News

Professor Susan Roberts of the Chemical Engineering Department and Professor Elizabeth Vierling of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology have received a $150,000 grant from the University of Massachusetts President’s Science and Technology (S&T) Fund to support their collaborative project, entitled “Massachusetts BioFoundry; Center for Discovery & Synthesis of Bioactive and Industrial Molecules.” The S&T Fund is intended to support campus and multi-campus initiatives that strengthen the university’s research and development base, deepen our ties with Massachusetts industry and research institutions, leverage external resources, and contribute to economic growth in the Commonwealth. Roberts is also the associate dean of the Graduate School and director of the Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE). Read related press release published in Business West.

Professors  Sergio F. Breña, principal investigator, and Scott A. Civjan, co-principal-investigator, of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department have received a $174,923 grant from New England Transportation Consortium. The 24-month project will focus on “Development of High Early-Strength Concrete for Accelerated Bridge Construction Closure Pour Connections.” The main objective of the research project is to develop and validate non-proprietary concrete mixtures that are capable of developing high early strength without detrimentally affecting their long-term durability. The concrete mixtures developed in this research are intended for use in closure pours in accelerated bridge construction projects in New England. 

As part of a news story for EE Times, Cheryl Brooks, director of career and student development at the College of Engineering, said more companies, both large and small, are recruiting our students. “We hosted more companies for recruiting and posted more jobs this year than last year,” says Brooks. “A wide range of companies recruited here this year, from large firms like ExxonMobil, Cisco, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, and Google to smaller startup companies like HubSpot and Localytics.” The story reported that students graduating this year with engineering degrees are entering a strong job market. Engineering majors historically tend to have less trouble finding jobs in their chosen field than their counterparts with liberal arts degrees. But during the recent recession, engineering schools saw larger numbers of students choosing to wait it out and go to grad school.

According to the UMass Amherst News Office, a groundbreaking campus initiative launched this summer is helping 50 science and engineering graduate students achieve greater professional success by teaching them how to engage more effectively with the private sector. Established by the Graduate School Office of Professional Development and the Isenberg School of Management, the free, eight-week “Business Foundations Series for Scientists and Engineers” allows students to complement their scientific and technical expertise with the fundamental business skills required to manage research teams, communicate effectively in a corporate setting, develop industry-sponsored research programs, and formulate goals that align with commercial interests. Read News Office Article: http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/science-engineering-grad-students-gain-new.

Two researchers from UMass Amherst have concluded that making investments in energy technologies to deal with climate change will always produce a positive payoff. Erin D. Baker, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and Senay Solak, assistant professor of operations and information management, published their findings recently in the journal Production and Operations Management. The finding is good news because it means that governments can move forward with investments into research in breakthrough energy technologies, such as solar, nuclear and carbon capture, regardless of  public policy toward climate change. The research is funded through a five-year, $434,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

As a result of the hard work, motivation, and coordination from Associate Dean David Ford, a collective effort at the College of Engineering and UMass Amherst contributed in several key ways to the recent White House celebration of the national “Maker Movement,” aimed at inspiring students and other young innovators to excel in the invention, design, and engineering of creative new devices of every kind. One result of the collective endeavor was that one UMass maker program was cited on page 5 of a White House document summarizing the national effort: “The University of Massachusetts Amherst is partnering with the Town of Amherst to establish a ‘Town-gown Makerspace’ that will host community and youth programs in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Together with Amherst Media, a team of faculty will host a series of maker workshops and weekly open makerspace hours.”

The Medical Advisory Board of Earlier.org (Friends For An Earlier Breast Cancer Test®) has awarded a $40,000 grant to Neil Forbes of our Chemical Engineering Department. His grant proposal is titled, “Detection of micro-scale tumors and metastases with non-toxic bacteria.” Forbes proposes a breast cancer detection technique for micro-scale cancer lesions that can discover both early breast tumors and small metastatic lesions after primary tumor resection. His technique for early breast cancer detection would reduce cancer spreading and increase patient survival. The proposed research will create a non-toxic and non-invasive Salmonella strain that expresses and secretes an exogenous biomarker specifically in breast cancer, and then this simple “cancer reporter” can be detected in a blood sample.

Hong Je Cho, a chemical engineering graduate student working in the research lab of ChE Professor Wei Fan, recently published articles in two of the most impactful journals in the general field of catalysis, meaning the increase in the rate of a chemical reaction of one or more reactants due to the participation of an additional substance called a catalyst. “One of my students, Hong Je Cho, just had two papers published on ACS Catalysis and Green Chemistry,” said Fan. “The two journals have highest impact factors in the fields of catalysis, one is 5 and another one is 7. The one published in Green Chemistry is one of the most-read articles so far and selected as front cover [see illustration] of the issue in July.”

On May 21, Christopher Ahmadjian, the principal investigator for the UMass Transportation Center and program manager for the Baystate Roads and Massachusetts Technical Assistance (MTAP) Programs, received the Meritorious Service Award at the American Public Works Association Northeast Chapter's commemorative scholarship luncheon. The award is given for outstanding contribution to public works in the field of academics. “This award acknowledges private enterprise or academic institutions for the important role they play in providing public works services,” said Richard J. Benevento, president of WorldTech Engineering, LLC, when presenting the award. Link to event: http://newengland.apwa.net/Content/Chapters/newengland.apwa.net/Document/2014%20National%20Public%20Works%20Week%20Luncheon%20FLYER.pdf

Dr. Briana Tomboulian, a NASA Graduate Research Fellow who earned her Ph.D. from the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department in June, has been chosen by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to serve as the 2014-2015 ASME Congressional Fellow. The goal of ASME Congressional Fellows is to advise legislators on key science and technology issues that are often beyond the grasp of non-scientists. According to ASME, for more than 40 years Congressional Fellows have filled this knowledge gap by serving as key advisors to federal policy makers on energy, infrastructure, education, national security, technology development, and other critical national and international issues, which require general technical proficiency and specific mechanical engineering expertise.