Past News & Announcements

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Researchers Design Synthetic Bacteria which Produce Nanowires with High Conductivity

July 2016: A group of researchers led by Derek Lovley have developed a synthetic bacteria made from non-toxic, natural amino acids. The findings were reported in the current issue of Small. The synthetic bacteria produces extremely thin and highly conductive wires which have many potential applications in electronic devices to function as wires, transistors and capacitors in biocompatible sensors, computing devices and components of solar panels. As the researchers learned more about microbial nanowires they took the design a step further and rearranged amino acids to insert trytophan, an amino acid commonly know to cause drowsiness, and the results exceeded their expectations as the nanowires conductivity greatly increased. Read more...

Chaput Awarded EPA STAR Fellowship.
Gina Chaput

July 2016: Gina M. Chaput, a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology Department, has been awarded the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship.

Gina’s dissertation research falls under the EPA STAR category A3, “Emerging Environmental Approaches and Challenges- Synthetic Biology for Environmental Purposes”. Currently, the paper industry uses hazardous chemicals in pulping to remove lignin from the hemicellulose and cellulose components of wood. This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. A sustainable alternative is to use bacteria that degrade lignin anaerobically and convert it to secondary chemicals or biofuels. Therefore, Gina is focusing her efforts on uncovering mechanisms of anaerobic bacterial lignin degradation that can be manipulated to improve paper pulping processes and the use of lignin as a biofuel feedstock. Her hope is to pursue a research career addressing our nation’s energy security issues.

The EPA STAR is awarded to 55 graduate students nationwide per year to support their studies in environmental sciences focusing on cleaning up communities and advancing sustainable development. This includes up to $44,000 per year, with doctoral students being supported for a maximum of three years. The EPA STAR’s end goal is to aid students financially as they develop their leadership skills in STEM to enhance our nation’s “environmental science, research, education, assessment, restoration, preservation, pollution prevention and sustainability efforts”.

Lovley Invention Pushes the University to Record-High Number of Patents

July 2016: Derek Lovley and Kelly Nevin Lovley have developed and patented a new technology, microbial electrosynthesis, which uses leftover renewable solar energy and feeds it to microorganisms to produce transportion fuel and pre-plastic materials as well as other products. This invention helped the University of Massachusetts attain a record-high 62 patents awarded in 2015. Read more...

Giffen Named 21st Century Leader

May 2016: Samantha Giffen, a Public Health and Microbiology double major, has been chosen as a 21st Century Leader for her contribution to infectious disease research at the University of Massachusetts. Ms. Giffen has worked on an independent research project under the guidance of Microbiology faculty member, Yasu Morita. Ten graduating seniors will be honored as 21st Century Leaders at the University's Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 6. Read more...

News from the Morita Lab

May 2016: Yasu Morita, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, and Jennifer Hayashi, a Microbiology doctoral student, recently had important findings about a model species of Mycobacterium smegmatis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mycobacteria can cause dangerous diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis and these new findings will lead to a better understanding of the bacteria. Read more...

Microbiology doctoral student, Julia Puffal, received a Dissertation Research Grant from the UMass Graduate School.