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

Vaishali Malik MS Thesis Defense

photo of Vaishali Malik

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
12:00 PM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Thesis Title:  TBA
Advisor:  Ashish Kulkarni

Timme-Laragy Receives Women in Toxicology’s Outstanding Young Investigator Award

photo of Alicia Timme-Laragy

Associate professor of environmental health sciences Alicia Timme-Laragy received the 2021 Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group during the SOT’s annual meeting held March 12-26, in a virtual format. The award is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of toxicology in the early stage of their careers.

“I am so honored to receive this award,” says Timme-Laragy. “I work with a great team of researchers and students here at UMass, and this award reflects their hard work as well. I’m excited to continue to build my research program and advance the fields of developmental toxicology and redox biology.” Read more

Madeline Tompach named finalist in Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition

photo of Madeline Tompach

Madeline Tompach (2nd year MCB, Timme-Laragy Lab) has been named a finalist in the Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Of the 35 preliminary round participants, 10 were selected as Finalists. These Finalists will compete for a $1,000 first place prize at the Campus Final, with the runner up receiving $500. Additionally, a People’s Choice award ($500) will be selected by audience vote at the virtual final. 

The virtual 3MT Final will be held on Thursday, March 18, 4-5:30pm via this link. Mark your calendars so we can all show our support for Madeline in the finals!

Carline Fermino do Rosario and Katherine Chacon-Vargas Awarded Certificates of Recognition for Leading STEM and Social Justice Journal Club

photo of Carline Fermino do Rosario and Katherine Chacon-Vargas

Katherine Chacon-Vargas and Carline Fermino do Rosario were presented with certificates of recognition for developing and leading the journal club, "STEM and Social Justice:  What is my role?" in the Fall 2020 semester. This journal club explored the impact of scientific research on society, specifically the social and health outcomes to marginalized communities and other global social issues that are sometimes underexplored. Students in this journal club reviewed scientific papers and discussed the responsibilities scientists have in social matters, and the roles of implicit bias, and cultural concepts and misconceptions.

The journal club was well attended and was so successful that plans are underway to offer a similar student-run journal club on an annual basis. We are truly grateful to Carline and Katherine for their organization and leadership of the STEM and Social Justice journal club, and for all of their contributions to increase diversity and inclusion in MCB.

Public Engagement Project Announces 2021 Faculty Fellows

photo of Dong Wang

The Public Engagement Project (PEP) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced the 2021 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows. Seven UMass faculty members from across seven departments and six colleges will draw on their substantial research records to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates.

Faculty fellows receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences. The PEP Fellows Program facilitates connections between fellows and lawmakers on Beacon Hill and in the U.S. Congress, journalists, practitioners and others to share their research beyond the walls of academia. This is the eighth cohort of Public Engagement Faculty Fellows. 

The 2021 PEP Faculty Fellows include Dong Wang, associate professor, biochemistry and molecular biology. Wang studies how plants use beneficial bacteria (aka good germs). During the Public Engagement Fellowship, Wang will develop blogs and publications to encourage people to grow their own food locally, year-round, guided by his expert research on what plants like. Read more

UMass Amherst Researchers Gain Insight Into the Biology of a Deadly Fungus

photo of Lillian Fritz-Laylin

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have gained new insight into the biological processes of a chytrid fungus responsible for a deadly skin infection devastating frog populations worldwide.

Led by cell biologist Lillian Fritz-Laylin, the team describes in a paper published Feb. 8 in Current Biology how the actin networks of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) also serve as an “evolutionary Rosetta Stone,” revealing the loss of cytoskeletal complexity in the fungal kingdom. 

“Fungi and animals seem so different, but they are actually pretty closely related,” says Fritz-Laylin, whose lab studies how cells move, which is a central activity in the progression and prevention of many human diseases. “This project, the work of Sarah Prostak in my lab, shows that during early fungal evolution, fungi probably had cells that looked something like our cells, and which could crawl around like our cells do.” Read more

Hazen Named to Dr. Constantine J. Gilgut Professorship in Plant Biology Professorship

photo of Sam Hazen

Samuel P. Hazen, biology, was awarded the Dr. Constantine J. Gilgut Professorship in Plant Biology for a term of three years following approval by the Board of Trustees at its Thursday, Dec. 10 meeting.

The conditions of the Gilgut Professorship specify that the recipient will be a full professor in the biology department and act as the director of the plant biology program. The incumbent of the Gilgut Professorship will be an outstanding, active scholar in the field who can lead by the example of his or her teaching as well as scholarship and administrative skills.

Hazen’s area of research is the thickening of the secondary cell wall and the regulation of this process in the grass Brachypodium distachyon and a variety of other plants. He has received substantial external funding to support his research from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. He also received several awards to support small business innovation and community science projects. Hazen has published 47 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and his work has been cited over 5,200 times according to Google Scholar. Read more

Kiserian Jackson Awarded CBI Traineeship

photo of Kiserian Jackson

Kiserian Jackson (Siegrist 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. Congratulations, Kiserian! Read more

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