Irschick and Colleagues Lauded for "Top Science Breakthrough"


Geckskin, a super-strong adhesive device developed by Biology professor Duncan Irschick and his colleagues, has been named one of the top five science breakthroughs of 2012 by CNN Money.

Inspired by the footpads of geckos and able to fasten a 700 pound weight to a smooth wall, Geckskin was created by Irschick and polymer scientists Michael Bartlett and Alfred Crosby. Irschick has studied the gecko’s climbing and clinging abilities for more than twenty years. The researchers published their findings in Advanced Materials last February.

Previous efforts to synthesize the tremendous adhesive power of gecko feet and pads were based on the qualities of microscopic hairs called setae, but efforts to translate these qaulities to larger scales were unsuccessful, in part because the complexity of the entire gecko foot was not taken into account. A gecko’s foot has several interacting elements, including tendons, bones and skin, that work together to produce easily reversible adhesion.

Irschick, Bartlett, Crosby and the rest of the research team unlocked the simple yet elegant secret of how it’s done, to create a device that can handle very large weights. Geckskin and its supporting theory demonstrate that setae are not required for gecko-like performance, according to Crosby. “It’s a concept that has not been considered in other design strategies and one that may open up new research avenues in gecko-like adhesion in the future.”

Read the CNN Money write-up.

View a video about Geckskin.

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.