Summer Research Opportunities

IRES-MRGD - An International Research Opportunity

Zackenberg Research Site, Greenland Panorama

The International Research Experience for Students - Microbial Research in Greenland & Denmark (IRES-MRGD) program provides University of Montana undergraduate and graduate students with an international research and educational experience at the interface of microbial ecology and wildlife biology in an interdisciplinary research and learning environment in Greenland and Denmark. MRGD also seeks to increase the number of students completing degree programs and pursuing academic and other careers in science, with an emphasis on students from underrepresented minorities (as defined by NSF: African American, Hispanic, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders)or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, first generation students, women, and veterans.

Students will be co-mentored by UM Professor William Holben (IRES PI), near-peer mentor Sam Pannoni (WBIO Graduate Student), & international mentors Drs. Carsten Suhr Jacobson and Niels Martin Schmidt from Aarhus University (Denmark) and will participate in field research at research sites in Greenland.

The research experience will take place over the summer, July 6th through August 18th most likely. Final dates are being determined and depend on field site access and international partner availability. Students will receive initial orientation in Montana, and then travel to Greenland and Denmark via Iceland for field sampling, introductions with international mentors and peers, sample processing to recover metagenomic DNA and total RNA from biological and/or geological samples, library preparation for ultradeep 16S rRNA gene and functional gene sequencing, metagenomic DNA and mRNA sequencing, and qPCR in an international research setting.

Research will focus on genes and transcripts involved in the ecological linkages between Muskox, plant communities, and soil microbiomes, including how the Muskox microbiome is affected by the types of plants eaten and whether Muskox provide ecosystem services to the plant communities and soil microbiomes.

The MRGD experience also includes activities for professional development, e.g. experimental design, data interpretation, presentation skills, and follow-on projects in the U.S. Longitudinal tracking of participants after their research experience will assess educational & career achievements.

Students who participate in MRGD will receive a $500.00/week stipend for each travel week of the project as well as all travel expenses paid including all airfare and lodging, per diem and in-country ground transportation; travel expenses do not include personal entertainment and tourist activities while abroad.

Participation Requirements

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must be a U.S. Citizen, National, or Permanent Resident
  • Must be at least a rising junior undergraduate, post-Baccalaureate, or graduate student
  • Must be enrolled as a student in good standing in a STEM or related discipline for Fall 2018
  • Must have a valid passport that does not expire before October 2018
  • Be willing to travel internationally and collaborate with an international research team
  • Be willing and able to hike, lift, carry, and sit for prolonged periods
  • Be amenable and adaptable to potentially harsh field conditions including extreme weather and potentially hazardous wildlife
  • Commit to engaging in meaningful research for the duration of the research experience; additional commitments after conclusion of the research experience will be time and funding dependent.

Interested students should submit the following materials to

  • 500 word maximum statement describing what this research opportunity would mean to your research and educational goals
  • CV/Resume
  • Unofficial Transcript (graduate students please submit undergraduate transcripts as well)
  • Two Letters of Reference (may be emailed directly from the letter author or delivered hardcopy to OREOS, Health Sciences 104, 32 Campus Dr #4824, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812)

All application materials must be received no later than Friday, May 11th, 2018.

Zackenberg Research Site, Greenland