News Highlights

UMass Amherst Biologist Elsbeth Walker Will Study Plants’ Iron Regulating System

Elsbeth Walker

A decade or so ago, scientists discovered genes they thought could be turned on to make plants take up more iron from the soil, enriching cereals, grains and other staple foods that feed millions of people around the world an iron-poor diet leading to iron deficiency anemia, says molecular biologist Elsbeth Walker at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “But it didn’t work,” she adds. “Somehow the plants downregulated our efforts, and we don’t understand how.”

Now Walker has a three-year, $870,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Physiological Mechanisms and Biomechanics program to learn how plants thwarted those past efforts and further, how plants firmly control iron in their systems. Read More

Luis Aguirre Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

photo of luis agirre

Congratulations to Luis Aguirre (Lynn Adler lab), who was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! The title of his research proposal is: "Herbivory-Induced Effects on Pollinator Foraging Behavior and Network Structure: Consequences for Plant Reproduction." This semester he was also awarded a pre-dissertation research grant ($1,000) from the Graduate School and the Natural History Collections Scholarship ($2,400). Both of these grants will be used to do preliminary work (preliminary data collection, professional training, etc.) to carry out the research outlined in the NSF GRFP proposal.

Alice Cheung, Susan E. Hankinson, and Max Page Receive 2018-2019 Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship Awards

Alice Cheung

A University of Massachusetts Amherst Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship provides faculty members with a unique opportunity to focus on their research or creative activities.  These Fellowships are managed by the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement (VCRE) and provide a one-year release from teaching and service duties in addition to a $3,500 cash award. Read More

First Annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference: Wednesday, May 2, 12:30-7:00 PM

This conference is meant to showcase the breadth of research on the UMass campus and in Western Massachusetts highlighting neuroscience research interests that span biology, cognition, computation, engineering, medicine, and public health. This exciting event features a half-day symposium with Keynote Speaker, Dr. Wolfram Schultz (Cambridge University) and UMass Alumni Speaker Dr. Graeme Davis (University of California, San Francisco). In addition, there will be talks from researchers in four different colleges at UMass Amherst, followed by a catered reception and poster session. Researchers from UMass and other institutions are invited to attend and present a poster on their work related to the neurosciences. Registration is free and open to all career stages. For more information and to register for the conference please go to: First Annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference

 

Deadline for poster registration is April 18th. 

New UMass Amherst, Stanford Research Identifies Plant Cell Wall Sensing Mechanism

Professor Alice Cheung

An international collaboration of plant researchers this week reports yet another newly discovered role for the versatile receptor kinase, FERONIA, in the model plant Arabidopsis. The researchers say it acts as a sensor in the plant cell wall to help maintain its integrity and protect the plant from environmental assaults. 

How cells sense their physical state and compensate for cell wall damage is poorly understood, say authors led by Alice Cheung at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and collaborator José Dinneny from the Carnegie Institute for Science and Stanford University. But their new analysis of plants exposed to salt stress offers the first experimental evidence and molecular mechanisms showing how FERONIA is essential for the cellular responses that ensure survival under high salinity.

Details are online now and will be in the March 5 issue of Current Biology.   Read more

That's Life [Science] grad student blog publishes their 150th post

That's Life Science 150th blog post photo

Graduate students in the UMass IDGP programs created That's Life [Science], an interdisciplinary outreach blog, in 2016. Since then, the group has published 150 articles covering interesting topics across life science fields for the general public. "A Day in the Life of a Bird Nerd" is their 150th article!

Podos and Remage-Healey publish Nature paper on swamp sparrows

A team of researchers including Jeffrey Podos, Biology, and Luke Remage-Healey, Psychological & Brain Sciences, reported in Nature the discovery in the forebrain HVC of sensorimotor “bridge” neurons in swamp sparrows that simultaneously and selectively represent two critical learning-related schemas: the bird’s own song, and the specific tutor model from which that song was copied. Read More: Nature

Soil Researchers Quantify an Important, Underappreciated Factor in Carbon Release to the Atmosphere

Marco Keiluweit

Soil plays a critical role in global carbon cycling, in part because soil organic matter stores three times more carbon than the atmosphere. Now biogeochemist Marco Keiluweit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and colleagues elsewhere for the first time provide evidence that anaerobic microsites play a much larger role in stabilizing carbon in soils than previously thought. Read More

LSGRC 7th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium, Friday, November 17!

LSGRC 7th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium

The 7th annual UMass Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium will be held on Friday, November 17. The event brings together graduate students from all areas of life sciences research at UMass to present their work in both talks (9:00am - 5:00pm, Life Sciences Laboratories Building, Room S340) and a poster session/lunch (12:30pm - 2:00 pm). This event is open to everyone who wants to learn about the fantastic life sciences work going on at UMass! The schedule for presentations is available on the LSGRC facebook page.

Crosby, Irschick Co-Direct New UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials

From left: A 3D model of a live horned frog captured with Beastcam technology; self-folded and shape-programmed hydrogels; a CAD-based model of a bat skull that can be changed to look like many different species. Images courtesy of the Duncan Irschick, Ryan Hayward and Betsy Dumont laboratories.

Polymer scientist Al Crosby and functional biologist Duncan Irschick, the inventors of the gecko-inspired adhesive, Geckskin, are co-directors of a new, system-wide UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials. It is intended to be a home for researchers from many fields who are interested in pursuing bio-inspired technologies to create new designs and products to benefit people and the environment.

Irschick explains that he and Crosby, inspired by the scientific and intellectual richness of their own collaboration and the success of Geckskin, want to see a center that will “engage people on a deep level of bio-inspiration, not as a buzz word but as a kind of intellectual playground for unstructured creativity. Such centers can be useful to foster collaborations.” Read more

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