M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Honors Outstanding Science Faculty, Students at Annual Conference

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Professors at University of Puget Sound and Reed College Win Prestigious Swanson Awards at Murdock College Science Research Program Conference

(Vancouver, WA) – The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust handed out more than a dozen honors, including cash awards, to students and faculty at Pacific Northwest colleges and universities this week as part of the annual Murdock College Science Research Program Conference.

Co-hosted by Reed College on November 6–7, the event themed “Technology 20/20: Seeing is Believing” digitally connected approximately 360 students and faculty for a series of lectures and competitive presentations across a variety of science disciplines.

“Science and scientific research are embedded in the DNA of the Murdock Trust,” said Dr. Moses Lee, senior program director for scientific research and enrichment programs at the Murdock Trust. “Our benefactor, Jack Murdock, built his career on the notion that scientific innovation can serve the common good through revolutionary developments. In our 45-year history, the Murdock Trust has had the opportunity to observe and partner with countless researchers at colleges, universities and labs around the Pacific Northwest as they find innovative solutions that serve the common good, and we are excited to help inspire the next generation of scientists through programs like the Murdock College Science Research Program.”

The event was highlighted by Dr. Summer Gibbs, who delivered the Neal Thorpe Keynote Memorial Lecture titled “Fluorescence Guided Surgery–Cut by Color.” A biomedical scientist and professor at Oregon Health and Science University, Dr. Gibbs is regarded as a rising star in the field and a leader in developing tissue visualization methodologies to guide surgical procedures.

Honoring Faculty

Since 2016, the Murdock Trust has recognized two outstanding faculty members for their contributions in the classroom and the research lab through the Lynwood Swanson Awards. The awards are named for Dr. Lynwood Swanson, who served as a Trustee of the Murdock Trust for 30 years following a distinguished career as a professor and researcher at Linfield College and Oregon Graduate Institute, as well as the co-founder of FEI, a world leader in electron optics and focused ion beam technologies in scanning and transmission electron microscopies.

“Dr. Swanson epitomizes the values of the Murdock Trust and the legacy of Jack Murdock,” said Dr. Steve Moore, executive director at the Murdock Trust. “Dr. Swanson and Jack were professional colleagues, and Jack was an early investor in many tech efforts in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Swanson’s ongoing service to the scientific community, to the nonprofit community and to innovation echoes and amplifies the spirit of Jack’s work and his desire to serve and support the common good. We are grateful for his continued investment in the scientific community and that we have the opportunity to recognize the outstanding work of talented faculty and researchers through this award named in his honor.”  

The Swanson Awardis intended to recognize a senior faculty exemplar with an established, productive and nationally recognized research program, while the Swanson Promise Awardis aimed at recognizing a junior faculty who has demonstrated an exceptional potential in establishing an exemplary, productive and sustainable research program. The latter award is intended to honor a junior professor with less than ten years of experience as a faculty member. Both awards include a citation and a cash prize that is shared by the professor and their institution.

  • The 2020 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Daniel A. Burgard, professor of chemistry, University of Puget Sound.  Not only has Dr. Burgard established a productive and nationally and internationally acclaimed research program examining community waste water during his career, he devotes himself to scholarly excellence, is a creative teacher and researcher and is a dedicated mentor to both college students and high school science teachers.
  • The 2020 Lynwood W. Swanson Promise for Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Anna Ritz, associate professor of biology, Reed College. Dr. Ritz is regarded by her peers asan extraordinary teacher, a nationally recognized researcher and research mentor and a thoughtful and successful program builder with exciting leadership potential for Reed College.

Honoring Students

In addition to the faculty awards, students at participating institutions present their own research through lectures and poster displays throughout the conference. While these are typically conducted in person, 2020 allowed the unique opportunity to create interactive, virtual poster demonstrations.

At the conclusion of the conference, the Murdock Trust awarded the following honors to presenting students:

2020 John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award

Name: Ryan Bax

Institution: Whitworth University

Mentor: Dr. Aaron Putzke

“Freaking Out – Using the Transcriptome to Uncover Regulation of a Kinase During Post-Embryonic Development”

2020 John Van Zytveld Physical Sciences Award

Name: Maiya Pacleb

Institution: University of Puget Sound

Mentor: Dr. Eric Scharrer

“Oxadiazole containing liquid crystals: Effects of structural changes on phase behavior”


2020 Murdock College Science Research Conference Best Poster Award Sponsored by Luminex Corporation

Name: Lucas Ehinger

Institution: Seattle University

Mentor: Dr. Mary Alberg

“An investigation of the u-d antiquark asymmetry in the proton sea through a combined Statistical and Meson Cloud Model”


2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Ecology-Evolution-Biodiversity (Section A)

Name: Joanna Gunther

Institution: George Fox University

Mentor: Dr. Paige Copenhaver-Parry

“The hierarchy of light availability: A cascade of influences on seedling recruitment”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Developmental Biology-physiology (Section B)

Name: Jessica Reisinger

Institution: University of Alaska Anchorage

Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Stecyk

“Quantitative transcriptomics reveals the importance of cold acclimation for prolonged anoxia survival in Trachemys scripta”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Molecular and Cell Biology (Section C, two prizes)

Name: Allie Traeger

Institution: Lewis and Clark College

Mentor: Dr. Sharon Torigoe

“Investigation of Low-Affinity Enhancers that Transcriptionally Regulate Klf4 in Pluripotent Stem Cells”

Name: Braden Bell and Leilani Pendilla

Institution: Gonzaga University

Mentor: Dr. Laura Diaz-Martinez

“Studying Three Novel Genes and Their Function in Cell Viability”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Neuroscience-Psychology-Exercise Science/Biochemistry (Sections D and E)

Name: Estelle Ronayne

Institution: Western Washington University

Mentor: Dr. P. Clint Spiegel, Jr.

“Crystal Structure of Blood Coagulation Factor VIII in Complex with an Anti-C2 Domain Inhibitory Antibody”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry (Section F)

Name: Drew Craddock

Institution: Whitworth University

Mentor: Dr. Kraig Wheeler

“Impacts of Increased Molecular Topology on Molecular Recognition: 4-Substituted Naphthylamides”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Analytical-Inorganic-Physical Chemistry-Computational Chemistry (Section G)

Name: Haven Dick-Neal

Institution: Whitman College

Mentor: Dr. Nathan Boland

“Small Organic Acids Inhibit Semi-junctive Nickel Transfer between Ligand Complexes recruitment”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Environmental Science-Geology (Section H)

Name: Karly Beth Serrano

Institution: Heritage University

Mentors: Marissa Porter, John I. Hass (Yakima Golding Farms)

“Influence of Nitrogen Applications on Experimental Hop Plant Growth and Pest Populations”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Microbiology (Section I)

Name: Emily Lockhart

Institution: Corban University

Mentor: Dr. Christina Cooper

“Comparison of Gut Microbiome in Obese and Lean Mice”

2020 Murdock Poster Prize for Physics and Engineering (Section J)

Name: Riley Crabb

Institution: Saint Martin’s university

Mentor: Dr. Andrea Kunder

“Spectroscopic Investigation of Inner Galaxy Stars: 2MS-GC02, Terzan 4 and the 200 km/s peak”


The Murdock College Science Research program

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust offers several programs to support and grow scientific research efforts among undergraduate institutions (primarily private, four-year, liberal arts schools) in the Pacific Northwest, including the Murdock College Science Research Program.

“The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the finest research colleges and universities in the country,” said Dr. Lee. “We believe that great things can be accomplished through scientific discovery and innovation, but there must be an environment where thoughtful research can take place. We are grateful to have established relationships over decades with many of these institutions, and we hope to continue to grow our partners and partnerships for generations to come.”

While the Murdock Trust offers capacity building grants for scientific technology and instrumentation, the MCSR, MCSR for Natural Sciences, Research Start-Up Grants for New Science Faculty and RAISE awards are made exclusively in support of staff and faculty engaged in research at a qualified college or university.

For more information on this year’s conference or the Murdock College Science Research Program, please contact Colby Reade 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 7,000 grants totaling more than $1 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and on our website.


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