Research News

Study Explores the Role of Citrus Peel in Reducing Gut Inflammation

Subhead: After Years of Research, UMass Amherst Food Scientist Zeroes in on Powerful Interplay Between Gut Bacteria and Fruit CompoundsContact Name: Hang XiaoContact Email: hangxiao@foodsci.umass.eduFebruary 22, 2019

AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor Hang Xiao, Clydesdale Scholar of Food Science, has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how substances produced in the gut from citrus compounds are involved in decreasing inflammation in the colon.

The ultimate goal of his research is to develop diet-based strategies to prevent and treat inflammation in the colon and associated diseases, such as irritable bowel disease and colorectal cancer.

Xiao studies compounds known as polymethoxyflavones, a unique class of flavonoids found almost exclusively in citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, especially in the peels.

Xiao says he designed the study so that the results from the animal models have a high potential to be applied to a human situation, and he hopes to show how humans can derive robust health benefits from consuming citrus products. Using orange peel or zest in recipes is a good start, but it may be that supplements containing higher concentrations of citrus polymethoxyflavones will offer the stronger punch.

“It’s critical to study how the bacteria in the gut help transform dietary compounds into powerful anti-inflammatory agents in our body,” says Xiao, who was named in 2018 among the world’s most highly cited researchers by Clarivate Analytics, owner of Web of Science. “Once those anti-inflammatory metabolites are generated in the colon, they may fight off inflammation in the colon and related diseases, such as colon cancer.”

Xiao’s grant is one of 10 awarded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health. All the projects are focused on possible links between gut microflora and the transformation of dietary compounds into bioactive metabolites. These metabolites, which gut bacteria produce when they break down food components, may provide an explanation for the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

In Xiao’s research, mice are fed citrus polymethoxyflavones. “The fecal material from the mice reflects what happens in the colon,” he explains. “We use chemical and biomedical methods to isolate the metabolites generated in the colon and study their anti-inflammatory properties.”

The gut bacteria were found to be responsible for the production of an array of colonic metabolites from polymethoxyflavones, “and many of these metabolites possessed much stronger anti-inflammatory effects than their parental polymethoxyflavones,” Xiao says.

“We want to keep looking at what other novel metabolites are generated by the bacteria,” Xiao says. “We want to identify them and determine their anti-inflammatory potential. We also want to identify and characterize the gut bacteria which are responsible for the production of these metabolites.”

Thumbnail: Image layout: Medium images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Study Explores the Role of Citrus Peel in Reducing Gut InflammationTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

Professor Hang Xiao, Clydesdale Scholar of Food Science, has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how substances produced in the gut from citrus compounds are involved in decreasing inflammation in the colon.

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Doctoral Oral Exams for March 4, 2019 – March 8, 2019

February 22, 2019

The Graduate Dean invites all graduate faculty to attend the final oral examinations for the doctoral candidates scheduled as follows:

Ying Zhang, Ph.D., College of Education, Monday, March 4, 10:00 a.m., S115 Furcolo. Dissertation: “An Examined Life of a Language Teacher of Chinese: An Autoethnographic Investigation into Agency.” Theresa Y. Austin, chr.

Marisa Ferraro, Ph.D., College of Education, Monday, March 4, 1:15 p.m., S125 Furcolo. Dissertation: “Retrofitting Educators through Sheltered Instruction Training: A Longitudinal Case Study Examining the Efficacy of a Five-year District-wide Intervention Effort.” Laura Valdiviezo, chr 

Gabriela Borin Castillo, Ph.D., Kinesiology, Tuesday, March 5, 10:00 a.m., S330 Life Sciences Laboratory. Dissertation: “Consolidation of Motor Sequence Learning and Motor Adaptation in Human Locomotion.” Julia T. Choi, chr. 

Sarah Burkart, Ph.D., Kinesiology, Tuesday, March 5, 11:30 a.m., 153 Totman. Dissertation: “Feasibility, Acceptability, and Efficacy of an Academically-Integrated Physical Activity Program on Early Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomology in Preschoolers.” Sofiya Alhassan, chr.

Kristine M. Plasse, Ed. D., College of Education, Tuesday, March 5, 11:30 a.m., N113 Furcolo. Dissertation: “Navigating Mainstream Environments: The Impact of Modality Selection for Children with Cochlear Implants.” Denise Ives, chr.

Ruojie Zhang, Ph.D., Food Science, Wednesday, March 6, 3:00 p.m., 243 Chenoweth Laboratory. Dissertation: “Enhancing Nutraceuticals Bioavailability by Nanoemulsions-Based Delivery and Excipient Systems.” Julian McClements, chr. 

Yedalis Ruiz, Ph.D., College of Education, Thursday, March 7, 9:00 a.m., 803 Campus Center. Dissertation: “Mapping the Development of College Going Identities Among Aspirantes Puertorriqueñas.” Jason G. Irizarry, chr.

Sofya Vorotnikova, Ph.D., College of Information and Computer Sciences, Friday, March 8, 10:00 a.m., 140 Computer Science Building. Dissertation: “Massive Graph Analysis in the Data Stream Model.” Andrew McGregor, chr.

María Alicia Remaly, Ph.D., College of Education, Friday, March 8, 10:30 a.m., N125 Furcolo. Dissertation: “Latina/o College Experiences at a Predominantly White Research University.” Ryan S. Wells, chr.

Covadonga Sánchez Alvarado, Ph.D., Spanish and Portuguese, Friday, March 8, 9:00 a.m., 301 Herter Hall. Dissertation: “The Production and Perception of Subject Focus Prosody in L2 Spanish.” Meghan Armstrong-Abrami, chr.

Genia Bettencourt, Ph.D., College of Education, Friday, March 8, 1:00 p.m., 102 Furcolo. Dissertation: “(Social) Class is in Session: Examining the Experiences of Working-Class Students through Social Class Identity, Class-Based Allyship, and Sense of Belonging.” Ryan Wells, chr. 

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Grant Funds Opioid Addiction Treatment in Two County Jails

Subhead: UMass Amherst researcher helps oversee innovative program in Western MassachusettsContact Name: Elizabeth EvansContact Phone: 413/545-4434Contact Email: eaevans@umass.eduFebruary 21, 2019

AMHERST, Mass. – In what could serve as a model for tackling one of the nation’s top public health crises, a University of Massachusetts Amherst epidemiology researcher is teaming up with two Western Massachusetts sheriff’s offices to design, implement and study an opioid treatment program for jail detainees in Franklin and Hampshire counties.

Funded with a $1.5 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the three-year project aims to deliver medications to some 500 detainees who agree to treatment, and connect them to follow-up care through a comprehensive community reentry program after their release.

Elizabeth Evans, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and one of the grant recipients, will collect data from all the stakeholders to measure the project’s outcomes. “The idea is to distill the lessons learned into a playbook or guide that can be used in jails in Massachusetts and across the nation,” Evans says.

The opioid crisis has grown so severe that Americans are now more likely to die from an unintentional opioid overdose than in a vehicle crash or any other accident, according to the National Safety Council.

Opioid addiction “is probably the issue of the 21st century in terms of public health,” Evans says, and the project reflects a shift in the approach to addressing the crisis. “Evidence supports the use of medications to treat opioid use disorder. This model signifies a willingness of the sheriffs to deliver care to reduce recidivism and to save people’s lives,” she says.

Evans will help Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, Assistant Superintendent Ed Hayes and their staff expand and formalize the groundbreaking opioid treatment they began offering inmates in 2015 at the county jail in Greenfield. She also will work with Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane, Assistant Superintendent Melinda Cady and their staff to implement the same program in the Northampton jail.

The location of the rural counties along Interstate 91 leaves residents particularly exposed to the effects of opioid trafficking. For many of the jail detainees, it will be their first opportunity to receive evidence-based care for their disorder, Evans says. “This is a health condition,” she says. “And this is a very vulnerable population.”

Each of the jails has a medical director who assesses the need for treatment, prescribes the medication and monitors the detainees who receive it. An estimated 40 percent of inmates at both jails report having an opioid problem, Evans says, and most are willing to receive treatment, which can begin in as few as four days after arrest.

The treatment medications include Suboxone, which contains buprenorphine and naloxone to help ease cravings and the severe, flu-like symptoms associated with withdrawal; and Vivitrol, an opiate-blocker given as an injection that lasts about a month. Jail authorities also are seeking DEA approval to offer methadone, a synthetic opioid commonly used to treat opioid use disorder.

“People who experience withdrawal develop a fear of ever experiencing that again,” Evans says, which helps explain both the cycle of addiction and the high risk of overdose for detainees following their release from jail.

According to a 2018 Massachusetts Department of Public Health report, the opioid overdose death rate is 120 times higher for recently released inmates than for other adults. And the first month after release is a critical time.

“We recognize that the period after release from jail is a high-risk period for overdose and death from opioids,” Evans says. “The inmates’ tolerance changes and their bodies cannot withstand the same amount of substances as they could pre-incarceration. They often return to use at the same level, which becomes a lethal dose for them.”

That’s why connecting people to medication providers and social services after their release from jail is a crucial part of the program, Evans says.

Franklin and Hampshire counties are among seven in the Commonwealth in a pilot program mandated by the Massachusetts Legislature to start offering medication to inmates with opioid use disorder by September. Evans says the data gathered from the three-year project in Franklin and Hampshire counties may inform the Commonwealth’s burgeoning plan for jail-based opioid addiction treatment.

“Jails used to be all about public safety,” Evans says. “Now they are taking on a public health role. This has potential benefits to both the incarcerated people and to us as a society.”

Release Number: 165-19Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Grant Funds Opioid Addiction Treatment in Two County JailsTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

In what could serve as a model for tackling one of the nation’s top public health crises, an epidemiology researcher is teaming up with two Western Massachusetts sheriff’s offices to design, implement and study an opioid treatment program for jail detainees in Franklin and Hampshire counties.

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Presidential Politics: Biden Leads in UMass Amherst Poll of New Hampshire Voters One Year Before Primary Voting

Subhead: Likely Democratic Voters Comfortable with Seasoned VeteranContact Name: Tatishe NtetaContact Email: nteta@polsci.umass.eduFebruary 20, 2019

AMHERST, Mass. — A year out from the New Hampshire presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare whether he will run for president in 2020, is the early preferred Democratic nominee among likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, according to a new poll released today by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

When asked which candidate they would support if the Democratic presidential primary were held today, 28 percent of likely Democratic voters supported Biden, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont with 20 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris of California with 14 percent of voters, and 9 percent of voters indicting their support for Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Fourteen percent of voters were undecided.

Detailed information on the poll, including crosstabs, can be found here.

“With a roster full of fresh, young faces vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee, New Hampshire’s Democratic primary voters seem more comfortable handing the reins to a seasoned veteran,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the UMass Poll. “While early, our results suggest that this race is Joe Biden’s for the taking. The question is whether he wants it or not.”

Jesse Rhodes, associate professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll, agrees that New Hampshire voters are putting more stock in the familiar with Biden. “While Biden hasn't officially entered the race, the fact that he is a known quantity gives him a big advantage over less-familiar candidates like Kamala Harris or Beto O'Rourke,” Rhodes said. “It also gives him an advantage over other more familiar candidates like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, who many Democrats might like on the issues but fear is too liberal to win in a head-to-head contest with Trump."

Biden is the preferred candidate among most demographic groups in the state, garnering the strongest support among likely Democratic voters who identified as moderates at 39 percent. He also had strong support among older voters, women, with voters whose income is between $40,000 and $100,000, and with voters with a high school education or less.

“Almost 40 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters think Biden has the best shot at winning,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. “No one else comes close. And this appears truer among women than men, which is surprising given the field of qualified women candidates.” 

Biden is also viewed by New Hampshire voters as the candidate who can beat President Trump in 2020, with 39 percent indicating that he is the candidate most likely to defeat Trump in the general election, followed by Sanders at 12 percent, Harris at 8 percent, and Warren at 6 percent.

"A year out from the 2020 New Hampshire primary, the state's Democratic primary voters are in a very pragmatic mood and are focused on finding a candidate who they believe is best positioned to defeat Trump in the presidential election,” said Rhodes. “Right now, this pragmatism is encouraging them to gravitate to what is familiar and Joe Biden, a popular former vice president, is fitting the bill.”

The poll also asked voters if they would be willing to vote for a different candidate, and 82 percent of voters said they would support another candidate. When their initial preferred candidate was excluded from the list of candidates, Harris topped the list of second choices at 28 percent, followed by Biden at 26 percent, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey at 24 percent, Warren of Massachusetts at 22 percent and Sanders at 21 percent.

“The California candidate, Kamala Harris, may not be very well known to the New Hampshire electorate yet, but voters are clearly taking her seriously as a potential second choice if their first doesn’t win,” said La Raja.

The ability to beat President Trump is the top quality that the poll respondents said they are looking for in a 2020 Democratic candidate, with 33 percent saying that is their priority. Another 22 percent said their top quality was being honest and trustworthy, while 20 percent said they are looking for a candidate who best represents their views on the issues.

“While some argue that the Democratic Party is undergoing an ideological civil war, the one issue that brings all corners of the party together is their desire to select a candidate that will defeat President Trump in 2020,” said Nteta.

When asked which Democratic candidate they would not be willing to vote for in a general election, 26 percent of voters pointed to Warren, followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 23 percent and Sanders with 21 percent. 

“In a year in which Democrats in New Hampshire have loudly declared that they will vote for the candidate that will defeat President Trump in the general election, Senator Warren has work to do in order to convince the state’s Democratic electorate that she is indeed the person that will win the election on November 3, 2020,” added Nteta.

The UMass Poll, conducted online by YouGov Feb. 7-15, has a margin of error of 4.8 percent. It interviewed 600 registered voters, of which 337 were likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire. Established in 2010, the UMass Poll has provided political polling for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and national races.

Release Number: 164-19Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Presidential Politics: Biden Leads in UMass Amherst Poll of New Hampshire Voters One Year Before Primary VotingTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

A year out from the New Hampshire presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to declare whether he will run for president in 2020, is the early preferred Democratic nominee among likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, according to a new poll released today by UMass.

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Graduate School Holds Third Annual Three Minute Thesis Competition

February 20, 2019

Ten graduate students will distill their doctoral or master’s research into compelling three-minute oral presentations as they contend for $2,500 in prize money during the concluding stages of the university’s third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.

Organized by the Graduate School’s Office of Professional Development (OPD), the month-long contest will culminate with two final events: A campus-based competition will take place on Friday, March 1, at 1 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium while a community-based competition will be held on Saturday, March 23, at 3 p.m. in Amherst’s Jones Library.

The 10 finalists advanced from a preliminary round consisting of 40 students representing 26 academic programs. To reach the finals, they garnered top scores based on their ability to succinctly explain the significance of their research to a general audience.

At the March 1 Campus Center event, a panel of judges will determine the 3MT competition’s overall champion and runner-up, who will win a $1,000 first prize and a $500 second prize respectively. A prize of $500 will also be awarded to the audience’s choice for best speaker. On March 23, at the Jones Library, a prize of $500 will again be awarded based on an audience vote.

The 10 students competing in this year’s 3MT Finals are:

  • Louis Colaruotolo, food science
  • Hayley Cotter, English
  • Riddha Das, chemistry
  • Lian Guo, organismic and evolutionary biology
  • Matthew Lebovich, chemical engineering
  • Karl Lyn, higher education
  • Christopher Moore, kinesiology
  • Destenie Nock, industrial engineering
  • Doug Pinckney, physics
  • Yolanda Wiggins, sociology

Reflecting their disciplinary breadth, finalists addressed a wide array of topics in the preliminary round, such as the development of methods for improving testing of biodegradable food packages, understanding the impact of surveillance in predominantly African-American schools, enhancing the detection of dark matter in the universe and creating targeted drug delivery systems to improve cancer treatment.

Although the work required to develop a 3MT presentation is challenging, Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the Graduate School, says participants will reap important dividends well beyond the monetary prizes awarded to top finishers.

“Academic training prepares students to excel in developing research skills and cultivating new knowledge,” Krauthamer says. “But students need more than an outstanding research foundation to thrive in a competitive job market. Professional advancement—beginning with conducting a successful job search or securing research funding from a government agency—often depends on the ability to explain the overarching purpose and importance of technical research to people who may know little or nothing about one’s area of expertise. And it is precisely this skill—translating highly specialized ideas for a general audience—that the Three Minute Thesis Competition helps students acquire.”

Ultimately, the 3MT competition may also play an important role in elevating the image of the university and academia more broadly. “Even as the Three Minute Thesis Competition facilitates professional success among contestants, it also positions students to participate more effectively in ongoing public dialogue related to their areas of specialization,” says Heidi Bauer-Clapp, assistant director of the Office of Professional Development and lead contest organizer. “When researchers can show how their work illuminates a public policy debate or other issues of societal importance, they help shape that conversation and thereby enhance the public perception of scholarly research. Consequently, improving the ways in which scholars talk or write about their work serves as one key to strengthening the image of academic research and research institutions.”

Over the past three years, the 3MT competition has become a cornerstone event in the Graduate School’s larger effort to strengthen student research communication skills. Attracting more than 1,200 student participants since OPD launched its research communication initiative, this programming has been enthusiastically received across campus.

Thumbnail: Image layout: Medium images in right columnGateway Headline: Graduate School Holds Third Annual Three Minute Thesis CompetitionNewsletter Headline: Graduate School Holds Third Annual Three Minute Thesis CompetitionTag Review: Tags have been reviewedNewsletter Teaser: 

Ten graduate students will distill their doctoral or master’s research into compelling three-minute oral presentations as they contend for $2,500 in prize money during the concluding stages of the university’s third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.

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Dimitrakopoulos Named Senior Member of National Academy of Inventors

February 19, 2019

Christos Dimitrakopoulos, professor of chemical engineering, is among 66 academic inventors named by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) to the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members. This inaugural class represents 37 NAI member institutions, including research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 1,100 issued U.S. patents.

Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators at NAI Member Institutions with success in patents, licensing and commercialization. They have produced technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.

The NAI says Senior Members also foster a spirit of innovation within their communities through enhancing an inventive atmosphere at their institutions, while educating and mentoring the next generation of inventors. The NAI aims to honor members’ achievements and contributions to the innovation ecosystem at their institutions.

“The election of the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members is a significant designation for a group of prolific inventors from NAI Member Institutions who are collectively a driving force in American innovation,” said Paul R. Sanberg, NAI President. “This is truly an accomplishment worth celebrating.”

Dimitrakopoulos, who joined the university as a professor in 2013, holds 87 U.S. patents and has authored or co-authored more than 90 publications in journals and proceedings, with a total citation count of more than 21,451. He has given more than 70 invited talks at national and international conferences and academic, government and industrial institutions.

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Christos Dimitrakopoulos, professor of chemical engineering, is among 66 academic inventors named by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) to the inaugural class of NAI Senior Members. This inaugural class represents 37 NAI member institutions, including research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. They are named inventors on more than 1,100 issued U.S. patents.

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Three UMass Amherst Early Career Faculty Awarded 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships

Subhead: ‘Most promising researchers in their fields’ join elite group of international scholarsContact Name: Nate WilliamsContact Phone: 212/649-1692Contact Email: williams@sloan.orgFebruary 19, 2019

AMHERST, Mass. – The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation today announced its selection of 126 U.S. and Canadian researchers to receive the 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships, including three from the University of Massachusetts Amherst: computer scientist Barna Saha, physicist Romain Vasseur and bio-analytical chemist Mingxu You.

The fellowships, awarded yearly since 1955, recognize early career scholars whose achievements mark them as among the most promising researchers in their fields. Nominated by their fellow scientists, the winners are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of the candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field. Sloan Foundation winners this year were drawn from 57 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Each receives a two-year, $70,000 fellowship to further their research.

Chemist You is developing tools based on DNA/RNA to allow fluorescence imaging of cells to study new areas in biology, particularly mechano-biology. Physicist Vasseur is studying non-equilibrium quantum states of matter, and theoretical computer scientist Saha is conducting research in theoretical computer science and the mathematical foundation of data science.

Saha explains that in her research, “I try to determine the fastest possible algorithms for important optimization problems. I have managed to find significantly faster approximation algorithms for problems including shortest paths in graphs, matrix multiplication over certain algebraic structures, language edit distance and RNA folding.” These have applications in such areas as data cleaning, computing the secondary structure of the RNA molecule and genome comparison.

She says of this recognition, “It is like a dream come true. I am truly honored to receive this award that many illustrious scientists have received in the past. This will be a great inspiration for me to continue and expand my research. The Sloan funding will enable me to pursue a wider range of such questions concerning efficiently approximating important optimization problems.”

Her colleague, Neil Immerman adds, “The award of a Sloan research fellowship to Barna Saha for her groundbreaking work on the complexity of approximating fundamental optimization problems is fantastic and well deserved.”

In You’s laboratory, he says, “Our overall aim is to develop next-generation platform for disease diagnostics and therapy. To realize this, we are interested in playing with Nature’s building blocks, DNA and RNA. Our current goal is to develop enabling tools to image previously invisible molecules or physical phenomena in living cells.”

He adds, “The good part is that my work has been well recognized by my peers and that is quite important to me. I will use this award to advance my studies of DNA-based intercellular force sensors, which I think could potentially transform the way we understand how cells communicate with each other by mechanical signals."

Richard Vachet, head of the chemistry department, says of You, “Mingxu is an outstanding scientist, and it was only a matter of time before he was recognized for a fellowship like this. His research is truly transformative and will deepen our understanding of a variety of pressing biological problems by creating new sensors capable of measuring molecules in cells that are difficult or impossible to currently detect.”

Vasseur says of the recognition, “I feel honored to receive this prestigious award for my research in quantum statistical physics and condensed matter theory. I intend to use this award to continue exploring the rich behavior of many-body quantum systems far from thermal equilibrium. Exciting new frontiers have emerged over the past few years in the field of non-equilibrium quantum states of matter, and this Sloan fellowship will give me a great opportunity to explore new ideas in this broad direction. ”

His department head, Narayan Menon, says, “Romain is a leader in his generation of quantum condensed-matter theorists, and has already made a mark in understanding the role of criticality, disorder and topology in non-equilibrium quantum systems.”

For the Sloan Foundation, president Adam F. Falk says, “Sloan research fellows are the best young scientists working today. Sloan fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle, and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them. To be a Sloan fellow is to be in the vanguard of twenty-first century science.”

Daniel L. Goroff, director of the foundation’s fellowship program, says the awards are valued not only for their prestige, but because they offer a highly flexible source of research support. He adds, “What young researchers need is freedom to follow where their research leads. Find the brightest young minds and trust them to do what they do best. That is the Sloan research fellowship.”

Past Sloan fellows include important figures in science such as physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann and game theorist John Nash. Forty-seven fellows have received a Nobel Prize. Based in New York City, the Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant-making institution established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation.

Release Number: 163-19Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Three UMass Amherst Early Career Faculty Awarded 2019 Sloan Research FellowshipsTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation today announced its selection of 126 U.S. and Canadian researchers to receive the 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships, including three from UMass: computer scientist Barna Saha, physicist Romain Vasseu rand bio-analytical chemist Mingxu You.

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Study Shows Economic Impact of Great New England Air Show at Westover

Contact Name: Rod WarnickContact Phone: 413/545-6629 Contact Email: warnick@isenberg.umass.eduFebruary 19, 2019

AMHERST, Mass – A University of Massachusetts Amherst economic impact study released today estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending.

The findings confirm increased per-group spending and their impacts on the local economy even though attendance was significantly down; 2018 attendance was estimated to be around 63,475, down from the 375,500 estimated in 2015.

The study was undertaken to understand the economic impact and to benchmark the findings of the 2008 and 2015 air shows for the Galaxy Community Council, a charitable corporation of veterans, local business people and other citizens who work to support the Westover base.

The project was completed by the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

The overall economic significance including respondents’ expenditures both within and outside the region of the air show for 2018 was estimated to be $4.02 million. However, when local attendees were removed, the direct economic expenditures from non-locals was estimated to be $2.67 million and the direct and induced sales multiplier impact overall was estimated to be $4.3 million. This compares to an economic significance in 2015 that was $11.6 million and the local direct economic impact (including the sales multiplier) of $14.9 million. In 2008, economic significance was $8.2 million and the direct economic impact of $12.3 million.

The 2018 measures included 10 major spending categories with the overall average group expenditure of $193.33 or $62.16 per individual with an average group size of 3.11 individuals. These measures are up considerably from 2015, although the sample for 2018 was much smaller (281 groups in 2018 compared to 522 groups interviewed in 2015). In 2015, the overall group expenditures were $104.56 or $30.05 per person and up from $98 per group or $26 per person in 2008. Locals’ expenditures per group (average group size of 3.36) in 2018 were estimated to be $112.38 per group or $33.45 per person while non-locals’ expenditures (average group size 3.01) were estimated to be $226.34 per group or $75.20 per person. Locals’ expenditures per group in 2015 (average group size of 3.32) were estimated to be $74.19 per group or $22.35 per person while non-locals’ expenditures (average group size 3.52) were estimated to be $118.77 per group or $33.71 per person.

The distribution of attendees between locals and non-locals remained about the same from 2015 to 2018. In 2018, locals were estimated to account for 30.2 percent of all attendees and non-locals 69.8 percent, and compared to the distribution in 2015 where locals were estimated to account for 29.9 percent of attendees and non-locals totaled 70.1 percent of attendees.

In 2018, within the identification of non-locals two groups were further reviewed and included day trippers (traveled 20 to 99.9 miles one-way and did not stay overnight) and overnight guests (traveled 100 miles one way and stayed overnight in the local area). Of the non-locals in 2018, day trip groups (average group size 2.90) accounted for 54.4 percent of all attendees and overnight guests (average group size 3.50) accounted for 15.3 percent of all attendees. This compared to the 2015 attendees where among non-locals, day trip groups (average group size 3.55) accounted for 58.9 percent of attendees and overnight guests (average group size 3.38) accounted for 13.1 percent of attendees.

In the 2018 GNEAS study, among the non-locals, day trip groups spent on average an estimated $209.24 per group while overnight guests spent an estimated $299.71 per group. Compared to the findings in 2015 GNEAS among the non-locals, day trip groups spent on average an estimated $92.80 per group while overnight guests spent an estimated $224.45 per group. Overall, across most all groups of attendees, the expenditures per groups were up although overall attendance was down significantly.

Average driving distance traveled one-way by the 2018 attendees was 80.3 miles up from 71.5 miles in the 2015 GNEAS study.

Overall satisfaction with the event has improved since the 2008 event, although down slightly from 2015 to 2018. In 2018, the overall satisfaction was 80.1 percent of the attendees indicated they were either satisfied or very satisfied and compared to GNEAS 2015 survey at 84 percent. Of the attendees polled, 81.1 percent indicated a high level of certainty to return to an air show in two years, down slightly from 86 percent of attendees in 2015. Improvements in traffic management and comments of the wide array of static group displays were noted as important features for the attendees. Security clearance, lack of variety in aerial jets, lack of modern jets and aerial performances, and vendor pricing continue to be an on-going concern and challenges for the event.

This year’s study also examined in more detail why those who expressed interest in the event, but did not attend. The survey captured 578 groups of the non-attendees who completed detailed information about why they did not attend. Of these individual responding groups, the average distance one-way from Westover was 111.69 miles and 81.1 percent of these groups were non-locals. Seventy-one percent were married and the average age was 51. These individuals were also profiled to understand how they may have been a “missed economic impact opportunity” for the promoters of the event to consider in the future.

This study not only benchmarked and updated the economic impact measures from 2008 and 2015 to 2018, but also examined the use of social media and the creation of shared experiences while at the event. In addition, the studies also explored the attendees’ interest in commercial air service out of the Westover Air Base. These additional studies are still on-going analysis by a team of graduate student researchers at UMass.

A team of faculty members and graduate students conducted the study using data collected through an online survey sent to a random sample of registered event attendees. The sample consisted of approximately 1,928 responses of which 281 responding groups were assigned to the economic impact assessment study. In addition, 628 responding groups (32.6 percent) did not attend the show for various reasons and their reasons and profiles were also documented.

The Hospitality and Tourism Management Department is an accredited program housed in the Isenberg School of Management with an enrollment of approximately 541 undergraduates and 12 graduate doctoral students. Students in the graduate program may complete a Ph.D. in Management in the ISOM School with a hospitality concentration.

Release Number: 161-19Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Study Shows Economic Impact of Great New England Air Show at WestoverTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

A UMass economic impact study released today estimates that the two-day Great New England Air Show (GNEAS) held at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee in July 2018 generated $4.3 million in direct and induced local spending.

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Poehler Receives $245,000 Getty Foundation Grant

February 14, 2019

Eric Poehler, associate professor of classics, has received a $245,000 grant from the Getty Foundation to complete a three-year project titled the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (PALP), an online resource designed to contextualize detailed descriptions of Pompeii's artwork within its well-documented archaeological landscape.                                   

PALP is a collaborative initiative between Poehler and Sebastian Heath at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.

Drawing upon the existing Pompeii Bibliography and Mapping Project, PALP will enable users to locate artworks geographically and make complex connections between them. The project will allow researchers to ask the questions that are essential in speculative research, from something as simple as searching for the location of every Pompeiian visual representation of Hercules, to a query refining these representations by region, style and architectural setting. Users will be able to view the artworks on a map, search the inventory by keyword and explore different categories of spatial or iconographic relationships.

The goal of PALP is to dramatically increase the number of researchers and members of the public who can access, analyze, interpret, and share the artworks of Pompeii, the most richly documented urban environment of the Roman world.

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Eric Poehler, associate professor of classics, has received a $245,000 grant from the Getty Foundation to complete a three-year project titled the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (PALP), an online resource designed to contextualize detailed descriptions of Pompeii's artwork within its well-documented archaeological landscape.

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Bradley Receives Top Early Career Grant

February 13, 2019

Laura Bradley, assistant professor of polymer science and engineering, recently was awarded a five-year, $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will support her research on producing soft materials with ordered and oriented architectures for advanced applications in membranes and surface coatings.

Soft materials such as liquids, polymers, foams, gels and colloids can be shaped and re-shaped for use in a variety of applications, says Bradley, such as membranes with pores that are vertically oriented, which increases permeability while maintaining selectivity, or what’s allowed to pass and what is not. Commercial membranes currently suffer from low pore densities and high cost, she adds. Her future projects will study the production of scaffolds for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering.

The Bradley lab uses chemical vapor deposition to control the accumulation of polymers at interfaces; when performed on liquid surfaces in situ, mechanisms of diffusion and aggregation drive the assembly. As she explains, “Controlling the sequential addition of materials to the liquid surface enables us to control the final self-assembled morphology in a continuous process to achieve targeted architectures ranging from nanoparticles to porous composites.”

Her approach is inspired by nature’s ability to take advantage of transport mechanisms to construct cell components. She explains, “Scientists are constantly trying to mimic assembly mechanisms found in nature. Controlling material transport and understanding competitive time scales of assembly and transport mechanisms will open opportunities in new methods for materials production.”

She adds, “The process unfolds in a more dynamic way on the liquid surface, which allows you to manipulate assembly. If you control the feed and rate of delivery, over time you can control the properties of a material as you make it.”

The specific vapor-phase deposition technique the Bradley group employs is called “initiated chemical vapor deposition” or “iCVD,” which produces a wide range of functional polymers incorporating hydrophobic, hydrophilic, biocomptable or stimuli-responsive properties. Work from Bradley’s Ph.D. dissertation showed that polymer growth on liquids by iCVD is not uniform across the surface.

Over the next five years with NSF support, she will add new assembly mechanisms exploiting nematic – oriented – liquid crystals as the liquid substrate to organize the growth of polymers and produce uniform materials such as monodisperse nanoparticles or membranes with constant pore size and shape.

Bradley says, “In this project, we will leverage UMass Amherst strengths in polymer science and condensed matter physics. The campus’s collaborative atmosphere makes it a great place to carry out interdisciplinary research. Receiving the NSF CAREER grant is especially motivating to our new reseach group. I have the pleasure of working with creative and enthusiastic students. As a team, we are excited about our new research directions and the support from NSF.”

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Laura Bradley, assistant professor of polymer science and engineering, recently was awarded a five-year, $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will support her research on producing soft materials with ordered and oriented architectures for advanced applications in membranes and surface coatings.

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Deater-Deckard and Team Study Adolescent Risky Decisions

February 13, 2019

Developmental psychologist Kirby Deater-Deckard, psychological and brain sciences, is a co-investigator on a recently renewed five-year, $3.7 milliongrant fromthe NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to support a research team studying the environmental and neurobiological risk factors that influence brain development and healthy versusunhealthy decision-making in adolescence and early adulthood.

The projectis followinga cohort of about 150 youths, first enrolledin the study when they were 14 years old, as they progress out of adolescence and into young adulthood. The researchers are collecting behavioral, cognitive, physiological, genetic and brain imaging data annually. The study is unusual, Deater-Deckard says, because the participants come from many different types of households and income levels in rural and urban Appalachian communities.

Principal investigators are Jungmeen Kim Spoon and Brooks King-Casas at Virginia Tech, and in addition to Deater-Deckard, other co-investigators are Warren Bickel and Stephen LaConte at Virginia Tech’s Carilion Research Institute.

As Deater-Deckard explains, “The field of psychological and brain sciences is rapidly making discoveries about howbrain development in adolescence and early adulthood is affected by interactions between neural activity, genesand contexts such as poverty and peer influences. Advancing our understanding of how these factors interact in development is critical to improving knowledge about why adolescents make riskier decisions that can enhance their healthy development but that also can increase risk for such problems as dangerous driving, substance abuse and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.”

With the continuation of funding for this long-term study, the researchers hope to provide new information to fill key knowledge gaps, he adds. Findings should be helpful to healthcare and public health professionals, educators and related policy groups.

Deater-Deckard notes, “Sometimes people make good decisions and sometimes they make decisions that can harm themselves or other people. When we are teenagers and young adults, we are more likely to make ‘risky’ decisions. These can be good decisions; sometimes, taking a risk can lead to a new experience that helps you grow and become wiser.”

“But sometimes, taking a risk can lead to experiences that hurt you or others around you. In our research project, we are trying to understand how our brains and bodies develop when we are teenagers, for teens living in very different kinds of places. We hope to use this knowledge to help youth, schools, hospitals and parents provide more help to teenagers, so that they makehealthier decisions and make fewer dangerous decisions.”

Deater-Deckard, whostudies child and adolescent cognitive and social-emotional developmentand the role of parenting and peer environments on developmental outcomes, helps lead the Developmental Science Initiative (DSI) at UMassAmherst. The DSI includes the Healthy Development Initiative at the UMass Center at Springfield, where colleagues and students conduct research and outreach to discover and share new knowledge about human development.

Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnGateway Headline: Deater-Deckard and Team Study Adolescent Risky DecisionsNewsletter Headline: Deater-Deckard and Team Study Adolescent Risky DecisionsTag Review: Tags have been reviewedNewsletter Teaser: 

Developmental psychologist Kirby Deater-Deckard, psychological and brain sciences, is a co-investigator on a recently renewed five-year, $3.7 milliongrant fromthe NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to support a research team studying the environmental and neurobiological risk factors that influence brain development and healthy versusunhealthy decision-making in adolescence and early adulthood.

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Marlin Receives $250,000 NSF Community Research Grant

February 13, 2019

UMass Center for Data Science professor Benjamin Marlin has received a three-year, $250,000 National Science Foundation grant from its Computer and Information Science and Engineering Community Research Infrastructure program to develop mResearch, a platform for reproducible and extensible research in mobile health.

The mResearch project will extend Marlin’s five-year collaboration with colleagues in the NIH-funded Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-To-Knowledge (MD2K) Center, a consortium of 11 universities and medical centers headquartered at the University of Memphis. MD2K’s current software platforms are used by scientists and engineers to collect health data from mobile sensors and devices like smart phones and to develop new algorithms to monitor health and wellness. Marlin says the new project will enhance MD2K’s existing software platforms with the goal of accelerating research in sensor design, mobile computing, privacy and data analytics.

Marlin is leading the development on campus of a platform for reproducible machine learning research with large-scale mobile sensor data. He says machine learning workflows in the mobile sensor data analysis space can be very complex, involving many layers of data transformations that use a collection of different tools and often include nuanced experimental procedures for evaluating new algorithms. Without a detailed description of the exact processes used, it can be very time-consuming to even approximately reproduce previous research results obtained by other teams, slowing overall progress in the field, he adds.  

The mResearch platform will attempt to solve these issues by extending MD2K’s current data analytics platform with tools for compactly expressing complex sensor data processing and machine learning workflows. Once completed, this framework will allow researchers to publish their entire workflowfrom data cleaning and feature extraction to algorithm evaluation. By combining open data sets with published workflows, the goal is to enable exact reproduction of prior results with the click of a button, allowing the research community to spend more time on innovation and less time on re-establishing previously obtained baseline results, Marlin points out.

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UMass Center for Data Science professor Benjamin Marlin has received a three-year, $250,000 National Science Foundation grant from its Computer and Information Science and Engineering Community Research Infrastructure program to develop mResearch, a platform for reproducible and extensible research in mobile health.

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Large Study Fails to Link Phthalates and Increased Breast Cancer Risk

Subhead: UMass Amherst epidemiologist says more research is needed looking at younger womenContact Name: Katherine ReevesContact Phone: 413/577-4298Contact Email: kwreeves@schoolph.umass.eduFebruary 12, 2019

AMHERST, Mass. – In the largest study to date on phthalates and postmenopausal breast cancer, a University of Massachusetts Amherst cancer epidemiology researcher found no association between breast cancer risk and exposure to the plasticizing and solvent chemicals used in such common products as shampoo, makeup, vinyl flooring, toys, medical devices and car interiors.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the research “rules out any extreme increase in risk,” but still leaves open the question of whether some relationship exists between phthalate exposure and breast cancer, says Katherine Reeves, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

“Our research has raised almost as many questions as it’s answered,” says Reeves, whose study was funded with a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “I think this is an important contribution to the literature, but there’s still a lot more work to be done, including looking at younger women.”

Virtually everyone in the United States is exposed to phthalates in varying degrees, primarily by eating and drinking food and liquid that has come in contact with products containing the chemicals, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet. After ingestion, the body breaks down phthalates into metabolites that are quickly excreted in urine and can be analyzed. “If you’re excreting more, likely you are exposed to more,” Reeves says.

For their prospective study, the first to measure phthalate exposure before a cancer diagnosis, Reeves and UMass Amherst colleagues turned to the Women Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term national health study involving more than 160,000 postmenopausal women. Prospective cohort studies allow researchers to calculate disease incidence in proper time sequence, establishing exposure level before outcome is known, which provides stronger evidence than other study types.

UMass Amherst researchers examined levels of 11 phthalate metabolites in urine samples from 419 women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer after Year 3 of the WHI. They also studied samples from 838 healthy women who didn’t develop breast cancer.

Two or three urine samples from each participant – from baseline, Year 1 and Year 3 – were measured, addressing two of the challenges of studying phthalate exposure, Reeves says. Previous studies examined urine samples after a breast cancer diagnosis, when exposure could have come from medical equipment or medication. In Reeves’ study, “the samples were collected when everyone was healthy, so that gave us samples that were free of concern that differences in exposure could be related to the diagnosis and treatment.”

In addition, analyzing several urine samples was expected to increase the chances of having a more accurate picture of exposure. Half of phthalate metabolites are excreted in urine within 12 to 24 hours of exposure, Reeves says. “If you’re relying on a single measurement, you may be misclassifying people and either getting no association or the wrong association.”

Even though researchers analyzed several urine samples from each person taken a few years apart, Reeves says the study had limitations. “People’s phthalate exposure changes quite a bit over time, and this makes it challenging to characterize the people who are the most exposed and who are the least, which is what we need to be able to do in order to evaluate whether higher phthalate exposure is related to breast cancer risk,” Reeves says. “Using two to three samples per person helped, but it wasn’t fully able to overcome that challenge.”

Reeves says future research would benefit from studying younger women. “The most critical time for breast cancer development is in previous years. Looking at women in their 50s and 60s may not be the most important exposure period,” she says.      

Additional urine samples – perhaps 10 to 20 – would allow researchers to more accurately characterize exposure as low, medium or high. The study also recommends future research should take a closer look at postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy because “some potentially positive, yet not statistically significant” associations were noted between the level of phthalate metabolites and breast cancer risk in this subgroup.

“We need to know the answer about whether or not these chemicals are causing breast cancer or other health outcomes,” Reeves says. “It’s a pressing issue and we’re trying to think of creative approaches to get not just an answer, but the right answer.”

Release Number: 159-19Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Large Study Fails to Link Phthalates and Increased Breast Cancer RiskTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

In the largest study to date on phthalates and postmenopausal breast cancer, a UMass cancer epidemiology researcher found no association between breast cancer risk and exposure to the plasticizing and solvent chemicals used in such common products as shampoo, makeup, vinyl flooring, toys, medical devices and car interiors.

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Biswas Granted Amazon Research Award

February 12, 2019

Joydeep Biswas, assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science, has recently been awarded an Amazon Research Award of $80,000 to fund his research on modeling dynamic human environments for robot perception.

“Autonomous mobile robots need to accurately and robustly reason about their location in the environment, along with the locations of other movable objects, to perform tasks accurately," said Biswas. “However, localization in real human environments over extended periods of time is challenging, since the environment changes often. Such changes include changes to the geometry due to movable and deformable objects and changes in appearance due to lighting and weather changes.”

According to Biswas, the key insight underlying his solution is the realization that the objects responsible for changes in the environment are often also the same objects that mobile robots need to detect and track to effectively execute their tasks. His work aims to jointly model and track the many distinct movable objects that compose the world, while simultaneously reasoning about the location of the robot.

His approach has the potential to solve several robot perception problems in a single, principled manner, naturally fusing together a number of perception problems that are conventionally tackled independently, including robot localization and mapping.

“The potential impact of this research is varied,” said Biswas. “It will benefit not only service mobile robots deployed in everyday human environments but it also has the potential to help autonomous cars navigate in a changing world with reduced reliance on up-to-date maps.”

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Joydeep Biswas, assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science, has recently been awarded an Amazon Research Award of $80,000 to fund his research on modeling dynamic human environments for robot perception.

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Rowen Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award

February 11, 2019

Jamie Rowen, assistant professor of political science and legal studies, has been selected for one of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CAREER Awards, the highest recognition the NSF gives to early-career faculty. The five-year, $500,000 grant will support Rowen’s research into Veteran’s Treatment Courts (VTCs), a program that emerged as one response to a growing concern that veterans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and have unique, unmet needs.

“This grant allows me to apply my knowledge on how law can aid survivors of mass atrocity to a new and vitally important domestic policy issue,” says Rowen.

Each of the more than 500 VTCs around the country seeks to connect qualifying veterans with substance use and mental health services. The project involves team-based, comparative analysis of the people and culture of VTCs. Rowen and her fellow researchers will conduct long-term observation of court hearings, interviews with VTC founders and local and national personnel.

“By examining the purpose and practice of VTCs, we will address why and how local legal innovations emerge to address entrenched social and political problems such as drug use, mental health disorders, poverty and war,” Rowen says.

“The project takes a distinctly local approach to understanding the opportunities and limitations of criminal justice reforms designed to aid vulnerable veterans. Further, one of the most exciting aspects of this generous award is that it will enable me to learn from, train and collaborate with students researching veteran’s issues from across the country,” she adds.

“This award is a huge honor, and would not have been possible without the support of my legal studies program colleagues, the department of political science and, most importantly, the Center for Research on Families,” Rowen notes.

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Jamie Rowen, assistant professor of political science and legal studies, has been selected for one of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) CAREER Awards, the highest recognition the NSF gives to early-career faculty.

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Volunteers with Knee Osteoarthritis Needed for Research Study

February 7, 2019

Researchers in the department of kinesiology are seeking volunteers for a study investigating how exercise and footwear can impact individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

Participants must: 

  • have knee osteoarthritis
  • be 50-80 years old
  • have a BMI less than 35
  • be able to obtain an MRI
  • be able to walk unaided for more than 20 minutes

Participants will be asked to complete one visit to the Human Magnetic Resonance Center (HMRC) and Human Testing Center of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS). The visit will take approximately four hours. During this visit, participants will receive an MRI and walk on a treadmill.

If interested, contact Erica from the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab at mobl@kin.umass.edu or 413/545-4421.

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Researchers in the department of kinesiology are seeking volunteers for a study investigating how exercise and footwear can impact individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Participants will be asked to complete one visit to the Human Magnetic Resonance Center (HMRC) and Human Testing Center of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS).

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Nominations Sought for Rising Researcher Student Awards

February 7, 2019

Nominations are open for the spring 2019 Rising Researcher student award program. Sponsored by the vice chancellors for research and engagement and university relations, the Rising Researcher program seeks to highlight the campus’s most promising undergraduate student researchers and scholars and to publicly acknowledge their excellent work.

UMass Amherst undergraduate students in good academic standing who have demonstrated leadership and excellence in their area of study are eligible for the award.

Faculty members are encouraged to nominate eligible students who are under their supervision. Nominations submitted by faculty members or administrators other than the student’s advisor are permitted, but must include adequate information about the nominee’s research and scholarly accomplishments on which the selection committee can base their decision.

Students receive an acrylic award, publicity about their achievement in campus communications and an opportunity to meet the chancellor at a special reception in their honor.

The nomination deadline is Feb. 20.

More Information and the nomination form may be found at http://www.umass.edu/researchnext/nominate-rising-researcher.

Further questions should be directed to Karen J. Hayes at khayes@admin.umass.edu.

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Nominations are open for the spring 2019 Rising Researcher student award program. Sponsored by the vice chancellors for research and engagement and university relations, the Rising Researcher program seeks to highlight the campus’s most promising undergraduate student researchers and scholars and to publicly acknowledge their excellent work. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 20. 

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Nominations Sought for Spotlight Scholar Awards

February 7, 2019

Members of the campus community are invited to nominate a faculty member who has demonstrated academic quality and leadership to be the next UMass Amherst Spotlight Scholar.

Spotlight Scholars are individuals whose research, scholarship or creativity shines through in their studies. 

All full-time tenure and non-tenure system UMass Amherst faculty members are eligible to be nominated. Anyone can nominate a scholar and self-nominations accepted. Selected scholars receive a cash award and are prominently featured in campus publications.

The nomination deadline is Feb. 20.

More information and the nomination form may be found at http://www.umass.edu/researchnext/nominate-spotlight-scholar.

Further questions should be directed to Karen J. Hayes at khayes@admin.umass.edu.

 

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Members of the campus community are invited to nominate a faculty member who has demonstrated academic quality and leadership to be the next UMass Amherst Spotlight Scholar. Spotlight Scholars are individuals whose research, scholarship or creativity shines through in their studies. Nominations are due Feb. 20.

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Members of the campus community are invited to nominate a faculty member who has demonstrated academic quality and leadership to be the next UMass Amherst Spotlight Scholar.

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Neuro Learning and Performance Lab Seeks Participants for Study on Brain Development and Decision-Making

February 5, 2019

The Neuro Learning and Performance Lab is seeking children and adolescents age 10-17 years and adults age 23-29 to participate in a study researching brain development and decision-making processes. Participants will use games to choose between different options of winning money or allocating money to different people. Brain waves will be recorded using an EEG cap. Eye blinks will also be recorded by placing four small electrodes on the face. The EEG cap and electrodes are noninvasive and completely safe.

Subjects should be right-handed with no neurological or psychiatric disorders and who are not on daily medication for these disorders.

All participants will receive $15 plus a bonus of $1-5 based on performance during the computerized task. Children and adolescents only will receive a $10 travel reimbursement, and if a participant refers a friend who also participates in this study they will receive a $5 Amazon gift card for the referral.

The study location is at UMass Amherst, but the UMass Center at Springfield is also available for children and adolescents.

For more information, please contact Youngbin Kwak in the Neuro Learning and Performance Lab at 413-461-0129 or kwaknlpgroup@gmail.com.

Neuro Learning and Performance LaboratoryThumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnGateway Headline: Neuro Learning and Performance Lab Seeks Participants for Study on Brain Development and Decision-MakingNewsletter Headline: Neuro Learning and Performance Lab Seeks Participants for Study on Brain Development and Decision-MakingTag Review: Tags have been reviewedNewsletter Teaser: 

The Neuro Learning and Performance Lab is seeking children and adolescents age 10-17 years and adults age 23-29 to participate in a study researching brain development and decision-making processes. Participants will use games to choose between different options of winning money or allocating money to different people.

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Walking for Health Benefits Just Got Easier to Track

Subhead: UMass Amherst researchers create simple guidelines to measure walking intensityContact Name: Catrine Tudor-LockeContact Phone: 413/577-4702Contact Email: ctudorlocke@umass.eduJanuary 31, 2019

In an ongoing study exploring walking for health across the adult lifespan, University of Massachusetts Amherst kinesiology researchers found that walking cadence is a reliable measure of exercise intensity and set simple steps-per-minute guidelines for moderate and vigorous intensity.

Catrine Tudor-Locke, professor of kinesiology, and postdoctoral researchers Elroy Aguiar and Scott Ducharme concluded that for adults, age 21-40, walking about 100 steps per minute constitutes moderate intensity, while vigorous walking begins at about 130 steps per minute. 

The research, published this month in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, offers walkers a concrete way to track their activity level without relying on exercise devices or complicated calculations about oxygen consumption or heart rate. It represents the first set of outcomes from Tudor-Locke’s ongoing, five-year CADENCE-Adults study, funded with a $2.2 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. The study seeks to establish the relationship between walking cadence (steps per minute) and intensity (metabolic rate) across the adult lifespan, from age 21 to 85.

Using the study’s initial results for younger adults, walkers can simply count their steps to determine their approximate exercise intensity. Counting steps for 15 seconds and multiplying by four, for example, will determine steps per minute. 

“This research establishes a very practical method to measure the intensity of walking, one that is very easy to communicate and also rigorously validated by the science,” says Tudor-Locke, a well-known expert on the steps-per-day question. 

To ensure sex and age balance, researchers recruited 10 men and 10 women for each five-year age group between 21 and 40, for a total of 80 healthy participants. They performed a series of five-minute walks on a treadmill, with two-minute rests, as their cadence was hand-tallied and intensity (METs) was measured using a portable indirect calorimeter. Sessions began at .5 mph and increased in .5 mph increments until participants either began to run, reached 75 percent of their predicted maximum heart rate or reported a perceived exertion of “somewhat hard.” 

Federal guidelines call for 150 minutes of “moderate” or 75 minutes of “vigorous” exercise each week. Moderate intensity is defined as activity that requires 3 METs (metabolic equivalents of task), or three times the amount of oxygen that’s consumed while sitting still. In the study, moderate-intensity walking began at about 2.7 mph and was equal to 3 METs. Vigorous walking was associated with 6 METs.

Aguiarsaid that the natural walking pace of 90 percent of the study participants was above the moderate-pace threshold. “If you just tell people to walk at their normal speed, they probably are going to walk above 100 steps per minute. Asking people to walk for exercise is a low-cost, low-skill, feasible activity choice which has the potential to drastically improve people’s health,” he says.

The research suggests a simple but powerful public health message: Just walk, as much as possible. “Our society has engineered movement out of our life,” Aguiar says. “We have TVs, we have cars, we have remotes. It’s clear that you can achieve the public health guidelines for physical activity through walking.”

Researchers used two distinct analytical methods to determine the approximate walking cadence thresholds. They also found that after moderate intensity walking of 100 steps per minute was reached, each 10 steps-per-minute increase was associated with an increase in intensity of one MET. So, 4 METs is roughly equivalent to 110 steps per minute and 5 METs with 120 steps per minute.

Although the findings confirm data from previous research, the CADENCE-Adults study is the first calibration study to use a sex-and-age-balanced sampling approach, Tudor-Locke said. Future reports from the study may establish age-appropriate walking thresholds.

Release Number: 156-19Thumbnail: Image layout: Small images in right columnNewsletter Headline: Walking for Health Benefits Just Got Easier to TrackTag Review: Needs reviewNewsletter Teaser: 

In an ongoing study exploring walking for health across the adult lifespan, kinesiology researchers found that walking cadence is a reliable measure of exercise intensity and set simple steps-per-minute guidelines for moderate and vigorous intensity.

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