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Alums Share Insights with BMB Majors: Guest speakers Dr. Brad Pearse, Matt Johnson, and Jayson Stoner joined a group of students for a career discussion over lunch

For the fifth straight year, graduates and friends of BMB returned to campus this fall to share career advice with current students in the department’s Real-World Biochemistry and Molecular Biology course (Biochem 394RI).  With thoughtfulness and humor, the ever-popular guest speakers provide students with lessons learned, insight into a diversity of fields, and an overview of the sometimes unexpected career paths that can unfold following graduation. 

Here are some highlights:

  • As the first guest speaker of this fall semester, Dr. Nessim Watson (of UMass Career Services and a Certified Professional Résumé Writer) discussed strategies for presenting oneself professionally, from résumés to personal statements. 
  • Having recently earned their Bachelor’s degrees from BMB, Ruby Chiang (now at Sanofi-Genzyme), Ankit Gandhi, M.S. (inviCRO), Matthew Johnson (EMD Millipore), and Jayson Stoner (EMD Millipore) shared their experiences looking for jobs, interviewing, and working in the Boston area. 
  • Dr. Bruce Abedon (NutraGenesis), who graduated from the department in 1987, described his journey from Ph.D. training in plant genetics to his current position at a nutraceutical company. 
  • Dr. Brad Pearse (Magenta Therapeutics) earned his Ph.D. from Dr. Dan Hebert’s lab and discussed his work on antibody-based drug design. 
  • Fortunately for us, Patrick O’Neill, M.S., M.B.A., and Dan Wagner, M.H.S., M.B.A., (both of Connecticut Innovations) connected with BMB through a networking event; they shared their perspective as venture capitalists with scientifically-focused portfolios. 
  • Dr. Lisa Rapp (a BMB graduate who is now the Biotechnology Program Chair at Springfield Technical Community College) and Dr. Becky Miller (a current BMB faculty member) communicated their passion for teaching. 

Several of our guest speakers are return visitors, and the following individuals have also generously donated their time during previous semesters:  Pan Du, A.L.M.; Dr. Julia Dvorko, M.B.A.; Donna Falcetti, M.B.A.; Kevin Magalhaes; Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan; Dr. Dmitry Samarsky; Dr. Larry Shumway, J.D.; and Dr. Donna Beer Stolz.  Thank you!  

Guest speakers bring the richness of their experiences to the course.  Reflecting the value of these visits, a recent student noted, “I really appreciated the seminars and speakers!”  In fact, after completing the Real-World Biochemistry and Molecular Biology course this fall, over three-quarters of students surveyed reported that they had found presentations from the guest speakers to be “very helpful” (55%) or “helpful” (22%) to their professional development.    

We thank all of you for your willingness to support our current students as they, too, begin to pursue rewarding careers!

UMass Amherst biochemists say small molecules have big influence in protein folding

A graduate student’s surprise observation in fundamental experiments with small binding molecules at work in protein folding has allowed biochemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop the first firm mathematical foundation to explain cell ligands’ role in promoting proper protein folding.

Scott Garman named 2017 Public Engagement Faculty Fellow

Two CNS faculty members have been named 2017 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows by the Public Engagement Project (PEP): Julie Brigham-Grette, Geosciences and Scott Garman, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Along with five other PEP faculty members, they will draw on their substantial research record to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates. The fellows, who will receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences, will also travel to Beacon Hill to share their research with lawmakers.

UMass Amherst and Boston-based PCL, Inc. offer new tool for biotech research

Stewards of the university's plant cell culture library, including Jennifer Normanly, Elizabeth Vierling, Li-Jun Ma, all Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Tristram Seidler, Biology, recently announced a new collaboration with the South Korean biotechnology company PCL, Inc. of Seoul and Boston, to provide users worldwide with a new technology for accurate, highly sensitive target-molecule detection in chemically complex plant samples.

Lila Gierasch Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Press release for Lila Gierasch's induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest learned societies and independent research centers.

Chien Lab Publishes Paper in Molecular Microbiology: The Many Paths of Destruction

The timely degradation of proteins is necessary for life. In the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus, destruction of the replication initiator protein DnaA by the Lon protease is important for stress responses. New work from the Chien lab now published in Molecular Microbiology ( has revealed that an auxiliary protease pathway is also involved in controlling DnaA. Limiting the accumulation of this essential factor is critical as too much replication is toxic under the incorrect conditions. The ability of cells to use two proteolytic pathways to control an essential replication factor is an excellent strategy to ensure robust control under different growth conditions.

Professor Gershenson to Deliver Invited Talk Titled "In Silico to In-Cell Folding of Metastable Serpins" at the 30th Anniversary Symposium of the Protein Society

Profs. Gershenson, Gierasch and Hebert Untangle Disease-Related Protein Misfolding

Dong Wang and Li-Jun Ma Recognized for Research at International Meeting

Dong Wang and Li-Jun Ma were recognized for their research at the 17th International Congress of the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions in Portland, Oregon. This meeting highlights research areas including the microbiome, tritrophic interactions, RNA-mediated interactions, systems biology, resistance mechanisms, mutualism and microbial virulence functions. Read More.

UMass Amherst Announces 2016 ‘Armstrong Fund for Science’ Awards

A team of four University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers are the Armstrong Fund for Science winners for 2016. This winning team consists of faculty from the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology and microbiology, including Li-Jun Ma, a fungal biologist recently named as a Burroughs Wellcome Fund investigator in the pathogenesis of infectious disease, Sergey Savinov, a chemist, and two microbiologists, Michele Klingbeil and Yasu Morita. Read more.


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