News & Announcements

Ana Caicedo and Jacob Barnett's Tomato Research Featured in: Vegetable Growers News

Dr. Ana Caicedo

Professor Ana Caicedo and OEB PhD student Jacob Barnett are studying the evolution of wild tomatoes in an effort to create plants that are disease and pest resistant and also have good flavor and appearance. Their research is being featured in a story published in the "Vegetable Growers News."  Read more

We are pleased to announce the following PB PhD thesis defense

Mingqin Chang
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
10:00 AM
Location: Morrill Science Center II, Room 222
Thesis Title: Isoform Specialization Among the Sec23 Gene Family Has Significant Consequences For Growth

Announcing the Inauguration of the On-Ramp Summer Pre-graduate Program

IDGP On Ramp Students 2019

The Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in the Life Sciences (IDGPs) launched a brand-new On-Ramp program for entering students on August 1st, with 18 soon-to-be PhD students participating. The month-long On-Ramp program is designed to facilitate the transition to graduate school by providing mentoring and professional development opportunities prior to the start of fall classes. Participants have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member and current graduate students in a laboratory or in the field on research. In addition to hands-on training experience, On-Ramp students participate in lab meetings, journal clubs, and professional development workshops. On-Ramp students are paired with a graduate student peer mentor and join current students for social and programmatic events. There has been enthusiastic support for On-Ramp from all four IDGP graduate programs (MCB, NSB, OEB, and PB). We hope the On-Ramp Summer Research Program becomes a permanent part of the IDGP graduate experience at UMass.
Molecular and Cellular Biology Program
Neuroscience and Behavior Program
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program
Plant Biology Program

We are pleased to announce the following PB MS thesis defense

Kathryn Vescio
Friday, July 12, 2019
1:30 PM
Location: LSL N610
Thesis Title: Characterizing the interaction between non-pathogenic Fusarium oxysporum and Arabidopsis thaliana to determine beneficial effects conferred to the model host plant
Thesis Advisor: Li-Jun Ma

Christina Arther Awarded Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowship for Fall 2019

Christina Arther

Plant Biology Graduate student Crhistina Arther has been awarded a Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowships to support her work in the fall 2019 semester.  The Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowship is awarded on a competitive basis.  

Titan arum to Bloom in the UMass Morrill Greenhouse

Amorphophallus titanum UMass Morrill Science Greenhouse 2019 - Photo by Madelaine Bartlett

The titan arum, officially known as Amorphophallus titanum and also known as the "corpse flower" due to its magnificent rotting smell, will bloom this summer in the Morrill Science Center Greenhouse.  We have received reports that its spathe and spadix have emerged and are still tight. The bloom is presently 29 inches tall, but it is expected to grow to be around 6 feet tall.  It is expected to fully bloom between July 4th and July 10th.  The Amorphophallus titanum last bloomed in 2015.  

The Amorphophallus titanum is part of the Natural History Collections' Living Plant Collection.

Hours and Visiting
The greenhouse facility is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (closed weekends and holidays) and visitors are always welcome! Tours can be scheduled for alumni, teachers, small school groups, and garden clubs. To make an appointment, please contact Chris Phillips at or by phone at (413) 545-0417.

Jedaidah Chilufya Awarded P.E.O International Peace Scholarship Fund Scholarship

Jedaidah Chilufya

Jedaidah was selected from a competitive pool of applicants to receive a P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The International Peace Scholarship Fund, established in 1949, is a program which provides scholarships for selected women from other countries for graduate study in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

For more information, please visit the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship website

Alexandra Zink Awarded the Ray Ethan Torrey Scholarship

Alexandra Zink

As climate conditions change, many plant species may have to adjust in ways such as shifting their spatial distribution or the timing of phenological events like bud break or flowering. My project uses grape (Vitis) species as a model system to study these effects. The traditional European grapes such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are cultivars of a single species, Vitis vinifera. We are located on the Northeast coast of the United States, which in contrast is one of the major centers of diversity for grapes, making this region an important source of Vitis germplasm for viticulture. In the face of climate and anthropogenic change, however, the climatically suitable habitat of crop wild relatives is expected to greatly decrease or even disappear. For this reason, it is important to understand how the diverse Vitis species of this area are distributed and respond to the ongoing changes in climate.

Herbarium data serves as a reliable archival record for studying shifts in flowering phenology in response to climatic changes and herbaria specimen have been used successfully to connect changes in spatial distribution and phenology timing with changes in climate. Using herbaria resources combined with GIS techniques, I will map the distribution of Vitis species across this region and analyze how their flowering phenology has changed since the 1800s.

For more information about the Ray Ethan Torrey Award, please visit the UMass AcademicWorks Website.

Jedaidah Chilufya selected as 2019 Cunin/Sigal Award recipient by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Jedaidah Chilufya

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University has a rich collection of legume trees from all over the world. However, underneath these trees are a treasure of beneficial soil bacteria called rhizobia that are overlooked. These rhizobia interact with tree legumes to provide nitrogen biofertilizer for their successful long-term growth. Unlike legume crops such as peanut and soybean which, are short-lived, the long-living tree legumes likely have rhizobia with special traits to ensure successful long-term interaction and improved crop growth.

Jedaidah Chilufya is interested in boosting the agronomic potential of legume crops in this northeast region by identifying rhizobia that will help improve crop production. She has been selected as a 2019 Cunin/Sigal Award recipient to recover rhizobia from legume trees and identify new legume crop-rhizobia for improved plant growth and production. This study has the potential to identify efficient rhizobia strains for farmers to use in this region on agriculturally important legumes.

Anne Averill Contributes to Gazette Story "Citizen ‘beecologists’ digging into pollinator decline mystery"

Professor Anne Averill

Professor Anne L. Averill, Environmental Conservation, comments in a story about efforts to find out why the number of pollinators is in decline in North America. Read more