BOZEMAN -- Two doctoral students who work on research projects with biomedical applications have been awarded 2014 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowships from the College of Letters and Science at Montana State University.
Tamra Heberling, Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Pilar Manrique, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, will each receive $5,000 to support their research, including expenses such as travel to meetings or for instruction, books, supplies and special research services. Both will give a Kopriva Science Seminar Series lecture during the 2015-2016 academic year.
Heberling’s research focuses on mathematical modeling and numerical analysis. She is currently modeling transcription, which is the first step of gene expression when a particular segment of DNA is copied into RNA by the enzyme RNA polymerase. During transcription, RNA polymerases are known to frequently pause for short lengths of time. In the high density setting, where there are many polymerases transcribing the gene in a line, the transcriptional pauses can cause a “traffic jam” of polymerases on the DNA strand. A mathematical analysis of this phenomenon will lead to a greater understanding of the cause and effect of these pauses on gene expression and regulation.
Manrique studies the role of viruses in shaping the structure and function of the bacterial communities associated with the human gut (human gut microbiome). Changes in the gut microbiome composition and structure negatively impact human health, and correlate with important diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Her research focuses on defining the role of viruses associated with the human gut microbiome in affecting human health and disease. For this purpose, she has isolated viruses from human samples, directly sequenced the isolated viral genomes, and applied advance bioinformatics analysis to understand the viral community composition and temporal dynamics in the human gut.
Phil Kopriva, a 1957 microbiology graduate, established an endowment to fund the Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowships, which are awarded to recognize and support the research of outstanding graduate students in the areas of physiology and/or biochemistry. Past recipients include Sunshine Silver and Ramon Tusell (chemistry and biochemistry) in 2008; Travis Harris (chemistry and biochemistry) and Crystal Richards (microbiology) in 2009; Jonas Mulder-Rosi (cell biology and neuroscience) in 2010; Amy Servid and Alison O’Neil (chemistry and biochemistry) in 2011; Joshua Heinemann and Shefah Qazi (chemistry and biochemistry) in 2012; and Timothy Hamerly (chemistry and biochemistry), Nicholas Dotson (cell biology and neuroscience) and Sydney Akapame (mathematical sciences) in 2013.