MISSOULA – Joanna Kreitinger, a biomedical sciences Ph.D. student at the University of Montana, is one of 100 doctoral students in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood.

University of Montana doctoral candidate Joanna Kreitinger works in UM Professor David Shepherd’s campus lab. (UM Photo)
University of Montana doctoral candidate Joanna Kreitinger works in UM Professor David Shepherd’s campus lab. (UM Photo)

“The P.E.O. Scholar Award is an immense honor with a substantial scholarship to help support my educational and career goals as I finish my doctorate,” Kreitinger said. “Being supported by this long-standing, highly impactful women’s education organization feels so empowering.”

In addition to recognizing and encouraging excellence in higher education, the P.E.O. awards provide partial support for study and research for women who will make significant contributions in their varied fields of endeavor. Priority is given to women who are well established in their programs, study or research.

Kreitinger is one of two UM students to earn this honor. Kathryn Oost, a doctoral student in clinical psychology from Poulsbo, Washington, recently received the award as well.

Kreitinger also earned a $3,000 Bertha Morton Fellowship from the UM Graduate School. Bertha Morton was a Helena native who worked most of her adult life for the Internal Revenue Service in Helena. She was not an alumna of UM, nor did she actually attend any university. She worked hard and saved her money. When she died in 1977, she left a large part of her estate to the UM Foundation because she desired to encourage and help serious students obtain an education. Bertha Morton fellowships and scholarships have subsequently become the UM Foundation’s most prestigious award for graduate students.

Last year, Kreitinger was one of 48 people nationwide selected to receive a 2016 American Association of Immunologists Careers in Immunology Fellowship. This highly competitive fellowship provides Kreitinger with one year’s salary to support her training in UM Professor David Shepherd’s lab. Shepherd also serves as her adviser.

“As I enter into the final year of my doctorate having earned these three honors, it is incredibly fulfilling to see how small steps, and lots of coaching from my adviser, have led to these achievements,” Kretinger said. “Each award is competitive and prestigious, so I feel very fortunate to have been chosen out of so many qualified applicants.”

Under Shepherd’s leadership, Kreitinger studies immune cell development and contributes to a better understanding of how environmental factors alter immune system function. As a member of Shepherd’s team, Kreitinger’s research likely will contribute to the development of drugs to treat immune system diseases.

Kreitinger, a native Montanan from Manhattan, earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UM in 2012. Beginning in 2014 Kreitinger began working with Shepherd to research dendritic cells – the hardest working cell of the immune system.

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