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Research: Office of the Vice Provost

UMass Research in Life Sciences

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Collaborative Biomedical Research Program

This program was established to foster the integration of clinical medicine and basic research. Collaborative Research Projects are supervised by co-principal investigators at the University of Massachusetts in conjunction with faculty at Baystate Medical Center. These collaborations offer graduate students extensive exposure to the challenges faced by physicians and access to clinical specimens.

BIGIALS: Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Life Sciences

Faculty research group focusing on genomics-enabled research, including bioinformatics and the overarching theme of cross-disciplinary research opportunities in life sciences using approaches from the physical and computational sciences.

Research Clusters in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program

Biomedicine and Molecular Genetics group

The Biomedicine and Molecular Genetics group uses model systems, ranging from microbes to mammalian, for analysis of cell cycle control, DNA repair, and the mechanisms of susceptibility and mutation in human disease.

Development group

The Development group studies signals that determine tissue development. Interests range from oogenesis and embryonic development to neural development in a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms.

Immunology and Host-Microbe Interactions group

The Immunology and Host-Microbe Interactions group offers strengths in the development and function of the immune system and immunity to pathogens leading to development of vaccines and disease-resistant plants and animals.

Neuroendocrine group

The Neuroendocrine group is devoted to studies of the control of endocrine secretions by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and behavioral responses in vertebrates.

Nucleic Acids, Nucleic Acid-Protein Complexes and Gene Expression group

The Nucleic Acids, Nucleic Acid-Protein Complexes and Gene Expression group studies the varied roles of DNA and RNA in the familiar processes of transcription and translation, and also the cellular functions of small RNAs and exploiting RNAs as catalysts.

Plant Molecular Biology group

The Plant Molecular Biology group is drawn together by the common use of plants, but is investigating various aspects of development, molecular genetics, signal transduction, and preparation of transgenic plants. This group is also designing polymers that are degradable by microorganisms and engineering plants and microorganisms to synthesize polymers.

Signal Transduction group

The Signal Transduction group studies ligand-mediated signaling pathways that regulate cellular responses and consequences in the context of living cells. The responses include cellular proliferation, gene transcription, locomotion, and migration.

Structural Biochemistry and Biophysics group

The Structural Biochemistry and Biophysics group emphasizes mechanistic studies of molecular interactions (metal ions in enzymes, protein-protein, DNA-protein interactions). This group also offers strengths in the study of proteins as reflected in their folding, stability, and subcellular sorting.

Research Clusters in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Faculty members within this area apply state-of-the-art molecular and genetic techniques to the analysis of neuronal function and development in a variety of model systems. There is a highly interactive group studying molecular mechanisms of development and plasticity in invertebrates (particularly Drosophila) and in zebrafish. Another major area of interest involves alteration of gene expression in the mammalian brain by various chemical (hormones, neurotransmitters, drugs, phytochemicals, and industrial pollutants) and environmental (light-dark cycle, social stimuli) factors.


Faculty in this group have formed a Center for Neuroendocrine Studies, which emphasizes interdisciplinary and collaborative studies on the interactions between hormones, brain function, and behavior. Current research interests include hormones and neuronal development, regulation of neuroendocrine cells and behavior, circadian rhythms, environmental endocrine disruptors, and neuronal integration of experiential, metabolic, and hormonal signals. There is particular emphasis on reproductive neuroendocrinology and the role of gonadal steroids in ovulation and female mating behavior, sexual differentiation, and feeding behavior.

Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Development

This research cluster spans a broad range of interests including molecular genetic analyses of model systems, developmental psychobiology, and cognitive development in human infants. Specific research areas include the development and genetic control of neural pathways and synapse formation, involvement of hormones and neuropeptides in prenatal development, reorganizational and plastic responses to injury, drugs, or environmental changes, learning and behavior in neonates, central visual pathway organization, and the development of sensorimotor coordination. Many faculty members participate in highly interactive research groups focused on either invertebrate neurodevelopment and molecular genetics or vertebrate and human development.

Animal Behavior, Learning and Systems Neuroscience

This cluster focuses on the evolutionary, comparative, physiological, and social mechanisms underlying vertebrate and invertebrate behavior in laboratory and field settings. Areas of study are focused on species-typical behaviors and cognitive function in a variety of species ranging from jumping spiders to non-human primates, as well as mechanisms and computational modeling of simple forms of learning. Collaborative studies are underway with other Neuroscience and Behavior faculty interested either in neural and behavioral development or cellular and molecular neuroscience.

Faculty Research Areas in the Plant Biology Graduate Program

Cell And Molecular Biology

The Cell and Molecular Biology area of focus addresses the molecular basis for plant growth, adaptation, reproduction, and development. The laboratories within this group utilize an array of advanced experimental approaches from biochemistry, and molecular cell biology to classical and molecular genetics, and physiology. The broad range of research interests within this group offers incoming students the opportunity of a diverse, multidisciplinary training experience.

Ecology and Evolution

The Ecology and Evolution focus in PB deals with the organismal to community levels of plant biology and how the biology of plants changes over evolutionary time. The nine PB faculty in this focus area have special interests in invasive plant species, clonal plants, coastal vegetation, forest ecology, bryophytes, reproductive biology, fire ecology, genomics, and local floristics and conservation.

Environmental Stress Biology

The environmental stress focus in Plant Biology deals with the separate and combined roles of abiotic and biotic stressors on plant growth, development, and reproduction, with an emphasis on whole-plant biology approaches. Faculty in this focus area have interests in the nature of tolerance and susceptibility of plants to pathogens, ozone, heavy metals and salt. Factors that affect plant response to stressors, such as environmental factors and genetic predisposition are also investigated. Biological control of plant pathogens and invasive plants is included here.

Research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Cell Cycle Control and Cancer

Cell surface receptor signaling, regulation of cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix, tumor induction of cell surface receptor expression, centromeres and kinetochores: molecular machines control chromosome movement, signal transduction in development and tumorigenesis.

Developmental Biology

Plant embryogenesis, polyhydroxyalkanote inclusion bodies, signal transduction in development and tumorigenesis, signal transduction in vegetative and reproductive development in plants.

Organelle Biogenesis and Development

Molecular biology of the mitochondrial translation system, protein expression in bacteria and yeast, mechanisms of protein import into plant chloroplasts, protein targeting, organelle biogenesis, gene expression and mitochondrial biogenesis in yeast.

Protein Folding and Maturation

Biophysical approaches to protein folding and localization, mechanisms of protein import into plant chloroplasts, Protein targeting, organelle biogenesis, protein folding, quality control and degradation of membrane glycoproteins.

Protein Synthesis, Structure, and Function

Biophysical approaches to protein folding and localization, molecular biology of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), snoRNA biotechnology, ribosome assembly and function, protein-RNA interactions, protein synthesis, centromeres and kinetochores: molecular machines control chromosome movement, molecular biology of the mitochondrial translation system, protein expression in bacteria and yeast.

RNA Synthesis, Structure, and Function

Molecular biology of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), snoRNA biotechnology, ribosome assembly and function, protein-RNA interactions, protein synthesis, molecular biology of the mitochondrial translation system, protein expression in bacteria and yeast.

Department of Food Science Research Areas

Food Biopolymers and Colloids

Development and application of new analytical technologies for characterizing molecular, structural and rheological properties of biopolymers; studies of the contribution of molecular water to the plasticization of food biopolymers; studies of the role of biopolymers in the formation of food gels and emulsions with improved shelf-life and quality; enhanced physical and nutritional functionality of food ingredients by molecular modification and controlled ingredient interactions; studies of lipid oxidation in colloidal systems.

Food Biotechnology

Study of molecular and physiological regulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway in preservative-producing clones in response to bacteria in relation to rosmarinic acid synthesis and vitrification; Molecular (DNA) probe and enzyme technology for detection of food pathogens like Escherishia coli: 0157, Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium perfringens; Molecular (DNA) probe and enzyme technology for detection of fish pathogens and spoilage bacteria; Development of solid-state fermentation technology for release of phenolic aglycones during fungal fermentation of fruit processing wastes and legume foods; Study of the use of amino acids from fish by-products for stimulation of the phenylpropanoid pathway in elite phenolics-producing clones; Biochemical characterization of pectinase inhibitors; Fermentation and separation technologies for utilization of fishery by-products; Genetics of lactic acid fermentation; Genetics of amylase synthesis in relation to sporulation in Clostridium perfringens; Biochemical characterization of water and metabolites in biological systems using NMR and spectroscopic techniques; Biochemistry and nutritional aspects of antioxidants in food systems; Modeling of growth and product synthesis in microbial and plant systems; Modeling of growth, biochemical and physical properties during solid state fermentation of legume foods and food processing wastes; Food Enzymology; Use of proteases for development of value-added products from fish hydrolysates; Biochemistry of mineral uptake and role of foods.

Health Sciences and Functional Foods

Development and assessment of natural antioxidants as food protectants and human functional ingredients; Production of flavor, color and healthful ingredients through maximization of secondary metabolite production in plants; Stabilization of fish oils to produce products such as mayonnaise and margarines with bioactive lipids; Development of technologies to maximize positive physiological effects of foods and their components; Maximization of mineral bioavailability through physicochemical interactions in food and process optimization; Molecular modification of food components to maximize physiological effects; Inhibition of the formation of toxic end products in processed and stored foods; Stabilization of physiologically beneficial compounds in foods.

Research in the Department of Microbiology


Genome-Enabled Studies of the Physiology and Ecology of Novel Anaerobic Microorganisms; Ecology and Physiology of Microorganisms in Anaerobic Ecosystems; Microbial Ecology and Physiology, Bioremediation/Phytoremediation, Ecology of Waterborne Diseases; Virology: Analysis of the Interaction of DNA Tumor Virus SV40 with Permissive and Semipermissive cells; Global transcriptional regulation in response to environmental stress; Genetics of Recombination and DNA Replication in Bacteria and Archaea. Microbial inclusions, mechanisms of infection and the generation of protective immunity.