Highlights:

Three BMB undergrads named Rising Researchers

Three seniors in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Dept were named Rising Researchers by Research Next at UMass Amherst. Bianca Edozie works in the Ross lab to explore various behavioral aspects of microtubules. Nicholas Fragola is a member of the Tyson lab, where he works on finding a cheap, simple, and accurate way to measure arsenic levels. Taylor Guertin studies the role of Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling in liver development in the Tremblay lab. All of the Rising Researchers will be honored for their achievements at a Chancellor's reception in April.

Elana Carleton (BMB Class of 2022) receives $10,000 STEM Scolarship

Elana Carleton, a freshman in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Dept and Commonwealth Honors College, was recently awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Alliantgroup Blue Heart Fund STEM Scholarship Program. Recipients are selected based on a short YouTube video or 500-word essay where they describe their interest in STEM and how the scholarship would help them achieve their goals. 

Gierasch Lab explores the differences between bacterial and mammalian Hsp70s

Lila M. Gierasch and her research team recently published a paper in PNAS exploring the differences between bacterial and mammalian heat shock proteins (Hsp70s). Scientists have been relying on the bacterial version of Hsp70s in their research, but the Gierasch lab reports that Hsp70s from mammalian cells behave quite differently from bacterial Hsp70s. These evolutionary variations will help scientists learn to "tune" Hsp70s as a way to treat certain protein misfolding diseases.

Yadilette Rivera-Colon featured on News in Focus from WWLP-22News

Dr. Yadilette Rivera-Colon, a graduate of the MCB program and former member of the Garman lab in BMB, was featured on an episode of News in Focus from WWLP-22News in Springfield. Guests on the show discussed the importance of STEM and various STEM education programs available in Western Mass. Dr. Rivera-Colon talked specifically about her work with the Eureka program at Girls Inc in Holyoke.

Biochem Club hosts Girls, Inc. Eureka! Program

The Biochem Club recently hosted 13 girls from the Girls, Inc. Eureka! program. Eureka! is a five year program for teenage girls, preparing them to participate and excel in STEM careers. During the school year, Eureka! scholars go on field trips one Saturday each month to take part in workshops. With help from Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Vierling and BMB staff members, the Biochem Club provided a workshop to 8th grade girls to teach them about basic lab skills such as pipetting, as well as how to visualize DNA and proteins. These girls were thrilled to put on lab coats and get some real experience at the bench!

Jianhan Chen publishes research on Big Potassium (BK) channels in Nature Communications

Jianhan Chen, Professor in both the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry departments, recently published an article in Nature Communications pertaining to the Big Potassium (BK) gating mechanism. While most channel proteins physically close when in a deactivated state, Chen and his lab have shown that BK uses “hydrophobic dewetting” to block potassium passage when the protein is deactivated. This research is supported by Chen’s new four-year, $2.9 million NIH grant.

Pre-college course teaches high school students about plant natural products

BMB hosted five high school students for two weeks this summer as part of a pre-college course centered around the Plant Cell Culture Library (PCCL). This course allowed students to conduct experiments on a cell culture line of their choice made available through the PCCL, which houses over 1,000 plant cell culture lines from species around the world. Students spent time outdoors identifying their plant and collecting live specimens, and then they used the Natural Product Database to identify a molecule produced by their plant of choice and made a model of their molecule using the UMass library 3D printers. They also learned wet lab techniques like DNA extraction, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis. At the end of the course, the students discussed their research findings during a poster session attended by faculty members and staff in BMB. The department is planning to expand the course to more students next year.

Jianhan Chen receives grant from the National Science Foundation

Jianhan Chen, Professor in both the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry departments, recently recieved a four year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. He plans to use this grant to continue his research on intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and the role they play in human disease.

BMB faculty forge international collaborations at Shandong Agricultural University

BMB Professor Alice Cheung led a delegation of fellow BMB faculty Dong Wang, Li-Jun Ma and Hen-Ming Wu, and U Texas A&M faculty Professors Ping He and Libo Shan, for a symposium at the Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) in Tai'an, China hosted by the university President. The symposium featured talks under the theme of biotic interactions in plants, in particular plant-microbe interaction and pollen (male)-pistil (female) interaction, fields that the UMass scientists are known to have made major contributions to. These are also areas of interest shared among the US visiting scientists and faculty from the host institution. Beyond scientific discussions, the delegation was invited for the purpose of forging collaborations in research and student training. In addition to scientific lectures, the two-day symposium also included a meeting with the University's President and faculty to discuss approaches towards collaborative efforts. After the meeting in SDAU, the UMass faculty continued their travels to other institutions. Alice Cheung and Hen-Ming Wu visited Huazhong Agricultural University where they have initiated collaborations with a world’s leading cotton research group headed by the Vice President of the University and Wuhan University where they have long-standing collaborations in plant reproduction biology. Dong Wang gave lectures in Nanjing University where he has on-going collaboration and Hunan University where a former postdoc has just started a faculty position. Li-Jun Ma arrived in China directly after chairing a session in the International Mycology Congress; after the symposium she headed to Boston to chair a section at the International Congress of Plant Protection, and also for discussions with several long time colleagues on their ongoing collaborations.

UMass Amherst and CNS recieve $1 Million HHMI Grant for STEM education

UMass Amherst was recently awarded a five-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) that will be available to all first year life science majors. The program is intented help students get excited about STEM early in their undergraduate career and develop the skills necessary to succeed and persist in STEM majors. CNS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Development Elizabeth Connor, BMB Department Head and Professor Jennifer Normanly, and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Director of TEFD Gabriela Weaver worked collaboratively to earn this grant.

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