Whitman Students Hit it Out of the Park at Research Conference

Murdock College Science Research Program logo

For the last 22 years, the Murdock College Science Research Program through the Murdock Trust has hosted a fall conference for students of science. The conference is located at one of nine private colleges or universities in the Northwest funded by the Murdock program, and roughly 20 colleges participate. This past weekend, 21 Whitman science students and three faculty mentors traveled to Vancouver, Wash., to present their research, returning with three awards.

Whitman students gave two talks at the conference. Nilce Alvarez ’14 and Lucas Ramadan ’14 presented as a team, while Nick Davies ’14 was a solo presenter.

The other students presented posters. The 212 total posters were divided into 11 categories by subject. One prize was awarded per category, which is where Whitties triumphed.

“For Whitman [students] to get 3 of 11 awards out of 19 colleges is a real out-of-the-park home run,” professor of biology and one of the accompanying faculty members at the conference Paul Yancey said.

Ethan Dederick ’14 won in a physics category with his project “Exploring entanglement with the help of quantum state measurement.” The presentation was based on research done this summer with Dr. Mark Beck, Whitman professor of physics, exploring quantum entanglement of photons.

“Our research implicitly showed that measurements of entangled/non-entangled photons and the density operator can be made in an undergraduate laboratory and thus this can be incorporated into an undergraduate curriculum, better preparing undergraduate students for graduate work in quantum mechanics,” Dederick said. “As for the award, I feel great winning it.”

Jeremy Schofield ’14 won in biochemistry with research entitled “Examination of the substrate specificity of the enzyme PcpA using synthetic model complexes.” Schofield’s research has been performed over the past year and a half at both Whitman College and the University of Rochester under the supervision of chemistry professor Tim Machonkin. Machonkin is currently in the process of publishing the results.

“I am happy to have had the opportunity to present my work,” Schofield said. “Winning the Murdock Poster Prize for Biochemistry gives me a sense of confidence in my academic career, hopefully heading into a graduate degree program.”

Gemma Wallace ’14 won in a microbiology category with her work, “Pressure adaptation in the hadal zone: potential piezolytes (pressure counteractants) increase with depth in tissues of marine amphipods from the intertidal to the Mariana Trench.” Wallace’s research is a part of Yancey’s HADES Program, which involves studying ecosystems in the Mariana Trench.

“It was really exciting to win my poster panel at the Murdock Conference,” Wallace said. “Compared to other biology conferences I have attended, the Murdock conference was really nice because it allowed me to present my research to a general science audience and to speak with researchers from a broad range of scientific fields. It was a wonderful experience.”

Whitman has attended the Murdock College Science Research Program conference since its inception in 1991, and has hosted it several times, most recently in 2012.