Of Note

Staff celebrated with annual Employee Recognition Awards Posted: Dec. 12, 2019

Brandeis staff members were recognized for service milestones and two were presented with annual staff awards during the 2019 Employee Recognition Awards ceremony at Sherman Function Hall Dec. 11.

"Without the staff, we could not accomplish any of the major goals that we see in the future at Brandeis. Be it the academic program, be it the physical infrastructure improvements we envision, be it the further development of our faculty and staff," Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz said. "You are central to all that we do and to the future success of Brandeis."

The Lou Ennis Staff Award, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates loyalty and dedication to the university and its mission by surpassing the requirements of the job, was presented to Assistant Director of Institutional Research Mitchell Allbury. He was introduced by Vice President for Planning and Institutional Research Dan Feldman, who highlighted Allbury's recent dedication to the implementation of the university's new human resources software system Workday.

"Mitchell lives by the ethical principle of treating people the way he would want to be treated. I’ve been told again and again how helpful and generous he’s been with his time, doing whatever it takes to help people through whatever issues they’ve reached out to him about, whether in his role as the expert on academic appointment data in Workday, or any of the myriad other things he’s involved with in his capacity as Assistant Director of Institutional Research," he said. "And I’ve also seen that he brings his sense of humor to the work, which can be a real help in easing the stress everyone feels from time to time."

The Louis and Helen Zirkel Staff Award is given to a member of the support staff who has demonstrated consistent effort to improve the service and the operation of their department and of the university. It was presented to Dora Valle of facilities services who was introduced by custodial supervisor Jenny Benavides.

"I have known Dora to be driven, self-motivated and a strong communicator, not only with other team members but with the community at large. She is very attentive to any and all requests received, just ask the occupants of Lown and the surrounding buildings of north academic," Benavides said. "When you come into her area you will not only be greeted with a clean building, but with a big smile from Dora."

Two staff members, senior facilities coordinator at the library Martha Barry and women's soccer coach Denise Dellamora, were individually recognized for 40 years of service. Library Preservation Officer and Special Projects Coordinator Leslie Reicher was recognized for 50 years of service at Brandeis. Reicher was introduced by Associate University Librarian for Archives and Special Collections Sarah Shoemaker.

"Leslie is the quintessential example of the engine quietly driving a department forward. In addition to her own hands-on work, wielding brushes and glue and micro spatulas and a large green guillotine with consummate skill, she has trained countless staff members and students in the handling of fragile paper, rare books, and manuscript collections," Shoemaker said. "Leslie has been a wonderful mentor to many; several conservators with successful careers in the field owe their start to Leslie’s training and support."

Staff with 10, 15, 25, 30, 35 years of service at the university were also honored during the luncheon and presented plaques by senior university administrators.

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'Shtisel' stars visit BrandeisPosted: Nov. 22, 2019
Photo/Mike Lovett

From left: Neta Riskin, Hadas Yaron and Shira Haas.

Three stars of the Israeli hit drama "Shtisel" visited the Brandeis campus Thursday.

Shira Haas, Neta Riskin and Hadas Yaron discussed their characters and showed clips of some of their favorite scenes from the show in an event hosted by the Film, Television and Interactive Media program in Wasserman Cinematheque Thursday night.

“Shtisel” breaks new ground with its humanizing depiction of an ultra-Orthodox family. The first two seasons of the show originally aired in Israel in 2013 and 2015, and gained international acclaim after being picked up for distribution on Netflix last year. Plans for a third season of the show were announced earlier this year.

The discussion at Brandeis was facilitated by Alice Kelikian, associate professor of history and chair of the Film, Television and Interactive Media program. The event was presented by the Film, Television and Interactive Media program and the Edie and Lew Wasserman Fund with support from the Office of the President.

Read more: Israeli Television Tunes Into the Zeitgeist
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'Recall this Book': Mike LeighPosted: Nov. 1, 2019
Developing a new model for mentoring in academic medicinePosted: Oct. 24, 2019
Linda PololiPhoto: Mike Lovett

Linda Pololi

A team of researchers of the National Initiative on Gender, Culture and Leadership in Medicine (C-Change) at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) has received a 5-year, $3.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to contribute to our understanding of mentoring in academic medicine. 

C-Change, which is short for culture change, aims to change the culture of academic medicine and diversify the ranks of academic medical researchers and, under the grant, will study the novel mentoring program it has developed for mid-career medical school and teaching hospital faculty.

Principal investigator Linda Pololi, distinguished research scientist and resident scholar at the WSRC and the director of C-Change, will lead the study, which builds on an ongoing evaluation by C-Change’s Mentoring and Leadership Institute begun three years ago at Brandeis.

Traditionally, mentoring programs have involved a senior staff member taking a younger one under their wing. Research has shown this approach to be problematic because older mentors are hard to find and their goals and expectations may not accord with those of their mentees. This approach can also work to the disadvantage of underrepresented minority group members and women scientists.

C-Change uses a peer group mentoring approach where a cohort of physician-scientists meet quarterly in a year-long program to develop their careers through reflective dialogue and skill development in areas necessary for professional advancement, leadership, cultural awareness and appreciation of difference and diversity. 

Pololi said “maintaining the strength and competitiveness of U.S. science depends on maintaining an optimally vital and appropriately diverse science workforce. This study represents a chapter in Brandeis’ long-standing dedication to social justice.” 

The peer group-mentoring model is especially effective, she said, because “meetings are designed to embody characteristics of the culture needed in medical schools to support relationship formation, alignment of personal core values and professional goals and meaningful careers.”

“C-Change is well positioned to contribute new knowledge that will improve mentoring and the culture of medical schools, and that seeks to close the relative lack of advancement of women and those members from groups underrepresented in biomedical research,” she added.  

Mark Brimhall-Vargas, chief diversity officer and vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said C-Change’s peer mentoring program will provide participants support in the a) development of their careers, b) improvement of their supervision skills, and c) focusing their grant acquisition efforts. 

"Because the program relies heavily on a peer-to-peer mentorship model, this program has a uniquely positive impact on women and people of color who, like anyone else, will need mid-career mentoring, but often do not have mentors who share their identities," he said.  

"This program is also important because it will also improve the retention of diverse faculty in academic medicine. As faculty develop their careers with supportive peer mentoring, we expect to see a positive impact on faculty self-efficacy and career trajectory."

C-Change was started 12 years ago and has grown to include evidence-based surveys to evaluate the experiences of faculty, medical students and residents and the culture at academic medical centers. It also advises medical schools on culture change programs to implement in their institutions.

In addition to Brandeis, there are 10 other studies funded nationally to study mentoring in a cooperative agreement with NIH.

New Vice President for Campus Operations details progress on infrastructure and maintenance projectsPosted: Oct. 18, 2019

Lois Stanley arrived on campus Oct. 15  as Brandeis University’s new Vice President of Campus Operations. She will oversee Facilities Services, Public Safety, Capital Programs, Conferences and Events, Dining Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management, Sustainability and University Services – departments affecting all students, faculty and staff.

Stanley’s arrival corresponds with the many upgrades and improvements made to campus buildings, pathways, roads, communal areas and facilities during summer 2019. 

“I’m learning a good deal in my early days at Brandeis from the leaders in each of the campus operations areas, as well as from walks around campus and meals in the dining halls,” Stanley said. “The vast majority of the recently-completed projects, overseen by Vice President for Facilities Services Bob Avalle’s team, illustrates Brandeis’ commitment to long-term sustainability, accessibility and deferred maintenance projects.”

The following projects took place during summer 2019:

Campus roads, pathways and communal areas 

Starr Plaza underwent a significant redesign and now includes accessible entrances to both the Irving Presidential Enclave and the Gryzmish Center as well as new seating areas.
 
Fellows Garden has also been redesigned. Its pathways have been repaved, while new benches have been installed along the garden’s periphery.
 
The landscape around the statue of Louis Brandeis has been tailored to make the area an even greater focal point of campus. In addition to newly-planted grass and flowers, the steps leading up to the statue have been replaced.
 
The Hassenfeld Parking Lot and Rose Art Museum loading areas have been repaved.

Athletics

The Cordish Tennis Center, built with support from John Cordish ’90 and his wife Melissa ’90 and other Brandeis alumni and friends, opened on Oct. 5. The Cordish Tennis Center features a new scoreboard and six new tennis courts.
 
The Gosman Sports and Convocation Center roof has been replaced.

Shapiro Science Complex

Brandeis initiated a multi-year and multi-phase project to replace 12 air handling units in the Gerstenzang mechanical room. The units serve five Shapiro Science Complex buildings.
 
A project to replace the Foster Bio-Medical Research Center HVAC system is also nearing completion. Crews also installed a new generator and made accessibility and fire protection upgrades. The building’s roof has also been replaced.
 
The Kosow-Wolfson-Rosensweig Building’s HVAC system has also been fully recommissioned.
 
The Volen National Center for Complex Systems had most of its heating piping replaced. Full replacement will be completed in November 2019.

Brandeis International Business School

The Sachar International Center roof has been replaced.

Additional infrastructure and maintenance improvements

The campus heating plant received new exterior exhaust ducting.
 
Steam piping and electrical cabling has been replaced near Kutz Hall, Scheffres residence hall, and the Rabb Graduate Center.
 
Transformers have been replaced in the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center and the Foster Bio-Medical Research Center.
 
All HVAC controls have been upgraded in Gryzmish, Irving and Bernstein-Marcus.
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: 

WHY SHE WROTE THIS BOOK

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.

WOMEN IN SCIENCE

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.

SCIENCE WRITING

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.

SWITCHING CAREERS

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.

GOING BACK TO SCHOOL

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.

SCIENCE EDUCATION

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.

KNOWING WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW

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.”