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Highlights:

Jedy Chilufya receives International Fellowship from American Association of University Women

Jedaidah Chilufya, a Ph.D. students in Dr. Dong Wang's lab, has received a 2020-21 International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The farming practices in Zambia inspired Jedy’s research interest in sustainable agriculture using legume farming to contribute to eradicating hunger. Her goal is to boost the production of legumes grown by local farmers in Massachusetts and to later replicate these studies back home in Zambia.

Li-Jun Ma receives Joint Genome Institute Award for fungi research

BMB Professor Li-Jun Ma has received support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Community Science Program (CSP) to conduct in-depth research on a group of soil fungi, Fusaria. Dr. Ma hopes to find ways to prevent the Fusaria fungus from killing plants, specifically plant-based biofuel feedstocks.

Alejandro Heuck receives NIH Small Business Technology Transfer Award

BMB Associate Professor Alejandro Heuck, in collaboration with Worcester-based Microbiotix, Inc., has been awarded a two-year, $600,000 NIH Small Business Technology Transfer award to develop a high-throughput screening method to identify inhibitors of a bacterial secretion system that attacks human cells by injecting toxins. A treatment based on the inhibitors could act by a new mechanism to enhance the host’s innate immune response to infection.

Stratton Lab discovers new regulatory role for CaMKII protein

BMB Assistant Professor Margaret Stratton, Postdoctoral Researcher Roman Sloutsky, and MCB PhD Candidate Noelle Dziedzic recently published a report in Science Signaling describing their recent findings on the CaMKII protein. Researchers in the Stratton Lab discovered that the organizational center of the CaMKII molecular complex acts like a tuner for calcium sensitivity. This opens-up a whole new area for investigation as researchers continue to learn more about this memory protein.

Peter Chien publishes findings on how cells keep growing even when under attack

BMB Professor Peter Chien recently published a paper in the Cell journal Molecular Cell describing how bacteria switch gears to respond to different stresses while maintaining normal cell functions. A damage-containment system in stressed bacteria can become overrun and blocked, but that this leads to cells responding by turning on very different pathways to make sure that normal growth continues. Understanding how cells take advantage of protease competition to respond to stress could help us inhibit similar pathways to block uncontrolled growth in cancer cells.

Lila Gierasch, Li-Jun Ma, and Megan West receive CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards

Three members of the BMB community have received 2020 Outstanding Achievement Awards from the College of Natural Sciences (CNS). Distinguished Professor Lila Gierasch and Associate Professor Li-Jun Ma were both recognized for their research, while Director of Administration and Outreach Megan West was celebrated for her commitment to diversity and inclusion. The CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards recognize faculty, staff, and students who have made important contributions to their discipline, department, college and university.

Congratulations and thank-you to BMB Writing Fellow Jenny Krichevsky

Eugenia “Jenny” Krichevsky, founding member of the BMB Writing Fellow program, is moving on to a faculty position at Cal State Fresno. The faculty, staff, and students of the BMB Department want to thank Jenny for all she has done for the campus and BMB writing programs and all our majors. We wish her much success in the future!

Tricia Serio discovers breakthrough for curing fatal diseases caused by prions

Daniela Molina Palacios (BMB Class of 2020) honored as a 21st Century Leader

Daniela Molina Palacios, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology student and a member of the Commonwealth Honors College, is one of ten graduating seniors who have been selected as 21st Century Leaders. This honor is given to seniors who exhibit exemplary achievement, initiative, and leadership. A native of Venezuela, Daniela participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) COVID-19 Challenge in April assisting with UbiquiTest, a virtual platform that can advise healthcare professionals and companies on which populations can benefit from group testing. She’s also worked as a summer research intern at MIT and in the lab of Professor John Stoffolano, with whom she did her honors thesis. She has been a teaching assistant, a resident assistant, and an academic peer advisor over the course of her time at UMass. Palacios’s leadership extended to projects off campus as well, where she served as a tutor for Eureka! Girls Inc. in Holyoke. Her future plans include working as a research associate at MIT and eventually pursuing a Ph.D.

Two BMB undergrads named Rising Researchers

Two seniors in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Dept were named Rising Researchers by Research Next at UMass Amherst. Colin Lemire is a member of Sibongile Mafu’s lab, focusing on the biosynthesis of natural products (plants and fungi) to better understand their metabolic pathways to enable future research into their function and potential pharmaceutical applications. Joseph McGaunn works in Alexander Suvorov’s lab, where he investigates the role of molecular mechanisms in mediating interactions between an individual’s genetics and their environment, in transferring non-genetic information from one generation to the next, and the clinical applications for such mechanisms. The Rising Researcher program recognizes UMass Amherst undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship and creative activity.

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