Advising Deans Blog

Picture of Martha BakerDean Martha Baker is the director of the CNS Advising Center, which provides services and guidance to undergraduates at each stage of their academic development. Dr. Baker received a BS from the University of Vermont, an MS from Purdue University and an EdD from UMass Amherst.

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by Martha Baker

Your lab fees continue to enable us to upgrade classrooms for the departments of Biology, Physics and Geosciences!

Here are the most recent upgrades:

  • Morrill IV N 301 was completely upgraded, and now has new floors, ceiling, paint, interactive projection equipment, updated air systems, biosafety cabinets, lab benches and seating.
  • Morrill IV N 301A has cubbies to store backpacks and jackets, new flooring, new lighting, and new cabinetry.
  • Morrill III 108 is the new home of the intro classes for Geosciences majors and has been updated with lab seating, new audio visual equipment and will soon have many new pieces of interactive equipment to enhance the learning experience.
  • In Hasbrouck, we worked on the Physics Teaching Labs, combining rooms 208, 210, 212 and 214 to create two large classrooms that are brighter and more efficient. These labs now have new interactive projection, paint, lighting, flooring, lab benches, seating, built-in cubbies for backpacks, as well as updated plumbing, electrical and air systems.

We'll be back in the summer to finish upgrade projects in Morrill IV room 303 and Hasbrouck 201, 201a, 202, 204 and 206, and they'll be ready for you for start of the 2017 fall semester.

by Martha Baker

Don't forget to check out the year-long exhibit, "Women in Science: The Stories Are All Around Us," which runs through August 31, 2017, in the Integrated Sciences Building (ISB) Atrium.

Women in Science exhibit poster

This exhibit was inspired by a class I taught recently. I asked my students in my Women in Science course, "where are the women?" Their research uncovered many compelling stories, and we decided to create an exhibit that would recognize the long history of women's contributions to science.

"Women in Science: The Stories Are All Around Us" highlights 12 women who have made significant additions to our understanding of science over the last 400 years. We had a great opening talk and reception, and Laura Lovett, a professor in the department of History, spoke about the challenges and accomplishments of women in science.

Our original list had 100 exceptional women in science, but the exhibit cases could only hold a small sampling. We also created a companion website that provides more information about the women mentioned in the exhibit, and many others as well. You'll also find important campus resources for the next generation of women scientists--hopefully many of them will be our students in CNS!

by Martha Baker

I'm delighted to show you what your lab fees have accomplished—we've used them to upgrade classrooms for the departments of Biology, Physics and Environmental Conservation! And the good news is that we will continue to upgrade additional classrooms in future.

Here are the most recent upgrades:

  • Morrill III, Room 339, now has new projection equipment, AC, shades, electrical drops, lab benches and seating.
  • Morrill III, Room 343, improvements include lab benches, seating, electrical drops, AC, projection equipment, and exhaust fans.
  • Projection equipment was also added to five additional teaching labs in Morrill.
  • Electrical drops were added in Biology teaching labs to make microscopy more convenient and eliminates tripping hazards.
  • In Hasbrouck, Physics Teaching Lab initial upgrades consisted of cosmetic improvements and better lighting.
  • ECO teaching labs in Holdsworth have new technology that allows for team based learning!

by Martha Baker

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Fellowship (PURF) is a tremendous opportunity for a small number of outstanding students who have demonstrated through their exceptional performance in high school coursework, their community leadership, or their contributions as artists and writers, that they are ready for a college-level research experience.
PURF student meeting
Starting last fall semester, 23 CNS students participated in the program. The award is given to talented incoming freshmen from all academic disciplines with the expectation that they will contribute to new knowledge through the research process. The $4,000 award becomes available the summer following the freshmen year and can be used to cover research expenses throughout the remainder of the student's undergraduate career. All students in the program have been matched with an upperclassmen mentor who meet with the student throughout the semester and serve as a resource, especially regarding research opportunities.

Early in the fall, PURF students were invited to a dinner at Provost Newman's home to learn more about the program. Later in the fall, PURF students and mentors had the opportunity to meet with library representatives and were encouraged to reach out when help was needed.

This semester, CNS has taken a leadership role and sponsored several meetings. The first meeting brought PURF students and mentors together to learn about the First Year Research Experience and to listen to upperclassmen describe their laboratory experience.

Wendy Varner leads PURF mentoring training
On February 3, the CNS Advising Center offered a PURF Mentoring Training Workshop, where mentors brought their valuable insights and experiences to the discussion. The mentors were brimming with thoughts about what makes a successful mentor and ideas about things to do and places to go with mentees.

Scott Auerbach on drums

On February 10, Professor Scott Auerbach, Chemistry, facilitated an interactive workshop, "Launching Your Research Mindset" for PURF students and other CNS students. Students uncovered answers to questions such as: Why do we care about research? What are the challenges? What does success look like? It was definitely interactive—Prof. Auerbach even played the drums!

Throughout the spring semester, PURF students will be encouraged to stay in contact with their mentors and to take advantage of the many activities offered by CNS and UMass Amherst. Next week, for instance, Professor Hal Grotevant, Psychological and Brain Sciences, selected as a 2015-2016 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, will discuss "New Worlds of Adoption: Navigating Contact between Adoptive and Birth Families from Placement to Adulthood" on Monday, February 22, at 4:00 p.m. in the Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Building. This lecture will frame research findings on the nation's changing attitudes and values about adoption.

by Martha Baker

Big changes are going on near the Studio Arts Building and around parking lot 62 (where I park my car). Ground will be broken soon for the Design Building, a new four-story, 87,000-square foot building. The building will house three academic departments from three different colleges: Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; the Department of Architecture from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts; and the Building Construction Technology program from CNS. The total cost of the building is $52 million; it is scheduled to open in January 2017.

umass amherst design building interior

An exciting and important aspect of the Design Building is that it exemplifies the university’s commitment to sustainable and innovative design. The building will also serve as a demonstration of new and innovative wood construction technologies, including walls formed from cross-laminated timber panels. These panels, which are several inches thick, are made from alternating layers of wood. The results are an amazingly strong, durable, and lightweight construction that is also versatile: The same panels, topped by a 4-inch concrete slab, will form the floors.

umass amherst design building exterior

The exterior of the building will be a glazed curtain wall system and an aluminum panel rain-screen system. The two-story building will contain common areas, studios, classrooms, fabrication, and materials-testing shops and offices. Much of the building will feature polished concrete floors and exposed structural deck and beams.

It will be very interesting to watch the construction progress of this new building!

by Martha Baker

We are all looking forward to meeting the Class of 2019 at New Student Orientation (NSO), which takes place at various times during June and July. When students attend NSO, they get a comprehensive introduction to UMass Amherst, meet with an academic advisor to select fall classes, participate in workshops, learn about extracurricular activities, finalize housing plans, and hear from students and faculty about opportunities at the university.

An exciting and new initiative at the university requires all incoming students to take a freshmen seminar with enrollment capped at 19. Taught by graduate students or post docs, the seminars will be college-based and allow students to discuss timely topics in an informal and comfortable setting.

seminar image

The theme of every course is "thinking like a scientist." That is, how to ask questions and formulate hypotheses, evaluate evidence, and design experiments—all within the context of the course's specific topic. Every seminar will include sessions devoted to shared topics relevant to all CNS disciplines, such as an introduction to the wide variety of majors in CNS, research ethics, and the need for critical thinking as required by scientists.

These seminars are an important part of students’ first semester experience. Not only will students be introduced to important scientific concepts and learn about an interesting and relevant topic, they will also benefit from a small class setting and have an opportunity to engage in lively discussions.

Students select which seminar to enroll in and the topics are quite diverse. The College of Natural Sciences will offer more than 40 seminars, including this sampling:

  • Organic Food and Health
  • Kicking the Climate System
  • Evolutionary Medicine
  • The Science of Sex and Gender
  • The Buzz about Bees
  • Making the Sense of Global Warming
  • Demystifying Brilliance
  • Making Sense of Global Warming
  • The Science of What You Eat: Facts and Misconceptions
by Martha Baker

Have you considered studying at another college or university in order to live in a different place, access courses and facilities not offered at UMass Amherst—or just broaden your undergraduate experience? Beth Parks studied in Hawaii! She writes here about her adventure:

Participating in National Student Exchange was such a fun and fulfilling experience! My goal as a biochemistry and molecular biology major was to go to another university where I could expand my scientific knowledge while learning about a new culture, particularly one with a strong connection with nature. The University of Hawai‘i in Hilo was a perfect fit because it offered courses that coupled science with the Hawaiian culture and tools for exploring the island in a meaningful way.

taro patch, Waipi‘o Valley(photo, right) Students working in a taro patch in Waipi‘o Valley. The root of taro is pounded to make poi.

I began my exploration of Hawai‘i by taking two Hawaiian courses: Hawaiian ethnobotany and geography of Hawai‘i in the Pacific. My independent study in a plant biochemistry lab the year leading up to my exchange inspired my interest in botany, which is why I choose Hawaiian ethnobotany. This course focused on the relationship between Hawaiian people and plants through handcrafts, chanting, and even cooking! Towards the end of the semester the class participated in making an imu, which is a traditional Hawaiian style of cooking. Hot stones, soil, and various plants create the structure of the imu, giving the food a delicious smoked taste. It was interesting to compare my previous interaction with plants in the lab with my interaction in this course. I realized that both experiences instilled a respect of the plants but in different ways.

Geography has always been an area where I have needed improvement. I felt as though this course was a great opportunity to learn in a setting where I would be very invested in my work. The course also took an interactive approach to learning about Hawaiian culture. Each student was required to participate in community service trips concentrated on connecting, respecting, and giving back to nature. I helped plant taro in Waipi‘o Valley and participated in a beach clean-up on the Ka‘ū coastline. My experiences during the taro planting and beach clean-up instilled a strong sense of community, which made the learning process personal and memorable. I had tremendous respect for my teachers, guides, and classmates for the knowledge that was passed down and the community effort to make a positive impact.

In addition to my coursework I spent time exploring the vast biological diversity on Hawai‘i Island. The Student Life Center Outdoor Recreation program at UH Hilo organized weekend trips to various places around the island. This was a huge advantage for sightseeing—not to mention all the trips to the beach! It was neat to watch the Hilo rain gradually drift away driving over to the Kona side of the island, leaving us a sunny beach day. Along the drive we passed through areas of lush vegetation, plains of old lava rock, and regions of steep and sloping hills. In each of these settings, distinct plants and animals flourished. The many different environments on just one small island amazed me. My favorite trip was to the Kaumana Caves, a network of lava tubes not too far from campus. These activities made exploring possible even without the convenience of a car and created great opportunities to meet new friends.

paddlers on Hilo Bay (photo, left) Paddlers on Hilo Bay during the University Canoe Club.

While having great experiences and making lasting memories were enjoyable, it was not enough. I wanted to reflect on these experiences to increase my understanding and personal connection. The Nā Ala 'Ike Hawai'i program allowed me to gain new experiences and prompted me to reflect on them. The program focuses on immersing students in the Hawaiian culture through coursework, service, and other activities to promote respect for diversity. An example of an activity that counted towards the program is the University Canoe Club. Students, faculty, and community members worked in six-person teams during the club to explore the Hilo Bay in outrigger canoes. It was a great way to let off steam from a long day of classes while connecting with locals in the community. The Nā Ala 'Ike Hawai'i program helped me understand the culture’s deep respect for the ‘āina, a Hawaiian word meaning that which brings sustenance, and think of ways to apply it to my own life.

My exchange story contains many neat memories but intertwined is an important story about the Hawaiian culture. My courses extended far beyond the basic scientific foundations of the topic by delving into a more complex understanding of the material as it related to Hawaiian culture. This allowed me to broadened my understanding of botany and geography while expanding my approaches to science in general. I hope that my story will inspire others to not only respect the Hawaiian culture but also to go out into the world and learn about a new culture.

Learn more about the National Student Exchange Program

by Martha Baker

Great news for all students! A CNS advisor from Career Services, Nessim Watson, is holding regular office hours in the Morrill II conference room on Wednesdays from 1:00-4:00 p.m. He is also available for appointments on all other weekdays and Wednesday mornings at Career Services in Goodell 511.

Nessim Watson

Nessim is a certified professional résumé writer and assistant director for career planning at UMass Amherst Career Services. He works with all students in the College of Natural Sciences and can help you with a range of topics—finding paid internships, applying to graduate schools, crafting targeted résumés and cover letters, practicing interview skills, and more.

Nessim and the Career Services team in Goodell can help you to successfully:

  • Identify your strengths and interests and match them to possible career paths
  • Translate your knowledge and abilities into transferable employment skills
  • Describe your professional self to others
  • Learn competitive job search skills to secure a meaningful position in your field
  • Build and sustain professional relationships and networks
  • Locate and use field-specific career resources on the web
  • Develop realistic career and professional goals
  • Find and apply to the graduate school of your choice
  • Explore possible life and career options through a variety of venues

To make an appointment with Nessim, go to CNS Academic Advising and select Career Advising from the left side. Nessim is also available for appointments on all other weekdays and Wednesday mornings, at Career Services in Goodell 511. Call (413) 545-2224 for an appointment in Goodell.

by Martha Baker

I recently attended the kick-off event for ExSEL: Excellence through Student Enhanced Learning, which is a new initiative on campus.

The purpose of this pilot program is to utilize a peer-led team learning model developed by City College of New York and Washington University. Four courses in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) have been identified to be part of ExSEL: Biology 152, Chemistry 111, Chemistry 112, and Math 127. Economics 103 is also part of the program.

As an enrichment program, ExSEL is designed not only to benefit students currently enrolled in these classes but also provide an opportunity for leadership development for the peer leaders. Students are invited to participate in two ways:

Those students currently enrolled in the courses can apply for the program. Those selected will be organized into cohesive study groups of no more than 10 members. Those groups will meet with a peer leader twice a week to work collaboratively on problem sets created by the course instructors, who spent significant time last fall developing them.

Other students have been chosen to be peer leaders. They are undergoing extensive training, working on how to convey subject matter as well as creating a positive learning environment so that the students in their study groups will feel comfortable asking questions and receiving assistance.

The program has received funding support from the Davis Foundation. At the kick-off, Provost Katherine Newman enthusiastically spoke about the significance of ExSEL in assuring students success. She welcomed the peer leaders and congratulated them on being selected for this innovative new program.

Campus partners introduced included representatives from the Learning Resource Center (LRC), the College of Natural Sciences (CNS), the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT), the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS), the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, Student Affairs and Campus Life, and the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment.

by Martha Baker

UMass Amherst, the College of Natural Sciences, and UMass Extension hosted the Massachusetts Envirothon on November 5. This is a statewide environmental education program for high school students and their advisors. The purpose of the program is to get students engaged and excited about environmental issues.

Envirothon 2014

Students are able to gain hands-on knowledge about Massachusetts ecosystems, investigate local environmental issues, participate in community decisions and actions, and grow in their commitment to stewardship of the environment and natural resources. The program also looks to cultivate a curiosity and love of learning in science.

Students prepare for year for a statewide event in May that tests their knowledge of forest, wildlife, water, and soil resources as well as current environmental issues.

Envirothon 2014

The theme of the 2015 Mass Envirothon is "Climate Crisis: Taking Action in Massachusetts Communities" and the teams are working on how to implement strategies both to prevent accelerating climate change and to adapt to a changing world. Their work includes attending workshops; the one held at UMass Amherst was a great success, with more than 200 students from across the Commonwealth participating.

Students attended a variety of workshops including:

  • Biodiversity in a Changing Climate
  • Tree Identification
  • Mass. Global Warming Solutions Act
  • Implication of Climate Change on Water Resources
  • Groundwater and Contamination
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Political Power of Individuals
  • Envirothon 2014

    They also benefitted from a tour of the power plant, just being on campus, and of course a UMass lunch.

by Martha Baker

I recently got an email from Frank Carellini IV, a senior Biology major. He wanted to share a story about recent experience doing tropical research. Here's his story:

I participated in tropical field biology, BIO 487H, in spring 2014 leading to a field expedition in Belize. The students had to design projects and complete them in the rain forest over a small ten day period. I had a slight idea of what I wanted to do but it all changed when I got to Belize.

UMass Amherst biology student Frank Carellini IV '15 in Belize

The forest was beautiful and the houses and mess halls were constructed of beautiful palm leaves and wood. There was only one issue: there were destructive termite nests everywhere and termites were chewing through trees and vegetation.

I saw this as a huge problem and no one was dealing with it. I started brainstorming on how I could use ten days to design a method of destroying these nests and therefore the termite threat.

I never knew anything about termites, or even insects, for that matter--I have been focused on molecular biology. But I got to thinking that there must be something in their intestines allowing them to chew through the wood. I quickly looked up an article on termite gut and I found that they have millions of bacteria that are responsible for digesting wood.

Aha! Here is where the good part comes in: I was previously sick the week before the trip so I was prescribed an excess of antibiotics to protect me in the tropics. I thought: if I can feed the antibiotics to the termites, then the gut flora would be destroyed and they wouldn't be able to digest wood!

Long story short, a few days later, termites were dying and the local people of Belize were actually thanking me for killing the termites. The locals were excited and started asking me to help out and it was incredible.

UMass Amherst biology student Frank Carellini IV '15

The whole point is that I was in the jungle with no equipment or computer. I saw a problem, thought of a solution and in less than ten days, conducted an experiment that had never been done.

My success stems from UMass coursework, professors and the work ethic I have been taught throughout my college years. I didn't use expensive drugs, I didn't need a grant or scholarship. I simply used $14 of antibiotics and potentially discovered a method that can prevent billions in damage."

by Martha Baker

Have you thought about studying abroad? Find out where in the world you could study: Stop by the International Programs Office (IPO) in 455 Hills South or check out the IPO Website. And read below about the experiences of one CNS student, Alyssa Noyes '15. Here's what she emailed me about how she spent the spring semester of her junior year:

Studying abroad in Granada, Spain, this past semester was one of the best experiences of my life. Getting to live in this beautiful city for five months with a host family, take classes, learn the language, and enjoy travel and time with the other students in my program was so rewarding.

As a Biology and Environmental Science double major, I loved the diversity of the area surrounding Granada, which is in the state of Andalucía. Because of its proximity to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the region contains a vast array of different ecosystems. I was able study these environments in a course called Ecosystems of Andalucía, which we explored on field trips. This class, along with another one in renewable energy, counted toward my Environmental Science requirements; one named The Arab World and the West counted as a social and cultural diversity class for my General Education requirement.

Sacromente, Granada, Spain(Photo, right) An area of Granada called Sacromonte; the Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the background. Locals live in the caves in the hill right behind us.

My Spanish classes helped me to improve my Spanish skills and were a cool way to meet other students, especially because I was the only American in the class. It was crazy to meet people from all over the world just in this class and it was a great way to learn Spanish because that was the only language we had in common! I remember looking at people sitting on either side of me in class one day and one was taking notes of Spanish words with translation into German, while another was translating into Italian. Of course, many students were learning English as well as Spanish, so I wasn't at a complete loss.

I learned a majority of my Spanish, however, by simply being in this Spanish-speaking country. Not many people in Granada spoke English, so I was forced to learn the language very quickly just by taking the local bus, ordering food and drinks in restaurants, asking where something was located in a store, etc. It was frustrating at times but I still loved every minute of it.

Mirador Alto, Granada, Spain(Photo, left) Stopping on a hike up to the Mirador Alto, which roughly translates to "scenic overlook," to view Granada with friends from my program.

In addition to my classes, I was able to volunteer to teach local elderly people to speak English by conversing with them—it was nice to know I wasn't the only one struggling to learn another language! We mostly talked about the differences between Spanish and American culture and the stereotypes of each, which was cool to hear from the local people. The two cultures are very different but they are also strikingly the same, the main differences being the timing of everything (work, meals) and the emphasis on family life instead of working.

I could go on and on about my life in Spain and Granada and all the different experiences that I had there, as every day brought something new. Plus, I didn't only spend time in Granada. On weekends and breaks I was also able to travel throughout Europe to visit other countries—eight!—and more than two dozen cities, including lots of cities throughout southern Spain. But Granada will always be my favorite.

by Martha Baker

New Student Orientation for the class of 2018 has just ended and CNS
welcomed over 1400 incoming freshmen during June and July.

NSO students on Mount Sugarloaf

While on campus for each two-day session, incoming students were greeted by me and Dean Cave, learned about the University and CNS academic requirements, took placement tests, met with advisors to select courses for the fall, heard more about the common read, Orange is the New Black,and had plenty of time to learn about the opportunities awaiting them on campus.

In addition, they had fun! In the evening they were entertained by the "Not Ready for Bedtime Players," showed off their talents in an open mic session, learned the latest dance steps, played some hoops, or just
hung out with new friends. It is an exciting time for these incoming freshmen. I look forward to seeing them on September 1st for Fall Orientation.

NSO group photo and CNS Deans on Mount Sugarloaf
I am grateful for all the advisors and student peer advisors who helped
out over the summer. To show our appreciation we had an End of NSO
celebration on the top of Sugarloaf ­ a good time was had by all.

by Martha Baker

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner

The Student Union Ballroom was packed with people and conversation on Thursday, April 3, as students and health professionals gathered for the third edition of the Pre-health Sciences Networking Dinner. Organized and run by students in the Pre-Med Club, this year's event brought together over 200 people. CNS, the Commonwealth Honors College, and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences also sponsored the event. Of the 26 health professionals in attendance, 14 were UMass alumni, including keynote speaker Dr. Christopher S. Lathan.

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner keynote speaker Dr. Christopher S. Lathan

In his speech entitled "Back to the Start, Again. My Road to Academic Medicine," Dr. Lathan, Faculty Director for Cancer Care Equity and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (pictured at left), recounted his journey into the field of medicine, a path he never expected to follow.

While growing up, Dr. Lathan "never considered medicine as an option" and didn't figure out what he wanted to do until after earning his master's degree from UMass Amherst. He also talked about the different research opportunities available in health sciences, and explained how, through his own research, he began to notice disparities in the type of care received by minority patients. Following this path, he continued to focus on minority patients through his work as a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner student speakers

Dr. Lathan stressed the importance of mentors in pursuing a career in health sciences, noting that he owes much of his success to the mentors he found at UMass Amherst and elsewhere. He encouraged the students present to seek out mentors who can both support and challenge them.

by Martha Baker

CNS Student Leadership Committee in Becket, Ma.
The College of Natural Sciences’ Student Leadership Committee is made up of students who are nominated by their department. The students serve as ambassadors of the college and help out a variety of events. So far this year members have shared their experiences with the Dean’s Advisory Board; served as escorts for Board members at CNS Day; met with prospective students who are interested in studying science; and were a great help at Fall Open House where they talked to high school students and their parents.

We kicked off the year in September with an leadership training outing. It was a way of the group getting to know one another and just to have fun. We spent the day doing some team building, low ropes and then a high ropes course. A good time was had by all! It was a great day and the students were very pleased that Dean Goodwin joined us.

CNS student prepare for ropes course training in Becket, Ma.

CNS student waves from above

CNS students at leadership training in Becket, Ma.

by Martha Baker

Celebrate the beginning of the academic year with food and fun! Our College Day Cookout is always a fall favorite for all CNS students, faculty, and staff! We provide delicious local food and live music--all you have to bring is a smile and a willingness to help make this a zero waste event.

Here’s some of what we are doing to make it Green:
• Locally-sourced food minimizes transportation costs & bolsters local economy
• CNS-raised cranberries (UMass Cranberry Station) & apples (Cold Springs Orchard)
• Free-range, low-chemical meats—humane and healthy
• The menu is all finger food—no need for eating utensils
• Plates, cups, napkins and food waste—all compostable
• Food packaging—minimized
• Green decorations—to be given away afterward or returned to the farm
• Student EcoReps on site to provide eco-education
• Plastic bun bags, last year's main trash source, will be reused by a local ceramics artist
• The all-acoustic band will provide 100 percent people-powered music

Looking forward to seeing you Friday, September 27, 11:30 am -1 pm at a new location: the Life Sciences Laboratory Lawn (behind the ISB)--rain or shine!

Photo of College Day Cookout

by Martha Baker

Photo of invasive plant Purple Loosestrife

Last night I attended a lecture sponsored by the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) Program at UMASS. The “Science Café” is organized by a group of graduate students and faculty. The purpose is to engage the broader community in science. Events are held throughout the academic year and enjoyed by all age groups. Science Café is held at Esselon Café on Route 9 in Hadley and is free to the public.

Last night, Prof. Bethany Bradley from the Department of Environmental Conservation, spoke on “Some Like It Hot” a discussion of climate change, plants and invasion risk. She provided samples of some of invasion plants in Massachusetts and there was a lively discussion.

Invasive plants are non-native plants that are capable of aggressively invading natural areas and displacing native vegetation.They generally lack predators and parasites, giving them a competitive edge over native species. Some of the better know invasive plants are Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Knotweed, and Purple Loosestrife. Many of the invasive plants were brought to the state for their ornamental value and then ‘spread like weeds”.

It seems like most folks in the audience were well aware of invasive plants and there were many questions about how to get rid of them – Bethany suggested cutting back and putting the cuttings into a black garbage bag – never cut and throw into the woods!!

There are other “Science Café” presentations planned for the fall semester:
Oct 7 – “How to Scare a Spider” – with Skye Long
Nov 4 – “Live Wires: Bacterial Batteries”, with Dr. Derek Lovley
Dec 9 – “To the Sea (and back again)”, with Dr. Steve McCormick

by Martha Baker

This month I have been working on awarding scholarships to CNS students. I am struck by the generosity of alumni who have set up Scholarship Funds that directly benefit deserving students. Just recently I attended the Martha's Vineyard Graduation Ceremony to award the George and Edith Codding Scholarship. This award was established by the Coddings in 1965 to offer assistance to students who graduate from high schools in Martha's Vineyard or Taunton and attend UMASS and declare a major in the College of Natural Sciences with the desire to study some aspect of Agriculture or the Environment. This year, the fund generated over $50,000 to be awarded to seven students. The scholarship is renewable over four years.
Dean Martha Baker and CNS Scholarship Recipient
The student standing with me in the photo received Codding funding and will be entering the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in the fall.
There are other funds established by alums and their generosity continues to support students. Here are a few scholarships that will be awarded to students for the upcoming year:
The Albert Wadsworth Meserve Fund, est. 1980
The Charles Plumb Fund, est. 1952
The Porter Newton Fund, est. 1938
The Fred Farwell Fund, est. 1998

As UMASS is celebrating its 150th Anniversary and beginning the UMASS Rising Campaign, it is certainly fitting to be grateful to alumni who have so valued their education at UMASS that they decided to 'give back' and their legacy lives on……..

by Martha Baker

Girls + STEM + professors + CNS = Eureka!


An amazing partnership has been formed between Girls Inc of Holyoke and the College of Natural Sciences. In April, Dean Goodwin was contacted by Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. about the possibility of CNS hosting a summer program for girls entering the 8th grade in order to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Within a month the program was approved and arrangements confirmed. Over 60 faculty and graduate students volunteered to teach the girls about science, (including a lab experience), classroom space was secured, and the Recreation Center and Dining Services offered their services.

The girls will spend about 50% of their time on campus learning about STEM ( the girls will also go on some field trips including to the Quabbin and Cold Spring Orchards ); 25% of the time will be spent on recreation; and 25% on personal growth. The students will really get to be part of the CNS and UMASS community. They will eat in the dining commons, walk to various activities across campus, attend university events and just enjoy the opportunity to explore and grow.

The program will run from July 8 to Aug. 2. It is a day program and girls will arrive on campus each day by bus.

A kick-off of the event was held on June 17 at the Girls Inc of Holyoke Teen Center. Dean Goodwin spoke about the importance of CNS reaching out to communities.

by Martha Baker

UMass new building

Recently I received this email from a former student. PJ graduated in 2011 as a Pre-Vet student. I remember PJ well – he was an excellent student and very determined that he would go to veterinary school – he is currently studying at Tufts. It was great to hear from him and to know that his undergraduate education prepared him well for the challenges of Vet School. It is so rewarding to hear from an grateful alum!!!!!

"Dear Dean Baker, I am writing to let you know how veterinary school has been going for a recent UMass grad!

Transitioning to life as a combined DVM-MPH student at Tufts was a quick process by necessity; our pre-clinical curriculum at Tufts moves quickly from physiology to pathophysiology to medicine (and then finally to
clinical rotations). While I am happy to be very close to beginning the medicine curriculum, my first two years at vet school have been full of reminders of my pre-veterianry studies at UMass. As a pre-vet student I remember sometimes feeling that my course work and extracurricular research were primarily to get me through the rigorous vet school application process. It is clear to me now that I will rely on the foundation of basic science knowledge I got from UMass during the rest of my education and future career. In addition to the basic science knowledge base we developed in our pre-vet courses, many of the animal handling and husbandry skills we practiced at the Hadley Farm help me to feel confident in the clinical skills we learn and practice here.

As I progress through my studies of animal healthcare and the role animal health plays in human disease I can see more and more clearly how each part of my education fits together. At each step closer to realizing my dream of becoming a veterinarian and scientist, I feel a greater appreciation for everyone and everything that has helped to guide me to the path I am on today!

PJ Stanley Hamel '11 (BS in Veterinary and Animal Science)"

by Martha Baker

UMass new building

It is pretty exciting to walk across campus and see all the new construction. The $91M Academic Classroom Building will be ready in spring 2014 and will provide long anticipated additional classroom space for the campus. I took this picture from my office the CNS Advising Center in Morrill. You can't miss the new complex for the Commonwealth Honors College. It will open this fall at a cost of $188M. And what about the Life Sciences Laboratory building, right behind the ISB; the $160M state of the art building is expected to open this spring and will house interdisciplinary research laboratories.

Of course, CNS is very excited that the $85M Physical Sciences Building with chemistry and physics laboratory space will start construction soon. Lots of other projects are on the horizon – an expansion of the Isenberg School of Management; renovations to to Lederle Graduate Research Center; MUCH needed work in Morrill; expansion of McGuirk Alumni Stadium and the construction of practice arena for men's and women's basketball teams.

In addition to all the new construction, there is a lot of work going into renovation of existing facilities. Renovation and modernization projects will correct deferred maintenance in Marks Meadow, Paige, Hampshire Dining, Lincoln Campus Center, Goodell and various residence halls. All this bodes well for the campus and will help to continue to attract top notch students and faculty. It is indeed exciting!!!!!

by Martha Baker

It is never too early to start thinking about finding an internship. Whether you plan on starting a career after graduation or applying to graduate school the value of an internship cannot be overstated:

Students can gain "real life experience" by applying what is learned in the classroom to the workplace.

Students can develop skills necessary to gain experience required to be successful in their chosen career.

Students can start building a network that can pay great dividends after graduation.

Students can "get a foot in the door" with a company/organization.

Students have the opportunity to see if the particular career is the right one based on getting personal experience in the field.

So how do you find out about internships – START NETWORKING!!!! Talk to faculty and advisors, talk to other students who have already done internships, check out internship opportunities on the web, talk to neighbors who may have connections!!!

You can also use Campus Career Services – Attend an Internship Information Session – they are held every Monday at 12:30 pm and Wednesday at 4:00 pm in 508 Goodell while classes are in session

Check out the Campus Career Services website

CNS students have done great internships in the past and gained valuable experiences – now it is your turn!

by Martha Baker

The CNS Student Leadership Committee is made up of students nominated by their department. Almost all majors in the college are represented. Students serve as ambassadors to the college and help out at a variety of events including CNS Day, Fall Open House, Spring Open Houses as well as other activities during the school year.

In September, we planned a white water rafting trip to start off the semester and to welcome new members. Dean Wileden, Dean Fisette and I accompanied 14 students to raft on the Deerfield River. Everyone had a blast and greatly enjoyed the challenge of category 4 rapids!

by Martha Baker

The Class of 2016 started arriving for New Student Orientation (NSO) the first week of June, and NSO sessions will run through the middle of July. While on campus for each two-day session, incoming students are greeted by me and Dean Wileden, learn about the University and CNS academic requirements, take placement tests, meet with an advisor to select courses for fall, and have plenty of time to learn about the opportunities awaiting them at UMass. In addition, they HAVE FUN! In the evening they are entertained by the “Not Ready for Bedtime Players,’ show off their talents in an ‘open mic’ session, learn the latest dance steps, play some ‘hoops,’ or just hang out with new friends. It is an exciting time for these incoming freshmen. They will return to campus in late August for Fall Orientation and will definitely be ready to ‘hit the books.

by Jack Wileden

A pedometer seemed like a nice thing to give to the class of 2015 when they first arrived on campus. It was small, easy to use and light-hearted, with a touch of seriousness. But once I began using it, I found that I learned quite a bit about myself.

First of all, walking the recommended 10,000 steps is a pretty steep expectation. (The goal of taking 10,000 steps in a day is a rough equivalent to the Surgeon General's recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.) I certainly was able to reach—and exceed—that goal on a number of occasions, but more often than not I’d end up in the 6,000-7,500 range. During Fall Orientation, I racked up a whopping 11,458 steps, but I never got above 8,369 for the rest of September. During a departmental retreat in November, I only logged 2029 steps, the least amount of walking I experienced for all of Fall semester—but hopefully my participation in planning for the future of the Department of Computer Science can be calculated by other measures.

On vacation, however, my steps betray my eagerness to explore the treasures of Greece and Turkey. On the day that my wife and I visited the Acropolis, I walked 15,142 steps, and I walked 13,852 on the fascinating island of Rhodes.

Interestingly, the pedometer couldn’t account for other kinds of exercise, like playing tennis. It couldn’t register my heart rate, or my lunges, the quickness of my footwork, or my ace serves (I wish!). It did, however, tell me that I took about as many “steps” in 90 minutes of mixed doubles tennis as I did on an average day on campus. This in turn suggests that, on an ordinary day as I go about my business, my level of activity may well exceed the recommended 30 minutes even if I’m not routinely reaching the 10,000-step level. And perhaps more important, wearing the pedometer and charting my steps gave me insight into the potential health benefits that can accrue from walking, and why I shouldn’t side step this important form of exercise.

by Martha Baker

Frozen Fenway was a blast! An outdoor ice rink is created in Fenway Park, and this year the UMass Amherst Ice Hockey team played rival University of Vermont. It was a thrilling game--the UMass Minutemen beat the UVM Catamounts in overtime, 3-2 on January 7, 2012.

It was so much fun to be rooting for UMass Amherst at an outdoor rink, especially when it was so mild outside that we barely needed coats. But for me personally, the high point of the day came from the stands, not the rink. At one point someone turned to me and asked if I was a student. “No, I’m Martha Baker,” I said. “You mean, the Martha Baker who sends all the email?” she asked—it turned out that she was a recent graduate of UMass Amherst, and from the College of Natural Sciences, no less. “I got SO MUCH email from you! I can’t believe that I’m meeting you in person!”

We went back to watching the game. After awhile, I felt another tap on my shoulder. I knew it was the student whom I’d spoken with earlier, and worried that she might have an unresolved academic issue to discuss. I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t so much fun to be at Frozen Fenway, but I steeled myself and turned to speak with her.

“Martha Baker, I just wanted you to know that I got the best education at UMass Amherst. The classes were great, and the professors were amazing. If I could go back and do it again, I would!” she said. The smile from that conversation didn’t leave my face until we were back in the car on our way back to Amherst. What a great day!

Frozen Fenway pictures by Josh Gibney

by Martha Baker

The CNS Student Leadership Committee is a group of students representing all majors in the College. Students can apply to be part of the group or are recommended by faculty. The students serve as ambassadors for the college and help out at a variety of events, including CNS Day (October 13), Fall Open House, Spring Open House, etc.
The committee got together recently for a leadership training day at a YMCA facility in Becket, MA. It was a day enjoyed by all - we did a low ropes course and some team building events. Best of all though was the high ropes course. Wearing helmets and harnesses students tested their skills on a variety of challenges. Check out these pictures.

by Martha Baker

What a day! Saturday, May 14 - the CNS Senior Recognition Ceremony in the Mullins Center. Over 1000 CNS graduates joined in the celebration. A UMass Jazz Octet provided the music - the group was just fantastic. After brief welcoming remarks from Dean Goodwin, students in each department were called to the platform. Departments were introduced by a student speaker and then individual student names were announced as their smiling faces were projected on jumbo screens. Each student received a UMass medallion. The event ended with students throwing off their mortar boards and putting on CNS baseball caps that were given out as gifts. As graduates left the arena the jazz band played "I Feel Good". It was a great day!! To see photos, visit Pictures of 2011 Senior Celebration.

by Martha Baker

Have you seen some students wearing the new College of Natural Sciences t-shirts? On the back of the shirt is the new slogan for the College - "SCIENCE Comes Naturally at UMass Amherst". If you would like a shirt, just stop by the CNS Advising Office in 220 Morrill II. Price is $12.00. Cash or check only.

by Martha Baker

Plans are well underway for Commencement Weekend 2011.
The University Commencement will take place on Friday, May 13 at 5:00PM in McGuirk Stadium.

The CNS Graduation will take place at 4:00PM on Saturday, May 14 in the Mullins Center. Graduates' names will be announced as they cross the stage to shake hands with college leaders and receive a Commemorative UMass Medal. Two jumbo screens will broadcast each graduate's time on stage. A UMass jazz band will provide music. Each graduate will receive a special gift from the college.

by Martha Baker

There was quite a sight when I arrived in my office this morning. On the lawn by the Campus Pond was a helicopter. As part of the Du Bois Library Elevator Replacement Project, heavy equipment was lifted by helicopter to the top of the Library.

A large area around the Library, including lawn areas east and west of the Campus Pond, was roped off. The helicopter, with a long cable attached, slowly lifted off and positioned itself above a truck where heavy equipment was located. The equipment was attached to the cable and then the helicopter made its way to hover over the roof of the Library. It carefully lowered the equipment and the cables were released. The procedure was repeated five times. It was really interesting to watch!

Now that exams are over and students are home or heading home, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

by Martha Baker

Have you checked out the construction site behind the ISB? The new Laboratory Science Building (NLSB) is really taking shape. At a cost of $156 million, the 310,000 state of the art research facility is slated to open by Fall 2012. The building will house faculty from different disciplines and allow collaborative research projects. Check out the construction from the second floor of the ISB!

by Martha Baker

Did anyone see a group of students dressed in HazMat suits, goggles and gloves sorting trash by the Student Union last week?? Well, they were there to prove a point. Josh Stoffel, a CNS graduate and Coordinator of the Sustainability Initiative, led 24 student interns in demonstrating just how many recyclables end up in landfills.

With 2,000 pounds of trash collected from several residence halls, Josh and his team separated out mysterious liquids, unused notebooks, unopened food and wearable clothing. The point was to show what was thrown away and what could have been recycled. Of the 2000 pounds of trash collected, 64% was actually trash but the rest could have been recycled. Since the University pays for trash by weight, anything that can be recycled is a cost savings.

The Sustainability Initiative focuses on making the campus more environmentally conscious. The initiative works on water and energy reduction, resource management, green building, transportation and education. The Initiative also sponsors an Eco-Rep in each dormitory - a student educator who leads peers in environmentally sustainable practices.
Check out this site to see what you can do to make UMass 'green' -

by Martha Baker

For the last couple of weeks and until the middle of November I am fortunate to be a 'shareholder' in the UMass Student Farming Enterprise. Every Friday on my way home from work, I stop by Bowditch Hall to fill bags with fresh produce. The Enterprise is a collaboration of students and faculty of the UMass community who are passionate in learning about agriculture and food through the production and distribution of high quality organic produce. It started in 2007 with two students growing kale and broccoli through an independent study project. In spring 2008, it was established as a 2-semester Plant, Soil and Insect Science class. It has been developed and taught by extension educators. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and departments, as well as the other area colleges.

Here are some of the vegetables that are grown: beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, celeriac, chard, garlic, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabaga, spinach, turnips and winter squash. It has been fun to find new recipes to use all the vegetables and herbs. Pretty nice that UMass provides this opportunity to students (and to all the shareholders who reap the benefits of their hard work!).

by Jack Wileden

You may not find the Wizard of Oz, but if you follow the Yellow Balloon Road from Stockbridge Hall next Thursday (Oct. 14) between noon and 1:30 you'll find something equally wonderful:

CNS College Day!

There will be food and fun for everyone in the College of Natural Sciences -- staff, students, faculty -- and it will all be happening, rain or shine, just outside of the Computer Science Building.

Don't know how to find the Computer Science Building? Well, just find Stockbridge Hall (it's near the Campus Center and the parking garage), where the CNS college offices are located, and follow the Yellow Balloon Road from there to College Day!

See you there!