Montana State University
Archived Spotlight story

The VP Research Office has selected five new Presidential Scholars, Elizabeth Flesch, Samantha Forsythe, Hanna Gertiser, Erin Gunnink, and Morgan Mends, as interns for the program "Undergraduate Research Internships for Enhancing Diversity in Science and Engineering" beginning Fall 2008.

This program is part of a campus-wide effort to enhance diversity in the science fields and increase the number of women majoring in science and engineering, and to increase the opportunities for women to be involved in undergraduate research at MSU. It is designed to provide highly qualified undergraduate students with exposure to research in the sciences and engineering fields, and to gain some first-hand experience working with faculty and graduate students in many of the research labs or centers on campus.


Elizabeth Flesch (Bettendorf, IA) is majoring in Fish and Wildlife. Elizabeth loves nature and enjoys observing the wildlife. She is interested in wildlife rehabilitation, and likes volunteering and nursing juvenile and injured wildlife back to health. She would like to pursue a Master's degree and become a wildlife biologist who leads research in national parks. MSU has excellent opportunities for undergraduate students to gain experience in research, and is in close proximity to Yellowstone National Park, which is a good location for wildlife biology research. She also enjoys reading, playing her flute, and outdoor activities. Elizabeth is interning with Robert Garrot in Ecology. During summer 2009 she is doing a sea turtle internship at Canaveral National Seashore in Florida.

ForsytheSamantha Forsythe (Billings, MT) is majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience. Samantha was born and raised in Billings, and grew up loving the outdoors. Running, camping, and fishing are a few of her favorite activities. She is excited about her sophomore year and looks forward to a new set of classes in the Cell Biology and Neuroscience Department. In particular, she is interested in the chemistry aspect of CBN. She is working with Ellen-therese Lamm at the Museum of the Rockies studying collagen fibers within dinosaur skulls. This research is being used to support a theory about dinosaur development.


GertiserHanna Gertiser (Livingston, MT) is majoring in Nutrition Science. Hanna is interested in many things among which are cooking, hiking, running, backpacking, playing soccer and tennis, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. She was born in Germany and has lived in Livingston for twelve years. She is considering a minor in Spanish and would love to spend a semester studying in a South American country. She interned with Mary Miles in Health & Human Development. During Summer 2009 she is interning with Alison Harmon at the Towne's Harvest Garden.


Erin Gunnink (Bozeman, MT) is majoring in Biotechnology and Engineering. Erin spent the summer working in the new SubZero Sciences Engineering and Research Facility at MSU with Dr. Ed Adams, learning about lab work and different computer programs, from hyperspectral imaging to website design. Her interests include painting and Spanish (which she is considering as a minor). She teaches taekwondo and has a Black Belt. She is interning with Cathy Zabinski in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences.


Morgan Mends (Helena, MT) is majoring in Chemical Engineering. Morgan came to MSU because it has such a strong engineering program with many exciting opportunities for undergraduate research, and it allows her to stay in Montana. She enjoys reading, and loves to play the piano and the viola, and is discovering the joys of carpentry. She is interning with Gary Strobel in Plant Sciences. She continues this work during summer 2009.


Other Interns

Jane Johnson (Kalispell, MT), Tiphani Lynn (Great Falls, MT), and Jacquelyn Sweiger (Florida) began their internships in Fall 2007. Jane spent her internship with Liz Shanahan in Political Science on a project studying open space and conservation initiatives and referendums in several Western states. They looked at census data and reviewed the literature to investigate the possibility of shifts in voter demographics. Tiphani worked briefly with Evelyn Boswell in the Vice President for Research Office writing news articles. Jackie assisted Jan Bowman and Jyme Peterson in Animal and Range Sciences with the analysis of samples in their lab for one semester.

Katy Hansen (Bozeman, MT), Erica Wineman (Livingston, MT), Krysta Buska (Helena, MT), and Pavielle Haines (Bozeman, MT) began their internships Fall 2006. Katy worked with Dr. Linda Young researching various subjects in International Political Economy - which is a combination of Economics, Political Science and Sociology. She gathered statistics that showed the importance of trade and the impact of global associations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. She also researched and presented a critical analysis of Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital on granting property rights to slum dwellers in Lima, Peru and some implied worldwide policy implications. Lastly, she found case studies that showed the impact of trade agreements on rural agricultural producers. Erica interned for Bridget Kevane in Modern Languages. Her work included reading books and writing essays to help Dr. Kevane with the research for the book she is writing. Erica left MSU after the first year. Krysta interned for Trevor Douglas in the Center for Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials for three semesters and a summer.  She was trained on various lab equipment and techniques. Her research focused specifically on oxidative stress and a Dns-like protein from Sulfolobus solfataricus. Krysta also learned how to develop a research project from proposal to publication. Pavielle interned with Liz Shanahan in Political Science. The project explored what promotes contentedness in society and the implications that it has for policy. Her work included making inquires at the Gallatin County Public Health office about health data which they are required to collect, how it is archived, and the whereabouts of county-level health data at the state level.

Katie Baldwin (Bozeman, MT) was selected as an intern Fall 2005, then spent her second year in Germany, and has returned to complete her internship. She updated the Women in Research and Teaching website (, identified funding opportunities for the Girls for a Change program, and traveled to Indonesia to work with the Girls World Summit team, where they gave a Girls International Forum survey to 200 girls and women to assess their needs and the communities in which they live. She has also read articles and books on gender and science, and prepared a survey for MSU faculty on how women are influenced by science. She interned with Carla Nappi in History and Philosophy on the history of science, and in Spring 2008 she worked with an independent study group with Engineers Without Borders to prepare a household water use survey for use in Kenya. She received a 2009 Student of Achievement Award in Spring 2009.

Dana Kreitel (Ekalaka, MT) and Katie Stahley (Billings, MT) began their internships Fall 2004. Dana worked with Michele Hardy in Veterinary Molecular Biology using viruses to inhibit gene expression. Katie worked with the Montana Water Center analyzing water marketing laws in Western states and also updated their educational trunks. During Spring 2006 Katie researched trading protocols for Susan Capalbo.

Keely Obert (Helena, MT) and Kristy Segal (Atlanta, GA) were selected as interns beginning Fall 2003. Keely worked with Jerry Stephens and Eli Cuehlo in Civil Engineering on his SACO Bridge Project. As a senior she was honored with an Excellence Award with Jerry Stephens as her faculty mentor in February 2007. Kristy spent her internship with Dr. Lisa Graumlich in the Big Sky Institute writing informational handouts on current science/resource issues. In 2005 she received a Big Sky Institute Science and Society Undergraduate Fellowship.  As a senior she was honored with an Excellence Award with Scott Creel as her faculty mentor in February 2007.

3 page factsheet on all VP Interns