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Discovery Discovery May 2002
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Research Roundup

Gender bias
Why are so few women at top management levels? Richard Martell, an associate professor of psychology at MSU, and his research team conducted a series of computer simulations to demonstrate the forces that determine who does and does not advance in a typical Fortune 500 company. One finding was that the model of organizational mobility a company uses seems to be most harmful to women. The tournament model, for example, places enormous weight on factors like previous performance evaluations, time-in rank and speed of earlier advancements. Even one failure to be promoted disqualifies a person from future opportunities for promotions. Martell presented his findings last month at the annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Bacteria sometimes take up residence on the surfaces of medical implants, such as artificial hips. The bacteria can create a colony called a biofilm that can be hard to treat with antibiotics. Scientists at the University of Washington have invented a way to treat a plastic surface so that it releases a substance inside the body in the presence of sound waves. Now the Center for Biofilm Engineering at MSU is partnering with the Washington scientists to see if the method will work for preventing biofilm infections. They envision coating an implant surface with antibiotics that would be released after surgery. The National Science Foundation is funding the project.

Seedling protector
For canola growers, the challenge is getting a canola plant from infancy to the teenage years, so to speak. As a seedling, the crop is vulnerable to flea beetles and fungi, said Bill Grey, an MSU adjunct assistant professor of plant sciences. Once past that stage the plants with bright yellow flowers are pretty tough. Grey is studying treatments that will protect the crop at its earliest stages from diseases like brown girdling root rot. Canola, grown and processed for its oil, is a good rotational crop in Montana because it can break the disease cycles found in small grain fields, Grey said. The project is funded by the USDA.

Stomach bug
Stomach ulcers, once thought to be caused by stress or spicy foods, stem from a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Not all Helicobacter strains are alike, and some cause more severe gastric diseases than others. Why is that? Bozeman high school teacher Elizabeth Olsen will spend this summer and the next trying to find out. She'll work in the MSU lab of microbiologist Mike Franklin sequencing the DNA of a gene that varies widely between strains. Then she'll take the lab techniques she learned with Franklin and share them with her high school students. Called Partners in Science, the project is funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

Documenting Shakespeare
This will be the 30th season for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, an outdoor touring company that has been crisscrossing the state since 1973. Tom Watson, assistant professor in MSU's media and theatre arts department, is now making a documentary film about the process. He has already filmed Joel Jahnke, artistic director for the company, as Jahnke auditioned actors in Seattle and Chicago. Watson will continue by filming rehearsals, set construction, costume fittings and performances in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Filming will end around Labor Day. It will then take a few months to edit his work, Watson said. Funding came from an MSU Scholarship and Creativity Grant.



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