Spring 2011

Faculty News

Conferences & Appearances

Pilsner attends NICHD Vision Workshop on the Environment

J. Richard Pilsner, assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences, was recently invited to attend the Scientific Vision Workshop on the Environment for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Pilsner was one of only a select few individuals hand-picked to attend this visionary workshop.

Held March 10-11, 2011 in Bethesda, MD, the workshop was part of the NICHD's efforts to develop a scientific vision that sets an ambitious agenda and inspires the Institute, the research community and its many partners to achieve critical scientific goals and meet pressing public health needs. The NICHD hopes to identify the most promising scientific opportunities of the next decade across the breadth of the Institute's mission "to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives, free from disease or disability, and to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people through optimal rehabilitation."

To create this vision, the NICHD held a series of nine workshops from January through March 2011. Each workshop centered on a different scientific theme ranging from "Cognition" and "Development" to the "Environment" and "Reproduction," and involved 40-60 researchers, clinicians, public advocates, and policy experts, representing a range of disciplines.

For Pilsner, the invitation to attend the Vision Workshop on the Environment was a tremendous honor. "It was a remarkable experience to brainstorm future research needs for children's health with leading investigators representing a broad range of fields, ranging from environmental scientists, economists and public health advocates," said Dr. Pilsner. "It really exemplifies the value of cross-disciplinary research as every discipline looks at a health issue from a different perspective despite our common goal."

White papers identifying the key scientific opportunities that emerged from each of the meetings will be written by their respective workshop co-chairs. The synthesis of these opportunities will form the basis of the NICHD Scientific Vision, a document the NICHD plans to publish in a major journal later this year.

The NICHD, established by congress in 1962, conducts and supports research on topics related to the health of children, adults, families and populations. To learn more about the NICHD Vision process, visit

Debold's research highlighted at the Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society

Edward Debold, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, presented findings from his research in the Muscle Biophysics Lab at UMass entitled Phosphate Enhances Actin Filament Velocity at Low pH in an In-Vitro Motility Assay at the Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in Baltimore, MD. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the molecular basis of muscle contraction. They also provide molecular insight into the process of muscular fatigue and the loss of cardiac contractility during a heart attack.

Based on the impact of the findings, Dr. Debold's presentation was chosen to be highlighted in the prestigious Motility Subgroup Symposium. "It was a great honor to be chosen by the organizing committee to speak to an assembly of the world's most preeminent researchers in the areas of muscle biophysics and molecular motors," said Debold.

The findings will reach an even wider audience as results from this study were recently published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Communication Disorders faculty featured speakers at Apraxia of Speech conference

Shelley Velleman and Elena Zaretsky of the Department of Communication Disorders were featured speakers at the first annual conference of the Apraxia Resource Center of Connecticut on October 22, 2010 in New Haven, CT. Velleman's keynote address, entitled "Treatment Across the Ages," highlighted the key features of Childhood Apraxia of Speech and how these features evolve over the course of development from toddlerhood to young adulthood, with treatment suggestions tailored to these changing symptoms and to the communication needs of children of different ages. Zaretsky's presentation, "Supporting Reading Development in Children with Apraxia of Speech," focused on the challenges of providing reading tutelage to children with this speech disorder, as well as presenting information about different reading programs that may be appropriate for increased efficacy in reading acquisition.

Some 150 speech-language pathologists and parents were in attendance. Proceeds from the conference will be used to support the Apraxia Resource Center of Connecticut, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, support and resources to families affected by Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), as well as to the professionals who treat them. The proceeds will also help to provide speech-language therapy scholarships for children with CAS and whose insurance does not cover the intensive intervention required for this challenging speech disorder.

Gerber attends Undergraduate Public Health Learning Outcomes Development Project Integration Meeting

Daniel Gerber, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Undergraduate Public Health Sciences Program in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, recently attended the Undergraduate Public Health Learning Outcomes Development Project (UGPH) Integration Meeting held October 5-6, 2010 in Tampa, FL. The goals of the project are to define what every undergraduate should know and be able to do to promote population health, both locally and globally, and to outline other essential student attributes and characteristics for improving health and eliminating health disparities in populations around the world.

The group used the Association of American Colleges & University's Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) framework to guide the development of the project. Three workgroups were assigned to identify and specify learning outcomes for one of three domain areas in undergraduate public health education. Gerber, co-chair of the "Intellectual and Practical Skills" domain, joined the integration council in reviewing learning outcomes for all domains plus a fourth domain, which focuses on methods and the best instructional and learning practices in order to integrate them into a more complete model.

The first version of the complete UGPH model was discussed at a Town Hall Meeting held at the ASPH Annual Meeting in November. In addition, the UGPH project was presented as part of the Academic Public Health Caucus later that same month.

For more information about the Undergraduate Public Health Learning Outcomes Development Project, contact Ms. Christine Plepys at or visit the project website.

Zaretsky addresses conference in Croatia

Elena Zaretsky, assistant professor of Communication Disorders, was the invited plenary speaker at the 4th Congress of Croatian Speech Language Pathologists held September 22-25, 2010 at the University of Zagreb.

Zaretsky's presentation was based on her research on early reading acquisition and included cross-linguistic data from languages with different orthography collected from a longitudinal study with typically developing kindergartners and kindergartners identified with speech and language disorders.

The theme for the congress was "Speech Pathology as an Interdisciplinary Science" and the meeting attracted the internationally known researchers and educators from Wales, Brazil, Belgium and United States.

Communication Disorders faculty, students present research in Athens

Several faculty and students from the Communication Disorders Department were presenters at the 28th World Congress of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics held in Athens on August 22-26, 2010.

Faculty members Mary Andrianopoulos, Shelley Velleman and Elena Zaretsky, along with the PhD candidates Marcil Boucher and Alyssa Currier, presented their recent research findings to the association, one of the oldest professional organizations in the field of communication disorders.

Velleman and Currier presented their work on "Phonological profiles and outcomes of Duplication 7q1123 Syndrome."

Velleman was also the presenter for "Early phonology in Williams versus Duplication 7q1123 Syndrome," an honors thesis by undergraduate Kayleigh O'Connor.

Andrianopoulos and Zaretsky presented the new comparative data on narrative skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Zaretsky presented the findings from her study on early sensitivity to sublexical structure in children's invented spelling.

Boucher did presentations on acoustical characteristics of speech in children with ASD and rating procedures for judging voice quality of individuals with ASD.

Photo: Marcil Boucher, Elena Zaretsky, Alyssa Currier, Shelley Velleman and Mary Andrianopoulos

Nutrition faculty speak at Western Massachusetts Hunger Summit

Lorraine Cordeiro and Alayne Ronnenberg, assistant professors in the Department of Nutrition, spoke at the "Western Massachusetts Hunger Summit 2010: The Safety Net and Beyond" in Springfield, MA on September 29, 2010. They joined Katharine Millonzi, Sustainable Food Program Manager for the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives at Williams College, as part of a panel entitled "Collaboration with Higher Education Institutions."

The event provided a venue for networking among an audience that included local farmers, staff from various soup kitchens and shelters, church leaders, UMass Amherst students, policy makers and representatives from campus kitchen initiatives. Dr. Cordeiro's talk focused on the Greater Springfield and UMass Amherst partnership, which builds upon strengths of the local community and engages faculty, staff and students at the university and within the five college consortium. She spoke about increasing efforts to provide students from low-income families with access to higher education. Dr. Ronnenberg spoke about the importance of biomarker assessment in community settings to highlight the nutritional status of underserved communities. Cordeiro and Ronnenberg also stressed the importance of applied research that had direct benefits to the community. Ms. Millonzi presented on the sustainable food systems approach currently used at Williams College.

The Western Massachusetts Hunger Summit came at the conclusion of "Hunger Action Month," a national campaign to help end hunger. The Summit supported the work of those already engaged in the fight against hunger and encouraged everyone to take action to end hunger in their communities. The Summit featured workshops on topics ranging from how to run a better nonprofit to how to build strong local food systems for everyone. Panelists for each workshop included local, state and national experts on hunger and food insecurity. Round table discussions, featuring members of the emergency food network in Western Massachusetts, were also held as part of the Summit.


In This Issue

School News

Dean's Welcome

The SPHHS Celebrates Its History
Kinesiology Earns Top Rankings
SPHHS Welcomes Fulbrights

Faculty News

In the Spotlight: New Faculty
Conferences & Appearances
Honors & Awards
Grant News


Student News

Creating a Healthier World
Teleconference Therapy
Career Fair
Around the School

Alumni News

Alumni Profile: David Blake
Alumni News Briefs

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