Recent News

Alzheimer’s disease has been intensely studied for decades, too much is still not known about molecular processes in the brain that cause it. Chemistry Professor Jianhan Chen says new insights from analytic theory and molecular simulation techniques offer a better understanding of amyloid fibril growth and brain pathology.

As senior author Chen notes, the “amyloid hypothesis” was promising – amyloid protein fibrils are a central feature in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. “But the process is really difficult to study,” he says. Chen and first author Zhiguang Jia, a research scientist in Chen’s computational biophysics lab, explored how building-block peptides form fibrils. “We are really proud of this work because, to the best of our knowledge, for the first time we have described the comprehensive process of how fibril growth can happen. We illustrate that the effects of disease-causing mutations often arise from the cumulative effects of many small perturbations. A comprehensive description is absolutely critical to generate reliable and testable hypothesis,” he adds. Details of their multi-scale approach with many atomistic simulations are in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The department hosted a virtual Undergraduate Awards Ceremony on May 7th via Zoom.

Students and their families were joined by faculty, staff, donors, and Dean Serio. While the applause and experience were virtual, the appreciation and gratitude towards our students and donors is sincere.

We are so proud of our students for their amazing ability to excel under circumstances!

Sankaran "Thai" Thayumanavan, Jeanne Hardy and Trisha L. Andrew received a one-year RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation, to investigate whether they can develop a simple, color-changing test swab for COVID-19 in the next year that would alert users if their body carries a viral product left after infection. RAPID supports proposals “having a severe urgency with regard to availability of, or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events.”

The three researchers bring complementary expertise to the team, and are seeking “a cheap test that will tell if you should get checked by medical professionals because you are probably infected,” said Thayumanavan. Andrew adds, “Like a pregnancy test, but for viral infection.”

They stress that this is a research effort. “We are being very careful to point out that we are working on a general solution for detecting viral infections, which can be easily customized to specific viruses and then rapidly mobilized in times of dire need,” says Hardy. Andrew adds, “We are building up the basic science and chemistry needed for anyone to rapidly mass-produce tests that can be used at home. This concept certainly applies to the current COVID-19 pandemic but can also be relevant to future outbreaks.”

We can’t express enough how proud we are of our 2020 chemistry graduates! Students showed remarkable resilience adapting to new learning environments, and demonstrated amazing creativity with remote research.

Graduations are milestones best experienced in a social context, but with physical distancing measures putting the in-person ceremonies on hold, we hope you will join us for Chemistry’s Virtual Senior Recognition on May 8th, starting at 2pm, prior to the university’s 4:30pm virtual celebration. CNS will launch a Senior Celebration page with well wishes and online activities at 8am on May 8th, so be sure to connect with UMass throughout the day.

Friends of the graduates, students, alumni, faculty, and staff can share their well-wishes and congratulations to the graduates by sharing photos and video clips to CNS Communications at by noontime, Monday, May 4th.


Upcoming Events

Chendi Niu
Dissertation Defense
Thursday, May 28, 2020

"Novel Mass Spectrometry Based Strategies to Study Heparin-Protein Interactions"

2:00 pm
virtual link: TBA
Research Adviser:
Igor Kaltashov
Lin Hui Chang
Dissertation Defense
Monday, July 6, 2020

"Engineered proteins as tools to understand ubiquitin signaling"

9:00 am
zoom conference
Research Adviser:
Eric Strieter
Kingshuk Dutta
Dissertation Defense
Thursday, July 9, 2020

"Engineering Stimuli-Responsive Polymeric Nanoassemblies: Rational Design for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics"

10:00 am
Research Adviser:
S. Thayumanavan