Exciting news from our current Graduate Students 


Spring/Summer 2017  

 Melodie student spotlight

Melodie Machovina works in the DuBois lab, studying the kinetics and reaction mechanisms of bacterial enzymes that use O2 in a variety of biological reactions. The DOE SCGSR (Office of Science for Graduate Student Research) award she received last year has enabled her to look at how two oxygen-dependent enzymes, GcoA and MqO, can be used to break down lignin from plant biomass. Using enzymes for lignin breakdown is a greener alternative to current methods in place, which use high heat and toxic chemicals. Lignin can be used as a chemical feedstock and petroleum replacement for things like plastic, organic solvents, composite materials, and fuels.

Tess Corbin

Congrats to Tess Corbin in the Dratz lab for being awarded a Ford Fellowship for her research. We asked her to tell us a little bit more about her research and the fellowship:

I am a single mother of two who has been working on a Stem Cell project - induced pluripotent stem cells - to improve culture methods and hopefully aid in the development of a reliable, therapeutically applicable iPSC that can be safely used for personal therapies for genetic disorders. I started this work because my eldest son has a rare enzyme disorder that has no effective cure. There are many of these rare disorders - one for every enzyme - and the symptoms range from unnoticeable to deadly in infancy. These and many other genetic problems may be effectively cured using patient derived stem cells, but the iPSCs we are currently producing have problems.   I believe addition of nutrients to the current media may significantly aid in reprogramming and maintenance of iPSCs in culture, making genetic repair, differentiation, and reimplantation more possible, more effective, and safer. The Ford Fellowship is a diversity fellowship, I was awarded for academic excellence, potential for future teaching that will benefit students from underrepresented populations in the sciences (i.e. women, and especially single parents), and my work with diverse learners, such as Sudanese refugees in Australia, and with teachers of Native American students here in Montana.


Arianna Celis was awarded a 2016 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship. She works in the DuBois Lab, studying the novel enzyme HemQ in S. aureus, Arianna has started to shed light on the chemical mechanism of the HemQ reaction. She is now focusing on understanding HemQ's role at the cellular level by studying its interactions with other proteins in the heme biosynthesis pathway.

Casey Kennedy was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation in April 2017. Casey works in the Grumstrap group,  investigating potential materials for solar cells. She uses pump-probe microscopy, with two different light beams to study perovskites. One beam excites the electrons in the semiconducting material. The other beam probes the material to see how it responds By systematically swapping out atoms, they can determine how well the material would perform in solar cells.