Jump the navigation

Whitman Undergraduate Conference

The 25th annual Whitman Undergraduate Conference—a celebration of the scholarship, critical thinking, self-driven exploration and creativity of Whitman students—took place on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. 

Research conferences that span disciplines and occupy a full day are rare events, especially at small colleges. The Whitman Undergraduate Conference is a testament to the value of liberal arts learning and a showcase of original work sparked by course study, senior theses, faculty-student research, independent projects, fellowships, internships and study abroad.

This event was organized by the Whitman Undergraduate Conference Planning Committee and the Fellowships and Grants team at the Career and Community Engagement Center. Special thanks to the many Whitman community members and friends who make this day possible!

Click here for Conference Schedule Overview

Panel Session 1: 9–10:15 a.m.

Reid Campus Center: Young Ballroom

Marian Sandoval, moderator & peer coach

Engaging Walla Walla: The Community Fellow Program at Whitman College

The Whitman Community Fellow Program is an experiential learning program for sophomores, juniors and seniors at Whitman College, generously funded by the Sherwood Trust. This program allows organizations in the Walla Walla Valley to apply for the opportunity to create an unpaid, part-time fellowship addressing some of the area’s social, economic, and cultural challenges. Fellowships address a wide array of community needs in sectors ranging from public policy (Community Council, City of Walla Walla, Elevate), to community health (Providence Population Health, Walla Walla Community Change Team, The Health Center), to youth education (Tri-State Steelheaders and Walla Walla Symphony). In this group presentation, the current Community Fellows will introduce their community partner organizations and highlight the individual projects they each have undertaken to impact and work collaboratively with the Walla Walla Valley community. The presentation will be followed by an audience Q&A.
Staff Sponsor: Abby Juhasz
Research Funding Source: The Sherwood Trust: Whitman College Community Fellow Program

Olin Hall Auditorium

Aniruddh 'Rudy' Gupta, moderator & peer coach

A Web Repository for the NIST-46 Chemistry Database

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Database 46: Critically Selected Stability Constants of Metal Complexes is an international database used by chemistry researchers for referencing information on interactions involving metal complexes. The NIST-46 user interface is badly outdated, unmaintained, and incompatible with current operating systems, making the application either inconvenient or wholly inaccessible to chemists. Previous Whitman College Computer Science capstone teams partially extracted NIST-46 data into a modern database system and wrote minimal scripts to prove its correctness. To build on that work and create a usable product, we enhanced the database to include all of the original relevant information and created a new web API to build a robust, accurate, and scalable solution that ensures secure access to the database by the frontend client. In collaboration with a second capstone team, the refactored application has been readied for deployment as a website accessible to chemists internationally. 
Faculty Sponsors: John Stratton and Nate Boland

Modernizing the NIST-46 Database: A Web-Based Solution for Chemical Research

The NIST-46 database is a valuable source of information for researchers studying the chemical relationship between metals and aqueous ligands. However, the database has become outdated and cannot be accessed on modern software systems. To address this issue, we built a user-facing web page using industry-standard software development tools like VueJS, CSS, and HTML. Our main focus was to improve the user interface, accessibility, and maintainability of the web page. We refactored existing code to enhance the usability of the web page while making aesthetic changes and adding new functionality. Our team focused on design principles that emphasized user satisfaction, accessibility, and ease of use. We conducted usability testing and took feedback from users to improve the page's design and functionality. Our team also addressed criticisms of the old application's user interface and added specific improvements to make the new web page more user-friendly and easier to maintain.
Faculty Sponsors: John Stratton and Nate Boland

Maxey Hall Auditorium

Elle Palmer, moderator
Cormac Li, peer coach

Legacies of Resistance: The Historical and Transnational Resonance of the Arab Spring

Spanning more than two years and six countries, the 2011-2012 Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that developed in response to economic stagnation and political corruption. Heralded as the dawn of a new democratic order in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region, the Arab Spring failed to enact lasting reform, even facilitating the rise of more oppressive regimes. Why did the uprisings fall short of instigating change, despite early momentum? How was this struggle influenced by political legacies, and how did it affect later (inter)national movements? Our research examines expressions of dissent and resistance during the uprisings and their historical and transnational relevance. Case studies include how the legacy of Algeria’s civil war resonates in recent protest movements, colonial legacies within Gaddafi’s Libya and the toppling of his regime, and Egyptian street art as a means of subversive communication and expression of national identity.
Faculty Sponsor: Elyse Semerdjian

Hall of Music: Chism Recital Hall

Jenna Ebding, moderator & peer coach

Making Memories by Multitasking: Studies of the Attentional Boost Effect

The attentional boost effect (ABE) refers to enhanced memory for information learned under divided attention conditions, such as when a person completes a target-monitoring task while they encode or study word lists. This effect has been shown in past research using standard memory procedures. We seek to expand the application of the ABE in college students through two studies. Specifically, we have tested whether an ABE could be obtained when the targets and distractors in the divided attention condition were numbers (odd vs. even), and when the target monitoring task occurred during retrieval, or testing, as opposed to encoding. We found the ABE to be present when the target detection task was the identification of odd numbers, and we predict that it is also present when the task occurs during retrieval. Our preliminary findings suggest that the ABE can indeed be found in a variety of hitherto-unstudied circumstances.
Faculty Sponsor: Matthew Prull

Faking the Future: Demonstrating Replication Issues through Retroactive Facilitation of Recall

There is a surprising amount of scientific evidence for the existence of extra-sensory perception (ESP). While it is possible that these phenomena do in fact exist, it is also possible that these findings reflect problems with how psychological research is conducted. It may be that researchers are manipulating their data or using questionable practices, referred to as p-hacking, to find statistical support for their hypotheses. To explore how researchers may be able to use questionable practices to manipulate findings, we replicated a classic study focused on "retroactive facilitation of recall," or the transfer of information backwards in time. We are analyzing the data in two ways: once using best research practices, and once using p-hacking techniques. Our research may highlight the potential scale of the replication crisis in psychology and the importance of doing good, sound research.
Faculty Sponsor: Erin Pahlke

Who Has Access to Decriminalized Psychedelics?

Overturning the federal classification of different psychedelics as Schedule I controlled substances means that there is high potential for improvement in western medicine. However, companies may capitalize on this, leaving fewer resources for Indigenous shamanic practitioners. This research focuses on the accessibility implications of the decriminalization of psychedelics. I will be reviewing written statements on the opinions of Indigenous shamanic practitioners, pro-decriminalization groups such as Decriminalize Nature, and western medical doctors. Current scientific understanding of psychedelics is that they are significantly more effective in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress and chronic depression when compared to western medicine practices. I am hoping to find conclusive data on the shifting quantity of peyote cacti, San Pedro cacti, and psilocybin mushrooms since 2020. It is worth examining methods in which equitable access to effective forms of therapy can be supported, with Native American voices at the forefront.
Faculty Sponsor: Eunice Blavascunas

The Effect of Familiarity and Prototype Matching on Music Choice Satisfaction

Music is important to many aspects of daily life and can even function as an aspect of one’s identity. We examined how a person's familiarity with rap music and their similarity to a prototypical rap fan affects their music choice satisfaction. Participants “chose'' two random song excerpts to listen to, one familiar and one unfamiliar to the general population, then rated their satisfaction and familiarity. Participants also were surveyed to gauge their similarity to previously researched standards for typical rap fans, based on personality traits, characteristics, and alcohol/drug use (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007). We hypothesized participants would be more satisfied with the familiar song and that greater similarity to the prototypical rap fan would produce greater satisfaction with both songs, overall. Our study provides insight into why we as humans like the music we do, and how the music we enjoy can have a profound influence over our daily lives.
Faculty Sponsor: Wally Herbranson

Hall of Science: Brattain Auditorium

Anna Feldman, moderator
Sally Binswanger, peer coach

9:00 a.m. QUINN MILLER
Survey of Mill Creek Aquatic Insects: Insights into Water Quality

Mill Creek provides Walla Walla with 90% of its water. In summer 2022, we surveyed aquatic insects of Mill Creek both upstream of the city at Johnston Wilderness Campus (JWC) and downstream to determine whether insect communities can provide information about water quality. We found that JWC had twice as many specimens and species as the downstream site. A difference was also reflected in functional feeding groups: JWC's insects had diverse feeding mechanisms and included filter feeders intolerant of pollution, whereas downstream, a larger proportion of species fed by scraping algae, reflecting higher water nutrient loads. Differences in insect abundance, species richness, and types of feeding suggest a decrease in water quality related to human (agricultural, urban) land use, and our findings confirm that aquatic insect surveys are a valid bioassessment tool for water quality. Follow-up studies involving more sites will inform water clean-up efforts to support local fish populations.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award

9:20 a.m. SONIA BURNS
Restoring Freshwater Mussel Populations in Eastern Oregon and Washington

The rivers of the Pacific Northwest are home to freshwater mussels, a "first food" for the people of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington state. Mussels are important filter feeders for riparian ecosystems and provide critical nutrition for humans. Unfortunately, changes in river systems have dramatically decreased mussel populations. I worked at an aquatic propagation lab run by the CTUIR during the summer 0f 2022. One of the lab’s goals is to restore self-sustaining mussel populations in local river systems for the reconnection of cultural and ecological services. My work focused on learning how to maintain specimens so that their growth in the lab could be tracked over time. I also completed freshwater mussel surveys and salvages in a variety of onsite locations, with the goal of locating more mussels and learning how to propagate them productively in the lab setting.
Faculty Sponsor: Ginger Withers
Research Funding Source: Whitman Internship Grant

9:40 a.m. ANNA FELDMAN
Fire Ecology in Portland's Bull Run Watershed

The Bull Run watershed provides drinking water for one million people in the Portland, Oregon metro area. Due to the watershed’s socioeconomic significance, it is important to understand historical patterns of fire that have shaped the Bull Run’s forests. A prior study using tree establishment data found that historical fire in the watershed was infrequent and high-severity. Using a different method–cambial fire scars and cross-dated tree ring chronologies–we developed fire histories at four sites across the watershed. We assigned precise calendar years to fire events and identified lower-severity fires that were likely not reflected in tree establishment data. Each site had direct evidence of three to seven fire events in cambial fire scars. The years these fires occurred were not consistent across sites. These data suggest that historical fire events in the Bull Run watershed may have been more localized, variable, frequent, and lower-severity than previously thought.
Faculty Sponsor: Susanne Altermann
Research Funding Source: United States Forest Service West-Side Fire and Climate Adaptation Research Initiative

10:00 a.m. ALLI SHINN
"Forever Chemicals" and the Role of State Governments

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of over 14,000 hazardous chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products. Sometimes called “forever chemicals,” emerging research has shown PFAS to be environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative, and linked to a number of health effects. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no drinking water standards and very few federal requirements that relate to the use, management, or clean up of PFAS. Due to this lack of federal regulation, individual states have been left to build their own policies relating to the management of PFAS. Using Washington state as a case study, my research looks to examine the various models of governance that states have adopted in response to the PFAS contamination crisis. In addition, I explain how these government responses, or lack thereof, more broadly reflect the state's orientation toward the toxic chemicals we are all exposed to everyday.
Faculty Sponsor: Alissa Cordner
Research Funding Source: Abshire Student Research Scholar Award

Chamber Music Interlude: 10:30–11 a.m.

Dr. Amy Dodds, Director


Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
III. At an Old Trysting Place
by Edward MacDowell, arr. Ray Thompson

Second Suite in F Major, Op. 28, No. 2
IV. Fantasia on the "Dargason"
by Gustav Holst, arr. Ray Thompson

Victoria Frost, flute
Sam Allen, clarinet
Amy Dodds, oboe
Cassidy Novack, horn
Conor McGreevy, bassoon


Sonata for Bassoon and Cello in B-Flat Major, K.292
I. Allegro
III. Rondo
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Elizabeth Huang, bassoon
Asim Kapoor, cello

Poster Session: 11 a.m.–12 p.m.

Mind the (Wallula) Gap: An Analysis of Climate-Related Erosion Patterns in Spring Gulch, Washington

How does climate affect hillslope erosion rates at Spring Gulch near Wallula Gap, Washington? The Spring Gulch ravine is oriented east-west, producing hillslopes that are preferentially north- and south-facing. South-facing slopes receive more sunlight, leading to hotter and drier conditions. These slopes have significantly more exposed bedrock and thinner soils. Additionally, talus deposits, mixed with eolian sediment, can be found at the bottom of the south-facing slopes, indicating erosion of the soils. In contrast, north-facing slopes receive less sunlight and have cooler and wetter conditions. These slopes have less exposed bedrock and thicker soil cover, showing no evidence of erosion. We used optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to date the erosion of the south-facing hillslope soils and thickening of north-facing slope soils. Hillslopes at Spring Gulch provide a model for understanding how the effects of anthropogenic warming will change hillslope ecosystems.
Faculty Sponsor: Lyman Persico
Research Funding Source: Geological Society of America, National Science Foundation
Peer Coach: David Wang

PnpC1C2 Characterization Using Saturation Mutagenesis

Bioremediation is a method of environmental cleanup that uses bacteria to break down pollutants. Ring-cleaving dioxygenases (RCDOs) are bacterial enzymes of interest for bioremediation because they can degrade compounds by cleaving their carbon rings. PnpC1C2 is a RCDO from the soil bacteria Pseudomonas putida DLL-E4. PnpC1C2 binds to its substrate, hydroquinone, at a specific active site within the enzyme and then cleaves it. Mutating amino acids within the active site of PnpC1C2 has the potential to widen its array of substrates to include pollutants. For this research, PnpC1C2 was mutated at nine potentially critical sites and then screened for cleavage ability. The findings of this study give insight into the role of each mutated amino acid in the substrate binding process and cleavage mechanism of PnpC1C2. This improved understanding of PnpC1C2’s structure could lead to the design of an enzyme with the ability to degrade pollutants in the environment.
Faculty Sponsor: Tim Machonkin
Research Funding Source: M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, National Science Foundation
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Flower-Visiting Insects at Whitman College

Understanding how plants affect insect fauna can help us promote a healthy insect population on the Whitman College campus. I surveyed flower-visiting insects on campus flower beds during summer 2022. Insects were collected from 32 plant species every two weeks in both morning and afternoon. I found a total of 78 insect species, half of which were bees (49.5%), followed by flies (20.4%), beetles (10.8%), and true bugs and butterflies (9.7% each). The introduced honeybee was the broadest visitor (27 plant species in total). Insect species found on each plant ranged from one to 25, with three having markedly high numbers: lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata, 25), wild carrot (Daucus carota, 24), and blue eryngo (Eryngium planum, 23). These plant species bloomed for more than seven weeks over the season, and together attracted 43% of insect species. These data will help inform which plants on campus best support native insects.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

The Effects of a Complex Environment on Microglia Morphology in the Rat Brain

Rats housed in a socially and physically stimulating environment perform better on problem-solving tests, like mazes. They also have neurons that are more complex and have more synapses compared to rats that are housed individually, but the mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. Nonneuronal cells, such as microglia, are thought to play a role in synapse formation, and these cells could be contributing to the observed neuronal growth. Importantly, the function of microglia is related to their shape and size; thus, by studying microglia morphology in rats housed under this paradigm, we can better understand the contribution of microglia to experience-dependent brain changes. This work may provide further insight into how brain development is shaped by environmental factors.
Faculty Sponsors: Ginger Withers and Chris Wallace
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: David Wang

Lack of HIV Viral Evolution Observed in Clonally Expanded J1.1 Cells

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) initiated a global pandemic that has affected millions of people since 1981. Because HIV mutates up to 100,000 times faster than human genomic DNA, the virus can evade the immune system, thus making it difficult to find a cure. People living with HIV may go on a combined antiretroviral therapy, which suppresses HIV replication but does not eliminate the virus. The infected cells that are not eliminated are known as the latency reservoir. Latently infected cells are rare in antiretroviral-treated patients with HIV, as there is about one latent cell per million CD4+ helper T cells. The uncommonness of these latently infected cells pushed researchers to create the J1.1 cell line to serve as a model that mimics the cells in the human body. By studying this reservoir, we hope to move one step closer to eliminating HIV completely.
Faculty Sponsor: Jim Russo
Research Funding Source: Whitman College Welty Research Endowment & Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Summer Undergraduate Research Program
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Simulating Parkinson’s Disease Using Free Energy Principle-Dependent Active Inference

Models are a means to explain empirical data or to predict an outcome, given prior data. While previous brain models have focused on emergentism, neuroscientist Karl Friston’s free energy-based active inference theory is a reductionist-based model. Applied implementations with it have been limited. Thus, we are testing his theory by replicating a previous Parkinson’s disease model with an accurate model built from neurobiology information, machine learning, and adaptive self-improvement. We are creating a reinforcement learning algorithm utilizing a free energy principle-based reward function to simulate the brain, then analyzing and validating that activity with neurobiology knowledge. Acquisition of necessary neurobiology knowledge and incorporation into the algorithm has been completed, and testing of the program is underway. We hope to demonstrate that the brain can be simulated from first principles, which can be used in research, learning, and for experiments in place of human and animal test subjects.
Faculty Sponsor: Arielle Cooley
Peer Coach: David Wang

Biophysical Analysis of Grey Mangrove Stands in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

Mangroves provide ecological services in tropical regions, including carbon sequestration and habitat for biodiversity. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been used to effectively monitor mangrove stands to understand their health, surveying variables such as chlorophyll content and leaf area index (LAI). In this work, UAV data and in-situ soil plant analysis development (SPAD) values, a chlorophyll proxy, were collected in order to predict the chlorophyll distribution of grey mangroves (Avicennia marina) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, using a random forest approach. Moreover, we used the leaf optical model PROSAIL to estimate LAI from UAV data. Our random forest- and physical-based models accurately predicted the spatiotemporal distribution of chlorophyll in two A. marina strands as well as leaf area index for three stands. This work supports the use of machine learning and physical retrieval methods for monitoring mangrove distribution.
Faculty Sponsor: Douglas Juers
Research Funding Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

The Misinformation Effect: Impact of Circadian Rhythm Off-Peak Times on Memory Reliability

The misinformation effect refers to the phenomenon in which misleading information occurring after an event is witnessed alters details in one’s memory for the event. Humans' peak and off-peak periods are dictated by circadian rhythms, which influence our sleep-wake schedules. This research focuses on the relationship between peak and off-peak times of the day and susceptibility of memory to misinformation. We predicted that participants who are tested during their off-peak period will be more susceptible to misleading information compared to participants tested during their peak period. Participants watched a video of an electrician investigating a home, read a narrative of the video that contained misleading information (see: made bed, read: unmade bed), and then took a recognition test for video details. This research will have many practical implications, with the results of this study contributing to our understanding of how memory interacts with our circadian rhythms.
Faculty Sponsor: Matthew Prull
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Exploring Pleurotus ostreatus as a Viable Organism to Bioremediate Glyphosate from Contaminated Water

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Glyphosate and its primary metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) have become prolific contaminants found in surface and ground waters worldwide. In this study, the efficacy of using the oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus (Basidiomycota) for the bioremediation of water contaminated with glyphosate was investigated. Three lineages of P. ostreatus were used: a wild strain from the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington state, a strain previously exposed to glyphosate, and a daughter strain of the latter. It appears that P. ostreatus improved the quality of the water as evaluated by the height and weight of 13-day old mung bean seedlings. This study provides valuable insight into the potential of using P. ostreatus as a bioremediation tool for water contaminated with glyphosate.
Faculty Sponsor: Susanne Altermann
Research Funding Source: Whitman Internship Grant
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Controls on Channel Morphology from the June 2022 Yellowstone Floods

During June 10-13, 2022, an atmospheric river delivered 2-10 cm of rain to Yellowstone National Park. The warm rain caused significant melting of the preexisting snowpack, resulting in a large and destructive flood. Flood size and amount of erosion was not consistent, with some rivers enduring significantly more erosion than others. My research focused on the Gallatin Range on the park's north side. The Gallatin River, which drains the western flank of the range, is minimally eroded compared to the Gardner River, which drains the eastern flank. I measured the size and degree of erosion from the flood by surveying high water marks and river cross-sections. The wide, glacially-derived valleys of the Gallatin River may have attenuated the peak discharge as more water spilled onto the floodplains. This work is essential for future locating and understanding of severe floods as climate change increases the frequency of these types of storms.
Faculty Sponsor: Lyman Persico
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Comparison of Ureaplasma Antibiotic Susceptibility Testing Using Mycoplasma System Plus II and CLSI Methodology

Ureaplasma bacteria are a causative agent of infertility, premature birth, severe pneumonia, and hyperammonemia in adults. Currently, only one method of performing antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) of Ureaplasma is approved by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). However, it is laborious, time-consuming, and prone to user variability, thus limiting successful patient treatment. This study was conducted to compare a new method for antibiotic susceptibility testing for Ureaplasma using the Mycoplasma System Plus II. Clinical isolates of Ureaplasma were evaluated across nine antibiotics using both methodologies. Results between both methods were found to be at least 90% accurate for six out of the eight applicable antibiotics. The Mycoplasma System Plus II required less preparation time, materials, and cost while extending the antibiotics' shelf life. While additional isolate testing is required for definitive results, the Mycoplasma System Plus II represents a promising, simple alternative to traditional AST for Ureaplasma species.
Faculty Sponsor: Jim Russo
Research Funding Source: National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Resilience of Leaf Morphology in Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Climate change threatens to have major ecological effects as species attempt to respond to shifting environments. In plants, changes in leaf morphology—size, shape, and structure—have been shown to occur in response to increasing temperatures. For example, water loss happens primarily through stomata, the number of which is determined by available surface area. In hotter, drier conditions, plants cannot afford to lose much water, leading to a decrease in leaf surface area and stomatal density. We conducted fieldwork in southeastern Washington state to compare Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass) plants living on cooler north-facing vs. hotter south-facing slopes, and in open vs. experimentally shaded areas. We measured stomatal density, length, and width of leaves. However, we found no significant patterns in stomatal density or leaf dimensions between differing conditions. Further research should be undertaken to establish how bluebunch wheatgrass, and arid grassland ecosystems more broadly, may respond to climate change.
Faculty Sponsor: Tim Parker
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Case for Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: A Statistical Analysis

Research has shown that over 90% of African material heritage is kept outside the continent in museums. Contrary to popular belief, the acquisition of art was not a product of market purchases or gifts but an elaborate process to ensure the prosperity of French museums. This project focuses on the restitution of sub-Saharan African arts collected during the trade slave and French colonialism. Using text analysis, regressions, and qualitative research, we show the close connection between colonialism and the formation of collections of African art in French public museums. Preliminary results show that over 80% of the art was acquired through the colonial Christian missions and military looting. Our findings raise considerations beyond economic loss: the restitution of stolen heritage catalyzes the reconstruction of African memory and self-reinvention, through a re-semantization of the objects, by reconnecting them to current societies and their contemporaneity.
Faculty Sponsor: Rosie Mueller
Research Funding Source: Whitman Internship Grant
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Does the Transdiagnostic Model of Eating Disorders Apply to Binge Eating?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a relatively new and understudied eating disorder. Fairburn et al. (2003) attempt to create an in-depth, transdiagnostic model that addresses the comorbidity of eating disorders (ED). Their research was based on the cognitive behavioral theory that Marcus and Wilson (1993) put forth, pertaining to maintenance of bulimia nervosa. Fairburn et al. use various restrictive eating disorders to support their model, but fail to explain how it could apply to EDs that are not restrictive, such as BED. In our research, we are investigating how people who experience BED fit into this model by measuring how participants respond to a series of questionnaires that assess mood intolerance, perfectionism, binge eating behaviors, self-esteem, restrictive eating, and feelings over the period of a week. Participants are Whitman College students recruited via Whitman-administered listservs. Our findings may be able to highlight patterns of disordered eating on college campuses.
Faculty Sponsor: Tom Armstrong
Peer Coach: David Wang

​​Targeting PDGFR in YAP1 Fusion-Driven Cancers

The Hippo pathway is a signaling pathway in animals that plays a role in organ size by regulating the transcriptional coactivator YAP1. In several cancers this pathway can become dysregulated through formation of YAP1 fusion proteins. This investigation focuses on YAP1-FAM118B, YAP1-MAML2, and YAP1-SS18, three fusions found in ependymomas, meningiomas and cervical carcinomas, respectively. We identified platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), a key kinase target downstream of YAP1 fusions, to see if blocking PDGFR would significantly affect the proliferation of these fusion cells. Our results revealed that siRNA knockdowns of PDGFR negatively affected the proliferation of YAP1 fusion cells, and cells were more susceptible to Sorafenib drug treatments in low confluence cell environments versus the control. This investigation provides insight into the search for therapeutic targets for cancers driven by YAP1 fusions.
Faculty Sponsor: Jim Russo
Research Funding Source: Whitman College Welty Research Endowment & Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Summer Undergraduate Research Program
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

​​Measuring and Modeling Drumhead Vibrations

The study of vibrations covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to sound design, sound engineering, and systems in motion. A vibrating circular drumhead is a simple and important access point for studying vibrations and model behaviors because it is mathematically simple, with solutions that can be solved analytically. Other more complex systems, such as a tuning fork, require much more complicated mathematical techniques to solve. By modifying a drumhead, for example, by adding a small, localized mass to the top surface, we can apply perturbation techniques to model the small change in mass and better understand the effects of nonuniform mass on the vibrational behavior of two-dimensional surfaces.
Faculty Sponsor: Kurt Hoffman
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Flower-Visiting Insects and Their Associated Plants in a Xeric Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) Woodland in Washington

Western America's Garry oak woodlands are characterized by a rich diversity of plants and associated insects; however, due to human-caused habitat alternation, only 3-5% of their original extent remains, leading to various conservation and restoration efforts. This study documented flower-visiting insects in a xeric Garry oak woodland in Klickitat County, Washington, north of the Columbia River. In summer 2021, insects visiting blooming plants were collected using hand nets every two weeks (eight total collection days). A total of 944 specimens representing 165 insect species were collected on 20 plant species. Bees and wasps represented the greatest number of species (46% of total species) and beetles were found as the most abundant (42% of specimens). Some plants (yarrow, milkweed, and deerbrush) were shown to play central roles in supporting the insect network. These findings support the essential role of carefully-selected plants in conservation and restoration of this unique Pacific Northwest habitat.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Lead Poisoning in Raptors: Risk by Age, Species, and Location

Lead poisoning is arguably the most devastating symptom raptors present at wildlife rehabilitation centers nationwide. Primarily due to common hunting and fishing practices established long ago, lead poisoning has become endemic in raptors as seen in statistics shared by two Oregon-based organizations. Analyzing these data provides crucial insight into the multifaceted effects of lead poisoning within an ecosystem through biomagnification and bioaccumulation. We found that the age group, species, and areas most impacted by clinically significant cases of lead toxicity include mature adult bald and golden eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus and Aquila chrysaetos), particularly individuals in areas associated with hunting practices. Further knowledge on the topic is necessary to assess population status for vulnerable and threatened species, such as H. leucocephalus and the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), and to best construct conservation strategies moving forward.
Faculty Sponsor: Kate Jackson
Research Funding Source: Whitman Internship Grant
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Computational Model Development of the Sulfite Oxidase Active Site

Sulfite oxidase (SO) is an enzyme found in the mitochondria of all organisms, excluding yeasts. SO catalyzes the oxidation of sulfite to sulfate, which is the terminal reaction in the oxidative degradation pathway of the sulfur-containing amino acids. SO deficiency can result in rare neurological disease due to chemical imbalance and impair the development of the central nervous system. Our group has developed a quantum mechanical model of SO that contains ~261 atoms, by systematically incorporating residues that are important for the catalytic function of this enzyme. Various protonation states of active site bases (Tyr322 and His140) and oxidation states of molybdenum were considered. These models were validated using structural and reduction potential data. Here, I will present our current understanding of how various residues and protonation states impact the experimental observation.
Faculty Sponsor: Dalia Biswas
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Flower-Visiting Insects in the Whitman Water-Wise Native Plant Garden

With populations of insects plummeting worldwide, the Water-Wise Native Plant Garden at Whitman College provides an oasis for local insects, including pollinators. A 2021 survey revealed 144 species of flower-visiting insects on 32 plant species in the garden. My 2022 study replicates this survey to assess the perpetuity of the original findings. Insects were collected using hand nets every ten days between May 20 and August 20. A total of 1,115 insect specimens were collected, representing 150 insect species on 39 plant species. Most diverse were the bees and wasps (73 spp.), followed distantly by bugs (28 spp.) and flies (26 spp.). Within the bees, the small-sized and ground-nesting sweat bees (14 spp.) were the most commonly encountered native bees, but the introduced honey bee was still the overall dominant bee. These findings show how Whitman College can support native pollinators by continuing to plant native gardens across campus.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Survey of Flower-Visiting Insects on Flower Beds at Whitman College

Many college campuses nationwide are designing flower beds that attract native insects to support a healthy ecosystem. The goal of my study was to survey and analyze the flower-visiting insects across seven flower beds on the Whitman College campus during the summer of 2022. Insects on flowering plants were collected using a hand net during both mornings and afternoons every two weeks, from mid-May to late August. A total of 326 insect specimens were collected, representing six orders and 81 species. Each plant species attracted 1-20 insect species (mean = 6.5), with chaste tree receiving the most (20 spp.), followed by lanceleaf coreopsis (16 spp.). There was no significant difference in the mean number of insect species collected on native versus introduced plant species. Findings show that flower beds can support a diverse flower-visiting insect fauna, especially if highly attractive species are included in the planting design.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Department of Biology
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Anti-Predator Strategies in Newborn Fallow Deer Fawns

The fallow deer (Dama dama) is common throughout Europe. Newborns of the species spend much of their time separated from their mothers, hidden amongst plants as a protection against predators. In Dublin, Ireland’s Phoenix Park, the government annually surveys the newborn fallow deer population to compile behavioral data. The goal of my study was to determine how the hiding skills of the fawns, measured by their visibility relative to their habitat, was related to both their age and responses (active vs. passive) to the immediate threat of humans (predators). My initial analysis, without considering habitat and age, found no relationship between the hiding skill and response to human threat. Analysis of relationships in regards to habitat and age is ongoing. The findings of my study have the potential to reveal whether there is a tight connection between hiding strategy and a particular set of behavioral responses to threat.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Arcadia University: STEM Summer Research - Dublin Program
Peer Coach: David Wang

Profiling Differences in Astrocytes based on Biological Sex

While neurons are commonly regarded as the basis of brain function, somewhat surprisingly their survival and function is completely dependent on a star-shaped brain cell called an astrocyte. To study the interactions between these cells, researchers grow cell cultures of neurons and astrocytes together that are derived from rat tissue. These culture models, however, do not account for the sex of the tissue from which the cells are derived. Given that a difference in biological sex can change the predisposition of certain neurodevelopmental disorders, our lab sought to pioneer a new culture model that accounts for differences in the sex of the cells. We began a series of experiments to accurately sex-sort rat tissue, grow sex-specific cell cultures, and profile developmental and molecular differences in astrocyte cultures based on their sex. Our findings have the potential to help researchers better understand and study these specific brain cells.
Faculty Sponsors: Ginger Withers and Chris Wallace
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: David Wang

Aquatic Insects in the Blue Mountains

Aquatic insects have to date been sparsely studied in eastern Washington. We surveyed several bodies of water at Whitman College’s Johnston Wilderness Campus (JWC), including a pond and spring-fed stream, and Mill Creek, which we additionally sampled downstream of Walla Walla. We collected insects every two weeks from May through August, 2022, obtaining 2,800 specimens. We found mayflies to be the most abundant group overall. In Mill Creek, we collected twice as many specimens and species upstream of Walla Walla as downstream, suggesting passage through agricultural and urban land leads to insect-poor communities. At JWC, the spring-fed stream and Mill Creek were more abundant in stoneflies, while the plant-rich pond and downstream creek site were characterized by the presence of damselflies and beetles. Future sampling at more locations will allow us to determine whether this is representative of the general Blue Mountain region, thus informing lake, stream, and river management.
Faculty Sponsor: Heidi Dobson
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Effects of Antibiotic Duration on Clostridioides difficile Infection: A Systematic Review

Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is a serious adverse effect of widespread antibiotic usage. It has been hypothesized that shortening the duration of antibiotic courses will minimize rates of CDI. While no individual study explores this, a plethora of literature sources evaluating durations of antimicrobials are available. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials was conducted to determine the effect of shorter vs. longer antibiotic courses on the outcome of CDI. The results of this study found insufficient evidence to determine the effect of antibiotic duration on incidences of CDI, suggesting a possible discrepancy in reporting CDI as an adverse effect in these trials. If more studies researching the optimization of antibiotic durations documented testing for CDI, a meta-analysis could be completed to determine any statistical significance between the length of antibiotic duration and subsequent CDIs, ultimately reducing the morbidity and mortality of CDI.
Faculty Sponsor: Jim Russo
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

Effect of Cognitive Load and Learned Helplessness on Utilitarian Decision Making

Morality undergirds many everyday decisions. Greene (2001) quantified morality as a series of utilitarian judgments–decisions that maximize favorable outcomes. According to the dual-process theory of moral judgment, utilitarian decisions result from controlled and deliberate thinking as opposed to automatic or emotional thinking. The latter may result from such stress-inducing mental states as cognitive load (CL), or, as we proposed, temporarily induced learned helplessness (LH). We experimentally tested CL’s effect on utilitarian decisions by comparing the number of decisions participants made while engaging in either a strenuous or non-strenuous mental task. We tested LH’s effect after randomly assigning participants to experience either unsolvable or solvable anagrams. We also tested the interaction of CL and LH. Investigating how mental states affect moral judgements is important, as real-life decisions occur under conditions of varying stress and emotional intensity. By testing the dual-process theory, this research contributes to understanding the context-dependence of moral decisions.
Faculty Sponsor: Pavel Blagov
Peer Coach: David Wang

Baseline Data on Margays (Leopardus wiedii) in the Peruvian Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is a region of great biodiversity, but many species are now threatened due to climate change and deforestation. Margays (Leopardus wiedii) are small, nocturnal, arboreal wild cats that range from Mexico to southern Brazil. Rare and elusive, they are thus understudied. This project aimed to collect baseline data on margay populations in the Las Piedras region of eastern Peru, using camera traps. The sampling grid consisted of 35 stations, each with one arboreal camera pointed at an angled tree thought to be preferred by margays, and a terrestrial camera in the same vicinity. We captured 46 short videos of margays and identified at least five distinct individuals from repeated exposures. From these data, we can make rough estimates of population size in the area and gain insights into margay behavior. Future studies can refine the methods explored here to help us better understand margay biology.
Faculty Sponsor: Delbert Hutchison
Research Funding Source: Whitman Internship Grant
Peer Coach: Maryanne Ndung'u

The Effects of Fire on Sagebrush in Spring Gulch, Washington

Sagebrush is a fire-intolerant, evergreen shrub common in North American rangelands, but has been declining over the past century. Sagebrush historically has had a fire return interval of around 75 years, but recently this has increased to an average of 5-10 years. With increased fire frequency, sagebrush is being replaced with grasses and another shrub, rabbitbrush, which re-sprouts after fire. This replacement by rabbitbrush affects mule deer and pronghorn, for which sagebrush is an important winter food. I studied the decline of sagebrush in Spring Gulch, Washington, where I analyzed residual wood left post-fire, to determine if a plant community where sagebrush is rare and rabbitbrush is common is relatively recent, as expected from recent fire history. Reconstructing the recent ecological past of Spring Gulch aids in understanding how wildfire is altering western lands.
Faculty Sponsor: Tim Parker
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: David Wang

Mutations in the CDKN2A Gene Influence the Risk of Malignant Melanoma in Families with Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer (PC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. About 10% of PC cases may be hereditary. The CDKN2A gene is thought to contribute, but its exact relationship to PC risk is unclear. CDKN2A is also associated with malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, suggesting a hereditary link between these cancers. Our research goals were twofold: determine prevalence of CDKN2A variants in PC patients and quantify melanoma risk in families with PC history. We mined genome sequencing data from our PC patient cohort, then analyzed medical pedigrees to estimate melanoma risk in cohort families. We found that CDKN2A variants are more prevalent in PC patients than in the general population and identified 21 new pathogenic CDKN2A variants. We also found evidence linking CDKN2A mutations to melanoma within these families. Our results have implications for genetic counseling and assessing patients' PC and melanoma risk.
Faculty Sponsor: Dan Vernon
Research Funding Source: National Institutes of Health: National Cancer Institute
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Small Mammal Species Diversity and Abundance Along Elevational Gradients in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem, Tanzania

The Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem (TME) is situated along the African Great Rift Valley in Tanzania and is host to a diverse range of small mammal habitats at varying elevations. Not much is known about the effects of habitat elevation on small mammal species abundance and diversity in the TME. By establishing a total of 26 plots at a mix of low, medium, and high elevation locations, the main objective of this study was to determine species diversity patterns and drivers along elevational gradients in the TME. Species diversity, as well as abundance, was found to increase as elevation increases, meaning that a higher and more diverse number of small mammal species can be found at higher elevations. As climate change affects rainfall patterns and other environmental processes in Tanzania, an understanding of small mammal population dynamics can be very important for the continuous assessment of overall ecosystem health.
Faculty Sponsor: Kate Jackson
Off Campus Study Program: SFS: Tanzania Wildlife Management Studies
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Investigating the Mechanism for Inhibition of the Human Proteasome

Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow. Plasma cells are an important part of the immune system that are responsible for producing antibodies helping the body fight off infection. There is unfortunately no cure for multiple myeloma; however, some of the more promising treatments include inhibiting the activity of the proteasome, an enzyme complex responsible for processing proteins flagged for degradation in the cell. The proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib is used clinically for the treatment of multiple myeloma, but the exact mechanism by which it interacts with the proteasome on a molecular level is not well understood. The focus of our research is to develop a library of compounds with different orientations of the reactive center analogous to carfilzomib in order to understand the nuances of its mechanism of action.
Faculty Sponsor: Marion Götz
Research Funding Source: M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Peer Coach: Sybella Ssewakiryanga

Analyzing Contributions of Biological Sex in Early Neuron Development

Neurodevelopmental disorders are known to vary across biological sex by severity, onset, and prevalence. However, how these differences emerge as a result of socialization, molecular differences, or likely a combination, is largely unknown. While differences in the brain exist across biological sex, the cellular mechanisms underlying these differences have not been explored. For over a century, brain cells grown in culture have been the standard model for exploring brain structure, function, and development at a cellular level. While other areas of study have prioritized male specimens, brain cell cultures have used mixed sources, combining cells from biologically male and female sources, and therefore fail to consider the factor of biological sex. To test the hypothesis that brain cell development differs across biological sex, this project was one of the first to create sex-sorted brain cell cultures and evaluate their development by examining different components of cellular complexity.
Faculty Sponsors: Ginger Withers and Chris Wallace
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award
Peer Coach: Marina Brogley

Is Bottled Water a Safe Alternative to Tap Water?

Today, bottled water has become a billion-dollar industry, with millions of consumers buying products based on factors such as taste, water quality, and health benefits. However, there are growing concerns about its environmental impact, as well as water quality and the amount of electrolytes in bottled water, which can cause health problems, and these issues have raised questions about its true value. We investigated the quality of bottled water by determining the total dissolved solids (TDS), ionic strength, and cation and anion concentrations of different brands and types of bottled water. We then compared our results to the information provided on bottle labels and company websites. We furthermore compared these results with the FDA's recommended TDS range for drinking water. This research highlights the need for increased consumer awareness of bottled water quality and companies' claims and provides consumers with key information to enable them to make more informed choices.
Faculty Sponsor: Frank Dunnivant
Peer Coach: David Wang

Jazz at Noon: 12–1 p.m.

Dr. Doug Scarborough, Director


Southeast Sixstep
by Eric Richards

Lynda B
by Dave Hanson

Any Moment Now
by Scott Ninmer

Autumn Leaves
by Joseph Kosma

You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To
by Cole Porter

The Red One
by Pat Metheney

by Michael League

Alex Lamers, alto sax
Kai Alexander, alto sax
Warren Atkison, tenor sax
Owen Alvord, tenor sax
Jordan Null, baritone sax
Anna McCready, trumpet
Jed Matthias, trumpet
Aiden Boyd, trumpet
Reilly McVay, trumpet
Anna Hanson, trumpet
Sean Walsh, trombone
Andrew Hanson, trombone
Ethan Baker, trombone
Philip Ratner, piano
Arlen Abbey, piano
Bennett Cooper, guitar
Jeffrey Wu, guitar
Merry Cockroft, bass
Mya Snyder, bass
Jack Allard, drums
Marina Balasanyan, vocals

Panel Session 2: 1:15–2:10 p.m.

Reid Campus Center: Young Ballroom

Marian Sandoval, moderator & peer coach

1:15 p.m. SAM WEISS
Microwave-Assisted Palladium-Catalyzed Cross-Coupling of Carborane Anions

Boron clusters are small molecules that have been effective in cancer treatments and as weakly-coordinating anions in electrolytes. Synthesizing variations on these clusters, however, proves challenging due to their high stability, even as anions. The addition of organic functional groups to these clusters, such as conjugated structures or alkenes, will give them more utility in organic synthesis, whether that be as a cancer-treatment medicine (as in boron-neutron capture therapy) or as a part of novel materials (i.e., in an electrolyte or in nonlinear optics). Previous literature has explored the palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling of a different boron cluster, C2B10H12, to a host of different functional groups. The present work, however, will focus on the microwave-irradiated synthesis of CB11H11(C8H7)-, where a CB11 anionic cluster (a carborane) was coupled to styrene. I will also discuss the resultant compounds from this reaction and the attempted isolation of the desired product.
Faculty Sponsor: Mark Juhasz
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation

Bacteria to Building Blocks: Exploration of Substrate Specificity in Benzoate Dioxygenase from Ralstonia eutropha B9

As there has been a push toward sustainable development, chemists have tried to answer the call by developing more environmentally friendly processes. Biocatalysis fits into this paradigm by doing selective reactions under mild conditions. The dioxygenase system that we employ represents one such biocatalyst. Ralstonia eutropha B9 is a mutant soil bacterium that expresses an enzyme called benzoate dioxygenase (BZDO). BZDO catalyzes the oxidation of benzoates to form ipso, ortho cis dihydrodiols which are useful synthetic building blocks. Our project was to test non-native substrates for BZDO; specifically, we used quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (qNMR) to evaluate and characterize the transformation of these non-native substrates. Given that many of these substrates were commercially unavailable, we attempted to access them via chemical synthesis. The preparation of these compounds and their evaluation as substrates for BZDO will be presented.
Faculty Sponsor: Jon Collins
Research Funding Source: M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Metal Accumulation in Chelating Resins in the Presence of Calcium

Metal ions are found in most environmental media and have a major impact on living organisms, including plants. Transition metal ions in aquatic systems can act either as micronutrients or toxins. One example is nickel, which has the ability to form bonds with large organic molecules called chelating agents that affect the bioavailability of the metal. Calcium, also found in aquatic systems, can bind to chelating agents as well, and competes with the metal ions, thus impacting the bioavailability of transition metals such as nickel. Diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) is a technique allowing one to measure bioavailability of metals in environmental media. Using DGT, we evaluated how calcium concentrations affect nickel bioavailability, and found a surprising outcome: increasing calcium concentration in fact increases the uptake of nickel. This result highlights the need to account for calcium in bioavailability modeling.
Faculty Sponsor: Nate Boland
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation

Olin Hall Auditorium

Rebecca Patterson, moderator & peer coach

1:15 p.m. ROHAN MYERS
Toxicity Assessment of the HIV Latency-Reversing Agent, Romidepsin

Globally, it is estimated that 40 million people suffer from HIV. This disease has been difficult to cure because HIV has the ability to establish a lifelong reservoir of latently infected cells. Latency-reversal agents, or LRAs, are drugs that may offer a possible cure. Romidepsin, one of these LRAs, has been praised for its efficacy but also has potentially toxic effects. At what drug concentration is Romidepsin toxic to uninfected cells? To answer this question, I treated white blood cells from two HIV-negative rhesus macaques with tenfold serial dilutions of Romidepsin for 24 and 48 hours, respectively, and then used flow cytometry to analyze cell death, activation, and proliferation. I found 1.5μg/mL to be the highest possible concentration before substantial cell death was observed. This concentration of Romidepsin may be ideal for future treatment regimens, especially in combination with other drugs.
Faculty Sponsor: Dan Vernon
Research Funding Source: Oregon Health and Science University: Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and Oregon National Primate Research Center

Pericyte Density Analysis in the Visual Cortex Between EC/IC Rats After Four and Ten Days of Differential Housing

In the 1940s, Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb discovered that rats living in stimulus-rich environments (EC, environmental complexity condition) outperformed those living alone and in stimulus-poor environments (IC, individually housed condition). Studies show significant increases of density within neuropils, interwoven networks in the central nervous system, in EC rats after four days of differential housing. Growth of the blood vessels necessary to support the expanded neuropil lags behind, with significant differences not being detected until day ten of differential housing. These findings suggest that blood vessel growth may be stimulated by the brain operating under hypoxic conditions, though the mechanism for this is unclear. My research focuses on the role that pericytes, a class of cells present at intervals along capillary walls in the visual cortex, play in blood vessel formation. I analyze the density of pericytes in EC/IC rat brain cortical tissue after four and ten days of differential housing.
Faculty Sponsors: Ginger Withers and Chris Wallace
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award

1:55 p.m. EMILY PATZ
Effects of SMAC Mimetic AZD5582 on Toxicity, Proliferation, and Activation of T-Cells from Rhesus Macaques

Currently over 37 million people are infected with HIV and only about 75% are accessing antiretroviral therapies (ARTs). But ART does not cure HIV. Once ART is discontinued, a person will experience viral rebound due to latently infected cells, which have viral DNA inserted into their genome and which have avoided detection by the immune system. This project investigated a class of molecules that mimic the second mitochondrial activator of caspase (SMAC) protein as a new component for curative HIV therapies. SMAC mimetics slowly reactivate the viral DNA so the immune system can recognize the latently infected cells. Preliminary results showed that SMAC mimetic AZD5582 does not cause significant toxicity, immune cell production, or specific immune cell activation in uninfected rhesus macaque T-cells.
Faculty Sponsor: Jim Russo
Research Funding Source: Oregon Health and Science University: Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute

Maxey Hall Auditorium

Sneh Chachra, moderator & peer coach

Towards a Native Outreach Program for Whitman College

American colleges carry a colonial legacy that makes them uniquely hostile to Native students. These students often feel alienated and excluded and are currently among the most likely to drop out of college or not attend at all. Although work has been done by public institutions to address these issues, according to findings from the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates, private institutions are more likely to perpetuate these systemic problems. Developing structural solutions is crucial in providing inclusive, thriving, and vibrant spaces. By researching peer institutions, investigating organizational inventory, and engaging in outreach initiatives to Native communities, we have started foundational work in developing a Whitman College Native Outreach Program. These efforts showcase not only the need for a Native outreach program but also a way to critically engage in structural and institutional solutions that work towards both decolonization and indigenization practices while creating thriving spaces of inclusivity.
Faculty Sponsor: Eunice Blavascunas
Research Funding Source: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation & Whitman College Office of the Provost: Community Engaged Learning and Research Initiative Grant

Does Community Connectedness Protect Queer Persons From Anxiety Related to Discrimination and Rejection Sensitivity?

According to the Minority Stress Model proposed by Meyer (2003), lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ+) persons often experience discrimination and expect rejection related to their sexual orientation, both of which have been associated with poor mental health outcomes, such as anxiety. A modifiable protective factor that may buffer the impact of discrimination and rejection sensitivity on mental health in this population is connectedness to the LGBQ+ community. We surveyed a community sample of U.S. LGBQ+ adults (N = 464). We tested a mediation model, in which we predicted that rejection sensitivity may partially explain the connection between experiences of discrimination and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, we examined whether LGBQ+ community connectedness could lessen the indirect association of experiences of discrimination via rejection sensitivity on anxiety symptoms. Our research adds to the literature on mental health in LGBQ+ persons and expands upon it by recruiting a gender-diverse sample of participants.
Faculty Sponsor: Pavel Blagov
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

1:55 p.m. JORDAN BRANT
From 8-Bit to Orchestra: Composing Music Across Genres

In this modern time, composers must be able to create across different genres of music, not only for the sake of finding and maintaining steady work, but also in order to expand and improve their skills. I present on two of my works: “Skeletons,” for traditional instruments, and “Battle! 8​-​bit Trainer,” for electronic instruments. In relation to these works, I will discuss composing for various mediums and styles. I will also address the process of learning from other composers’ works and discuss methods of integrating new styles into your own work, both aurally and through the study of sheet music. I will emphasize the differences in writing for human performers versus electronic instruments, and speak about my own compositional methods, specifically with respect to how they vary depending on the style for which I am writing.
Faculty Sponsors: Carlos Velez and Paul Luongo

Hall of Music: Chism Recital Hall

Sally Binswanger, moderator & peer coach

The Disgust Response in Children and Adults

Disgust is an emotion that prevents oral incorporation of contaminants. The handful of studies that have examined disgust development rely on self-report measures which may not be valid, as some children may not understand how to apply the term, whereas others may apply it without the underlying experience of genuine disgust. The present study addresses this limitation by objectively measuring the tendency to avoid viewing disgusting stimuli. We examine whether 5- to 12-year-olds show the same tendency to avoid viewing disgust stimuli that adults have shown in prior study. Participants view disgusting and neutral images in MouseView.js, a web-based alternative to eye tracking software, in which subjects view blurry images. We hypothesize that adults will show a stronger tendency to avoid viewing disgusting images, and that the correlation between self-reported disgust and avoidance-viewing will be stronger in parents, which would suggest that visual avoidance reflects a more developed disgust response.
Faculty Sponsor: Tom Armstrong
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

White Children’s Racial Identity Development in Dual Language and Monolingual Elementary Schools

As one of America’s largest social institutions, public schools play a huge role in the racial socialization of children. Bilingual schools are rapidly increasing in popularity amongst white families across the country, changing the linguistic and racial environments in which white children establish their racial consciousness. This research uses interviews with Walla Walla Public Elementary School students to understand racial socialization in the context of a bilingual and a monolingual public school, and to understand how different linguistic and racial educational environments influence white children’s racial perception of themselves. Existing research and initial findings point toward the conclusion that white children in bilingual schools are more likely to have a deeper understanding and acceptance of their whiteness than their peers at monolingual schools.
Faculty Sponsor: Gilbert Mireles

Exploring the Impacts of After-School Programs on Low-SES Students' Resilience

Previously published research indicates that resilience, the process of adapting well in the face of adversity and trauma, can be strengthened through external resources. These resources include strong parental support, mentorship, and after-school activities. In this study, I work to better understand the impact of an after-school program in Walla Walla, Washington on low socio-economic status (low-SES) elementary schoolers’ resilience. Participants took a survey on resilience and perceived sense of belonging to the after-school program, both on the first day of the program and upon completion. Pre- to post-test findings show that students' perceived sense of belonging to the program is connected to an increase in their resilience. These results highlight the importance of low-SES students' perceived sense of belonging in school and extracurricular activities in helping to heighten resilience.
Faculty Sponsor: Erin Pahlke
Research Funding Source: The Sherwood Trust: Whitman College Community Fellow Program

Hall of Science: Brattain Auditorium

Jenna Ebding, moderator & peer coach

1:15 p.m. ANTARA BIRD
Rewriting Myths of Motherhood

Cultural conceptions and poetic depictions of mothers have been predominantly positive throughout the ages. However, some writers have taken the controversial path of depicting motherhood in a more complex and sometimes less favorable light. Two such writers are Augusta Webster, a Victorian-era English poet who wrote an incomplete sonnet sequence on motherhood, and contemporary poet Rita Dove. In her 1995 collection Mother Love, Dove gives the usually silent poetic/mythic daughter a voice. She expands on Webster's rewriting of the cultural conceptions of motherhood by rejecting the idea that a mother's love always benefits her child. Using the sonnet form, these poets confront the fact that a mother can be harmful to her child, which allows other people and society at large to question the culturally accepted beliefs surrounding mothers and gives wronged daughters support to speak their truth.
Faculty Sponsor: Theresa DiPasquale

1:35 p.m. LUCY WOOD
Postpartum Depression in Latina Farmworkers: The Roles of Stressors and Breastfeeding

Postpartum depression (PPD) negatively affects one in seven birthing people and their infants. PPD is understudied in minority populations, and very little work has investigated risk factors for PPD among Latina farmworkers. I sought to explore whether two stressors that Latina farmworkers experience - farm workplace stress and financial stress - are correlated with development of PPD. Further, because prior research has documented the benefits of breastfeeding for the breastfeeder’s mental health, I also explored whether breastfeeding buffers the effects of these stressors on the development of PPD. To consider these questions, I recruited Latina farmworkers with children under five years old. Participants completed surveys about their experiences with PPD, farm workplace stress, financial stress, and breastfeeding. This research not only begins to fill gaps in the literature, but its results may encourage farm workplaces to implement supportive breastfeeding environments in order to promote the mental health of their employees.
Faculty Sponsor: Erin Pahlke
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

The Moderating Role of Status on the Effect of Class Consciousness and System Justification

According to system justification theory, people are motivated to defend the socioeconomic status quo, even when doing so would jeopardize their personal/collective interests. Class consciousness is the extent to which members of a social class are aware of their position in the socioeconomic hierarchy, class relations, and the interests of their class. We sought to replicate the previously reported negative relationship between social class and system justification, and between class consciousness and system justification, in employed U.S. adults. We also proposed that the relationship between class consciousness and system justification would change based on socioeconomic status. Using convenience sampling and snowballing online, we recruited 326 participants of varying social class. Participants completed questionnaires measuring respondents’ status, system-justifying beliefs, and class consciousness. We discuss the correlational results in light of the rising class conflict in the U.S. and the growing labor movement.
Faculty Sponsor: Pavel Blagov

Afternoon Jazz Intermission: 2:15–3 p.m.

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Whitman Undergraduate Conference with gourmet cupcakes in the Reid Campus Center lobby (vegan and gluten-free options available) during the Afternoon Jazz Intermission.

Dr. Gary Gemberling, Director


Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
by Joe Zawinul
Maddy Becherini & Zoe Zapf, vocals

Cheese Cake
by Dexter Gordon, arr. Don Sickler

by Antonio Carlos Jobim

Maddy Becherini, vocals

by Lee Morgan

At Last
by Mack Gordon & Harry Warren, arr. George Millsap
Zoe Zapf, vocals

Better Get Hit in Your Soul
by Charles Mingus, arr. Andrew Homzy

Jack Cahalan, bass clarinet
Jeffery Wu, alto sax, piano
Sam Weiss, piano, vibes
Denzel Chinyemba, guitar
Ella Corcoran, guitar
Jack Ray, guitar
Kai Guthrie, guitar, violin
Johanna Duncan, bass
Rudy Gupta, drums
Jorgie Hampilos, drums
Maddy Becherini, vocals
Zoe Zapf, vocals

Panel Session 3: 3:15-4:50 p.m.

Reid Campus Center: Young Ballroom

Rebecca Patterson, moderator & peer coach

3:15 p.m. JACKSON WADE
Reconstructing Past Climates of the Pacific Northwest: An Analysis of Paleosols and Weathering Profiles on the Umatilla Basalt

Walla Walla and eastern Washington host the Columbia River Basalt Group, a voluminous deposit of volcanic basalts. During periods between eruptions, basalt was exposed to surface environment conditions, developing into a soil before being buried by the next eruption, and thus preserving those environmental conditions. I studied three sites around the Columbia River Valley with ancient soils preserved on the 13.0-million-year-old Umatilla Basalt. At each site, we excavated and described the soil profile, built a 3-D digital model of the outcrop, and collected samples for bulk chemical analysis and for microscopy. These soils record climate following a pronounced warming event 17-15 million years ago called the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO). Despite being produced two million years after the end of the MMCO, these soils display evidence of enhanced weathering characteristics not found in current climate conditions, indicating that the climate at the site was still different than today’s.
Faculty Sponsors: Nick Bader and Lyman Persico
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation

A Window to the Past: How Ancient Soils Help us Understand Paleoclimate and the Extension of the Mid-Miocene Climatic Transition

In the mid-Miocene there was a period of pronounced warming called the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO) that coincided with voluminous volcanic eruptions in southeastern Washington. At the end of the MMCO, weathering processes generated a soil on the 15-million-year-old Frenchman Spring. Subsequent volcanic eruptions preserved environmental conditions by capping the soil and preventing further weathering. I excavated the soils in the Frenchman Spring basalt in order to gain information about the climate in which these ancient soils formed. The soil is significantly more weathered than soils in southeastern Washington today, indicating a paleoclimate with increased humidity and precipitation, despite post-dating the main phase of the MMCO. Research dealing with paleoclimatic response to changes in temperature is crucial to predicting consequences associated with a drastically changing climate.
Faculty Sponsors: Lyman Persico and Nick Bader
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation

3:55 p.m. NAMY BARNETT
Greener Beaches, Greener Earth: Coastal-Enhanced Weathering

Coastal-enhanced weathering is a technique that aims to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by accelerating the breakdown of a mineral called olivine when it comes into contact with seawater. This process is facilitated by the reaction of olivine with carbonic acid present in seawater, which results in the formation of carbonate and creates a less-acidic environment for marine organisms. The Pu'u Mahana volcanic cone in Hawaii is a source of olivine that is naturally eroding and depositing the grains onto the beach below (Papakōlea Beach). Using X-ray diffraction (XRD) technology and a scanning electron microscope (SEM), I characterize nondestructively the composition and the morphology of the source olivine grains from the face of the volcanic cone to provide context for the olivine undergoing dissolution on the beach. The presence of dissolution features on the grain surfaces suggests that olivine begins weathering prior to deposition.
Faculty Sponsor: Kirsten Nicolaysen
Research Funding Source: Faculty-Student Summer Research Award

An Asteroseismic Distance to the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy

Stars near the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) oscillate with day-long periods, which can be detected using ground-based transient surveys such as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). We identified M-giant stars within the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy (Sgr dSph) stream and core using a catalog list of 300,000 member stars from Gaia DR2 for which we could extract light curves from ASAS-SN. Using a Fourier transformation, we discovered a total of 26 M-giant stars within Sgr dSph with significant oscillation frequencies in the time-series data. From there, an asteroseismic period-luminosity relationship was used to obtain distances for 12 of those M-giant stars in the Sgr dSph galaxy. All of our calculated distances fell within accepted literature distances—constraining the distances further to 23.95 to 29.93 kiloparsecs—demonstrating the potential of ground-based M-giant asteroseismology to derive distances to stars beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
Faculty Sponsor: Andrea Dobson
Research Funding Source: National Science Foundation

Late Admission

World War II in the Apocalyptic Poetry Tradition

As rapid environmental change prompts apocalypse-scale catastrophes globally, the literary arts function to comprehend such matters as ruptures in cultural narrative and art itself. The 2009 "Dark Mountain Manifesto" calls for art that performs precisely this feat. This demand – that civilization has entered a new age with new material conditions, which necessitate new literature – is, however, not so new. During World War II, Robinson Jeffers's short poems and H.D.'s epic poem "Trilogy" understand the conflict as apocalyptic in the ancient Greek sense of the term, translated literally as "unveiling" – not as an endpoint, but as a point revealing certain truths. In form and content, their poetry addresses the war's disasters, witnesses the past as long gone, and proposes revelatory provocations for the future, amounting to enriching models for contemporary eco-apocalypse poetry.
Faculty Sponsor: Emily Jones

Olin Hall Auditorium

Aniruddh 'Rudy' Gupta, moderator & peer coach

Applications of Machine Learning in Automated Silver Nanocrystal Synthesis

In the emerging field of automated nanocrystal synthesis, how can integration with machine learning (ML) algorithms optimize the research process? The efficiency increase achieved by applied machine learning in the synthesis process has already been established by leading researchers in the chemical field. In our capstone project, we worked with Professor Mark Hendricks to implement and test the efficacy of various ML algorithms that automatically generate tests to find the optimal recipe under which silver forms microscopic crystal structures. Expanding on previous work, our team tested approaches including multiple polynomial regression, segmented regression, and deep neural networks. This work leads us closer to optimizing the nano-crystalline synthesis process, which will help extract fundamental knowledge regarding chemical composition as it relates to silver. In our presentation, we give an overview of our thought process, the models we tested, our current framework, and the resulting data.
Faculty Sponsors: John Stratton and Mark Hendricks

Exploring the Mojave Desert From the Classroom: A Case Study in Virtual Reality Field Trips

Virtual reality (VR) offers a unique opportunity to expand on geoscience pedagogy. The challenges associated with conducting topographical research and study in harsh-climate geological terrains are numerous, including physical limitations and prohibitive costs. Moreover, the current climate crisis has made some terrains inaccessible for extended periods of time. The use of VR technology can provide an inclusive, modern approach to geology education. We developed a VR experience using Lidar (light detection and ranging) point cloud data captured by a Whitman College-owned drone. The program offers an immersive learning experience, incorporating both a structured lesson plan and a free-style exploration option. The program allows students to explore the terrain, conduct measurements, do basic calculations, and learn about significant structures within the Mojave Desert. Results from a user-testing study with geology students at Whitman College demonstrate the viability and utility of VR.
Faculty Sponsors: John Stratton and Lyman Persico

Maxey Hall Auditorium

Sneh Chachra, moderator & peer coach

Exploring the Arab Spring in Fiction

The literary tradition of fictional dystopian writing often serves to comment on, warn of, or reflect upon significant changes in society. Orwellian works like 1984 and Animal Farm explore totalitarianism from the safety of a fictional world. Egyptian writer Basma Abdel Aziz’s 2013 novel The Queue is another such work, which explores a fictional authoritarian government in a Middle Eastern country with clear parallels to post-Arab Spring Egypt. Abdel Aziz originally wrote the piece in Arabic; it was published in English in 2016. In lieu of an historical approach, I explore the novel through a primarily literary lens, a device which can be used to understand a political moment in history. I focus specifically on the ways in which an invasive regime affects its citizens psychologically and behaviorally; the fictional setting allows us to explore the harrowing possibilities that the Arab Spring may yield.
Faculty Sponsor: Elyse Semerdjian

3:35 p.m. HOULA CHORFI
The Arab Spring, Perception of Opportunity, and Organizational Capacities for LGBTQ+ Activists in Tunisia

Research on the Arab Spring and its impacts overwhelmingly focuses on broad socioeconomic factors and the role of the media, but rarely focuses on the impact on minority groups, notably the LGBTQ+ community and the queer movement. I here examine the impacts of the uprising on the queer movement in Tunisia, centering the perspective of LGBTQ+ activists. I use McAdam’s Political Process Theory (1982) as a framework to explain the emergence of the queer movement within the Arab Spring. I use qualitative methods to measure these variables, particularly three semi-structured interviews with activists working on queer rights and issues. I find that the activists perceive the Spring as an important and crucial force in the creation of a visible queer movement in Tunisia. This is in-line with the Political Process model, where the Arab Spring expanded political opportunities, which provided resources allowing the movement to reach the visibility it has.
Faculty Sponsor: Michelle Janning

3:55 p.m. ROSA WOOLSEY
Religious Freedom and Buddhist Life in Jogjakarta, Indonesia

Laws regulating religious life shape practitioners’ beliefs, practices, and identifications in discontinuous ways. This research explores the complexities of religious life through the experiences of practitioners at Vihāra Karangdjati, a Buddhist temple in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. In a field study conducted through SIT Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change, I consider the impact of Indonesia's politicization of religion on the lived experiences of the nation’s minority Buddhist community. This includes limitations on religious freedom set by rigid legal requirements and an imposition of standards by the religious majority. The unique structure of religious life in the archipelago reveals the complexity of religious identification as it relates to the legally and socially charged process of conversion. I review the particular adaptability of Buddhism in relation to sociopolitical developments in Indonesia. This study is a portal into exploring the forces behind religious adaptations and hybridity as well as the implications of those developments.
Faculty Sponsor: Xiaobo Yuan
Off Campus Study Program: SIT Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change

4:15 p.m. OLIVIA BELL
Excavating Fascist Politics: Ancient Rome, Mussolini, and Gender-Binary Weaponization

In this presentation, I will unpack the layered histories of fascist politics by highlighting key formulas of social control as developed by Augustan-era Rome and intentionally reenacted by Mussolini for “modern renovation.” Such formulas were concerned with capitalizing on a discourse of nostalgia that projected an imagined “ideal” past, while promising an all-encompassing “purification,” which “necessitated” a militant “cleansing” of “enemies” at home and abroad. Oftentimes, particular gender identities were labeled as enemies. In both cases, the fascist formula sought to violently enforce a constructed gender binary to “restore” a false definition of the state's “health” as “guaranteed” by the toxic masculinities performed by Augustus and re-conceptualized by Mussolini. In revealing how fascist politics interoperate and become grounds for “revival,” I hope to divulge the tactics employed by fascist ideologies and their false and harmful allures, and to redirect power and humanity to voices of those marginalized by such systems.
Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Davies

Colonialism and WWII Memorialization on Guam: U.S., Japanese, and Chamorro Legacies

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed. On December 10, Japan invaded the U.S. territory of Guam. For 32 months, native Chamorro people—American civilians—were subjected to forced labor, murders, rapes, torture, and internment camps until the U.S. military reinvaded Guam in the summer of 1944. The U.S., Japan, and Chamorros commemorate WWII differently. How has colonialism shaped memorialization on Guam? Generally, Japan uses memorialization to console its war dead, promote a post-war peace narrative, and downplay memories of Imperialist violence during WWII. The Chamorro people memorialize some events and not others, reflecting both an enforced and yet willful forgetting of the more unpleasant facts of WWII occupation. U.S. memorials emphasize the U.S. liberation of Guam from Japanese occupation to justify present American control of Guam for its several military bases. This presentation explores the production of historical narratives and how we can navigate them more critically.
Faculty Sponsor: Jacqueline Woodfork
Research Funding Source: Department of History

Hall of Music: Chism Recital Hall

Jess Hernandez, moderator
Cormac Li, peer coach

How Accessible are College Resources? Investigating How SES and Group Affiliation Impact Feelings of Comfort in Seeking Academic Resources

Socioeconomic status (SES) impacts student academic performance, how students feel about seeking help, and the strategies they use in the classroom. The purpose of our study is to explore the roles that sense of belonging and group affiliation play in how students are able to access academic resources, and the comfort they in feel seeking such resources. Students from low and high SES backgrounds were randomly assigned to a group affiliation condition wherein the researchers assumed the role of wealthy or poor students. This manipulation of sense of belonging is novel in its attempt to increase or decrease group affiliation. We predict that there will be an interaction between SES and group affiliation affecting both students' sense of belonging and a student's comfort in seeking resources. Our results may reveal areas for improvement that could be valuable for Whitman College administrators to address.
Faculty Sponsor: Melissa Clearfield
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

A Study on Psychological Well-Being in Early Adulthood

Researchers have found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with increased emotional difficulties in emerging adulthood as well as poorer well-being throughout life. Consistent with the risk and resilience framework, positive relationships with natural mentors and parents may reduce the lasting negative impacts that ACEs can have. In the current study, we explored a gap in the literature by examining the additive effects that relationships with parents and natural mentors may have together. We hypothesized that high-quality, close relationships with adults during adolescence would moderate the relationship between ACEs and psychological well-being in early adulthood. To explore these potential links, young adults completed measures about their psychological well-being, childhood experiences, and their relationships with parents and natural mentors. Exploring the potentially positive role that supportive adults can have in reducing the impacts of ACEs will advance our understanding of how to help individuals who experience adversity in their youth.
Faculty Sponsor: Erin Pahlke

The Impacts of Biculturalism and Bilingualism on Social Flexibility

Social flexibility expresses the capacity of people to move between different social groups, such as the way in which multilingual or multicultural individuals navigate social environments (Ikizer & Ramírez-Esparza, 2017). Previous research indicates that bilingual individuals are able to internalize and shift their self-presentation to accommodate different groups' norms more easily than monolingual individuals (e.g., Chen, 2008), and languages provide skills to communicate with different groups more easily (e.g., Ikizer & Ramírez-Esparza, 2017). Our study explores effects of the interaction of bilingualism and biculturalism on social flexibility. We compare 30-40 participants in each of two groups: bicultural, monolingual individuals, and monocultural, bilingual individuals, to investigate the impact of culture and language in driving social flexibility. We hypothesize that being bilingual has a larger effect on social flexibility compared to being bicultural. This study may increase our understanding of how students move between social groups, as well as how communities form.
Faculty Sponsor: Melissa Clearfield
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

The Relationship Between Delinquency and Peer Delinquency: Do Empathy and Extraversion Moderate It?

Research suggests that there is a relationship between delinquency and peer delinquency. It also suggests that moderating variables (e.g., family support/parenting style and self-control) affect the strength of the relationship. We hypothesized that empathy and extraversion similarly serve as moderating variables, given past research on delinquency and empathy, and separately, extraversion. In a cross-sectional, correlational study, we tested whether the relationship between self-reported everyday delinquent behaviors and retrospectively recalled peer delinquency may be moderated by empathy and, separately, by extraversion in abo​​ut 250 U.S. adult participants. Participants completed an online survey with delinquency and personality questionnaires. We predicted that empathy may weaken the link between peer delinquency and participants' own delinquency, whereas extraversion may potentiate it. This research is important because it examines the interplay between personality and environmental factors in predicting delinquency.
Faculty Sponsor: Pavel Blagov
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

The Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Sense of Belonging on Academic Performance in the Classroom

The primary goal of higher education institutions is to maximize the potential of all students. However, there are obstacles that cause differences in academic achievement outcomes, such as racial and socioeconomic differences. Previous literature suggests a critical barrier to academic success is the lack of sense of belonging (Jack, 2019). A better understanding of student belonging at the college level can help improve educational outcomes, particularly for students of low socioeconomic status (SES) and low sense of belonging (DuPaul et al., 2015). We investigate how academic competence is related to SES and perceived sense of belonging. We predicted that low-SES students would have academically lower outcomes compared to high-SES students and that sense of belonging contributes to academic performance. We found that low-SES students have on average worse academic outcomes than high-SES students. Additionally, students with low sense of belonging perform less well than students with high sense of belonging.
Faculty Sponsor: Melissa Clearfield
Research Funding Source: Department of Psychology

Support Partners

Thank you to all those who have supported the students presenting in the Whitman Undergraduate Conference.

Archives for Presentations

Presenters archive their research in Penrose Library's ARMINDA Collections for viewing after the conference. Please refer to these instructions for further information.

Past WUC presentations are available for viewing in the ARMINDA Whitman Undergraduate Conference Collections.

For any corrections to this page, please contact Jenny Stratton (strattjm@whitman.edu).

beaker duck hiker icon-a-to-z icon-arrow-circle-down icon-arrow-circle-up icon-arrow-down icon-arrow-left icon-arrow-right icon-arrow-up icon-calendar-no-circle icon-calendar icon-camera icon-clock icon-cv icon-dot icon-down-triangle icon-email-circle icon-email icon-external-link icon-facebook icon-flickr icon-generic-blog icon-google-plus icon-home icon-instagram icon-library icon-link-circle icon-link-inverted icon-linkedin icon-lock icon-magazine icon-map-pin icon-map2 icon-menu-hamburger icon-menu-mobile-a icon-menu-mobile-b icon-menu-x icon-mywhitman-cog icon-news icon-phone icon-pinterest icon-play icon-quote icon-search-a icon-search-b icon-search-mobile-a icon-search-mobile-b icon-share icon-snail-mail icon-tumblr icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube logo-whitman-nc-flat logo-whitman-nc-stacked logo-whitman-no-clocktower slider-category-arrow-2px slider-category-arrow-no-line slider-category-arrow-solid slider-category-arrow slider-category-line-2px slider-category-line-solid slider-category-line tc_icon-filmstrip-fl tc_icon-filmstrip-ln tc_icon-play-fl-closed tc_icon-play-fl-open tc_icon-play-ln-closed tc_icon-play-ln-open wifi