News & Announcements

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.  

Juan Guillermo (Guillo) Cadena Memorial Fund

photo of Dr. Juan Guillermo (Guillo) Cadena

Dr. Juan Guillermo (Guillo) Cadena

Guillo was born in Chicago, IL. on November 22, 1969, and grew up in Tampa, Florida. Guillo was a graduate of Jesuit High School in Tampa where he excelled in athletics and was a member of the state champion soccer team. He moved to New England in the mid-1990s and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2000. After a brief return to Florida, Guillo moved back to Amherst in 2002 to join the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) graduate program as a Ph.D. candidate. Guillo received his Ph.D. in 2009 under the mentorship of Dr. Larry Schwartz. Dr. Cadena’s research focused on understanding why a certain population of cells called dopaminergic neurons are uniquely vulnerable to degeneration in individuals with autosomal juvenile parkinsonism (ARJP).

Guillo was extremely dedicated to his research and had always credited the successful completion of his Ph.D. to the strong support of his advisor Dr. Schwartz, as well as many distinguished faculty members in the MCB program who guided him throughout the process. Guillo also conducted research at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute in Springfield, MA.

In his teenage years, Guillo was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and sought a suitable bone marrow donor for nearly 30 years. In 2010, Guillo was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and within a few months had succumbed to complications from chemotherapy treatment. At the time of his passing in July, 2010 Guillo was survived by his wife, 2-year old twins (Amaya and Gabriel), parents, siblings, and many close friends.

The Cadena Travel and Training Fund

The Cadena Travel and Training Fund was established in 2020, 10 years after Guillo’s passing. In memory of his dedication to science and teaching, Guillo’s close friends Nasser and Susanne Rusan, with help and support from Guillo’s family, believed it was only fitting to keep Guillo’s memory alive by giving back to the MCB program, a program that Guillo deeply cherished. Read more

MCB Alumna Ana Torres-Ocampo Featured in UMass Magazine

photo of Ana Torres-Ocampo

In a recent UMass Magazine article, "The One Constant: Change," MCB Alumna (PhD '21) Ana Torres-Ocampo describes what initially drew her to research and explains how she feels about it now. She became interested in research and began volunteering when a friend mentioned lab. Ana completed her PhD in 2021, and her enthusiasm for research has not changed. “I get giddy like a little kid. It’s amazing to me that I get to do this.” Read more

Jessica McGory, Kevin Guay and Jun-Goo Kwak win proposal competition

Congratulations to Jun-Goo Kwak, Jessica McGory and Kevin Guay on receiving the internal awards for the MCB proposal competition! MCB students write an NSF-style fellowship proposal as they enter their second year as part of our program curriculum. The proposals are reviewed internally, and prizes are awarded based on the strongest applications. The prizes for the 2020 submissions went to:

Kevin Guay, "Investigating the Mechanism of Lysosomal Sequestration by Toxoplasma Gondii During Chronic Toxoplasmosis"
Jun-Goo Kwak, "Decoupling the Roles of Matrix Proteins and Niche Cells on the Regulation of Bone Marrow Hematopoiesis"
Jessica McGory, "Elucidating the Role of Aurora B in the Mitotic DNA Damage Response Pathway and its Involvement in Tumorigenesis"

Congratulations to the award winners!

Ning-Hsuan Tseng PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Ning-Hsuan Tseng

Thursday, December 16, 2021
10:00 AM
ILC N101/Zoom:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Extracellular matrix stiffness as a cue to shape phenotypic evolution of triple negative breast cancer
Advisor:  Shelly Peyton

Kirk MacKinnon PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Kirk MacKinnon

Thursday, December 16, 2021
11:00 AM
Zoom:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Genetic and environmental regulation of plant growth
Advisor:  Sam Hazen

Tracking Cancer with Chemical Tools

photo of Michelle Farkas

Michelle Farkas, professor of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was recently awarded a $1.25 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to develop next-generation tools to track and manipulate circadian rhythms in cells, helping researchers to understand the role that such rhythms play in disease.

The circadian clock is an internal system that helps the body respond to the time of day. Circadian clocks help regulate a number of different processes in the human body, including sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, blood pressure, food intake, hormone release, cardiac function, immune responses and metabolism. On the cellular level, circadian clocks also play a role in cellular proliferation, metabolism and DNA damage repair. Though researchers have known for years that changes to the circadian clock’s daily rhythms can lead to all sorts of diseases, including various cancers, we don’t yet know exactly what is going wrong at the cellular level when the circadian clock is altered.

“We can generate static snapshots of a cell,” says Farkas, “but they don’t tell you all that much. We need tools to help us track the dynamic changes occurring inside a cell over time.” Only then can researchers begin to see what happens when the circadian clock is altered. Read more

Eleven UMass Amherst Researchers Recognized as Among Most Highly Cited in the World

Eleven researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have been recognized for being among the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2021.

The analysis by Philadelphia-based Clarivate Analytics, owner of the Web of Science, serves as the basis for regular listings of researchers whose citation records put them in the top one percent by citations for their field and year.

The highly anticipated annual list identifies researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. The methodology that determines the “who’s who” of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information.

The eleven recognized in 2021 for their work at UMass include two MCB scientists:  Professor and Clydesdale Scholar of Food Science Hang Xiao, and Goessman Professor of Chemistry Vincent Rotello. Read more

Institute for Applied Life Sciences Announces Six Winners of the Third Annual Manning/IALS Innovation Awards

The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) has announced that six campus research teams have been named recipients of the 3rd annual Manning/IALS Innovation Awards. These translational grants are designed to advance applied research and development efforts from UMass-based faculty research groups in the sciences and engineering through the development of spin-out/startup companies and the out-licensing of UMass intellectual property.

Alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, committed $1 million through their family foundation to establish the Manning Innovation Program. The gift provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable commercialization pipeline of applied and translational research projects from UMass Amherst. 

MCB faculty are involved in three of the six projects that were selected from a highly competitive group of applicants:

E2-PATH: Karen Dunphy/Joe Jerry, veterinary & animal sciences. A diagnostic personalized medicine screening platform for selecting optimized breast cancer treatments.

RNA4Therapeutics: Craig Martin, chemistry. A novel manufacturing technology for the synthesis of high purity, low-cost, and large scale RNA manufacturing for therapeutic use.

Volvox Sciences: Ashish Kulkarni, chemical engineering. Developing a novel supramolecular nano-therapeutic (CSF-SNT) that can efficiently remove cancer tumor cells.

Read more

UMass Amherst Researchers Target Tumors with Intracellular Precision

photo of Neil Forbes

A non-toxic, bacteria-based system developed in Neil Forbes' lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst can detect when it is inside a cancer cell and then release its payload of therapeutic drugs directly into the cell. The work, published in “Nature Communications” today, could lead to effective, targeted therapies for currently untreatable cancers, such as liver or metastatic breast cancer.

The inability to penetrate solid tumor cell membranes has, until now, prevented researchers from being able to effectively target critical cancer pathways. Current delivery methods, such as nanoparticles, cell-penetrating peptides and antibody drug conjugates, have limited efficacy because of their poor ability to enter cells, their inability to specifically target cancer cells, and their susceptibility to degradation from the cell’s natural protection against foreign invaders.

The groundbreaking UMass Amherst work has demonstrated in the lab that not only can it easily enter cells, but it can specifically target cancer cells to deliver proteins (drugs) directly while leaving healthy cells alone. And once its protein payload is delivered, the bacteria dissipate and clear.

The delivery system was developed by Nele Van Dessel, bioengineer and co-first author on the paper, as a post-doc in Forbes’s lab. It uses a highly modified type of salmonella that is injected into the bloodstream.

The protein used was developed with Jeanne Hardy, chemistry and molecular and cell biology, and the research was led by Van Dessel and Vishnu Raman, chemical engineering and co-first author on the paper. Read more

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