News & Announcements

Trisha Zintel PhD dissertation defense

photo of Trisha Zintel

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
9:00 AM
Life Sciences Laboratory, Room N410
Dissertation Title:  “De-coding the impact of evolved changes in gene expression and cellular phenotype on primate evolution”
Advisor:  Courtney Babbitt

Korin Albert PhD dissertation defense

photo of Korin Albert

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
1:00 PM
Morrill 4 South, Room 345A
Dissertation Title:  “Exploring signatures of host-microbial coevolution between colonic Bifidobacterium species and host dietary carbohydrates”
Advisor:  David Sela

UMass Amherst Researchers Develop New Technology to Detect Foodborne Disease

photo of Matthew Moore

University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientist Matthew Moore has received two grants from the USDA to apply new technology in an effort to more quickly detect and trace foodborne disease caused by noroviruses and bacteria.

Under the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Moore and Min Chen, a UMass Amherst associate professor of chemistry, received a $490,000 grant to develop and evaluate a portable sensing device capable of both identifying and subtyping foodborne pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. “Human noroviruses and Salmonella enterica are the leading causes of foodborne illness and foodborne death in the United States, respectively,” Moore says. “One of the major elements to control these pathogens is the ability to rapidly and portably detect them. Dr. Chen has developed an extremely promising sensing platform that has shown great results for clinical applications, and we hope to translate that progress to pathogenic microorganisms.” 

In related research funded under the USDA’s Improving Food Safety Program, Moore and University of Florida food microbiologist Melissa Jones were awarded a $250,000 grant to use a new and potentially more effective way to concentrate and identify human noroviruses from food and environmental samples. Read more

Eminent research on flu antigens took MCB Alumnus Robert Daniels back to USA

photo of Robert Daniels

Intellectual freedom and the opportunity to start his own research group once lured Robert Daniels (PhD, Hebert Lab) to Stockholm University and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. After nine years of eminent academic research, he landed a prestigious job in the US. Still, his focus is the same: to apply basic membrane protein folding principles to modernize and improve the antigens in seasonal influenza vaccines.

During his sojourn at Stockholm University, Robert Daniels became Associate Professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. He also built an international reputation as a distinguished influenza researcher. Since June 2019, Robert Daniels has been the principal investigator for a group that studies influenza viruses at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – a US government agency that regulates therapeutics including vaccines. Read more

Credits:  Photo: Niklas Björling; Text: Henrik Lundström; Page editor: Alexander Tuuling

Bioanalytical Chemist is Inventing New DNA-based Probes

photo of Mingxu You

Assistant professor Mingxu You, chemistry, recently received a five-year, $1.9 million NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to fund his research in developing new tools – DNA-based probes – to quantify intercellular mechanical forces and understand a variety of mechano-sensitive cell signaling events at the molecular level. 

The You Lab, which includes postdoctoral researcher Bin Zhao and chemistry Ph.D. students Yousef Baheri and Puspam Keshri, will collaborate with other MCB faculty, including Tom Maresca in Biology, Barbara Osborne and Lisa Minter in Veterinary and Animal Sciences, and Yubing Sun in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, to further develop these DNA-based tools to visualize, monitor and quantify such cellular forces. Read more

UMass Amherst-led Cross-disciplinary Research Examines Fertility Impacts of Male Environmental Exposure

photo of Rick Pilsner

A cross-disciplinary team of scientists, led by University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental epigeneticist Richard Pilsner, will use a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to expand research into the impact of phthalate exposure on male fertility. The three-year grant is part of the NIEHS initiative known as ViCTER (Virtual Consortium for Translational/Transdisciplinary Environmental Research). The program aims to stimulate unconventional partnerships among environmental health scientists in an effort to accelerate breakthroughs in research.

The new award’s co-investigators are reproductive biologists Pablo Visconti, a UMass Amherst professor of veterinary and animal sciences, and Sarah Kimmins, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Epigenetics, Reproduction and Development at McGill University in Montreal. Read more

Lauren Andrews receives Collaborative Research Seed Grant

photo of Lauren Andrews

The recipients of ADVANCE’s first Collaborative Research Seed Grants have been announced. The competitive grants aim to foster the development of innovative and equitable collaborative research projects among faculty. Lauren Andrews and Jessica Schiffman have received the award for their project, "Elucidating mechanoselective adhesion and antibiotic resistance for catheter-associated bacterial infections using genomics approaches.” 

The project explores the genetic underpinnings of bacterial cell adhesion to catheter coatings to inform the development of infection-resistant catheters. This interdisciplinary team combines Schiffman’s expertise in materials science with Andrews’ in synthetic biology to study how the mechano-chemical properties of catheters impact cell adhesion and in the development of CRISPR-based genomic tools for uropathogenic E.coli and a novel library of tunable biomaterials. Read more

UMass Amherst Institute of Applied Life Sciences Announces Winners of the Inaugural Manning/IALS Prize

Peter Reinhart, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS), has announced the research teams that have been named recipients of the first Manning/IALS Seed Grants. The awards will support next steps in their research such as proof-of-concept studies and business development, fundamental research into new products, technologies and services to benefit human health and wellbeing. Faculty researchers will receive seed funding of $100,000 each over three years, along with business training and mentorship from IALS, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship and the Isenberg School of Management, among others.

Earlier this year, alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program. It provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. The seed grants were awarded after a competitive process that narrowed 35 teams to six winners, including the following MCB faculty:

  • Jeanne Hardy, chemistry, “Development of Potent Zika Virus Protease Inhibitors”
  • S. “Thai” Thayumanavan, chemistry, and Steve Faraci, “Pre-Clinical efficacy evaluation of liver-targeted, thyromimetic-encapsulated IntelliGels for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)”
  • Neil St. John Forbes, chemical engineering, “Bacterial delivery of therapeutic peptides to treat advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Shelly Peyton, chemical engineering, “GelTech” to enable tissue-specific drug discovery and help eliminate potential false-positive hits from screening

Constance Angelou wins American Association of Immunologists Young Investigator Award

photo of Constance Angelou

Constance Angelou received the American Association of Immunologists' (AAI) Young Investigator Award for her poster presentation at the 2019 New England Immunology Conference in Woods Hole, MA. Constance conducts research in the Pobezinsky Lab, and her poster was titled, "Autoreactive Th17 cell differentiation is negatively regulated by let-7 microRNAs in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis."

HHMI Gilliam Fellowship to Support Doctoral Student-Faculty Mentor Pair

photo of Samar Mahmoud

Molecular and cellular biology doctoral student Samar Mahmoud was recently named a Gilliam Mentor Training Fellow by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), an award that will support her early scientific career in the lab of Peter Chien, biochemistry and molecular biology. She will receive funds for a stipend and education costs, while Chien will embark on a year of mentor training from HHMI. The goal is to improve faculty mentoring skills, support new scientific leaders and foster diversity and inclusion in science, the institute points out.

Mahmoud and Chien are one of 44 advisor student pairs awarded the coveted fellowship in 2019. Read more

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