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Highlights:

Emily Agnello (BMB Class of 2018) wins $100,000 student loan award

BMB Alumna Emily Agnello '18 received a $100,000 student loan award from First Aid Beauty (FAB) as part of their FAB AID innitiative. She says, "As an out-of-state student (originally from upstate NY), I had accrued about $120,000 in student loans from UMass Amherst. I felt it was worth it to take out these loans because UMass offered everything I needed in order to be successful, but it's obviously impacted every aspect of my life. I'm currently a Ph.D. student at UMass Medical School, and I feel so fortunate to have gotten here (with the support of many of the awesome BMB faculty, especially Meg Stratton whose lab I was in as an undergrad!), but the pay isn't even enough to cover my monthly interest. So I applied to FAB AID, thinking there was no chance I'd actually get it, and then was informed in early December that I was 1 of 24 winners through a zoom call with the company's CEO. This award will be life-changing and allow me to focus on building a life and career for myself without having to base my decisions on a crippling student debt burden."

Alice Cheung and James Staros named 2020 Fellows of the AAAS

BMB Professor Alice Cheung and BMB Professor Emeritus James Staros have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Cheung is recongized “for contributions to understanding the molecular and cellular biology of fertilization and polarized cell growth in plants”, and Dr. Staros “for distinguished contributions in cell biology on the mechanisms by which binding of polypeptide hormones to their surface receptors are transduced into signals". This is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers to recognize their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Allyson Rosati (BMB Class of 2019) publishes environmental epigenetics breakthrough

BMB alumna Allyson Rosati '19 recently had her thesis research published in the journal Human Reproduction. Allyson completed her thesis in Dr. Richard Pilser's lab, where her research team identified a biomarker in sperm DNA that may predict male reproductive health and refine the diagnosis of male infertility. She graduated last spring from the one-year Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program and is now on the job market, poised to carry out more research that can advance human health.

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!

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