Current News

Lynn Adler was awarded a $99K Northeastern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE SARE) grant to study the role of cut flowers on farms for pollinator health.

Samuel P. Hazen, biology, was awarded the Dr. Constantine J. Gilgut Professorship in Plant Biology for a term of three years following approval by the Board of Trustees at its Thursday, Dec. 10 meeting.

The conditions of the Gilgut Professorship specify that the recipient will be a full professor in the biology department and act as the director of the plant biology program. The incumbent of the Gilgut Professorship will be an outstanding, active scholar in the field who can lead by the example of his or her teaching as well as scholarship and administrative skills.

Hazen came to the UMass Amherst department of biology in 2008 as an assistant professor, became an associate professor and was awarded tenure in 2014 and was promoted to full professor in 2020.

Hazen’s area of research is the thickening of the secondary cell wall and the regulation of this process in the grass Brachypodium distachyon and a variety of other plants. He has received substantial external funding to support his research from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. He also received several awards to support small business innovation and community science projects. Hazen has published 47 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and his work has been cited over 5,200 times according to Google Scholar.

In their letter of nomination, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Provost John McCarthy wrote: “Dr. Hazen has contributed to the teaching mission of the university in many ways. He taught highly rated courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level. In his lab, he worked with, trained, and mentored over 50 graduate and undergraduate students. His administrative service has contributed to both the department and the university.”

Hazen earned his B.S. in plant sciences from the University of Arizona, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Michigan State University. He was a Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at The Scripps Research Institute in California from 2003 through 2007.

Biology student Shannon Silva was one of a small group of students who was selected to receive the 2020-2021 UMass Amherst Rising Researcher student achievement award. The award recognizes exceptional accomplishments of UMass Amherst undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, and creative activity.
In recognition of this honor, Shannon will be invited to an event hosted by Chancellor Subbaswamy in the spring, where she will receive her award.

Read about some of Shannon's research, which won her a Goldwater Scholarship, HERE.

Michael Griego, OEB PhD student, and Dr. Alexander Gerson, Associate professor in the Biology department, and others, published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B showing how migratory birds selectively increase their capacity to digest protein after long flights. During flight, migratory birds breakdown protein for various metabolic needs, resulting in dramatic loss of mass of organs and muscles, including the digestive tract. Selectively increasing protein digestion after flight may increase amino acid assimilation even when digestion is compromised, allowing the recovery of muscles and organs needed to complete migration. The findings of this study highlight the importance of rapid phenotypic flexibility to migratory animals, and demonstrates a novel mechanism that allows migratory birds to refuel quickly after long duration flights.
Click HERE to read more.
Photo Credit: Cory Elowe

Thi's thesis, entitled "Constructing single-neuron transcriptomes to explore cell diversity in Berghia stephanieae" is the culmination of her work at UMass. Thi has now moved to Boston to be a Research Technician in Ankur Jain's lab at MIT. Thi started in the Katz lab as an undergraduate, studying the circadian control of locomotion in the nudibranch, Berghia. For her MS thesis, she developed a technique for dissociating neurons from the brain. She then had the mRNA from the neurons sequenced using a 10x Genomics Chromium platform. Working with post-doc, Desmond Ramirez, she clustered the neurons based on gene expression. They are in the process of writing the manuscript to publish her findings.

Peter Houlihan was awarded the Every Voice Coalition Educator Award ( for his advising, advocacy, and lobbying efforts regarding undergraduate sexual violence.

You can go to to get more information about this!

Caralyn Zehnder and three colleagues have coauthored a recently published book,Learning that Matters.

Learning that Matters: A Field Guide to Course Design for Transformative Education is a pragmatic resource for designing courses that engage college students as active citizens.

This “work” book provides research-informed approaches for creating learning experiences and developing innovative, intellectually-engaging courses.

In a new national effort, UMass Amherst scientists led by Jeff Blanchard, biology, have received a two-year, renewable resource grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to apply – for the first time – new genomics and omics-related techniques to microbial communities at 15 to 20 established NSF research sites across the United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Read more HERE!

Lawrence Schwartz published a review/commentary in 2019 in Frontiers in Physiology that described work from his lab and others demonstrating that skeletal muscles do not undergo apoptosis, a well studied mechanism of cell death. This observation has significant implications for the exercise physiology and the fate of muscles.

The work was picked up by the media and resulted in stories in NPR, BBC, and many news outlets around the world. Recently, the paper achieved more than 40,000 views.

Much of this work is based on their study of the intersegmental muscles (ISMs) from the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta. These giant cells undergo sequential programs of atrophy and death at the end of metamorphosis.

Read more HERE!

More recently, the Schwartz Lab had two major papers published that follow up on the original study. These papers detail all of the changes in gene expression that mediate muscle atrophy and death, identify the molecular mechanisms that mediate cell death, and describe a new signal transduction pathway that includes two new genes (discovered in his lab!).

The Digital Life Project directed by Duncan Irschick has partnered with the marine science nonprofit ANGARI Foundation and underwater camera pioneer Casey Sapp for a research expedition to Bimini, The Bahamas, to create an accurate 3D model of a great hammerhead shark to share with scientists, educators and storytellers.

Read more HERE!