News & Announcements

Professor Lynn Adler's Research Featured in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Professor Lynn Adler

A new study reported this week by evolutionary ecologist Lynn Adler at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Rebecca Irwin of North Carolina State University, with others, suggests that flower strips – rows of pollinator-friendly flowers planted with crops – offer benefits for common Eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) colony reproduction, but some plants do increase pathogen infection risk.

As Adler and colleagues point out, pollinator declines affect food security, and pollinators are threatened by such stressors as pathogens and inadequate food. Bumblebees feed on pollen and nectar they gather from such plants as sunflower and milkweed. But bumblebees are also likely to acquire a gut disease pathogen, Crithia bombi, from some of these plant species more than others, the authors note. Until now, the effect of plant species composition on bee disease was unknown, they add. Read more

Alice Cheung Receives Coveted Plant Biology Excellence Award  

Professor Alice Cheung

The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) recently announced that Alice Cheung, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, will receive the 2020 Lawrence Bogorad Award for Excellence in Plant Biology Research, made every other year to “a plant scientist whose work both illuminates the present and suggests paths to enlighten the future.” Read more

Plant Biology Daily Coffee Meeting

Professor Li-Jun Ma and Jedaidah Chilufya will co-host the Daily Plant Biology coffee zoom meeting for Plant Biology students.
The meeting will be daily starting at 9:30am starting Monday, March 30, 2020. 
Zoom Link: 

We are pleased to announce the following PB PhD thesis defense

Josh Coomey, Graduate Student

Josh Coomey
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
12:00 PM
Zoom Web Link:
Thesis Title: Investigating the transcriptional regulation of secondary cell wall synthesis and thigmomorphogenesis in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon

We are pleased to announce the following PB MS thesis defense

Rebecca Brennan, Graduate Student

Rebecca Brennan
Monday, March 23, 2020
1:00 PM
Zoom Web Link: 
Thesis Title: Processes, Patterns, and Predictions of Soil Moisture Variation in Upland and Peatland Cranberry Farms in Massachusetts.

We are pleased to announce the following PB PhD thesis defense

Christina Arther

Christina Arther 
Friday, March 20, 2020
2:00 PM
Zoom Web Link: 
Thesis Title: Origin of gene specificity in the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis

Nine Plant Biology Graduate Students Awarded Spring 2020 Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowships

Plant Biology Graduate Students Stravoula Fili, Harry Klein, Ian McCahill, Rebecca Brennan, Jedaidah Chilufya, Rachael Bernstein, Ayousha Shahi, Xiang Li, and Antonia Gray have been awarded Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowships to support their reseasrch this spring 2020.  The Lotta M. Crabtree Fellowship is awarded on a competitive basis. 

Miriam Hernandez-Romero Receives Travel Grants from the Mexican Society of Biochemistry and UMass Amherst Spaulding-Smith for the XVIII National Congress of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Merida Yucatan

Miriam Hernandez-Romero
  • Miriam was one of 25 students selected to give a Lightning Talk
  • Miriam was awarded 'honorable mention' for best poster

Miriam reports:

I feel fortunate to have attended the 22nd National Congress of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology which took place in Merida, Yucatan. For the first time, the American Society of Plant Biologists joined in on this meeting to promote and strengthen research collaborations between Mexico and the US. This goal resonated with me deeply and I knew I couldn’t miss this conference. (Being in a warm tropical climate had nothing to do with my attendance.).

The four days were packed with plenary talks by researchers from Cornell, Stanford, University of Michigan, including familiar names that have held PB program seminars. The topics were quite diverse, and there were definitely sessions/talks for every discipline. A striking difference about research in Mexico, is the prominence of working directly with crop plants, not model systems. Much of the genetic and breeding work is done on maize, wheat, common bean, rice, etc., and some uncommon work that stood out to me was focused on improving the cultivation of agave and date palm in Mexico.

I was selected to give a lightning talk, a short oral presentation geared toward garnering interest in my poster, to this end, I was pleasantly surprised to get an ‘honorable mention’ for best poster. Overall, it was a privilege to connect with new students and professors whose passion for research and genuine kindness was unmatched, and I was grateful for the chance to reconnect with old friends and familiar faces. As if that wasn’t enough, it was a treat to see professors that we’ve invited to give seminars at UMass. Amherst, and dance Salsa at the social events (I won’t name any names).

Merida is a very special place, and for those interested in visiting Yucatan, I have a very long list of activities to do, including visiting Mayan ruins and thriving Mayan villages, eating way more conchinita pibil and poc chuc than I could handle, and birding, (yes, birding). Even those with no Spanish speaking ability, whatsoever, will have no problem attending this conference and I guarantee it will be like no other (and it happens every two years!)

Bioinformatics Training Hosted by Members of Li-Jun Ma's Lab and the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department 

Bioinformatics Training Schedule

Members of Professor Li-Jun Ma’s lab and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will be hosting a Bioinformatics Training.  The training will be comprised of 4 sections, running November 7th through December 5th, 2019.  Each section will be held on a Thursday, from 6-7pm, in LSL N415.   Each of the 4 sections will cover a different topic including:

Section 1: Linux introduction and data quality control
Section 2: RNA-seq data analysis
Section 3: Functional DEGs analysis
Section 4: IGV visualization

Registration is due Monday, November 4th, 2019.


We are pleased to announce the following PB PhD thesis defense

Sam Glaze-Corcoran
Monday, November 25, 2019
9:00 AM
Location: 107 Fernald Hall
Thesis Title: Developing alternative forage production strategies for environmental and economic resiliency on New England dairy farms