News & Announcements

Archit Rastogi PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Archit Rastogi

Monday, March 30, 2020
2:00 PM
Zoom link:
Dissertation Title:  "Redox Signaling in the Zebrafish Embryo and Implications for Endocrine Pancreas Morphogenesis"
Advisor:  Alicia Timme-Laragy

Exploring the ‘Dark Matter’ of the Cell

photo of Tom Maresca

There is a little-understood realm inside cells that cell biologist Tom Maresca likes to think of as the cell’s dark matter, something like the largely unknown stuff that is so abundant in space. Maresca recently received a four-year, $1.3 million grant renewal from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to use specialized tools to learn more about this less-studied inner universe of the cell.

For the new grant, Maresca and colleagues will collaborate with biophysicist Nathan Derr at Smith College to focus on unstructured proteins in an essential structure called the kinetochore. It ensures that chromosomes are evenly split between cells when they divide. Failure to achieve this, Maresca explains, leads to cells acquiring an incorrect number of chromosomes, which is known as aneuploidy ­– a condition that causes miscarriage, genetic disorders, tumorigenesis and possibly cancer metastasis. The long-term goal is to identify basic cell processes that can be targeted by therapies to control aneuploidy. Read more

Constance Angelou PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Constance Angelou

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
9:00 AM
Life Sciences Laboratory, Room S330
Dissertation Title:  “Defining the let-7 microRNA-mediated molecular mechanisms regulating T cell differentiation”
Advisor:  Leonid Pobezinsky

Rilee Zeinert PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Rilee Zeinert

Thursday, March 19, 2020
9:30 AM
Zoom link:
Dissertation Title:  "The Lon protease integrates protein quality control with DNA damage responses in Caulobacter crescentus"
Advisor:  Peter Chien

He Yang PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of He Yang

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
10:30 AM
Zoom link:
Dissertation Title:  "Accessory genes contribute to rewiring the transcriptional network in Fusarium oxysporum"
Advisor:  Li-Jun Ma

Kathleen Arcaro Aims to Develop New Screening for BRCA-Positive Breastfeeding Women

photo of Kathleen Arcaro

Breastfeeding women with a pathogenic BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation face a significant risk, even at a young age, of breast and ovarian cancer. Yet no fully effective breast cancer screening method exists for nursing mothers in this high-risk group, some of whom are diagnosed after the disease has spread, possibly becoming fatally metastatic.

University of Massachusetts Amherst cancer researchers hope to change that by developing a new, noninvasive test that uses women’s breast milk to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. New mothers, and to a greater extent those with a BRCA mutation, face an increased risk of pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC), which is often aggressive, for about a decade postpartum. “This could eliminate the risk of metastasis-associated mortality related to postpartum, pregnancy-associated breast cancer in women with the BRCA mutation,” says lead investigator Kathleen Arcaro, professor of veterinary and animal sciences in the College of Natural Sciences, whose UMass Breastmilk Lab develops tools to assess breast cancer risk. “We also hope to better understand breast tumor development and progression in these at-risk women.”

Supported by an $718,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program, Arcaro and lab colleague Brian Pentecost, UMass Amherst research associate, will conduct a national study of breastfeeding women who have tested positive for the inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. A control group of breastfeeding women with neither a BRCA mutation nor multiple close relatives with breast cancer is also being recruited. Read more

Nils Pilotte PhD Dissertation Defense

photo of Nils Pilotte

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
2:00 PM
Life Sciences Laboratory, Room N610
Dissertation Title:  “Improved Molecular Diagnostics for Soil-Transmitted Helminths”
Advisor:  Steve Williams

UMass Amherst Researchers Identify New Mechanism Involved in Promoting Breast Cancer

photo of Joe Jerry

A new approach to studying the effects of two common chemicals used in cosmetics and sunscreens found they can cause DNA damage in breast cells at surprisingly low concentrations, while the same dose did not harm cells without estrogen receptors.

The research, published Jan. 15 in Environmental Health Perspectives, identifies a new mechanism by which estrogens and xenoestrogens – environmental chemicals that act like estrogens – may promote breast cancer, says breast cancer researcher D. Joseph Jerry, professor of veterinary and animal sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Jerry also serves as science director of the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute and co-director of the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research in a partnership between UMass Amherst and Baystate Medical Center. Read more

Kirk MacKinnon and Jacob Maman receive Lotta Crabtree Fellowships

Congratulations to Kirk MacKinnon (Hazen lab) and Jacob Maman (Ma lab), recipients of the Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowship in Production Agriculture! This award is a reflection of their hard work and academic achievement, and will support their research for the spring semester. 

Research Team Traces Evolution of the Domesticated Tomato

photo of Ana Caicedo

In a new paper, a team of evolutionary biologists and geneticists led by senior author associate professor Ana Caicedo, with first author Hamid Razifard at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and others, report that they have identified missing links in the tomato’s evolution from a wild blueberry-sized fruit in South America to the larger modern tomato of today. Details appear in an Advanced Access edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Read more