Montana State University

McNair Scholars Program

Montana State University
240 Gaines Hall
P.O. Box 172560
Bozeman, MT 59717

Director and Co-P.I.

Shelly Hogan, Ph.D.

Administrative Associate

Kate Delaney

For more information:

Tel: (406) 994-5072
Fax: (406) 994-7989

Current McNair Scholars

Blaine Berrington

Major: Chemistry
Mentor: Dr. Mary Cloninger


Celina Brownotter

Major: Architecture
Mentor: Thomas McNab, M.A.

I am from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Currently, I am a junior majoring in Architecture here at Montana State University. I am working with my mentor, Thomas McNab, on analyzing how culture, beliefs, and traditions positively affected early Sioux housing. After graduating from Montana State I plan to attend graduate school on the west coast and obtain my masters degree. The McNair Scholars program has helped me prepare for my future of continuing onto graduate school.

Jacob Corpron

Major: Cell Biology & Neuroscience
Mentor: Dr. Doug Kominsky

Born and raised in Kalispell, Montana, I decided to pursue a degree in Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Montana State University after serving four years in the United States Air Force.  My faculty mentor Dr. Doug Kominsky and his lab works to unravel the complex dynamics of inflammatory bowel diseases and identify possible avenues for treatment of the debilitating disease. My research involves looking at what regulates the apical IL-10 receptor located on intestinal epithelia cells. This receptor is important in regulating inflammatory responses in the gut as well as maintaining barrier function necessary to defend cells from foreign invaders. My goal after I graduate is to attend the University of Washington’s School of Medicine to further my abilities in helping people in need of medical services.

Sabrina Dinkel

Major: Microbiology
Mentor: Dr. Ron June

I am originally from Colorado Springs, CO and I’m a Microbiology and Immunology major at MSU. I am currently conducting research with my McNair mentor Dr. Ron June determining gene expression of agarose encapsulated chondrocytes under mechanical compression.  In conjunction with the gene expression project, we are also working on an aging study to determine if the age of chondrocytes in human knee and hip cartilage affects their mechanical loading ability. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop novel joint therapies for osteoarthritis patients and other joint pain sufferers.  After I graduate from MSU, I hope to go on to medical school and enter into an MD/PhD program with my ideal school being the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, CO.

Lauren Dupuis

Major: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Mentor: Dr. Connie Chang

I am a descendent of the Salish and Kootenai Confederated Tribes and I grew up in Polson, Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation. I am a junior in chemistry with a minor in statistics at Montana State University. Last summer I attended a summer research program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with Dr. Stephen Buchwald and Dr. Stig Friis on expanding the scope of copper hydride and palladium catalyzed hydroarylation. Currently I am working in my McNair mentor’s research laboratory, Dr. Connie Chang, in the Center for Biofilm Engineering. My project is synthesizing a surfactant for microfluidic devices that is biologically compatible and then to modify the surfactant to have different properties. Outside of research, I am also the president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society where I help to inspire Native youth to enter STEM majors and support those Native students that are at MSU.

Phillip Eaton

Major: Nursing
Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Rink

I am originally from North Carolina. I will be receiving dual degrees in Nursing and Psychology. I am currently working with Dr. Elizabeth Rink on the Fort Peck Sexual Health Project as part of my McNair research project. I am study the relationship between spirituality, either traditional Native American, contemporary Christian, or none at all, on the sexual perceptions of Native American adolescents on the reservation. My goal is to attend graduate school to earn a PhD in psychology.


Melissa Emery

Major: Chemistry
Mentor: Dr. Charles (Bill) McLaughlin

am currently studying Chemistry teaching at Montana State University.  In the Summer of 2013 I worked with Dr. Bill McLaughlin to implement components of the TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) classroom in the second semester general chemistry course, CHMY 143.  I actively planned and delivered lessons through this project and learned invaluable skills such as classroom management and best grading practices.  I am also the treasurer of the Undergraduate Chemistry Society and throughout the year participate in outreach events where I perform chemical demonstrations to local youth organizations.  Currently a junior, I desire to student teach overseas.  She eventually would aspire to obtain my Ph.D. so I can become a professor at a university. I am from Georgetown, CA and currently live in Bozeman with my husband Thomas and our 3-yr old daughter, Molly. 

Amy Fiel

Major: Psychology
Mentor: J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, Ph.D.

I am studying Family & Consumer Sciences as a thirdyear
student in the Department of Health
and Human Development. As a McNair Scholar, I am working on conducting an independent
research project looking at the Utilization of Interactive Technology in the MENA region, under
the guidance of my faculty mentor, Dr. Mitch Vaterlaus. Some of my academic interests include
family systems, the impact of early childhood trauma on identity formation, and public policy.
After graduation, I plan to pursue a Master's Degree in Global Social Work or Marriage and
Family Therapy before going on to earn a PhD in Family Systems.

Brooke Filanoski

Major: Chemical Engineering
Mentor: Adreienne Philips, Ph.D.


Kevin Jones

Major: Biology
Mentor: Jack Fisher, Ph.D. and Chris Organ, Ph.D.

I live in Bozeman, Montana and I’m a junior at Montana State University. My major is in Organismal Biology, with a minor in Astrobiology. I’m also a first generation university student. I am currently conducting research in hominin evolution, under the guidance of my McNair mentors, Dr. Chris Organ and Dr. Jack Fisher.  We are creating a hominin super matrix and we plan on applying advanced techniques to create a parsimonious phylogenetic tree. This includes adding new taxa to the tree, using a stratigraphy model during inference, making a time tree, and going deeper into the tree. This will allow us to establish a relationship among early hominins, given all new hominin DNA and fossil discoveries.  After building a phylogenetic tree and completing this first paper, we plan on using the data from this tree in order to conduct additional research in human evolution. It is my hope that this research contributes in some small way to our understanding of human evolution. After graduation, I hope to enter into a doctoral program in Evolutionary Biology at U.C. Berkeley in California.


Kayla Keepseagle

Major: Chemical Engineering
Mentor: Dr. Joseph Seymour

I am a senior in chemical engineering with a minor in mathematics. I am currently working on developing a non-invasive oximetry method for Staphylococcus aureus biofilms with my mentor Dr. Joseph Seymour and Jeffery Simkins. During the summer of 2016 I attended the Nisbre National IDeA Symposium in Washington DC to present this research. I am originally from Bismarck North Dakota and my Native American roots in Standing Rock reservation where our family ranch is. My goal is to attend graduate school and be a role model for all Native American children. 

Trisheena Kills Pretty Enemy

Major: Microbiology
Mentor: Seth Walk, Ph.D.

My name is Trisheena Kills Pretty Enemy. I am part Crow and Sioux, from Pryor MT. I am currently a junior majoring in microbiology. My mentor is Dr. Seth walk an assistant professor from the Microbiology and Immunology department. We collect specimens from the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital that are associated with Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI.) We then use PCR based methods to identify CDI toxins, PCR ribotyping, and PCR to detect the diversity within ribotypes through multi-locus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA). After I get my Bachelors in Science I plan to go on to get my doctorates in either Microbiology or Medical school. My overall goal is to help people, and someday go back to my reservation, through biomedical research, academia, or medicine.

Michelle Knerr

Major: Animval Science
Mentor: James Berardinelli, Ph.D.

Growing up on her family ranch in Lewistown, Montana, Michelle Knerr learned the importance of animal health care.  Pursing a Pre-vet Microbiology undergraduate degree from Montana State University, Michelle takes advantage of first hand opportunities that allow her to explore animal health research and medicine. With the help of her McNair mentor, Dr. Jim Berardinelli, she is focused on a research project which will determine if it is possible to use NMR spectroscopy to predict metabolic pathways that would indicate pregnancy in free range high altitude Ungulates. Michelle is an avid member of the community. She has volunteered over 1,800 hours in her community. Michelle takes pride knowing that with the pursuit of her education she is showing her daughter it is possible to accomplish your dreams.  Michelle plans to continue to work towards receiving a DVM or PhD in immunology and infectious disease.


Savanah Leidholt

Majora: Biology
Mentor: David Willey, Ph.D.

I was born and raised in Miles City, MT. Growing up my family had a farm and cattle ranch which helped me fall in love with the outdoors. I am currently enrolled in my junior year at MSU and am majoring in Organismal Biology.  My McNair research focus is to better understand threatened species and in particular the Mexican Spotted owl in Utah and how precipitation effects their diet. I hope to gain a better understanding of how changing climate and amounts of precipitation will have on this particular species and propose conservation methods to better accommodate changes that are occurring in the owls environment. My faculty mentor Dr. David Willey has been researching these owls for over the past two decades and is one of the primary researchers on this particular species of spotted owl. After graduation I hope to attend graduate school and earn my Ph. D in wildlife biology and conservation. My ideal school for this type of program would be Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Oscar Machado

Major: Cell Biology & Neuroscience
Mentor: Dr. Christa Merzdorf

Originally from Tehachapi, California, I am a junior majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Montana State University. For the past two years I have been working under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Forecki and Dr. Christa Merzdorf where I initially began to distinguish whether Zic1 mutants would be upregulated or downregulated in Xenopus Laevis embryos. Now I am working on determining whether aquaporin 3b plays an important role in the noncanonical Wnt/Ca2+ signal cascade, which allows for proper neural tube closure. Apart from the research that I have conducted and being a McNair Scholar, I have been appointed Vice President of the Health Professions Club, and I am a TRIO SSS scholar. My academic and career goal is to pursue an MD degree in surgery or pediatrics, or to pursue an MD/PhD degree program.



Dani Morrison

Major: Secondary Education (Social Studies Broadfield)
Mentor: Dr. Jioanna Carjuzaa

My hometown is Helena, MT.   My roots are with South Dakota as a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation.  I am a proud mother of two amazing little girls, Ava (7) and Arlee (6), that keep me fueled for our future.   I am in the Social Studies Broad-field and secondary education program with a minor in Native American Studies.  I have been working the last few years with my mentor Dr. Jioanna Carjuzaa in learning Indian Education For All(IEFA) and the large importance it plays to us educators.  I am also a Hopa Mountain Native Non-Profit Fellow, and have been working diligently on a workshop called “Strengthening the Circle” which is focused for all specific lead, Native non-profit organizations within a regional area.  My goal is to be able to contribute new ideas in seeking positive and effective ways of implementing IEFA to future educators in higher education.  After I graduate I plan on attending graduate school for Native American Studies with the hopes of continuing my education in Federal Indian Law.

Justin O'Dea

Major: Computer Science
Mentors: Dr. Brittnay Terese Fasy and Dr. David Millman

I am from Columbia Falls, Montana. I am currently a senior majoring in computer science with a minor in political science at Montana State University. I am conducting research with a focus in neuroscience that tests the covariance between brainwaves using an electroencephalogram (EEG) while volunteers are participating in a shared activity.  I am conducting my research under my McNair mentor Dr. Brittany Terese Fasy. This research is part of a larger project that involves art, neuroscience, and computer science in a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort. As well as being a McNair Scholar, I am on the board of directors of the bookstore on campus. I have been an employee at residence life for three years as a weekend student custodian working my way through college. My goal is to continue my education in graduate school in the computer science field.

Megan Peterson

Major: Family Consumer Science
Mentor: Dr. Kallie Decker

I was raised in Joliet, MT. I am currently a senior at Montana State University majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences. My future goal is to attend graduate school and receive my master’s degree in social work with an emphasis in child welfare. Currently I am assisting Dr. Kalli Decker with research to investigate parent-child interactions during play when children are 12, 18, 24, and 30 months of age, and how this influences children’s language development throughout infancy and toddlerhood.


Jamie Ritter

Majora: Cell Biology & Neuroscience AND Exercise Science
Mentor: Dr. Mary Miles

I am a Senior pursuing dual degrees in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and Exercise Science. With those two degrees I am applying to medical school in hopes of one day become a rural physician. I hope to education and help individuals to improve their overall health and wellbeing. I am conducting research with my McNair mentor, Dr. Mary Miles, on inflammation and the Microbiome.  Currently in the project we are analyzing the change in levels of inflammatory cytokines in a four hour period after consuming a high fat meal in individuals with higher BMI and increased fat levels.  We hope to determine if being overweight leads to a higher sensitivity to high fat food and as a result causes higher inflammation levels.  In my free time I enjoy being part of the Triathlon Club of MSU and volunteering with Eagle Mount.


Wade Robinson

Major: Biology
Mentor: Robert Wilson, Ph.D.

Being from Kalispell, MT, Wade has always been on the move whether it be 
hiking, swimming, or running outdoors.  He followed his passion for activity and fitness to MSU to get his degree in Exercise Science.  Wade's research project is focused on examining the differences on the changes of heart rates between frequent and infrequent video game players.  Wade is being assisted by mentor, Dr. Robert Wilson, who has a dual specialization in Exercise Physiology and Exercise and Sport Psychology.  In his free time, Wade enjoys helping various LGBTQ nonprofit organizations around the state.  In addition to being a McNair scholar, Wade also is the vice president of the MSU Exercise Science Club, is a student teaching assistant for Human Anatomy and Physiology II, and also has been CTR certified as a rapid HIV tester.  Wade is currently involved with an internship with the Kalispell Regional Medical Center shadowing occupational therapy and physical therapy and plans on using this experience to guide his decision while applying to graduate school next year.

Kristie Russette

Major: Art
Mentor: Dr. Melissa Ragain

I am originally from the Rocky Boy’s reservation in north-central Montana. Currently I am in my final year at MSU studying Art and English Writing. This past summer of 2016, I researched the rhetorical function of institutional spaces in Montana and how they shape public conceptions of Native American identity through visual means. This project drew from three disciplines including art history, rhetoric, and Native American studies. Throughout this project I was assisted by my mentor, Dr. Melissa Ragain from the Art History department. For graduate study, I am interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary degree blending the arts and Native American Studies which I hope to translate into a career in arts advocacy and non-profit administration.


Erin Steorts

Major: Elementary Education
Mentor: Dr. Funqjen Luo

I am originally form a small town in Maine and moved to Montana to finish my education. Currently, I am a Senior at Montana State University, studying Elementary Education. My goal is to be a middle school math teacher and then pursue graduate school to become a family counselor. My mentor, Dr. Fenqjen Luo is working with me to discover more about the order of operations and the level of understanding between middle school students and that of pre-service teachers. It will require working with middle school students as well as my peer pre-service teachers. Our hope is to find new methods in teaching pre-service teachers to be better suited and bring a level of comfort to teaching mathematics. In addition, we will look at how important the understanding of the order of operations is for students to comprehend and move forward in mathematics through middle to high school. When I’m not at school I act as the president of Student Montana Education Association (SMEA) and care for my two-year-old son who is the joy of my life.



Julie Theis

Major: Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Matthew Vess

Julie is a junior in Psychology from Sidney, Montana. Julie has been conducting research with Dr. Matt Vess to better understand how human’s impulses guide their health choices when their self-control has been depleted. Julie will graduate from Montana State in May 2016. As a highly passionate person, Julie achieves leadership by applying her skills in many places. In addition to being a McNair Scholar, Julie is also a member of the Student Alumni Association, part of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and a student athlete representing the Montana State Dance Team. Julie has dedicated much of her time at MSU helping others by volunteering as a crisis advocate at the Voice Center on campus. She works primarily with survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. Her goal is to continue her education and to eventual attain a PhD or a PsyD in clinical Psychology.

Kelly Walls

Major: Mechanical Engeineering
Mentor: Paul Gannon, Ph.D.

I was born and raised in Redmond, WA where I graduated from Redmond High School. I decided that I wanted to join the Air Force at a young age, which led to my current enrollment in the Air Force ROTC program here at MSU. I am a first year senior in Mechanical Engineering and I work for Dr. Paul Gannon and PhD. candidate Josh Aller in the High Temperature Materials Laboratory, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. My research focus is on characterizing a high temperature chlorosilane corrosion environment in order to help improve polysilicon production and therefore help lower the cost of solar panels.

Daniela Weber

Major: Microbiology
Mentor:Dr. Raina Plowright

Originally from Minnesota, I am a senior in Microbiology with a minor in Hispanic Studies at Montana State University. This past summer, 2016, under the guidance of Dr. Raina Plowright and Dr. Jovanka Voyich, I have worked to develop hypotheses for the difference in the pathogenic expression of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of bighorn sheep in North America. In addition to participating in the McNair Scholars Program, I am a proud member of Alpha Omicron Pi, holding many leadership positions throughout my time in the organization such as House Manager and Collegiate Chapter President. I also work with the Montana State University Alumni Foundation to raise support for the University through the Annul Giving Phonathon. After my graduation in spring 2017, I hope to enter in the Montana Medical Laboratory Science program that will lead to a Master’s and/or Ph. D in Immunology and Infectious Disease.