CNS News Briefs

CNS News Briefs

Noteworthy news from the College of Natural Sciences

June 1, 2022

Research, grants, awards, achievements, and other events at the College of Natural Sciences' 13 departments and two schools.

September 1, 2022: Abigail Jensen, Associate Professor in the Biology Department, recently received a $300,000 three-year grant funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness to fund research on Stargardt Disease, an inherited disease that causes childhood blindness. 

August 22, 2022: Ezra Markowitz, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation, has been elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (effective Jan. 1, 2023). For more information, click here

August 16, 2022: Stockbridge School of Agriculture donated $1,000 to Smith Vocational-Agricultural High School Horticulture and Forestry Program to help replace some of the equipment lost in a fire earlier this year. For more information, click here

August 4, 2022: Janice Telfer, professor in the Veterinary and Animal Sciences department, has been selected for The Clinton, New York Central School District Foundation Hall of Distinction, designed to recognize and celebrate graduates and retirees of the school district for their accomplishments as well as to inspire current students to future success. For more information, click here

August 4, 2022: Janice Telfer, professor in the Veterinary and Animal Sciences department, has been awarded a three-year, $642,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, click here.

August 2, 2022: Grace Casselberry, PhD candidate in the Environmental Conservation department, received the Gruber Presentation Award at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society. For more information, click here

July 15, 2022: The Babbit lab in the Biology Department has been awarded a new $473,000 grant from the NSF. The objective of this grant is to harness the power of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to examine the evolution of metabolism in the human and primate brain at the cellular level. The results will enhance our understanding of how these critical metabolic changes have shaped the human brain. 

July 15, 2022: Maureen Perry-Jenkins, Professor and Department Chair in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department, published a new book entitled: "Work Matters: How Parents' Jobs Shape Children's Well-being". For more information, click here

July 14, 2022: Michael S. Bank, Adjunct Associate Professor of Contaminants and Complex Systems published a new, open-access book on microplastics in the environment. For more information, click here

July 1, 2022: Kristen DeAngelis, Associate Professor in the Microbiology Department and Department Honors Program Director was announced as a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). This program annually selects a scientifically diverse group of lecturers through a competitive nomination process. 

June 23, 2022: Tom Maresca, Associate Professor in the Biology Department and Director of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award.

June 21, 2022: Three UMass Departments (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Conservation, and Geosciences) along with the research and contracting shop called UMassAir have initiated a new 9-credit Graduate Certificate in Unoccupied Aerial System Pilots (Drones). For more information, click here.  To enroll, visit https://www.umass.edu/uww/ or email UMassAir@umass.edu, the first two courses are being offered this summer! 

June 16, 2022: Michelle Dacosta has been promoted from Associate Professor to Full Professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. DaCosta is coordinator for both our Plant & Soil Sciences bachelor degree program, and our Turfgrass Management associate degree program.

June 14, 2022: A grant from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) allowed students in the UMass Amherst Biochemistry Club to engage Holyoke, MA high school students through DNA strawberry experiments.

June 7, 2022: Prof. Pete Schloerb has been recently awarded the 2022 Distinguished Faculty Lectureship and Chancellor Medal. This lecture series celebrates the value of academic excellence and recognizes the distinguished achievements of faculty. Those chosen for the series also receive the Chancellor's Medal, the highest honor bestowed to faculty by the campus.

June 7, 2022: Prof. Lorraine Cordeiro, associate professor in nutrition and director of the Center for Research on Families at UMass Amherst, was one of five UMass system faculty to receive the Manning Prize for Teaching Excellence. Read on... 

May 5, 2022: Professor Linda Tropp of Psychological and Brain Sciences has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship for 2023 at the University of Sussex, UK, to enhance the skills and knowledge of the academic staff and students as a visiting researcher.

April 19, 2022: Assistant Unit Leader of Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, in the Department of Environmental Conservation Graziella V. DiRenzo was recently elected as an Early Career Fellow by the Ecological Society of America. DiRenzo was selected for her exceptional leadership in research in evaluating direct and indirect impacts of disease on host populations and community dynamics; teaching and mentorship engaging in several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and application of ecology to management through collaborative relationships with state and federal agencies to address urgent conservation needs.

April 19, 2022: Associate Professor of Biology Madelaine Bartlett won the prestigious Marcus Rhoades early career award from the Maize Genetics Corporation for her research in plant genetics and the evolution of plant development. Bartlett’s lab studies the genes that control development in maize (or corn) and Brachypodium distachyon. They are working to determine which genes are important in grass flower development, how they work, and how the evolution of these genes impacts the evolution of floral form. 

March 3, 2022: Stockbridge professor Jaimie Piñero and Extension Educator Elizabeth Garofalo were awarded a USDA/NIFS grant of over $700k to fund experiential learning and research into sustainable food production systems. The grant will create focused agricultural research opportunities for 8 student interns and will seek to reach both UMass students and local high school students from historically underrepresented groups. Read on...

February 16, 2022: Kudos to Veterinary and Animal Sciences Assistant Professor Alissa Rothchild, who just received a two-year $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID) to study the early, innate immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. The funding will support the Rothchild Lab's research on how the initial pulmonary response to infection by alveolar macrophages is regulated by the transcription factor Nrf2. Read on...

February 9, 2022: Congratulations to Amanda Desmond, a junior economics and space science major in the Commonwealth Honors College, who was just named one of 51 Brooke Owens Fellows for 2022 — she is the first student selected for the program from the UMass system. The New York–based nonprofit Fellowship program recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities with space and aviation internships, senior mentorship, and a lifelong professional network. Read on...

February 2022: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Assistant Professor ChangHui Pak recently co-edited — with Yubing Sun, from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department — a special issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology on "Organoids: Expanding Applications Enabled by Emerging Technologies." Speaking to their collaboration, Pak says: “We are at an exciting time in organo-biology where we can combine bioengineering and material engineering tools to tailor our 3D tissues in culture to better mimic human development and to translate these materials to disease biology. To this end, we need engineers and biologists to work together closely.” Read on...

February 3, 2022: The UMass iCons Program is collaborating with the Biomedical Engineering department in the College of Engineering to develop an innovative laboratory course open to both iCons and BME students. Spearheaded by Martin Hunter, senior lecturer in biomedical engineering, and Erica Light, adjunct lecturer in iCons, this pioneering program will open up to more students after the initial pilot in spring 2022. Read on...

February 2022: Sustainable agriculture Lecturer Lisa Depiano, in partnership with Simple Gifts Farm and the Interlace Commons, is developing two educational demonstration sites focused on alley cropping typologies. The project is funded by a $30k grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Partnership. Read on...

January 2022: Congratulations to Uzodinma Okoroanyanwu, research associate professor in the polymer science and engineering department, who was just named a 2022 Fellow of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). Fellows are SPIE members who have made significant scientific and technical contributions in the multidisciplinary fields of optics, photonics, and imaging. Read on...

January 24, 2022: Kudos to Zhou Lin, assistant professor in chemistry, and her co-authors on receiving the (“science + dialog") Scialog Award for their proposal to develop a new electrosynthetic route that reduces the emissions of two most significant greenhouse gases from waste management and treatment activities, carbon dioxide, and methane. The $55,000 grant will help the team design unconventional electrochemical reactors and catalysts to enable direct coupling of carbon dioxide and methane into valuable liquid feedstock. Read on... 

January 21, 2022: President Joe Biden has appointed Stockbridge alum Daniel A. Smiarowski, '88, as USDA State Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, Massachusetts. Congratulations! Read on...

January 15, 2022: Turfgrass alumni Ryan Bjorn '18 (turf AS) and Chris Hurly '10 (sports management) recently starred in a Patriots Field Crew video. Stockbridge Turfgrass graduates manage and maintain turf for major sports stadiums and top golf courses nationwide. Read on...

January 13, 2022: Congratulations to Environmental Conservation Professor Timothy Randhir, who co-authored the paper "Measuring the Quality of Patents Among Latin-American Universities," recently published in Studies in Higher Education. Their study could potentially benefit university management in assessing technology transfer into society, bridging a gap between the two. Read on...2022Randhir

December 2021: We were sad to hear about the death of former Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Professor Danny Schnell. He is remembered as a beloved professor, a wonderful friend and colleague, and an outstanding member of the UMass Amherst campus for nearly 15 years. Read on...

December 2021: UMass Amherst was part of an interdisciplinary team of faculty, including chemistry Professor Scott Auerbach, and student researchers that reported on climate injustice at a fall American Geophysical Union meeting. Three of the undergrads — Chloe Fischer, Carter Paul, and Kale Abrha — are from the iCons program. The team will continue to investigate systematic inequities in federal funding and study federal allocation mechanisms to help explain the story behind the data Read on...

December 2021: UMass Amherst's iCons program founder Scott Auerbach, chemistry and chemical engineering professor, recently participated in the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Roundtable on Systemic Change in Undergraduate STEM Education. "As educators, it's our responsibility to design STEM curricula around the needs of student and the challenges facing our collective society," said Auerbach. "Through our work in iCons, we’ve seen how college students can craft powerful solutions to real-world problems when they feel fully motivated to innovate and collaborate across disciplines and cultures. It's our hope that other schools can implement similar models in the coming years.”

December 2021: Stockbridge also bid farewell to plant physiologist Professor Susan Han, who's retiring after spending 33 years teaching undergrad and graduate-level courses. While at UMass Amherst, Han developed an innovative teaching practice, became a model advisor to students, conducted cutting-edge research, and mastered the complex organizational processes by which new curricula are added to the repertoire of our school and university. Read on...

December 2021: Congratulations to Stockbridge's Professor Prasanta Bhowmik on his retirement after spending 40 years at UMass Amherst educating and advising more than 2,300 students in the intricacies of weed management in agricultural systems. CNS wishes him the best in all future endeavors! Read on...

December 22, 2021: iCons undergrads Sarah Kaunfer, Simran Jeet, Phoebe Lasic-Ellis, and Hayley McIsaac recently won more than $30,000 for their 2021 Innovation Challenge submission, designed while they were in the program. The multi-part competition (hosted by the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at UMass Isenberg School of Management) encourages students to take the leap into a startup business. The women's product idea, to reduce the number of infections that patients develop in hospitals, clinics, and long-term facilities, is titled MicrobeBlaster. Read on...

December 16, 2021: BCT collaborated with Digital Ready (a Boston-based nonprofit that provides talented young Black and Latinx students from public schools a no-cost, head-start to a STEM degree from UMass) on a peer-to-peer learning exchange program developed by CNS' Paul J. Wolff and students in the new communication course required for all BCT majors (Communicating Building Science and Sustainability). Prospective students learned about building science concepts and technologies such as infrared cameras, air quality testing devices, power meters, as well as met with college students to learn about coursework, internships and career paths. Read on...

December 15, 2021: Food Science Professor Eric Decker has been appointed chair of the Food Forum of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Established in 1993, the Food Forum enables selected science and technology leaders in the food industry and top administrators in the federal government to periodically discuss and debate food and food-related issues openly and in a neutral setting. It provides a mechanism for these diverse groups to identify possible approaches to addressing food and food safety problems and issues surrounding the often complex interactions among industry, academia, regulatory agencies, and consumers. 

December 15, 2021: UMass Amherst's School of Public Policy is co-organizing the United Nations Global Sustainable Solutions Winter School 2022, a free workshop open to all UMass graduate students that runs Jan. 6 to 20, 2022. The deadline for applications is midnight, Dec. 24. Read on...

November 29, 2021: Researchers in CNS' Martin Lab, led by Prof. Craig Martin, will receive funding from the Wellcome Leap R3 (RNA Readiness + Response) initiative. The initiative brings researchers together to develop a global network of "living" biofoundries to enhance RNA-based manufacturing capabilities, with the goal of increasing access to diverse biologics and sustainable pandemic responses. In collaboration with the labs of Sarah Perry and Shelly Peyton in UMass' Chemical Engineering department, the Martin lab will develop dramatically improved approaches to RNA manufacturing. "Our aim is to improve the production of mRNA, the key ingredient in the two most successful vaccines against COVID-19, and in future therapies," says Martin. "Specifically, we will developed increased purity from the outset, reducing or eliminating costly purification steps downstream."

November 23, 2021: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Prof. Lin-Jun Ma and her lab have discovered how plants respond differently to useful and harmful microbes by researching two strains of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum. Their research was published in the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. Read on...

October 18, 2021: Professor Emerita Cynthia Baldwin has been selected as a Fellow of the Conference of Research Workers in Animals Diseases by her colleagues in the field. This CRWAD honor places Baldwin among an elite cadre of scientists in research careers, including academia, industry, and government.

October 4, 2021: David Kessler and Tristan Winick from CNS' Physics department are among 65 recipients of the Department of Energy's Science Graduate Student Research Awards. As part of this honor, each awardee will perform research at one of the DOE’s many facilities: Kessler will be trained at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Winick at Argonne National LaboratoryRead on...

October 1, 2021: Environmental Conservation Associate Professor Ezra Markowitz and Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Carolina Arágon have received a Climate Change Communication Award for their art installation in Boston harbor. The award recognizes the best projects dedicated to communicating the greatest challenge of the coming decades. Read on...

October: Natasha M. de la Rosa-Rivera, a fourth-year PhD student in the neuroscience and behavior program and a 2019 CRF Graduate Student Grant Writers Program member, is a recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) dissertation award (R36) to complete and further her research on brain systems. Read on...

September: Markos Katsoulakis and Luc Rey-Bellet, professors in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, have received a 1.1M grant for scientific machine learning from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). This grant — part of a $1.95 million  joint award between Katsoulakis, Rey-Bellet and Paul Dupuis of Brown University — focuses on the development of new mathematical, statistical and computational methods to enhance machine learning, predictions, and design of complex physico-chemical systems, such as in materials and energy problems. Read on.. .AFOSR grant

September 1, 2021: Psychological and Brain Sciences' announced that Shelby Casimir and Patricia Cole are the first recipients of the Feldman-Vorwerk Internship Award. Read on...

August 2021: Two groups of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty and staff were accepted as Inclusive Excellence Fellows for the 2021-2022 academic year. This fellowship provides the support for faculty and staff leaders to implement projects that foster the inclusion of all undergraduate students in the College of Natural Sciences. 

August 12, 2021: Psychological and Brain Sciences' Mélise Edwards and Agnès Lacreuse win a competitive Gilliam Fellowship. Read on... 

August 11, 2021: The Katsumata Research Group in the Polymer Science and Engineering department recently published a paper, "Molecular Design of Polymer Coatings Capable of Photo-Triggered Stress Relaxation via Dynamic Bond Exchange, in the Journal of Polymer Science. Read on...

August 10, 2021: Geosciences Prof. Michael Rawlins was recently interviewed by AMC Northeast Public Radio and MassLive.com on what the most recent IPCC report will mean for the current and future climate of the Northeastern U.S. Listen here...

August 1, 2021: Yulong Lu, from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, has won an NSF grant on the mathematical foundation of machine learning. This grant will complement a previously received interdisciplinary TRIPODS grant  devoted to scientific machine learning.

August 2021: Marco Keiluweit, assistant professor, Soils and the Environment, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, has received an NSF Career Grant. The objective of the grant is to develop mechanistic understanding of the dynamics and vulnerability of mineral-organic associations (MOAs) in the rhizosphere and to train diverse, creative, and technically-skilled environmental scientists to meet the most pressing environmental challenges of the 21st century. 

August 2021: Microbiology Associate Prof. Wilmore Webly was recognized by Northern Caribbean University for exemplifying "the ethics and values of NCU in his life and work" and for distinguishing himself "in the field of microbiology where he has demonstrated academic and professional excellence." In June, Webley was appointed Associate Dean for Office of Inclusion and Engagement at the Graduate School

July 19, 2021: Romain Vasseur, a condensed matter theorist working on strongly correlated quantum systems in the Physics department, has been granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor

July 21, 2021: Kudos to Food Science PhD candidate Cassandra Suther, who received a prestigious predoctoral fellowship of $180,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to study the effect of norovirus on the development and severity of food allergies. Read on...

July 2021: Microbiology Lecturer and Undergraduate Program Director Heather Reed was promoted  to Senior Lecturer effective Sept. 1.

 

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