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MSU Begins Institute at Big Sky

Montana State University is developing the Big Sky Institute for Science and Natural History at Big Sky. The innovative educational resource center will combine high-quality research with innovative, hands-on education and high-technology interpretive/outreach programs. The institute was formed in partnership with Ophir School and the Big Sky community. It will offer courses that will promote and enhance the understanding of the natural and cultural environment and human's interaction with the environment through education, research and community involvement.

Science and Natural History Filmmaking

The Montana Board of Regents has approved a new master's degree program for MSU-Bozeman. The Master of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking is the only degree of its kind in the world, says Ronald Tobias, media and theatre arts. The three-year program will begin in the summer or fall of 2001. Students will take advantage of Montana's natural habitats, as well as habitats worldwide. Discovery Communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, gave the university $1.4 million to launch the program and additional money to fund student scholarships.

Antarctic Bacteria

A team led by MSU biologist John Priscu discovered bacteria in an ice core drilled from deep within a frozen Antarctic lake. The bacteria came from Lake Vostok, a subglacial body of water the size of Lake Ontario resting more than two miles under the East Antarctic ice cap.

Priscu's team, along with two other groups studying Vostok ice, published its findings in the Dec. 10, 1999 issue of the journal Science. The team includes seven MSU scientists, as well as scientists from the University of Alabama, the U.S. Geological Survey and the NASA Ames Research Center.

Priscu said the Vostok ice is among the deepest ever explored for life and could be a model for searching for life in frozen environments elsewhere in the solar system. The clear ice core, 18 inches long and four inches wide, was plucked from about 11,800 feet below the surface of the ice sheet and 495 feet above Lake Vostok.

Temporary Space Station

Bozeman became a temporary control center for a U.S. spacecraft in August 1999, making it the first time a space mission has been commanded from Big Sky Country.

The spacecraft, called TRACE for Transition Region and Coronal Explorer, was launched in 1998 to take high-resolution pictures of the sun. A rotating team of scientists, including three from MSU, take turns issuing daily instructions to the spacecraft from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. But when it was MSU's turn to issue the daily plans, the two Bozeman scientists up for duty didn't want to do it. They wanted to go to a solar physics meeting in California, scheduled close enough to the TRACE assignment to make attending the meeting almost impossible.

The solution was to transform a cubicle in the MSU Engineering/Physical Sciences Building (EPS) into "mission control" for a week. MSU's daily command went from Bozeman to the Goddard Space Flight Center over the Internet.

MSU Receives IGERT

MSU was one of 21 universities to receive a high-profile graduate training award from the National Science Foundation in 1999. Called Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT), the program will train between 70 and 80 MSU graduate students to address complex problems in biology, such as how the human brain works.

The IGERT award totals $2.7-million over five years. MSU competed with about 600 other institutions interested in the innovative program created three years ago to train a new generation of scientists and engineers in more than one field.
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