News & Announcements

Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium

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The 6th annual UMass Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium will be held on Friday, December 2. The event brings together graduate students from all areas of life sciences research at UMass to present their work in both talks (9:00 am-5:00 pm, Life Sciences Laboratories Building, Room S340) and a poster session/reception (5:00-6:00 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 website.

Four Plant Biology students attend international ASA-CSSA-SSSA meeting in Phoenix, AZ

The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America (ASA-CSSA-SSSA) hosted over 4,000 scientists, educators, and students at the 2016 International Annual Meeting on Nov. 6-9, 2016, in Phoenix, AZ. The theme for the meeting was “Resilience Emerging from Scarcity and Abundance”, focused on optimizing agricultural and ecosystem resilience across local and global scales. The meeting featured over 3,000 technical presentations related to application of plant and soil sciences for production of food, feed, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceutical crops.

We had four PB students attend the conference, including Elisha Allan-Perkins (Jung lab), Rachael Bernstein (DaCosta lab), Samantha Glaze-Corcoran (Hashemi lab), and Caroline Wise (Hashemi lab).Elisha and Rachael participated in the graduate student competitions, and were awarded for their talks in different Crop Science divisions.

Elisha received first place in the Turfgrass and Breeding Genetics Section for her talk titled “Should the Thatch be the Target of Microbial Studies in Turfgrass?”.

Rachael received second place in the Crop Physiology and Metabolism section for her talk titled “Changes in Gene Expression in Relation to Freezing Tolerance of Perennial Ryegrass”.

PB MS student Kelly Allen receives $15K SARE award

Kelly Allen, PB MS Student

Kelly S. Allen, a PB MS student working with Dr. Rob Wick, was recently awarded a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Graduate Student Grant for $15,000 for her proposal titled “Improving Basil Downy Mildew Control with Cultural and Biological Methods”. Sweet basil is one of the most commonly-grown herbs worldwide, and crops are highly susceptible to becoming diseased with basil downy mildew, caused by the pathogen Peronospora belbahrii. This pathogen results in devastating crop losses and economic losses totaling in the tens of millions of dollars in the US. Basil growers are also spending an estimated 10 million dollars each year to manage the disease. Basil downy mildew is not effectively controlled with organic fungicide spray programs, and conventional fungicides are limited and can risk increased pathogen resistance. This research aims to improve cultural control methods for greenhouse propagation of sweet basil, and will investigate the efficacy of a filamentous yeast as biological control agent.

Bhowmik Honored at International Weed Science Congress

Dr. Prasanta Bhowmik

Stockbridge School of Agriculture professor Prasanta Bhowmik was honored with a 2016 Outstanding International Achievement Award at the International Weed Science Society 7th International Weed Science Congress in June in Prague. Bhowmik offered a presentation on the invasive giant hogweed during the congress, which was attended by more than 800 participants from 57 countries. Read more.

BMB Faculty, Dong Wang and Li-Jun Ma, Recognized for Research at International Meeting 

Dr. Dong Wang

Faculty Dong Wang and Li-Jun Ma from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology were recognized for their research at the 17th International Congress of the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions held July 17-21 in Portland, Ore. Wang received the inaugural MPMI Young Investigator Award and Ma presented a plenary talk at the meeting. Read more.

Sandra Romero-Gamboa receives scholarship to attend NSF Plant Transformation Workshop at URI

PB PhD graduate student Sandra Romero Gamboa

PB PhD graduate student Sandra Romero-Gamboa, from the Hazen Lab, will attend a Plant Transformation Workshop from July 25-29 at the University of Rhode Island Plant Biotechnology Laboratory on full scholarship.  The five-day advanced training workshop is focused on rice, maize and sorghum transformation.  Plant transformation and regeneration has enabled fundamental insights into plant biology and has revolutionized commercial agriculture but for most crops, it still remains a significant bottleneck. The scholarship will cover all workshop materials and supplies, as well as full room and board.    

Rob Wick travels to Nepal to train farmers to combat clubroot disease

Sidhuwa Nepal

Rob Wick, PB faculty member in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, was invited by USAID/Winrock to help farmers curb clubroot disease of brassica crops in Nepal. Rob was a “Trainer to train Trainers” at the Sidhuwa Multipurpose Cooperative in the district of Dhankuta located in the eastern hills of Nepal, from June 1- June 20, 2016. The farming cooperative, at around 7000 feet elevation, has about 1,200 households participating on approximately 4,000 acres of terraced hill gardens. Losses due to clubroot have been rising since the disease was first reported in 1993. Millions of dollars are lost each year to the disease. Cabbage and cauliflower are lucrative cash crops for Nepal, mostly grown for export to India. Clubroot is caused by Plasmodiophora brassicae, a devastating plant pathogen of the cabbage family.  The disease is named for the large clubby galls, some as large as a tennis ball, that form on the roots and restrict the uptake of water and nutrients. A single gall can release billions of resting spores into the soil which can survive a decade or more; thus contaminated soils cannot support brassica crops without crop rotations of 6 to 10 years. 

Harry Klein selected for summer course at Harvard's Arnold Arboretum

Harry Klein, PB PhD student

PB graduate student, Harry Klein, was accepted to and will be attending a summer course (June 13-24) at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston that covers vegetative and floral morphology. The course is co-sponsored by microMORPH (an NSF-sponsored Research Coordination Network) and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and is free for accepted participants. The course will be taught by experts from around the world as an intense, two-week lecture, laboratory, and living collections experience. Harry is a 2nd year PhD student in the Bartlett Lab

Jarrett Man receives Helmsley Scholarship for CSHL summer course

Jarrett Man, PB PhD graduate student

Jarrett Man, PB PhD graduate student from the Bartlett Lab, has been awarded a Helmsley Scholarship towards the cost of attending the 2016 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) three-week course "Frontiers & Techniques in Plant Science".  The course will run from July 1 to July 21 and provides an intensive overview of topics in plant genetics, physiology, biochemistry, development, and evolution and hands-on experiences in molecular, analytical, computational and high throughput approaches to understanding plant biology. It emphasizes recent results from model organisms including Arabidopsis, maize and tomato as well as a variety of other plants and provides an introduction to current methods used in basic and applied plant biology, both theoretically and practically.  Jarrett received additional funding from the PB Program for the course.

Jenny Olins from the Hazen Lab awarded the 2016 R.E. Torrey Scholarship

Jenny Olins, UMass Amherst Torrey scholarship receipient

Jenny Olins, a rising senior Biology major here at UMass Amherst, has been awarded this year's Ray Ethan Torrey Scholarship by the PB Program Graduate Operations Committee.  She has been working in the Hazen Lab since freshman year studying transcriptional regulation of secondary cell wall biosynthesis. She is currently studying abroad in Valparaíso, Chile.  The Torrey award will allow Jenny to work full-time on her research project this summer studying the natural variation of cell wall traits in Arabidopsis. Specifically, she’ll be investigating the effects of discrete differences in genotype (a single base pair) on global changes in phenotype of cellulose composition. Jenny was also one of five undergraduates named as a Rising Researcher here at UMass.

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