Montana State University

Helena sisters excel at science fair after working with MSU's BioScience Montana

April 11, 2013 -- MSU News Service

4-H members Liz (left) and Emma Carlson monitor for microbial growth as part of an NIH-sponsored bioscience project.   High-Res Available

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters

Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN--Two teenagers from Helena used data gathered through a Montana State University outreach project to take second place at the Montana State Science Fair, held March 18 and 19 in Missoula.

These 4-H members, sisters Elizabeth Carlson, 15, and Emma Carlson, 13, took part in BioScience Montana, an intensive yearlong experience through which they conduct scientific research, learn about bioscience-related careers and collaborate via distance learning technologies. BioScience Montana is funded by the National Institutes of Health as a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) given to MSU.

As part of the BioScience Montana infectious disease module, led by MSU's Jovanka Voyich, the Carlson sisters, along with 29 other 4-H members, learned about bacteria, viruses, infections and antibiotics. For their hands-on project, many Bioscience Montana participants studied the microbiomes of nasal cavities of their family members or classmates, while others researched the microbiomes of farm animals or the family dog.

The Carlsons chose horses. They swabbed the nostrils of their horses and those of their neighbors, then incubated the cultures and studied what grew. The teens then identified the bacteria and microorganisms present.

For their science fair project, entitled "SEPA Bioscience Horse Microbiome Project,"

the Carlsons hypothesized that their 30-year-old horse would have a weaker immune system than other younger horses, and therefore, a higher bacteria count.

They found, however, that all of the horses had a similar amount of bacteria. Therefore, they concluded that all horses have a similar amount of bacteria, regardless of their age.

"This (SEPA) program has interested both Liz and I in research careers," Emma Carlson said. "We liked the lab work and the fieldwork. We are also glad that we got to explore this field through BioScience Montana."

BioScience Montana combines aspects of MSU's teaching, research and service missions and was developed by MSU Extended University, the 4-H Center for Youth Development, and the MSU Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience.

For more information, visit

Contact: Carrie Benke, MSU, (406) 994-4351,