M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Hosts 31st MCSR Conference, Announces Awards for Faculty, Students

(Vancouver, WA) – This weekend, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust hosted the 31st annual Murdock College Science Research (MCSR) Conference. This event gathered approximately 438 college students and faculty to celebrate outstanding research at 28 institutions of higher learning across the Pacific Northwest. 

“Support of scientific research has been in the Murdock Trust’s DNA since it was founded in 1975,” said Dr. Moses Lee, senior program director for scientific research and enrichment programs, Murdock Trust. “Our benefactor, Jack Murdock, was an innovator, inventor, and champion of collaborative research. He was interested in supporting projects that created opportunities and welcomed new students and scientists into the work. Through the MCSR program, we can continue the legacy that Jack Murdock started, and support so many students at the beginning of exciting scientific careers.”

For two days, students shared oral and poster presentations, listened to lectures, and networked with peers and faculty. Through this experience, students develop critical science communication skills while sharing research and celebrating their peers.

Faculty Awards Announced

Every year since 2016, the Murdock Trust has honored two outstanding faculty members with Lynwood Swanson Awards for their contributions in discovering new knowledge, working with undergraduate students, and teaching in the research laboratory. This year, for the first time, three award winners were announced.

These awards are named in honor of Dr. Lynwood Swanson, who held a distinguished career as a Northwest professor, researcher, and world leader in electron optics, as well as a Trustee of the Murdock Trust for 30 years.

“Dr. Swanson and Jack Murdock were colleagues with a shared passion for the common good,” said Romanita Hairston, CEO, Murdock Trust. “Dr. Swanson loves to support innovative projects that prepare the way for a brighter scientific future, just as Jack did. Honoring faculty in our region who live out these same values is one small way we seek to carry on Jack’s, and Dr. Swanson’s, inspiring legacy, while recognizing those who have picked up this mantle of leadership in the scientific community.”

The Swanson Scientific Research Award recognizes a senior faculty member with an established, productive, and nationally recognized research program. This year, for the first time, two awardees were named in this category.

The Swanson Promise Award is intended to recognize 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.

All awards include a citation and a cash prize that is shared by the professor and their institution. According to Dr. Lee, “The fact that we just couldn’t narrow down the award winners to two demonstrates how impressive and significant this group of researchers and mentors is. We are thrilled and encouraged to recognize three such outstanding scientific leaders.”

Honoring Students 

In addition to the faculty awards, the Murdock Trust honors outstanding student presentations and research at the conclusion of the conference. This year, the following prizes were awarded:

2022 John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award  

Name: Jack Waite

Institution: Lewis and Clark College

Mentor: Dr. Sharon Torigoe

“The Function of a Low-Affinity Transcription Factor Binding Site in Pluripotency-Specific Gene Expression”

2022 John Van Zytveld Physical Sciences Award 

Name: Julian Marsh

Institution: Pacific Lutheran University

Mentor: Dr. Ann J. Auman

“De Novo Protein Design of CD19 Binders for Immuno-Oncological Therapeutics” 


2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Ecology-Evolution-Biodiversity (Section A, two prizes)

Name: Kylie Teng, Grace Chinen, and Emily Tacke

Institution: Seattle University

Mentor: Dr. Heidi Liere

“Importance of Vegetation, Ground Cover, and Landscape Quality on Beneficial Insects in Seattle Community Gardens”

Name: Sofia Reeves

Institution: Lewis and Clark College

Mentor: Dr. Greta Binford

“Why has PLD Activity Diversified in Sicariid Venoms? Functional Relevance of Venom Toxin Diversification”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Developmental Biology-Physiology (Section B)

Name: Priyanka Vinsel

Institution: University of Portland

Mentor: Dr. Laura Dyer

“Effects of Ethanol Exposure and the Sonic Hedgehog Signaling Pathway on Neural Crest Migration”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Molecular and Cell Biology (Section C, two prizes)

Name: Kristen Whitley

Institution: Walla Walla University

Mentor: Dr. Kyle Craig

“Targeting Mitochondrial Proteins as a Novel Approach for the Treatment of Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer”

Name: Emiliano Soto-Romero, Braden Bell, and Chloe McQuesten

Institution: Gonzaga University

Mentor: Dr. Laura Diaz-Martinez

“Studying Three Universal Essential Genes with Potential Functions in Cell Viability, the Cell Cycle and the Response to DNA Damage”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Neuroscience-Psychology-Exercise Science (Section D)

Name: Michelle Ortman

Institution: George Fox University

Mentor: Dr. Melanie Samuel (Baylor University College of Medicine)

“The Serine/Threonine Kinase LKB1 is Required for Retinal Ganglion Cell Migration and Viability”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Biochemistry (Section E)

Name: Paxton Carson

Institution: Gonzaga University

Mentor: Dr. Shannon L. Cravens

“Investigating the Effects of Uracil Damage on the Therapeutic Potential of DNAzymes “

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry (Section F)

Name: Hayden Ledvina

Institution: George Fox University

Mentor: Dr. Summer Gibbs (Oregon Health and Science University)

“Synthesis of Prostate Cancer Specific Targeting Agents for Fluorescent Guided Prostatectomy”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Analytical-Inorganic-Physical Chemistry-Computational Chemistry (Section G, two prizes)

Name: Emma Morrow

Institution: University of Portland

Mentor: Dr. Buck Taylor

“Computational Study of the Decomposition of NHC and CAAC Ruthenium Catalysts in Ethenolysis Reactions”

Name: Kalena Montgomery

Institution: University of Puget Sound

Mentor: Dr. Emily Tollefson

“Progress Towards a Lithium Selective Nano-Sensor”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Environmental Science-Geology (Section H)

Name: Namy Barnett

Institution: Whitman College

Mentor: Dr. Kirsten Nicolaysen

“Green Beachers, Greener Earth: Coastal Enhanced Weathering”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Microbiology (Section I)

Name: Nhu Phan and Conor Barres

Institution: Pacific University

Mentor: Dr. Gyorgyi Nyerges

“Detection of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Fernhill Wetlands and Wastewater Treatment Plant”

2022 Murdock Poster Prize for Physics and Engineering (Section J)

Name: Gabriel Kuntz

Institution: Seattle University

Mentor: Dr. Pasha Tabatabai

“Mechanical Properties of Fish Shoals”

The Murdock Trust’s Support of Scientific Research

The Murdock College Science Research Program (MCSRP) is one of several ways that the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust helps support and grow scientific research efforts among undergraduate institutions in the Pacific Northwest. 

“We truly believe that great, important contributions to scientific knowledge can and are being made at Pacific Northwest colleges and universities,” said Dr. Lee. “The Murdock Trust is blessed to have established partnerships with many outstanding institutions. MCSRP is one way we partner with them to cultivate thoughtful research environments, so that this productive inquiry can continue into future generations.”  

In addition to MCSRP, the Murdock Trust offers the following opportunities in support of scientific research: MCRP for Natural Sciences, Research Start-Up Grants for New Science Faculty, RAISE awards, and capacity building grants for scientific technology and instrumentation.

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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