Highlights:

Roman Sloutsky develops a new approach for reconstructing protein evolution

Roman Sloutsky, a postdoc in the Stratton Lab, recently published a paper in eLife describing a new, more accurate way to trace how proteins have diverged over time. Most proteins belong to families that descended from a common ancestor, but trying to reconstruct that genetic divergence from the very beginning is incredibly difficult. Roman and his former advisor decided to use a more recent ancestor with a known-sequence, simulating a series of amino acid substitutions to arrive at a more narrow collection of realistic protein sequences. Scientists use information about the evolution of proteins to design experiments and interpret their findings, so having an accurate idea of a protein’s evolutionary history has a substantial impact on the validity of their experiments.

Samar Mahmoud from the Chein Lab receives HHMI Gilliam Fellowship

Samar Mahmoud, an MCB PhD student in the Chien lab, was recently awarded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship. These prestigious awards are given to doctoral adviser-student pairs to support young scientific leaders, improve faculty mentoring skills, and foster diversity and inclusion in science. Along with funds for the fellow for stipends and educational costs, the adviser will participate in a year of mentor training. Together, these efforts aim to improve the scientific culture while supporting the next generation of research leaders.

Stratton Lab develops biosensor for CaMKII protein

Researchers from the Stratton Lab in BMB have teamed up with colleagues in Animal Science and Biology to create a biosensor, called FRESCA, that monitors whether the CaMKII protein is on or off. CaMKII is important for long-term memory formation, maintaining heart rhythm, and fertilization. FRESCA (FRET Sensor for CaMKII Activity) changes color when the CaMKII protein turns on, which allows researchers to watch what CaMKII is doing in different cell types under different conditions. Aiding the study of this protein is vital, as mutations in CaMKII can lead to brain dysfunction (such as Alzheimer's Disease and autism), cardiac dysfunction (such as arrhythmia), and infertility.

Pre-college course teaches high school students about the medicinal properties of plants

This year Biology, Biochemistry, and Core Facilities staff, students, and faculty collaborated on the Drug Discovery: Medicinal Properties of Plants course. This 2-week course shared the richness of the Plant Cell Culture Library as both a research and an educational resource with high school students in the UMass Summer Precollege program. This year our enrollment increased from 5 to 11, including several local students, 1 international student, and others from as far away as Texas and California. Students attended faculty lectures, propagated plants at the Morrill Greenhouse, visited research labs, pressed local plant specimens in the herbarium, designed primers, performed DNA extractions, PCR, agarose gel electrophoresis, and a disc diffusion assay, toured the Nourse Farms strawberry propagation center in Whately, designed and printed 3D models of plant metabolites, and presented their findings at a poster session in the Life Science Laboratories Conference Center. We are very proud of what our students have accomplished in 2 weeks and hope to see them on campus again soon. Thank you to all who supported our students' success in this course!

Jedaidah Chilufya awarded P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship

Jedaidah Chilufya, a PhD student in the Wang lab, was selected from a competitive pool of applicants to receive a P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year. The International Peace Scholarship Fund, established in 1949, is a program which provides scholarships for selected women from other countries for graduate study in the United States and Canada.

Elizabeth Vierling uses NSF grant to support STEM programs at Amherst Regional Schools

BMB Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Vierling has been working with teachers at the Amherst Regional Middle and High Schools to develop new hand-on STEM curricula. Dr. Vierling’s NSF grant has allowed her to help the schools purchase equipment for various plant-based experiments and support teachers as they design new inquiry-based classroom activities. The hope is that these new programs will help underrepresented students develop an interest in STEM while improving the connection between UMass and the Amherst Regional School system.

Cole Tucker and Ana Pamela Torres Ocampo receive CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards

Cole Tucker, Technical Assistant in BMB, and Ana Pamela Torres Ocampo, PhD Candidate in the Stratton Lab, were both honored at the 2019 CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards Ceremony for their contributions to the college. Cole received the Outstanding Staff Award, and Ana received the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award. Recipients are selected based on testimony from their peers regarding their contributions to their discipline, department, college and university.

2019 BMB Award Ceremony and Senior Celebration Photos

Congratulations to the BMB Class of 2019 and all of the students recognized at our award ceremony! Photos from the BMB Award Ceremony are available on the BMB Facebook page to view and download. Pictures from the BMB Senior Celebration are coming soon!

Caleb Carr (BMB Class of 2020) receives Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Caleb Carr, a double major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Computer Science, has been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship for his outstanding research and achievements. The Goldwater Scholarship is a highly competitive, nationally-recognized award for sophomores and juniors pursuing research careers in STEM fields. Students are nominated by the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA), which advises, supports, and selects students for the national competition.

Lila Gierasch elected to National Academy of Sciences

Lila M. Gierasch, Distinguished Professor in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry departments, was elected into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in recognition of her distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Lila is one of 100 new members that were elected this year, and one of 40 newly elected women (the most women ever elected to the NAS in any one year to date).

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