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Leader of ScienceLIVE program at UMass Chan recognized for advocacy work

Angela Messmer-Blust receives Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society Science Outreach Award

By Pat Sargent

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

September 30, 2022
Angela Messmer-Blust, PhD

In recognition of her advocacy work, Angela Messmer-Blust, PhD, associate professor of RNA therapeutics and senior scientific advisor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Chan Medical School, was selected as the inaugural winner of the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society’s Science Outreach Award.

Dr. Messmer-Blust will be presented with the award in Phoenix next month at the group’s annual meeting.

The award recognizes exceptional contributions by an individual who shares their scientific knowledge with the public.

“It was a big honor for me to even be nominated for it and to win it because many of the RNA Therapeutics Institute members and people across campus are involved in the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society,” Messmer-Blust said. “So, it was really nice to be able to accept that and see how much the organization is putting their resources into furthering outreach and recognizing those that are trying to move the needle in terms of outreach.”

Messmer-Blust leads the ScienceLIVE (Learning with Interactive Virtual Education) team at UMass Chan which produced the popular Emma RNA Saves the Day coloring book, highlighting and explaining the COVID-19 vaccine to a young audience.  

“I think it's definitely an exciting time for RNA therapeutics, which is even better that we have a coloring book about it,” said Messmer-Blust. “We’re trying to get the whole world on board with RNA therapeutics, so it's a good way to get that message out.”

To date, about 13,000 copies of the Emma RNA Saves the Day coloring book have been delivered to students and children across the globe. The book is available in seven languages for digital download.

ScienceLIVE is a UMass Chan outreach program for Worcester area middle school students, launched to provide learning modules with demonstrations and experiments designed for virtual teaching during the pandemic. The program launched in 2020 as a collaborative effort between Messmer-Blust, her colleagues and teachers in local public schools.

The learning modules will return this fall with in-person demonstrations. Registration is expected to open to local public-school teachers in October, with modules starting in November.

ScienceLIVE is also one of six nominees on the shortlist for Nature’s Inspiring Women in Science 2022 Science Outreach Award. The winner receives $50,000 and is invited to accept the award at the Nature Awards ceremony in London in October.

ScienceLIVE was co-founded by Messmer-Blust, Athma A. Pai, PhD, assistant professor of RNA therapeutics, Christina E. Baer, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology & physiological systems and director of the Sanderson Center for Optical Experimentation and Mary Pickering, PhD, who joined the RTI as director of public engagement with science in 2021.

Related UMass Chan news stories:
Emma RNA Saves the Day coloring book helps children understand how COVID-19 vaccines work
ScienceLive brings virtual labs to area middle school students