ORETT BURKE, JR, BIOLOGY STUDENT FEATURED IN UMASS PROFILE SERIES

A talented basketball player at his former college, Orett transferred to study biological sciences in hope of one day becoming a doctor.
Even if you're not a science major, there's so many things out here for you. There's probably one class that would change your mind, just like me in high school. I'm not sure how many schools in America where you're able to do research on what you want to do and be with someone you want to be inspired to be in 10 years. And I think that's one of the greatest advantages about UMass. My name is Orett Burke Jr, class of 2017. I stand for dream-chasing and I stand for UMass.

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JENNIFER OLINS, JUNIOR BIOLOGY STUDENT NAMED A RISING RESEARCHER

Jennifer Olins '17 Junior biology major Jennifer Olins has been a research assistant in Associate Professor Samuel Hazen’s regulatory genomics lab since she enrolled at the University in September 2013. She is one of a few talented students admitted into the campus’s competitive First-Year Research Experience program and the Biology Talent Advanced Program (BioTAP). Since joining the Hazen group, Olins has been awarded two competitive Commonwealth College Research Assistant Fellowships and received honorable mention for her application to the American Society of Plant Biology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.

During her time in lab, Olins has become an independent scientist executing her own experiments. Highly skilled at the bench, she has mastered a number of scientific techniques including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), gel electrophoresis, and yeast and bacteria genetic transformation. When Olins expressed a strong desire to learn microscopy, Hazen had her do so by having her conduct an experiment he needed for an article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. “The outcome was excellent,” says Hazen, “and because of her contribution Jenny is now recognized as a co-author on the article.”

Hazen was also impressed with Olins when the student that was performing many of the laboratory managerial duties recently departed for graduate school and Olins stepped in to fill the void. “Jenny is a clear leader within my group and a dedicated and thoughtful scientist,” says Hazen. “Her academic performance is also extraordinary.”

Olins, will be honored for her achievements at a spring luncheon with the Chancellor.

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Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Honors Margery Coombs

At the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s (SVP) 75th annual meeting in October in Dallas, professor emeritus Margery Coombs, biology, was awarded honorary membership, one of the three major academic career awards given by the society, to recognize her long career of “distinguished contribution to vertebrate paleontology.” The society is the premier international body for the interdisciplinary field of vertebrate paleontology.

Coombs is internationally known for her research on fossil perissodactyls, that is, odd-toed ungulates such as rhinos, tapirs and horses, and in particular on chalicotheres, a group with claws rather than hooves that roamed the Earth from about 55 million years ago until they became extinct about 1 million years ago.

Read more UMass News & Media Relations article.

The Biology Department Welcomes New Faculty - Elena Vazey

Elena’s research investigates neuromodulatory networks in the brain. She is interested in how activity in locus coeruleus norepinephrine neurons modify neural targets to change behavioral responses to environmental stimuli. Her lab primarily studies the impact of locus coeruleus activity on cognitive control and motor responses. This research increases our understanding of different disorders where locus coeruleus functioning is altered, such as ADHD and anxiety, and cases where locus coeruleus neurons are lost such as in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Elena's lab is currently located in Morrill 3 South, room 413A, while her new lab is being renovated.