CWU News

CWU Student Scientists Present Award-Winning Work at Murdock Research Conference

In November, 11 Central Washington University science students, and faculty advisor Martha Kurtz, attended the Murdock College Science Research Conference in Spokane. The CWU students prepared either poster or oral presentations on their research projects.

Biology senior Vanessa Ramirez, of Yakima, won the Murdock Poster Prize in Molecular Biology/Cell Biology.

Ramirez’s poster, “Effects of the Phthalate-Free Plasticizers ATBC, DOA, and GPO on Neuronal Cell Growth and Viability,” explored how neuronal cells reacted to various additives in plastics, in a search for safer substitutes for phthalates in plastic manufacturing processes. Ramirez worked with colleague Elaine Wong and biological sciences faculty mentor Lucinda Carnell.

“This is the largest group of presenters we’ve ever brought to a Murdock conference,” Kurtz remarked. “It is a great opportunity for our students to share their research, and network with scientists all over the Pacific Northwest.” A chemistry professor, Kurtz is also the associate dean for Inter-Science Support.

Attendance at this conference is by invitation only. Oral and poster research presentations by students form the core of the conference. Luis Echegoyen, the Robert A. Welch professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at El Paso gave the 2017 Neal Thorpe Memorial Lecture, on “Playing with Buckyball Maracas: Structure and Reactivity of Endohedral Fullerenes.”

Students presenting their research in a poster format are recognized at each conference. One Murdock Poster Prize is presented 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

Other CWU presenters were Susana Camacho-Plascencia, biochemistry; Jessica Carder, physics; Clairissa de la Vergne, environmental science/geology; Amy Gilliland, environmental science/geology; Amanda Ladner, developmental biology/physiology; Daniel Mongovin, environmental science/geology; Tatyana Pisarenko, molecular and cell biology; Nick Poprawski, environmental science/geology; Nic Ragland, organic chemistry; Julia Raible, physics; and Katie Stubbs, environmental science/geology.

Murdock College Science Research Conference
Each fall, the Trust and a different Northwest private college or university co-host a research conference associated with the Murdock College Science Research Program. The conference focuses on sharing and advancing new knowledge in the natural sciences created or discovered through collaborative faculty-student research. For more information about the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, go to

Photo: CWU Team – l to r: Dr. Martha Kurtz, Julia Raible, Katie Stubbs, Amy Gilliland, Tatyana Pisarenko, Jessica Carder, Nic Ragland, Vanessa Ramirez, Susana Camacho-Plascencia, Clairissa de la Vergne, Daniel Mongovin, Amanda Ladner, Nick Poprawski


Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,