News Highlights

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

Bekki Spencer Receives $2.64 Million from NIH for Preschooler Sleep Study

photo of rebecca spencer

Neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently received a five-year, $2.64 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore, in a series of laboratory and preschool-based studies, whether mid-day napping benefits learning in young children and helps them cope with emotions. Improving early education can enhance child development and school readiness, factors that are known to have lifelong effects on physical and mental health, she notes. Read more...

Agnes Lacreuse wins $443,755 award from NIH

photo of Agnes Lacreuse

Agnes Lacreuse, Associate Professor in the Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate Program, recently received an R21 award from the National Institutes of Health to develop a primate model for menopausal symptoms. The title of the award is "Sleep, hot flashes and cognition: a non-human primate model for menopausal symptoms." The award is for $443,755 covering the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

“Sunflowers as treatment and preventative for bumble and honey bee pathogens.”

George LoCascio

UMass Amherst Biology Professor Lynn Adler received a $1 million grant from the USDA’s Pollinator Health Program to study the role sunflower pollen may play in improving and preserving bee health. Professor Adler is an expert in pollination and plant-insect interactions. Read more

OEB Science Café Videos

 

OEB Science Cafe continues to go strong, as OEB's signature outreach activity.  Amherst Media has filmed and edited some of our recent café events; the links are posted here:  https://oebsciencecafe.org/previous-cafes/.   So check ‘em out, in case you missed them the first time or just want to relive the magic!

Between the folds with the small and mighty: Ligands guiding the folding of proteins in surprising ways

MCB students in the Gierasch and Garman labs at UMass, Amherst, have advanced the understanding of the relationship between protein folding and ligands, very small (~100 daltons in size) molecules which reside in the cell. Ligands were found to guide much larger molecules in the folding process, by recent MCB Alumnus, Karan Hingorani. Misfolded proteins are often the cause of disease, and the findings, by Hingorani, and confirmed by current MCB Program students, Mathew Metcalf and Derrick Deming have important implications in new therapies and pharmacological treatments of disease. Read more

Pilotte receives Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II Award

Nils Pilotte, UMass MCB Program PhD Student

Nils Pilotte, a 4th year student in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Molecular and Cellular Biology Ph.D. Program, recently received a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II Award in the amount of $424,874.  This award, which was received as a follow-up to a 2013 Phase I award in the amount of $100,000, will expand upon his preliminary proof-of-concept research, and aims to enable low-cost, high-throughput, sustainable surveillance for the presence of tropical parasites through the molecular monitoring of hematophagic insect excreta/feces (E/F).  Through the sampling and analysis of E/F rather than whole insects, the biological mass of samples can be greatly reduced, minimizing the limitations imposed by the presence of large concentrations of “polluting” DNA, and allowing for the improved throughput of testing.  Furthermore, as non-vector insects which have taken a parasite-containing blood meal rid themselves of parasite material through deposition in the E/F, such testing expands the pool of material suitable for analysis.  Preliminary work has demonstrated the adaptability of this methodology to the detection of both filarial and malarial parasites, and Nils will work to fine tune these testing platforms with the goal of developing recommendations for the programmatic implementation of this alternative approach to infection monitoring and surveillance.

Patricia Brennan's research is featured in Science Magazine videos:

Episode webpage: http://www.sciencemag.org/projects/xxfiles/9

Youtube links:

XX Files : Animalia genitalia : Patty Brennan : https://youtu.be/lNJ5tibNKyg

XX Files : Animalia genitalia : Duck surprise [CLIP] : https://youtu.be/YtYnpvIp1QM

XX Files : Animalia genitalia : My science is basic science [CLIP]  https://youtu.be/VoqmhI24wiQ

XX Files : Animalia genitalia : Diversity in science [CLIP] : https://youtu.be/5zIRqDeYU_0