M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust


(Vancouver, WA) – On November 10-11, close to 500 students and faculty from colleges and universities across the Pacific Northwest gathered for the 32nd annual Murdock College Science Research (MCSR) Conference. This event celebrated outstanding student research, faculty leadership, and collaboration within the scientific community. It gave students a chance to share their discoveries through oral and poster presentations, network with peers and faculty, learn from a keynote lecture, and develop critical science communication skills.  

“The Murdock Trust is fortunate to have a rich history of nearly fifty years supporting scientific research in our region,” said Dr. Moses Lee, Vice President for Scientific Research Grants and Programming, Murdock Trust. “Investing in innovation and building capacity, through science, scientific research in particular, and other sectors, was a priority for our benefactor, Jack Murdock, and his legacy lives on today through the creative and collaborative research of these students and faculty. This conference is an exciting opportunity to honor that legacy and celebrate the way it is lived out in these young scientists.” 

Faculty Awards Announced 

One of the most important influences on students as they build their futures is faculty who can demonstrate the potential and power of a scientific career. To that end, the Murdock Trust gives Lynwood W. Swanson Awards to two outstanding faculty members for their contributions in discovering new knowledge, working with undergraduate students, and teaching in the research laboratory. These awards are given in honor of Dr. Lynwood Swanson, a Trustee of the Murdock Trust for 30 years in addition to his distinguished career as a scientist in electron optics and professor in the Pacific Northwest. 

“It is hard to overstate the impact that scientists, researchers, and innovators committed to the common good can have on our region and on the world,” said Romanita Hairston, CEO, Murdock Trust. “Dr. Swanson is one example of this, as was Jack Murdock. But we believe that these two award winners are equally bearers of this torch. It is an honor to recognize them and thank them for their leadership.” 

The Swanson Scientific Award recognizes a senior faculty member with an established, productive, and nationally recognized research program.  

The Swanson Promise Award recognizes a junior faculty member with less than ten years of faculty experience who has demonstrated an exceptional potential in establishing an exemplary, productive, and sustainable research program.  

  • The 2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Promise for Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Kelly Chacón, Arthur F. Scott Associate Professor of Chemistry, Reed College. This award recognizes Dr. Chacón’s internationally recognized application of spectroscopic approaches to answering bioinorganic chemistry questions, and for their committed mentorship, especially to undergraduates from historically marginalized backgrounds.  

Both awards come with a citation and a cash prize that is shared by the professor and institution. 

Student Presentation Awards 

At the end of the conference, students were awarded the following honors based on poster and oral presentations throughout the two days. 

2023 John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award 

Name: Micah Bell 

Institution: Gonzaga University 

Mentor: Dr. Brook Swanson 

Rhinoceros Beetles Carry Informational Chemicals About Body Size and Sex 

2023 John Van Zytveld Physical Sciences Award 

Name: Elliot Wald 

Institution: Carroll College 

Mentor: Dr. John Rowley 

Metal-oxide Photovoltaic Cells Synthesized using Materials Abundant in the Martian Regolith  


2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Ecology-Evolution-Biodiversity (Section A, three prizes) 

Name: Michelle Winfield 

Institution: Pacific University 

Mentor: Dr. Christopher Templeton 

Can zebra finches overcome noise-induced cognitive impairment through habituation? 

Name: Christina Riddle and Kelvin Sakyi 

Institution: College of Idaho 

Mentor: Dr. Robert Laport 

Investigating Genetic Diversity of Castanea dentata Planted in the Pacific Northwest 

Name: Gabriela Kuglen-Alvarez 

Institution: Lewis & Clark College 

Mentor: Dr. Margaret Metz 

Leaf area variation through developmental stage and canopy position in Myristicaceae 

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Developmental Biology-Physiology (Section B) 

Name: Sara Helmstetter 

Institution: Reed College 

Mentor: Dr. Kara Cerveny 

Becoming a Neuron: Exploring Visual Input Influences on the Rate of Neurogenesis in the Zebrafish Optic Tectum 

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Molecular and Cell Biology (Section C, two prizes) 

Name: Mariah Canton 

Institution: University of Puget Sound 

Mentor: Dr. Bryan Thines 

Cell Cycle Regulation in Plants by the F-BOX STRESS INDUCED 1 (FBS1) Gene  

Name: Marharyta Tkachenka 

Institution: Whitman College 

Mentor: Dr. Dan Vernon 

Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of PIRL9 Expression in Arabidopsis thaliana: Insights from a Developmental Time Course  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Neuroscience-Psychology-Exercise Science (Section D)

Name: Anna-Marie Ahn

Institution: Lewis & Clark College

Mentor: Dr. Tamily Weissman-Unni

Investigating alpha-synuclein’s role as a DNA repair protein in Parkinson’s Disease

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Biochemistry (Section E) 

Name: Melissa Duncan 

Institution: Willamette University 

Mentor: Dr. Cooper Battle 

Creating an Adaptable G4 Quadruplex Sensor  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry (Section F) 

Name: Shawn Vinogradsky and Andrew Harter 

Institution: Whitman College 

Mentor: Dr. Marion Gotz 

Exploring stereochemical aspects of proteasome inhibition by peptide epoxyketones  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Analytical-Inorganic-Physical Chemistry-Computational Chemistry (Section G, two prizes) 

Name: Kaden Seely 

Institution: University of Portland 

Mentor: Dr. Buck Taylor 

Computational investigation into electronic and steric effects on the decomposition of ethenolysis catalysts  

Name: Jeffrey Buetow 

Institution: Pacific Lutheran University 

Mentor: Dr. Dean A. Waldow 

Optimizing OECT performance with polymer blends: Studying volumetric capacitance in Poly(3-hexylthiophene) based organic transistors  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Environmental Science-Geology (Section H) 

Name: Emma Hardy 

Institution: Rocky Mountain College 

Mentor: Dr. Megan Poulette 

Alpine Plants and Snowmelt at a GLORIA Site in Wyoming  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Microbiology (Section I) 

Name: Harrison Goeldner 

Institution: Trinity Western University 

Mentor: Dr. Laura Onyango 

Antibacterial Efficacy of Zn Based Particles Against Biofilm Forming Bacteria  

2023 Murdock Poster Prize for Physics and Engineering (Section J) 

Name: Claire Skaggs 

Institution: St. Martin’s University 

Mentor: Dr. Andrea Kunder 

Fingerprints of Pulsating Stars in the Bulge and Globular Clusters  

The Murdock Trust’s Investment in the Northwest Scientific Community 

This conference is just one of many ways the Murdock Trust helps cultivate a vibrant scientific research community in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, the Trust provides grants for major scientific instrumentation, capital projects, research collaborations, commercialization initiatives, new faculty research, high school science teacher development, and more.  

“The Pacific Northwest is a region with incredible scientific research capacity thanks to our outstanding institutions, faculty, and students,” said Dr. Lee. “This conference is an opportunity to encourage and uplift them so that they can return to their institutions and continue the good, hard work of scientific inquiry that will have ripples of change for generations.” 

For more information on this year’s conference or the Murdock College Science Research Program, please contact Colby Reade, Senior Director of Strategy and Communications, at colbyr@murdocktrust.org.  

About M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust 

The Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest – Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington – that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the Trust has awarded more than 8,300 grants totaling more than 1.3 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and on our website.  


back to top

The Trust guides nonprofit organizations through every level of their development through grants and other resources.

The Trust has a wealth of knowledge and experience that can make all the difference to you and your organization.