MSU News Service

Engineering professor wins Fulbright Scholarship to Finland

April 25, 2013 -- Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

Darla Goeres, assistant research professor with Montana State University's Center for Biofilm Engineering, will head to Finland next winter for a six-month exchange as a Fulbright scholar. She will be working on biofilm testing at a pharmaceuticals lab in Turku, Finland. (MSU Photo by Kelly Gorham).

BOZEMAN - In the eyes of Darla Goeres, technology transfer from a university lab to the private sector can be as simple as educating and graduating students schooled in cutting-edge science.


Goeres, assistant research professor with Montana State University's Center for Biofilm Engineering, will take that philosophy with her when she heads to Finland next winter for a six-month exchange as a Fulbright scholar. Goeres learned in March that she'd received a Fulbright Scholarship.


Her stay in Finland will have her working in a pharmacy sciences laboratory at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland.


"It's a great opportunity because I'll be teaching the biofilm techniques that we use here every day," Goeres said. "It's the ultimate form of tech transfer - those students go further in their careers and take jobs in labs across Europe."


Goeres has been with CBE for 16 years, researching biofilm bacteria in industrial systems as part of the team in the Standardized Biofilm Methods Laboratory, a facility she now heads. In this lab CBE works with national and international standards-setting organizations to support the development and standardization of test methods for measuring the performance of antimicrobial products.


"As head of the standardized methods lab, Darla interacts with colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency and industry from around the country," said Phil Stewart, CBE director. "Her time in Europe will be a great way to exchange knowledge and expand the impact of our methods development activities internationally."


Among other things, Goeres has studied anaerobic biofilms in soured oil fields and biofilms in recreational water systems. She has evaluated various treatment strategies for killing, removing and/or preventing biofilm formation. 


Identifying and eliminating biofilms from the perspective of pharmaceuticals will be at the center of Goeres's mission in Finland. Because the lab at Åbo Akademi University uses a different approach than those employed at CBE, Goeres said there will be much to learn.


While the lab in Finland conducts tests using techniques designed to scan thousands of compounds for their efficacy against biofilms, the CBE standards lab is known for its rigorous testing on a compound-by-compound basis.


"I'm eager to learn what's going on with biofilm science in Europe on a day-to-day basis," she said. "And I do want to bring the methods we've standardized here in the U.S. and introduce them over there."


Goeres said the Finnish lab seems to be committed to the philosophy that "if you're testing drug compounds for efficacy against biofilms, you need to use biofilms in those tests." A philosophy that is consistent with the Standardized Biofilm Methods Laboratory. CBE, which is the oldest and largest biofilm research center in the world, has been leading the push to use biofilms in standards testing.


In addition to her Fulbright, Goeres has also been named a faculty fellow to the MSU Honors Program. A Presidential Scholar at MSU as an undergraduate from 1989-1993, she'll be teaching the "Texts and Critics" course, the program's entry course for freshmen and the same class she took.


"It's great to have Darla serving in that role," said Ilse-Mari Lee, director of the Honors Program. "Given that she's an Honors Program graduate, it completes the circle to have her teaching a new generation of honors students."


Her Fulbright work in Finland won't be Goeres's first trip to conduct research overseas. In1996, she traveled to Denmark, where she studied biofilms found in heating distribution pipes.


Goeres's husband, Mike Wiseman, and two daughters, Emily, 11, and Anna, 8, will accompany her to Turku. Wiseman, who is an architect, will be absorbing as much of the prolific Scandinavian design culture as he can, Goeres said.


Her daughters will attend an English-speaking school, though they are planning to meet plenty of local kids as they continue their pursuits of music and gymnastics.


"They are all very excited about this opportunity we've been given," Goeres said. "We've already begun reading about Scandinavian culture."


Sally O'Neill, Fulbright coordinator with MSU's Office of International Programs, said Goeres continues MSU's record of accomplishment in earning Fulbright scholarships, both for students and for faculty. Since 1986, some 32 MSU faculty members have received Fulbright grants. Among students, MSU has had 21 Fulbrights awarded since 1996.


For the 2013-14 cycle, MSU assistant professor of psychology Michelle Meade was also named a Fulbright Scholar. To date, the 2013-14 Fulbright student awards have not been announced.


O'Neill said that success is a tribute to the community of MSU students and faculty, as well as to the help offered by those on campus who have already earned Fulbright awards, many of whom have served on Fulbright screening committees. In particular, O'Neill cited John Paxton, professor of computer science, Kirk Branch, professor of English, and Martin Frick, professor of agriculture.


"We're so lucky to have people like Martin, John and Kirk who are willing to sit down with fellow faculty interested in applying for Fulbright scholarships," O'Neill said. "It seems like the people who apply have had really great success."


Goeres will be one of dozens of American students, scholars, teachers, scientists and artists to travel abroad on Fulbright scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year, with a goal of providing cultural exchange and increased mutual understanding among nations. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.


Goeres said she's passionate about helping shape how biofilm science is used in the international marketplace, particularly in her area of developing standards for biofilm testing methods.


"That is the ultimate goal," Goeres said. "And I think it really embraces the Fulbright mission of increasing our understanding of other countries and sharing our knowledge around the world."

Contact: Darla Goeres, (406) 994-2440 or darla_g@biofilm.montana.edu.



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