Montana State University

Interdisciplinary Programs

NSF-IGERT: Ph.D. Traineeships IN Geobiological Systems

Preface: The interdisciplinary IGERT program in Geobiological Systems Science involves over 25 faculty at MSU in 7 different departments and 3 colleges, as well as additional national and international collaborators. Consequently, the following individuals can serve as initial contacts for questions, advice and additional information.

Dr. Bill Inskeep
IGERT Director, Thermal Biology Institute and Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences
Research Interests: Geomicrobiology, environmental genomics

Dr. Anne Camper
Associate Dean, College of Engineering
Center for Biofilm Engineering
Research Interests: Waste-water treatment, biofilms

Dr. John Peters
Director, Thermal Biology Institute
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Research Interests: Enzyme structure-function

Dr. Brent Peyton
Associate Director, Thermal Biology Institute
Center for Biofilm Engineering
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Research Interests: Bioremediation, bioenergy

Dr. John Priscu
Cold Regions Research
Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences
Research Interests: Polar microbiology

Dr. Mark Skidmore
Cold Regions Research, Department of Earth Sciences
Research Interests: Geomicrobiology, ice habitats

Dr. Phil Stewart
Director, Center for Biofilm Engineering
Research Interests: Biofilms

Dr. Mark Young
Director, NSF EPSCoR Program
Research Interests: Virology, Nanomaterials

Program Description

The mission of the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program in Geobiological Systems Science is focused on the geomicrobiology of complex microbiological systems, and brings together expertise in hydrodynamics, geochemistry, microbial ecology, biochemistry and genomics. The primary goal of this Ph.D. program is to train students to use consistent and coherent interdisciplinary approaches in the study of microbial communities, and that lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the important interface between the biosphere and geosphere. This novel Ph.D. training program encompasses research scientists focused on the microbiology of extreme thermal, psychrophilic, or industrial biofilm communities.


The IGERT program in Geobiological Systems is both inter-and multi-disciplinary and involves faculty and Ph.D. students from the Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, and Letters and Science. The primary research areas supported by and integrated within the IGERT program include the geomicrobiology of thermal, psychrophilic or anthropogenic systems. Graduates from this IGERT program will be well-prepared to address the complexity of microbial processes in any system, while maintaining significant disciplinary depth. The broader impacts of this graduate training program are extensive, and include partnerships with existing centers of excellence in Thermal Biology, Cold Regions Research, and Biofilm Engineering. Outreach is an integral part of the educational experience and graduate students in this program will participate and assist with important outreach activities including a formal K-12 science-teacher course, scientific workshops, industrial partner programs, training for Yellowstone National Park (YNP) interpretive staff, field trips for K-12 students, educational exhibits at the Museum of the Rockies and the Old Faithful Visitor Museum, mentoring Native American high school and undergraduate students, and development of digital libraries and web content in collaboration with the YNP Research Coordination Network. These broader impacts are synergistic in supporting the diverse educational goals of an IGERT program, and in further developing literacy in the geobiological sciences.


Interested students must be admitted to the College of Graduate Studies at Montana State University and one of several potential participating academic departments. Current participating departments include: Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Civil Engineering, Earth Sciences, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, and Microbiology. Application to the IGERT program is a separate process (see below), but is contingent on successful admission to the College of Graduate Studies. For application to the IGERT program, students will be asked to write a one-page description of their scientific interests and long-term goals and how these relate to the goals of the IGERT program (interested applicants must refer to the full description of application processes, see below). The IGERT traineeship awards are limited to U.S. citizens; however, international students may also consider applying to the program as IGERT Student Associates.

Complete applications and supporting materials should be received by February 15 for applicants to be considered for admission to graduate study beginning the following summer. Applicants will be generally notified of a formal decision form the College of Graduate Studies by April 15.

It is strongly recommended that you contact (either by letter or email) faculty at MSU directly and indicate your interest in the IGERT program. Additional IGERT program descriptions (pdf file: IGERT Program Overview) are available on the Thermal Biology Institute and Center for Biofilm Engineering web sites ( and

Application Procedures

Interested students must send (i) a curriculum vita, and (ii) a one page document (12 pt font, 1 inch margins) containing the following information: name, status at MSU (applied versus enrolled; if already enrolled, provide home department, current advisor), prior degrees and universities attended, and a detailed description of why the student would like to participate in this IGERT program. For example, this should include coverage of research and disciplinary interests, rationale for choosing to pursue to a Ph.D. program, short and long-term academic goals, and a discussion of opportunities available within the IGERT program that are consistent with student career goals. If not already submitted to the College of Graduate Studies at MSU as part of admission requirements, the IGERT program will need full copies of academic transcripts, GRE scores and three letters of reference. Send application materials (as pdf files) to Dr. Bill Inskeep, IGERT Director ( Receipt of application will be acknowledged, and decisions regarding fellowship applications made as soon as possible.


Students applying to the IGERT program may receive a traineeship award for approximately 2-2.5 years, after which research support must be provided by a faculty member or other source. The traineeship awards are $30,000 per year including a cost of education allowance of $10,500 per year to offset any tuition, fees, and or other related educational expenses.

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