Montana State University

National Science Foundation awards MSU student $121,500

April 19, 2004 -- by MSU News Service

Montana State University-Bozeman senior Cory Rupp graduates from the College of Engineering in May with a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. (Photo by Stephen Hunts, MSU News.)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Bozeman -- Montana State University-Bozeman senior Cory Rupp is among about 1,000 students nationwide who received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, worth $121,500 over three years.

The fellowship covers $10,500 a year in tuition and includes a $30,000 annual stipend, which will allow the Billings native to pursue both a master's and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"The best part of my years here at Montana State University are my three years doing research in the Center for Biofilm Engineering," said Rupp who graduates in May in mechanical engineering. "It's there that I learned not only the mechanics of biofilms, which are colonies of bacteria, but how to do research, thus enhancing my engineering and scientific education."

Another MSU graduate, Anna Hagenston, received the same fellowship last month. She has enrolled in Yale University and is studying neuroscience. She graduated in 2000 with bachelor's degrees in modern languages and physics. She is also from Billings and attended Billing West High School.

Aside from senior projects and studying for finals, Rupp is as part of a four-member team investigating the bacterial biofilms, which are the layers of microbial slime that form on almost all wet surfaces. This slime can be an industrial problem, as it can disrupt systems ranging from oil pipelines to municipal water supplies. Bacterial biofilm also occurs in medicine where they are thought to be the cause of many chronic infections including sinus and ear infections.

Rupp moves easily between the disciplines of mechanical engineering and microbiology.

"Cory has the rare ability to bring a mechanical engineer's perspective to biofilm microbiology, a potentially new discipline in biofilm research," said Paul Stoodley, an affiliate professor at MSU in microbiology and mechanical engineering and currently an associate professor at the Center for Genomic Sciences at the Allegheny-Singer Research Institute in Pittsburgh. "Cory represents the type of enthusiastic interdisciplinary engineer who will be on the forefront in the merging of engineering and science fields."

Rupp said that as a youngster, his curiosity led him to explore varied subjects from music to sports to math as well as all the sciences. His parents allowed him to investigate all his interests.

"After high school, I wanted to go out of state, but I found that MSU's College of Engineering had the same education as out-of-state institutions -- if not a better education -- for a fraction of the cost," said the Billings Skyview alumus. "I've found over the years as I've met students from other schools that we often get a better overall education at MSU than engineering students at other places, including prestigious Ivy League schools."

Through various programs, Rupp was able to study at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the summer of 2002. He studied the optimization of nuclear fusion reactors. He worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico last summer, exploring structural dynamics such as the vibration of structures. His numerous accolades include a Boeing Scholarship and a William Parkins Engineering-Physics award. His GPA is 3.91.

As a member of MSU's Engineering Ambassadors who encourage young people to pursue careers in engineering, Rupp suggested that undergrads don't become too specialized within one area of academia.

"Keep an open mind about everything," Rupp said, "because everything is connected in some way. Find a professor you like, latch on, visit with the professor and get feedback. Most students don't figure this out. My two primary mentors, Jerry Stevens and Brett Towler in civil engineering, have offered an immense amount of support over the past four years and continue to do so. For this I will always be grateful."

Yet life is not all research and studies for Rupp. He enjoys recreation that Montana provides: hiking, biking and fishing, activities he intends to continue once he has settled in Colorado.

"After grad school, I want to work at a national laboratory or in industry doing research and development," Rupp said. "Eventually I want to return to MSU to teach because here I can work at a great place in a great location."

Rupp is the son of Cathy Bisom of Helena and Jim Rupp of Minneapolis.

Contact Cory Rupp 582-1956