By Thomas Kyle-Milward
Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (Nov. 8, 2019) — In recognition of his impactful work as an academic researcher and mentor, Pacific Lutheran University’s Dr. Dean Waldow has been awarded the Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award by the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust.
The purpose of the award, which is part of the Murdock College Science Research Program, is to support and recognize undergraduate research in the natural sciences at four-year institutions across the Pacific Northwest. The award is given to exemplary senior faculty members who run established, productive and nationally recognized research programs, and comes with $15,000 in funding.
“To be recognized by your peers and in a large setting like this, you know, the whole Northwest, it really made me feel humble,” Waldow said. “There are many very deserving people and I just appreciate the chance to share my knowledge — and to work with students and see them go out and do very productive things after they leave PLU.”
Mentorship is the core component of the PLU undergraduate research experience, and an essential part of the Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award’s selection criteria. Waldow is no exception. Over his 27 years at PLU, he’s mentored more than 70 undergraduate students — more than half of whom have gone on to graduate school. That faculty-student relationship is vital to empowering undergraduates by giving them replicable, real-world skills.
“Something that’s exceptional about Waldow is that he has the utmost confidence in the students’ ability almost from the start,” said Hannah Hazel ‘20, who worked with him this past summer. “He lets us make decisions from the beginning … and he was always there to provide guidance when we felt lost. That gave us the opportunity to succeed, but more importantly it gave us the opportunity to fail.”
“Here at PLU we believe that students can best learn about science by doing science,” said Ann Auman, the university’s Dean of Natural Sciences. “Undergraduate research … gives students the opportunity to ‘try on’ being a researcher and be part of the scientific process with their faculty mentor, and in doing so learning more about themselves as scientists and thinking about science as a career.”
A polymer chemist by trade, Waldow is currently studying and developing solid polymer electrolytes for use in lithium ion batteries. This work could lead to substantial improvements in performance and safety in these batteries, which are commonly found in smartphones.
Additionally, his contributions to grant writing have helped lead to necessary scientific equipment for PLU’s Chemistry Department and more than $2 million in grant funding over the course of his career — a major accomplishment for a university of PLU’s size.
“On behalf of Pacific Lutheran University we’d like to formally congratulate our colleague, Dean Waldow, on this accomplishment,” Provost Joanna Gregson said. “He has a record and reputation of teaching excellence and scholarly achievement — and he is known not only for welcoming students into the research enterprise, but also for nurturing and cultivating the next generation of scientists.”