Students continue excellence at science meetings

UMW News Bureau

University of Montana Western students once again left their mark on two recent science gatherings, taking home two first-place awards at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Montana Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) meeting held at Montana State University (MSU) as well as winning an award at the Montana Academy of Sciences (MAS) annual meeting at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. By Kaitlin Ens [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="From left to right, Amanda Kortum, Amber Walter, Jeremiah Hill, and Benjamin Gilboe. Photo by Sheila Roberts."]msgc 2011[/caption] University of Montana Western students once again left their mark on two recent science gatherings, taking home two first-place awards at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Montana Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) meeting held at Montana State University (MSU) as well as winning an award at the Montana Academy of Sciences (MAS) annual meeting at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. The MSGC meeting took place on April 15 and the MAS meeting took place on April 15 and 16. At the MSGC meeting, Montana Western biology major Amanda Kortum won first prize for best undergraduate poster from a small institution and Amber Walter, a secondary education broadfield science major, won the award for best talk by a student from a small university. At the MAS meeting, biology major Alex Mackin won the undergraduate poster competition. Kortum’s poster was entitled “Characterization of the Candida albicans Sec63 Protein.” Walter’s talk, “Historic Climate Change at Ennis, Montana,” was developed as part of Montana Western’s new “Weather and Climate Change” course, which was funded by a $47,282 grant secured from the Montana Space Grant Consortium by Montana Western professors Sheila Roberts and Craig Zaspel. Other students presenting at the MSGC meeting included environmental sciences/geology major Jeremiah Hill, who presented "Historic Climate Change in Northwestern Montana: Trends in Average Temperature and Total Annual Precipitation” and biology major Benjamin Gilboe, who presented his poster, “Characterization of the Borrelia burgdorferi Bb0769 ORF.” Montana Western Professor of Environmental Sciences Sheila Roberts and environmental sciences department major Tom Satterly accompanied Kortum, Walter, Hill and Gilboe. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="337" caption="Alex Mackin, left, and professor Corey Manack. Photo by Jaclynn Hanson."]mackin manack[/caption] Montana Western visiting professor of mathematics Corey Manack accompanied Mackin to the MAS meeting. Mackin’s award-winning poster was entitled “Geometric Realization of (13,3) and (13,4) Round Robin Tournaments.” Other Montana Western students presenting at the MAS meeting included biology major Kyle Tate, who presented his poster, “Monitoring and evaluation of benthic macroinvertebrates in the Big Hole River and tributaries” and biology major Patricia Lacey, who presented her poster, “Generating a 297-AH130 host strain for the lac-based Borrelia burgdorferi inducible promoter system.” Adjunct professor of environmental sciences Laurie Henneman and assistant professor of biology Michelle Anderson accompanied Tate and Lacey. Mackin joined the ranks of previous Montana Western undergraduate poster winners at the MAS meeting. “I think it’s a great way for me to be placed on a stage with bigger schools,” Mackin stated of the MAS meeting. “It’s nice to be able to send students from smaller schools to a congress where the students don’t get lost.” The 2011 showing by Montana Western sciences students continues a trend of excellence at the spring events. At the 2006 MAS conference, UMW alumna Megan Janke won the best undergraduate poster award. In 2007, UMW alumnus Mike Hynes won the best undergraduate poster award. In 2008, UMW alumna Angela Schlenker won the same award. In 2009, UMW student Ben Gilboe received a grant for his research on isolating a protein from the causative agent of Lyme disease. In 2010, UMW student Kyle Tate received a grant for his research on macroinvertebrates of the Big Hole River. Montana Western’s Amanda Kortum was the 2009-2010 recipient of a Montana Space Grant Scholarship and was awarded a research fellowship with the American Society for Microbiology in 2010.