Graduate Women in Science and Engineering
Welcome to WISE!
Our goal is to support female graduate students in science, social science, math and engineering by providing opportunities for both professional and social development. WISE has been a treasured part of the MSU community in the past and we are excited about its return! Take a look around to see what is new with WISE and what events are coming up!
Kristen Emmett is a PhD student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working with Dr. Ben Poulter. Her research interests include climate impact modeling, biogeography, citizen science, and science communication. Kristen’s current research focuses on modeling fire, climate, and vegetation interactions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to predict future impacts of climate change.
Emily Reeves is a PhD student in chemistry, working with Prof. Sharon Neufeldt. Her research focuses
on methane homologation with organotantalum complexes, which could enable the formation
of heavier alkanes or other value-added chemicals from abundant natural gas resources.
Kate Henderson is a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, working with Dr. Wyatt Cross. Kate is an ecosystem ecologist studying stream food webs, and is interested in the interplay between community and ecosystem ecology processes. Specifically, she is studying stream food webs in Iceland, and how nutrient availability and temperature interact to influence invertebrate communities and energy flows through a stream.
Arianna Celis works for the DuBois Lab, in the Biochemistry department, studying the novel enzyme HemQ in S. aureus. HemQ is the last enzyme of the heme biosynthesis pathway in Gram-positive bacteria, which includes many pathogens. At the chemical level, this is an interesting enzyme because it catalyzes a unique CO2 generating reaction and it is an enzyme that uses its substrate as both substrate and cofactor. At the cellular level it sparks interest because it requires toxic H2O2 to catalyze its reaction and because of its unique presence in Gram-positive bacteria, it has the potential of being an antibiotic target. Using Uv-Vis Spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and X-ray crystallography Arianna has started to shed light on the chemical mechanism of the HemQ reaction. She is now focusing on understanding HemQ's role at the cellular level by studying its interactions with other proteins in the heme biosynthesis pathway.
Kristin (Kris) Smith is a PhD student in Geography in the Resources and Communities Research Group. She is studying how communities in northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota have responded to impacts from energy development in the Bakken shale play and how municipal decision making impacts long-term community and economic resilience. Using insights and approaches from resource geography and rural community development, Kristin strives to create practical tools to assist local government leaders with decision making related to natural resources and infrastructure.
Danica Walsh is a graduate student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department working in the Livinghouse lab. Her project is focused on the design and synthesis of prodrug antimicrobials to target biofilm forming bacteria. Danica works with the Stewert lab in the Center for Biofilm Engineering in order to test each compound for toxicity and overall efficacy towards biofilms. Biofilm forming bacteria have been a large public health concern in hospitals, from causing hard to treat infections from implants to building up on medical devices and equipment. Biofilms can also cause contamination and corrosion in many types of industrial plants and factories. The overall goal of Danica’s project is to develop antimicrobials that have a wide array of industrial applications including sanitation in hospitals, control of biological corrosion in naval vessels and water treatment plants, and even in house hold cleaning products.
Sylvia Nicovich is a PhD student in Geology, focused on Quaternary and process geomorphology, stratigraphy, and sedimentology of alluvial fans. Sylvia is working on her dissertation in the high desert of southern Colorado's San Luis Valley. Her field-based research, funded through the USGS and NASA's Montana Space Grant Consortium Fellowship, will lead to a greater understanding of land forming and modifying processes, with auxiliary contribution to the improvement of hazard mitigation for applicable environments.
Sarah Partovi is a PhD student in Biochemistry in Dr. John Peters lab. Sarah is focused on elucidating the coenzyme M (CoM) biosynthetic pathway in the proteobacterium, Xanthobacter autotrophicus Py2. CoM was once thought to be unique to the methanogenic archaea, but was found to play a crucial role in bacterial propylene metabolism. The pathway for CoM biosynthesis has remained unsolved since its discovery in the late '90s, but by utilizing techniques in biochemistry, analytical chemistry, bioinformatics, and organic chemistry. Sarah has been able to propose new enzyme activities for three separate enzyme families and define a complete, plausible pathway for CoM biosynthesis for bacteria that is distinct from CoM biosynthesis in the archaea.
Ashley Beckstead is a PhD student working under Prof. Bern Kohler in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Ashley uses ultrafast spectroscopy to learn how UV light interacts with important biomolecules, such as DNA. In particular, she aims to understand more about the fundamental excited-state processes that make DNA both intrinsically photostable and vulnerable to photodamage. Using time-resolved mid-IR spectroscopy, Ashley also tracks photo-induced electron transfer interactions in modified nucleotides with enhanced redox activity. This area of her research, in collaboration with NASA, may provide clues for understanding how prebiotic molecules recovered from UV-induced photodamage during early chemical evolution.
Katie Epstein is a PhD student in Geography studying social-ecological systems, rural development, environmental conflict, and conservation in mountain regions. Her current research focuses on how changing land ownership patterns impact wildlife management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and post-disaster agricultural systems in the Himalaya.