Demi St. John is a graduate student in the M.S. Optics and Photonics program. She is housed in the Physics department in this cross-disciplinary program (with Chemistry and Electrical Engineering). Demi is working with Randy Babbitt to study optically levitated particles. This research is being funded through the Office of Naval Research and will help improve today’s current position, navigation and time keeping technology. The research will introduce solid-state laser cooling techniques to trap particles at ultra-high vacuum in order to improve sensitivity measurements of forces and to study spin and rotation properties of the particles.
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.
Aoife Casey is a graduate student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, where she works with Prof. Matt Cook. Her current research is focused on developing cascade reaction pathways to synthesize cyclopentenes and aminocyclopentene.
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.
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.
Arianna Celis works for the DuBois Lab studying the novel enzyme HemQ in S. aureus. HemQ is the last enzyme of heme biosynthesis pathway in Gram-positive bacteria, which include many pathogens. At the chemical level, we are interested in this 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 our 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 we have started to shed light on the chemical mechanism of the HemQ reaction. I am now focusing on understanding HemQ's role at the cellular level by studying its interactions with other proteins in the heme biosynthesis pathway
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find out more about Katie's research here!