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.  

MCB Alumna Safia Omer interviewed in the Journal of Cell Science

photo of Safia Omer

Congratulations to MCB alumna Dr. Safia Omer on her recent interview and publication in the Journal of Cell Science. First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Journal of Cell Science, helping early-career researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. Safia Omer is first author on ‘Overexpression of Mdm36 reveals Num1 foci that mediate dynein-dependent microtubule sliding in budding yeast’, published in JCS. Safia is a post-doctoral associate in the lab of Wei-Lih Lee at Dartmouth College, Department of Biological Sciences, Hanover, NH, USA, investigating the interplay between cytoskeleton and organelles using quantitative imaging. Read more

Osborne and Team Seeking a New Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases

photo of Barbara Osborne

Barbara Osborne, veterinary and animal sciences, and a small team of her colleagues involved in the startup medical research firm HasenTech recently were awarded two grants to advance their investigation of an exopolysaccharide (EPS), a sugar found on the surface of the bacterium Bacillis subilis. It can suppress an immune response and if translatable to use in humans, it holds promise of offering a new treatment for such conditions as irritable bowel disease (IBD) and other autoimmune diseases.

Osborne and colleagues have a one-year, $290,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) from the National Institutes of Health plus $100,000 seed funding for up to 18 months from this year’s round of the Institute of Applied Life Sciences’ (IALS) Manning/IALS Innovation Awards. This also provides business training and mentorship from IALS, the College of Natural Sciences, the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship and the Isenberg School of Management to advance UMass Amherst-based translational and applied research and development to real-world use. Read more

How Cell Processes Round Up and Dump Damaged Proteins

photo of Eric Strieter

In a new paper with results that senior author Eric Strieter at the University of Massachusetts Amherst calls “incredibly surprising,” he and his chemistry lab group report that they have discovered how an enzyme known as UCH37 regulates a cell’s waste management system.

Strieter says, “It took us eight years to figure it out, and I’m very proud of this work. We had to develop a lot of new methods and tools to understand what this enzyme is doing.”

As he explains, a very large protease called a proteasome is responsible for degrading the vast majority of proteins in a cell; it may be made up of as many as 40 proteins. It has been known for more than 20 years that UCH37 is one of the regulatory enzymes that associates with the proteasome, he adds, “but no one understood what it was doing.”

Writing this week in Molecular Cell, he and first author and Ph.D. candidate Kirandeep Deol, who led and conducted the experiments, with co-authors Sean Crowe, Jiale Du, Heather Bisbee and Robert Guenette, discuss how they answered the question. The work was supported by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Read more

UMass Amherst Life Sciences Junior Fellows Seminar with Dr. Jeffrey Karp

The Junior Fellows program has invited Dr. Jeffrey Karp to give a talk on Thursday, November 12, 2020. 

Title: Towards Accelerated Medical Innovation.
Time: 5-6PM

To register to attend, please click HERE

Shelly Peyton and Michelle Farkas Awarded 2020-21 ADVANCE Collaborative Research Seed Grant

photos of Michelle Farkas and Shelly Peyton

The ADVANCE program has announced that three research teams are recipients of ADVANCE Collaborative Research Seed Grants for 2020-21. These competitive grants aim to foster the development of innovative and equitable collaborative research projects among faculty.  Recognizing longstanding gender gaps in the academy, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds universities to build institutional transformation programs in order to advance gender equity for faculty in science and engineering. Through the power of collaboration, ADVANCE cultivates faculty equity and inclusion—especially for women and minorities in science and engineering. Three winning teams demonstrated innovative research and well thought-out and equitable collaborations.

The team with Michelle Farkas and Shelly Peyton will be “Lighting Up Macrophages in Three-Dimensional Tissues.”

Macrophages are unique cells that can both activate and suppress the immune system, by rapidly switching between states often referred to as “M1” (stimulating) and “M2” (suppressing). The balance between these states can be disrupted in cancer and other diseases, which can be disastrous for patients, but also present targets for treatment. There is a critical need for tools to study this interconversion, information vital to being able to stop or reverse immunosuppression. Farkas will develop real-time fluorescent reporters of macrophages to track their changes. Peyton will use the reporters in three-dimensional tissue culture models that mimic the tumor microenvironment to visualize and quantify macrophage-tumor interactions. This work represents the first use of macrophage-based reporters, and the first instance of real-time tracking of macrophage states in a multi-component system. While fluorescent reporters themselves are not a new approach, their application in this manner is vastly different from those of others. By being able to directly visualize the interconversion of macrophages between M1 and M2 phenotypes, the team can for the first time study this process and the conditions under which it occurs, in a spatially and temporally resolved manner, leading to new treatment strategies. Read more

UMass Amherst Research Compares Sensitivity of All Genes to Chemical Exposure

photo of Alexander Suvorov

Alexander Suvorov, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, has used an unprecedented objective approach to identify which molecular mechanisms in mammals are the most sensitive to chemical exposures.

The study, published in the journal Chemosphere, advances the understanding of the interaction of chemicals, both pollutants and pharmaceuticals, on gene expression and the impact on human health.

The study identified genes and molecular pathways most sensitive to chemical exposures, including mechanisms involving aging, lipid metabolism and autoimmune disease. “These findings for the first time prove that current epidemics in metabolic and autoimmune disorders may be partly due to a very broad range of chemical exposures,” Suvorov says. Read more

Jake Schnabl PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Jake Schnabl

Tuesday, October 27, 2020
1:00 PM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  "It takes a village to build a brain: Defining the heterogeneous glial and neural crest contributions to zebrafish forebrain development and neurogenesis"
Advisor:  Michael Barresi

Ben Adams PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Ben Adams

Thursday, November 5, 2020
3:00 PM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  “Substrate selection in endoplasmic reticulum protein quality control”
Advisor:  Daniel Hebert

Tracking Shape Changes in Amazon Fish After Major River is Dammed

photo of Caquetala spectabilis - Courtesy of UMass Amherst/Albertson lab

A team of biologists led by Craig Albertson and Ph.D. student Chaise Gilbert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report this week on their comparison between museum collections of cichlid fishes collected before a dam was closed in 1984 on the Tocantins River in the Amazon and contemporary specimens taken from the Tucuruí Reservoir by fishermen 34 years later. 

Working with others in Brazil,  Albertson’s team tested the idea that these fish could be expected to show changes in body shape as a consequence to shifts in habitat and foraging behavior after the dam rapidly changed environmental conditions from a clear, flowing river to a deep, murky reservoir.

“The once-historic rapids and streams that characterized the system have disappeared from the surrounding area, which in turn has affected the abundance and variety of food sources available to native fishes,” they write in Evolutionary Application this week. Read more

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