M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust


2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Awards

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has announced the winners of its new annual scientific research awards at the 2023 MCSR Conference. The awards are open to invited nominations from private undergraduate institutions within the Pacific Northwest, encompassing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. The Swanson Award is intended to recognize a senior faculty exemplar with an established, productive, and nationally recognized research program, while the Swanson Promise Award is 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 10 years experience as a faculty member.

A panel of national experts evaluates the nominations, and the criteria for these awards are focused on research accomplishments that include the following.

  • Discovery research accomplishments with national recognition
  • Substantial engagement of undergraduate students
  • Recognized leadership in developing and promoting research at undergraduate institutions
  • Evidence of continuing growth in productive research

The awards honor the longtime work of Dr. Lynwood Swanson, who retired after serving as a Trustee at the Murdock Trust for 30 years. Dr. Swanson began his career as a professor at Linfield College, before moving his research to Oregon Graduate Institute. In 1971, he co-founded FEI, a world-leader in electron optics and focused ion beam technologies in scanning and transmission electron microscopies.

2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Awards

The 2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award was given to Dr. Stacey Weiss, Professor and Chair of Biology and William McCormick Professor of Natural Sciences, University of Puget Sound. This award recognizes Dr. Weiss’s scholarship on behavioral and microbial ecology, and her deep commitment to providing transformational experiences to students in her research lab and classroom. 

Learn more about Dr. Weiss’ research in this video.

2023 Lynwood W. Swanson Promise for Scientific Research Award

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.  

Learn more about Dr. Chacón‘s research in this video.

Left to Right: Dr. Stacey Weiss, Romanita Hairston, Dr. Kelly Chacón

2023 John Van Zytveld Oral Presentation Awards

At each annual MCSR conference, students giving oral presentations compete for two awards: The John Van Zytveld Physical sciences Award and the John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award. The awards consist of a ribbon, a cash prize for the students and their academic departments, as well as a gift for their faculty research advisors. The criteria used by judges of faculty and students in selecting the awardees are as follows:

Left to Right: Dr. John Van Zytveld, Micah Bell, Dr. Moses Lee
  • Knowledge of material (understanding the background, research question, hypothesis, data collection and analysis, and limitation of the research)
  • Creativity of the project
  • Effective communication (clarity – slides and verbal presentation; organization; pace; answering questions)
  • Level of preparation
  • Ability to keep me interested

These awards are made in recognition of Dr. John Van Zytveld, a longtime Senior Program Director at the Murdock Trust and a champion for undergraduate research and science education in the region.

Here are the award winners at the 2023 MCSR Conference:

Elliot Wald

2023 John Van Zytveld Award in the Life Sciences

Micah Bell, Gonzaga University, in collaboration with Dr. Brook Swanson

Rhinoceros Beetles Carry Informational Chemicals About Body Size and Sex

2023 John Van Zytveld Award in the Physical Sciences

Elliot Wald, Carroll College, in collaboration with Dr. John Rowley 

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

Murdock Poster Prizes

Students presenting their research in a poster format were also recognized at the 2023 MCSR Conference. One Murdock Poster Prize is presented to a poster in each research field, and it consists of a ribbon, a cash award, and a gift for the faculty research advisor. The criteria used by faculty judges in selecting the awardees are as follows:

  • Graphics’ relevance and visual impact
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Informational content
  • Presentation content and research outcomes
  • Presentation delivery
  • Answering questions
  • Overall presentation

2023 Murdock College Science Research Poster Awards

Here are the award winners from each category of the 2023 MCSR Conference.

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

A man wearing a blue button-down shirt and glasses laughs at the MCSR conference

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” 

2023 Neal Thorpe Memorial Lecture

Dr. Jennifer Pfeifer, PhD

Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, University of Oregon

Title: “Windows of Opportunity: Brain Development and Mental Health”

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Pfeifer is a full professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon (UO), where she directs the Developmental Social Neuroscience Laboratory. At UO she serves as the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship in the College of Arts & Sciences, and as Co-Director of the UO Center for Translational Neuroscience. Dr. Pfeifer is also Co-Director of the National Scientific Council on Adolescence, a Board Member of Flux: The Society for Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, and recently concluded a three-year presidential term of the Social & Affective Neuroscience Society. Her leadership was instrumental in securing an investment to found the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health and launching its new undergraduate degree program in Child Behavioral Health. 

Dr. Pfeifer’s program of research focuses on the interconnected trajectories of biological and social development throughout adolescence, and their mutual relationships over time with mental health, well-being, and behavior. She and her lab are widely recognized as advocates for transparent and reproducible developmental cognitive neuroscience, and their recent work focuses heavily on longitudinal approaches. In the past decade, she has focused on amassing evidence for a conceptual model of how pubertal and neural development during adolescence launch cascading changes in social processes and mental health problems – primarily depression, but also anxiety and self-harm. Dr. Pfeifer’s work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Science Foundation, the Oregon Medical Research Foundation, and Hopelab. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and has received a number of awards and honors, including the Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Research Award (UO), and the Early Career Research Contributions Award (Society for Research on Child Development).

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