Recent News

Richard (Dick) Stein, 95, passed away June 21, 2021. He joined the Department of Chemistry in 1950 and was central to the development of polymer science research and the creation of the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering. Over the course of his career Stein mentored more than 140 master’s and doctoral candidates.

Stein was a pioneer, wanting to leave the world a better place, and his post-retirement focus was global climate change. He established the Richard and Judy Stein Endowed Fund for Sustainability and Renewable Energy, the first fund on campus to support the university’s efforts on sustainability.

Stein developed the university’s first advanced physical chemistry courses in quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and polymer science, and initiated graduate research in the study of the structure-property relationships of polymers using light and particle scattering.

He is also credited with revolutionizing research funding management at the campus in the 1950s. Grant dollars from federal agencies went directly to the state treasury, not the Amherst campus. With Dean of Science Charles Alexander, Stein helped pass a bill that allowed research money to come directly to the campus.

Stein became Commonwealth Professor, and in 1961 he founded both the Polymer Research Institute and the Research Computing Center. In 1980, the chemistry department awarded him the Charles A. Goessmann Chair in Chemistry and provided three new professorial positions in polymer science and engineering. In the 1990s he was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Memorial services with be held in Amherst, MA at the UMass Campus Center (Marriot Center – 11th Floor) on July 8, 2021.

Obituary and memorial service details.

“What our team has done,” explains Khushboo Singh, a graduate student in the chemistry department and one of the study’s lead authors, “is to combine the advantages of biologics and ADCs and address their weaknesses. It is a new platform for cancer therapy.”

A team of researchers at the Center for Bioactive Delivery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences has engineered a nanoparticle that has the potential to revolutionize disease treatment, including for cancer. This new research, which appears today in “Angewandte Chemie,”combines two different approaches to more precisely and effectively deliver treatment to the specific cells affected by cancer.

Two of the most promising new treatments involve delivery of cancer-fighting drugs via biologics or antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Each has its own advantages and limitations. Biologics, such as protein-based drugs, can directly substitute for a malfunctioning protein in cells. As a result, they have less serious side effects than those associated with traditional chemotherapy. But, because of their large size, they are unable to get into specific cells. ADCs, on the other hand, are able to target specific malignant cells with microdoses of therapeutic drugs, but the antibodies can only carry a limited drug cargo. Since the drugs are more toxic than biologics, increasing the dose of ADCs increases the risk of harmful side effects.

The team’s approach depends on a nanoparticle the team engineered called a “protein-antibody conjugate,” or PAC. “Imagine that the antibodies in PACs are the address on an envelope,” adds Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan, distinguished professor in chemistry and interim head of biomedical engineering at UMass, “and that the cancer-fighting protein is the contents of that envelope. The PAC allows us to deliver the envelope with its protected treatment to the correct address. So, safer drugs are delivered to the right cell—the result would be a treatment with fewer side effects.”

Mingxu You, assistant professor of chemistry at UMass Amherst, has been awarded one of 16 $100,000 Teacher-Scholar unrestricted awards from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. But when the award e-mail came later that day, he knew it was true. “It was quite an unexpected, and very welcome, surprise” You says. “We are thrilled,” says Rick Metz, head of the chemistry department, “that Mingxu’s dynamic research and teaching have received this recognition.”

The Dreyfus Foundation’s Teacher-Scholar award goes to a handful of early-career chemists who “have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.” You is clearly both. Though he’s early in his career, he’s already authored or co-authored nearly 80 academic articles, and his lab is a hive of activity: it currently hosts ten graduate and five undergraduate students. In the past four years alone, he’s guided 15 undergrads, two postdocs, and five research fellows through advanced chemistry research, and in doing so is helping to introduce the next generation to the joys of chemistry. “The undergrads are getting real training,” say You. “They quickly learn what we’re doing in our lab, and they make real contributions to our experiments.”

For You, there’s a seamless connection between the classroom and the lab. “When I teach undergraduates, I need to revisit the basics of chemistry, and I’m always discovering insights that I had passed over when I was a student.” When one of You’s students joins his lab, they not only bring their classroom education with them, but return to class bearing some of what they discovered in the lab.

“I’d like to thank the hard work of everyone in the You Lab,” says You, for whom UMass has been an ideal research and teaching home. “The environment in the chemistry department is really supportive of early career scholars.”

Each year, the College of Natural Sciences honors its faculty, staff, and student leaders who have made important contributions to their discipline, department, college, and university by presenting them with the Outstanding Achievement Awards. Recipients are nominated by colleagues within the college and chosen by committees chaired by designees appointed by Dean Tricia Serio, who may include past awardees. Of this year’s recipients, Dean Serio remarked, “These leaders continue to enrich our college community with their exceptional work. I am tremendously grateful for their efforts to demonstrate academic excellence, enhance the student experience, and create a more inclusive and accessible learning environment.”

Robert “Bob” Sabola, Instrumentation Engineer, Chemistry was a recipient of the award and commented, "Truly a surprise, maybe even a little shocking, when I learned that I was chosen as a recipient of the CNS Outstanding Achievement Award. It is an honor for me to receive this award. Thank you to all the faculty, staff, and students who contributed to this nomination. I always had the thought that my job is to make the lives of those who are on campus a little bit easier. It’s easy to do when you enjoy what you do for work. As always, it has been a pleasure and joy to have worked for you and with you throughout the years. What more can I say other than thank you."

The 2021 and 2020 CNS Outstanding Achievements Awards Ceremony were combined this year and held virtually. Here is a recording of the event.

Upcoming Events

Laura J Castellanos Garcia
Dissertation Defense
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Computational approaches for the multimodal imaging of nanomaterials and their biochemical effects"

10:00 am
zoom
Research Adviser:
Richard Vachet
Yousef Bagheri
Dissertation Defense
Thursday, August 5, 2021

"Lipid-DNA conjugate as a novel tool for cell membrane modification and analysis"

2:00 pm
zoom
Research Adviser:
Mingxu You
Khushboo Singh
Dissertation Defense
Friday, August 6, 2021

"Design and Formulation of Antibody-Conjugated Nanoparticles for Targeted Delivery of Drugs and Biologics"

9:00 am
zoom
Research Adviser:
S. Thayumanavan
Catherine Tremblay
Dissertation Defense
Friday, August 13, 2021

"STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF PROTEIN THERAPEUTICS BY HYDROGEN DEUTERIUM EXCHANGE AND COVALENT LABELING MASS SPECTROMETRY"

10:00 am
zoom
Research Adviser:
Richard Vachet
Yang Yang
Dissertation Defense
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

"Studies of Heterogeneous Macromolecules using Novel ESI Mass Spectrometry Based Approaches"

10:30 am
LSL N410
Research Adviser:
Igor Kaltashov