$45 Million: UM Earns Largest
Research Award in University’s History
UM has received a $45 million cooperative agreement award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency announced May 16. The five-year research award is the largest in the history of UM.
Under the agreement, UM will help the Corps study and solve environmental and cultural resource problems across the nation. The University also will assist the Corps in implementing land and water ecological restoration, maintenance and training for optimal management of public resources.
F. Richard “Ric” Hauer is a UM professor of freshwater science and systems ecology and directs the UM side of the Institute on Ecosystems, a statewide institute of the Montana University System. He will serve as program director and principal investigator of the cooperative agreement.
“Earning this award confirms that UM has become an elite research institution in the arena of ecology and environmental sciences,” Hauer says. “This will take our research enterprise to an even higher and exciting new level.”
The award confirms UM’s ecological and cultural research status, says Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship. “When you look at a map of the United States and identify all the lead institutions doing environmental research, there should be a star next to Missoula and (UM).”
During the past two decades, UM has become a world leader in conservation biology, ecology and ecosystem science, Hauer says.
“We are, without doubt, competitive with and even surpassing many of the largest and most prestigious universities in the nation in the area of ecological and cultural research,” Hauer says. “Our faculty members are among the best in the nation, indeed the world. I know our researchers demand the highest level of excellence of themselves and each other.”
Hauer has a long-standing relationship with the Corps, assisting the agency with many projects since 1992. He helped the Corps develop the nationwide methodology and protocols for ecological assessments of rivers and wetlands. He also has taught classes for agency personnel on stream ecology and large-river ecosystems for the past 18 years.
Hauer says the work envisioned in the cooperative agreement may include topics such as the ecological effects of dams and reservoirs, environmental management problems, endangered species such as paddlefish or sturgeon, invasive species such as spotted knapweed or zebra mussels, water-quality issues, abandoned mine waste, Native American cultural sites, human health in the environment, and environmental policy and law.
“We have outstanding faculty members and state-of-the-art technology here at the University of Montana,” UM President Royce Engstrom says, “and it will be exciting to see how this significant award energizes and transforms our institution.”
Influential Dean to Retire
Do what has to be done. Be tough, but fair. Know where to draw the line. Finish what you start.
Such cowboy ethics inspired the UM tenure of Dave Forbes, dean of the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. Now after 26 years of accomplishment, Forbes plans to ride off into retirement
on June 30.
“The best part of the job was being able to build stuff — being able to grow,” he says. “The key was finding the best people to come here. But to do that you need good space and a good working environment. If you can put that all together, you get a winning operation.”
A Wisconsin native with a doctorate in pharmacy administration, Forbes spent 15 years at North Dakota State University before being hired as UM pharmacy dean in 1988. He inherited a fading program in danger of losing its accreditation. Soon after he arrived, the program was placed on published probation, a move intended to warn away prospective students.
Familiar with rural-state politics, Forbes was turned loose to visit UM-trained pharmacists across Montana, warning them that the program that trained them was in jeopardy. With pharmacists helping lobby their representatives, the 1991 Legislature supplied the resources to meet the program’s accreditation needs and hire more faculty.
Next up was improved working space. In the ’80s, pharmacy shared a small building with psychology and also had space in the Chemistry-Pharmacy Building. Administrators decided to ask L.S. Skaggs and his ALSAM Foundation for assistance, as the philanthropist had helped pharmacy programs in other western states. A month after a letter was sent, Skaggs flew out to visit UM in his private jet.
“We should have been shot, because our initial vision wasn’t broad enough,” Forbes says is his straightforward way. “We thought he might help us renovate our space in Chem-Pharmacy, but he said, ‘I’m not messing with a historic building. Why don’t you build a new building?’”
What followed was a flurry of schematics, lobbying the Legislature and private fundraising. Forbes has many stories of how everything almost collapsed, but the upshot is that in 1999 the new Skaggs Building rose on campus. A significant addition was completed in 2007.
During Forbes’ tenure, the total square footage available for pharmacy and its affiliated programs grew 220 percent. The annual pharmacy student class grew from 30 to 65. Research dollars skyrocketed, with UM ranked as high as fifth nationally for National Institutes of Health funding. Science centers were added, pharmacy and physical therapy doctorates were offered, social work joined the fold, a public health program was offered online, and units were restructured and renamed.
“Basically we expanded in all areas, both in quantity and quality,” Forbes says. “I had a lot of help, but, yeah, this has been a good place for me. Now it’s time to spend more time golfing and on horses.”
Powerful New Instrument Analyzes Crystals
Scientists and students studying at the subnanometer level can rejoice: UM has purchased a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer valued at $515,000.
The device is the only small-molecule diffractometer in Montana and this part of the Rocky Mountain West.
“This is a state-of-the-art instrument,” says Orion Berryman, a UM assistant professor of chemistry. “We are really excited to have it here.”
The device was installed the last week of January in the basement of UM’s Interdisciplinary Science Building.
Berryman says the diffractometer measures tiny crystal samples to determine composition at atomic resolution. This tells scientists what the crystals are made of and how the atoms are arranged. The device produces 3-D maps that illustrate the locations and composition of atoms within the sample.
He says the new instrument has a lot of capabilities because it has two X-ray sources that produce X-rays with different wavelengths. This makes the device capable of handling both large crystals or small samples that don’t defract well.
He wants to spread the word that the device now is available to chemists, geoscientists, pharmacy researchers, biologists and others.
“This is intended to be an intercollegiate instrument,” Berryman says. “We hope to have students from UM, Montana State and elsewhere using it.”
Religious Studies Professor Recipient
of Two Prestigious Fellowships
Nathaniel Levtow has had an exciting semester. The UM religious studies professor is the recipient of a Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
Established in 1994, the Berlin Prize is awarded each year to scholars, writers, policymakers and artists who represent the highest standard of excellence in their fields. Levtow will spend a semester conducting research at the American Academy in Berlin, where he will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with American and German academic, corporate, cultural and political leaders.
The American Academy in Berlin has been described as the world’s most important center for American intellectual life outside the United States.
“It will be an honor to represent UM at the American Academy in Berlin,” says Levtow, who is one of only 13 American Fellows attending the academy this fall and the first-ever Fellow from Montana. “Now I’ll finally have the chance to see and work in the great German universities and cultural institutions that gave birth to my field of modern biblical and religious studies.”
The NEH fellowship represents an equally unique opportunity of an entirely different kind. Unlike the Berlin Prize, it is not linked to any single university or city. Rather, it gives scholars the chance to follow their research wherever it may take them, allowing Levtow to conduct research in the great libraries and antiquities museums of America, Europe and the Middle East.
“The NEH fellowship gives scholars the means to conduct difficult, important humanities scholarship and to communicate the necessity and value of humanities research in America today,” Levtow says.
Neural Injury Center Approved for UM
The Montana Board of Regents on March 7 approved a proposal by UM to open the Neural Injury Center, empowering students with traumatic brain injuries and other neural injuries to access support and services from departments and colleges across campus.
The NIC is not a physical space as yet, but rather a collaborative of expertise on campus and an extension of UM’s ongoing, interdisciplinary Brain Initiative. Faculty members and researchers from the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, College of Visual and Performing Arts, Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, and College of Humanities and Sciences are working together to approach neural injuries holistically.
“Our first initiative is to improve student success, but far more importantly it’s about improving the quality of their lives and the lives of their families,” says Reed Humphrey, UM professor and chair of the UM School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. He says reaching the veteran community is especially important for the NIC because veterans make up a significant portion of students who have suffered unique brain injuries.