News Highlights

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.  

UMass Amherst Research Advances Knowledge of the Battle Between Viruses and Human Cells

photo of Daniel MacVeigh-Fierro

In the long-term battle between a herpesvirus and its human host, a University of Massachusetts Amherst virologist and her team of students have identified some human RNA able to resist the viral takeover – and the mechanism by which that occurs.

This discovery, described in a paper published Feb. 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents an important step in the effort to develop anti-viral drugs to fight off infections.

“This paper is about trying to understand the mechanism that makes these RNA escape degradation,” says senior author Mandy Muller, assistant professor of microbiology. “The next step is to figure out if we can manipulate this to our advantage.”

How and why some RNA are able to escape the viral degradation are questions Muller’s team – including lead author and graduate student Daniel Macveigh-Fierro and co-authors and undergraduates Angelina Cicerchia, Ashley Cadorette and Vasudha Sharma – has been investigating. The research was supported by a $1.9 million Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to Muller in 2020 from the NIH’s National Institute for General Medical Sciences. Read more

Madeline Tompach receives award for best grad student oral presentation at the Northeast Society of Toxicology meeting

photo of Madeline Tompach

MCB student Madeline Tompach won the Graduate Student Oral Presentation Award at the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Toxicology 2021 Fall Virtual Meeting for her talk entitled, "EXAMINING PFOS-INDUCED DYSLIPIDEMIA AND USE OF α-LIPOIC ACID (ALA) AS A POTENTIAL MITIGATION STRATEGY IN ZEBRAFISH (DANIO RERIO)."

Abstract excerpt:  Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) is an environmental toxicant found ubiquitously in the aquatic environment and drinking water supply. PFOS exposure has been associated with dyslipidemia in human and animal studies, including zebrafish (Danio rerio) where previous work demonstrates that preconception and developmental PFOS exposure alters uptake of the lipid-rich yolk sac (YS) over the first five days of development. This study investigates how PFOS affects YS uptake of palmitate, the most abundant fatty acid in humans and zebrafish, in the developing embryo and explores the use of a dietary supplement, α-lipoic acid (ALA), in preconception exposures to combat PFOS-induced dyslipidemia seen in the offspring.

Congratulations, Madeline! Read more

MCB Alumna Ana Torres-Ocampo Featured in UMass Magazine

photo of Ana Torres-Ocampo

In a recent UMass Magazine article, "The One Constant: Change," MCB Alumna (PhD '21) Ana Torres-Ocampo describes what initially drew her to research and explains how she feels about it now. She became interested in research and began volunteering when a friend mentioned lab. Ana completed her PhD in 2021, and her enthusiasm for research has not changed. “I get giddy like a little kid. It’s amazing to me that I get to do this.” Read more

Jessica McGory, Kevin Guay and Jun-Goo Kwak win proposal competition

Congratulations to Jun-Goo Kwak, Jessica McGory and Kevin Guay on receiving the internal awards for the MCB proposal competition! MCB students write an NSF-style fellowship proposal as they enter their second year as part of our program curriculum. The proposals are reviewed internally, and prizes are awarded based on the strongest applications. The prizes for the 2020 submissions went to:

Kevin Guay, "Investigating the Mechanism of Lysosomal Sequestration by Toxoplasma Gondii During Chronic Toxoplasmosis"
Jun-Goo Kwak, "Decoupling the Roles of Matrix Proteins and Niche Cells on the Regulation of Bone Marrow Hematopoiesis"
Jessica McGory, "Elucidating the Role of Aurora B in the Mitotic DNA Damage Response Pathway and its Involvement in Tumorigenesis"

Congratulations to the award winners!

NSB graduate students publication expected to lead to a more precise understanding of the neuronal activity underlying patterns of drinking behavior which may play a role in the detrimental effects on mental health that differ by sex.

NSB Graduate Students,  Annabelle Bonilla Flores and Andy Silva-Gotay, members of the Richardson Lab have a recent publication in Biology of Sex Differences. To learn more about this research, see Annabelle Flores-Bonilla’s Student Spotlight featured in The Initiative on Neurosciences (IONs) and Flores-Bonilla A, De Oliveria B, Silva-Gotay, A, Lucier KW, Richardson HN (2021). Shortening time for access to alcohol drives up front-loading behavior, bringing consumption in male rats to the level of females. Biology of Sex Differences.

UMass, Amherst, NSB Graduate Program Research Pinpoints Role of Dopamine in Songbird's Brain Plasticity

zebra finches

New Research from NSB Alumn Matheus Macedo-Lima and senior researcher, Luke Remage-Healey published in Journal of Neuroscience. The finding that dopamine drives plasticity in the auditory pallium of zebra finches lays new groundwork for advancing the understanding of the functions of this neurotransmitter in an area of the brain that encodes complex stimuli. Read More

Congratulations to the MCB Byron Prize Winners!

Nils Pilotte, Archit Rastogi and Rilee Zeinert have been selected as the 2021 Byron Prize winners! The Byron Prize was established in 1994 in honor of Dr. Fred Byron, Vice Chancellor for Research at UMass Amherst. Dissertation advisors may nominate students who received PhD degrees in the previous year for this competitive award, and selection criteria include:  originality and creativity of the research, impact, scope of the project and techniques, quality of writing and contributions to the MCB program. Award winners present talks at the MCB Retreat and receive cash prizes. Hearty congrats to our alumni on this achievement!

Nils Pilotte (Williams Lab)
Assistant Professor of Biology, Quinnipiac University
Archit Rastogi (Timme-Laragy Lab)
Toxicologist, Gradient Corporation
Rilee Zeinert (Chien Lab)
Postdoctoral Associate, Storz Lab, NIH

 

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

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

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