Grad Student Organization Awards Writing Prizes


An article exploring the hidden risks that may lurk behind a pedigree dog certificate written by UMass Amherst biology major Monali Faldu has won first prize in the second annual undergraduate writing contest held by the campus’s graduate student STEM blog and outreach organization, “That's Life [Science].” In her winning submission, “The Purebred Poodle Problem,” Faldu writes, “What people don’t know is that keeping the breed pure can be harmful to the dogs’ health. Purebred lines, such as today’s poodles, come from generations of selective breeding and inbreeding.”

The 2018 contest runner-up prize went to microbiology major Jaime Savage, who wrote an article titled, “Go With Your Gut... unless your gut is going against you,” about autoimmune disease that occurs when the cells of the immune system, which are supposed to protect us, don’t recognize the body’s own cells as self and attack them as if they are foreign invaders 

For “That’s Life [Science],” Eve Beaury, a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology, says, “We have now grown to include nearly 40 UMass students, our online presence reaches thousands of readers across the globe, and we have begun organizing awesome in-person outreach events in the Valley. For this year’s contest, we received some amazing submissions that showed the professionalism and creativity of the life science students here on campus”

That’s Life [Science] is a free source of articles spanning the life sciences. It was created by an interdisciplinary collective of graduate students who strive to provide readily accessible information about the life sciences to the general public.

The group states, “We examine life at many levels, from molecules to entire ecosystems and consider the evolutionary history, behavior, physiology, and ecology of life.” Its website offers a “daily fix of animal pictures and videos” at Earth’s Organisms and Our Ecosystems. It discusses new diseases or odd animal behavior at How It Works and offers first-person reflections on daily life as a scientist in labs and field sites at Grad School Diaries. Adjunct research assistant professor of biology Patricia Brennan serves as an advisor to the group, which is also supported by the UMass Amherst Graduate Student Senate.