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From left: Moses Lee, program director for research and science at the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust with Whitman winners Stefanides and Juul. Photo courtesy of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Nate Boland.Three Whitman students won prizes at the 26th annual Murdock College Science Research Conference late last year. Physics major Gabe Juul '18 and physics-astronomy major Meghan Feldman '18 received the 2017 John Van Zytveld Award in the Physical Sciences for oral presentation. Chemistry major Annie Stefanides '18 earned a Murdock Poster Prize in the field of organic chemistry.

Benjamin H. Brown Professor of Physics Mark Beck, faculty mentor for Juul and Feldman, said they worked on a project to uncover potential errors in a quantum cryptography system that would render the system vulnerable to eavesdropping. The award consisted of a ribbon, a cash prize for the students and their academic departments and a gift for their faculty research advisers. Judges based their decision on criteria ranging from knowledge of the material to effectiveness of communication and level of preparation.  

Stefanides, a research student of Associate Professor of Chemistry Tim Machonkin, presented on crystallization efforts of a hydroquinone ring-cleaving dioxygenase, PcpA. Judging criteria for posters included visual impact, content, delivery and answering questions, among other categories. All three students have served as summer lab assistants at Whitman.  

Attendance at the conference is by invitation. Nineteen Whitman students and six Whitman faculty and staff members took part in this year's event, held in Spokane, Washington, in November. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. Murdock and provides grants to organizations in five Pacific Northwest states that seek to strengthen the region's educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.