Academics

Info for Alumni

Bird's Eye View of the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Notes from the Chairman

Dear Alumni and Friends of Biology,

It has been a thrilling year of many exciting accomplishments. We have completed our first full year in the new Integrated Sciences Complex and research programs are humming.

Our Cell Signaling core group of scientists has been doing extremely well. Recently, with funding by National Institute of Health (NIH), Alexey Veraksa and his lab working with Drosophila (aka fruitfly) have continued to investigate how cells communicate with each other in the context of a developing organism. Basic mechanisms of cell signaling are very similar in flies and humans, so what we learn using Drosophila can be applied to human development and disease. One of the projects in the Veraksa lab is to study how the Hippo pathway controls organ growth The Veraksa lab recently published a paper in Developmental Cell, in which they discovered a link between the Hippo pathway and a steroid signaling pathway in flies. This was a collaboration with Ken Moberg’s lab at Emory University.

Linda Huang and her lab also study cell signaling, but use yeast as a model system. They have been studying the genes and signals that tell a cell to switch from vegetative cell division to sexual reproduction and spore production. They have published three papers on the development of the prospore membrane and their discovery that class of kinase enzymes, also found in humans, is important for the timely closure of the membrane and regulates the timing of meiotic cell division and the production of haploid spores. She and her students were selected to give a talk at the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Yeast Cell Biology Meeting last November and will be presenting this work at the TAGC Allied Genetics Conference this summer.

Ron Etter and his lab have recently been funded by two major NSF awards to estimate dispersal and connectivity among blue mussel populations in the Gulf of Maine. Their work is identifying the environmental forces that shape regional dynamics, and providing a better understanding of how to manage this valuable fishery. They are also part of an interdisciplinary effort to identify how larger-scale environmental forces interact with local and landscape level processes to control the structure, function, dynamics and productivity of shallow-water marine ecosystems. The Etter lab is also involved in an international effort to quantify dispersal and connectivity in deep-sea organisms to help establish the scale and geography of marine protected areas. They recently published two papers estimating dispersal and connectivity in deep-sea organisms in the journals Molecular Ecology and Deep Sea Research.

Liam Revell and his lab have continued to be very active over the last year. Liam has been awarded several major grants including a prestigious NSF CAREER grant given to outstanding young scientists. Liam and his students are particularly interested in rapid evolutionary change in animals that is driven by human impacts on the environment. With one of his graduate students Kristin Winchell as the lead author, their work documenting morphological changes in the tropical lizard Anolis that have been invading and adapting to urban environments. Their work was featured on the cover of the prestigious journal Evolution in May and has garnered a substantial amount of press coverage.

I hope you have fun reading about the various activities and events that have occurred over the last year. Come visit us and see for yourself all the changes taking place on your campus! 

Best Wishes, 
Rick Kesseli
Biology Department

We would love to hear from you! If you would like to share any news with you fellow alums, please email Ericka Gonzalez or Sarah Yellamaty.