Student research award

Students present scientific findings at Murdock Conference



On November 11–12, six students from Walla Walla University presented their research at the Murdock College Science Research (MCSR) Conference in Vancouver, Washington. 

The conference, which welcomes 28 undergraduate institutions from across the Pacific Northwest, allows students to present research conducted with professors from their universities. There was one oral presentation and three poster presentations from both biology and chemistry majors from WWU. 

Kristen Whitley, senior biochemistry major, was selected for the Molecular and Cell Biology Murdock Poster Prize for her poster presentation. Her research, in collaboration with Loma Linda University, is on targeting mitochondrial proteins to potentially help treat neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Hers was one of only 15 projects to be honored.

In addition to poster presentations, two students gave an oral presentation to around half of the conference’s attendees. Two biology majors, sophomore Nathan Dabney and senior Nate Iwakoshi, spoke about their research on seagrass wasting disease. 

“It is always exciting for them to see how the work they are doing fits in with stories with students from other school’s research,” said Cecilia Brothers, assistant professor of biology. Brothers accompanied students at this year’s conference and is currently researching under a  grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. 

A majority of Iwakoshi and Dabney’s research took place during their internship directed by Brothers this past summer at Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Brothers has particularly enjoyed researching seagrass health through the combination of field and laboratory research with the students. “They come in as students and they leave as researchers,” Brothers said of her interns. 

The internship helped Iwakoshi gain a variety of skills, including practicing his scientific scuba diving, conducting DNA extractions and using qPCR to measure it, and problem-solving. “Getting an internship makes you deal with real data and troubleshooting these things, not just in a lab with a set data set knowing it’s going to work,” Iwakoshi said. 

Iwakoshi said the conference helped in “making connections, not only socially, but academically and scientifically.” WWU has attended the conference since 1997 which provides consistent, excellent networking opportunities for students. 

To learn more about undergraduate opportunities in the sciences, see the programs offered at WWU


Posted on December 1, 2022. 


Portrait of student with award winning poster
The award Whitley received recognized her hard work in executing research and presenting the results in a poster.
Group photos of WWU students at the conference.
The group of WWU students said they enjoyed seeing all the posters and felt inspired by them.