University Relations and Marketing

Kim Schweikert, College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning, 896-5888
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

February 7, 2008

'Chicks in Science' Boosts Awareness of Educational Possibilities to Young Girls

Free event scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 16 at MSU Billings’ Alterowitz Gym

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Tasneem Khaleel doesn’t see herself as an icon. She’s spent a good portion of her life studying details of plants. And being more than a shade under 5 feet tall, she often has to stand along side podiums during formal speeches so audiences can see her.

Dean Tasneem KhaleelBut as a mentor for young scientists – especially girls – she’s a giant.

Khaleel, who has spent years in research biology and is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Montana State University Billings, will be a keynote speaker for a “Chicks in Science” program on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the university.

Free and open to girls in grades 4 through 8, the program is presented in partnership between the MSU Billings Kids on Campus program and the Friendship House. It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the MSU Billings Alterowitz Gym in the lower level. A parent or guardian will be required to accompany the girls because no drop-offs will be allowed.

The event will feature interactive booths, a chemistry magic show, door prizes and an appearance by Montana First Lady Nancy Schweitzer.

The key element is an exposure to science that could ignite the kind of passion that Khaleel had as a young girl. And that, she said, is priceless.

“It’s so important for that kind of exposure,” she said.

Born and educated in India , Khaleel bonded with science early in her post-secondary career. She did not want to explore medical school (which was in high demand for she and her siblings when she was growing up) but instead wanted to study botany. She obtained her master’s degree by the time she was 19, but found her options were limited. So she was able to convince the leaders of Bangalore University in India to establish a Ph.D. program. In 1970, she was the first female graduate of that program.

She and her husband, S.A. Khaleel, a noted veterinarian, moved to Montana in 1976 from Pennsylvania and she joined the faculty of what was at that time Eastern Montana College . She worked as a popular professor of biology and was an accomplished researcher. From 1993-96, she served as director of graduate studies and research, and chair of the Department of Modern Languages at the University.

She received the Distinguished Professor Award for Scholarly Research from the EMC Foundation in 1980, and the Faculty Achievement Award that same year.  In 1992, Khaleel was portrayed as a “role model” in the Northwest College & University Association for Sciences’ publication “NORCUS.” 

In 1993, she received her second Faculty Achievement Award for Scholarly Research.  In 1995, she received the prestigious Mershon Award for Outstanding Montana Researcher from the Montana Academy of Sciences.  In 1997, she received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Associated Students of MSU-Billings; and, in 2002, received the Faculty Achievement Award for the third time.

She was appointed dean of the college of arts and sciences in 2005.

In her 30 years at the university, she has published widely on her research on the development and reproduction on orchids and other plants. A number of years ago, her role as a female scientist became widely known through an East Coast seminar that encourages interest among girls in science.

“I got all these calls from kids who asked ‘Can you tell me what you did that made you famous?’,” said Khaleel.

She tried to answer each individual request, but eventually devoted part of her faculty web page ( to information that budding scientists could access from home or school.

“Chicks in Science” will help expose girls to the wonders of science in many areas and will be a social event as much as a learning event. There will be plenty of chocolate to match the chemistry.

Sponsors and participants for “Chicks in Science” are Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program, ExxonMobil, PPL Montana, Computers Unlimited, Sutton’s Sportswear, Montana BILT: Energy for Tomorrow; Augustus Energy Partners, the Eastern Montana Area Health Education Center, Montana BioScience Alliance, NorthWestern Energy and the Billings Clinic.

For more information and to register for the free Feb. 16 “Chicks in Science” event, call the MSU Billings College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning at 896-5890.

See also: Chicks in Science web page

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