Director’s Channel – February 2020

IONs Director: Paul Katz

February may be the shortest month, but we have a lot going on. I am particularly pleased to be hosting this month’s Distinguished Neuroscience Lecture, Eve Marder. She has been a big influence on me and others in the field. In addition to the seminars, the Neuroscience & Behavior (NSB) Program is going to have its annual recruitment open house. We’re excited to meet the next class of PhD students. We also in the process of submitting an NSF  graduate training grant to support students in several graduate programs called Team Research in Biological Neurotechnology (TRiBioNT). If successful, it will help fund students in three life sciences graduate programs (NSB, OEB, MCB) and two engineering programs (ECE and MIE). There are several themes running through the proposal. One is to reintegrate Neuroscience more with other life-sciences graduate programs. Another is to engage engineers to build devices for studying the brain and to be inspired by not just the human brain, but the amazing neural computations that animals can do.  Continue reading


Director’s Channel – January 2020

IONs Director, Paul Katz

It’s the beginning of a new year and full of anticipation. Neuroscience labs have started to move into the newly renovated space in the Morrill Science Center. There is a great line up of speakers for the spring 2020 Distinguished Neuroscience Lecture Series:

Mark your calendars for the Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference on May 11th, which features as Keynote speaker, Nobel Laureate Thomas Südhof. Other exciting talks are in the works.

For my New Year’s resolution, I resolved to write more about what I’m thinking in this Director’s Channel. Continue reading


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.


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


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 Director’s Channel – September 2019

Paul Katz, Luke Remage-Healey, and Kirby Deater-Deckard clowning around.

What a fantastic academic year this is shaping up to be. There are so many exciting events coming up and so much great neuroscience research happening at UMass. Registration is now open for the Center for Neuroendocrine Studies Symposium on Gregarious Hormones: Steroids and Social Behavior.  The line up for the 2019-2020 Neurosciences Distinguished Lectures is phenomenal The first speaker is Larry Young from Emory University. In addition, check out the list of great Wednesday seminars in the Neuroscience and Behavior program. Continue reading


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