Info for Alumni

Notes from the Chairman

Dear Alumni and Friends of Biology,

It has been a very busy year and despite being Chair for 2 years now, I am still learning on the job. We had planned to get this newsletter out to you at the beginning of the year, but with all the activities we have been trying to juggle, we have been delayed. I apologize but hopefully you will find the information enjoyable.

Many of the major highlights are listed and described in the 2011-2012 newsletter, but I will touch on several key events. As you may be aware we are getting closer to occupying the new Integrated Science Complex (ISC), the first new construction on the campus in many years.  While the project is about 1 year behind schedule and thus we are still probably 1 year away from being settled in the building, I did have an opportunity just a few weeks ago to tour the space along with the Dean of our college, the Provost and the Chairs of other departments that will occupy the building.  The exterior of the building is essentially done, but building the research, teaching and office space is still in full swing. The facilities will be new, modern and flexible allowing us to keep pace with the rapid new developments in the Biological Sciences.  Construction has also begun on the new General Academic Building (GAB).  Lecture hall space, teaching labs and many other uses are all slated for this building. 

The new Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy (CPCT) will be housed in the ISC.  The director of that facility, Dr. Jill Macoska (see profile in our next newsletter) has recently arrived on campus and is already establishing her research program and developing the Center in the temporary space within Wheatley until the ISC is completed.  This will be a fantastic new resource for the University and will open up new avenues of research and collaborations with teaching and research institutions with a focus on Cancer treatment and prevention in the Boston area.  

Enrollments at the University have increased rapidly in the last several years, but the department has kept pace and is still putting much time and effort into developing hands-on laboratory experiences for our students.  I have always felt that these experiences are the “brand” of the UMass Boston Biology department.  As part of this continued effort, we have hired new members to the faculty (see profiles below) to expand opportunities for students to work in active research programs,  added more and more advanced laboratory sections and courses, and continued our long history of leading research training grants on the campus. 

Our efforts on this last front have been extraordinary in my opinion.  We are now in the 21st year of nearly continuous funding of the NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).  The current summer program is directed by Dr. Rachel Skvirsky and gives students from UMass Boston as well as from across the country research experiences for 10 weeks each summer. We now have a second REU program in collaboration with the Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences (EEOS) department focused on coastal research. This new REU is directed by Dr. Alan Christian in Biology.  We also have the NIH funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) which supports many students throughout the year to conduct research in labs as well as develop better study skills and tools.  This program is directed by Drs. Rachel Skvirsky and Adan Colon-Carmona. The NIH funded Bridges to Baccalaureate program brings students from two-year institutions to UMass Boston, plugs them into research settings and provides them with additional training workshops all with the intent of getting these students to enter 4-year bachelor’s programs. That program is directed by Drs. Michael Shiaris and Alexia Pollack.  Lastly, I will mention the huge impact of the NIH-funded UMass Boston and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center U54 Partnership to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities directed by Dr. Adan Colon-Carmona (UMass Boston) and Dr. Holly Prigerson (DFCI). This program has helped develop major collaborations between UMass Boston and Dana-Farber and has funded many students working at both institutions. 

Hopefully you can tell, it is an exciting time here at in the Biology department at UMass Boston.  Please feel free to contact me and let us know your thoughts and what you are doing.

Best wishes,
Rick Kesseli

Biology Department

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