Biologist Maresca and Colleagues Find Strong, Steady Forces at Work During Cell Division

Biologists who study the mechanics of cell division have for years disagreed about how much force is at work when the cell’s molecular engines are lining chromosomes up in the cell, preparing to winch copies to opposite poles across a bridge-like structure called the kinetochore to form two new cells. The question is fundamental to understanding how cells divide, says cell biologist Thomas Maresca.

As he says, “We know we can’t fully understand the kinetochore structure until we understand the tension forces and their strength, but the estimates have been all over the map. They differ by orders of magnitude, hundreds of times, and some are off by a thousand-fold. But now, I think we’ve finally got the answer.”

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Biology Major Nick Mucci in Daily Hampshire Gazette

Biology Major Nick Mucci profiled in the Daily Hampshire Gazette:

Though the Institute for Applied Life Sciences “officially” opened Friday with a ribbon-cutting, dozens of research projects have been taking place inside the 275,000-square-foot building on the flagship campus for some time. State and campus leaders say the research is already helping drive the regional economy and promote public health.

Nick Mucci is one of those researchers. The senior biology major at UMass, Mucci is studying how some types of bacteria evolve and possibly jeopardize cardiovascular health.

“If we can stop them at the microscopic levels, we’re hopeful we can make advancements in personalized medicine” to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, Mucci said.

Read the full article.

Campus Leaders Tour Morrill Science Center Renovations

On October 4, 2016, the Chancellor, Provost, and other campus leaders visited the Morrill Science Center to tour newly renovated spaces and see new enhancements in the Departments of Biology, Microbiology, and Geosciences. Renovations included new teachin equipment in the Intro and upper-level teaching laboratories as well as research spaces for faculty.

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Postdoctoral Research Associate Position

A postdoctoral position is available in the Bartlett lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to work on an NSF-funded project on stem cell homeostasis and the CLAVATA-network genes. The CLAVATA (CLV) genes encode receptor-like kinases and their protein ligands, and have conserved roles controlling stem cell (meristem) homeostasis. This role in regulating meristem biology makes the CLV-network genes central players in the development of plant form, and in the evolution of plant form under domestication. Both the CLV receptors and the CLV ligands are members of highly redundant gene families with complicated evolutionary histories, impeding the accurate assessment of CLV-network gene function. In collaboration with the Jackson (CSHL), Lippman (CSHL) and Nimchuk (UNC) labs, we are working to understand this redundancy by determining the evolutionary histories of CLV-network genes, and by determining how these genes regulate meristem homeostasis, particularly in maize floral development.

The successful applicant to this position would work primarily on a molecular evolution project, uncovering the evolutionary history of the CLV-network genes in vascular plants. The project will involve extensive phylogenetic analysis of CLV-network gene families as well as analyses of non-coding sequences controlling CLV-network gene expression. Depending on the interests and expertise of the person hired, this project could include elucidating the molecular function of CLV-network genes in maize floral development, in a reverse genetics project using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing.

Qualified candidates are required to have a Ph.D. in plant biology, evolutionary biology, or a similar field of study, conferred within the last six years. Expertise in molecular phylogenetics, and in the analysis of genomic data in an evolutionary context is required. A keen interest in plant development and evo-devo is essential. Molecular lab experience working with DNA, RNA, and protein is preferred.

This is a benefited, full-time Postdoctoral Research Associate position. Initial appointment is for one year, reappointment beyond the first year (up to two additional years) is contingent upon job performance and availability of funding. It is expected that the appointee will work extended hours as necessary to complete individual experiments. Postdoctoral Research Associates at the University of Massachusetts are unionized and receive standard salary and benefits, depending on years of experience. Salary is subject to bargaining unit contract.

UMass Amherst is home to a vibrant research community, with strengths in genomics, molecular biology, plant biology, and evolutionary biology. Opportunities exist both to learn a range of cutting edge experimental and analytical methods, and to develop new research projects. The Pioneer Valley, where the town of Amherst is located, is a great place to live and work. The area is naturally beautiful, and UMass Amherst is part of a consortium of five colleges in the area (, making for an intellectually rich environment.

The position is available immediately, but the start date is negotiable. Candidates must apply online by submitting a cover letter, CV, and the contact details of three references willing to provide letters of recommendation to:

Questions can be addressed to Dr. Madelaine Bartlett at
Review of applications will begin September 28, 2016 and continue until the position is filled.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities and encourages applications from these and other protected group members. 

Katelyn Mullen ‘16 Travels to Italy to Present Research

Katelyn Mullen, a senior Biology major, is the recipient of a Biology Undergraduate Travel Award. She presented her research in a poster titled “New single-copy nuclear loci for scale insect’s systematics” at the International Symposium of Scale Insect Studies in Catania, Sicily this June. Katelyn works in the laboratory of Professor Ben Normark; he and Scott Schneider are coauthors on the abstract. She looks forward to presenting her research in this professional meeting and discussing her work with experts in her field. Congratulations, Katelyn!