BMB faculty forge international collaborations at Shandong Agricultural University

BMB Professor Alice Cheung led a delegation of fellow BMB faculty Dong Wang, Li-Jun Ma and Hen-Ming Wu, and U Texas A&M faculty Professors Ping He and Libo Shan, for a symposium at the Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU) in Tai'an, China hosted by the university President. The symposium featured talks under the theme of biotic interactions in plants, in particular plant-microbe interaction and pollen (male)-pistil (female) interaction, fields that the UMass scientists are known to have made major contributions to. These are also areas of interest shared among the US visiting scientists and faculty from the host institution. Beyond scientific discussions, the delegation was invited for the purpose of forging collaborations in research and student training. In addition to scientific lectures, the two-day symposium also included a meeting with the University's President and faculty to discuss approaches towards collaborative efforts. After the meeting in SDAU, the UMass faculty continued their travels to other institutions. Alice Cheung and Hen-Ming Wu visited Huazhong Agricultural University where they have initiated collaborations with a world’s leading cotton research group headed by the Vice President of the University and Wuhan University where they have long-standing collaborations in plant reproduction biology. Dong Wang gave lectures in Nanjing University where he has on-going collaboration and Hunan University where a former postdoc has just started a faculty position. Li-Jun Ma arrived in China directly after chairing a session in the International Mycology Congress; after the symposium she headed to Boston to chair a section at the International Congress of Plant Protection, and also for discussions with several long time colleagues on their ongoing collaborations.

UMass Amherst and CNS recieve $1 Million HHMI Grant for STEM education

UMass Amherst was recently awarded a five-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) that will be available to all first year life science majors. The program is intented help students get excited about STEM early in their undergraduate career and develop the skills necessary to succeed and persist in STEM majors. CNS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Development Elizabeth Connor, BMB Department Head and Professor Jennifer Normanly, and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Director of TEFD Gabriela Weaver worked collaboratively to earn this grant.

2018 BMB Award Ceremony and Senior Celebrations Pictures

Pictures from our Award Ceremony and Senior Celebration are available to view/download. Congratulations to the BMB Class of 2018!

John Maher wins CNS Outstanding Staff Award

John Maher, a Senior Systems and Network Administrator in the BMB and Chemistry departments, recieved an Outstanding Staff Award at the 2018 CNS Outstanding Achievement Awards Ceremony. Recipients are selected based on testimony from their peers regarding their contributions to their discipline, department, college and university.

Heuck Lab publishes new insights on combating pathogenic bacteria

Many pathogenic bacteria that cause life-threatening human diseases like the bubonic plague, pneumonia, and food poisoning, inject toxins into the host to establish infection. Gram-negative bacteria inject toxins using a syringe-like nano-machine known as the Type III Secretion System. The toxins gain access to the target cell through a channel (the type III translocon) on the target cell membrane, formed by two secreted bacterial proteins termed translocators. Formation of this translocon is critical for bacterial infection, and blocking the translocon assembly would interfere with the infection. Therefore, understanding how translocators interact to assemble functional channels is essential for the development of novel therapeutic agents to combat these pathogens.

In the work published this week in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Heuck lab unveiled new insights on the interaction and assembly mechanisms of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa channel-forming proteins PopB and PopD. Researchers Y. Tang, F. Romano, and M. Brena, led by Prof. Heuck showed that PopB and PopD formed hetero-dimers on lipid membranes, suggesting that an early PopB and PopD interaction is essential for guiding the assembly of the channel. Moreover, they showed that the interaction of PopB with PopD is required to properly insert PopD into the target cell membrane and assemble functional channels.

Jessica Furtado wins Barbara Burn Scholarship and 21st Century Leadership Award

Jessica Furtado, a CHC senior earning a dual-degree in Biochemistry and Public Health, was recently awarded the $1,000 Barbara Burn Scholarship.  Barbara Burn was a longtime Associate Provost for International Programs, and the award is given to UMass Amherst students who are studying abroad and international students studying at UMass Amherst. The award will help Jessica study disease prevention during her five-year doctoral program in biochemstry at Yale University.

Jessica was also named as one of ten 21st Century Leaders in the UMass Class of 2018 and will be honored at University Commencement on Friday, May 11th.

Dong Wang recieves 2018 Sargent Award for Visiting Scholars at the Arnold Arboretum

Dong Wang was recently awarded one of two Harvard University Sargent Awards for Visiting Scholars at the Arnold Arboretum. The $5,000 award will help cover research materials and travel expenses to visit the Arnold Arboretum. Dr. Wang hopes to use their extensive array of specimens to investigate the molecular-level strategies of rhizobial interaction among woody nitrogen-fixing plants.

Dong Wang awarded Lilly Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

Dong Wang is one of eight UMass Amherst faculty named the 2018-19 Lilly Fellows for Teaching Excellence. The Lilly Fellowship, awarded by the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD), enables promising junior faculty to cultivate teaching excellence in a special yearlong collaboration.

Alice Cheung receives Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship Award

Alice Cheung was recently named one of three recipients of the 2018-2019 Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship Award. This award gives faculty the opportunity to focus on their research by providing a one-year release from teaching and service duties in addition to a $3,500 cash award. Fellows are chosen based on their record of outstanding accomplishments in research and their potential for continued excellence.

Elizabeth Vierling and colleagues analyze how HSPs evolve using structural principals

A team of researchers, including Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Vierling, published a study in Science magazine about the evolution of small heat shock proteins (HSPs). In studying the assembly and evolution of these small HSPs, Elizabeth and her collaborators looked beyond the compatibility of the two proteins and considered a number of other physical principles.


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