Cell Death Researcher Lawrence M. Schwartz Named Isenberg Professor of Integrative Science at UMass Amherst

October 28, 2010


AMHERST, Mass. - Lawrence M. Schwartz, a noted biologist who studies programmed cell death and has also served since 2004 as science director at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI) in Springfield, has been appointed the first Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg Professor of Integrative Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Schwartz uses invertebrate model systems to address fundamental cellular processes critical to normal development and pathogenesis. He focuses on programmed cell death, or apoptosis, a normal process in development, differentiation and tissue renewal, but which can have devastating consequences if the process goes awry. Understanding how apoptosis works could have profound practical implications for human health by offering potential interventions for a variety of illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

The newly established faculty chair was funded in 2004 with a $1 million gift from Eugene Isenberg, a 1950 UMass Amherst graduate, and his wife, Ronnie, to "complete the original concept of creating a professorship to demonstrate the effectiveness of an integrated approach to science, engineering and management." The Isenbergs have also established scholarships to promote interdisciplinary studies in engineering, science and management.

One of the early researchers in the field of programmed cell death, Schwartz was the first to clone cell death-associated genes from any organism. His research has been published in a number of top scientific journals, including Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Neuron.

Schwartz was recommended for the appointment by UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub and Provost James V. Staros, who wrote that he has "truly demonstrated ‘extraordinary entrepreneurial leadership’ of the caliber that makes him an ideal fit for an Isenberg Professorship."

From 2002-05, Schwartz was a founding director of PVLSI, a collaboration between UMass Amherst and Baystate Medical Center where a major laboratory expansion is now in progress. At PVLSI, Schwartz also directed the Center of Excellence for Apoptosis Research, which recently received a nearly $2.8 million grant from the John Adams Innovation Institute. He is the author of more than 90 scientific publications and his papers have been cited more than 4,500 times by researchers worldwide. He has also been awarded more than $13 million in grants, including awards from the U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Energy. He has also served as a reviewer for grants made by more than a dozen funding agencies, including NIH, National Science Foundation, NASA, Great Britain’s Wellcome Trust and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Schwartz joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 1988 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and professor in 1996. In 1995-96, he was a visiting scientist at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2005, he was named associate vice chancellor for Baystate/UMass collaborations.

He received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington and was a postdoctoral fellow at the universities of North Carolina and Washington.