Biology Undergrad and Post-doc Publish in Current Biology

Biology Department researchers led by Wei-Lih Lee have identified a new molecular player in asymmetric cell division, a regulatory protein named She1 whose role in chromosome- and spindle positioning wasn’t known before. Asymmetric cell division is important in the self-renewal of stem cells and because it ensures that daughter cells have different fates and functions.

Lee and postdoctoral researcher Steven Markus, with undergraduate Junior Fellow Katelyn Kalutkiewicz, identified She 1 as the first known regulator of asymmetric cell division that inhibits the dynein engine, but surprisingly also promotes asymmetric division. Their work will appear in the December 4 print edition of Current Biology and is supported by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Read more here.

Herbarium Collection Receives Grant

The Herbarium (MASS) recently received a four-year NSF “Advancing Digitization in Biological Collections Thematic Collections Network” grant as part of a consortium of five other New England herbaria including those at Harvard and Yale. This was one of four ADBC grants awarded in 2012. Under this grant, the University of Massachusetts herbarium will be responsible for data-basing approximately 90,000 UMass specimens of New England vascular plants as well as approximately 12,000 from Westfield State University and 3000 from the Harvard Forest Herbarium in Petersham. Once digitized, a subset will be analyzed for the impact of climate change and land use on vegetation patterns in New England. The digitizing equipment will remain at the University of Massachusetts to become a focal point for digitizing other herbaria in the region.

*Update* Microbiology Seniors in the Innovation Challenge MinutePitch

Twelve teams of young innovators pitched their business ideas and shared more than $10,000 in prize money during the University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge Executive Summary & Elevator Pitch Competition held Dec. 3. Each team leader presented a two-minute pitch to a panel of judges from the private sector with wide-ranging expertise in creating new ventures.

The top winning teams of Clearocin, Fiberessence, Leaf, and Rescue Collar shared in one of the largest prizes of $1,500 apiece. Congratulations to microbiology seniors, Dennis Morgan and Clarissa Ronzio, who were part of the Clearocin team.

Clearocin provides a unique solution for acne by using antimicrobial proteins produced naturally by bacteria, known as bacteriocins, to eliminate the acne-causing bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, on the skin.

Read the UMass newsoffice write-up.

Innovation Challenge MinutePitch:
Congratulations to the two microbiology seniors who shared third prize with another team in the Innovation Challenge MinutePitch for their product, Clearocin, which uses bacteria to fight acne. Dennis Morgan and Clarissa Ronzio are now preparing for the Executive Pitch and Elevator Pitch competition on Dec. 3.

Read the Masslive write-up.

Cori Bargmann to Present Sinauer Lecture

Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University will present a talk titled "Using fixed circuits to build flexible behaviors" on November 28 at 4:00 in Engineering Lab room 119. Dr. Bargmann's talk is the 7th annual Sinauer Lecture. Light refreshments will follow the talk.

Blanchard Receives Community Sequencing Program Grant

The Joint Genome Institute of the U.S. Department of Energy recently granted Harvard Forest co-PIs Jeffrey Blanchard (UMass Biology Department), Kristen DeAngelis (UMass), Linda van Diepen (U. of New Hampshire), Serita Frey (U. of New Hampshire), and Jerry Melillo (MBL) a Community Sequencing Program grant. DOE will pay the costs of DNA/RNA library preparation, sequencing, and basic computational processing for 3 terabases of metagenomic (community DNA) and metatranscriptomic (community RNA) data gathered from Harvard Forest soils. Sequencing three terabases (3,000,000,000,000 DNA bases) is roughly equivalent to sequencing 1,000 human and plant genomes, 10,000 ant genomes or 500,000 bacterial genomes. The sequencing and data processing will take 2-3 years.

The project, overseen by researchers with expertise in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and genomics, aims to characterize the microbial communities from several long-term soil warming experiments at the Forest. The three warming projects, ongoing for 6, 9, and 20 years respectively, correspond to three distinct phases of projected carbon dioxide emissions. The DNA/RNA chronosequence resulting from this award will help researchers understand how climate change affects soil microbial community composition and activity over time.

Microorganisms are difficult to classify using visible morphology. But DNA analysis enables researchers to determine which microbes are present in the soil, while RNA sequencing provides a view of which microbes are actively contributing to ecological processes. A 2012 summer REU group project at the Forest helped to prototype the DNA sequencing analysis for this project.

Press releases:

Harvard Forest.

Department of Energy