News Highlights

IDGP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

The Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in Life Sciences (IDGPs) believe that a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is critical to all that we do.  We recognize that systemic racism exists in our society and we pledge to educate ourselves so that we can change our ingrained habits and beliefs. We are committed to make our programs accessible to all and to increase the success of all our members. We dedicate our time, effort and financial resources to these activities. We work with Institutional leaders, faculty, staff and students to achieve these goals. We are providing this pdf link so that you are able to view a working document of our activities. 

We are proud of our amazing students and post docs who have worked tirelessly for the betterment of our community. Our students have fostered a tight-knit, progressive community and their recent efforts have resulted in this petition for systematic change.  We stand with them in recognizing that change is required in order to make progress toward a more equitable, just, diverse and inclusive environment. 

The University has established an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and their website provides links to many resources. We encourage you to make use of these tools, including links to videos, books and podcasts as well as programing, as we embark together on our journey to improve our community for all our members.  

UMass Amherst Biologists Zero in on Cells’ Environmental Sensing Mechanism

R. Craig Albertson

Evolutionary and developmental biologist Craig Albertson and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have identified a molecular mechanism that allows an organism to change the way it looks depending on the environment it is exposed to, a process known as phenotypic plasticity.

In addition to lead investigators Albertson and Rolf Karlstrom, the team includes recently graduated doctoral students Dina Navon and Ira Male, current Ph.D. candidate Emily Tetrault and undergraduate Benjamin Aaronson. Their paper appears now in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

Four MCB Students Awarded NIH BTP Traineeships

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Emily Lopes (Fissore lab), Jessica McGory (Maresca lab), Justyne Ogdahl (Chien lab) and Madeline Tompach (Timmy-Laragy lab) received highly competitive Biotechnology Training Program Traineeships! BTP students are trained in an interdisciplinary fashion that expands career opportunities and sharpens professional skills. The UMass BTP emphasizes industrial partnerships, such as internships that provide hands-on access to cutting-edge biotechnology research, industrial seminars, and other industrial activities. Traineeships are typically awarded to students to support their 2nd and 3rd years of study, and trainee selection criteria include past performance (undergraduate institution and GPA, GRE scores), progress in the PhD program (grades and research productivity), and commitment to the BTP Program. Congratulations to Emily, Jessica, Justyne and Madeline on their awards! Read more

 

Joshua Foster receives competitive CBI traineeship

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Joshua Foster (Chen lab) received a prestigious NIH-funded traineeship from the Chemistry-Biology Interface program! The CBI program trains students with diverse scientific backgrounds for productive research at the interface between chemistry and biology. Science at the chemistry-biology interface brings the synthetic, mechanistic and analytical powers of chemistry to bear on new and exciting areas of biology. CBI Trainees take part in courses, seminars, discussions and research at the forefront of this emerging, interdisciplinary field. Trainee selection criteria include progress in the PhD program (grades and research productivity), and in the CBI Program (requirements satisfied, event participation). Past performance, such as undergraduate GPA, is also taken into account. CBI students must be nominated by CBI Training Faculty in spring of their first or second year of graduate study to be considered for traineeships that typically begin in September. Congratulations, Josh! Read more

Carline Fermino Do Rosario receives prestigious NSF NRT fellowship

photo of Carline Fermino Do Rosario

Carline Fermino Do Rosario (Wadsworth/Ross labs) has received the prestigious NSF Soft Materials for Life Sciences National Research Traineeship (SMLS-NRT) for the 2020-2021 academic year! This traineeship engages faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in a graduate education model that trains students in T-shaped skills. The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own. The program will provide training breadth across multiple professional and other technical skill areas while developing quality depth in the trainee’s area of specialization. Life scientists, physical scientists and engineers will be brought together to generate dynamic team leadership skills and to catalyze innovation. Congratulations, Carline! Read more

Jun-Goo Kwak receives prestigious NSF NRT fellowship

photo of Jun-Goo Kwak

Jun-Goo Kwak (Lee lab) has received the prestigious NSF Soft Materials for Life Sciences National Research Traineeship (SMLS-NRT) for the 2020-2021 academic year! This traineeship engages faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in a graduate education model that trains students in T-shaped skills. The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own. The program will provide training breadth across multiple professional and other technical skill areas while developing quality depth in the trainee’s area of specialization. Life scientists, physical scientists and engineers will be brought together to generate dynamic team leadership skills and to catalyze innovation. Congratulations, Jun-Goo! Read more

Allison Sirois receives prestigious Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA)

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Allison Sirois (S. Moore group) was recently awarded an NIH IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellowship at Tufts University to work in the Oudin Lab starting Fall 2020! The IRACDA program combines a traditional mentored postdoctoral research experience with an opportunity to develop academic skills, including teaching, through workshops and mentored teaching assignments at a partner institution. The program is expected to facilitate the progress of postdoctoral candidates toward research and teaching careers in academia. There is only one IRACDA research institution in Massachusetts, and about twenty nationwide. Congratulations, Allison! Read more

UMass Amherst Scientists Prepare Sterile Solution for COVID-19 Tests

Answering an urgent call for assistance from regional health care systems, a volunteer team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is preparing, testing and delivering thousands of vials of viral transport media, a chemical solution needed for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Their work is having a statewide impact.

A key team member is Barbara Osborne, distinguished professor of veterinary and animal sciences, who helped get the project off the ground by providing ingredients from her own lab. She continues to volunteer her time to aliquot, or measure and dispense the medium from a large container into tiny vials, a highly quantitative task being carried out in IALS’ Cell Culture Lab. “This is all being done in one place, and that really is critical for the quality control,” Osborne notes.

Adds James Chambers, director of the Light Microscopy and Cell Culture Core Facilities at IALS, who is overseeing the labeling of the vials, “Once the word got out to a few people that we were ramping up production this week, we were inundated with volunteers who want to do something to help with this fight.” Read more

Peter Chien Named an American Academy of Microbiology Fellow

photo of Peter Chien

The American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) recently honored Peter Chien, professor in biochemistry and molecular biology, by naming him to the 2020 class of Fellows of the Academy, based on his record of “scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.” The AAM is the honored leadership group within the American Society of Microbiology (ASM), one of the oldest and largest scientific societies in the world.

Chien says of the honor, “This recognition from the AAM reflects the cumulative work of the amazing group of students and trainees in my lab. I am thankful for all the work this team put into our science, and humbled by the recognition for our efforts." Read more

Digital Life on Earth
UMass Amherst’s Digital Life Project creates visual records of critically endangered species

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The Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been revolutionary in creating visual records of critically endangered species in ways that technology has never allowed before.

The project team modeled the first-ever 3D image of a southern right whale after researchers used aerial photography and drone videos to measure the mass and volume of whales. Previously, the only way to weigh any whale was by using a dead or stranded animal. Using its innovative Beastcam array, the team has also produced the world’s first accurate 3D image of the southern white rhino.

Led by Professor of Biology Duncan Irschick, the Digital Life Project has gathered a number of global collaborators. Documenting southern right whales as they gathered at their winter breeding grounds off the coast of Argentina involved participants from the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program and the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark. To create the visual of a rare southern white rhino, Irschick and team collaborated with the Perth Zoo in Australia, which volunteered its resident rhino, Bakari, to be photographed.  Read More