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Busy month for research at Montana Western

UMW News Bureau

The fourth annual University of Montana Western Research Symposium on April 23 and 24 will culminate a busy month for UMW academics with student and faculty involvement also at the Montana Academy of Sciences annual conference and the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. By Ashley Makowski _MG_8218The fourth annual University of Montana Western Research Symposium on April 23 and 24 will culminate a busy month for UMW academics with student and faculty involvement also at the Montana Academy of Sciences annual conference and the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Biology students and faculty presented at the Montana Academy of Sciences (MAS) at Montana Tech of the University of Montana in Butte on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10. Montana Western student presenters included Amanda Kortum and Ben Gilboe. Gilboe, who received a $500 grant for his 2009 MAS research, presented his ongoing work attempting to isolate a protein from the causative agent of Lyme disease. Kortum presented her research on a protein involved in causing the yeast Candida albicans to become pathogenic. Gilboe is working with UMW biology professor Mike Gilbert while Kortum is working with associate professor of biology Mike Morrow. Montana Western professor Laurie Henneman, who sits on the board of directors for the MAS, said the conference is an important opportunity for students to present their work to a broader audience. “The small grants we award annually are helping to promote cutting edge research in all fields of science and mathematics by students at all levels, including undergraduates,” Henneman said. “Students from Montana Western have had a large presence in the last few years of the conference, winning three out of the last four awards for ‘best poster by an undergraduate.’” In 2006, UMW alumna Megan Janke won the best undergraduate poster award at the MAS conference. Janke is currently working on a Ph.D. in cell/molecular biology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. In 2007, UMW alumni Mike Hynes won the best undergraduate poster award, and in 2008, Angela Schlenker, a UMW alumna now attending veterinarian school at Oregon State University, also won the same award. At the 2010 conference, the MAS board of directors awarded Montana Western’s Kyle Tate a grant for his research with biology professor Michelle Anderson on macroinvertebrates of the Big Hole River. Tate will present at next year’s conference as part of the grant. On April 16 and 17, Gilboe and Kortum will be back on the road with their professors presenting research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Missoula, Mont. The event, which is hosted at the University of Montana, is also a competitive conference. If students’ research abstracts are accepted, they will present at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence in June in Washington, D.C. “We have two very impressive students from Montana Western presenting,” Gilbert said. “I’m confident they will do well.” Because Montana Western’s one-class-at-a-time scheduling program, Experience One, is so conducive to long-term research projects, the Montana Western Research Symposium is a perfect chance for students and faculty to show off a year’s worth of that research work. The symposium, which showcases the work of a broad range of Montana Western academics, will take place in the Swysgood Technology Center Great Room. The event will include approximately 30 poster and oral presentations of internships, research projects, and senior theses by students across all disciplines of study at Montana Western, including math; history, philosophy and social sciences (HPSS); biology; business; and environmental sciences. “The symposium is open to research, internship or other scholarly activity in any field,” explained Michael Gilbert, associate professor of biology. The symposium will open with an open poster session on Friday evening. Students will be available to answer questions about their projects. “It’s a great window for the community to see the creative endeavors of students on campus,” said Morrow. Amanda Kortum will give a poster presentation about her research. Kortum has been part of the research project for the last three years. She said her experience helped her to decide to pursue a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. “When I came to Montana Western, I wanted to become a veterinarian,” Kortum explained. “I still want to do that because animals are my passion, but this research made me want to pursue the research side of veterinary science.” Following the poster session, keynote speaker Jim Battiste, a research assistant professor from the University of Montana, will give a presentation on a number of bacterial pathogens including Bartonella quintana, the causative agent of trench fever. Trench fever got its name from the trenches in World War I and is transmitted by human body lice. Battiste was the first person to figure out how to maintain a lab colony of lice that he could study. Battiste will talk about his four years of research on this and other bacteria. A reception will follow the presentation. Saturday will include oral presentations by students as well as another poster session. “Most of the projects are above and beyond the students’ coursework,” said Gilbert. Rachelle Pearson, a biology major with a veterinary science option, will give an oral presentation over her experiences as an intern in a veterinary clinic in Winnemucca, Nev. “This internship helped me decide that instead of going to veterinary school, I want to continue being a veterinary assistant,” said Pearson. “Working in the clinic full time, I got to weigh the pros and cons of being both a veterinarian and a veterinarian assistant. It let me see the whole picture.” Pearson said she was able to complete her internship during the fall semester and pick up other classes she needed when she returned because of Experience One, in particular. “If I didn’t have block scheduling, I would have had to take my regular classes and my internship at the same time,” she explained. “Since my internship was out-of-state, I’m not sure how that would have worked.” The symposium is free of charge and open to the public.