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2015

Sankaran Thayumanavan, chemistry, receives a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund to help translate nanoparticles from an academic invention to a clinical reality. The grant is one of eight given to faculty on the five UMass campuses.

Richard Van Emmerik, kinesiology, was one of six people awarded Faculty Mentor of the Year for 2015 at the Compact for Faculty Diversity’s annual Institute on Teaching and Mentoring.

The annual meeting, which took place this year in Arlington, Va., from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, is the largest gathering of minority doctoral scholars in the country.

Gregory Tew (CBD) says the invention of an antimicrobial material that sheds its surface once it is contaminated to reveal a second clean surface is a promising idea but notes the process still needs regulatory review and more study.

For patients with HIV and other chronic conditions, taking medicines daily and exactly as prescribed is crucial for quality of life and long-term health. To support this, a team of University of Massachusetts Amherst computer scientists and engineers recently received a four-year, $1.71 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a cost effective, easy-to-use device similar to a fitness tracker for maintaining a medication regime.

Remember naptime as a kid? Those were the good old days, when every afternoon came with a built-in snooze button. But as we graduate into adulthood, so many of us leave napping behind. The good news is, you can still reap the benefits of shutting your eyes during the day.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced a three-year, $478,000 grant to Samuel Black, professor of veterinary and animal sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to work with an international team developing a vaccine to control and cure trypanosomiasis, a fatal disease of cattle in sub-Saharan Africa and a major obstacle to raising livestock there.

Laura N. Vandenberg (M2M) comments in a story about whether eating food that is packaged and heated in plastic containers could be a health risk. She says most food packaging probably doesn’t contain bisphenol A or phthalates, but you can reduce any chance of exposure to these chemicals, by moving the food into a glass container before heating it

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) recently awarded the distinction of Fellow to Michael J. Maroney, professor of chemistry, “for their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently awarded a grant expected to total $6.25 million over five years to a team of chemists, physicists and chemical engineers led by Sankaran Thayumanavan of the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop new algorithms and identify pathways involved in a molecular detection and signaling process.

The key to realizing IALS's mission is its new state-of-the-art facility, which will be completed in early 2016. In addition to research-laboratory space, offices, a hospitality center, and a conference center, it will include more than twenty core equipment facilities with instruments available to campus researchers and their industry partners.

The collaboration between Anika Therapeutics, Inc., of Bedford, Mass., and the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) to develop a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis was featured in the Research Notebook section of the fall 2015 issue of UMass Amherst magazine. Sankaran (Thai) Thayumanavan, Chemistry, and Lisa M. Minter, Veterinary and Animal Aciences, are lead researchers.

Joseph Jerry, veterinary and animal sciences and science director at the non-profit Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, says working at both the institute and the university has given him new experiences and taught him new skills. He says working directly with patients and advocates has been “a wonderful experience” and that he has become a better communicator in the process.

A team of computer scientists and engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a three-year, $486,524 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project to enhance privacy in smart buildings and homes, under the direction of David Irwin, electrical and computer engineering, and Prashant Shenoy of the College of Information and Computer Sciences.

Invited by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Cynthia Baldwin (M2M) this year is serving on an expert panel to update the academy’s 1998 report, “Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.”

This year, Baldwin and her committee colleagues are comprehensively reviewing and evaluating the available scientific literature and other information about the prevalence and spread of Brucella abortus in the area in wild and domestic animals and examining the feasibility, required time and cost-effectiveness of options to contain or suppress the disease.

IALS took delivery of a $3.2 million, 7.3-ton, 3-Tesla magnet and related equipment on Nov. 17 for use in the Human Magnetic Resonance (MR) Center in the Life Science Laboratories Building. A crew from German manufacturer Siemens began the approximately six-hour process at about 7:30 a.m. IALS director Peter Reinhart and Peter Grey-Mullen, design and construction management, were on hand to oversee the installation, along with several excited faculty members, Jane Kent and Rebecca Spencer of CPHM.

While in the past, sequencing was a slow and costly proposition, in recent years, the development of new, high-end equipment like that obtained by the university—the Illumina NextSeq and MiSeq sequencers—makes it both faster and more cost efficient. The new equipment is managed by the IALS Models to Medicine Center, an effort that brings together campus faculty whose research can be translated into new therapeutic targets that can directly affect human health.

On November 12, Charlene Coleman (IALS) attended the New England Regional Shared Resources Conference at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH. Joined investigators and Shared Resources Directors from Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth, Jackson Laboratory, University of Massachusetts, University of New Hampshire, and University of Vermont. This one-day symposium highlighted research presented by investigators who have used selected Shared Resources at our institutions, including, proteomics, bioinformatics, imaging, cryopreservation, and small molecule screening.

Evolutionary biologist Margaret Riley (M2M) and several colleagues spoke at a scientific meeting, the “International Conference on the Pheromonicin Drug Platform,” held in Beijing Oct. 19–22, about the science behind pheromonicins, a new family of drugs based upon the bacteriocin protein.

Thomas Zoeller (M2M) responds to a new study that finds men who were exposed to banned, but long-lived chemicals at high levels when they were teenagers are more likely to have defective sperm later in life. He says, “It’s another one of those studies that helps us understand why male fertility is in decline in certain areas of the world.”

Conventional wisdom says that when one needs to make a sound decision, it’s a good idea to sleep on it. But while sleep has been shown to benefit some cognitive tasks such as problem-solving, its impact on everyday choices is less clear, say neuroscientists Rebecca Spencer (CPHM).

She says some industry sponsored groups conduct testing on chemicals and the dangers of exposure, but they can also manipulate data to determine outcomes that cast doubts on possible health effects.

The symposium showcases the diversity of graduate research in the life sciences.

Research Talks will run from 9:00 am -12 pm, followed by a poster session and luncheon from 12-2 pm. Talks will resume and run from 2:15-5 pm. The event will close with an awards ceremony and refreshments.

The Symposium highlights graduate research in Microbiology, Environmental Conservation, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neuroscience and Behavior, Kinesiology, Plant Biology, Chemical Engineering, and Veterinary and Animal Sciences.

At the 2015 International Workshop on the Pheromonicin Drug Development Platform (October 19-21, Beijing, China) IALS Director, Peter H. Reinhart, led a discussion on "The Future of Pheromonicins" discussing how to establish this new field by identifying key applications for these new class of anti-infective molecules, and how to most effectively developing new products needed by the health care system. Other speakers from UMass Amherst in attendance where Rolf Kalstrom, Margaret Riley, Larry Schwartz and Alex Gerson,all from the Biology Department.

Vincent Rotello and Richard Vachet have received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop new methods to image the stability of nanoparticles in biological tissues. Nanoparticles (NPs) are increasingly used in applications that include drug delivery, sensing, imaging and therapy. In all cases, NPs with the desired biological stability are required. Rotello and Vachet will develop new mass spectrometry-based imaging tools that can report on the site-selective stability of NPs in biological tissues.

Has received a $2.2 million grant from NIH’s National Institute on Aging to develop a common metric that can be collected and interpreted across the variety of pedometers, accelerometers and other wearable trackers now in use for personal activity level monitoring.

After studying physics and mathematics in graduate school, Ross was drawn to the array of possibilities in the field of biophysics. “I wanted to do something in a field that had lots of open questions,” she says, “and there are more open problems in biology than any other field.”

The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences announced a five-year grant expected to total more than $3.5 million to a research consortium led by Joseph Jerry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study breast cancer risk and environmental exposure to common chemicals found in cosmetics and household products.

He says most of the new particles he studies are made from the same ingredients as food and break down in the body in similar ways to ordinary food.

In connection with UMass Amherst's membership in the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), the campus will be hosting an October 22 visit by Prof. David Hogg, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation of the University of Leeds and current chair of WUN’s Academic Advisory Group.

Faculty may be interested in attending two activities during this visit:

Jeffrey Blaustein, psychological and brain sciences and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, delivered a “state-of-the-art” plenary lecture entitled: “Puberty and adolescence as a time of vulnerability to stressors that alter neurobehavioral processes” at the Fourth Congress on Medical Sexology of the World Association of Medical Sexology in Miami on Oct. 10.

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