March 9, 2015



David Craig, University Honors Program, 657-2908
Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266


Dr. Tom Lewis and MSUB junior Aubree Honcoop's research focuses on the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and involves testing a hypothesis regarding sulfate assimilation in that organism. Honcoop and her research endeavors are nominated for the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Aubree Honcoop has accomplished more than most youth her age. The 17-year-old has graduated from high school, has three years of college under her belt and, most recently, was nominated by Montana State University Billings for the nationally competitive Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.


Aubree and Professor Tom Lewis

The Goldwater Foundation seeks scholars committed to careers in science, math or engineering who are planning careers in research. Students are chosen based on merits that display the potential for significant future contribution in their chosen field.


The foundation’s website states that trustees intend to award up to 300 scholarships in late March. Open to sophomores and juniors, the scholarship provides $7,500 up to two years to cover tuition, fees, books and room and board.


You’ll find Honcoop, like most her age, playing video games or reading comic books and fantasy novels. But, she’s got more on her plate than the typical teenager.


AubreeThe junior studying biology and chemistry is a University Honors Scholar doing biomedical research in MSUB’s Biological and Physical Sciences Department under the direction of her associate professor Tom Lewis.


Her current research investigates Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial human pathogen, to determine the sulfite reductase is a less complex version of what it would be like working with humans in solving biochemical problems.


“Aubree has performed work in my laboratory for over a year, beginning when she was fifteen years old,” Dr. Lewis said in his nomination letter. “She is a methodical worker who achieves technical skill quickly.”


By the time Honcoop was a sophomore at Huntley High School, she had enough credit to graduate. At 14, she entered MSUB fulltime through the college’s University Connections program when her parents and her high school could not agree about how she could simultaneously take high school and college classes.


The pre-med student said she has always had an interest in science, but watching her youngest sibling be treated from cancer fueled her interest in medicine.


“My interest in becoming a doctor stems from my youngest brother Shaun, who was born with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia,” Honcoop said. “I saw the doctors working with my brother and found that these were the men and women I wanted to become. I wanted to give people hope, just like the doctors who worked with my brother did for me.”


During her freshman year of college, her interest to combine clinical and laboratory research with the practice of medicine developed.


“Aubree is an outstanding student, an extremely motivated researcher and an exceptional individual,” associate professor Kurt Toenjes said. “She has curious and gifted mind, and a humble level of maturity that is really remarkable for a person of any age, let alone a 17-year-old. She has greatly impressed me with her wonderful curiosity, love of all things science, passion, meticulous nature and intellect.”

Aubree and Professor LewisHoncoop is the third MSUB student to be nominated for the award. Last year, Elizabeth Mullins, a senior who will graduate in May from the pre-medical program with a degree in biology, was named the university’s first Goldwater Scholar. Corey Lovec in 2013 received an honorable mention.


The University Honors Program coordinates the Goldwater application process at MSUB.

Goldwater scholars have impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs, said David Craig, the University Honors program director.


“Having worked with or recommended over 30 Goldwater awardees and honorable mentions, I have complete confidence that she would be a distinguished scholarship recipient,” Craig said.


PHOTOS: Dr. Tom Lewis and MSUB junior Aubree Honcoop