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Montana Western science alumni pursuing Ph.D.s

UMW News Bureau

Three alumni from Montana Western’s distinguished science departments have either earned or are in the process of earning doctorate degrees at prestigious American universities.

Montana Western alumni Megan Janke working in the UMW biology lab. The lab is funded with nearly $2 million of equipment from two grants from the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence and the National Institutes of Health.Building on their undergraduate degrees and the unique, novel research performed at UMW, Kyle Lund, Angela Schlenker and Megan Janke are making their marks in the world of biology.

Army Capt. Kyle Lund, Ph.D. graduated from Montana Western in 2004 with a degree in environmental science with an emphasis in chemistry. While at Montana Western, Kyle volunteered for one year assisting Dr. Steven Mock prepare reagents for Mock’s general and organic Chemistry labs. In the summer of 2003 Lund worked for Montana Western biology professor Dr. Michael Morrow on characterizing the SSA1 and KAR2 genes of the yeast Candida albicans. Lund also volunteered in Dr. Morrow's lab and wrote his theses on the Candida albicans research.

“After working with Dr. Morrow I found out that doing research was lots of fun, and I decided to continue my education and go onto graduate school,” Lund says.

He soon enrolled at Arizona State University in the chemistry and biochemistry department, earning his Ph.D. in biochemistry and a M.S. in chemistry in four and a half years. At ASU, he also worked for Dr. Hao Yan performing research in a new field known as DNA nanotechnology, including the development of a molecular walker that can walk across a surface nanometers in size. Lund graduated from ASU in Dec. 2008.

In March 2008, Lund enrolled in the U.S. Army as a captain and plans to make a career in the military.  He is currently working at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease as a research scientist working on the development of drugs that will inhibit the activity of botulism.

“Montana Western sparked my interest in chemistry and biology,” Lund says. “What I learned at there I was able to expand upon elsewhere. It started me down the path to my current career.”

Angela Schlenker graduated from Montana Western in May 2008 with a degree in biomedical science with an emphasis in veterinary science. While at UMW, Schlenker worked in Dr. Morrow's Lab for three summers studying the early secretory pathway in the yeast Candida albicans. The latter portion of her research focused on developing an assay for examining the machinery required for certain proteins to enter the endoplasmic reticulum. Schlenker presented her undergraduate research at the Montana Academy of Sciences meetings and the Montana Western Spring Research Symposiums, which she helped organize. She also co-authored a poster the department presented at a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology Candida and Candidiasis in New York City. She also founded the UMW Biology Club.

Schlenker is currently attending the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Corvallis, Ore. She was one of only 57 accepted into the program, which had 600 applicants. She will graduate from OSU in 2013 with a doctorate of veterinary medicine. After graduation she hopes to become a small animal and equine veterinarian in a rural area.

Schlenker says she chose UMW because it is a small school in a rural community. She also knew Experience One would be a good fit for her.

“Experience One required me to be focused and efficient in my studying and taught me how to best utilize my time,” Schlenker explains. “The skills I learned from this have proven to be extremely useful in my current studies in veterinary school. The small school atmosphere allowed my professors to know me personally, which in turn meant that they had high expectations of me. With their support and encouragement, I was able to be successful as an undergraduate and was accepted into a very competitive program.”

Megan Janke graduated from Montana Western in 2006 with a degree in biology with a cellular and molecular emphasis. Janke worked in Dr. Morrow’s lab for two and a half years. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on the initial characterization of the Candida albicans SEC61, SEC63, and SSS1 genes using in vivo and in vitro approaches.

In 2006, she started her Ph.D. research in the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Janke is in the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences Molecular and Cellular Biology Program. She is currently performing lab work to identify candidate susceptibility factors for treatment-related acute myeloid leukemia. Her research focus is to characterize the role of myeloid leukemia factor 1, a candidate genetic factor, in normal hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis.

Janke plans to make a career studying cancer biology.

“I had a very positive experience at UMW, in large part because the smaller class sizes allowed me both a hands-on learning environment and a setting to build lasting friendships,” Janke says of her alma mater. “The research experience I gained in Dr. Morrow’s lab opened up the opportunity for me to go to graduate school and pursue a career in basic research science.”