Highlights:

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).

Two BMB undergrads named Rising Researchers

Two seniors in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Dept were named Rising Researchers by Research Next at UMass Amherst. Aastha Pokharel is a member of the Vandenberg lab where she investigates environmental influences on mammary gland function and development, and Allyson Rosati works in the Pilsner lab investigating the associations of sperm mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn) on couples’ ability to become pregnant. All of the Rising Researchers were honored for their achievements at a Chancellor's reception on April 24th.

Aiste Balciunaite (BMB Class of 2019) honored as a 21st Century Leader

Aiste Balciunaite, a CHC student with double major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemical Engineering, will be recognized at this year's Undergraduate Commencement as one of ten 21st Century Leaders. This honor is given to seniors who exhibit exemplary achievement, initiative, and leadership. Aiste is the co-author of two papers based on her work with Professor Maria Santore in her polymer science and engineering lab. In 2018, the athletic department honored her with the Spring Scholar Athlete Award, and she led the rowing team as co-captain. After graduation, she plans to return to her native Lithuania to work at a biotech firm, and later pursue her doctorate in chemical engineering.

UMass Biochemistry Club holds workshop with Girls Inc. of the Valley

Representatives from the UMass Biochemistry Club and BMB Staff traveled to Girls Inc. of the Valley to take part in their Eureka! program and give the girls the opportunity to practice some of the techniques used in biochemistry labs. A group of nine 8th grade-level students practiced advanced skills, like restriction enzyme digestion and agarose gel electrophoresis. They were very successful in completing the experiments, and used UV flashlights and yellow filter glasses to visualize the bands in the gel. The Biochemistry Club also brought zebrafish to look at under microscopes and different common drinks to test with a pH meter during incubation periods. The hope is that workshops like this will stay with these girls and motivate them to pursue education and careers in STEM.

Ludmila Tyler receives CNS Lecturers’ Professional Development Fund award

BMB Lecturer Ludmila Tyler was named one of five recipients of the 2019 CNS Lecturers’ Professional Development Fund award. The award provides funding for activities that contribute to their scholarship and effectiveness as teachers and mentors. Dr. Tyler will use the award to attend the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Statistical Methods for Functional Genomics short course.

Lila Gierasch receives Merrifield Award

Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Chemistry, was selected by the American Peptide Society to receive the 2019 Merrifield Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to peptide science. The award named in honor of R. Bruce Merrifield recognizes the lifetime achievement of a peptide scientist. Gierasch will be presented with the award at the 26th American Peptide Symposium in Monterey, CA, on June 22-27, 2019.

David Gross receives inaugural Normanly Award for Leadership and Innovation in Teaching

BMB Professor David Gross has been named the recipient of the first Normanly Award for Leadership and Innovation in Teaching. This annual award, supported by an anonymous gift in honor of department head Jennifer Normanly, recognizes exemplary teaching and service by BMB faculty. Prof. Gross has made numerous contirubutions to STEM pedagogy throughout his time at UMass, and will be recognized on May 2nd at the annual BMB Awards Ceremony.

Peter Chien recieves NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA)

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.

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.

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