-edited three books: “Women Critics 1660-1820: An Anthology,” Helen Maria Williams’s 1790 “Letters Written in France,” and “Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions.” Her articles on eighteenth-century, feminist, and narratological topics have appeared in such journals as PMLA, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Feminist Studies, and Narrative.

She served as president of both the International Society for the Study of Narrative in 2015 and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in 2017-2018.

Professor Joe Wardwell recognized with BU alumni awardPosted: Sept. 20, 2019

Associate Professor of Fine Arts Joe Wardwell has been recognized with a distinguished alumni award by Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.

Wardwell was one of three people presented with an award in an event on the Boston University campus Sept. 19, along with Brooke Karzen and Morris Robinson. Wardwell received a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Boston University's College of Fine Arts in 1999. 

Wardwell’s work has appeared in numerous museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. His large scale installation, "Hello America: 40 Hits from the 50 States" will be on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art until 2022. He is also the founder of the Brandeis-in-Siena study abroad program, which combines studio art and art history studies in an intensive summer program in Siena, Italy.




Medical residents report widespread sexual harassment Posted: Sept. 17, 2019
Sexual harassment in academic medicine is widespread and prevalent with female residents in surgery and internal medicine reporting the highest rates and those in pediatrics reporting the lowest, a new study finds.

In research published online earlier this year in The American Journal of Medicine, physician and medical researcher Linda Pololi and several colleagues reported the results of a survey of roughly 1,700 residents at 14 academic medical centers across the country. About half the respondents were women.

Pololi, the paper’s first author, is a distinguished research scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center.

Among the paper’s findings:

  • Nearly 12 percent of women doing their residency in general surgery reported being harassed by colleagues or superiors in their previous two years of training. In internal medicine, it was 7 percent and in pediatrics, 2 percent.

  • Residents who identified as LGBTQ reported the highest levels of sexual harassment.

  • Women who reported that they had been sexually harassed by other doctors said they were less energized by work and had higher levels of ethical or moral distress.

“It is chilling to realize the widespread extent of this unprofessional behavior among physicians in medical training programs,” Pololi and her colleagues wrote in the paper. “In our institutions of healing, learning and discovery, gender bias and harassment must be eliminated.”

The other authors of the study are: Robert T. Brennan of Brandeis and Boston College; Janet T. Civian at Brandeis; Sandra Shea at the CIR Policy and Education Initiative in New York; Emma Brennan-Wydra at the Yale School of Medicine; and Arthur T. Evans at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Lois A. Stanley named vice president for campus operationsPosted: Aug. 27, 2019

Lois A. Stanley, a campus operations professional with significant experience at Tufts and Harvard, will be joining Brandeis as vice president for campus operations as of October 15, 2019.

Stanley’s portfolio at Brandeis will include Facilities Services, Public Safety, Capital Programs, Events Management, Dining Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management, Sustainability and University Services – departments that touch all of our students, faculty and staff. Together with staff in those areas, Stanley will help Brandeis enhance the safety, functionality, environmental sustainability and accessibility of our campus for students, employees and visitors.

In her current role as director of campus and capital renewal planning at Tufts, Stanley was instrumental in the development of Tufts’ first comprehensive five-year capital planning process. Working closely with the academic community, Stanley oversaw strategic planning and implementation for Tufts’ deferred maintenance program, and led the early planning and programing for all cross-school capital projects in recent years, totaling 450,000 square feet for social sciences, the life sciences and engineering, Tisch College, visual and media arts, the Gordon Institute, and data-intensive studies. At Harvard, Stanley was responsible for budget, schedule and sustainability improvements on a significant and varied portfolio of capital projects. She earned a bachelor of science in business management at Virginia Tech, a master of city planning degree from Georgia Tech, and a PhD in urban studies and planning from MIT.

Hannah Peters named vice president of development at Brandeis UniversityPosted: Aug. 27, 2019
Hannah PetersPhoto/Justin Knight

Hannah Peters

Brandeis University has named fundraising leader Hannah Peters its vice president of development. Currently the associate dean for development and external relations at the Harvard Divinity School, Peters will join Brandeis on September 4.

Peters will oversee fundraising activities in the institutional advancement division at Brandeis and implement strategies to ensure achievement of fundraising goals across the university.

“Hannah Peters will bring deep knowledge and a versatile skill set that draws on decades of proven success in fundraising leadership,” said Zamira Korff, senior vice president of institutional advancement. “She will add tremendous value and insight to help drive our future growth.”

Peters will join Brandeis after concluding a 20-year tenure at Harvard University. She joined Harvard in 1999 as Harvard Business School’s director of corporate relations. She was promoted to associate dean for external relations at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. While there, she reinvigorated the school’s external relations program and prepared the groundwork for an upcoming campaign. Chief among her responsibilities at Harvard Divinity School was leading its first major comprehensive fundraising campaign in over a decade.

Before joining Harvard, Peters served as director of corporate relations at the Stanford University School of Engineering and director of corporate and foundation relations at Tufts Medical Center. Additional nonprofit work included positions at the Asia Society and the Executive Council on Foreign Diplomats, both in New York. She earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in international affairs and journalism from Columbia University.

“I am thrilled to join Brandeis at such a pivotal time in its history,” Peters said. “I look forward to advancing the university’s mission and to engaging with the community as we embark on its next chapter.”

Dan Kim named SVP of communications, marketing and external relations at BrandeisPosted: Aug. 9, 2019

After a national search, Brandeis University has named experienced communications executive Dan Kim to the role of senior vice president for communications, marketing and external relations. Currently vice president for communications at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, Kim will join Brandeis on September 1.

Kim will lead the central communications, marketing, and external relations team and the continued development of an integrated university-wide marketing communications strategy as its new branding platform is implemented. He succeeds Bill Walker, who has held the position on an interim basis since January.

“Dan Kim will bring a deep history of innovation and excellence in communications and marketing to our senior leadership team and to Brandeis,” said President Ron Liebowitz. “I am confident that, under his leadership, our communications team will be able to enhance our communications strategy and execution, and to elevate our institution’s profile across the country and the world. I am delighted to welcome him to our campus.”

In his work at Holy Cross, Kim managed strategic marketing, issues management, and government and community relations. He developed marketing campaigns, and collaborated closely with the college’s academic leadership on strategy, with the Office of Advancement on fundraising campaigns, and with the Office of Admissions on marketing planning.

Prior to joining Holy Cross, he served as executive director of communications and marketing at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, where he directed branding strategy and marketing planning and implementation. Earlier he held the position of director of news and information at West Virginia University, leading integrated marketing programs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and a J.D. degree, both at the University of Michigan.

"I think this is an important moment in the university's history, and I am very pleased to be joining the leadership team. I look forward to bringing my perspective and experience to help share the story of the university and to being part of the Brandeis community." 

The search committee included Bill O’Reilly, chief of staff of the president; Harleen Singh, associate professor of south Asian literature and women’s studies; Stew Uretsky, executive vice president for finance and administration; Jen Walker, dean of admissions; and Bill Walker, interim senior vice president for communications, marketing and external relations.

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Collaboration and engagement abound at Summer Social Sciences LabPosted: Aug. 7, 2019
Attendees watch Wendy Cadge speak at Summer Lab eventPhoto/Mike Lovett

Professor Wendy Cadge presents during a Summer Social Sciences Lab session.

Throughout the summer, Brandeis students and faculty working on social sciences research have been coming together to learn about each other's work and make connections.

The Summer Social Sciences Lab sessions have each featured a faculty presenter and an audience of undergraduate students, faculty and anyone else who wants to join.

"We've been able to bring together an excellent group," said Wendy Cadge, professor of sociology and senior associate dean for strategic initiatives in the School of Arts and Sciences. "The engagement and collaboration is a benefit to everyone."

The eight lunchtime sessions - held weekly in June and July - included presentations from faculty members George Hall, Sara Shostak, Hannah Snyder, Angela Gutchess, Jytte Klausen, Lucy Goodhart, Cadge, and students, and featured plenty of time for questions and conversations amongst those in attendance.

"It all molds together," said Andrea Bolduc '21. "One of the things I like about social science is that you have to be willing to understand and take from other disciplines. It's important that we collaborate. Maybe what someone else is studying could help with your own research."

For many of the students in attendance, sticking around campus over the summer has allowed them to continue the research they have been collaborating on with faculty throughout the academic year. Along with external funding sources for undergraduate research, Brandeis offers undergraduate research grants to pay for their work.

Throughout the most recent academic year and into the summer, Bolduc started working with politics lecturer Lucy Goodhart on research focused on political polarization and television advertising in the United States. She reviews data sets from 1973 to 2003 county-by-county and examines advertising costs within media markets. Bolduc is majoring in politics, but she’s learning key skills in performing data-driven research, such as how to use technical mapping tools and coding.

The labs give students a chance to get together and to gain some perspective, Bolduc said.

"We are all in a pretty similar boat, but without this, we probably wouldn't see each other very often," Bolduc said. "The camaraderie is great."

This was the second year of the summer lab sessions, and Cadge says there are plans to continue the program in the future and possibly expand it to include collaboration with research in the hard sciences.

“We are currently in the process of hiring a director of undergraduate - faculty research, who will help us expand these efforts to the humanities and creative arts as well,” Cadge said.