News Highlights

Peterson's collections-based research gaining attention

Daniel Peterson's recent Evolution paper "Phylogenetic analysis reveals positive correlations between adaptations to diverse hosts in a group of pathogen-like herbivores" is discussed under "Research highlights" in the current issue of Evolutionary Applications. Peterson is an OEB PhD candidate in the Normark lab.

Li-Jun Ma named a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator

Li-Jun Ma, a University of Massachusetts Amherst biochemist and genomics expert, has received a coveted five-year, $500,000 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award to develop new treatment options for opportunistic fungal infections.  The Ma lab studies the genetic mechanisms that underlie the aggressive pathogenicity and genome evolution at the fungus-human interface in the model fungus Fusarium oxysporum.  Ma and her colleagues will combine experimental and computational approaches to investigate pathogen virulence and host defense at the same time. Because of the huge amounts of data involved, she says, this project will use the advanced computing capabilities at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke.  Read the full UMass News article here.

Hazen and Harrington receive two grants to develop crop biotechnology venture

Plant growth is in part determined by a network of genes that influence total biomass yield. By studying the regulatory mechanisms of how plants build themselves, the Hazen Laboratory has identified ways to potentially boost energy crop yield. Professor Samuel Hazen and Postdoctoral Fellow Michael J. Harrington have been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). The NSF Innovation Corp program award of $50,000 is designed to extend the basic laboratory research to entrepreneurial ventures. By participating in this program they will explore product opportunities and a business development plan. The MassCEC provided a $40,000 catalyst award to test what they have learned in their laboratory model, the small grass Brachypodium distachyon, in energy crop species.

Hazen selected as 2015 Whiting Fellow

Samuel Hazen, Biology, has received a grant from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation. The award will support sabbatical research in France next year, on using phenomics as a teaching and research tool to understand how energy crops grow.

5th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium: Nov 20

Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium poster

The 5th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium will be held Friday, November 20th in Life Science Laboratory (LSL) 610. This event, organized for grad students by grad students, will feature talks by members of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience and Behavior, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbiology, Plant Biology, and Environmental Conservation. A poster session, which includes lunch, runs from 12:00 - 2:00 in the LSL Atrium. Learn about the amazing life science research being conducted by UMass graduate students! Check HERE for more information.

How Biotechnology Innovations are Transforming Pharmaceutical Research

Special MCB Colloquium in Collaboration with the Office of Professional Development
Monday, November 30th - 12:00pm-1:15pm
1634 Lederle Graduate Research Tower (LGRT)

Alexion Pharmaceuticals is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and delivering life-transforming therapies for patients with devastating and rare diseases. Dr. Michael Perricone, Exec. Dir., Global Research Strategy & Operations, will discuss the launch of a new laboratory focused on network medicine to advance Alexion’s mission. He will share insights about the science behind the initiative and describe how other innovation initiatives are poised to disrupt traditional drug development processes and deliver more drugs to patients. Co-sponsored with the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program.

SMUTS! New Mycology Club

PB Graduate students Kathryn Vescio and Kelly Allen and their faculty sponsor Rob Wick have co-founded a new GSO club on campus focused on exploring and sharing information on the fungi growing in our area.  The new club, S.M.U.T.S. (Society of Mycology at UMass for Teachers and Students), has been joined by Sam Glaze-Corcoran, Caroline Wise, Greg DeIulio, and Elisha Allan-Perkins, as well as UMass alumni, and is welcoming new members!  If you are interested in helping to plan or joining in on mushrooms forays, fungal trivia nights, fungal inspired crafts (like spore prints), or just learning more about the fascinating world of fungi, please feel free to come to our next general body meeting on Tuesday, December 1st at 5 pm in the Paige Laboratory Conference Room, or contact Greg (gdeiulio@cns.umass.edu) to be added to our mailing list.

We have a few mycology inspired events coming up this fall that are open to everyone! On November 17th from 4:30-6, Dianna Smith of the Pioneer Valley Mycology Association will be giving a seminar on “100+ Edible Fungi and Their Poisonous Lookalikes (The Astute Amateur Mycologist Doesn't Play Russian Roulette)” in the Paige Conference room 202. On December 8th we will be giving a mini-microscopy lesson and looking at microscopic fungi in Fernald Hall. We hope to see you there!

The Role of Sleep in Product Choice

Photo of Rebecca Spencer

New research suggests sleep may counter impulse buys. Neuroscientists Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Uma Karmarkar of the Harvard Business School offer experimental results suggesting that normal nighttime sleep gave shoppers more positive feelings about their purchasing choices, but sleep failed to help them feel more confident about their decision. Further, sleep seemed to make participants reluctant to commit to spending money on an item they had considered buying the day before. Results appear in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Read more

New Protein Cleanup Factors Found to Control Bacterial Growth

Illustrated electron micrograph of model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus

Researchers in Peter Chien's lab in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report finding how an essential bacterial protease controls cell growth and division. Details appear in the journal CELL. Lead author Kamal Joshi, a doctoral candidate in the Chien lab, conducted experiments in the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. In this species, the ability to grow and replicate DNA is regulated by ClpXP, a highly conserved protease that in many bacteria allows them to cope with stressful environments such as the human body. Understanding how ClpXP is controlled could open a path to antibiotics that inhibit harmful bacteria in new ways. Read more

Gilman and colleagues investigate springy mechanics of gecko toe pad adhesion

Gecko composite

Geckos employ dry adhesion, using a combination of microscopic hairs on their toe pads, as well as other aspects of internal anatomy, to climb vertical walls and run across ceilings, a skill that has long fascinated scientists. In particular, it’s a mystery how some species as much as 100 times heavier than others can use adhesion so effectively. Casey Gilman, OEB doctoral candidate, and colleagues have found that geckos have a spring-like mechanism in their bodies to enhance adhesion as they become larger. Gilman is first author on Geckos as Springs: Mechanics Explain Across-Species Scaling of Adhesion in PLOS One. In 2012, four of the authors, including Gilman's advisor Duncan Irschick, invented the flexible adhesive Geckskin. It mimics a gecko’s ability to strongly yet easily attach and detach their feet to walk on walls and ceilings.

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