The UMass Amherst ADVANCE program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), began in 2018 to cultivate collaboration in science and engineering that furthers equity among faculty regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. One of three recent collaborative research seed grants was awarded to Dr. Karine Fenelon in Biology, and Dr. David Moorman in Psychological and Brain Sciences. The research project titled, Investigating Amygdala Circuit Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model Relevant to Schizophrenia aims to identify amygdala mechanisms that cause pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) deficits as promising drug targets, using a mouse model of schizophrenia. To do so, the team will perform in vitro (Fenelon group) and in vivo (Moorman group) electrophysiological recordings of neurons central to PPI. You can read more about Karine and David’s project, here. Congratulations to Karine and David!
Congratulations to Mélise Edwards and Agnès Lacreuse on being awarded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship! This award is given to outstanding graduate students and their advisers with the goal of supporting students from underrepresented groups in their pursuit in preparing for leadership roles in scientific fields, particularly with a focus on advancing diversity and inclusion in the sciences.
Only 50 pairs of students and their advisers were selected for the 2021 Gilliam Fellowship program. They span 38 academic institutions across the country with research ranging from life sciences to biomed.
Through this Fellowship Mélise and Professor Lacreuse have leadership and research training opportunities, with a focus on inclusion and cultural awareness with monthly online training sessions, two in-person workshops in Maryland, and an annual meeting of all Fellows and their advisers. They will also receive $50,000 per year up to 3 years. To be eligible for the program, Fellows must be enrolled in their 2nd or 3rd year of a PhD program in biomedical or life sciences, be from a racial, ethnic or other underrepresented group, and demonstrate a commitment to furthering inclusion and diversity in the field of science.
The NSB community is proud and excited and extends a group congratulations to both Mélise and Agnès!
The Armstrong Fund for Science was established in 2006 by benefactors John and Elizabeth Armstrong to help research projects gain more ground before they are eligible for traditional grants. The 2021 award was given to Biology’s Gerald Downes, and MCB’s ChangHui Pak for their collaborative research into the disruption of brain development by the mutation of a gene, TBCK. Mutations of the gene cause a rare condition called TBCK Syndrome. Professors Pak and Downes will receive funding of $40,000 for 2 years for the preliminary research needed to prepare for a larger research project.
ChangHui and Gerry hope to learn more about how the mutations in the TBCK gene cause the debilitating syndrome which leads to a high rate of mortality in children and adolescents with progressive loss of muscle tone, intellectual disability, and drug-resistant epilepsy among some of the symptoms. The collaboration will involve the zebrafish that the Downes Lab has already engineered with TBCK syndrome. Pak will be using pluripotent stem cells that will be engineered with the mutations specific to TBCK syndrome, grow them into neurons and compare the mutated cells with healthy cells. They are both excited to work together learning from each model.
The entire neuroscience community extends an enthusiastic congratulations and will look forward to seeing the progress!
Mélise Edwards, 2nd year student in the Lacreuse lab (co-advised by Courtney Babbitt), received a prestigious Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, which will support 3 years of her PhD research. This competitive fellowship, funded through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, supports individuals “who can demonstrate superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students”.
Her research will compare gene expression in specific brain regions in marmosets treated with an aromatase inhibitor (Letrozole) compared to marmosets treated with a placebo. Aromatase inhibitors are commonly administered to women with estrogen-responsive breast cancers because they suppress estrogen synthesis. Unfortunately, they are also associated with cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances and mood disorders and little is known about the underlying mechanisms.Continue reading
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:
Postdoctoral associate Jeremy Spool was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate how the brain transitions from making sense of complex vocalizations to initiating social responses during interactions with other individuals. Continue reading
The innovation marketplace is a place to pitch an idea for a collaboration to obtain a Neuroengineering seed grant.
The goal is to find new avenues of collaboration between neuroscientists and engineers.
Faculty are invited to submit a pitch by filling out an online form. The pitch is simply a short explanation of a problem that they have identified that could be solved with collaboration. For example, a neuroscientist may have identified the need for a new tool. Or an engineer may have designed a tool and is interested in finding new uses for it. Similarly, this could extend to analytic methods or devices. Continue reading
Neuroengineering is the combination of fields of neurosciences and engineering. It includes the development of devices or methodology to monitor brain activity as well as therapeutic devices that help overcome neurological conditions. It could also encompass new means of utilizing the brain’s activity.
Goal: Initiate new collaborative work in Neuroengineering. The proposal should lead towards new external funding in the field of neuroengineering.
Award Amounts: $10,000 – $30,000. Anticipated total funding, $100,000. Funds can be used for anything except faculty teaching buyout. Funds are awarded only to UMass Amherst faculty members. Continue reading
Faculty members who attended 3 Faculty Forums in the fall semester are eligible to apply for a $1000 micro-grant from IONs. These grants can be used for small purchases or for travel reimbursement.
Contact IONs@umass.edu for more information.
UMass Neurosciences Director, Paul Katz received a $3.5 Million grant from the NIH Brain Initiative to lead a team of researchers from four universities to study the brain of a nudibranch. The grant is entitled “A 5-dimensional connectomics approach to the neural basis of behavior” because it examines the brain 3 dimensions of space and 2 dimensions of time: real time and developmental time. Continue reading