*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

Maresca Wins R.R. Bensley Young Investigator Award

Biology Assistant Professor Tom Maresca has been selected by the American Academy of Anatomists (AAA) as the recipient of the 2013 R.R. Bensley Award in Cell Biology. The award, first given in 1979, recognizes a cell biologist who has made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of anatomy through discovery, ingenuity, and publications in the field of cell biology. Past winners include: John Heuser, Elaine Fuchs, Tim Mitchison, and Ron Vale (2012 Lasker Award Winner). Maresca will present the R.R. Bensley Award Lecture in the Young Investigator Award Symposium at the upcoming AAA Annual Meeting in Boston in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2013.

Riley Named Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Fellow

Biology professor Peg Riley (right) is among the new class of Fellows of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, elected by her peers to its prestigious community of scientists, engineers, research physicians and others who are deeply concerned about science and science education in the Commonwealth.

Riley, president and founder of MAS, announced the academy’s latest fellows:
UMass alumna and astronaut Catherine Coleman, Irving Epstein of Brandeis University, Robert Dorit of Smith College, Ward Watt of Stanford University, Mandana Sassanfar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Junior Academy of Sciences, Megan Rokop of the Broad Institute, and James Hamilton and Paul Trunfio of Boston University.

Riley says, “Each year, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences honors distinguished individuals through its fellowship awards. They join an elite group of professional scientists and science educators who are recognized for extraordinary scientific accomplishments and service to the science community and the public. The academy is thrilled to welcome these stellar individuals to its elite group. They are crucial to the future success of the academy and it is an honor to announce their commitment and involvement.”

Riley’s research interests range from experimental evolution of microbes to developing novel antimicrobials and redefining the microbial species concept.

Read full story.