Downes and Pak Win 2021 Armstrong Fund for Science Award

The Armstrong Fund for Science at UMass Amherst has announced that its 2021 award will go to Gerald Downes, biology, and ChangHui Pak, biochemistry and molecular biology, for their collaborative project that seeks to better understand how mutation of a gene known as TBCK disrupts brain development. Mutations in the TBCK gene cause a rare, severe, poorly understood neurological disease called TBCK Syndrome. Downes and Pak will receive a two-year, $40,000 grant to support preliminary investigations in preparation for a full-blown research effort.

Read more HERE.

Fenelon's Team and New Amygdala Findings

Assistant Professor of Biology, Karine Fenelon, and her team, work on pre-attentive neuronal mechanisms, using mice. These mechanisms are essential for effective brain function, as impairments lead to cognitive overload and deficits in attention.

Last month, the team showed how the amygdala, a brain region typically associated with fear, greatly contributes to such pre-attentive mechanisms, by activating small inhibitory neurons in the brainstem.

Karine's team are the first to show the key role of these small inhibitory neurons in pre-attentive mechanisms, and their research was published in the BMC Biology journal. Deficits in pre-attentive mechanisms are a hallmark of schizophrenia but are also seen in other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Currently, the reversal of pre-attentive deficits in animal models is a gold standard for antipsychotic drug screening.

Karine's team is excited to report that their next step is to attempt to reverse pre-attentive deficits in a world renown mouse model of schizophrenia. They received these mice at UMass last month, from Karine's former postdoc mentor at Columbia University (New York).

Read more about their work HERE.

Hazen Garners NSF Grant

Sam Hazen was awarded a $812k National Science Foundation grant to study how the daily cycles of light and temperature influence the timing of plant growth.

Read more about Prof Hazen's research HERE.

Biology Department Faculty and Staff Win Awards

Several members of the Biology Department recently received awards from the College of Natural Sciences. Karine Fenelon and Wayne Barnaby received Diversity and Inclusion awards, Meghan Gerson won the Outstanding Advisor award, and Lynn Adler won the Outstanding Research award.

Read more HERE and HERE.

Seanne Clemente Wins Fellowship

Lynn Adler's graduate student, Seanne Clemente, received the National Garden Club of America Centennial Pollinator Fellowship for his research to study self-medication in bumble bees and the use of potentially medicinal floral volatiles from basil plants.

Read more HERE.