M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Marks 30th Anniversary of MCSR Conference, Announces Awards for Faculty, Students

(Vancouver, WA) – This weekend, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust hosted the 30th annual Murdock College Science Research (MCSR) Conference. Purposefully designed to be a smaller conference this year, due to taking utmost precaution to keep participants safe, the hybrid event gathered approximately 275 college students and faculty in person, plus others who joined by virtual methods, to celebrate outstanding research at institutions of higher learning across the Pacific Northwest.

“Our benefactor, Jack Murdock, believed strongly in the power of scientific research to change lives for the better. He also believed in the value of investing in young people, helping them see a future of possibility if they are willing to do the work. For 30 years, the MCSR Conference has provided an opportunity for students from a wide variety of backgrounds to gather, learn, and grow in their pursuit of a career in the sciences,” said Dr. Moses Lee, senior program director for scientific research and enrichment programs at the Murdock Trust. “We are thrilled that we have had the opportunity to serve and support tens of thousands of students through the years and we are excited to see this program continue to flourish for years to come.”

The two-day event blends live lectures, oral presentations, and poster presentations, allowing students to prepare for professional research settings by showcasing their own work while also learning from some of the leading minds in a variety of scientific fields.

Honoring Faculty

The hallmark of the 2021 MCSR Conference was the announcement of this year’s Lynwood Swanson Awards. Since 2016, the Murdock Trust has recognized two outstanding faculty members for their contributions in discovering new knowledge, working with undergraduate student collaborators, and teaching in the research laboratory through the awards 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 is a living example of Jack Murdock’s legacy and the values held by the Murdock Trust,” said Dr. Steve Moore, executive director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. “Throughout his career, Dr. Swanson has helped drive innovation through his own work while also helping support and uplift future generations passionate about the STEM fields. Professional colleagues, Jack and Dr. Swanson share a passion to serve and support the common good through innovation and community investment. We are grateful for the opportunity to honor educators who continue this spirit of service throughout our region.”

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 2021 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Christopher Irwin Smith, Professor of Biology, Willamette University. Dr. Smith’s research into the diversity of Yuccas has received global recognition in addition to his scholarly work with undergraduates and his own, public-facing science communications.
  • The 2021 Lynwood W. Swanson Promise for Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Andrea Kunder, Assistant Professor of Physics, St. Martin’s University. In addition to investing in hands on research for her undergraduate students, Dr. Kunder has conducted significant research into the structure, composition, and dynamics of old starts in the Milky Way.

Honoring Students

In addition to the faculty awards, students at participating institutions present their own research through lectures and poster displays throughout the conference.

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

2021 John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award

Name: Madison Stanaway

Institution: University of Portland

Mentor: Dr. David Wynne

“Using Genetic Analysis in Caenorhabditis elegans to Investigate the Role of Heterochromatin Protein 1 in Cell Division”

2021 John Van Zytveld Physical Sciences Award

Name: Abigail Robb

Institution: Whitworth University

Mentor: Dr. Eric Davis

“Electric Field Dependence of Ions Produced through Electrospray Ionization Using Ion Mobility Spectrometry”


2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Ecology-Evolution-Biodiversity (Section A, two prizes)

Name: Alexi Ebersole

Institution: University of Puget Sound

Mentor: Dr. Stacey Weiss

“Diets of Coastal and Inland Western Fence Lizard Populations in Washington State”

Name: Alissa Cole and Mason Hoskins

Institution: Pacific University

Mentor: Dr. Stacey Halpern

“Fertilizer and Neighbor Plants Change Variability in Herbivory by the Generalist Beet Army Worm (Spodoptera exigua) on Kale (Brassica oleracea)”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Developmental Biology-physiology (Section B)

Name: Kayla Meredith

Institution: Seattle University

Mentor: Dr. Stephen Luckey

“Run for your Life! A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Exercise Intensity on Cardiovascular Outcomes in A Rat Model of Hypertension”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Molecular and Cell Biology (Section C, two prizes)

Name: Torrey Lind

Institution: Lewis and Clark College

Mentor: Dr. Sharon Torigoe

“Deciphering the Cis-Regulatory Code for Klf4 Expression in Pluripotent Stem Cells”

Name: Abby Sims

Institution: George Fox University

Mentor: Dr. John Schmitt

Protocadherin-γ Modulates CaM Kinase Activity and Breast Cancer Cell Growth”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Neuroscience-Psychology-Exercise Science (Section D)

Name: Avery Owen

Institution: George Fox University

Mentor: Dr. Anthony P. Barnes

“Characterization of a Novel GPR39 Signal Transduction Pathway”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Biochemistry (Section E)

Name: Cassidy Sebastian

Institution: Gonzaga University

Mentor: Dr. Shannon L. Cravens

“Investigating the Effects of Uracil Damage on Dz8-17’s Therapeutic Potential”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry (Section F)

Name: Hayden Houck

Institution: Western Washington University

Mentor: Dr. Mike Larsen

“Preparation of Covalent Adaptable Networks via Synthesis and Guanylation of Styrenic Carbodiimides”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Analytical-Inorganic-Physical Chemistry-Computational Chemistry (Section G, two prizes)

Name: Sandra Montgomery

Institution: Pacific Lutheran University

Mentor: Dr. Dean Waldow

“Single Ion Polymer Electrolyte Synthesis”

Name: Julien Dagan

Institution: Pacific University

Mentor: Dr. Julie Layshock

“Considerations for the Quantification and Detection of Naloxone in Surface Water”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Environmental Science-Geology (Section H)

Name: Gabriella Camera-Faurot

Institution: Alaska Pacific University

Mentor: Dr. Jason Geck

“Comparison of a Water Level Measurement Performance for Two Different Sensors (Pressure Transducer versus Acoustic) at the East and West Forks of the Eklutna River”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Microbiology (Section I)

Name: Lauren Augusta

Institution: University of Puget Sound

Mentor: Dr. Mark Martin

“Designing Diagnostic Screening for Luminescence Mutations in Photobacterium leiognathi Strain KNH6”

2021 Murdock Poster Prize for Physics and Engineering (Section J)

Name: Maxwell Piper

Institution: Reed College

Mentor: Dr. Alison Crocker

“Stellar Velocity Dispersion Corrections for Late-Type Galaxies”

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, MCRP 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 7,500 grants totaling more than $1.2 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and on our website.


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