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Montana Tech Awarded 1.25 Million Dollar Grant


The National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (NIH-SEPA) announced a grant of  $1.25 Million to Montana Tech for an exciting science education research project  titled, “Bringing Research into the Classroom (BRIC): A PARTNERSHIP FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN THE MONTANA PUBLIC SCHOOLS.” Dr. Marisa Pedulla, Professor in Montana Tech’s Biology Department, and Rayelynn Connole, director of Cfwep.Org, are co-leading this effort.

The Bringing Research into the Classroom (BRIC) project builds upon eight years of collaborative efforts between the Montana Tech Phagedigging Program and Cfwep.Org-the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program. The project directors have designed a new program of intensive teacher professional development combined with in-class bacteriophage discovery mentored by faculty and undergraduate students. The project goal is to equip Montana’s K-12 teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to provide high-quality health science research opportunities for students.

Montana Tech Biology Faculty and Cfwep.Org Education Experts will mentor precollege students and teachers, undergraduate, and graduate students in a coordinated research effort to discover and characterize bacteriophages. Bacteriophages, tiny viruses that infect bacteria, can be isolated from environmental soil and water samples using introductory microbiological techniques that are tractable to high school, middle school, and even grade school students. By equipping teachers to facilitate bacteriophage discovery within their classrooms, the BRIC project aims to build a cadre of teacher leaders in Montana. These teachers will engage their students in rigorous and relevant research experiences and mentor other teachers to do the same. BRIC and the teachers involved will enable Montana students to personally experience the excitement of scientific discovery. Montana Tech undergraduate students, serving as near-peer mentors, will serve as role models who provide students a glimpse of what is possible. 

Preliminary classroom visits will begin in May, 2014, ramping up in the fall, 2014.  Four years of two-week summer teacher research workshops will begin summer 2015, with a capstone workshop in summer 2019.

Dr. Pedulla remarked, “Thanks to the support of MT-INBRE, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Howard Hughes Medical Institute SEA-PHAGES program, and partnerships with area school districts, the foundation is solidly in place for success in implementing the BRIC project. Thanks to all teachers and students who have participated in this process. We are excited to bring more teachers and students into the program. Special thanks to Dr. Arlene Alvarado, Gloria Carter and Carleen Cassidy for guidance during the preparation of the proposal.”

Anaconda High School teacher Kate Mattern, 2012 Montana NABT Biology Teacher of the Year, noted with enthusiasm, “Professional development designed with content rich research and valuable application in mind, is invaluable and difficult to find. Marisa Pedulla and Rayelynn Connole continually strive to bring teachers techniques and opportunities that will vest us as leaders in our fields. Through this grant, our students will gain an appreciation for research and scientific partnerships that fosters a love of science and an understanding of its process and importance.”

Montana Tech Chancellor, Don Blackketter, added, “The BRIC project exemplifies Montana Tech’s commitment to outstanding STEM educational experiences for K-20 students. The award also recognizes Tech’s high-quality faculty and staff and their commitment to science education.”