In the News

Advancements in Targeted Delivery of Therapeutic Proteins

“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.”

You Receives Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award

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.”

Robert Sabola Wins Outstanding Staff Award

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.

Building a Community of Dignity and Respect

The University of Massachusetts Amherst believes that a culturally diverse campus is integral to academic excellence and that our students, faculty, and staff should reflect the diverse world in which we live. Recognizing and valuing the wide range of voices and perspectives in all spheres of the academic enterprise, we are committed to policies that promote inclusiveness, social justice, and respect for all.

“Fostering an environment that protects intellectual exploration, advances mutual respect, and promotes inclusivity is critical to the mission of the university.” — Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy

The UMass Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion supports these efforts with resources, events, campus climate initiatives, podcasts, and more.

Antiracism Resources - Books, podcasts, movies, and programs for adults and children.
Fight Hate - Our community must stand united in the face of hate.

Building Bridges is a campus initiative that seeks to draw on the power of solidarity and creative expression to bring people together across race, religion, class, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, nationality and more.

ACS Bridge Program Makes Positive Impact

UMass Amherst Chemistry participates in the ACS Bridge Program which aims to diversify the graduate student population in the chemical sciences. The mentorship program, part of the NSF INCLUDES Alliance: Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN), provides additional pathways for Black, Latino, and Indigenous students to receive doctoral degrees.

Prospective students are considered by all of the 22 participating institutions by submitting one application.

Prof. Michael Knapp, ACS Bridge Program leader for UMass Amherst Chemistry, commented on the success of the program, “I think we’ve all worked with people where they really don’t need or don’t want a lot of hand-holding. But making sure that the trampoline is there when you’re on the high wire is really important so that if you fall off, you can bounce back.”

Take Charge of Your Virtual Learning

You might not be on-campus or in a classroom, but you are not alone! We are here to help you be successful in your remote learning courses.

Preparing your Mind & Space to Learn. We’ve all heard the quote by Benjamin Franklin “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Explore strategies and tools to assist you in preparing for success. Topics include: Mindset Matters, Developing a Growth Mindset A Set-up for Success, and My Learning Environment My Remote Learning Checklist.
Quick links to tools to help you get started: Mindset Matters, Reframing my Challenges, My Learning Environment, and My Remote Learning Checklist

Make your Learning Meaningful. Strive for higher levels of learning and create your learning routines. Strategies and tools to assist you in meaningful learning. Topics include: Higher Levels of Learning, A Learning Routine for Success, and My Study Cycle. Quick links to tools to help you get started: Levels of Learning and The Study Cycle.

Master the Content. As you strive for higher levels of learning, it is important to have a toolbox of strategies to reply on. Your approach to learning will vary by course and change as you progress in your major. Expand your learning toolbox with the following resources on academic success strategies: Concept Maps, Active Reading Strategies, Note Taking Strategies, Study & Review Strategies, and Explore how your academic habits may impact test taking. You are not alone. Connect with resources to support your content mastery. Success Toolkit Series, Learning Resource Center, Writing Center, and talk to your Academic Advisor about college/major specific academic support services.

Make the Most of your Time. Effectively utilizing your time is a life long skill. Learning to prioritize assignments, studying and other commitments is a personal journey. Explore these tips to discuss tools and strategies that may help you make the most of your time. Topics include: Finding a Routine & Tools, Time Management, and Tools Managing Procrastination. Quick link to tools to help you get started: Student Success Planner, Managing your Procrastination, and Where does my time go?

 

Spring 2021 Operating Plan

The operational posture of the UMass Amherst campus is currently at "Guarded." For more information, go to www.umass.edu/spring.

The campus’s strategic focus is on advancing students’ academic progress toward degree completion while providing a campus environment that meets federal and state health and safety protocols for mitigating COVID-19. Guided by these principles, the university has determined that in-person, face-to-face instruction for undergraduate and graduate students will be offered on campus this spring in certain classes, labs and studios identified as requiring in-person instruction.

Timely information regarding various aspects of our spring plan can be found at umass.edu/spring, and the administration will also keep you updated via email and other communication channels.

In the weeks and months ahead, the campus will continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic, and should worsening conditions warrant re-evaluation of our plan, we will act accordingly to ensure that the health and wellbeing of our community remains paramount

Graduate Program Webinar

If you missed our webinar, or wish to review content from the event, please watch the video segments for additional program information.

Introduction to our Department by Associate Head, Prof. Jeanne Hardy
Introduction to our Graduate Program by Program Director, Prof. D. Venkataraman
Current Graduate Student, Catherine Tremblay
Current Graduate Student, Michael Lu Diaz
Overview of the Application Process by Admission Committee Chair, Prof. Vincent Rotello

Questions about applying or about the graduate program should be directed to Rebecca David rldavid@umass.edu

  • Application Deadline:  December 15  (Fall admission only)
  • Information about applying for Fall 2021. (Info for Chemistry Applicants)
  • The requirement for the GRE general exam is waived for 2021 admission.  The Department also requires a separate Research Interests Form to be filed with the graduate application.
  • Application Fee Waiver: to apply, email one paragraph stating your financial need, URM status, or academic achievement to Rebecca David rldavid@umass.edu

Strieter Discovers Cells’ Unexpected Clean-up Techniques

UMass Chemist Eric Strieter and his lab group have discovered how an enzyme known as UCH37 regulates a cell’s waste management system, a result they found “incredibly surprising.”

Strieter says, “It took us eight years to figure it out, and I’m very proud of this work. We had to develop a lot of new methods and tools to understand what this enzyme is doing.”

As he explains, a very large protease called a proteasome is responsible for degrading the vast majority of proteins in a cell; it may be made up of as many as 40 proteins. It has been known for more than 20 years that UCH37 is one of the regulatory enzymes that associates with the proteasome, he adds, “but no one understood what it was doing.” It turns out that the crux of the whole process, he adds, is how complicated modifications in a small protein called ubiquitin can be.

Writing this week in Molecular Cell, he and first author and Ph.D. candidate Kirandeep Deol, who led and conducted the experiments, with co-authors Sean Crowe, Jiale Du, Heather Bisbee and Robert Guenette, discuss how they answered the question. The work was supported by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

This advance could eventually lead to a new cancer treatment, Strieter says, because cancer cells need the proteasome to grow and proliferate.

NSF Support for National Energy Workshops

Project leader and chemistry professor Dhandapani “DV” Venkataraman, is one of five researchers from a campus group that has been selected to receive a one-year, $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments” series to conduct a series of national workshops to identify research challenges associated with transitioning to an equitable and sustainable energy system.

The grant is the second this year from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to researchers at UMass for a similar purpose, evidence of a growing worldwide interest in developing sustainable energy systems that consider and even prioritize the resources and needs of all communities.

“A transition toward a less carbon-intensive energy system is underway globally,” Venkataraman points out. “The challenge is to envision how the energy system might evolve in a way that is consistent with resources and needs.”

Further, he explains, “When we are thinking about the emerging energy technologies landscape, we need to incorporate equity as an intrinsic design component. This requires energy scientists, equity scholars and other stakeholders who normally work independently to come together and identify the priorities and needs.”

Hardy Wins Teaching Award

Jeanne Hardy has won the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools Graduate Faculty Teaching Award (Doctoral level). The Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools includes member institutions in 11 states, Washington, D.C. and 6 Canadian provinces. The award recognizes Prof. Hardy’s excellence and creativity in teaching graduate students, as well as her innovation in graduate curriculum development and implementation. Prof. Hardy has provided industrially-relevant and hands-on training to graduate students in Chemistry and several life sciences and engineering majors via courses she developed such as Drug Design and Frontiers in Biotechnology and through co-founding and directing the interdisciplinary Biotechnology Training Program, which trains students in biotechnology via courses and industrial internships.

Finalist for ACS President Has Ties to UMass Chemistry

Professor Mary K. Carroll of Union College is one of two finalists in the fall election for 2021 president-elect of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society with 152,000 members in more than 140 countries. Carroll has local ties to the UMass Chemistry department, having been a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Julian Tyson (1991-92).

Carroll has co-directed the Union College Aerogel Laboratory, a productive interdisciplinary research group. To date, more than 150 undergraduate STEM majors, several high-school students and faculty colleagues from Union and other institutions have participated in the group’s research in the fabrication, characterization and applications of aerogel materials.

She is active in the American Chemical Society (ACS) and since 1998 has served as a councilor of the Eastern New York ACS section. At the national level, she currently serves on the ACS Committee on Science. Based on her contributions to science and service to the ACS, Mary Carroll was selected for recognition as a member of the class of 2016 ACS Fellows.

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