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Communications from the President

Most Recent Message from President Engstrom

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

On the day before Commencement, we were able to announce major news about research work here on campus: The University of Montana has received a $45 million cooperative agreement award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This five-year research award is the largest in UM’s history. It’s a spectacular indicator of the quality and range of research here!

While the dollar amount indeed is noteworthy, the award also is significant because of the number of faculty involved, the breadth of their expertise and the fact that their work will contribute to society’s greater understanding of the world around us.

Under the leadership of Professor Ric Hauer, a team of 10 UM faculty members will help the Corps study and solve environmental and cultural resource problems across the nation. These professors are engaged in work across campus, from anthropology to business to restoration ecology.

Summer is a time when our faculty members can more fully focus on their research and creative work. It’s a busy time for faculty – both those staying on campus and those traveling far afield. Research and creative work play many key roles at UM, such as:

Enhancing the educational experience of students

  • Since summer 2008, UM’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences has received federal funding to help us sponsor a 10-week summer research program for undergraduates. This summer, Sarah Kinsey, a Presidential Leadership Scholar in UM’s Davidson Honors College, is working on “The Control of Protein Production Related to Lung Fibrosis.” Her faculty mentor is UM’s Liz Putnam, this past year’s chair of the Faculty Senate.

Improving education at all levels

  • In August, 48 Montana and Wyoming elementary teachers will attend K-5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training as part of Project Lead the Way. UM became Project Lead the Way’s newest university affiliate and will offer K-5 STEM and biomedical professional development teacher training to advance college and career readiness. Lisa Blank, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will facilitate the elementary STEM trainings this summer. Rich Bridges, Regents Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will facilitate the high school teacher trainings, which begin next year.

Solving real problems

  • Jillian Campana, associate professor of theater and dance, is in Sweden this summer, where she continues her research into using theater to help brain injury survivors.
  • Diana Six, professor of forest entomology and pathology, and John McCutcheon, assistant professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, have teamed up to study mountain pine beetles and the symbiotic fungi they need to survive. This could lead to discoveries that help us prevent pine beetles from overrunning entire landscapes.

Enriching our lives

  • Music Professor Maxine Ramey and Assistant Professor Chris Kirkpatrick just returned from South Korea, where they performed and gave master classes at several universities. Associate Professors of Art Kevin Bell and Trey Hill are creating new works at Da Wang Cultural Highlands in Shenzhen, in southern China.
  • Journalism Associate Professor Nadia White is racing in the 444-mile Yukon River Quest. She is completing the legwork for a travelogue and adventure biography of her great-grandmother, whose path she’s following from Oklahoma to Alaska, by bicycle, kayak and voyageur canoe.

Supporting economic development and tech transfer from labs to the business world

  • Ryan Mizner, director of UM’s Movement Science Laboratory, has worked to prototype a system he calls BRIDGE (the Bodyweight Reduction Instrument to Deliver Graded Exercise). The system is a series of cords and pulleys designed to help patients after surgery or with severe brain injuries walk again. Though it’s still being tested, BRIDGE may someday be installed at hospitals and physical therapy offices near you.

Making fundamental discoveries

  • Astrophysics Associate Professor Nate McCrady is part of a project searching for planets around other stars. Minerva is a project using four telescopes, each owned by a different institution, that work together. Partners in the project are UM, Harvard, Penn State and the University of New South Wales in Australia.

As you can see, UM research and scholarship efforts have the ability to make meaningful changes in all our lives, and summers often are the catalyst for much of this work. I hope all of you have a fruitful and relaxing season!


Royce C. Engstrom
University of Montana

(June 19, 2014) 

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