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Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst and state officials broke ground on Thursday for the new, $125 million Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building, designed to respond to enormous growth in the college’s enrollment over the past five years and provide talent to fuel business growth and research collaborations that benefit the entire Commonwealth.

The new facility is substantially funded by a $75 million state capital commitment from the Baker-Polito administration. The building will expand facilities by creating approximately 90,000 gross square feet in new space devoted to the college’s community-building, research, and teaching missions.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, UMass President Marty Meehan, board of trustees Chair Robert Manning, trustees Steve Karam and Mary Burns, Provost Tricia Serio, Manning CICS Dean Laura Haas, and Distinguished Professor Prashant Shenoy.

Daily News

AMHERST — Massachusetts businessman and philanthropist Robert Epstein has made a commitment of $1.5 million to establish the Robert L. Epstein Endowed Professorship in UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. The gift honors Epstein’s friendship with UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and the chancellor’s decade of service to the university.

The Epstein Endowed Professorship will help attract or retain an outstanding faculty member, with a preference for faculty in hospitality and tourism management, who will strengthen the academic excellence of the Isenberg School of Management and advance industry knowledge through research, scholarship, and inspired teaching. The fund will cover costs such as salary supplementation, education and travel expenses, graduate assistantships, research expenses, and support services for the faculty member’s program.

Epstein, who earned a degree in marketing from the Isenberg School of Management in 1967, has been an ambassador for the university and an ardent supporter of Isenberg faculty and students. He has served as a member of the UMass Amherst Foundation board since 2010 and was appointed to the UMass board of trustees in 2015. In addition, he co-chaired UMass Rising, the largest fundraising campaign in UMass Amherst history; served as a guest lecturer at Isenberg; established the Robert L. Epstein Endowed Scholarship; and supported Isenberg’s Business Innovation Hub, among other university priorities.

For years, Epstein has been a leader in the beverage and alcohol industry. As co-owner and president of the Horizon Beverage Group and former chairman of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, he has worked with producers, unions, legislators, and more than 15,000 retail and restaurant customers. With his gift, he aims to enhance the reputation of UMass Amherst and Isenberg within the hospitality industry and provide the university with the resources it needs to retain world-class faculty to mold the next generation of industry leaders.

“I have been inspired by the innovation and growth UMass and Isenberg have seen under Chancellor Subbaswamy’s leadership,” Epstein said. “The university is attracting students of the highest caliber who are eager to make a difference in their chosen fields, and faculty scholarship has had a considerable impact both in the Commonwealth and on the national stage. It is an honor to contribute to this upward trajectory with a gift that will further bolster academic excellence in the Isenberg School of Management.”

The university hopes to appoint a faculty member to the Epstein Endowed Chair by July 1, 2025, when the fund will have been invested with the endowment for a full year.

“Faculty are the cornerstone of UMass Amherst’s ambitions to produce revolutionary scholarship and graduates who bring insight and ingenuity to a host of sectors around the world,” Subbaswamy said. “I deeply appreciate my friendship with Bob. He has provided me important guidance along the way, and I am inspired by his dedication to his work, including his role on the foundation board and the board of trustees. His generosity will provide untold benefits for our students and industry partners in the years to come.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Tricia Serio has been named provost and senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UMass Amherst. She started her new position on July 18.

Serio previously served as dean of the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and associate chancellor for Strategic Academic Planning. Over the course of five years of service to UMass, she has demonstrated her strong commitment to academic excellence, student success, and faculty advancement. She has established a record of innovation, a collaborative and compassionate leadership style, and a commitment to systematic planning and data-informed decision making. As a first-generation college graduate, she has a passion for the university’s goal of inclusive excellence.

Serio joined UMass as dean of CNS in August 2017 after serving as professor and head of the department of Molecular And Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. Her professional honors include the 2016 Mid-career Award for Excellence in Research from the American Society for Cell Biology, the Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences for 2003-07, and the National Cancer Institute’s Howard Temin Award for 2001-06. In 2022, she was selected to be a fellow in the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the pre-eminent scientific institution in the U.S.

Serio earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Lehigh University and a master of philosophy degree and Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University. She was a postdoctoral fellow in molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — UMass Amherst will host on-the-spot hiring interviews today, July 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tower Square, located at 1500 Main St. in downtown Springfield.

Representatives from the university will be on hand to provide details about more than 100 full-time, benefited positions available in a number of areas across campus, including catering, conference services, dining, facilities, grounds, maintenance, landscaping, and skilled trades.

Among the advantages of working at UMass Amherst are flexible schedules, competitive wages, career-advancement opportunities, educational course reimbursement, full medical benefits, and a state pension.

Two-hour parking validations for the Tower Square parking garage will be available for the event. Those interested in applying and interviewing for these opportunities are asked to bring non-expired, government-issued photo IDs. Examples include a state-issued driver’s license, state-issued ID card, passport, or military ID card.

For those unable to attend Thursday’s event in Springfield, additional on-the-spot interview events will be held at the Blue Wall in the UMass Amherst Campus Center on Aug. 2, 10, and 18.

Click here for more information about the hiring event at Tower Square and those to be held on campus in August, as well as the open positions the university seeks to fill.

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has signed a series of memoranda of agreement with the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) to assist students and scholars affected by Russia’s war with Ukraine.

UMass Amherst’s new multi-level partnership with KSE will establish several modalities for Ukrainian students and scholars to be part of the UMass academic community. An academic exchange program for students will enable undergraduate and graduate students from Ukraine to study at UMass for a semester or academic year with nearly all costs waived.

In conjunction with the academic exchange program for students, a non-resident, virtual Scholar in Residence program will be created for scholars affiliated with KSE. Selected Ukrainian scholars will collaborate with centers, departments, and faculty at UMass Amherst on relevant research topics virtually and will receive a stipend through the KSE Foundation.

The agreements were finalized between March and July 2022 by KSE President Tymofiy Mylovanov and Rector Tymofii Brik and John McCarthy, now emeritus provost and senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs for UMass Amherst.

Anna Nagurney, professor and the Eugene M. Isenberg Chair in Integrative Studies in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, played a central role in driving these collaborative efforts. As a longstanding member of the International Academic Board at KSE, and now also co-chair of the board of directors at KSE, Nagurney was instrumental in nurturing the relationship between the two institutions. Most recently, Nagurney has been a leading expert in providing insights on Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

Nagurney is thrilled about the opportunity for Ukrainian scholars to continue their research during this challenging time and hopes that this program will provide them with additional moral and professional support. “We expect good interaction with research centers, institutes, and departments,” she said. “I foresee fantastic research outcomes coming out of this program.”

These agreements resulted from UMass Amherst faculty’s call for more support for Ukrainian scholars and students. In a letter addressed to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and McCarthy on March 29, a group of UMass faculty, led by members of the Russian, Eurasian, and Polish Studies program, provided a detailed list of requests for action and urged senior leadership to act in support of students and scholars displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Founded in 1996 by the Economics Education and Research Consortium and the Eurasia Foundation as a master’s program in economics, KSE is now a leading world academic institution. It currently offers degrees in programs such as economics, business analytics, mathematical economics, and public policy.

The UMass Amherst International Programs Office will be spearheading and overseeing these program initiatives through its units of Education Abroad and International Student and Scholar.

“It has been absolutely inspiring to work with our Ukrainian colleagues who are committed to maintaining the continuity of the academic experience in the face of terrible odds. As both Tymofiy Mylvanov and Tymofii Brik have shared in public fora, a strong, independent academic sector is crucial to Ukraine’s political and intellectual survival,” said Kalpen Trivedi, UMass Amherst’s vice provost for Global Affairs and director of the International Programs Office.

Senior administrative leaders at UMass Amherst are fully supportive of these programs to aid Ukrainian scholars and students. Nagurney is especially appreciative of the joint efforts by the administration, faculty, and senior staff leaders in ensuring that UMass offers many means of support for students and scholars. “What [KSE] have been doing in wartime has been absolutely awe-inspiring — still hosting top speakers virtually and even in person,” she said.

McCarthy added that “I enthusiastically support these efforts to assist our Ukrainian colleagues and their students in continuing their research, study, and teaching despite the war in their country.”

Technology

How Old Is the Water?

Dr. LeeAnn Munk

Dr. LeeAnn Munk collects water samples in Salar de Atacama.

 

A groundbreaking new study recently published in the journal Earth’s Future and led by researchers at UMass Amherst in collaboration with the University of Alaska Anchorage, is the first to comprehensively account for the hydrological impact of lithium mining. Since lithium is the key component of the lithium-ion batteries that are crucial for the transition away from fossil fuels and toward green energy — as well as necessity in many of today’s high-tech devices — it is critical to fully understand how to responsibly obtain the precious element.

Previous studies have not addressed two of the most important factors in determining whether lithium is obtained responsibly: the age and source of the water the lithium is found in. This first-of-its-kind study is the result of more than a decade of research, and it suggests that total water usage in the Salar de Atacama, a massive, arid Chilean salt flat encompassing approximately 850 square miles, is exceeding its resupply — though, as the team also points out, the impact of lithium mining itself is comparatively small. Lithium mining accounts for less than 10% of freshwater usage, and its brine extraction does not correlate with changes in either surface-water features or basin-water storage.

Lithium, said David Boutt, professor of Geosciences at UMass Amherst and one of the paper’s co-authors, is a strange element. It’s the lightest of the metals, but it doesn’t like to be in a solid form. Lithium tends to occur in layers of volcanic ash, but it reacts quickly with water. When rain or snowmelt moves through the ash layers, lithium leaches into the groundwater, moving downhill until it settles in a flat basin where it remains in solution as a briny mix of water and lithium. Because this brine is very dense, it often settles beneath pockets of fresh surface water, which float on top of the lithium-rich fluid below. These freshwater lagoons often become havens for unique and fragile ecosystems and iconic species such as flamingos.

More than 40% of the world’s proven lithium deposits are located in the Salar de Atacama, the site of the research. The Salar de Atacama is host to a number of ecologically unique wildlife preserves and is also the ancestral home of several Atacameño indigenous communities, with whom the UMass team worked. Because the salt flats are so ecologically sensitive and depend on scarce supplies of fresh water, the use of water in the Salar de Atacama runs the risk of disturbing both the ecological health of the region and indigenous ways of life.

Yet, up until now, there has been no comprehensive approach to gauging water use or lithium mining’s impact in the Salar de Atacama.

“To understand the environmental effect of lithium mining,” says Brendan Moran, a postdoctoral research associate in Geosciences at UMass Amherst and the lead author of the paper, “we need to understand the hydrology in the region the lithium is found. That hydrology is much more complex than previous researchers have given it credit for.”

To illustrate the complexity, and the previous misconception about the Salar de Atacama’s hydrology, Moran and Boutt drew on the metaphor of a bank account. Imagine that you get a paycheck every month; when you go to balance your checkbook, as long as your monthly expenditures don’t exceed your monthly income, you are financially sustainable. Previous studies of the Salar de Atacama have assumed that the infrequent rainfall and seasonal runoff from the mountain ranges that ring it were solely responsible for the water levels in the salt flats, but it turns out that assumption is incorrect.

Using a variety of water tracers that can track the path that water takes on its way to the Salar de Atacama, as well as the average age of water within different water bodies, including surface waters and sub-surface aquifers, Moran and his colleagues discovered that, though localized, recent rainfall is critically important, more than half of the freshwater feeding the wetlands and lagoons is at least 60 years old.

“Because these regions are so dry, and the groundwater so old,” Moran said, “the overall hydrological system responds very slowly to changes in climate, hydrology, and water usage.”

At the same time, short-term climate changes, such as the recent major drought and extreme precipitation events, can cause substantial and rapid changes to the surface water and the fragile habitats they sustain. Given that climate change is likely to cause more severe droughts over the region, it could further stress the area’s water budget.

To return to the accounting metaphor, the paycheck is likely getting smaller and isn’t coming monthly, but over a period of at least 60 years, which means researchers need to be monitoring water usage on a much longer time scale than they currently do, while also paying attention to major events, like droughts, in the region.

Complete hydrological monitoring requires additional tools paired with these geochemical tracers. The UMass and UAA teams used water usage data from the Chilean government and satellite imagery, which allowed them to assess the changing extent of wetlands over the past 40 years, as well as rain gauges and satellite measurements to determine changes in precipitation over the same period.

Given how long it takes for groundwater to move within the basin, “the effects of water overuse may still be making their way through the system and need to be closely monitored,” Moran said. “Potential impacts could last decades into the future.”

Ultimately, this comprehensive framework, which was funded by BMW Group and BASF, is applicable far beyond the Salar de Atacama. “It’s a modern approach to water management,” Boutt said.

Construction

A Powerful Argument

By Mark Morris

 

Ted Mendoza and Darci O’Connor note that the carbon-zero project at UMass Amherst will touch all of the more than 280 buildings on the campus.

Ted Mendoza and Darci O’Connor note that the carbon-zero project at UMass Amherst will touch all of the more than 280 buildings on the campus.

UMass Amherst chose Earth Day to announce an ambitious effort to convert the power systems for the entire campus to renewable energy by 2032.

UMass Carbon Zero puts the university at the “vanguard of a big idea,” according to UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy who added that the project will have ramifications far beyond the campus.

“For every advancement the university has made, there has always been support at the highest levels to create room for students to take part and learn.”

“UMass Amherst will be a leader of carbon-mitigation efforts in the Commonwealth while educating the next generation of leaders in sustainability,” Subbaswamy said. “Carbon Zero will also serve as a model for other large research universities as they pursue their own energy transitions.”

Massachusetts has set a target to reach carbon neutrality in all state systems by 2050. The UMass Carbon Zero effort has been in the works for two years to figure out the best way to achieve sustainability and a carbon-free future. The effort began with a task force that received input from hundreds of staff, faculty, and students to assess what it would take to move the entire campus to using renewable energy for all its heating, cooling, and electrical usage.

UMass officials estimate the project will cost at least $500 million over the 10 years, with funding expected from federal, state, corporate and philanthropic sources.

The main elements in designing a carbon-free system for the university will incorporate low-temperature hot water heating paired with geothermal heating and cooling. The plan also involves using a combination of battery-stored solar energy collected at UMass and purchasing energy from the green electrical grid.

Ted Mendoza, a capital projects manager for facilities at UMass Amherst noted that certain areas of campus make more sense for geothermal while other areas will incorporate low-temperature hot water heating.

“We have four buildings right now where we can run a pilot for geothermal and will expand that to 40 buildings,” Mendoza told BusinessWest. “What we learn from the pilot we will roll out to the entire campus.”

This large-scale transformation is not just a capital project. The university offers more than 500 classes on climate science, energy, technology, and other topics related to sustainability, so the Carbon Zero project will also be an opportunity to educate and train students.

“This is a chance to reboot our campus buildings and brand us as a destination for academic and operational interests. I see UMass attracting scholars, planners, engineers, and technicians looking to gain experience in the operation and maintenance of these new forward-thinking systems.”

In addition to the learning piece, students often provide new ideas, said Darci Connor Maresca, assistant director of the School of Earth Sustainability at UMass Amherst.

“There’s a value add in working with students because they push the envelope,” said Connor Maresca, adding that including students in major efforts is the way UMass does business.

“For every advancement the university has made, there has always been support at the highest levels to create room for students to take part and learn,” she said.

There’s data to back up the rationale for including students. Mendoza cited a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) survey that showed 91% of students agree that their place of study should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development.

“This is a chance to reboot our campus buildings and brand us as a destination for academic and operational interests,” Mendoza said. “I see UMass attracting scholars, planners, engineers, and technicians looking to gain experience in the operation and maintenance of these new forward-thinking systems.”

Both Maresca and Mendoza credit the UMass Chancellor as an early champion of the project. In many ways Subbaswamy sees UMass as a local community.

“Given our size, we are responsible for nearly 20% of overall greenhouse gas emissions among Massachusetts public facilities,” Subbaswamy said. “This makes us the single largest contributor among state entities. Our success in energy transition means success for the commonwealth.”

With a target date of 2032, it’s time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

“Unlike any other capital project we’ve ever taken on, this effort will have to touch all 280-plus buildings,” said Mendoza. “That means new and old; big and small; they are all part of the project to transition our entire campus to 100% renewable energy.”

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 110: May 2, 2022

George O’Brien talks with Ted Mendoza, a capital projects manager at UMass Amherst

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Ted Mendoza, a capital projects manager at UMass Amherst about the school’s recently announced ‘carbon-zero’ project, a bold initiative to power the campus with 100% renewable energy within the next decade or so. The two discuss the coming steps in the process, the challenges and potential obstacles, and the hope that by reaching this ambitious goal, UMass may set a standard for others to follow. It’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

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Daily News

AMHERST — U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, who represents the 2nd District of Massachusetts, will be the featured speaker at the UMass Amherst undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 13 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  

 The congressman will address an anticipated crowd of about 20,000 family members, friends and other guests as approximately 7,000 undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. 

 “Congressman McGovern has been a champion for human rights, an influential legislator in the fight to end food insecurity in America, and a tireless advocate for the people of Massachusetts,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “He played an important role in securing direct funding for UMass and our students through three COVID-19 relief bills during the pandemic. We are honored to have him as our featured speaker.” 

Among the congressman’s many accomplishments are his successful efforts to increase Pell Grant funding for low-income students, creating a program to provide nutritious meals in schools for millions of the world’s poorest children, and passing laws that target global human rights abusers with sanctions. 

The graduation ceremony for the undergraduate Class of 2022 is the 152nd UMass Amherst Commencement. Approximately 7,000 graduates are expected to receive their degrees at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on the UMass Amherst campus. The ceremony will be held rain or shine beginning at 4:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude at approximately 6:30 p.m. The ceremony is free and tickets are not required.  

Stadium gates open at 2 p.m. Guests should plan to arrive on campus by that time and will be directed to free campus parking and to shuttle buses that will take them from parking lots to the stadium. Services are available for guests with limited mobility and other disabilities. 

Daily News

AMHERST — The UMass Amherst College of Engineering (COE) has received a $10 million gift from Jerome and Linda Paros aimed at accelerating its cutting-edge work in atmospheric research and hazard mitigation by enabling a new center of excellence. The gift is the largest ever received by the college.

The gift will support the translation of ongoing and future research into improved hazardous weather predictions, alert systems, and policies that will save lives as the world continues to experience increases in the intensity and frequency of storms and other extreme weather events that stem from climate change. The $10 million gift will provide discretionary support for the new Paros Center for Atmospheric Research, funding for the Paros Fellows/Scholars Endowed Fund for graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships, and to establish the Paros Chair of Atmospheric Research and Hazard Mitigation.

“This transformative gift is a recognition of the tremendous talent and expertise we have at UMass Amherst,” College of Engineering Dean Sanjay Raman said. “Jerry and Linda Paros are enabling us to build on our established track record of accomplishment in ways that will have a profound impact on our nation and the global community. This gift will greatly enhance our capability to translate research in areas such as radar systems, the internet of things, data science and artificial intelligence, and unoccupied aerial vehicles into real-world hazard mitigation systems. It is an extraordinary investment, and we are deeply grateful.”

Building upon UMass Amherst’s leadership in the field through the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) — an engineering research center housed at UMass and established through prior National Science Foundation funds — this new funding will enable UMass researchers to expand CASA’s original mission to explore new frontiers in atmospheric measurement, science, and technology.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy noted that UMass faculty have been at the forefront of this effort. “Through their innovation, our researchers are building a new level of safety for communities around the world,” he said. “Now, with this gift, we will expand our understanding of hazardous weather conditions and explore the next generation of life-saving strategies.”

Jerome Paros, a 1960 UMass Amherst alumnus, is a leader in the field of geophysical measurements. He holds more than 50 patents and is the founder, president, and chairman of Paroscientific Inc., Quartz Seismic Sensors Inc., and related companies based in Redmond, Wash. These companies use the quartz crystal resonator technology he developed to measure pressure, acceleration, temperature, weight, and other parameters. His work has improved the measurements of geophysical phenomena such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and severe weather, and enhanced knowledge about the complex earth, air, and ocean processes that produce climate change. In the mid-2000s, Jerome and Linda Paros endowed a fund in measurement science at UMass Amherst, with the goal of creating synergy in this field of study between the COE and the College of Natural Sciences.

Paros holds an undergraduate degree in physics from UMass Amherst and a graduate degree in physics from Columbia University. He is an International Society of Automation fellow and received the society’s Si Fluor Technology Award in 1980 and the Albert F. Sperry Founders Award in 2006. UMass honored him with a Distinguished Achievement Award in 2011.

Daily News

AMHERST — Alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, have committed $3 million through their family foundation to expand the Manning Innovation Program at UMass Amherst. The gift provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable commercialization pipeline of applied and translational research projects from the university.

The Manning Innovation Program, based in the university’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), provides grants to advance applied research and development efforts in the sciences and engineering through the creation of startup companies and the licensing of intellectual property. Since its inception, 14 faculty members have received a Manning Innovation Award, including one research professor who has used these new funds to make strides toward new, life-saving liver-disease treatments. The program has also fostered a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and greater collaboration among Isenberg School of Management advisors, science and technology researchers, and industry experts as they work to translate research into field-disrupting products.

“Early-stage innovation is a high-risk proposition and difficult to find funding for,” said Peter Reinhart, founding director of IALS. “The Manning Innovation Program is catalytic in that it creates a competitive mechanism for enabling the creation and development of promising startup companies focused on human health and well-being.”

The success of the program is illustrated by the diversity and caliber of the projects supported thus far. With these grants, faculty members are translating research into viable solutions addressing problems in areas such as cancer treatments, wastewater treatment, veterinary science, and reproductive healthcare.

The Manning Innovation Program was originally established in 2019 with $1 million in seed funding from the Mannings and was initially open only to CNS faculty.

“When we established the Manning Innovation Program almost three years ago, our goal was to fund brilliant minds as they tackled some of the world’s biggest problems,” Paul Manning said. “But the program’s success has surpassed our expectations, which is why we are investing in its expansion. We look forward to seeing many more innovative solutions that are sure to make a global impact.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Jianhan Chen, a UMass Amherst chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology professor, has received a five-year, $2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to support research in his computational biophysics lab aimed at better understanding the role of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) in biology and human disease.

The grant falls under the National Institute of General Medical Sciences MIRA program, which stands for Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award. It’s designed to give highly talented researchers more flexibility and stability to achieve important scientific advances in their labs.

“The MIRA award enables us to continue working on several central problems regarding the study of disordered proteins and dynamic interactions. The flexibility of this funding mechanism also allows us to follow new research directions as they emerge,” Chen said.

Until relatively recently, it was thought that proteins needed to adopt a well-defined structure to perform their biological function. But about two decades ago, he explained, IDPs were recognized as a new class of proteins that rely on a lack of stable structures to function. They make up about one-third of proteins that human bodies make, and two-thirds of cancer-associated proteins contain large, disordered segments or domains.

“This disorder seems to provide some unique functional advantage, and that’s why we have so much disorder in certain kinds of proteins,” Chen said. “These IDPs play really important roles in biology, and when something breaks down, they lead to very serious diseases, like cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.”

In his lab, Chen and colleagues focus on using computer simulations to model the molecular structure and dynamics of proteins. “IDPs are a mess; it’s difficult to determine the details of their properties because they are not amenable to traditional techniques that are designed to resolve stable protein structures,” he noted.

Because of their chaotic state, IDPs must be described using ensembles of structures, and computer simulations play a crucial role in the quantitative description of these disordered ensembles. “Our goal is really trying to combine simulation and experiments in collaboration with other labs to tease out what are the hidden features of these disordered proteins that are crucial to their function,” Chen said. “Then we can look at how these specific features might be perturbed by disease-related mutations or conditions.”

The next step would be to develop effective strategies for targeting disordered protein states. Toward that end, Chen’s lab will study the molecular basis of how the anti-cancer drug EGCG, an antioxidant found in green-tea extract, and its derivatives interact with the p53 gene, a tumor suppressor and the most important protein involved in cancer.

The key, he explained, is knowing how to design drug molecules to bind well enough to IDPs to achieve a therapeutic effect. Traditional, structure-based drug design strategies are faced with significant challenges, he noted, because IDPs do not contain stable, “druggable” pockets.

“We believe that targeting IDPs requires new strategies that explore the dynamic nature of IDP interactions,” he said. “If we can do this, it could really open up a whole class of drugs that were previously thought impossible.”

Daily News

AMHERST — A collaboration among UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and Salem State University to work together to decarbonize each campus has been recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources with a Leading by Example (LBE) Award, which was presented to representatives from each campus at a ceremony earlier this month.

The LBE Awards recognize Commonwealth agencies, public colleges and universities and municipalities, and public-sector staff and volunteers for outstanding efforts related to clean energy and the environment that have resulted in measurable impacts.

The four-campus collaboration began during fiscal year 2020-21, when all four campuses decided to undertake a collaborative strategic planning process to decarbonize their campuses. Representatives from each campus held a series of meetings to allow for a free exchange of ideas, challenges, and lessons learned so that others might get a better result. The group kept various state agencies abreast of their discussions and how the work may affect formulating new policy. The group is also committed to sharing their information with similar institutions and agencies across the commonwealth.

To qualify for the award, the campuses had to meet various criteria, including sustainable practices, environmental benefits, cost savings, and education and outreach efforts.

The UMass Amherst Carbon Mitigation Taskforce is co-chaired by Ezra Small, sustainability manager for the UMass Amherst physical plant; and Dwayne Breger, environmental conservation and clean-energy extension, School of Earth and Sustainability.

“I can’t think of a more important task than to develop a plan that transitions our campus energy system to 100% renewables and zero carbon emissions within the next 10 to 15 years, and I am grateful to have co-chaired the Carbon Mitigation Taskforce for UMass Amherst along with Dwayne Breger,” Small said. “I’m happy to have traded notes and shared best practices with my colleagues at the other awarded institutions to help each other along the way, and I think we are all at the forefront of the most crucial issue of our time of addressing climate change.”

Daily News

AMHERST — In the largest-ever nutritional comparison of beef and alternative burgers available to U.S. consumers, a UMass Amherst analysis found that packaged beef burgers on average contain more calories, protein, fat, and cholesterol — and less sodium and fiber — than imitation and veggie burgers.

On average, veggie burgers contain the least fat, the most carbohydrates, and the most vitamin A and vitamin C, while imitation burgers contain the most sodium, vitamin D, iron, and potassium.

The findings, based on an analysis of 158 products — 89 veggie burgers, 41 conventional burgers, and 28 imitation burgers — were published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition.

Sensory scientist and senior author Alissa Nolden, assistant professor of Food Science at UMass Amherst, said surveys have shown that consumers are very concerned about the nutritional value of meat-free burgers on the market. “In one survey, taste was a huge reason why consumers were adopting changes, but nutrition was also a primary concern. And the top nutritional concern was protein.”

Nolden compiled and analyzed the data with a team of students and co-authors, including then-high-schooler Natalie Goeler-Slough, who had won a Massachusetts Life Sciences Center apprenticeship. Goeler-Slough, a native of Northampton, is now studying at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

Even as meat-eating increases globally, UMass Amherst food scientists are at the forefront of efforts to develop healthier, better-tasting, and sustainable plant-based foods that mimic fish, milk, cheese, and eggs, as well as meat.

Nolden, as a sensory scientist, focuses on the complexities of creating products to enhance food enjoyment. She noted the huge nutritional variability in the burger products on the market, which is important for consumers to be aware of when substituting beef for non-meat burgers.

“There are tons of options for consumers to try, and they might not be aware of the nutritional differences,” she said. “The goal of this study wasn’t to say one product category is healthier than the other. We wanted to look at the nutrients, which can sometimes become a lower priority during product development because there is a strong focus on making the product taste delicious.”

Consumers who read nutritional labels closely can make better choices about their needs. “If you’re looking to reduce your overall calories, then veggie burgers could be beneficial for some consumers,” Nolden said. “People who are looking to consume veggie burgers don’t need them to taste like meat; they can embrace the flavors and textures of those veggie ingredients. Unlike imitation meat, veggie burgers don’t have to have as much protein as conventional burgers, which was a finding of this study.”

It’s more challenging to develop imitation burgers that are trying to match conventional burgers in their appearance, texture, taste, and amount of protein. “You might think that, because an imitation burger is plant-based, it would be lower in things like saturated fat, when, in fact, in order to make it taste better, they incorporate things like coconut oil,” she noted.

The burger-development industry is the most important target of the study’s findings, which Nolden said can help food scientists identify areas that need nutritional improvement.

The paper concludes, that “these findings can help to inform future work related to determining important nutritional drivers for consumer acceptance and consumption, improving the nutritional content of the alternative product to match conventional products, and informing on the potential nutritional implications of consuming a diet consisting of sustainable or plant-based products.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Two visionary financial gifts have provided a strong foundation for UMass Amherst nurses and engineers to collaborate and lead transformational change in patient care, nursing practice, and medical-product development.

In May, alumni Michael and Theresa Hluchyj, longtime supporters of both the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, committed $1 million in seed funding for a collaborative center. Building on their prior philanthropy devoted to graduate fellowships, their vision was to help foster partnerships between the two disciplines to identify issues and develop innovative solutions.

“Innovation is often accelerated at the intersection of different academic disciplines,” Michael Hluchyj said when announcing the gift. “The worldwide health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic make clear the critical need for innovative solutions in clinical settings where both nursing and engineering play vital roles.”

Inspired by the transformational possibilities enabled by the Hluchyjs’ generosity, in September, the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation gave a gift of $21.5 million to the College of Nursing, with a significant portion designated to support the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation.

“The innovative nursing engineering program currently being launched at the university was clearly the catalyst for capturing the interest of the foundation and is consistent with Elaine’s own spirit of innovation in learning,” said Martin Wasmer, Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation trustee.

In the few short months since the foundation gift was announced, the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation has established an initial laboratory footprint on the sixth floor of Life Sciences Laboratories, said center co-directors Frank Sup, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Karen Giuliano, Nursing and Institute for Applied Life Sciences.

The center also currently supports two graduate fellowships and is accepting pilot grant applications from interdisciplinary nursing and engineering teams. Its first postdoctoral fellow and undergraduate interns are expected to begin work next summer.

As a nurse-innovator with experience in both clinical care and product development during her many years in industry, Giuliano says involving nurses in the earliest stages of the development process is crucial.

“As the nation’s largest group of healthcare professionals, nurses use more products and are a part of more services than any other healthcare professional,” she said. “Traditionally, nurses have not been included as part of the healthcare innovation process — the Elaine Marieb Center intends to change that.”

Sup added that “the mission is to advance human health and wellness by training the next generation of nurses and engineers to be leaders at the frontiers of healthcare delivery. The nurse-engineer approach represents a powerful, integrated, real-time collaboration to identify healthcare problems, iterate potential solutions, evaluate outcomes, and balance tradeoffs to optimize system performance and patient care.”

The Elaine Marieb Center has already established itself as a Center of Excellence for improving the safety and usability of IV smart pumps. Intravenous (IV) infusion pump systems are among the most pervasive technologies in healthcare, used by about 90% of hospital patients, and have numerous well-known safety and usability issues that have a negative impact on patient care. This program of research is being led by Giuliano, with results from 16 publications representing both research and thought already disseminated.

More recently, the center research is focused on flow-rate accuracy during actual clinical use, with a series of studies being led by Jeannine Blake, MS, RN. Starting in July, Blake will be the first nursing doctoral student to enter an engineering postdoctoral fellowship, with mentorship from Juan Jiménez, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, who uses fluid flow engineering principles to better understand human systems.

Under Sup’s leadership, the center is also starting research on the use of robotics in healthcare. It teams doctoral students from both engineering and nursing, as well as an undergraduate nursing honors student, to identify challenges and develop robotic solutions to improve healthcare delivery for patients and providers.

A longer-term goal enabled by the Elaine Marieb Foundation gift will be the establishment of a lab at the university’s Mount Ida campus, which will provide a place for healthcare product and service testing with a diverse group of nurses and other frontline clinical end users.

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Dining Services has been awarded $319,000 by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation for its “Strategies to Onboard Kelp into College Dining Programs” project.

Between 2013 and 2020, the Kendall Foundation’s gift of $1,395,000 supported UMass Dining’s commitment to local, healthy and sustainable sourcing. As an example, the Real Food Challenge initiative of 20% ‘real food’ by 2020 — a goal UMass Dining exceeded, achieving 29% — was supported by this funding. In addition, the grant supported infrastructure improvements, relationship building, promotional campaigns, local partnerships, innovative programs, and regional convening for key stakeholders.

Ken Toong, executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises, is excited and proud of his team, noting that “we’ve been fortunate and grateful to have the Henry P. Kendall Foundation’s support for many years. Our team, even through the pandemic, never lost sight of our mission and continued to source from our local partners. It’s a great opportunity and an honor to be able to partner with Atlantic Sea Farms to continue to push the needle for more local, sustainable, and healthy items to add to our menu.”

This two-year project will introduce nutrient-dense, regeneratively grown New England kelp into the UMass Dining program as a choice for students and an opportunity for climate action. UMass Dining is partnering with New England-based Atlantic Sea Farms on the project as an innovative leader in the kelp industry on the East Coast. Atlantic Sea Farms offers not only kelp products, but expertise in the climate impact of growing and eating kelp, as well as the volume necessary for a large campus dining program. This partnership with Atlantic Sea Farms will drive normalization and inclusion of kelp on university menus.

Briana Warner, president and CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms, is excited about the partnership and what the future will hold. “We are really excited to work with the incredible dining team at UMass to introduce fresh, regenerative kelp to students. College students are increasingly aware of the choices that we make every day that affect their health and the environment, and we are creating an entirely new food system here in New England that is helping communities not only adapt to climate change, but also mitigate some of its effects. By partnering with UMass, we are hoping to help give students tasty, healthy ways to incorporate Maine-grown, fresh kelp into their everyday lives so we can all, together, create a more resilient and climate-friendly food system.”

Along with recipe and concept development, UMass Dining plans to engage students by integrating kelp into its Low Carbon Dining campaign and its Diet for a Cooler Planet campaign. This project aims to lay the path for replication so that kelp can be introduced to menus in college and university dining programs across the country.

Daily News

UMass is looking for a new head football coach. Again.

Yes, the Walt Bell era is over. Not quite three years in, and after a bad loss to the University of Rhode Island at home (and on homecoming weekend), Bell was fired. This was a bad loss not because of the score (35-22), but because URI plays one division down from UMass. And such a setback inevitably triggers discussion of why UMass is in that higher division to begin with.

Indeed, this loss, coupled with Bell’s firing, has brought out some new calls for UMass to end its experiment with big-time football and go back to where it was — playing schools like URI every weekend, and even beating some of them. Often, quite a few of them.

Those calls make sense. UMass has been trying to succeed in the Football Championship Subdivision for almost a decade now. It is not only not making any progress, it is going backward. The team has simply not been competitive on the field, as the scores would indicate — a 51-7 loss to Pittsburgh, 53-3 to Coastal Carolina, 59-3 to Florida State, and 62-17 to Liberty — and in recent years, the program has become nothing short of an embarrassment to the school.

If one were an optimist, one would point to the success of the school’s hockey team, which returned to Division 1 in 1993 and last spring won a national championship, as reason to stay with this experiment and press on. But this situation calls for realism, not optimism. And realistically speaking, UMass is simply not positioned to succeed with this experiment. It’s not the coach, and it’s not the stadium, or the lack of one befitting a school at the top tier. It comes down to the fact that it’s very, very difficult to succeed at this level. It takes money, facilities, a passionate fan base, and a foundation on which to build.

UMass doesn’t have any of those things, really, and neither does another school that should give up the ghost when it comes to the Football Championship Subdivision: UConn, the only school UMass has beaten this year.

Coach Walt Bell is gone, but the problem remains. UMass is in over its head. And it’s time to come back to shore.

Daily News

AMHERST — In an effort to defend science and combat misinformation, Richard Peltier, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, has started writing a free, weekly newsletter called Up in the Air on Substack, a digital subscription newsletter platform.

Peltier, an expert in air pollution, aims to offer “objective analysis of science — mostly air quality and health, but occasionally dipping my toes in other directions where I might have something to say.”

He conducted urgent research at the start of the pandemic to test whether healthcare workers could safely reuse face masks designed for one-time use. In general, using innovative approaches and novel designs and applications of instrumentation, he focuses his research on advancing knowledge of particulate matter and its impact on human health.

Peltier’s expertise is often sought by national media outlets and such agencies as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization, for which he serves on the Global Air Pollution and Health Technical Advisory Group.

He invites “anyone who wants to learn — policymakers, journalists, students, or anyone who wonders about their environment” — to check out Up in the Air. “If you are curious about science, this newsletter is for you.”

Subscribe for free at 20000breaths.substack.com/about.

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst announced that, as part of Robert and Donna Manning’s recent historic $50 million gift to the University of Massachusetts, $18 million will endow the newly named Robert and Donna Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences.

At the same time, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $75 million commitment that will enhance and expand the college’s facilities. The state grant, which will be allocated over the course of multiple future capital plans, is backed by a $30 million commitment from the campus for the expanded physical footprint of the college.

These combined investments will allow the college to continue to grow and fuel new discoveries in computing research. It will attract top faculty, increase access to its nationally ranked program, and offer scholarships, bridge programs, and peer mentoring to foster a diverse and ethical future workforce. Since 2018, the college has committed to doubling the amount of undergraduate and graduate students, and the gift and grant will help accelerate that goal.

The Robert and Donna Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences ranks among the top 20 computer science programs in North America and boasts the 11th-ranked artificial intelligence (AI) program. United around a revolutionary vision for computing research and education, known as Computing for the Common Good, the college is driving scientific discovery in key areas such as healthcare, sustainability, cybersecurity, quantum information systems, and human-centered technology. Its research is focused on some of the most demanding challenges of today, including ensuring that AI is equitable, safe, and applied in positive ways, creating technologies that protect personal privacy and safeguard children from online predators.

“I have been very focused on the ethical application of new technologies, which both enhance and complicate our lives,” said Robert Manning, who is chairman of MFS Investment Management and the longtime chair of the UMass board of trustees. “The future of computing will cure diseases and solve some of the world’s greatest challenges, but will also be incredibly disruptive, particularly to the workforce. The College of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass Amherst, with its groundbreaking research and top-notch faculty, is well-positioned to be a leader in building a framework for Computing for the Common Good. Donna and I are proud to invest in this incredibly important initiative.”

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy added that “it’s an exciting time for UMass Amherst, and we’re incredibly grateful for this gift from the Manning family and funding commitment from the Commonwealth. We are committed to contributing to an inclusive and innovative society, and we know these gifts will help our institution harness technology’s power to drive this change.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Two employees who have been coordinating UMass Amherst’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March were recently honored by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy for their efforts.

Ann Becker, campus Public Health director and a clinical associate professor in the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, and Jeffrey Hescock, executive director of Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management, were awarded the Chancellor’s Medal at a recent tribute dinner. Hescock and Becker are the co-directors of the university’s Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC), which has been the home to the UMass COVID testing and vaccination programs. The Chancellor’s Medal is the highest honor the campus bestows on individuals, and is given for exemplary and extraordinary service to the university.

“When the global pandemic abruptly descended upon us in March 2020, beginning one of the most challenging times in our almost 160-year history, the university looked to Ann Becker and Jeff Hescock,” Subbaswamy said. “Ann and Jeff worked together before on urgent issues of campus public health and safety, including their successful effort to stem a campus meningitis outbreak. When COVID-19 hit, they once again combined their respective expertise in public health and emergency management to quickly develop a response strategy for the campus.”

Together, Becker and Hescock established the PHPC, which became one of the largest asymptomatic COVID testing resources in the commonwealth. Applying their knowledge to each new challenge in the pandemic, they continually evolved the PHPC from a testing site to a vaccination clinic as well. And when the Delta variant appeared on campus this fall, they redoubled their efforts to keep the campus safe, Subbaswamy noted.

“For more than 18 months, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Ann and Jeff have shouldered an unrelenting amount of responsibility,” he said in his tribute, noting that “they have done so with grace, humility, and humor.”

Business of Aging

An Impactful Gift

 

Allison Vorderstrasse says the $21.5 million gift from the Marieb Foundation

Allison Vorderstrasse says the $21.5 million gift from the Marieb Foundation will allow the nursing program to move forward with its mission more rapidly.

 

Transformative.

Allison Vorderstrasse acknowledged that this is a powerful word with specific meaning; it is not, or should not be, used arbitrarily.

But when it comes to the $21.5 million donation from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation to UMass Amherst, and, more specifically, its College of Nursing — the largest single gift ever given to the school — that descriptive adjective certainly fits.

“We know that, in order to transform care, we must first transform education,” said Vorderstrasse, dean of the school of Nursing, noting that the school will now bear the name of the woman who graduated with a master’s degree from the program in 1985 and passed away in 2018. “As a center of discovery — and true to our namesake — the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing will inspire individual and collective growth as we help prepare tomorrow’s leaders and advance the field.

“This gift will support multiple areas of our mission that align so well with Elaine Marieb’s legacy,” she went on. “It will certainly allow us to move forward in those areas in a more rapid fashion than we could without it.

These areas include the university’s Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation, said Vorderstrasse, adding that the gift will also impact how the school delivers its curriculum and programs, enable enhanced use of simulation, and, perhaps most importantly, put more nurses in the pipeline at a time when they are desperately needed.

“There is a demand for nurses, obviously, and for us to be able to provide a program that can facilitate nurses coming into the profession, especially here in Western Massachusetts, where we’ve seen an even more dramatic nursing shortage, is an important part of our mission.”

When asked about the gift, how it came about, and what it means for the university and its Nursing program, Vorderstrasse started by talking about the message it sends and the trust it implies, something that’s very important to her.

Elaine Marieb

“What was really exciting to me was the enthusiasm at the foundation about honoring Elaine Marieb’s legacy in this way, and the faith and the trust that they had in us as an institution and a college to really make this gift transformative,” she explained. “They truly felt that the work we were doing was innovative, exciting, and, in many ways, unique, and this meant it was a good fit with her legacy and that they would see the impact of that gift. It was very exciting to hear the degree of enthusiasm that they had for what we do.”

For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Vorderstrasse about the many ways her program, and the university, intend to honor that trust and put this gift to work in ways that have far-reaching implications.

 

Paying It Forward

The gift from the Marieb Foundation, announced on Sept. 16, is only the latest significant donation to come to UMass in recent months.

It comes after a $50 million gift from Rob and Donna Manning aimed at increasing access and opportunity across the five-campus university system (see story on page 28), and a $170 million gift from the Morningside Foundation to UMass Medical School, further positioning the university as a leading public education institution in the nation.

Together, these donations provide growing evidence that the system and its individual programs are growing in stature and reputation and are “well-positioned to advance education, research, and access for students at scale in the Commonwealth,” said UMass President Marty Meehan in a prepared statement.

Vorderstrasse echoed those sentiments and noted that this latest gift — again, the largest ever given to UMass Amherst — creates more momentum, enthusiasm, and exposure for the school at a pivotal time in its history.

“It’s such an exciting time for the whole university to see this come in,” she said, “because it says that the foundation and others who have been good friends of the university for a long time really do feel that this is a pivotal time to support UMass.”

Meanwhile, the $21.5 million gift is only the latest of many from Marieb and the foundation she created to area schools. Previously, she had made gifts of more than $2 million for campus-wide scholarships at UMass Amherst. She and the foundation have also made several gifts to Holyoke Community College and its Center for Life Sciences, which now bears her name.

Marieb, a Northampton native, died in 2018 at age 82, and ranks among the nation’s most influential nursing educators. As noted, she earned a master’s degree from UMass Amherst’s College of Nursing in 1985 with a specialization in gerontology. Prior to that, she received a Ph.D. in zoology from the College of Natural Sciences at UMass in 1969. She also held degrees from Holyoke Community College, Fitchburg State College, Mount Holyoke College, and Westfield State College. Her distinguished career included time teaching at Springfield College and Holyoke Community College.

Ultimately, Marieb became the author or co-author of more than 10 bestselling textbooks and laboratory manuals on anatomy and physiology after she started writing textbooks to address complaints from her nursing students that the materials then available were ineffective. Her work has been read by more than 3 million nurses and healthcare professionals practicing today.

Marieb’s impact on nursing education will only become more profound with the foundation’s latest gift, said Vorderstrasse, adding that it comes after six to nine months of collaborative discussions with foundation leaders about nursing education, the UMass program, and its mission moving forward.

In many ways, the nursing engineering program, launched last January, became a catalyst for the gift. Seed-funded by other donors and friends of the School of Nursing, the initiative was conceptualized to support graduate students in their research training and experience at UMass across various disciplines, Vorderstrasse explained.

“It functions at that nexus of healthcare, engineering, and healthcare professionals, especially nurses, and the development and application of new technologies or even existing technologies — how we apply those in an ethical manner and develop them in such a way that takes into consideration patients and the people who will use them, as well as nurses who are on the front lines using these technologies.

“We hope that it will evolve into a center that collaborates not only on our campus, but with industry partners, because Massachusetts is a hub for healthcare technology,” she went on, adding that the grant from the Marieb Foundation will fund research at the center, especially new initiatives and pilot programs that need seed funding to get off the ground.

Meanwhile, the gift will be used to help expand the nursing programs and put more nurses into the pipeline, she said. Plans call for student scholarships to be expanded to improve access for underrepresented students, and to link scholarships to academic and professional success.

Elaborating, Vorderstrasse said the traditional bachelor’s-degree program graduates roughly 65 students each year and sees more than 2,000 applicants for those seats.

Expansion of that program will be incremental, perhaps eight to 10 students at a time, she told BusinessWest, adding that a program like this cannot, and should not, double in size overnight. But over a period of years, growth can be achieved that will make a significant impact in the number of nurses entering the field.

Growth is also projected for what’s known as the second-degree nursing program, for individuals who have a degree in another field and want to venture into nursing, said Vorderstrasse, adding that this program currently graduates roughly 90 students each year.

 

Bottom Line

Getting back to the word transformative, it is saved for those occasions when someone or something can bring about profound, meaningful change.

The someone in this case, Marieb, has already done so much to change the landscape when it comes to nursing education. The something is a gift, the latest of many, that will accelerate the pace of growth and progress for the Nursing program and enable more people to earn degrees there.

As Vorderstrasse said, that adjective ‘transformative’ certainly fits in this case.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

AMHERST — Arwen Staros Duffy, currently assistant vice president for Development at the University of Southern California (USC), has been named vice chancellor for advancement at UMass Amherst. Duffy will begin her new position Nov. 15.

Duffy has served in her leadership role at USC since 2014. She oversaw record fundraising efforts for the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Gould School of Law, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, Price School of Public Policy, Rossier School of Education, and Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work as part of the Campaign for USC. Previously, she served as senior vice president for Development and External Affairs at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

A Yale University graduate in art, she was also vice president of Advancement for the California Institute of the Arts, where she earned her MFA in 1994. Duffy began her career in higher-education advancement at UCLA, where she secured support for the School of the Arts and Architecture and College of Letters and Science.

“Arwen Duffy possesses an extraordinary range of experience and expertise that will advance the mission of UMass Amherst as we seek new heights of philanthropic support for our revolutionary aspirations,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said. “Her most recent success at USC, a distinguished national university, as well as her deep knowledge of the arts, demonstrates the skill, creativity, and leadership that she will bring to UMass.”

Added Duffy, “public universities play a special role in advancing knowledge for the public good, and I embrace UMass Amherst’s commitment to create a better, more just world. It is a privilege to join the commonwealth’s flagship university at a time when philanthropy is playing a vital role in fueling its mission. This month’s extraordinary gifts to the Marieb College of Nursing will make a lasting impact in the lives of UMass students and their future patients, and I am grateful to interim Vice Chancellor Theresa Curry and the Advancement team for their dedication to engaging alumni, parents, friends, and neighbors in advocacy and support.”

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst announced it has received a gift of $21.5 million from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation. The university’s College of Nursing will become the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, named for the late UMass Amherst nursing alumna and bestselling textbook author Elaine Nicpon Marieb.

The gift will advance the university’s innovative nursing engineering center and also provide support for student scholarships, an endowed professorship, and mentorship and research initiatives designed to further access, equity, and excellence in nursing education.

This is the largest cash gift in UMass Amherst history and comes after Marieb had previously made gifts of more than $2 million for campus-wide scholarships, totaling more than $23.9 million given to the university by her and in her name.

“We are deeply grateful for this extraordinary gift from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said. “This gift is an endorsement of the vital role that our College of Nursing plays in preparing nurses for leadership in healthcare. It comes at a time when our society is confronted with unprecedented challenges — challenges that we strive to overcome through innovation, learning, and discovery inspired by one of our most distinguished and beloved graduates, Dr. Marieb herself.”

Martin Wasmer, Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation trustee, added that the foundation “is excited to expand the legacy of Elaine Marieb by partnering with UMass Amherst in naming the Marieb College of Nursing. The innovative nursing engineering program currently being launched at the university was clearly the catalyst for capturing the interest of the foundation and is consistent with Elaine’s own spirit of innovation in learning.”

According to College of Nursing Dean Allison Vorderstrasse, “the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing at UMass Amherst will shape the future of nursing in bold new ways. We know that, in order to transform care, we must first transform education. As a center of discovery — and true to our namesake — the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing will inspire individual and collective growth as we help prepare tomorrow’s leaders and advance the field. The foundation’s gift is evidence of the stature of our program and the impact we have on our students and the community.”

Daily News

AMHERST — Francine Berman, renowned data scientist, researcher, and co-founder of the Research Data Alliance, will join UMass Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) faculty this fall as a research professor and Stuart Rice Honorary Chair. She will work across the UMass campus to build and lead a new initiative in public-interest technology.

A leading researcher in the field of data science, Berman has focused her past work on the societal, ethical, and environmental impacts of information technology. Most recently, she has been working to ensure that the internet of things develops in ways that are beneficial for human society and the ecosystem, topics she explored as a 2019-20 Katherine Hampson Bessell Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She currently serves as the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Most people are part of the internet of things and don’t even realize it,” Berman said. “A Fitbit, a Tesla, your smartphone or pacemaker — all of these are connected, and they’re all gathering and sharing information.”

Most of the time, all that information-sharing makes our lives easier, but sometimes it doesn’t, as when our identities are stolen or when discriminatory pricing is tied to our surfing preferences, she explained. “Technology should be good for us. It should be controlled by us, not the other way around.”

At UMass Amherst, Berman will lead a new initiative focusing on public-interest technology. The initiative will blend teaching and research with hands-on practice and provide students, alumni, and the community with tools to reap the benefits and minimize the risks of the technological world we live in. This initiative will span the university’s Amherst and Mount Ida campuses, leveraging the Newton location for outreach and student experiential learning.

Berman’s academic expertise has translated to an extensive career in public service. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities in 2015. In recognition of her service-focused work, she was selected by the National Academy of Public Administration for inclusion in its 2020 class of Academy Fellows.

In 2012, she co-founded the Research Data Alliance (RDA), a community-driven international organization that builds global infrastructure to enable data sharing and data-driven research. Since its launch in 2012, RDA has attracted nearly 12,000 members from more than 130 countries and has built data infrastructure in use by groups and projects all over the world.

Berman has also served in academic leadership roles, including as vice president for Research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and director of the National Science Foundation’s Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, a consortium of 41 research groups, institutions, and university partners with the mission of developing national infrastructure to support data-intensive and computationally intensive applications.

Berman is a fellow of the Assoc. of Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science. Before joining RPI, she taught at Purdue University as an assistant professor and at the University of California San Diego as a professor. She earned her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Washington.

“I love the mission of public universities,” she said. “I’m excited to join the UMass community, where social responsibility is at the forefront of so many people’s work, from students to faculty to leadership. And CICS, with its mission of computing for the common good, will be a wonderful new home.”

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst’s Jim Kurose, distinguished university professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences and associate chancellor for Partnerships and Innovation, is part of the research team recently awarded a $20 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to build the internet of the future.

The grant, which will support the AI Institute for Future Edge Networks and Distributed Intelligence (AI-EDGE), is led by Ness Shroff, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering at Ohio State University. The funding supports a core team of 30 scientists from 11 collaborating educational institutions, three U.S. Department of Defense labs, and four global software companies.

AI-EDGE is one of 11 new, NSF-funded Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes, and its ultimate goal is to “design future generations of wireless edge networks that are highly efficient, reliable, robust, and secure, and facilitate solving long-standing distributed AI challenges.”

An edge network, Kurose explained, is simply the network that each one of us connects to. “The internet is a network of networks,” he said, “and every time you surf the internet using a wireless connection, you start at the edge. That’s where you connect.” There are hundreds of millions of such edge networks, and with providers beginning to offer 5G access, with 6G in the not-too-distant future, they’re only becoming more numerous.

The challenge is how to best control and manage these networks to provide high-performance, secure, and robust service. This is where AI (artificial intelligence) comes in.

Just as much of the internet has moved to the edge, so, too, is AI moving outward from a centralized, core location. Not only is the team using AI for networking to solve the problems of speed, reliability, and security, but it’s also helping to network AI and get the technology out to the edges, where it can do the most good.

“We’re looking for anywhere from 10 times to 100 times better performance, along with better robustness and security, than the best these networks can offer today,” Kurose said.

Faster speeds and more information mean more data that can be used to make better decisions — and this is where Kurose comes in. “My research will focus on how you monitor and make sense of all the incoming data, in real time, to ensure that performance and security remain robust.”

Kurose will also co-lead the team’s effort in broadening participation. He’ll be working with middle- and high-school students, with a focus on under-represented groups, to bring them into the world of AI, as well as running a Women in AI program that will be open to girls and women from kindergarten through graduate school.

Daily News

NEWTON — As the Greater Boston business community prepares for a post-COVID-19 environment, the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst is opening co-working space for startup or small companies interested in co-locating with the state’s flagship public research university.

The Innovation and Collaboration Space on UMass Amherst’s Newton campus includes co-working office and lab space, with an additional makerspace planned in the near future.

The co-working office space features 20 individual workspaces, available for rent on a weekly or monthly basis, with access to shared conference rooms. In addition to the opportunity to network with other businesses, the co-working space, located in the Campus Center, allows for interaction with UMass Amherst faculty, staff, and students. The Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network and CoachUp will be among the first tenants in the co-working space.

The co-working laboratory space offers 26 individual benches available for rent on a monthly basis. Companies utilizing the lab space have access to the core facilities on the university’s main campus in Amherst. It is aligned with the lab space-rental program of the UMass Amherst Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS). Newton-headquartered nanotechnology company Xheme Inc. will be the first tenant in the lab space.

“The co-working lab space allows companies to access core research facilities at UMass Amherst,” said Kathryn Ellis, director of the UMass Amherst Innovation Institute. “Companies that choose to co-locate with us can also build long-lasting and valuable relationships with UMass Amherst faculty and students.”

Consistent with the campus mission and strategic plan, Innovation and Collaboration Space members are expected to provide professional-development opportunities for UMass Amherst students, including informational interviews, job shadowing, and networking opportunities.

“As a center for student experiential learning and professional development, we’re building a campus environment where UMass Amherst students conducting internships or co-ops in Greater Boston also get exposure to different industries while living here,” said Mount Ida Campus Managing Director Jeff Cournoyer. “The intent is for these companies to grow and ‘graduate’ to larger spaces in the region, but while they’re here they’ll be accessible to students — and potential future employees ­­— who want to learn about their business.”

The Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst is located at 100 Carlson Ave. in Newton, within the N-Squared Innovation District, five minutes from I-95 and eight miles from downtown Boston. The campus offers Innovation and Collaboration Space tenants free parking, award-winning UMass Dining, outdoor recreational facilities, and on-site conference and event space.

A 6,000-square-foot collaborative maker space is also in development on the Mount Ida Campus.

Education

Maintaining Momentum

Anne Massey

Anne Massey says that early on, she told faculty and staff at Isenberg that the pandemic was not to be looked at as “a short-term problem we’re just trying to solve.” Instead, it has been a learning experience on many levels.

 

When Anne Massey arrived at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst in the late summer of 2019, she came with a lengthy set of plans, goals, and ambitions for an institution that was steadily moving up in the ranks of the nation’s business schools and determined to further enhance its reputation.

The overarching plan was to decide what was being done right, what could be done better, and how the school could continue and even accelerate its ascendency with those rankings.

Massey was already making considerable headway with such initiatives when COVID-19 arrived just eight months later and turned normalcy on its ear. But she was determined not to let the pandemic create a loss of focus or momentum.

And almost 16 months after students went home for a spring break from which they would not return, she can say with a great deal of confidence that she has succeeded with that broad mission.

In fact, the pandemic may in some ways have even created more momentum for Isenberg, which is now the top-ranked public business school in the Northeast.

Indeed, those at the school have used the past 15 months as a valuable learning experience, said Massey, who was most recently the chair of the Wisconsin School of Business. She stressed repeatedly that this was a time, as challenging as it was, not to simply get through or survive, and as a homework assignment for her staff, she strongly recommended Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle Is the Way — The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph.

“I said early on that we’re not going to be looking at this pandemic, and all the things that it wrought for us in terms of remote teaching, remote learning, and remote work, as a short-term problem that we’re just trying to solve,” she explained. “I said that we’re going to learn things, and we’re going to carry them over to when we came back and be better than we were in March of 2020.”

She believes the school will be better because of how it has learned to use technology to do things differently and in some ways better than before, but also because of the many experiences working together as a team to address challenges and find solutions.

“I said early on that we’re not going to be looking at this pandemic, and all the things that it wrought for us in terms of remote teaching, remote learning, and remote work, as a short-term problem that we’re just trying to solve. I said that we’re going to learn things, and we’re going to carry them over to when we came back and be better than we were in March of 2020.”

Moving forward, Massey said those at Isenberg, whether they’ve read Holiday’s book or not, are responding well to the notion of looking at obstacles as opportunities and not letting challenges, even global pandemics, stand in the way of achieving goals and improving continuously.

As she noted, this mindset will serve the institution well in the future as it and all of its many competitors prepare to return to normal, but not a world exactly like the one that existed 16 months ago.

“It was also obvious to me in March and April of 2020 that everyone was going to be forced to be remote, at least for some period of time,” she said. “We’d been in the online space for 20 years, so we were ahead of the game. But now, suddenly, everyone was going to be playing the game. They weren’t all going to be good at it; some of them still aren’t good at it, but think they are.

“But now, there are going to be more people joining this competitive space,” she went on. “And some of them have more resources than we do. So we needed to say, ‘we’re just going to keep plowing forward. We need to be better than they were because that’s the only way we’re going to maintain our competitive position.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked at length with Massey about her challenging and, in many ways, intriguing first two years at the helm at Isenberg, and especially about how the school will take the experiences from the pandemic and use them to make the school, as she said, better than it was before anyone heard of COVID-19.

 

Getting Down to Business

The lawn signs were first introduced a year or so ago.

They say ‘Destination Isenberg,’ and were intended to be placed on the front lawns of the homes of students bound for the school — enrollment in which is increasingly becoming a point of pride.

While those first signs to be issued were technically accurate, many of the students didn’t have the Amherst campus as their actual destination because of COVID, said Massey, adding that that the latest signs — they’re at the printer now and will be distributed soon — speak the full truth: students will be back in the fall.

There will be a party in August to welcome them to campus, and planning continues for an orientation that will feature programs and events not only for freshmen but also the sophomores who couldn’t enjoy such an experience last fall because of the pandemic. As part of those celebrations, there will be recognition of the national-champion UMass hockey team, which included 15 players who are enrolled at Isenberg.

The students will be coming back to the ultra-modern, $62 million Isenberg Innovation Hub, which opened in January 2019 and sat mostly quiet for the bulk of the pandemic. They’ll be coming back to a school now ranked 53rd in the country by U.S. News & World Report when it comes to undergraduate programs (34th among public schools).

The ‘Destination Isenberg’ signs soon to grace lawns

The ‘Destination Isenberg’ signs soon to grace lawns across the country will have real meaning this year, with the school back to fully in-person learning this fall.

They’ll be returning to a school where enrollment continues to grow even as competition increases and high-school graduating classes shrink. “We have the largest incoming class ever,” Massey said. “We have more than we probably should have, but we’ll deal with it.”

But they won’t be returning to the same school. Indeed, as she noted, they’ll be coming back to, or joining, an Isenberg that used the pandemic as a learning laboratory of sorts, one that will stand the school in good stead as it continues its quest for continuous improvement and movement up the rankings in an even more competitive environment.

She said this work actually started before the pandemic, soon after she arrived on the campus. She started with a survey that went out to faculty and staff that included three key questions:

• ‘What unexploited opportunities do you see for Isenberg?’

• ‘What’s standing in our way of those opportunities?’ and

• ‘Given what you know, what do you think Anne Masse should focus on for the next year?’

She received a 95% response rate to that survey, and the answers provided considerable fodder for discussion at what would eventually be more than 30 meetings with various groups within the school, including faculty and staff.

She then developed five key priorities for maintaining and enhancing the school’s reputation for excellence and went “on the road,” as she put it, visiting alumni in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and other cities. These visits continued until the pandemic arrived, she said, adding that, while the road trips have to come to a halt, the work of developing these priorities, identifying areas in which the school needs to invest, and shaping all this into a strategic plan have continued unabated.

Getting back to the pandemic, Massey actually had considerable experience on her résumé in the realm of research regarding virtual teams and how they function. And that work came in handy during the pandemic, especially as it related to communication, coordination, and relationships among individuals in those teams.

“We have the tools and technology that support communication and that support collaboration and coordination of our work,” she explained. “But the relationship building and maintaining relationships is something that people often don’t pay attention to. They get wrapped up in the work, and not the nature of the team and the relationships amongst the team members.”

Flashing back to March 2020, when students, faculty, and staff were sent home for spring break, Massey said she knew they wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon and that all operations, from teaching to recruiting to development, would have to go remote.

“I knew that we had the tools, but what we really needed to focus on were the connections,” she told BusinessWest, adding that she soon launched what became knowns as the Dean’s Briefing, which, as that name suggests, was a briefing sent out to faculty and staff almost weekly.

“Sometimes it was a pat on the back, sometimes it was ‘I know how hard it is,’ sometimes it was personal, sometimes it was about what was going on at the university and what we thought the summer was going to look like and what the fall would look like; it was always about trying to keep people in the loop,” she said, adding that she encouraged the associate deans, the department, and others to do the same with their own group. “They needed to maintain communication that was positive and supportive.”

 

Driving Forces

At the same time, Massey emphasized the importance of the faculty engaging with students and helping them through a difficult and unprecedented time.

Because not all faculty members had taught online, or certainly to that extent, the school named five Isenberg teaching fellows, all of them experts in remote learning, who are assigned to one or a few departments and a cohort of faculty.

“They took the ball and ran with it,” Massey said, adding quickly that she wasn’t sure at first how this initiative would go over. “They had workshops, they had brown-bag lunches, they used Zoom, they coached people, they surfaced new best practices, they shared ideas … they even wrote a few research papers that have been published. They were phenomenal.”

Lessons learned from the pandemic and these teaching fellows will carry over into ‘normal’ times, she said, adding that she’s expecting to get back on the road in the fall and continue to push the five priorities for the school as it works to sustain and enhance its overall reputation for excellence, a key driver of those all-important rankings.

“They’re all about reputation in various ways,” Massey said of the rankings, of which there are many across several categories, from undergraduate offerings to part-time MBA programs. “The question that I asked over a year ago, and that I always ask, is ‘how might we sustain or advance our reputation for excellence in all we do? And excellence in terms of students and our quality of students, the quality of our faculty and their research, the placement of our students, what the recruiters think, and companies once students are working for them and they’re out a few years. Do they deliver the goods? All of that.”

Listing those priorities, which all intersect, she started with attracting exceptional students, which means more than those with the top GPAs. It also means achieving diversity and attracting students with a commitment to their communities, she said, adding that another priority is sustaining faculty excellence, especially at a time when business schools, and higher education in general, is facing what Massey described as a “looming retirement problem.”

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to attract and retain faculty; we’re not producing Ph.D.s at the rate that we probably need to,” she explained. “So I’m always thinking about how we can make this a good place for prospective faculty, and then, when we get them, how do we keep them? And how do we support them in their research efforts, and how do we support them becoming better teachers?”

Another priority is what Massey called “enabling career success,” which involves both current students and alumni, many of whom were impacted by the pandemic and the toll it took on employers in many sectors. To address this matter, she created an Office of Career Success and integrated the Chase Career Center with the school’s Business and Professional Communications faculty in an effort to expand services to alumni as well as current students.

Still other priorities include “creating global citizens and inclusive leaders” and “inspiring innovation in teaching and learning,” Massey said, adding that she wants Isenberg to be a significant player in business education, especially when it comes to advances in teaching and the use of emerging technology.

“How do we use 3D? What about augmented reality?” she asked, adding that these are just some of the questions she and others at the school are addressing. “One of our initiatives when it comes to inspiring innovation in teaching and learning is the creation of a ‘technology sandbox,’ a dedicated space where new and emerging technologies will be available for our faculty to play with and our staff to play with — because you can’t provide support for something if you don’t know how to use it — and for our students to play with.”

 

Positive Signs

Getting back to those lawn signs, Massey, who has one in her yard (her son attends the school), said they’re great exposure for Isenberg, especially outside of Massachusetts, where the name is somewhat less-known, but becoming better-known.

“It’s good to have them all over the country, and the students love them,” she said, adding that these are literal signs of growth and progress at Isenberg, but there are many others, from the record class for the fall of 2020 to its longstanding home at to the top of the rankings of public business schools in the Northeast — it’s been there since 2015.

There were signs of progress during the pandemic as well, she said, even if they’re harder to see. The school was determined not to lose momentum during that challenging time and to turn that obstacle into an opportunity.

Time will tell just how successful that mission was, but Massey already considers it a triumph for all those at the school.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy has been elected as a new member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He joins a distinguished roster of esteemed figures in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy, and public affairs honored by the prestigious academy for their leadership and dedication to excellence.

The academy was established in 1780 by the country’s founders, including John Adams and John Hancock, to provide guidance to a young nation that would face challenges and need expertise and excellence to emerge stronger. “We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” said David Oxtoby, president of the academy. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.”

According to UMass President Marty Meehan, “it is no surprise to any of us at UMass that the American Academy of Arts & Sciences recognizes what we see every day — Chancellor Subbaswamy is a transformational academic leader, and he continues to bring UMass Amherst to great heights.”

Added Subbaswamy, “I am grateful to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for this honor, particularly in light of those who have come before me, and with me. It inspires me to work harder to advance further the ideals and mission of the academy.”

Subbaswamy was elected into the academy as one of seven leaders in the educational and academic leadership section. Serving as chancellor since 2012, he is the 30th leader of UMass Amherst and has emerged as a popular and well-regarded chancellor for his pursuit of academic excellence, promotion of research and outreach, and initiatives aimed at addressing campus climate, diversity, and culture. He has also made sustainability a campus priority and is focused on strengthening community relationships, supporting area communities, and increasing access to the university’s academic and research resources.

He has overseen the opening of new cutting-edge academic, research, and athletic facilities, including the Commonwealth Honors College, the Integrative Learning Center, the Life Sciences Laboratories, a new physical sciences building, the Isenberg School of Management’s Business Innovation Hub, the Football Performance Center, and a newly renovated Student Union building. Additionally, he has presided over UMass Amherst’s dramatic rise in the U.S. News and World Report Guide to Colleges rankings, where the university currently sits at 26th among the nation’s top public research universities.

Daily News

By George O’Brien

For the past several years now, UMass Amherst athletics have been, well … under fire.

And the discussion has centered around two sports — the two sports most people focus on when they think of big-time college athletics, football and basketball.

The basketball team in Amherst has been mostly irrelevant since the Marcus Camby-led team that went to the national championship game a quarter-century ago. The football team … well, it’s been worse than irrelevant, if that’s possible. It’s been relevant for all the wrong reasons — atrocious records, historically poor defense, and endless talk that the school made a terribly wrong decision when it decided to move up to the big time and start playing with Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

With the UMass hockey team’s decisive 5-0 win over St. Cloud State in Pittsburgh on Saturday night, the school has a national championship to boast, and something else to talk about. Finally. This was a huge win for the team and the school and one that could redirect the discussion about athletics at the state’s flagship university.

How, exactly, we’re not sure. It could change ideas about just what this university is, a football or basketball school (the debate has raged for years). Maybe, just maybe, it’s a hockey school. It may change the debate about just how important those two ‘big’ sports are, really, when it comes to a school’s identity, or even its finances.

But we hope it changes the discussion when it comes to just what can happen if people are determined, patient, and the pieces finally fall into place. Remember, UMass dropped hockey — not once, but twice — over the past 80 years. When this writer was covering the team for the UMass Collegian in the late ’70s, it didn’t even have its own arena; home games were played at Amherst College’s Orr Rink.

When a rink was finally built and hockey was restored in 1993, a slow rebuilding process commenced that brought the team to some success, including a trip to the nationals in 2007. The final piece to the puzzle was the hiring of former St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel, who has recruited players that have bought UMass to two straight national championships. They knocked on the door in 2019, and on Saturday night, they stormed through it.

This team looks like it could be a powerhouse for a long, long time, although, certainly, nothing can be taken for granted.

There might be those thinking, ‘why can’t this be the football or basketball team?’ But that’s not the right way to think. First, it doesn’t have to one of those two sports; a school can build an identity in other ways when it comes to athletics. Second, if this team has done anything, it’s shown that it can happen with those sports. It might take time — it might take decades — but it can happen.

So this was a hard-earned victory to be celebrated — on many, many levels.

George O’Brien is editor and associate publisher of BusinessWest.

Daily News

AMHERST — The UMass Amherst College of Information and Computer Sciences will present an all-virtual symposium on “Computing for the Common Good” on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 16-17, from noon to 5 p.m.

The symposium will feature keynotes, research talks, and interactive discussions on applying computing and data science to society’s big problems. Attendees will learn about the ways UMass researchers are applying artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computing at scale to serve the common good.

Click here to register via Zoom.

Daily News

AMHERST — The Amherst Board of Health issued an emergency order that will continue the mandatory early-closing order and continue certain sector capacity limits, both of which were set to expire on Feb. 8.

The order to extend the 25% capacity ceiling and the 9:30 p.m. closing time for many industries indefinitely was adopted on Sunday, just as UMass Amherst officials raised the university’s risk level and shuttered in-person activities in the face of more than 400 active cases of COVID-19.

The town has been in close communication with officials from the towns of Hadley and Sunderland, which are considering similar measures.

“This is not the direction that we, as a town, nor our businesses, want to go, but it is imperative that the town take decisive action immediately to address this increase in cases,” Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said.

Added Public Health Director Emma Dragon, “it is in the interest of the health of our entire community that we continue the restrictions that are currently in place. Never has it been more important to follow those key public-health protocols of wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distance.”

Daily News

AMHERST — In partnership with Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, UMass Amherst announced it will expand its role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines, providing vaccinations for the foreseeable future in concert with the criteria and timeline of the state’s phased vaccination plan.

Currently, the Commonwealth is in phase one of vaccine distribution, with first responders, COVID-facing healthcare workers (including college health staff), and congregate care and shelter staff eligible to receive the vaccine at the UMass facility. All eligible individuals must schedule an appointment in advance for the vaccine at www.umass.edu/coronavirus/vaccine.

“We are proud to devote our time, energy, and expertise to expanding the Commonwealth’s vaccination program,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said. “This effort reflects our deep commitment to public service. Our clinic is staffed through the invaluable assistance of the UMass College of Nursing, with our nursing students providing critical support while also gaining clinical experience to administer vaccinations.”

The vaccination clinic, launched Jan. 11, is run by the university’s Public Health Promotion Center. This week, it will be open today, Jan. 20, from 1 to 6 p.m. Currently, the vaccine clinic is administering the Moderna vaccine, which includes two doses administered 28 days apart.

The clinic is being conducted at the UMass Amherst Campus Center, 1 Campus Center Way. Free parking is available at the nearby Campus Center Parking Garage. Times and hours of the clinic are likely to vary depending on vaccine availability and the state’s distribution plans. Visit the university’s vaccine website for updates.

Daily News

AMHERST — As part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to begin statewide vaccinations to deter the spread of COVID-19, UMass Amherst will establish a vaccine clinic for Massachusetts first responders starting the week of Jan. 11.

Individuals eligible to get vaccinated under state guidelines include police, fire, and emergency medical services professionals, who will need to show a professional ID or license confirming their status. All first responders in Massachusetts are eligible to schedule an online appointment in advance and come to UMass Amherst to receive the vaccine. For details, visit www.umass.edu/coronavirus/vaccine.

Plans developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health call for distribution of the Moderna vaccine, which includes two doses administered 28 days apart.

The clinic will be conducted at the UMass Amherst Campus Center, 1 Campus Center Way. Free parking will be available at the nearby Campus Center Parking Garage. All eligible individuals must register in advance for the two-dose vaccine at www.umass.edu/coronavirus/vaccine.

Daily News

AMHERST — For the first time, UMass Amherst has earned recognition in Princeton Review’s annual selection of Best Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs. In the publication’s 2021 list, the university ranks 40th among 50 colleges and universities.

Based on survey data from more than 300 schools, the rankings encompass a broad range of entrepreneurial activities inside and outside the classroom. The catalyst for student entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst is the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship. The center serves the entire campus through a wealth of activities and resources.

“Our mandate emphasizes participation and synergies on a pan-campus level,” said Gregory Thomas, executive director of the Berthiaume Center. “We may be physically based in Isenberg School of Management, but our mission is campus-wide.”

A former member of the UMass Amherst Foundation, Thomas was hired several years ago because of his extensive relationships with the campus’s deans and administrators. Since then, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and campus leaders have supported the center’s campus-wide vision, including creation earlier this year of a 13-member pan-campus team to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We want innovation and entrepreneurship to be more,” Thomas said. “To accomplish that, you have to start walking like you’re number one.”

Thomas noted that entrepreneurship courses and scholarships, faculty who focus on entrepreneurship, student competitions, student mentorship by entrepreneurs, and ventures by alumni and non-alumni all fall within the center’s purview. Its annual Innovation Challenge propels student startups through pitch contests and a final competition judged by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Last year, the finals awarded $65,000 in seed money to student startups. The center brings student innovators together from different disciplines for entrepreneurial collaborations and offers networking and mentorship with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academics, as well as an incubator space for student startups.

Daily News

AMHERST — A significant proportion of people infected by COVID-19, known as ‘long-haulers,’ suffer from prolonged symptoms and chronic fatigue, which can lead to long-term incapacities. Therefore, therapies that can be performed at home and accelerate physical recovery need to be developed.

UMass kinesiology researchers are currently comparing the effects of local heat therapy to exercise training on physical function in previously hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as heat therapy might be a more practical solution and still provide large gains in function for many patients. Volunteers are needed for this study.

Eligibility requirements include being between 55 and 85 years old, having a prolonged hospital stay (at least five days) due to a COVID-19-related infection, not being currently enrolled in a rehabilitation program, and having no prior history of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis. Participants will be compensated for their time.

Contact [email protected] with any questions or to express interest in participating in the study.

Daily News

AMHERST — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technology Office announced that a team led by Dwayne Breger, extension professor at UMass Amherst, has been selected for a three-year, $1.8 million award to study the effects of co-locating solar-energy panels and agriculture operations at up to eight different farms across the Commonwealth. The work will be in partnership with landowners, state agencies, solar developers, and a nonprofit farmland organization.

“Our objective with this award is to have the opportunity to do robust research to address the dearth of data on the impact of this solar approach to agricultural productivity and farm viability,” said Breger, who is also director of UMass Clean Energy Extension. “We need data on how the agriculture will perform and how the project economics will affect individual farms and the state agricultural economy as a whole.

“Right now,” he went on, “many communities don’t have the necessary experience to understand and manage the solar development that is coming, and farmers don’t have science-based facts to fully assess the opportunities that developers are proposing to them. Our project will do the research to allow us to help farmers and communities make informed decisions about the solar opportunities that are coming their way.”

Breger points out that two state agencies, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Energy Resources, are keenly interested in this project, as outcomes will provide the science to inform policy development.

Jody Jellison, director of the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and UMass Extension, noted that “the dual use of land for farming and solar energy has gotten many people excited about its potential. Now, with this new project, we’ll be able to begin developing data to quantify the agronomic and economic effects on farming to determine whether that excitement is warranted or not.”

Breger and research colleagues at UMass Extension, the UMass Cranberry Station, the campus’s Department of Resource Economics, and the American Farmland Trust will study the economic and social impact of solar-agriculture co-location on farms by establishing site trials and assessing crop productivity, soil health, and micro-climatic conditions. Sites will grow a range of crops, including pumpkins, strawberries, greens, winter squash, cranberries, other vegetables and fruit, hay, and grazing.

Farm partners are in Grafton, Carver, Dighton, Plympton, Hadley, Colrain, and Charlemont. Solar-developer partners BlueWave Solar, Pine Gate Renewables, and Hyperion Systems are dedicating portions of their commercial dual-use solar installations at these farms for research site trials enabling a robust research scope over varied agricultural conditions. Most site trials will get underway in March 2021 in time for the first planting, Breger said.

He and colleagues will also study public acceptance of solar-agriculture co-location and develop practical co-location management guidelines for growers, solar developers, and other relevant stakeholders. The DOE says it is interested in “research and analysis that enable farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural enterprises to gain value from solar technologies while keeping land available for agricultural purposes.”

Breger noted that UMass Amherst’s Crop Animal Research and Education Center and farm in South Deerfield hosts one of the state’s first dual-use solar-agricultural installations, giving the campus valuable early experience in this research area.

 

Daily News

AMHERST — Six campus researchers in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) at UMass Amherst have been recognized among the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2020 by London-based Clarivate Analytics, owner of the Web of Science. They have consistently had high citation counts over a decade.

Now in its seventh year, the citation analysis identifies influential researchers as determined by their peers around the world. They are judged to be influential, and their citation records are seen as “a mark of exceptional impact,” the company says.

The six from UMass Amherst are environmental chemist Baoshan Xing in CNS’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, Distinguished Professor of Food Science David Julian McClements and food scientist Hang Xiao, microbiologist Kelly Nevin Lovley, materials scientist Thomas Russell, and Vincent Rotello, the Charles A. Goessmann Professor of Chemistry and a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. All are repeat members of the list.

McClements is internationally known for his cutting-edge work in food design and nanotechnology, including encapsulating nutraceuticals in nanoparticles to preserve nutrients. Xiao’s lab focuses on molecular mechanisms and interactions of possible disease-preventing nutraceuticals to enhance nutrient bioavailability through food processing and nanotechnology, among other topics.

Nevin Lovley’s lab, part of the Geobacter Project, works to determine the electron transport chain in these bacteria with a goal to develop techniques to optimize the cells’ electrical production for better fuel-cell performance, among other goals. The Rotello lab takes a multi-disciplinary approach, bringing chemistry, biology, and biomedical engineering to tailor nanomaterials to develop new biological applications.

Russell, internationally known as an inventor, names his lab’s research interests in polymer phase transition, polymers’ surface and interfacial properties, directed self-assembly processes, and using polymers as scaffolds and templates to generate nanoscopic structures. Environmental scientist Xing’s lab focuses on protecting the environment by maintaining and improving soil and water quality. This includes investigating the behavior and agricultural application of engineered nanomaterials and using spectroscopic and analytical instruments to study interactions among organic compounds, natural organic matter, and mineral particles.

The highly cited list, announced from the company’s U.S. office in Philadelphia, names a total of about 3,400 highly cited researchers in science and social-science fields. The company says it focuses on contemporary research achievement, and only highly cited papers in science and social-science journals indexed in the Web of Science Core Collection during the most recent 11-year period are surveyed.

Two years ago, Highly Cited Researchers introduced a new cross-field category to identify researchers with substantial influence across several fields during the data census period. At UMass Amherst, Nevin Lovley and Rotello appear in this category for 2020.

“There is no unique or universally agreed concept of what constitutes extraordinary research performance and elite status in the sciences and social sciences,” the report’s editors point out. “Consequently, no quantitative indicators will reveal a list that satisfies all expectations or requirements. Moreover, a different basis or formula for selection would generate a different, though likely overlapping, list of names. Thus, the absence of a name on our list cannot be interpreted as inferior performance or stature in comparison to those selected.”

Healthcare Heroes

At a Time of Crisis, Collaboration Was Key to Meeting the Most Pressing Needs

Peter Reinhart, director of IALS.

Peter Reinhart, director of IALS.

In mid-March, when much of the U.S. was starting to hunker down, Peter Reinhart had a feeling he wouldn’t be — and neither would many of the people he works with.

“We didn’t want to be sitting at home watching this pandemic unfold without doing something,” said Reinhart, director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst, a facility launched in 2013 with the goal of accelerating life-science research and advancing collaboration with industry to shorten the gap between scientific innovation and technological advancement.

COVID-19 presented a unique opportunity to do exactly that, under time constraints that truly meant something, because people were dying every day. Take, for example, the work at IALS to develop a low-cost face shield for rapid production.

“We are a platform organization that caters to all departments on campus — nursing, computer science, natural sciences, public health, engineering,” Reinhart said, naming just a few. “Because our institute creates an interface across all these different organizations that are usually siloed, it’s much easier for us to pull together nursing staff, molecular biologists, and engineers, and say, ‘we need to make face shields in the next seven days. How can we do it?’ And they did.”

It took a few tries to get the design right, but the team eventually partnered with K+K Thermoforming of Southbridge to fabricate and distribute 81,000 face shields throughout the region. About 50,000 more followed in a second batch, all able to be shipped flat, 300 to a box, and assembled in 20 seconds by the user. Partly because of the logistics of billing and partly because the need was so pressing, IALS essentially gave the shields away.

“The differentiator between UMass and every other organization I’ve ever worked at — in both industry and academia — is this spirit of collaboration,” Reinhart told BusinessWest. “I’ve been at organizations where it’s very hard to get collaborations working across departmental boundaries. It’s much more self-contained, focused on individual greatness as opposed to collective greatness. That’s the difference I see at UMass Amherst — people across organizational boundaries will jump in and help you.”

When the pandemic hit, IALS’ culture and understanding of interdisciplinary work was especially valuable, and eight or nine response teams began working on individual projects, he explained, “some with greater and some with lesser success, but all of them with the best of intentions: to make a difference with the problems that were facing us as a society, using whatever resources we could apply to them.”

“We didn’t want to be sitting at home watching this pandemic unfold without doing something.”

One early project took aim at a worldwide mask shortage. Not all face masks can be safely sterilized and reused, but Professor Richard Peltier’s team demonstrated that hydrogen-peroxide sterilization for N95 respirators does, in fact, work. Using state-of-the-art pollution instruments to measure whether microscopic particles can pass through the mask after it’s sterilized, the results showed no real difference in filtration between a new mask and a sterilized one.

In another project, Baystate Health resident physician Dr. Mat Goebel and respiratory specialist Kyle Walsh contacted the College of Engineering for help with ventilators. Regular, 10-foot ventilator cables were on extreme back order, and longer cables, which would provide added safety to staff by increasing distance and reducing the need for PPE, did not exist. UMass engineers were able to fabricate a 50-foot cable that was compatible with Baystate’s ventilators, and contacted Michigan-based Amphenol Sine Systems, who agreed to design and fabricate the longer cables.

“It’s a really intriguing model,” Reinhart said of the collaboration that went into each project. “It could be a model of the future, to allow interdisciplinary work to function on a campus that by necessity has these organizational boundaries.”

Another team set up local production of viral transport media (VTM) for COVID-19 clinical testing. As testing ramped up nationwide, the solution used to keep COVID-19 samples safe during transport was in short supply, and local hospitals contacted Reinhart for help.

Peter Reinhart with some of the equipment

Peter Reinhart with some of the equipment that can process thousands of COVID-19 tests every day on the UMass campus.

Within one week, IALS had produced, tested, and distributed enough VTM to test 600 patients, before scaling up production and delivery to meet the needs of frontline workers across the state. The campus has enlisted more than 60 volunteers who produce, test, package and distribute VTM, and have provided hundreds of thousands of vials to seven regional hospitals and healthcare facilities and the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Command Center.

“That project has grown because the need was much larger than anticipated,” Reinhart said. “It was good to see we had so many people prepared to put in their time to help, and great to see that people who had run out of the ability to test were back doing testing. We ended up doing a good thing.”

The latest project is a high-throughput testing facility where IALS can generate up to 5,000 COVID-19 tests per day, enough to have all students, staff, and faculty tested at least once a week.

“We hope this becomes a regional resource that serves the community with rapid testing,” he said, noting that a regional testing bureau charges between $120 and $160 per test, or between $2 million and $3 million per week at the volume UMass can now conduct in-house.

“Imagine what that does to your campus finances,” he went on. “We can do it at 10 cents on the dollar if we do it ourselves. Obviously, you need a major investment in staff, space, and equipment, but once we’ve made that investment, we can do much less expensive tests, they’re completely under our control, the turnaround time is super fast, and we can quickly put people into quarantine and do contact tracing.”

“The differentiator between UMass and every other organization I’ve ever worked at — in both industry and academia — is this spirit of collaboration.”

As time goes on, Reinhart said, IALS — and all the departments at UMass with which it collaborates — will continue to look for places it can make a difference. One ongoing effort involves the development of a clinical testing lab that can identify individuals with antibodies that can neutralize the COVID-19 virus. “Students can donate a sample, and we’ll tell them whether we’re making antibodies or not.”

These efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis — and other projects yet to be determined — will continue, he added, because the pandemic is “far, far, far from over.”

While Western Mass. has been fortunate with its infection numbers, the virus is still spreading at the same rate it was in March, he went on, and a combination of the upcoming flu season and “PPE fatigue,” among other factors, may yield a second spike of some kind. “I think we’re in for a period of increasing difficulties.”

That said, it’s been an immensely gratifying seven months at IALS.

“Everything was gloom and doom, everyone was at home, and it seemed that every news item you picked up was another downer on how dire things were,” he recalled of the situation back in March. “Creating a few feel-good stories and giving our students and faculty a chance to contribute to something positive was very helpful to them. I know it was for me.”

But it’s not how these dozens of unsung individuals feel personally that makes them Healthcare Heroes. It’s the difference they’ve made in the fight against a virus that has proven a persistent, resilient foe.

“We weren’t good at logistics; we were engineers,” Reinhart said of efforts like distributing those tens of thousands of face shields. But that effort demonstrates collaboration, too. “It was exciting. People were excited about throwing their weight behind a project that had immediate impact.”

Impact that will only continue as a truly challenging 2020 turns an uncertain corner into 2021.

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

 

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst and the town of Amherst announced that the university will provide asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for the town’s first responders and inspectors as part of their joint efforts to deter spread of the novel coronavirus.

Approximately 100 firefighters, police, and inspectors will be tested once per week in the university’s Public Health Promotion Center at the Mullins Center. The town will reimburse the university for the costs associated with the testing.

“UMass has a long tradition of supporting and partnering with the town’s front-line responders and is deeply appreciative for the invaluable role they play in enhancing the public safety of our campus community,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said. “Currently, our resources and capacity are limited, but we are pleased to be able to make this commitment for the well-being of the entire community.”

Added Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman, “we appreciate that the university will provide a needed service to the town as we work to keep our employees safe and healthy. Our entire community relies on our expertly trained first-responder teams, and we welcome the opportunity to keep them, and ultimately our town, safe. The university has done a tremendous job in setting up such a professionally run testing regimen, and we deeply appreciate the campus’ willingness to accommodate our request.”

The university’s asymptomatic-testing program is one of the largest in the state. UMass Amherst has conducted more than 70,000 COVID-19 tests since Aug. 6, including approximately 48,000 tests of the off-campus student population living in the Amherst area.

Daily News

AMHERST — UMass Amherst announced a new collaboration with IntelliVen, a leading executive-team-development organization, to provide interactive remote-learning programs designed to raise the performance and effectiveness of leadership teams.

IntelliVen offers immersive programs designed to help an organization’s core leadership team tackle the unique challenges of managing a growing organization, especially in today’s turbulent markets. IntelliVen’s proprietary set of course modules enables an interactive, remote learning experience that leaders take along with their teams to unlock their true potential to perform and grow.

“IntelliVen teaches leaders, teams, and organizations to set direction, achieve team alignment, implement strategy, and make the change they want to grow faster and perform better,” said Peter DiGiammarino, managing partner.

Members of the university community will receive a discount on the standard price of IntelliVen’s leadership-development immersion programs.

“Education is a journey, not a destination. In fact, we view it as a lifelong journey, not something that ends when a person receives a college degree,” said John Wells, senior vice provost at UMass Amherst. “That’s why partnerships like this are so important. They provide affordable, convenient access to our students and alumni interested in continuous, lifelong learning.”

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