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Brent Peyton, chemical and biological engineering, leads multidisciplinary team investigating fungus as a source of biodiesel. A multi-disciplinary research team at MSU received a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the feasability of producing biofuel from wood chips using a fungus discovered in South America. In 2008, Gary Strobel, plant sciences professor, and other researchers announced the existence of the fungus, which naturally produces gases containing many hydrocarbon compounds found in petroleum-based diesel fuel. Ross Carlson, chemical and biological engineering, will create a computer model of the fungus’s metabolism to predict what growth conditions will cause the fungus to produce the most hydrocarbons. His predictions will be tested in the laboratory, and the lab results will be analyzed at Yale. More...
WTI houses one of the country’s largest driving simulators. The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University is home to one of the largest and most sophisticated motion-based driving simulators in the United States. The $915,000 simulator pairs a surround sound system with real vehicle bodies mounted on a motion platform and surrounded by a 240-degree arc of projector screens. The simulator gives WTI the ability to approximate existing places, including Montana’s problematic roadways, such as Highway 191 between Interstate 90 and West Yellowstone. As the simulated environment more closely approximates realistic conditions, researchers can be more confident that they are collecting valid behavioral data, especially those related to complex research questions. The data are important because car crashes are the chief cause of fatal injuries in rural areas and because testing systems prior to construction can help save money on road designs and infrastructure upgrades. Funding for the simulator came from a variety of federal and private sources.