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

Cheung and Wu Cap off Productive Spring with NSF Award

photo of Hen-Ming Wu and Alice Cheung

Alice Cheung and Hen-Ming Wu, both from biochemistry and molecular biology, have had a productive spring: publication, in March, of one article in Science and another, in May, in Current Biology. Just recently, Cheung and Wu added a National Science Foundation award for $950,000 to their academic-year-end achievements.

The NSF award supports Cheung and Wu’s longstanding research into plant reproduction. Their project, “Pollen-stigma interactions: events and players that set off the path to reproductive success,” will run for four years, and is a culmination of their effort to understanding how male-female interactions underlie reproductive success. Professor Cheung says that the fundamental studies in male-female interactions that her lab carries out are crucial for ensuring the success of the agriculturally important process of seed production. Read more

MCB Alumnae Yadilette Rivera-Colón receives Women of Color STEM Achievement Award

photo of Yadilette Rivera-Colón

Yadilette Rivera-Colón (PhD 2013) has been selected to be the recipient of the 2021 Women of COLOR STEM Achievement Award in the category of Excellence in STEM Education. The award recognizes an educator who exemplifies inclusion and innovation in their teaching strategy to create positive student learning outcomes. Dr. Rivera-Colón is currently Assistant Professor of Biology and Undergraduate Science Program Research Coordinator at Bay Path University. She teaches biochemistry and biotechnology courses in the Residential College undergraduate program. She strongly believes in teaching the importance of the scientific basis within the context of everyday problems, and taking into consideration both its historical importance and future application. Just as she has done with her previous students, Dr. Rivera-Colón is teaching in a way that incorporates different elements such audio-visual activities as well as hands-on activities. Also, by knowing the identity and the background of the students, she tailors every class to their needs and interests.

The inaugural WOC STEM Achievement Awards will be presented by COLOR and judged by a panel of STEM leaders at MIT Lincoln Lab on Friday, May 21st. The WOC STEM Achievement Awards recognize and celebrate diverse women achieving new heights in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Congratulations to Dr. Rivera-Colón and to all of the award winners! Read more

Margaux Audett PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Margaux Audett

Friday, June 4, 2021
1:00 PM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Mechanisms of mitotic checkpoint silencing by the disordered kinetochore protein Spc105
Advisor:  Tom Maresca

Nathan Kuhlmann PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Nathan Kuhlmann

Friday, June 18, 2021
3:00 PM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Mechanistic Insights into Diverse Protease Adaptor Functions
Advisor:  Peter Chien

Cameron Butova PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Cameron Butova

Monday, June 28, 2021
10:00 AM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Engineering a monomeric form of human alpha-galactosidase A as a proposed next-generation treatment for Fabry disease
Advisor:  Scott Garman

Alam García-Heredia PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Alam Garcia-Heredia

Thursday, August 19, 2021
10:00 AM
Zoom link:  Please contact mcb@mcb.umass.edu to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  TBA
Advisor:  Sloan Siegrist

Amanda Woerman Selected as CRF Family Research Scholar

photo of Amanda Woerman

The eighteenth cohort of the Center for Research on Families (CRF) Family Research Scholars (FRS) was selected based on their promising work in family-related research. The six faculty selected in the 2021-22 cohort represent a wide range of disciplines and research interests, including scholars from the departments of biology; health policy and management; institute for global health; psychological and brain sciences; and sociology. Read more

Amanda Woerman
Assistant professor, biology, College of Natural Sciences
Research Concentration: Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding

Research Breakthrough in the Fight Against Cancer

A team of researchers at the Center for Bioactive Delivery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences has engineered a nanoparticle that has the potential to revolutionize disease treatment, including for cancer. This new research, which appears today in “Angewandte Chemie,”combines two different approaches to more precisely and effectively deliver treatment to the specific cells affected by cancer.

Two of the most promising new treatments involve delivery of cancer-fighting drugs via biologics or antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Each has its own advantages and limitations. Biologics, such as protein-based drugs, can directly substitute for a malfunctioning protein in cells. As a result, they have less serious side effects than those associated with traditional chemotherapy. But, because of their large size, they are unable to get into specific cells. ADCs, on the other hand, are able to target specific malignant cells with microdoses of therapeutic drugs, but the antibodies can only carry a limited drug cargo. Since the drugs are more toxic than biologics, increasing the dose of ADCs increases the risk of harmful side effects.

The team’s approach depends on a nanoparticle the team engineered called a “protein-antibody conjugate,” or PAC. “Among the implications,” says Thayumanavan, “perhaps the most exciting part is that this opens the door to develop cures for certain cancers that have been long considered undruggable or incurable” Read more

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