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December 2016

Madelaine Bartlett, M2M and biology, and plant genome scientist colleagues elsewhere have received a four-year, $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the genes that regulate plant stem cell biology and the role they play in yielding more and bigger fruit.

Donna Zucker, CPHM and nursing, says, “Every student nurse will get educated around addiction, risk appraisal, motivational interviewing and in using SBIRT every day in their careers. They go out as new professionals with skills that many people already in the field haven’t learned yet. Our student nurses can also train people in settings wherever they end up. The first pioneers are going out and engaging the community now.”

A group of researchers who are stewards of the campus’ plant cell culture library recently announced a new collaboration with the South Korean biotechnology company PCL, Inc. of Seoul and Boston, to provide users worldwide with a new technology for accurate, highly sensitive target-molecule detection in chemically complex plant samples.

In the first study of its kind, environmental health scientist Laura Vandenberg, CPHM and School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and neuroscientist Mary Catanese examined the effects of the compound bisphenol S (BPS) on maternal behavior and related brain regions in mice. They found subtle but striking behavior changes in nesting mothers exposed during pregnancy and lactation and in their daughters exposed in utero.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Hazen a three-year, $713,000 grant to study gene regulation of cell wall growth in the model grass species Brachypodium. His experiments will advance understanding of the transcription networks that regulate secondary cell wall biosynthesis in grasses. Hazen has partnered with a local biotechnology startup in Amherst, Genoverde Biosciences, Inc. to test the commercial viability of technology developed in his lab. He is also chief scientific officer for Genoverde.

Jeffrey D. Blaustein, CBD and psychological and brain sciences, writes in The Conversation about what women with breast cancer should know about estrogens, a class of hormones. He says estrogen blockers are used to treat cancer, but women taking them have to consider what effect estrogens have on other aspects of their health, including mental health, cognitive function, libido and protection of the brain and possibly slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Thomson Reuters compilers who set out to identify “some of the best and brightest scientific minds of our time” recently recognized UMass Amherst food scientists Eric Decker and David Julian McClements, polymer scientist Thomas Russell, soil chemist Baoshan Xing of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, biostatistician and epidemiologist Susan Hankinson of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, microbiologist Derek Lovley and astronomer Mauro Giavaliso in its recent Highly Cited Researchers 2016 list.