Author Archives: ions

IONs Director’s Channel – June 2019

Barto award

UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Andy Barto by Neurosciences Director Paul Katz and Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy

May was an exciting time for the Neurosciences at UMass and more is planned for the summer like the inaugural Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series.
The Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference was a great success and started a conversation on campus between the neurosciences and engineering. The Workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology,  laid out some of the newest techniques for understanding complex brain circuitry. Andy Barto was awarded a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award by Chancellor Subbaswamy. Tributes to Andy poured in from leaders in the fields of Machine Learning and Reinforcement learning.  Here is just a small sample.  Continue reading


Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series

This summer, we will have our inaugural Neurosciences Summer Seminar Series featuring UMass faculty and post-docs. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the work going on here at UMass. Seminars will be at noon in 423 Tobin Hall. Bring your lunch! Hang out afterward and talk to the speaker.

Line up of speakers:

  • June 12th – Emily Rothwell 
  • June 19th – Rebecca Spencer
  • June 26th – Eric Bittman
  • July 3rd – Marcela Fernandez
  • July 10th – Joe Bergan
  • July 17th – Lisa Sanders
  • July 31st – Rosie Cowell
  • Aug 7th  – Kirby Deater-Deckard
  • Aug 14th – Sarah Pallas
  • Aug 21st – Mariana Pereira



UMass Neurosciences Publications – May 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Margaret Stratton.  Meg is an assistant professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UMass. Her research focuses on  understanding the molecular components of memory. In particular, she works on a protein called calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II or CaMKII. molecule is actually a complex of twelve subunits that provide it with unique properties that allow it to alter neuronal activity. In recent paper published in the journal Neuron, Meg and her collaborators demonstrated a novel mechanism that allows CamKII to have persistent effects.

Here’s what’ new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in May. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. Continue reading


IONs Director’s Channel – May 2019

IONs Director: Paul Katz

As we enter May, there are many exciting developments to announce. The annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference will be held at the end of the month on Tuesday May 28th. This year it will have an emphasis on Neuroengineering and features two keynote speakers and 5 shorter talks from UMass faculty and faculty from Worcester Polytechnical Institute. In the morning leading up the lectures, there will be a Workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. In the evening there will be a poster session, which is not limited to neuroengineering, but open to all students, postdocs, and faculty to present their neuroscience-related research. Registration is free, but the deadline is May 10th. At the conference, Chancellor Subbaswamy will be presenting keynote speaker Andrew Barto with a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering research into reinforcement learning. Continue reading


Andrew Barto presented UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Andrew Barto has been selected to receive a UMass Neurosciences Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering research into reinforcement learning. The award will be presented to him by Chancellor Subbaswamy after his lecture at the UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 28th. Dr. Barto is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass.  He is perhaps best known for an influential book, which he co-wrote with Richard Sutton, called “Reinforcement Learning” (MIT Press). The book, which is now in its 2nd edition is considered almost a sacred text by neuroscientists studying the neural basis learning as well as engineers and computer scientists who work on artificial intelligence.

The extent to which Dr. Barto is loved and admired by researchers around the world is obvious in the tributes that are pouring in as a result of this announcement. If you would like to add your words to this website praising Dr. Barto’s contribution, send them to

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UMass Neurosciences Publications – April 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Annaliese Beery, who is graduate faculty in Neuroscience & Behavior at UMass and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Smith College. She studies the neural basis for affiliative behaviors, which help support social groups. Her PhD student, Nicole Lee, who is a co-author on a recent paper was the co-recipient of the Vincent Dethier Award.

Here’s what’ new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in March. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus.

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Workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

UMass Amherst Campus Center Auditorium
1 Campus Center Way
Amherst, MA 01003

This workshop is part of the UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference, which focuses on Neuroengineering this year. The main goal of this workshop is to bring together neuroscience and engineering researchers to discuss modern techniques in neurotechnology.  The intended audience is students (graduate and undergraduate), postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff who have interests in learning about or implementing new technology in their neuroscience research.  In particular, we will discuss viral vector techniques, open-source strategies in electrical and optical neural monitoring and manipulation, and design of experimental tools and techniques.  In addition to hearing about the latest work in systems neuroscience and neurotechnology, time will be provided for discussion with experts about how to incorporate these techniques into your own research, so attendees should come prepared to ask questions and participate in discussion.

Free on-site Registration.

Specific goals include Continue reading


UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference Focus on Neuroengineering

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
University Campus Center Auditorium
1 Campus Way, Amherst MA 01003

This conference brings together neuroscientists and engineers to find areas of overlap for collaboration. It includes new approaches for visualizing and recording from neurons, manipulating gene expression in neurons, and understanding brain function. Speakers will also talk about interfaces between the brain and the rest of the body and the mechanical forces on neurons. The conference is preceded by a morning workshop on Methods in Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology.

Registration is free and open to faculty, students, and staff from UMass and other universities,. It features two keynote speakers: Andrew Barto (UMass) and Steven McCarroll (Harvard) and five local speakers. There will be an evening poster session for anyone to present their neuroscience or engineering research regardless of topic.

Download Conference Program (pdf file)
Download Poster Abstracts (pdf file)

Abstract submission is closed. There will be on-site registration.


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NSB Student Awards

Congratulations to recipients Neuroscience & Behavior annual awards.

Vincent Dethier

Vincent Dethier

Although all of the NSB students are outstanding. Each year awards are presented to recognize particular achievements. The Vincent Dethier Award pays tribute to an NSB graduate student, honoring academic and research performance as well as contributions that enhance the quality of the NSB Program.  The award consists of a certificate, a cash award, and a book – To Know a Fly by Vincent G. Dethier, the first Graduate Director of the NSB program. This year there was a tie for the prize: Adaeze Egwuatu and Nicole Lee. The Gold Neuron award, which celebrates an exciting finding from any graduate student in the NSB program in the past year, was awarded to Joseph Dwyer. The Early Career Award, which recognizes a1st or 2nd year PhD student who demonstrates excellence in academics, research, and/or outreach, was given to Phoenix Quinlan.

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