BMB Associate Professor Peter Chien recently received a five-year, $1.8 million NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to fund research into how bacterial cells manage stress responses. Chien, who is director of the Models to Medicine Center in the Institute of Applied Life Sciences at UMass Amherst, says that most bacteria are now resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and “the protease-based pathways we study in our lab represent new avenues to target as we look for new ways to fight drug resistance.” Chien is not the first BMB faculty member to obtain the coveted MIRA award - Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, and Dean Tricia Serio of the College of Natural Sciences are also recipients.
Peter Chien recieves NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA)
Edridge D'Souza (BMB Class of 2019) wins 2019 Churchill Scholarship
Edridge D'Souza, a senior in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Department and the Commonwealth Honors College, was recently awarded the prestigious Churchill Scholarship. This award, valued at about $60,000, provides funding to American students for a year of post-graduate study at England’s University of Cambridge. Edridge plans to continue his goal of integrating traditional biology with next-generation computational techniques and complete a master’s program in Functional Genomics.
Sibongile Mafu receives 2018 Smith Family Awards Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research
BMB Assistant Professor Sibongile Mafu was selected as a 2018 recipient of the Smith Family Awards Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research. The award supports newly independent biomedical researchers to help them achieve medical breakthroughs. Dr. Mafu will use the three year, $300,000 award to continue her work on the discovery and mechanism of plant-derived antifungals. She is only the third researcher from UMass Amherst to receive the award since 1992, and the first since 2005.
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.