Montana State University

Research Roundup at Montana State University (#242)

January 20, 2005 -- From MSU News Service

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Space barnacle

Montana State University students built a tiny satellite that is scheduled to be launched this spring from Kazakhstan. Known as the MEROPE, the satellite is a cube that will ride in the nose cone of a rocket. Another team of MSU students is working on a small satellite known as the Barnacle. It will be similar to the MEROPE, but slightly larger, said Dave Klumpar, research professor of physics. Like a barnacle under a ship, this Barnacle will ride on the outside of a rocket. Two graduate students and about 10 undergraduate students are working on the Barnacle. The MEROPE and Barnacle are both projects through the Montana Space Grant Consortium based at MSU.

Doc shock

First-year medical students at MSU take an average of 26 credits a semester. That means they can worry about time management and balancing school and personal activities, said Linda Hyman, director of the WWAMI medical program at MSU. Some students worry about leaving family and friends and making the transition to Bozeman. Sometimes people ask for medical advice even though the students are only beginning their training. To help first-year WWAMI students deal with the stress, the alumni association at the University of Washington provides money so they have access to counselors and workshops. Cheryl Blank, a clinical psychologist at MSU, meets with the Montana WWAMI students at the beginning of the year and is available to them throughout the year.

Blinded by lasers

People have been shooting laser beams at airplanes for years, but the FBI is investigating several incidents that have occurred since Christmas. Some people wonder if terrorists are responsible. Charles Spangler, a research professor at MSU, said such incidents are cyclical. He doesn't think there's a particular reason for the recent rash of events and noted that they have been reported in various locations around the country. Spangler and other MSU scientists are working with Air Force laboratories at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to develop new materials that could protect pilots' eyes from lasers. MSU makes compounds, then sends them to the Air Force labs for further evaluation.

Military cleanup

Many military bases have contaminated soil and groundwater, and the Department of Defense is looking for low-cost, long-term solutions, said Robin Gerlach, assistant research professor at MSU's Center for Biofilm Engineering. To help in the cleanup, Gerlach and a team of researchers are experimenting with bacterial communities and mixtures of contaminants. They want to develop more efficient technologies for remediation and hope to find technology that can be marketed by a Montana-based company. The scientists are using TNT, heavy metals and trichloroethylene as their contaminants. They are observing the formation of bacterial communities and noting their ability to break down those contaminants. The two-year project is a collaboration between MSU and the Center for Innovation. The center has offices in Butte and Bozeman.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu