Recent News

In an unexpected finding, chemist Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst show for the first time how movement of a single chemical bond can compromise a membrane made up of more than 500 chemical bonds. Their system uses light as a switch to create a reversible, on-demand molecular control mechanism.

Thayumanavan explains, “There are many applications that one can imagine developing from these fundamental findings, especially ones that need controlled release. For example, we have shown that two compounds that would readily react with each other can be in the same solution but are separated by a very thin membrane made of a few nanometers and therefore do not react with each other.”

“But upon exposure to light, the membrane gets compromised to allow the two components to react with each other,” he adds. “The interesting thing is that the membrane is not permanently compromised upon exposure to light, but only when the light is on.”

His postdoctoral associate Mijanur Rahaman Molla and doctoral student Poornima Rangadurai conducted most of the experimental work. The UMass Amherst group also collaborated with theoretical chemists Lucas Antony and Juan de Pablo at the University of Chicago, who modeled the system in order to more deeply understand it, Thayumanavan notes. Details are online now in Nature Chemistry.

Elvan Cavac wins the Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for Pickmeup Snacks

Elvan Cavac, from the Martin Group, won the Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for her start-up, Pickmeup Snacks, which uses cricket protein to create healthy and sustainable treats.

Cavac states, "Pickmeup Snacks are nutrient dense, high protein snacks made with cricket protein powder. We currently have two flavors: cheese cracker crusher and chocolate chip cookie beast. One serving gives you about 200 calories, and 10 grams of protein. They are also really delicious. If you would like to check us out, visit our website and join our newsletter!

"Why bugs? Our mission statement at Pickmeup Snacks is to lead the change in the western diet for a healthier and sustainable future. Livestock industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transport and it takes about 2000 gallons of water to produce only one pound of beef. The world is projected to host 9 billion people in 2050. We simply cannot keep feeding the livestock industry like we do right now if we want to live in a sustainable future. The way we think about food needs to change.

"Our vision is that bugs will be a staple in our kitchens, and we will eat more of them than beef or pork. This is due to their excellent nutrition and sustainable production profiles. For example, compared with cattle, crickets need 6x less feed, 0.045% as much water and produce 80% less methane. In the mean time, while a sirloin steak is only 29% protein, dried crickets are about 70% protein.

"My experience with Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship has been amazing. Their support and guidance helped me turn this business into reality. In addition to having created this business, I have gained tremendous strategic planning and leadership skills. I am really grateful and I will continue working there to get my start-up to grow bigger!"

A new program created with a gift from University of Massachusetts Amherst alumnus William “Bill” A. Lee, executive vice president of research at Gilead Sciences, will broaden opportunities for underrepresented and first-generation UMass Amherst students who aspire to be scientists.

The new William Lee Science Impact Program (Lee-SIP) at the College of Natural Sciences gives selected undergraduates the opportunity to work with faculty on a wide range of research projects. Currently, 13.4 percent of the college’s 6,067 undergraduates are from underrepresented groups, and 29 percent are first-generation college students.

Lee, who earned a B.S. in chemistry from UMass Amherst in 1977, was the first in his family to graduate from college, where he developed an understanding of the impact research can have on both students and society. “When Dr. Marvin Rausch asked me if I was interested in working in his lab over the summer, I had no idea of what to expect or how it would change my course in life. I thrived on the comradery with grad students and postdocs in the lab and for the first time, science left the text book and became alive.”

Jeanne Hardy, associate professor of chemistry, whose research focuses on a key protein linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, is being recognized with the inaugural Mahoney Life Sciences Prize at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A panel of expert judges from the life sciences sector observed that the “biomedical implications are significant” and “this could turn out to be one of ‘the’ pivotal studies in the effort to combat Alzheimer’s.” Hardy will receive the prize and present her research with life sciences experts and UMass officials and scientists at a breakfast ceremony on June 19 at the UMass Club in Boston.

“Professor Hardy’s research rose to the top of three highly competitive rounds of review,” said Tricia Serio, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “Her work exemplifies the outstanding translational research for which our faculty are well known.”