Biology Major Josh Schwartz Awarded the Fall Scholar Athlete Award


Josh Schwartz, a junior honors biology major, was awarded the Fall Scholar Athlete Award in recognition of his contributions to his team and his excellent work as a scholar. He led the UMass soccer team with 16 points on six goals, including a game-winner, and four assists. This year he was also recently recognized for his success in soccer and in academics as a Capital One Academic All-American and Atlantic 10 Academic All-Conference honoree. In addition to Josh’s near perfect GPA, he was awarded a summer undergraduate research fellowship where he contributed to pediatric research that will soon be published at an upcoming conference in Toronto. Congratulations to Josh for balancing a demanding athletic and academic schedule.

Lynn Adler Receives $1 Million in New Grants

Lynn Adler, with collaborators from Dartmouth College, the USDA, and Kew Gardens has received new grants from NSF and USDA totaling nearly $1 million to study how floral chemical compounds affect bumble bee disease. Together, this research will address the extent to which bumble bees are exposed to floral chemical defenses in wild and agricultural systems, the impacts of such compounds on bumble bee health, the role of such compounds in disease transmission, and implications for managing bee disease in agricultural settings.

Michele Markstein Receives Life Sciences Moment Fund Award

Biology Assistant Professor, Michele Markstein and Tony Ip, Professor in the Program in Medical Sciences at the UMass Worcester Medical School, have received an award from the UMass Life Sciences Moment Fund. The $150,000 award will be shared with Zhong Jiang, Professor of Pathology at UMass Worcester, and Nan Gao, Assistant Professor of Biology at Rutgers University. The team will perform small molecule screens in vivo using the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, which they have engineered to grow intestinal tumors with human characteristics. Compounds that prevent the growth of these tumors will be tested and characterized in human organoid cultures and clinical samples, to initiate translation of their results from large-scale in vivo screens closer to human clinical applications.

Cox Fernandes and Colleagues Discover Two New Species of Electric Fish

Biology faculty member Cristina Cox Fernandes helped discover two new species of electric fish (genus Brachyhypopomus). The new species live under "floating meadows," rafts of unrooted grasses and water hyacinth along the margins of the Amazon River. Dr. Cox Fernandes, with colleagues by John Sullivan of Cornell University and Jansen Zuanon of the National Amazonian Research Institute, described the discovery in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new species are related to South America's famous electric "eel" (not a true eel), which can produce strong electric discharges of hundreds of volts. In contrast, the newly discovered fishes produce pulses of only a few hundred millivolts from an organ that extends into a filamentous tail. Nearby objects in the water distort the resulting electric field, and the distortions are sensed by receptor cells on the fishes' skin. Thus, the fishes use "electrolocation" to navigate through their complex aquatic environment at night. Their short electric pulses, too weak to be sensed by human touch, are also used to communicate with other members of the species.

Dr. Cox Fernandes and her colleagues found that the new species Brachyhypopomus bennetti produces a highly unusual "monophasic" electrical discharge. The only other electric fish in the Amazon with a monophasic discharge is the fearsome electric eel. In their paper, the authors suggest a possible benefit of B. bennetti's distinctive discharge. Unlike the discharges of most other electric fish species, a B. bennetti discharge is largely unaffected if the fish's tail is partially bitten off by a predator (a common type of injury in electric fishes). The researchers suggest that B. bennetti's preference for floating meadow habitat near river channels may put them at particularly high risk of predation and 'tail grazing' by other fishes.

The paper can be accessed here.

Peg Riley Receives University Outreach Teaching Award

Professor Peg Riley was recently awarded by the Provost the University Distinguished Outreach Teaching Award in recognition of her work with the Mass Academy of Sciences. Professor Riley is the founder of the Mass Academy of Sciences and has developed science outreach programs to "promote understanding and appreciation of the sciences". Locally Professor Riley and her team have developed science demonstrations for K-12 students and provided them to over 25 public schools, many in severely underserved regions. Congratulations Professor Riley on this well deserved award in recognition of all your hard work!