August 5, 2013

Volume 7 | Issue 50 | August 5, 2013

Students do collaborative research in Scotland

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During their travels in Scotland, Wallace and Zajic visit scenic Glen Coe.

Two biology majors, Gemma Wallace ’14 and Daniel Zajic ’14, recently traveled to Scotland with Carl E. Peterson Endowed Chair of Sciences Paul Yancey to continue their research on osmotic balance — that is, the balance between salt and water — in marine animals.

Zajic and Yancey have found an osmolyte, a small molecule that reduces water loss from saltwater dehydration in body cells, in salmon fin samples. These findings, the basis for his senior thesis project, could have a significant economic effect on the salmon farming industry worldwide.

Salmon farmers need to know when salmon are ready to move from freshwater to seawater so that their fish don’t die. Currently, they do an expensive test on gill samples from dead fish to figure this out. If they can detect osmolytes in fin samples instead, they can get the information they need without killing fish.

Zajic was excited to see his work have an impact on the larger academic community, but he was even more excited to work with renowned marine biologists.

“The best part of the trip for me was meeting all of these researchers that I have only ever heard of by name or written on scientific papers… Interacting with them and their graduate students just further bolstered my want to pursue a Ph.D. program in marine biology,” he said.

Just seeing the salmon farm was an interesting experience for Yancey.

“We visited the ultra-clean salmon processing factory. We had to put on white coats, sterile boots and gloves and hairnets to enter, where we saw thousands of salmon being processed and packed for immediate shipment to local and distant restaurants,” he said.

Wallace focused her research on a creature slightly more mysterious than salmon: amphipods from the deepest trenches. With the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation funding further deep-sea research, Wallace and Yancey are looking to see if osmolytes make it possible for these creatures to withstand such high pressure, just as they make it possible for salmon to move from freshwater to saltwater.

While in Scotland, Wallace also had the opportunity to present her early findings to a group of marine biologists and students involved in the deep-sea project at a University of Aberdeen conference. Like Zajic, she was excited for the opportunity to meet other researchers in her field.

“It was a great opportunity to meet other deep-sea biologists, and I got some great feedback on my work… It was exciting to see what was going on in other labs, and meeting them really emphasized how collaborative and integrative this project is,” she said.

Walla Walla tennis camps featured in Harper’s Bazaar

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Even adults enjoy a fun-filled week at summer camp, especially when camp means tennis lessons and wine-tasting.

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New York based magazine Harper’s Bazaar knows this. That’s why they included Whitman’s annual tennis and wine camps in their recent article about the best adult summer getaways in the nation. Other options included a women’s wellness retreat in Costa Rica, a technology-free escape in California and a ranch retreat combining yoga and horse-riding.

For each camp session, up to 24 campers are treated to 12 hours of on-court instruction from a staff of experienced tennis coaches, including Greg Patton, the head men’s coach at Boise State University, and both men’s and women’s head coaches at Whitman, Jeff Northam and John Hein.

In addition to spending time on the courts, campers are treated to three nights of wining and dining, featuring dinner prepared by local chefs and wine pairings from several award-winning Walla Walla Valley vineyards.

The Harper’s Bazaar list marks the second time this year that the camp has scored points on a national scale. In March, they were featured in The Wall Street Journal as one of the most fun sports camps for adults.

"It's really awesome, and a little overwhelming. To see the camp grow has been so special and so fun,” Northam said.

Student Activities Office seeks Life Skills volunteers

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The Student Activities Office is still looking for volunteers to teach Life Skills courses in the fall. The Life Skills series, which began in 2011, aims to partner students with Whitman staff members who are willing to teach students skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Thus far, the program has offered 40 different courses, including bird-watching, sewing, cake-decorating, grilling, repairing cars and compiling first aid kits.

Teachers are welcome to sign up for course topics that have been offered in the past, as well as for new topics. Students have requested courses in photography, doing taxes, setting tables, baking, vegan cooking and grocery shopping.

Life Skills courses are open to all Whitman students on a first-come registration basis. The Student Activities Office takes care of advertising, reserves a course location, coordinates student registration and offers assistance to any teacher who needs it. All teachers must bring is their passion and expertise.

If you are interested in teaching a Life Skills course, please contact Katharine Curles at

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By Matt Banderas, photographer/communications officer

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