News & Announcements

Gierasch Honored with Merrifeld Award

photo of Lila Gierasch

In the latest of her many career honors, Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology, was recently recognized for her “outstanding contributions to peptide science” by the American Peptide Society (APS). She will formally receive its lifetime achievement honor, the Merrifield Award, at a ceremony at the society’s annual meeting in Monterey, California, in June. Marcey Waters, president of the APS, wrote to Gierasch,“The society is excited to recognize you for your research accomplishments, and we also appreciate your service to the society as former editor of Peptide Science.” Gierasch will present a lecture at the annual meeting and will receive a $25,000 honorarium. Read more

Goldner and Ross Among Faculty Named Chancellor Leadership Fellows for 2019

Six faculty have been awarded Chancellor’s Leadership Fellowships for 2019, according to John McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and Anna Branch, associate chancellor for equity and inclusion. Lori Goldner, professor of physics, is working with McCarthy in academic affairs. Two fellows, Melissa Wooten, associate professor of sociology and Linda Tropp, professor of social psychology, are working with associate chancellor Anna Branch in the office of equity and inclusion. Jennifer Ross, professor of physics, Angela de Oliveira, associate professor of resource economics and Karen Helfer, chair and professor of communication disorders, will work with Michelle Budig, vice provost for faculty development in the office of faculty development. Read more

Study Explores the Role of Citrus Peel in Reducing Gut Inflammation

photo of Hang Xiao

University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor Hang Xiao, Clydesdale Scholar of Food Science, has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how substances produced in the gut from citrus compounds are involved in decreasing inflammation in the colon. The ultimate goal of his research is to develop diet-based strategies to prevent and treat inflammation in the colon and associated diseases, such as irritable bowel disease and colorectal cancer. Read more

Timme-Laragy Named as One of Eight 2019 Public Engagement Project Fellows

photo of Alicia Timme-Laragy

Eight faculty members from across eight departments and five colleges have been chosen as 2019 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows by the Public Engagement Project (PEP). The faculty fellows will draw on their substantial research records to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates. Faculty fellows receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences, and will travel to Beacon Hill to share their research with lawmakers. This is the fifth cohort of Public Engagement Faculty Fellows. Read more

Discovery of Colon Cancer Pathway Could Lead to New Targeted Treatments

photo of Guodong Zhang

University of Massachusetts Amherst food science researchers have pinpointed a set of enzymes involved in tumor growth that could be targeted to prevent or treat colon cancer. “We think this is a very interesting discovery,” says Guodong Zhang, assistant professor of food science, whose study was published in the journal Cancer Research. “Our research identifies a novel therapeutic target and could help to develop novel strategies to reduce the risks of colon cancer.” Read more

Gross Receives First Normanly Award for Leadership and Innovation in Teaching

photo of Dave Gross

David Gross, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB), has been named the recipient of the department’s first Normanly Award for Leadership and Innovation in Teaching, established recently to recognize exemplary teaching and service by its faculty. He will be recognized at the department’s annual awards ceremony on May 2. 

Among the efforts he is recognized for include redesigning two courses to employ evidence-based, student-centered teaching. He was an early adopter of such new techniques as team-based learning, enhanced classroom technologies and “flipped” teaching, where instructors present much of the lecture material online and students are encouraged to view it before attending the face-to-face class. This opens the classroom session for student activities such as problem-solving, or what used to be considered homework, he explains. Read more

Chien Awarded $1.8 Million for Bacteria Research

photo of Peter Chien

Peter Chien, a biochemist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recently received a five-year, $1.8 million NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to fund research into how bacterial cells manage stress responses. Because antibiotics pose a major stress for these microbes, the work will in part address what he calls “the alarming rise in multi-drug resistant bacteria.”  

Chien, who is director of the Models to Medicine Center in the Institute of Applied Life Sciences at UMass Amherst, says that most bacteria are now resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and “the protease-based pathways we study in our lab represent new avenues to target as we look for new ways to fight drug resistance.” As director, he adds, “My goal is to move basic research into applied directions, to facilitate things like this research making an impact on a real-life problem.” Read more

Faculty Receive Seed Funding as Part of MTTC Acorn Innovation Fund

Three research projects at UMass Amherst are among 13 at colleges and universities across the state sharing $195,000 in seed funding from the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) Acorn Innovation Fund. 

The $15,000 grants were awarded to researchers from the UMass system, Boston University Medical Center, Northeastern University, Tufts University and Western New England University to assist them in testing the viability of their technologies and potentially bringing their research to market.

At UMass Amherst, Byung H. Kim, and Yubing Sun, mechanical and industrial engineering, received a grant for a project titled, “A SERS-based immunoassay for cancer biomarkers detection.”Kim and Sun have developed a novel SERS-based antigen detection system that can quantify the concentration of biomarker with ultra-high sensitivity, reproducibility, and low cost. With Acorn funding, they hope to improve the technology so that it can be used to detect cancers in their early stage to increase the survival rate of patients. The funding allows them to test their technique to detect four different type of cancers: lung, liver, ovarian and pancreatic. Read more

Sam Hazen's Contributions to Scientific Entrepreneurship Featured in UMass Magazine Story: After Eureka

Professor Sam Hazen

Scary though it may seem, Baima and other UMass scientists can be bold in their entrepreneurial efforts—the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) has their backs. IALS was launched in 2015 to help turn scientific discoveries into marketable products that improve human health and well-being.

IALS works in step with the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at the Isenberg School of Management, with the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement through its Office of Technology Transfer and the UMass Innovation Institute, and other entities to fortify the campus start-up culture. The interdisciplinary institute includes 250 faculty from 28 academic departments and manages unique resources. These include state-of-the-art equipment organized into core facilities accessible to academic labs and industry alike, interdisciplinary lab space organized into research themes that allow faculty from different departments and even from different colleges to work close together, and lab space for start-up companies. Faculty, students, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs mingle in the institute’s conference spaces. To operate IALS, the university contributed more than $60 million in capital funds and operational support. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts itself is behind IALS, having invested $95 million through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Read more

Katz, Lyzinski to Explore Neuron-Level Mechanisms of How Brains Make Decisions

photo of Paul Katz

Paul Katz, professor of biology and director of neuroscience, and Vincent Lyzinski, a network expert and assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, recently received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for a new collaboration between researchers at four universities who will explore the neuron-level mechanisms of how the brain makes decisions.

The project is part of President Obama’s 2013 Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative at NIH, which seeks to accelerate the development and application of new technologies leading to “a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.” Read more