UM Honors College Students Win STEM Research Awards

April 14, 2016

UM senior Benjamin Mason explains his poster “Molecular Basis of Serum Resistance in Bartonella Species” at the 2016 Western Regional Honors Council Conference held in Riverside, California.

MISSOULA – University of Montana students Ashley Alexander and Benjamin Mason recently won awards in the STEM category for their poster presentations at the 2016 Western Regional Honors Council Conference held in Riverside, California.

Alexander and Mason competed against dozens of other students in the largest annual meeting of honors programs and colleges in the western United States.

Mason is a senior who aims to graduate in May with a major in microbiology and a minor in Spanish. His poster, “Molecular Basis of Serum Resistance in Bartonella Species,” won first place in the STEM category. Mason conducted his research under the direction of UM biology Professor Michael Minnick. He is the son of Scott and Patti Mason of Kalispell, where he graduated from Flathead High School.

Alexander is a sophomore majoring in biology with a concentration in genetics and evolution. Her poster, “Better than Before and Better Together: Fitness as a Function of Diversity in a Simple Microbial Community,” won third place in the STEM category. Alexander’s project was carried out in collaboration with UM postdoctoral scholar Don-Dong Yang. Their work was supported by a NASA Exobiology grant to UM Department of Biological Sciences Professor Frank Rosenzweig. Stanford genetics Professor Gavin Sherlock is a co-principal investigator on the project. Alexander is the daughter of Mark and Larisa Alexander of Twin Falls, Idaho, where she graduated from Twin Falls High School.

UM sophomore Ashley Alexander explains her poster “Better than Before and Better Together: Fitness as a Function of Diversity in a Simple Microbial Community” at the 2016 Western Regional Honors Council Conference held in Riverside, California.

“Both projects are ongoing with important support from co-authors,” said Davidson Honors College Dean Brock Tessman. “They represent the outstanding achievements of undergraduate students at the University of Montana in STEM-related disciplines.”

The Western Regional Honors Council is a professional organization of faculty, administrators and students dedicated to the promotion and advancement of undergraduate honors education. By sharing information about honors programs and the best honors practices regionwide, the WRHC hopes to create an intellectual, programmatic and administrative network of resources aimed at helping the region’s honors programs grow and thrive.

For more information visit http://www.wrhc.nau.edu/index.html.

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Contact: Brock Tessman, UM Davidson Honors College dean, 406-243-2541, brock.tessman@umontana.edu; Ashley Alexander, UM student, 208-420-9949, ashley.alexander@umontana.edu; Ben Mason, UM student, 406-471-8367, b.masonator@gmail.com.