Category Archives: Director Channel

IONs Director’s Channel – August 2019

Katz lab members in Woods Hole.

A beautiful summer in New England is quickly drawing to a close. For me, it was a time to take my lab to Woods Hole to visit the MBL. Now as we start to think of fall, some of our new Neuroscience and Behavior graduate students are already here and working in labs through the new OnRamp program initiated through the Interdepartmental Graduate Programs. This gives new students the opportunity to ease into the rigors of graduate school before classes start. Students have been meeting other students, taking training classes and going to summer seminars. Speaking of summer seminars, our final three Neuroscience Summer Seminars are this month:  Aug 7th  – Kirby Deater-Deckard, Aug 14th – Sarah Pallas, and Aug 21st – Mariana Pereira.  Continue reading


IONs Director’s Channel – July 2019

Paul Katz and Luke Remage-Healey at the NSB picnic enjoying a special dessert.

It’s summer and the fun never ends. We’re really pleased to hear that Dr. Ilea Karatsoreos has accepted a faculty position in Psychological and Brain Sciences. That further strengthens the great group of neuroendocrinologists at UMass.  Research is going strong across campus, which you can read about here. The Neuroscience Summer Seminar Series is in full swing. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about the research on campus. If you’re looking for other things to do this summer besides enjoying the beautiful weather in the valley, go cheer the NSB grad student softball team, Spikes ‘n Strikes.



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


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


IONs Director’s Channel – April 2019

IONs Director: Paul Katz

Spring is in the air here in Amherst. The Neurosciences continue to grow. We are very pleased to welcome Amanda Woerman to the Biology Department. Amanda is the 7th woman neuroscientist hired in the last 2 years. The growth in the neurosciences is not over as we are waiting to hear about the results of other faculty searches. We also have an excellent new crop of PhD and fast-track MS students joining the Neuroscience and Behavior Program this fall. April is an exciting time for seminars. IONs is pleased to host two Neurosciences Distinguished Lectures: Marlene Behrmann on April 10 and Jeff Lichtman on April 24th. In addition, NSB is hosting Frank Grasso for the Annual Kay Fite Lecture on April 3rd. For the first time, the Initiative on Neurosciences will be participating in the #UMassGives campaign. Please donate just a little to show your support.


IONs Director’s Channel – March 2019

As we move into March, we feel the hope and optimism of spring and growth. Offers of admission are about to be sent to prospective graduate students and new faculty members. We can feel the neurosciences growing and expanding with new people, new findings, and new connections. The Neuroscience and Behavior graduate program had a very exciting recruitment open house. We are hopeful of seeing an exciting new crop of PhD students in the fall. In addition the Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program is in the process of its recruitment event. We are concluding two faculty searches for new Neurosciences faculty members, one in the Biology Department and one in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department.  The Organismic and Evolutionary Biology program is concluding it search for the next Darwin Fellow. Stay tuned for these exciting developments. March is Brain Awareness Month and neuroscience students, postdocs and faculty will be participating in outreach events in Holyoke among other places. Finally, we have wonderful line up of speakers this month including Neurosciences Distinguished Lectures, Charles Lieber and Thalia Konkle as well as NSB students. Please consider supporting IONs with a small donation to help us grow and show your support for the Neurosciences at UMass.


IONs Director’s Channel – Feb 2019

Paul Katz, Director

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it is full of Neurosciences events at UMass. In line with our focus on neuroengineering, I am pleased to announce a new mechanism to initiate collaborative research in neuroengineering – the Innovation Marketplace. Faculty are encouraged to pitch ideas, which will be judged by an audience. The top three proposals will be awarded $1000 microgrants on the spot and developed into Seed Grant proposals through workshops.

We have an incredible line up of speakers this month (see Events). Several of them mesh well with our emphasis this spring in Neuroengineering. Continue reading


IONs Director’s Channel – Jan 2019

Neuroscience is booming at UMass Amherst.  2018 was a great year and I am very excited about everything that we have coming up for 2019 including Seed Grants, Faculty Forums, a Distinguished Lecture Series and a Neuroscience conference on neuroengineering.

In this past year, we hired SIX new faculty members in neuroscience in four different departments. It is worth remarking that they are all women! Five are assistant professors: Karine Fenelon and Stephanie Padilla in Biology, Changhui Pak in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bruna Martins in Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Jennifer Mack in Communication Disorders. The latest addition to our Neurosciences faculty is a senior hire, Sarah Pallas in Biology.

Continue reading


IONs Director’s Channel – Memory is about the future, not the past.

Paul S. Katz
Director of Neurosciences

The UMass Week of Memory and Forgetting has provided me with fresh ideas about the nature of memory and the nature of society itself. It was fitting to begin the week with a reception at the Institute of Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies that featured an address from the Chancellor, who very movingly reflected on the recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, surrounded by pictures of atrocities committed by the Nazis. The Provost reflected on Psalm 137, popularly known through the reggae song, “By the Rivers of Babylon”, and the meaning of how collective memory affects us and how we, in turn, change the meaning of the memory over time. Each of the speakers brought a unique viewpoint on memory and its relevance for our lives. Continue reading