Press Releases in June, 2013

Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Masks and mask makers of Bangwa

Masks and mask makers, people and place:  The 19 Bangwa masks in the collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology were collected in the mid-1960s by anthropologist Robert Brain and donated to the museum in 1988 by a private collector.
A delegation of expatriates from the Kingdon of Bangwa in western Cameroon visited the Haffenreffer Museum’s collection of African masks. It was a rare opportunity for the visitors and for the museum, re-associating the artifacts with the people and society that created them. (Distributed June 29, 2013)

Elias named dean of medicine and biological sciences

Dr. Jack
 Elias:  Seventh Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences
Brown University’s seventh dean of medicine and biological sciences will be Dr. Jack Elias, a specialist in pulmonary medicine who currently serves as the chair of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. Elias will begin work at Brown Sept. 1, 2013, succeeding Dr. Edward J. Wing. (Distributed June 27, 2013)
Together: Brown, URI, RIC, City, State

A major new plan for South Street Power Station

South Street Power Station:  A $206-million project could house Brown University administrative offices and a joint RIC/URI nursing education center, with graduate student housing, retail space, restaurants, and new parking facilities.
In cooperation with the State of Rhode Island and City of Providence, Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College will negotiate long-term leases with a private developer that would transform the South Street Power Station — “Dynamo House” — into a shared nursing education center, upper-level student housing, and University administrative offices, with  restaurants, retail space, and new parking facilities. (Distributed June 27, 2013)
Drug delivery

Polymers key to oral protein-based drugs

Edith Mathiowitz:  “The distribution [of orally delivered protein-based medicines] in the body can be somehow controlled with the type of polymer that you use.”
In a new study, a “bioadhesive” coating developed at Brown University significantly improved the intestinal absorption into the bloodstream of nanoparticles that someday could carry protein drugs such as insulin. Such a step is necessary for drugs taken by mouth, rather than injected directly into the blood. (Distributed June 27, 2013)

Brown is a project site for AAU STEM effort

Hands-on learning, purple lab gloves and all:  The “Phage Hunters” course gives 
first-year students a chance to find, name, and analyze the DNA of 
undiscovered viruses. “This is how science operates,” said Prof. Peter 
Shank, with student Alex Hadick. The hope is to hook students early.
Brown University is one of eight research universities chosen as a project site for a national effort at improving undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Association  of American Universities intends to identify and disseminate proven, evidence-based teaching practices in STEM programs nationwide. (Distributed June 25, 2013)

NMR advance brings proteins into the open

A permissive captor:  A computer rendering depicts a GroEL protein hunting down an Aβ protein. Four complementary styles of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy contributed to an understanding of the protein-to-protein interaction.
A key protein interaction, common across all forms of life, had eluded scientists’ observation until a team of researchers cracked the case by combining data from four different techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. (Distributed June 24, 2013)

Computer models figure out sickle cell crisis

Accomplice:  A computer simulation shows how stickier SS2 red blood cells (in blue) initiate a blockage that rigid sickle-shaped cells cannot get past. The computer model allows researchers to control rigidity, stickness, and other cell characteristics.
A sickle cell crisis isn't just about sickle-shaped red blood cells that block capillaries. A second, stickier kind of red blood cell starts the obstruction, making it difficult for sickle cells to flow past. (Distributed June 24, 2013)

Neil Safier to lead John Carter Brown Library

“The Great Subject”:
Neil Safier, currently associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia, has been appointed director and librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. Safier will begin his new duties at the John Carter Brown Library in October 2013, succeeding Edward Widmer. (Distributed June 20, 2013)

Pistil leads pollen in life-and-death dance

A portal to cellular communications:  The back-and-forth communications within the reproductive system of flowers is “a really great system for understanding how cellular identity is established and read by another cell.”
Pollination, essential to much of life on earth, requires the explosive death of the male pollen tube in the female ovule. In new research, Brown University scientists describe the genetic and regulatory factors that compel the male’s role in the process. Finding a way to tweak that performance could expand crop cross-breeding possibilities. (Distributed June 20, 2013)

Noble gases hitch a ride on hydrous minerals

The Ring Cycle:  Amphibole’s lattice structure is made up of tetrahedral and octahedral structures linked together in a way that creates a series of rings. It’s those rings — A-sites — that could provide a home for otherwise finicky noble gases.
The six noble gases do not normally dissolve into minerals, leaving earth scientists to wonder how they are subducted back into the Earth. Researchers at Brown have discovered that the lattice structure of minerals such as amphibole provides a way. Better yet, the multiple isotopes of noble gases could help scientists track volatiles like water and carbon. (Distributed June 16, 2013)
Alpert Medical School

Primary care plan receives AMA grant

New support for community-based primary care:  A five-year, $1-million grant from the American Medical Association will help the Alpert Medical School begin a novel M.D./Sc.M. program in primary care and population health in the fall of 2015.
As the Alpert Medical School moves ahead with plans for a new dual-degree program in medicine and population health, a new five-year grant from the American Medical Association helps advance the idea. The new program is to begin in the fall of 2015. (Distributed June 14, 2013)

Brown announces new child-care benefit

Beginning in September, Brown University will provide an annual child-care benefit of up $4,000 per household for eligible faculty, non-union staff, and graduate or medical students who are parents of children age 6 and younger. (Distributed June 12, 2013)

Mystery of the mutant polyomavirus

Mysterious mutants:  Even if they are not the ones killing key brain cells, mutant JC polyomaviruses are up to some kind of no good. They are only found in the brains of people who become sick with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.
A new study shows that common mutant forms of the deadly JC polyomavirus are not responsible for the pathogen’s main attack, which causes a brain-damaging disease in immunocompromised patients called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. But that finding raises the ominous question of what the mutants might be up to instead. (Distributed June 11, 2013)

Cost-effective: HIV tests for all in India

A new study using a sophisticated statistical tool, has determined that providing universal HIV testing for India’s billion-plus population every five years would prove to be a cost-effective approach to managing the epidemic, even with more intensive testing for high-risk groups. Results appear in the journal PLoS One. (Distributed June 10, 2013)