Montana State University

Three MSU doctoral students receive 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowships

August 8, 2017 -- MSU News Service

Chris Barbour, a doctoral student in the MSU Department of Mathematical Sciences, has received a 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship from MSU's College of Letters and Science. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham Rachel Rawle, a doctoral student in the MSU Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has received a 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship from MSU's College of Letters and Science. MSU photo by Adrian Sanchez-GonzalezPaul van Erp,  a doctoral student in the MSU Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has received a 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship from MSU's College of Letters and Science. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

Chris Barbour, a doctoral student in the MSU Department of Mathematical Sciences, has received a 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship from MSU's College of Letters and Science. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

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BOZEMAN -- Three Montana State University doctoral students who work on research projects with biomedical applications have been awarded 2017 Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowships from MSU’s College of Letters and Science.

Christopher Barbour, Rachel Rawle and Paul van Erp will each receive $5,000 to support their research, including for expenses such as travel to meetings or for instruction, books, supplies and special research services. Each will give a Kopriva Science Seminar Series lecture during the 2017-18 or 2018-19 academic year.

Barbour, who is pursuing his doctorate in MSU’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, is developing new statistical methods for constructing clinical scales that can detect smaller temporal changes in disease progression with more sensitivity than any single available scale. When establishing clinical trial outcomes, it is difficult to quantify the level of disease severity and progression in neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, due to their biological complexity. An improved ability to detect changes in disease severity will allow for more economical screening of therapeutic drugs in clinical trials, such as those underway for MS.

Rawle, who is pursuing her doctorate in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, studies the metabolic processes in gut bacteria that mediate arsenic-related disease development. On both a domestic and global scale, arsenic contamination in soil and water has become a serious issue resulting from both industrial and natural geologic sources. It is estimated that more than 200 million people worldwide consume arsenic-tainted water at levels above the health limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The ultimate goal of this research project is to provide information that can be used to develop prophylactic treatments or probiotics that use microbes to lessen the toxic effects of arsenic on humans.

Also pursuing his doctorate in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, van Erp studies adaptive immune systems in bacteria and archaea. Known as CRISPR-systems, an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, these immune systems protect bacteria against invasion by genetic elements such as viruses. Specifically, van Erp’s research focuses on the immune system in Escherichia coli. In this system, an RNA-protein complex called Cascade recognizes viral DNA and recruits an enzyme called Cas3, which destroys the viral DNA. He is trying to understand in molecular detail how these “protein machines” find and destroy foreign DNA.

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. For a list of past recipients, please visit www.montana.edu/lettersandscience/kopriva/fellowship.html.

Contact: Jody Sanford, jody.sanford@montana.edu or 406-994-7791