Alumni

Welcome, Vet & Animal Sciences Alums!

The Life Sciences Alumni Network invites you to connect with fellow alumni and life sciences professionals.

News From the Farms

First Silver Dun Belted Galloway Calf at UMass

Willow and her silver dun calf On Saturday, July 25, 2015 the UMass cow Otokahe Willow delivered the first silver dun Belted Galloway calf at the University of Massachusetts. Willow's silver dun calfThe new silver dun calf is a gorgeous little heifer. Her sire is R.M.R. Woodie owned by Mr. William Clark of Granby, MA.  Silver dun is a rare and beautiful variation of dun.  Although most Belted galloway cattle are black  with a complete white belt around their midsections, Belted Galloway cattle may also be red or dun (brown).

Quadruplets - first birth of the fall 2014 lambing season

Quadruplets - first birth of the fall 2014 lambing season Students from the Dorset Sheep Management course very ably assisted with the birth of quadruplets on September 2, 2014. The two ram lambs and two ewe lambs each weighed between 4 and 6 lbs. Mother and babies are all doing well.

 

New Chicken Brooder

Faculty members, John Balise, Hélène Cousin and Dom Alfandari  Faculty members, John Balise, Hélène Cousin and Dom Alfandari assisted by students Sasha Santiago, Becca Pack, and Gretchen McLinden have constructed a new chicken brooder.  The brooder will be used to house the Rainbow Ranger broilers that are raised  by the students in the Poultry Management course. In this course students perform management activities that are required for the care of a group of poultry.  Day old chicks arrive soon after the semester begins and students are responsible for all the chicks daily care including:  feeding, cleaning, weekly weights, bird identification, moving the coops on pasture, record keeping, marketing and distributing the processed birds.  The class is directly supervised by Dr. Hélène Cousin and John Balise with involvement from the staff veterinarian, Dr. Katherine Beltaire.

Dairy Calf Management Class in the News

Courtney BabcockPre-veterinary and animal science students have been caring for 35 dairy calves at Devine Farm in Hadley. Now in its third semester, the hands-on coursework benefits the students, the calves and the farm. Watch the video of VASCI students, Dr. Hulyer and Dr. Duby at http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/video-calving-great-time  Small groups of participating students work in shifts to feed and care for dairy calves seven days per week under the direct supervision of Dr. Mark Huyler. Students also meet weekly as a group to weigh and clean the calves, and perform other management procedures. Students take what they learn on the farm back to the classroom and review and discuss recent research in the area of neonatal management, nutrition, housing, well-being, and health of calves from birth to weaning. Dr. Huyler and Devine Farm plan to continue the program for the upcoming academic year.  Student interest is high and it has been a very valuable opportunity for students to gain a hands-on experience with a working farm.

Recent Graduates

Twenty-seven students from the Class of 2016 are planning to attend Veterinary Medical Colleges: Auburn: 1, Florida: 2, Illinois: 2, Midwestern: 1, Missouri: 2, Tufts: 7, Western: 2, Dublin: 2, London: 1, Ross: 3, St. George’s: 4. Four students will be attending graduate programs: three at UMass and one at the University of New Hampshire.

Updates from Graduates

Dr. Cynthia Baldwin and Dr. Sam Black travelled to the China Agricultural University in the fall of 2016, presented seminars and met with a former graduate students, Shijun Zheng, DVM,PhD. and Jun Tang, PhD. Dr. Zheng is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in the Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine College of Veterinary Medicine at China Agricultural University and is pictured here with Dr. Black, and Dr. Baldwin. Dr. Zheng completed a DVM in the College of Veterinary Medicine at China Agricultural University in 1987 and a PhD in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2000. He participated in postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (2000-2005) working on mechanism of autoimmune diseases and microbial pathogenesis. He then returned to China as a specially recruited talent and worked as a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and as a Principal Investigator in the State Key Laboratory of Agriobiotechnology, China Agricultural University.

Dr. Zheng obtained a State Outstanding Talent Youth Grant from the National Nature Science Foundation of China (NSFC) in 2007, was awarded the honor of State New Century Hundreds-thousands Talent in 2009, and received the honor of State Council Special Subsidy Talent in 2012. He was an associate Dean for the College of Veterinary Medicine 2010-2015. He served as an Editorial Board member for several scientific journals, acting as an Editor-in-Chief for the journal Asian Case Reports in Veterinary Medicine, as an associate Editor-in-Chief for the Chinese Journal of Veterinary Medicine, and as an editorial board member for the journal Frontiers in Agriculture and Engineering. He also served as a deputy secretary for the Chinese Society of Avian Disease, and served as an Executive Board Member for Beijing Immunology Society and for the Chinese Society of Animal Infectious Disease.

He has trained and supervised 52 graduate students since he returned to China in 2005. Among these students, 23 graduated with PhD degrees and 19 with Master’s degrees. He gives lectures on Molecular Immunology, Zoonosis, Specialty English for Veterinary Major and Avian disease diagnostics and controls. He received the Outstanding Teacher Honor awarded by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (2010-2014).

His research interest is primarily focused on the pathogenesis of microbial infection. He has made important contributions to the understandings of the molecular mechanism underlying IBDV and ARV-induced apoptosis in the host cells. He is also applying the knowledge gained from his basic research and expertise in molecular biology and immunology to study the persistent infection or immunosuppression of several viral infections. The long-term objective of his studies is to provide a platform for rational design of effective vaccines to control infectious diseases of animals. He has over 40 published papers in various international Journals including Nature Immunology, J Clinical Investigation, J Immunology, Diabetes, J Biological Chemistry, J Virology, Immunobiology, Frontiers in Microbiolgy, Veterinary Microbiology, Virus Research, PLoS ONE, BBRC, Virology J, Archives of Virology and Poultry Science. He has authored or coauthored 16 Chinese books or chapters in Veterinary fields.

Sean Downing earned his Master of Science degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 1996. His thesis was titled “Expression Patterns of p53 and p21waf1 During Mammary Gland Development: A Possible Mechanism for Involution”. Sean went on to earn his PhD at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia earning his degree in Cancer Genetics from the Faculty of Medicine.  His PhD dissertation was titled “Functional Status of Mutant p53 Proteins Found in Prostate Cancer and Their Contribution to Metastatic Disease.”  Dr. Downing was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Phil Kantoff’s laboratory at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an Instructor of Surgery in Dr. Judah Folkman’s laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Downing’s work has focused on the genetic basis of cancer and biomarker discovery.  He was a co-inventor of the first commercially available pan-cancer genetic test created by Foundation Medicine.  Sean is currently Group Leader for Tissue Imaging at PerkinElmer, Inc. in Hopkinton, MA.

Lotfi BassaLotfi M. Bassa, Ph.D. has won the Professor Heldebert Wagner Award from the journal Phytomedicine, for the best article by a young researcher published in it between July 2014 and January 2016.  Bassa earned his Ph.D. in Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences in 2015.

The prize was created to honor Wagner for his work at the journal and is sponsored by scientific publisher Elsevier, which awards 500 euros to the first author of the winning paper and a certificate to each co-author. Bassa and colleagues’ article, “Rhodiola crenulata induces an early estrogenic response and reduces proliferation and tumorsphere formation over time in MCF7 breast cancer cells,” was chosen from among nine articles that reached the final round, out of 2,263 submitted overall to Phytomedicine.

The study relates to the safety of Rhodiola crenulata root extract, and in particular to the assessment of possible risk to women with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer cells who use Rhodiola-based preparations to relieve mild to moderate depression. The journal said, “Prof. Wagner personally and the editorial board of Phytomedicine warmly congratulate Dr. Bassa and all co-authors of this study with their success.”

Sallie Schneider, director of the Biospecimen Resource and Molecular Analysis facility at Baystate Medical Center, an adjunct faculty member in the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department and a scientist at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute where the research was conducted, was Bassa’s advisor and is senior author of this paper. She says, “This particular research line started as a teaching opportunity for the Baystate-Springfield educational partnership program, which supports training of inner city high school juniors for a summer research experience. Lotfi took a stronger mentoring role for these summer students and decided to finish up the research as part of his thesis studies. The result was a very nice manuscript, which may ease concerns about the safety of this extract for some women. I am very proud of Lotfi. He developed into a caring teacher/mentor and a critical researcher. I am particularly delighted that this work was honored with this award.”

Nuno Carreiro, DVMDr. Nuno Carreiro grew up in Southeastern Massachusetts and began his animal science studies while attending Bristol County Agricultural High School.  After high school, his interest in horses led him to attend the Stockbridge School of Agriculture Equine Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he gained a solid foundation in general horsemanship.  In order to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, he continued at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he completed the pre-veterinary curriculum through the Veterinary and Animal Sciences department and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in 2001. During his undergraduate studies, Dr. Carreiro became involved in various research projects which led him to stay at the University working with Cynthia Baldwin, Ph.D and Samuel Black, Ph.D.and completing an MS degree in 2002.  Dr. Carreiro went on to earn his DVM from Colorado State University.  His interest in research followed him throughout veterinary school and he was chosen to participate in the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program.

After graduating from veterinary school, he and his wife relocated to the Eastern Shore of Virginia where he spent nearly seven years practicing in a busy mixed-animal practice.  While in Virginia he also had the privilege of being on the veterinary team that provided veterinary care to the world-famous Chincoteague Ponies located on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Carreiro returned to what he considers to be his home state of Massachusetts and worked in a multi-doctor small animal practice before joining the Becker College School of Animal Studies. He enjoys both his teaching role in the classroom and clinical role as staff veterinarian at the Lenfest Animal Health Center on the Becker College Campus.

 

Frances and Chou-Chu Hong, DVM, PhDDr. Chou-Chu Hong, who earned his Ph.D. at UMass Amherst in Veterinary and Animal Sciences in 1973, has brought international distinction to his alma mater. A former faculty member at Medical University of South Carolina, he was invited by Taiwan’s National Science Council to help establish its Center for Toxicity and Preclinical Sciences and to serve as the director of Taiwan’s National Laboratory Animal Breeding and Research Center. A faculty member of National Taiwan University and the Academia Sinica, he was also President of the Chinese Society of Laboratory Animal Sciences and a member of Taiwan’s Development Center for Biotechnology.

Dr. Hong’s sons, Jerry C. Hong (’93 Isenberg School of Management), and Jason I. Hong have established a fellowship to recognize the education and training at UMass Amherst of their father, Chou-Chu Hong DVM, PhD, who recently stepped down as President of Taiwan’s Level Biotechnology, Inc.

The endowed fund will also honor the role of the brothers’ mother, Frances Hong, in supporting the family and in helping their children to pursue successful careers in finance and computer science. Mrs. Hong left her own career as an middle school teacher in Taiwan to join her husband during his studies in Amherst and later returned to school to earn a degree in accounting.

Hoi Chang Lee, the first recipient of the Frances and Chou-Chu Hong Graduate Fellowship in Veterinary and Animal Sciences, was introduced at a luncheon honoring the Hong family on September 17, 2014. Lee, a Ph.D. candidate working with department head, Dr. Rafael Fissore, is writing his dissertation on signaling mechanisms underlying mammalian fertilization.

 

Marc Maserati and cloned animals

Marc Maserati, who earned his Master of Science degree through the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department’s Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in 2013 (BS ’99) has now successfully cloned over 30 cows and horses.

O Globo Rural, a Brazilian television program featured Marc’s work in a June 2014 broadcast.  Click here  to view the program and see some of Marc’s cloned cows and horses.

Marc is currently a partner and director of somatic cell nuclear transfer at InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal in Mogi Mirim Brazil.  Marc has been cloning animals since 2001 when he was employed with Advanced Cell Technology and later the cattle cloning spin off company Cyagra.  InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal has developed the technology for use by farmers, to increase genetically useful animals for breeding purposes, to bring back older genetics of animals that have long since passed and for the production of protein in the milk of transgenic animals for use in human therapies.  In addition, gentlemen farmers have been sold cloning contracts to produce Texas longhorns for competition and others entering the “Club Calf” show circuit.   Cloning bovine has been done on most breeds as well as bovine-like breeds such as the Gaur and Banteg breeds.

Cloning animals initially require s a biopsy from the original animal.  This biopsy is sent to the laboratory where it is made into a cell line.  The cells can be frozen in liquid nitrogen for future use.  Once the decision to clone an animal has been made, the cell line is thawed and matured oocytes, sourced from a local slaughterhouse (bovine) or aspirated from a nearby horse farm (equine), are prepared.    The oocyte’s DNA is illuminated with a fluorescent stain to localize it as it is otherwise undetectable to the eye.  Using a glass needle, the DNA is removed and a cell from the original animal is placed against the oolemma (oocyte cell membrane).  The two cell membranes are then fused to create one cell thereby introducing the nucleus from the original animal into the oocyte.  Fusion is performed in this case through use of a short yet powerful electrical field.  Using chemicals to mimic the fertilization event, the oocyte then becomes an embryo.  The embryo is incubated in embryo culture medium for seven days whereby it becomes a blastocyst.  At this stage, the embryo is transferred into synchronized recipient animals.   Depending on species, the wait is nine (bovine) or eleven (equine) months of gestation prior to birth.  On average, InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal transfers six embryos to get one live birth in bovine and twenty embryos are transferred to get one live birth in equine.

In Brazil there is heavy emphasis on production of clones in milk and meat breeds.  The animals created are to be used 100% for breeding.  They will not enter the food chain as they are too valuable to send to slaughter.  As the demand for greater quantities of milk and meat are fueled by increased population, the demand for reproductive technology, such as IVF and cloning will increase.   

Marc’s job is to make the technology simple and highly efficient.  As the current efficiency is around 12 percent (embryos transferred/ live calves sent home) Marc has a lot of research to conduct focusing on every aspect cloning from oocyte aspiration from the ovary to how the cloned animals are maintained prior to sending them home and every step in between.  To accomplish this InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal engages in collaborations with area universities such as the University of São Paulo, Pirasununga to develop novel methods of making identical copies of animals by improving upon the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique.  InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal also seeks out international collaborations and as such they are currently involved with researchers at Colorado State University to develop IVF technology in the equine.  InVitroBrasil Clonagem Animal is always looking for new collaborations.

Kate McCuskerCatherine (Kate) McCusker who earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree through the Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program in February of 2010 has had her research photos selected for the covers of the June 2014 issue of Disease Models & Mechanisms and the February 2014 issue of Regeneration.

The article published in Disease Models & Mechanisms is titledUnderstanding positional cues in salamander limb regeneration: implications for optimizing cell-based regenerative therapies” and is co-authored by Dr. David M. Gardiner of the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine where McCusker is currently doing research as a postdoctoral scholarYou can access the article at http://dmm.biologists.org/content/7/6/593

The article published in Regeneration is titled “Position-specific induction of ectopic limbs in non-regenerating blastemas on axolotl forelimbs” and is also coauthored by Dr. David M. Gardiner and  Jeffrey Lehrberg. You can access the article at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/reg2.10?isReportingDone=true

Kate conducted her graduate research at UMass Amherst in the laboratory of Dr. Dominique Alfandari, where she studied craniofacial development in frog embryos. In Dr. Alfandari’s lab, she became fascinated by the control of growth and shape during developmental processes. During her thesis project she focused on understanding molecular mechanisms that control the migration of Cranial Neural Crest (CNC) cells, a population of stem-like cells that undergo a large-scale migration and contribute to many structures in the developing face. During this work she discovered a novel interaction between the metalloproteases ADAM13 and 9 with the cell-adhesion molecule Cadherin-11. Kate found that ADAM processing of cadherin-11 promoted the migration of CNC cells by 1) decreasing cell-cell adhesion, 2) by inhibiting the stimulation of canonical Wnt signaling, and 3) by generating a secreted cadherin-11 fragment that has a pro-migratory biological function. So far Kate’s graduate work has resulted in five publications.

Over the last four years, Kate’s postdoctoral work in the Gardiner/Bryant Lab has focused on the process of vertebrate limb regeneration using the Mexican axolotl. In particular, she is interested in understanding how the blueprint, or pattern, of the missing structures is established in the early regenerate, known as the blastema. She is fascinated by the simple observation that the limb blastema always replaces exactly what it is missing – amputate the limb at the wrist and the blastema forms a hand, amputate at the upper arm, and the blastema forms an elbow, forearm, and a hand.  She is currently funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Cancer Society to support her research using the axolotl limb regenerate as a model system to study how tissue microenvironments control the behavior of cancer-like cells. So far her postdoctoral work has resulted in four publications.

Chuang ChenChuang Chen, who earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree through the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department’s Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in July of 2012 has had her first author paper research results published in the July 2014 issue of the Journal of Immunology. 

Chen’s article is titled “Signal Transduction by Different Forms of the γδ T Cell–Specific Pattern Recognition Receptor WC1”.  The research was co-authored by Dr. Janice C. Telfer and Dr. Cynthia L. Baldwin co-senior authors and primary investigators in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at UMass, Haoting Hsu, graduate student in the ABBS program at UMass and Edward Hudgens, research fellow.  Their research focuses on the immune responses that cattle make to infectious disease agents with a view towards next generation vaccines. The goal is to incorporate the ability to stimulate a special population of white blood cells known as gamma delta T lymphocytes into the vaccine design. To do this they are evaluating the roles of a type of receptor, known as WC1, made exclusively by these cells and which interacts with bacteria. This paper shows that different subsets of these cells express different types of these WC1 receptors and that this affects the outcome of the response by the cells due to differences in signaling pathways. Their article in the July 1, 2014 issue of The Journal of Immunology is being featured by the “In This Issue” section. “In This Issue” highlights articles considered to be among the top 10% of articles published in the journal; a corresponding ImmunoCast of the “In This Issue” section is produced for each issue, and can be found on The Journal of Immunology web site at:http://www.jimmunol.org/rss/jipodcast.xhtml.

Chuang Chen conducted her doctoral research at UMass with Professor Cynthia L. Baldwin.  Chen’s dissertation was titled “Characterization of Bovine T cell WC1 Coreceptors: sequence, expression and function.”

Chen has continued her post-doctoral training in immunology with Dr. Reiser at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois studying human gamma delta T cells. Her current post-doctoral research goal is to delineate the role of gamma delta T cells in focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). FSGS is a severe glomerular disease that is characterized by podocyte injury, proteinuria and progressive renal decline. T cells infiltration with increased levels of a soluble glomerular permeability factor has been proposed to play a major role in the pathogenesis of FSGS. It has been suggested that gamma delta T cells, the bridging population between innate and adaptive immune systems, could be implicated in perpetuating T cell activation in this condition. However, the actual contribution of gamma delta T cells in the immunopathogenesis of FSGS is still largely unclear. Chen’s project will potentially unravel a major cause of FSGS and might lead to a refined treatment for patients with FSGS.

 

Radhika Goenka, who earned her Doctor of Philosphy degree through the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department’s Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in 2008 has had her post-doc research results published in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.  One of Radhika’s microscopy images depicting BLyS producing T cells present in the germinal center was adapted for the cover of the magazine by the artist Emilie Clark and then selected for their 2014 T shirt.

Radhika Goenka conducted her doctoral research here at UMass with Professor Cynthia Baldwin. Goenka researched how the pathogen Brucella abortus establishes chronic infections and what immune responses are needed to control it.  She found that immune cells called B cells were promoting the establishment of chronic Brucellosis, in part by acting as a reservoir of infection. 

In 2008, she continued her post-doctoral training in immunology with Professor Michael Cancro at the University of Pennsylvania, investigating the interactions between immune cells that regulate antibody responses against foreign antigens and found a special group of Helper T cells produce a molecule called BLyS, which facilitates production of ‘good’ antibody from B cells. T cells provide BLyS to B cells in a specialized structure in lymph nodes called the germinal center. This research, titled “Local BLyS production by T follicular cells mediates retention of high affinity B cells during affinity maturation”  was published in Journal of Experimental Medicine in January 2014.