UM Conference to Celebrate Research, Creative Scholarship, Entrepreneurship

April 05, 2016

MISSOULA – Innovators, change makers and thought leaders will gather at the University of Montana on Wednesday, April 13, for “innovateUM,” a day of dialogue about issues and ideas that shape our lives and our communities.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to share the innovation, creativity and research happening at UM with the people of Montana,” said Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship. “InnovateUM celebrates the many ways that University of Montana research, creative scholarship and entrepreneurship enhance Montana’s economy and promote educational and career opportunities in our state.”

Members of the public and the UM community are invited to join the all-day event in the University Center, which include talks, conversations, a technology expo, art and food. Highlights include:

  • “At the Confluence of Water and Community,” a conversation with Missoula Mayor John Engen and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Chairman Vernon Finley, moderated by Montana Public Radio News Director Emeritus Sally Mauk.
  • “Backyard Brains: Neuroscience for the 99 Percent,” a talk by neuroscientist and TED Fellow Greg Gage, co-founder of Backyard Brains, a company that creates kits and experiments that enable anyone to be a neuroscientist.
  • “UM Trailblazers Live at the UC,” a talk-show format conversation moderated by ESPN Missoula’s Ryan Tootell and featuring UM forest entomology and pathology Professor Diana Six, UM research Assistant Professor Sarj Patel, UM Climate Change Studies program instructor and coordinator Nicky Phear, UM chemistry and biochemistry Associate Professor Aaron Thomas, and a live cooking show by “What’s Cookin’ with Doc” TV host and UM faculty affiliate Michael Fenster.
  • “The Language of Food as an Art Form,” a lunch and talk with Missoula chef Ray Risho.
  •  “Prequel” talks with Missoula entrepreneurs on the early failures, successes and experiments that defined their careers, moderated by Mamalode CEO and founder Elke Govertson and featuring Montana Board of Regents Professor of Marketing Jakki Mohr, Bank of Montana CEO and President Tom Swenson, Submittable Co-Founder Michael FitzGerald, Porch Productions Founder and CEO Paige Williams, Rivertop Renewables Founder Don Kiely and Six Pony Hitch owner Spider McKnight.
  • A performance from the CoMotion Dance Project’s “Fire Speaks the Land,” introduced by co-author and producer Karen Kaufmann, UM professor of dance.  

Throughout the day, exhibitors from UM and from the private sector, including UM alumni, will display their technology and lead activities and demonstrations at a tech expo co-organized by UM’s Autonomous Aerial Systems Office. At the center of the expo, visitors can fly a drone under an enclosed safety net.

“Our vision for innovateUM is to create a lively, welcoming environment where the public and the University community can connect with UM faculty members, students and alumni who are seeking solutions to real-world problems and seizing opportunities for growth and change in our state and around the world,” said Holly Truitt, UM Broader Impacts Group director.

InnovateUM is organized by the Broader Impacts Group, a unit of the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship dedicated to harnessing the University’s research and creative scholarship to educate and inspire the people of Montana. For a complete innovateUM schedule, visit

Innovate UM is part of “ix5,” a weeklong celebration of innovation and imagination at UM, in Montana and beyond. The week’s other events include the Mansfield Center’s global public health conference, “Innovation and Imagination in Global Health” on Tuesday; GradCon, formerly the Graduate Student Research Conference, on Thursday; and the UM Conference of Undergraduate Research (UMCUR) on Friday. All ix5 events, including innovateUM, are free and open to the public.

For more information on the conferences, visit


Contact: Holly Truitt, UM Broader Impacts Group director, 406-243-4872,