Professor Marian Walhout

University of Massachusetts, USA

In my laboratory in the Department of Systems Biology (DSB) at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical  School (UMass Chan), we are interested in metabolism, gene regulation, and how these processes affect each other. In addition, we are interested in metabolic disorders and how they are affected by nutrition and by bacteria in the microbiota. We use the nematode C. elegans as a model system and employ a broad variety of experimental and computational approaches to gain insights all the way from broad systems, to deep mechanistic levels. Our studies are relevant to nutritional science, microbiota research and basic molecular mechanisms of metabolism and gene expression. In 2011, I co-founded the Program in Systems Biology (PSB), which was elevated to full department status in 2021 and I serve as founding Chair. DSB currently consists of nine independent laboratories, all of which are funded by external grants. In 2017 our faculty worked together to develop a new yearly advanced topics course in Systems and Computational Biology, which is taken by more than half of the graduate students at UMass Chan (they can select from ~8 courses). This course has been very well received and in 2018 PSB was recognized by the UMass Chan chancellor for outstanding curriculum development.  My other contributions to the scientific community include editing and authoring the “Handbook of Systems Biology,” which was published by Elsevier and is widely available, writing a chapter for the book “Netherlands in Ideas” (in Dutch), and presenting for the lay public in Science Café Worcester, to the facility personnel at UMass Chan, and to high school teachers from the Worcester area. Contributions to the next generation of researchers include extensive participation in student committees both during the course of their graduate career at UMass Chan and for thesis defenses. I co-organize(d) numerous conferences and serve(d) on many grant review panels. The development of my trainees and DSB faculty is incredibly important to me and I work hard to help them mature into fully independent scientists that can venture into a career of their choice, e.g., in academia, industry, biotech, education or policy. I have mentored numerous post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians. Although UMass Chan does not have undergraduate students, I have nevertheless trained several in the lab, mainly as summer interns or as senior students preforming their major qualifying project research (e.g., from Worcester Polytechnic Institute). Further, we have hosted multiple high school summer students to participate in our research, which not only gives them exposure to academic research, but also provides my trainees the opportunity to gain expertise in supervision and leadership. Several of my post-docs have moved on to successful careers in academic research and in industry. Likewise, many of my graduate students have successfully pursued post-graduate careers.  Diversity and inclusion is a very important component of collaborative and successful research, and I am proud to say that I have successfully trained people from different races, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds. I am also an active member of the UMass Chan Provost’s Task Force for Diversity Recruitment. 


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