University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Current and Past Family Research Scholars

Yuriy Brun
Professor, Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences


Engineering Family-Aware Software Building software to prevent anti-family-friendly behavior is a complex task, but today, software engineers lack the tools necessary to design, implement, and validate that software is child- and family-friendly. As a result, social media and software systems often fail to act in family-acceptable ways, even when the software makers explicitly wish to be family-friendly. This project will fill this void in software engineering research by creating methodologies and tools for writing family-friendly software, including methodologies for eliciting family-friendly requirements, architectural principles for designing family-friendly social and software systems, and automated and semi-automated tools for testing and verifying family-friendly properties of built software.

Soonkyu Chung
Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition


Menopause is accompanied by a rapid slowdown of metabolism, resulting in an increased risk of obesity and its associated metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Hyperthermia therapy, like saunas or hot baths, has long been used to relieve pain and attenuate the risk of metabolic diseases in older adults. However, the scientific evidence on the benefits of hyperthermia therapy has yet to be clearly elucidated. Our preliminary work revealed that hyperthermia treatment significantly reduced diet-induced obesity by increasing energy expenditure in ‘old’-female mice. This proposal aims to investigate the underlying mechanism of hyperthermia and the extent to which it mitigates metabolic slowdown using a rodent model of menopause, which can ultimately be applied to menopausal women.

Achsah Dorsey
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology


Research investigating the relationships between the intestinal microbiome ecosystem and human health outcomes is a new, rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary field. Dr. Achsah Dorsey engages with this emerging field by applying evolutionary medicine and embodiment theory to advance scientific understanding of our integrated environmental and physiological systems. She is expanding her research in Peru by examining the relationship between anemia, inflammation status, and household precarity. More specifically, Dr. Dorsey is investigating the association between iron status, pathogenic exposure, and microbiota composition to explore when anemia is a disorder or defense and the adaptive potential of the host and microbiome within different environmental contexts.

Karine Fénelon
Assistant Professor, Biology Department


Dr. Fenelon’s team will investigate the brain circuits and celular mechanisms by which sensorimotor gating occurs. Sensorimotor gating is a fundamental brain mechanism that, if reduced, is associated with and often predictive of attention impairment, cognitive overload and motor problems. In humans and translational models, the behavioral test to study sensorimotor gating is called prepulse inhibition (PPI). PPI occurs when a weak stimulus is presented prior to an alarming stimulus reduces the startle response to this alarming stimulus. Reduced PPI is a hallmark of schizophrenia but is also seen in other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Therefore, PPI is a behavioral paradigm that can indicate impairment of sensorimotor gating associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Results for these experiments will lead to the identification of brain cells and pathways underlying PPI deficits linked to neurological diseases as promising drug targets that could be stimulated in patients that are unresponsive to current pharmaceuticals.

Jungwoo Lee
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering


Dr. Lee's research is centered on developing bioengineered bone marrow where bone and blood biology are functionally integrated, for basic and translational research purposes. These models strive to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of bone marrow development, aging, and metastasis, ultimately leading to targeted anti-aging and anti-metastasis pharmacological strategies. The successful creation of humanized bone and marrow models holds significant potential for impacting bone marrow transplantation and living bone grafts. To reproduce the unique complexity of bone marrow, which consists of the hardest (bone) and softest (marrow) tissues, Dr. Lee employs advanced biomaterials, stem cell biology, and various mechanoculture techniques. This approach enables him to replicate the biophysical and biochemical intricacies of the human body in microphysiological bone marrow tissue models. Dr. Lee aims to establish, validate, and apply human bone marrow models in the realms of aging and cancer research. 

Amanda Paluch
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Institute for Applied Life Sciences


Heart disease is a leading health concern and cause of death in older adults. Physical activity is an essential lifestyle component for the prevention of heart disease. The number of steps per day is a simple metric for promotion of physical activity and walking is an activity which most older adults can participate. Despite the clinical and public health utility of steps/d for promoting physical activity there is no evidence-based step public health recommendation. To advance the field, Dr. Paluch will investigate the volume and walking pace of steps per day associated with heart health among older adults. The objective of her study is to identify the total number of steps per day to benefits heart health and determine if walking faster has additional benefits.  This project will also evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of delivering remote wearable technology focused walking interventions to older adults. The long-term goal of her research is to advance clinical and population health promotion of physical activity and establish an easy to implement step-based interventions for longer, healthier lives.