News and Events

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

As part of a recent trip to Japan for an astrobiology conference held in the ancient city of Nara, microbiologist Susan Leschine (Veterinary & Animal Sciences) and astronomer William Irvine (Astronomy) spent an informative and enjoyable afternoon visiting Hokkaido University on July 16.

Leschine and Hokkaido Professors Kozo Asano and Teruo Sone shared their common interests in microbial diversity and applications of bacteria and fungi in food processing and in animal and human health. Sone, who donned a shirt with an image of Aspergillus, related the important role of this fungus in food fermentations and as a source of biologically active compounds for pharmaceuticals and for controlling plant pests. As a leader in applied microbiology and the probiotic effects of intestinal bacteria, Asono described novel microbial technologies for complex carbohydrate production and implications for human health. The recent discovery by Asano and Sone of Tomitella biformata, a bacterium isolated from 25,000-year-old Alaskan permafrost, and its astrobiological significance also were discussed.

Irvine’s recent research interests have been in the study of chemistry in interstellar clouds and in comets, so it was very interesting to visit the laboratory of Professor Naoki Watanabe, a world leader in laboratory astrochemistry. In particular, Professor Watanabe uses his state of the art equipment to analyze chemical processes on analogs of interstellar ices, including the important conversion between ortho- and para- states of key molecules present in interstellar molecular clouds.

The visit also included discussions of astrophysics, particularly of galactic structure and star formation, with Professors Asao Habe and Elizabeth Tasker, and their students and research associates.

Professor Hideki Takahashi provided a tour of the Hokkaido University Museum with its beautiful exhibits that inspire the imagination. Botanist Takahashi was instrumental in establishing one such exhibit featuring specimens on loan from the UMass Amherst Herbarium, including plants and lichens that had been collected more than a hundred years ago by William S. Clark. Clark was the third president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which later became the University of Massachusetts, and the first president to appoint a faculty and admit a class of students, 56 to be exact. The Hokkaido Museum exhibit includes excerpts from Clark’s letters and information about Amherst. Irvine commented, “The museum is fascinating, particularly to anyone from UMass, since there is an extensive exhibit on President Clark and his UMass colleagues who helped found Hokkaido University. In fact, President Clark’s image and his closing words to Hokkaido students (“Boys, be ambitious!”) are everywhere in Japan, even in taxis, on wine bottles, and at the Sapporo Airport!”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The first LMT science paper has been accepted for publication in ApJ. There are also two Mexican press releases, one from, and the other at

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Professor Daniela Calzetti has been invited as Distinguished Visitor for the 2014-2015 Academic Year to the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney and to the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in Canberra. She will be spending a few weeks at those two locations over the Spring 2015.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Professor Mauro Giavalisco was recently named one of the most influential scientists in the world.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Two astronomy majors, Aaron Dunbrack and Kevin Harrington, are selected to be the recipients of highly selective scholarships given the College of Natural Sciences for the 2014-2015 academic year. Aaron Dunbrack is one of the four winners of the Robert H. and Patricia A. Ruf Scholarship, which is awarded to sophomore or junior students in the College with outstanding academic achievements. Kevin Harrington is the winner of Dr. Arthur and Dr. Helen Poland Scholarship, which is a two year award. Descriptions of these scholarships are found in the College web page on scholarships.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Judy Young, University of Massachusetts Astronomy Professor and longtime resident of Amherst, passed away in the early morning Friday, May 23, 2014.

Judy was born Sept. 15, 1952, to Bob and Vera Rubin, the latter a noted astronomer whose teachings on black holes inspired Judy to become an astronomer as well. Judy earned a bachelor's degree with honors from Radcliffe/Harvard University in 1974 and a doctorate in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1979.

Judy served as professor of astronomy at UMass from 1993 to 2013. Her work on star formation in galaxies earned international recognition and many awards throughout her distinguished career. She was a tireless support and friend to the many students she mentored, who remember her for her dedication, passion, humor and warmth. She dreamed up and built the UMass Sunwheel, a stone circle whose 8-10 ft. standing stones line up with the rising and setting sun during solstices and equinoxes. Judy led seasonal sunrise and sunset gatherings at the Sunwheel, making the connections between sky and earth real for over 8,000 visitors. Judy enthusiastically shared not only her knowledge and passion for science with those around her, but also her deep love of living.

There will be two memorial services held in her honor:

1) On Wednesday June 4th, at 7 pm, friends and family of Judy Young will gather at the UMass Sunwheel to celebrate Judy's life with songs, silence, and stories, led by Gabrielli LaChiara. This gathering will be held rain or shine, under the open sky. Please come prepared, whether that means bringing a folding chair, an umbrella, or leaving your shoes in the car!

2) On Thursday June 5th, at 10 am, friends and family will gather at the Jewish Community of Amherst for a more traditional Jewish memorial service led by Rabbi Weiner, followed by a social hour and snacks.

Please share information about the two memorial services with anyone who knew Judy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The William F. Field Alumni Scholars Program was established in 1976 to recognize and honor third-year students for their academic achievements at UMass Amherst. The program was named in honor of William F. Field, the university’s first Dean of Students, for his outstanding support of academic excellence and his personal commitment to bringing out the best in every student. Kevin Harrington, a third year Astronomy major, was awarded the Field Scholarship for 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Marie Calapa, a senior in the Department of Astronomy, was recently notified that she has been selected to receive the Spring 2013-2014 UMass Amherst Rising Researcher student achievement award. This new award, sponsored by the Vice Chancellors for University Relations and Research Engagement, recognizes exceptional UMass Amherst undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, or creative activity. As part of this special recognition, she will receive an engraved award, special recognition in campus publicity, and an opportunity for her, her advisor, and special guests to meet the Chancellor and Mrs. Subbaswamy at a spring reception on April 23rd.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Professor Daniela Calzetti has been elected as an Overseas Fellow at the Churchill College in Cambridge, UK, for the Fall of 2014.

Friday, February 28, 2014

It was recently announced by the TMT Science Advisory Committee that Professor Mauro Giavalisco has been selected to be a member of the "Early universe, galaxy formation and the intergalactic medium" International Science Development Team (ISDT) of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).