MSU grad student selected as one of only 34 to receive NASA award

George Schaible points to a microscope-enhanced image of bacteria in Roland Hatzenpichler's lab.

BOZEMAN - A Montana State graduate student will investigate unique bacteria that could provide insights into how multicellular life evolved. 

George Schaible, a doctoral student in biochemistry, will receive $133,000 worth of funding in support of three years of research that started while studying microbes in Yellowstone National Park's hot springs as an undergraduate at MSU.

Schaible is one of only 34 graduate students in the U.S. to receive the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology award from the agency’s Planetary Science Division.

A Missoula native, Schaible earned his bachelor's in biotechnology with a microbial focus from MSU in 2014. He also earned minors in biochemistry and astrobiology, which involves studying how life originated to understand what it might look like elsewhere in the universe.

"One of my favorite things about being an undergraduate at MSU was that we were encouraged to join research labs," Schaible said. "Those experiences really got me into research and how interesting and exciting it can be."

Although scientists have known about the bacteria for more than two decades, they haven't been able to grow, or "culture," them in a laboratory setting, which has halted efforts to understand how the microbes achieve their unique form.

Schaible was named a Molecular Biosciences Fellow, which allowed him flexibility to conduct research across departments. He was also awarded a STEM Storytellers Fellowship, funded by the National Science Foundation to improve graduate students' oral communication skills.

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