Director’s Channel, May/June 2020

IONs Director, Paul Katz

In these troubled times, community is very precious. It takes effort to maintain a community when you don’t just bump into people in the hallways or at seminars. We have lost opportunities such as the annual awards dinner to meet and celebrate our students’ accomplishments. Please read about the winners of the Golden Neuron Award and the Vincent Dethier Prize. I am particularly impressed by work of Melise Edwards and Kate Otter, who shared the Early Career Award.  Melise is leading (Mentorship for Under-represented STEM Enthusiasts), which aims to provide representation and mentorship to groups in STEM. She is only a first-year PhD student, but she is an active leader in peer mentorship. Kate Otter has been running a Social Justice Discussion group, which relates social justice to science. I attended the most recent group (via Zoom, of course) and it inspired me to think more deeply about how our perception of the world is determined by our identity and our community. There is a concept in ethology called the Umwelt, which is just German for environment. It refers to how an animal experiences the world. We may think that our own experience of the world is universal and that if anything, animals experience an impoverished version of the world that we see, hear, and smell around us. But, this is far from the truth. Continue reading


Neuroscience and Behavior Early Career Awards

The Early Career Award (1st or 2nd year) is designated for excellence in academics, research, and/or outreach and is selected by the Graduate Operations Committee. The winner receives a small gift and a certificate. Mélise Edwards (working with advisor Agnes Lacreuse) and Kate Otter (working with advisor Paul Katz) were commended for their outstanding accomplishments in research, academic success, and outreach supporting diversity and inclusion in STEM and academia. Erika Correll received honorable mention. Continue reading


Student and Postdoc Spotlight

Congratulations to Annabelle Flores-Bonilla for being awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRPF). Annabelle will be starting as a first year Neuroscience and Behavior PhD student in Heather Richardson’s lab.

Emily Rothwell, a postdoc in the Agnès Lacreuse’s lab, was awarded a Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology travel award to present her work on sleep and cognition in the common marmoset. Continue reading


UMass Neuroscience Publications – April/May 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Courtney Babbitt. Courtney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology. Courtney researches how cis-regulatory element evolution affects phenotypic evolution. In particular, she has investigated brain evolution in humans and other primates. She is the senior author on a review that appeared in PubMed this month examining technological progress in elucidating the role of metabolic changes in human brain evolution.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in April and May. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

Continue reading


Director’s Channel – April 2020

Zoom screen shot of IONs Director Paul Katz

I am very proud of the way that UMass is working to keep people safe in this extraordinary time. For up-to-date information go to I am also thankful for the way that our neuroscience community is pulling together to maintain contact while remaining physical distant. Like everywhere else in the nation, classes, lab meetings, and seminars are being held by Zoom.  We have a Slack Workspace for people to contact each other ( including a channel to share COVID-19 information. NSB Students and postdocs have created structure in their lives by organizing accountability buddies (aka Accountabilibuddies) who check in on each other regularly.

It goes without saying that this pandemic is creating extraordinary suffering. It is likely to get worse before it gets better. Yes, it’s sad that research projects have been interrupted. Yes, it’s sad that conferences and seminars have been canceled, including our annual Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Conference. All of our Distinguished Neuroscience Lectures have been rescheduled for 2021. These cancellations and delays are essential measures to flatten the infection curve. Conferences will be rescheduled, life will pick up again on the other end of this calamity. As a privileged academic, I can safely stay at home and work on papers and grants. I have been encouraging my students to use this down time productively by reading the literature more deeply. It’s a chance to learn and think more thoroughly about their projects. I’m hoping that this enforced stop to lab work will result in better planned research going forward and more thorough understanding of the published literature.  Together, we will pull through as a community.


UMass Neuroscience Publications – March 2020

This month’s featured researcher is Richard van Emmerick. Richard is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. His lab studies motor control and coordination, applying principles from complex and nonlinear dynamical systems to the study of posture and locomotion. More specifically, they examine mechanisms of balance and gait disorders due to aging and neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This month, a publication of theirs appeared in PubMed related to MS patients.

Here’s what else is 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. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication. 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


UMass Neuroscience Publications – December 2019

This month’s Featured Researcher is Ilia Karatsoreos, who just joined the faculty of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Ilia’s research addresses how the body’s internal circadian clock and “stress response” systems help maintain mental and physical health.  His latest paper, which just appeared in the December issue of Frontiers in Neuroendrinology, reviews the research explaining how the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis interacts with downstream pathways to mediate resilience to environmental stresses.  Ilia is joining UMass from Washington State University. We are pleased to have him aboard. His lab is located in the newly renovated Neuroscience Wing on the 2nd floor of Morrill Science Center 4N.

Here’s what else is new for ‘ ”University of Massachusetts” AND Amherst AND neuroscience’ in PubMed. These publications appeared on line in December. They are just a fraction of the research that occurs on campus. You can click on the PubMed ID to find the publication.

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.


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