UM Students Take Top Honors at American Indian Science and Engineering Conference

November 20, 2014

MISSOULA – Two Native American graduate students at the University of Montana took home top honors for their oral research presentations at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society National Conference in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 13-15.

Moses Leavens, a biochemistry and biophysics graduate student at UM and a member of the Chippewa Cree Nation, took first place for his research presentation titled “Biophysical Analysis of the Ubiquitin: Associate Domain One.”

Don Belile, a UM graduate student studying systems ecology and a member of the Oglala Sioux Nation, took second place at the conference for his research presentation titled “Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Ungulate Browsing on Willow Communities Within the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A.”

UM Director of Indigenous Research and STEM Education Aaron Thomas was in Orlando, Fla. for the conference and watched Leavens and Belile receive their awards.

“It was exciting to see the University of Montana prominently represented among all the schools in the country at the awards ceremony,” Thomas said. “Moses and Don have been working hard on their research and were diligent in preparing for their talks. It was nice to see their efforts rewarded.”

Leavens and Belile were among four UM students at the conference, which draws about 1,500 Native Americans from across the country. They placed higher than 10 other students in the research-presentation category.

Held annually since 1978, the AISES National Conference is a three-day event convening high school juniors and seniors, undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, workforce professionals and corporate partners, with the goal of increasing the representation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in engineering, sciences and other related technology disciplines.

For more information, call Thomas at 406-243-2052 or email


Contact: Aaron Thomas, UM director of indigenous research and STEM education, 406-243-2052,