CNS News

Subscribe to the CNS News RSS feed

Schnell named 2015 Spotlight Scholar

Danny Schnell, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been named a Spotlight Scholar, which honors UMass Amherst faculty members who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in research, scholarship or creative activity. An internationally-known expert in plant physiology, photosynthesis, and plant biochemistry, Schnell sees a time in the not-so-distant future when automobiles will run solely on electricity—but not airplanes. So he applies his knowledge of plant photosynthesis to develop seed crop oil that could be the sustainable aviation fuel of the future.

Lutcavage documents leatherback turtles’ navigation abilities with GPS satellite tags

Molly Lutcavage, Environmental Conservation, and director, the Large Pelagic Research Center (LPRC), and her former doctoral students Kara Dodge and Benjamin Galuardi have documented leatherback turtles’ remarkable navigation abilities with state-of-the-art, GPS-linked satellite tags in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. They believe this is the first analysis of migratory orientation in adult and subadult leatherbacks. New York Times, Boston Globe, Science Daily, Tech Times, Science Newsline, The Conversation, Maritime Global News,, Star Tribune, The Punch, Republican

Bushel and Powers win UMass Amherst Alumni Association annual awards

Pierre R. Bushel ’84 of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been given the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award and Sally Powers, Psychological and Brain Sciences and associate dean, faculty and research, has been given the 2015 Distinguished Faculty Award. Bushel has made an exemplary career out of toxicogenomics research. Powers is internationally recognized for research on depression in adolescents and young adults.

CNS students featured in video profiles for the "I am #UMassProud” campaign

Two dozen CNS students are featured in the ongoing "I am #UMassProud" campaign. The short video profiles include students with majors including psychological and brain sciences, neuroscience, math, computer science, biology, and arboriculture and community forest management. The students talk unabashedly about their pride in attending UMass Amherst including comments about the nationally-ranked programs, outstanding faculty, research opportunities, the sustainability program, the commitment to the environment, the diversity, and the strong sense of community and connectedness.

Bradley's research about invasive nonnative plants is featured

Research by Bethany Bradley, Environmental Conservation, about the first comprehensive assessment of native versus non-native plant distribution in the continental United States, was featured in News release

Dicklow featured in story about early season turf diseases

M. Bess Dicklow, UMass Extension, is featured in a story about early season turf diseases and how to combat them. Lawn & Landscape

Goodwin is quoted as saying he hopes state officials can find a way to fund a state climatologist

Steve Goodwin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, was quoted as saying that he hopes state officials can find a way to fund a state climatologist, housed at the Northeast Climate Science Center at UMass Amherst. Valley Advocate

Isbell and Pietromonaco chosen for Center for Research on Families’ Family Research Scholars Program

Linda Isbell and Paula Pietromonaco, both from Psychological and Brain Sciences, have been chosen to participate in the Center for Research on Families’ Family Research Scholars Program during the 2015-16 academic year. They are two of the six faculty members chosen on basis of their promising work in family-related research. News release

Lovley and Malvankar have evidence that microbial nanowires do indeed possess metallic-like conductivity

Derek Lovley, Microbiology, postdoctoral researcher Nikhil Malvankar, Physics, and colleagues say they have evidence that microbial nanowires, the specialized electrical pili of the mud-dwelling anaerobic bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens, do possess metallic-like conductivity, settling a longtime scientific dispute, as published in mBio., Science Newsline, Science Daily,, Research & Development magazine,, North American Clean Energy,,, News release

Woodruff's historical hurricane research is featured in Research Next

The research of Jonathan Woodruff, Geosciences, and visiting scholar Dana MacDonald, and colleagues that finds sediment deposits show that intense hurricanes frequently pounded the region from around 250 A.D. to about 1150 is featured on Research Next.

Adler's research about plants lowering pathogen loads in bees is featured on Research Next

Recent research of Lynn Adler, Environmental Conservation, on how plant chemicals lower pathogen loads in bumble bees is featured on Research Next.

Varner named director of faculty development programs at CNS

Wendy Varner has been named director of faculty development programs at the College of Natural Sciences. She will implement and coordinate programs to enhance the success of all faculty in CNS across the span of their careers. Working closely with Sally Powers, associate dean for faculty and research, Varner will develop and manage programs to promote faculty research, teaching, and professional advancement. She will also provide leadership for faculty development and research programs including program planning, execution and management, coordination with other campus units, and program evaluations.

Katz and Fardal’s research on why the universe is four times brighter than it should be is featured

The research of Neal Katz, professor, and Mark Fardal, senior research fellow, both Astronomy, exploring why the universe is so bright, was featured in a larger story called Six Unsolved Problems in Astronomy in Real Clear Science. The research was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters in July.

Bradley textbook named a Excellence Award Winner (College) by TAA

A textbook by Raymond S. Bradley, Geosciences, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary (3rd ed.) , published by Elsevier/Academic Press, has won a "Texty" award—it's been named one the six 2015 Textbook Excellence Award Winners (College) by the the Text and Academic Authors Association. TAA Blog, WGGB-TV 40, Business West, News release

Rawlins tells Telegram & Gazette that this winter has been notable for its severity

Michael A. Rawlins, Geosciences and manager, the Climate System Research Center, says the Northeast, from New York State to Maine, has experienced a period of weather that is notable for its severity. Telegram & Gazette

Ramsey Musolf interviewed about his experience as gay physicist

Michael J. Ramsey Musolf, Physics, and director, Amherst Center for Fundamental Interactions, was one of seven LGBT physicists interviewed about their experiences as sexual and gender minorities. Physics Today

Rawlins says this was the coldest February on record in Amherst

Michael A. Rawlins, manager of the Climate System Research Center, said February was the coldest ever on record in Amherst with an average temperature of 11.2 degrees, the lowest since records were first kept in 1835. Daily Hampshire Gazette, Republican, WAMC

Griffin and Schlossberg analyze data for Elephants Without Borders from largest-ever elephant census

Curtice Griffin, Environmental Conservation, and postdoctoral researcher Scott Schlossberg are members of an advisory team compiling data, conducting statistical analyses, and creating distribution maps to assist Elephants Without Borders (EWB) in estimating abundance and geographic distribution of savannah elephants. EWB—which is half-way through a two-year, $8 million Pan-African elephant survey involving 18 nations—is directed by Mike Chase, who received his doctorate from UMass Amherst. Research Next, News release

Whitaker '05 wins Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship and returns to UMass Amherst

Kate Whitaker '05 has been awarded the prestigious NASA’s Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship—one of the world's most competitive fellowships in astronomy—and will be coming back to her alma mater this summer. A Commonwealth Honors College student majoring in physics and astronomy, Whitaker was awarded numerous scholarships and prizes while at UMass Amherst. She has a doctorate in astronomy from Yale University and is currently a James Webb Space Telescope Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Riley to partner with Chinese to create new drug platform; will open institute in Amherst area

Margaret Riley, Biology, announced that she is partnering with a Chinese scientist to develop a new drug platform, pheromonicins. The Chinese government is committing $400 million per year to support the newly created Pheromonicin Institute of Beijing. Riley plans to open a sister institute in the Amherst area. WGGB-TV 40,, Infection Control Today, Business West, New England Public Radio, News release

UMass Amherst one of 17 Amazing Green College Campuses, says the Mother Nature Network

UMass Amherst has been chosen as one 17 Amazing Green College Campuses by the Mother Nature Network, which says, “Sustainability is a big deal on this campus,” with its 25 undergraduate majors related to sustainability, new graduate programs, and its first-place win in the Annual White House College Champions of Change competition, among other accomplishments. Mother Nature Network

Rotello interviewed by New England Public Radio about the public's ability to recognize and recall license plate numbers

Caren M. Rotello, Psychological and Brain Sciences, discussed research on factors involved in the public’s ability to recognize and recall vehicle license plates, including the use of symbols in addition to numbers and letters on New England Public Radio, News release

Riley interviewed by International Business Times about bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics

Margaret A. Riley, Biology, was interviewed about bacteria that are becoming more resistant to treatment because they are developing immunity to common antibiotics. She says the government has cut funding in this area and private companies have backed off because they thought the problems were solved. International Business Times

Riley interviewed by WGGB-TV about bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics

Margaret A. Riley, Biology, and graduate students in her laboratory were interviewed about bacteria that are becoming more resistant to treatment because they are developing immunity to common antibiotics. WGGB-TV 40

Adler, Leonard, Regan, and Anthony find that floral nectar reduces parasite infections in bumblebees

Lynn Adler, Biology, along with former Darwin Scholar Anne Leonard, undergraduates Karly Regan and Winston Anthony, and colleagues from Dartmouth College studying the interaction between plants, pollinators, and parasites have found that bees infected with a common intestinal parasite had reduced parasite levels in their guts after seven days if the bees also consumed natural toxins present in plant nectar, as reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The Independent,,, Science Newsline, Entomology Today,, Pioneer News, International Business Times, Mother Nature Network, News release