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RTI Administration Mission Statement

The administrative group of the RNA Therapeutics Institute collaborates to support our researchers so that they can focus on research. Making use of a wide range of experience and expertise, we provide professional and comprehensive support in management, financial and grant accounting, human resources, lab operations, scientific writing, outreach, and individual assistance. We are committed to building a work environment based on integrity, civility, and respect by recognizing and welcoming our strengths and diversity.

Our Staff

  • Marie Bernard-Cook

    Marie Bernard-Cook

    Executive Assistant

    Marie joined UMMS in 2021 & brings with her twenty years of healthcare experience. In her current role she supports Dr. Phil Zamore, Chair of the RTI. She has knowledge of executive calendar management, budgeting, special projects, provider support and other administrative tasks. She was Co-Chair of Diversity & Inclusion at her previous organization and led many extracurricular events from company talent shows to holiday events. Outside of work, Marie enjoys travel, the arts, shopping, cooking and spending time with friends, family and her cats.

    Office Location: AS4-2045
    Office Phone: 774-455-6691


  • Darryl Conte Jr., Ph.D.

    Darryl Conte Jr., Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor, Research development and science writing

    Darryl works as a scientific writing coach and editor, helping RTI faculty, students, and postdocs develop successful grant proposals and manuscripts. Darryl earned his B.S. in Mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the State University of New York at Albany. Darryl discovered and cultivated his passion for helping others write well while he was a postdoc and then research faculty in Dr. Craig Mello’s laboratory. When not writing or editing grants or papers, Darryl enjoys working with his wife on their hobby farm near Glens Falls, NY.

    Office Location: AS4-1059
    Office Phone: 774-455-3690

  • Laura Cummings

    Laura Cummings

    Administrative Assistant

    Laura comes to the RTI with a diverse background. Recently, working in a fast paced, multinational office coordinating and collaborating with outside vendors, and assisting in both domestic and international travel arrangements for local executives and international visitors. Laura will assisting RTI staff with several administrative initiatives.  Outside of work, Laura enjoys cooking, reading, hiking, and having an active lifestyle in the outdoors with her 3 dogs.


  • Mary Beth Dziewietin

    Mary Beth Dziewietin

    Administrative Coordinator

    With a professional background ranging from curating nineteenth-century manuscripts to freelance writing to clerking in an ICU, Mary Beth brings a variety of skills to her role as administrative coordinator for Anastasia Khvorova and Jon Watts and their labs. Since 2014, Mary Beth has managed their meetings, money, and most other non-science work; as Anastasia promised, the job is never boring. Outside the office, Mary Beth enjoys reading, hiking, and being with her family.

    Office Location: AS4-1046
    Office Phone: 774-455-3781

  • Amie Goodspeed

    Amie Goodspeed

    Administrative Coordinator

    Amie began work as an Administrative Coordinator in the RTI in February 2019.  Prior to joining UMMS she was an Office Manager for a telecom company for 13 years. Amie supported the executive team and managed the company's travel and expense program.  She currently supports the Sontheimer and Xue Labs as well as other departmental administrative duties. 

    Office Location: AS5-2046
    Office Phone: 774-455-4322
    LinkedIn Profile

  • Nikki Grace

    Nikki Grace

    HHMI Administrative Coordinator

    Nikki has over twenty years combined executive level administrative experience.  Prior to joining the Mello Lab, she spent ten years working for the Dean of the School of Nursing at MCPHS University where she fell in love with academia.  Nikki thrives in a cultured work environment that embraces transparency, values contributions, inspires employee autonomy, promotes a team atmosphere and communicates purpose and passion. 

    Office Location: AS5-2047
    Office Phone: 508-856-2856

  • Emily Mohn Haberlin, Ph.D.

    Emily Mohn Haberlin, Ph.D.

    Scientific Writer

    Emily earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Providence College in 2010, and her Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Tufts University in 2016. Before joining the RTI, Emily worked as a postdoc at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston, where she studied the effects of dietary bioactive compounds on vision and cognition. Emily’s scholarly activities as a student and postdoc sparked her passion for communicating science. In the RTI, Emily provides one-on-one grant and manuscript writing support to students, postdocs, and faculty. She also hosts writing accountability groups, informational seminars, and workshops to help students and postdocs prepare fellowship applications.

    Office Location: AS4-1055
    Office Phone: 774-455-4683

  • Angela Messmer-Blust, Ph.D.

    Angela Messmer-Blust, Ph.D.

    Senior Scientific Advisor, Assistant Professor

    Dr. Angela Messmer-Blust studied cell motility during her graduate studies at the University of Toledo where she received her PhD (2009). She began her postdoctoral research at the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School under Jian Li, investigating transcriptional regulation in diabetes and obesity. Following her postdoctoral studies, she held editorial positions at the Journal of Visualized Experiments, and later joined Cell Press as the director of scientific conferences from 2012 - 2017. In 2017, Dr. Messmer-Blust joined the faculty of the RNA Therapeutics Institute as Assistant Professor and Senior Scientific Advisor where she develops and manages departmental initiatives including the annual scientific symposium and educational outreach in the Worcester area.

    Office Location: AS4-1057
    Office Phone: 774-455-4587
    LinkedIn Profile

  • Stacey O'Neil

    Stacey O'Neil

    Project Coordinator

    Stacey has over 20 years of experience in executive administrative support and project & event management.  Stacey joined the RTI in 2017 and has been with the University of Massachusetts for 10 years, previously working in business operations at UMassOnline in the President's Office.  She manages departmental initiatives including the annual scientific symposium, ScienceLive Educational Outreach Program, RTI seminar series, website updates and also provides support for the Grigorieff Lab.

    Office Location: AS4-1046A
    Office Phone: 774-455-4682
    LinkedIn Profile

  • Rina Paladino

    Grants & Contract Specialist

    Rina has rejoined the RTI in 2021 as the Grant & Contract Specialist. Previously, she was the Administrative Coordinator for Dr. Melissa J Moore as well as the Department of Orthopedics at UMMS.  She brings over 20 years’ experience in event operations, administrative planning, coordinating and grants/contracts.

    LinkedIn Profile

  • Ann Powers

    Ann Powers

    Administrative Coordinator

    Ann brings over 15 years of administrative planning, coordinating, reporting and management experience to the RTI.  Ann's mission at UMMS is to perform complex and varied duties associated with the coordination of the departmental administrative functions while supporting three tenure/tenure-track faculty and their respective labs.

    Office Location: AS4-1046
    Office Phone: 774-455-4205

  • Kathy Sloan

    Kathy Sloan

    Administrative Coordinator

    Kathy comes to the RTI with a variety of skills including program coordination, event, budget and grant management in academia. She values being able to make an impact while fostering collaboration within the team. Outside of work, Kathy is a founding member of a local non-profit, she writes when times allows, teaches meditation and spends time with her three children. She will support the Pai and Li labs.

     LinkedIn Profile
    Office Locations: AS4-1046B

  • James Thompson

    James Thompson

    Senior Academic Administrator

    James been a part of the UMass Medical School family since 1993. He participated in one of the first cohorts of the High School Health Careers Program offered through UMMS’ office of Outreach Programs.  He served as a dorm parent for the same program in 2003. He has over twenty years of progressive experience in accounting, finance, and management in a variety of settings. James began his professional career at UMass Medical School in 2005 as a Financial Analyst. He then moved into a role as an Academic Administrator II in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences. As the lead Academic Administrator in the RNA Therapeutics Institute, he is responsible for oversight of departmental administration, finance, grants management, and operations. He is also a member of the National Council of University Research Administrators.

    Office Location: AS4-2059
    Office Phone: 508-856-8864

  • Hongyan Wang, Ph.D.

    Hongyan Wang, Ph.D.

    Research Operations Manager

    Hongyan has many years of experience in Molecular Biology research and she is well equipped to oversee the daily operation of labs. Hongyan is responsible for maintenance, management, and training of all departmental equipment and facilities.  She also works closely with Facility Engineering, Enviromental Health and Safety, and Radiation Safety to ensure department facilities and laboratories are in compliance with federal, state and institutional regulation.  

    Office Location: AS4-1045
    Office Phone: 774-455-3684