News & Announcements

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 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 to be included on the email list for this announcement
Dissertation Title:  Mechanistic Insights into Diverse Protease Adaptor Functions
Advisor:  Peter Chien

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

Gierasch Named as Inaugural Fellow of American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

photo of Lila Gierasch

Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass Amherst, was recently named one of the inaugural fellows of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). The fellowship recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the field through their research, teaching and mentoring, or other forms of service.

It’s an especially sweet recognition for Gierasch. “I have been a member of ASBMB since early in my career, back in 1981,” she says. Since those early days, Gierasch has gone on to a prolific career, authoring more than 250 papers, mentoring scores of students, and serving as the editor-in-chief of the “Journal of Biological Chemistry” since 2016. Read more

Chemistry’s You Wins Prestigious Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

photo of Mingxu You

When Mingxu You, assistant professor of chemistry at UMass Amherst, checked his WeChat messages, the last thing he expected to discover was that he had been awarded one of 16 $100,000 Teacher-Scholar unrestricted awards from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. But when the award e-mail came later that day, he knew it was true. “It was quite an unexpected, and very welcome, surprise” he says. “We are thrilled,” says Ricard Metz, head of the chemistry department, “that Mingxu’s dynamic research and teaching have received this recognition.”

The Dreyfus Foundation’s Teacher-Scholar award goes to a handful of early-career chemists who “have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.” You is clearly both. Though he’s early in his career, he’s already authored or co-authored nearly 80 academic articles, and his lab is a hive of activity: it currently hosts ten graduate and five undergraduate students. In the past four years alone, he’s guided 15 undergrads, two postdocs, and five research fellows through advanced chemistry research, and in doing so is helping to introduce the next generation to the joys of chemistry. “The undergrads are getting real training,” say You. “They quickly learn what we’re doing in our lab, and they make real contributions to our experiments.” Read more

Timme-Laragy Publication Selected as NIEHS Extramural Paper of the Month

photo of Alicia Timme-Laragy

A new publication from Alicia Timme-Laragy, associate professor of environmental health sciences, has been selected as an extramural paper of the month by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The article, titled “Developmental exposures to perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) impact embryonic nutrition, pancreatic morphology, and adiposity in the zebrafish, Danio rerio,” appears in the April 2021 issue of the journal “Environmental Pollution.” Timme-Laragy’s co-authors include first author Karilyn Sant, who conducted the study while a postdoctoral researcher in Timme-Laragy’s lab, as well as UMass Amherst faculty members Gerry Downes, biology, and Yeonhwa Park, food science, and postdoctoral and student researchers Kate Annunziato, Sarah Conlin, Gregory Teicher, Phoebe Chen and Olivia Venezia. Read more

Kevin Guay receives honorable mention for NSF GRFP

photo of Kevin Guay

Kevin Guay (Hebert group) received honorable mention for his NSF GRFP proposal on "Understanding the Selectivity of a Key Quality Control Sensor within the Secretory Pathway of the Endoplasmic Reticulum." The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. Congratulations, Kevin! Read more