Director’s Channel – December 2019

Paul Katz, IONs Director

It’s the end of the year already and, depending on who you ask, the end of the decade. Time to take stock of the last year in UMass Neurosciences. Check out the highlights from 2019. It’s been a very successful year with many amazing discoveries and awards. This year IONs focused on creating bridges between Neuroscience and Engineering. We hope to continue to build those bonds as we look for opportunities to cooperate. Please take a moment to fill out this short survey regarding Neurotechnology collaborations.

The coming year has some exciting events including the annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 11th, which will feature Thomas Sudhof as the keynote speaker. The focus this year is on “Neural Connectivity: from Synapses to Behavior”. Other events will be announced in the new year so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the winter season here in New England.


2019 Year in Review

Here are some of the 2019 highlights from the
UMass Initiative on Neurosciences.

The Annual UMass Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference in May focused on Neuroengineering and featured a Lifetime Achievement. The Conference was preceded by a Workshop on Methods for Systems Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology were a theme this year with three seed grants being awarded for collaborations involving new technology.

The Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate program welcomed a large class of talented students, who got to participate in the Fall Retreat. Several students and post-docs were awarded NIH Fellowships this year including Andrea Silva-Gotay, Emily Rothwell, and Jeremy Spool.

Several new faculty Neuroscience Faculty have arrived at UMass in 2019 including Sarah Pallas and Amanda Woerman. Ilia Karatoreos is about land here in January.

Renovations are now complete on the new Neuroscience Wing of the Morrill Science Center. It features eight faculty laboratories, a conference room, and shared facilities. Check out the cool video! People will start moving into the space in 2020.

We had many great speakers in the Spring and Fall Neuroscience Distinguished Lecture Series. Look for more coming up in 2020.

A full house attended Ed Boyden’s recent Distinguished Lecture



UMass Neurosciences Publications – November 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Guangyu Xu. Guangyu is an assistant professor in the the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering. He was recently appointed to the Dev and Linda Gupta Professorship. Guangyu joined UMass in 2016, before which he was a postdoc at MIT with Ed Boyden, who presented the November Neuroscience Distinguished Lecture. Guangyu runs the Integrated Nanobiotechnology Laboratory, which builds tools for subcellular molecular detection that have important uses in Neuroscience. His most recent paper in iScience demonstrates a technology for optogenetic control of intracellular calcium dynamics using micro-LEDs, which may allow for more efficient pharmaceutical screening of drugs and fundamental studies on a variety of cell networks.

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


Director’s Channel – November 2019

Neuroscience Director Paul Katz with his dogs.

November is a glorious month in Amherst. The leaves are in full color, the air is crisp, and research is in full swing. We have three really exciting Neuroengineering seminars this month including a Distinguished Lecture by Ed Boyden of MIT, the co-inventor of optogenetics and the Alexander Lecture by Michael Dickinson of CalTech. The renovations on the new Neuroscience wing of Morrill Science Center are now complete. Check out the pictures and story. There are many exciting new projects in the works. Continue reading


UMass Neurosciences Publications – October 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Rebecca Spencer. Bekki is a professor in Psychological and Brain Sciences. She runs the Somneurolab, which studies many aspects of sleep and brain functions affected by sleep. As people age, sleep and memory. The lab has funding from the National Institute of Aging to study how sleep quality decreases and memory impairments increase in older adults. They also have funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the benefits of midday naps for preschool children. Her recent publication with post-doc Bethany Jones, which appeared in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory shows that sleep helps consolidate aspects of emotional responses that are associated with memories.

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


Student spotlight – Sarah Winokur

Neuroscience and Behavior PhD student, Sarah Winokur, received three awards to support her dissertation research: The Dissertation Fellowship from the Center for Research on Families, The Psychological and Brain Sciences Department’s Rayner Memorial Fund Award, and The UMass Amherst Graduate School’s Dissertation Research Grant. Sarah is in her 5th year of the NSB program, working on her dissertation under the guidance of Dr. Mariana Pereira to explore the neurobiological underpinnings of disturbances to maternal behavior. This funding will help support studies that specifically investigate neurogenetic and hormonal factors that contribute to deficits in maternal behavior, cognition, and motivation. Long term, Sarah aims to work in academia where she can continue researching social relationships and how they impacted by depression and anxiety at the neurobiological level, while also sharing her love for neuroscience with students and through outreach.


UMass Neurosciences Publications – Sept 2019

This month’s featured researcher is Eric Bittman. Eric is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology. His lab studies the molecular and neural bases for circadian rhythms. His most recent paper appears in the Journal of Biological Rhythms. He recently showed how certain gene alleles alter the function of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in ways that may contribute to changes in circadian rhythms.

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


IONs Director’s Channel – October 2019

The fall is a beautiful time of year in New England and the neurosciences are thriving. The latest class of Neuroscience & Behavior Grad students have settled in and are thriving. The Center for Neuroendocrine Studies Symposium was a big success, featuring several inspiring speakers from across the country. Mark your calendars for the Annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 11, 2020. Coming up sooner is the Western Mass Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Conference on Oct 15th. This is a chance to practice your poster presentation or just see all of the great work that will presented at the annual SfN meeting in Chicago. Here is a list of all of the UMass presentationsContinue reading


IONs Neuroengineering Seed Grants Awarded

Neuroengineering seed grants were awarded to three interdisciplinary teams of researchers across five departments. It is hoped that these grants will help build bridges between neuroscientists and engineers to position UMass to make new advancements at the interface between these fields.

The winning proposals are:

Continue reading