The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Peyton Named Armstrong Professor

Shelly Peyton

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees has named Associate Professor Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department as the newest Armstrong Professional Development Professor. The Armstrong professorship was established in 2001 with an endowment of $850,000 by John and Elizabeth Armstrong of Amherst, Massachusetts, and a $650,000 matching grant from the University of Massachusetts President’s Distinguished Professorship Initiative.

The professorship is awarded for a three-year period to a faculty member who is at the beginning of his/her career and has demonstrated substantial achievement and great promise in his/her area of teaching and research.

Since arriving at UMass Amherst in 2011, Peyton has participated on research teams that have received $13,085,398 in support from 24 funding sources, with $6,351,867 going directly to the Peyton Research Group. Peyton has published more than 48 articles in peer-reviewed journals, has received three patents, and has given at least 65 invited seminars and keynote conference presentations.

Peyton is also the graduate program director in the ChE department and an adjunct faculty member in the Biomedical Engineering Department.

In her research lab, Peyton leads an interdisciplinary group of engineers and molecular cell biologists seeking to create and apply novel biomaterials platforms toward “new solutions to grand challenges in human health,” as she says.  

Peyton explains that, in her research group, “We are several women and men, engineers and biologists, and our mission is to learn how cells process information from their chemical and physical tissue environment. We design polymeric biomaterials to create models of human tissue and use them to study how cells move, grow, and respond to drugs in different tissue environments.”

Peyton concludes that “We use this approach to find new ways to stop cancer metastasis, discover more effective cancer drugs, prevent heart disease, and build scaffolds for regenerative medicine.”

Peyton has already earned a host of honors, awards, and other accomplishments during her young career. From 2012 until 2017, Peyton served as the Barry and Afsaneh Siadat Career Development Fellow in the ChE department. During that time period, she received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015-2020), the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Young Innovator Award (2015), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) New Innovator Award (2013-2018). She was a Pew Biomedical Scholar from 2013 to 2017 and won the Society for Physical Regulation of Cell Biology Rising Star Award in 2012.

UMass granted Peyton the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity in 2014, and that same year the College of Engineering gave her the Barbara and Joseph Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award.

Finally, in 2019, Peyton was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows – Class of 2020, a distinction reserved for the top two percent of the medical and biological engineering community.

Peyton received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University in 2002 and went on to obtain her M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. She was then an NIH Kirschstein post-doctoral fellow in the Biological Engineering Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before starting her academic appointment at UMass in 2011.

When the Armstrong endowment was established by the Armstrongs in 2001, John Armstrong explained that "Support of this kind is very valuable to young professors. Otherwise they spend a tremendous amount of time trying to find grants from various resources." 

John Armstrong is an active member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council. He served on the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2007. He retired in 1993 from IBM as vice president of science and technology and was a member of IBM’s Corporate Management Board. He also was a presidential appointee to the National Science Board, chaired the governing board of the American Institute of Physics, and served as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. 

Elizabeth Armstrong has been an active volunteer in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Emily Dickinson Board of Governors.

The Armstrongs are major supporters of the College of Engineering, and UMass gave them Honorary Alumni Awards in 2003 and the President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the university, in 2004. 

Previous recipients of the Armstrong professorship include Professor David McLaughlin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Professor Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. (October 2020)