Carroll College Receives Research Grants from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Carroll College received two grant awards totaling nearly $100,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust’s Murdock College Research Program. Grants from this program are awarded to faculty at private, primarily undergraduate institutions in the Pacific Northwest to support faculty/student research activity. 

Dr. Jennifer Lowell, assistant professor of health sciences at Carroll College, received a natural sciences three-year award in the amount of $56,108 to undertake “Studies of Antibiotic Resistance in an Arsenic-Contaminated Watershed.” The goal of the project is to determine whether high arsenic levels in the Upper Tenmile watershed, a mining-impacted watershed that supplies Helena with over fifty percent of its drinking water, can maintain and propagate reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes to downstream environments. The broader impacts from the study are important because antibiotic resistance continues to decrease the medical communities’ ability to combat microbes that cause many serious hospital and community acquired infections.

This is the first grant of its kind awarded to a faculty member in the Health Sciences department. Two students from Health Sciences will participate in this project as well. They will work full time during the summer, and have the opportunity to complete their senior theses over the following academic year.

“This is significant for our department because as a whole, the Health Sciences are dependent upon basic biological sciences research, and our ability to apply findings to improve both environmental and human health outcomes,” said Dr. Lowell. “I am extremely excited about being able to provide additional research opportunities to our students and to facilitate learning about the manner in which biological, environmental, and health sciences intersect.”

Dr. Stefanie Otto-Hitt, assistant professor of biology at Carroll, has received a two-year life sciences award in the amount of $42,088 to continue her study titled “Molecular Control of Synaptic Function.” This is the second two-year grant Dr. Otto-Hitt has received from the Trust. The molecular neurobiology research examines how proteins in the brain affect the strength of communication between brain cells.

Carroll students are very involved in the research, carrying out the majority of the experiments outlined in the grant proposal. Dr. Otto-Hitt had four Carroll students work with her over the course of the first award period and this summer, she will have three students working with her in the lab. “I am so thankful for my past and current research students whose hard work and perseverance produced the results needed to secure funding and additional research opportunities for future Carroll students,” said Dr. Otto-Hitt.

“I am grateful to the Murdock Trust for their continued support of undergraduate research at Carroll College,” continued Dr. Otto-Hitt. “Their support provides my lab with the funds needed to continue my research project and train Carroll students interested in doing Molecular Neuroscience research.”

 About the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, who was a co-founder of Tektronix, Inc. of Beaverton, Oregon, and a resident of Vancouver, Washington. Since its establishment on June 30, 1975, with a bequest of about $90 million, the Trust has focused its grantmaking efforts primarily in five states of the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The Trust’s current assets are valued at about $800 million, and over the life of the Trust, more than $658 million has been distributed through 4,818 grants.

 The Trust’s mission is to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants to organizations that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, cultural, and spiritual base in creative and sustainable ways. Although the primary funding interests are education and scientific research, grants are also given to a wide variety of organizations, including those that serve the arts, public affairs, health and medicine, human services, and people with disabilities.