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April 6, 2018 | ISSUE 17

NSF Grant Awarded to NatSci & Education

We’re pleased to share the exciting news that the Natural Sciences Division and School of Education have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support our efforts to better expose science students to careers in K-12 education, as well as to better train education students in science.

The masterminds behind this grant are Ksenija Simic-Muller (Mathematics), Shannon Seidel (Biology), and Wendy Gardiner (Education). Their project, “Building Capacity to Prepare STEM Majors to Become STEM Educators” seeks to train K-12 teachers who are highly-skilled in the STEM arena, create opportunities for collaboration with culturally and linguistically diverse schools, and serve our marginalized communities.

Thank you to Ksenija, Shannon, and Wendy for their efforts to secure the NSF funding and for their continued support and service to students at PLU and in our community.

Drop in on Ann Auman's Office Hours

Dean Ann Auman

Ann Auman recently participated in the Office Hours photography and interview series by Marketing and Communications. Each photo includes a caption explaining the provenance of the objects featured. Office Hours seeks to illuminate our spaces, showcase our creativity and passion (and probably humanize our faculty a little too – we’re all just people!). Plus, we learn interesting tidbits – like the fact that bacteria are not tiny plants. Who knew? Biologists, that’s who. Check out the full series here.

Do you think your office is up to snuff? PLU Photographer extraordinaire, John Froschauer, is on the hunt for interesting offices/people to feature in upcoming photo shoots. If you don’t want to be braggy, but think your office is awesome, let Christine know and she’ll send a secret message to John.

PLU Chemistry @ ACS NOLA

Chemistry Faculty and students recently traveled to New Orleans to attend (and participate in) the Spring 2018 ACS National Meeting & Expo. Students presented posters on their research as part of PLU’s student-faculty research projects and summer research experiences for undergraduates at other institutions.

Additionally, Elliot Peterson gave a solo oral presentation, and Justin Lytle and Gabrielle Kamm co-presented their oral presentation.  The ChemClub presented a poster about their past year of activities as an ACS Student Chapter during the SciMix poster session and received an Honorable Mention for their activities during the 2016-17 academic year.

Also, we’re pretty sure everyone ate some delicious food! More photos of the ACS adventure can be found on the Chemistry Facebook page. 😉

Benefits Fair - April 10th

Need to make a change to your health insurance? Want to renew your FSA for 2018-19? Visit HR’s Benefits Fair on Tuesday, from 9am – 2pm in the CK Hall. HR staff and representatives from our benefits providers will be on hand to answer questions and provide advice.

Student & Alumni News

Jennifer Delegard presented a poster during the Undergraduate Research Poster Session at ACS New Orleans at the end of March. Her poster “Synthesis of a Cavitand for Use in Eight-Helix Template Assembled Synthetic Protein Systems” was part of her research with Neal Yakelis and Jon Freeman.

Xinhui Huang, Cole Fisher, Moon Jung Kim, Alex Klussmann, and Kasey Johnson – representing PLU’s Chem Club – delivered a presentation on their increase in community outreach in the 2017-2018 academic year. This took place during the Successful Student Chapters session of the ACS Meeting. Jon Freeman and Andrea Munro serve as the Chem Club’s faculty advisors.

Elliott Peterson delivered an oral presentation at ACS on the “Synthesis of an ethylene-linked calixarene dicavitand scaffold: Continued development and optimization of synthetic routes.” Elliott worked with Neal Yakelis and Jon Freeman.

 

 

Emma Southard and Daniel Richards (along with Assistant Professor Sean O’Neill) enjoyed judging fascinating and fun science fair projects for the Aspire Middle School Highly Capable Program in Lacey, WA in March.

Under the Microscope!

This week, we’re highlighting one of our incredible Natural Sciences students, Chemistry Major Emily Ness.

Chemistry Major Emily Ness

 

Emily Ness just received word that she was selected for Honorable Mention in the 2018 Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program. Goldwater Scholars are chosen based on their academic merit – nominees come from the disciplines of mathematics, science, and engineering – and are nominated by faculty from over 415 institutions nationwide. It has been over 20 years since PLU last had a Goldwater Scholarship awarded, and the requirements have become much more stringent since that time, typically going to students at research universities.

Colleges and universities are allowed to submit just a few nominees, and the fact Emily was granted an honorable mention means that she’s among the very, very best undergraduates in science in the U.S. She is one of two students in Washington State to receive an honorable mention in 2018 – the other student is from the University of Washington.

We’re so proud of Emily for this incredible achievement and know that it’s only the beginning for her. Congratulations, Emily!

From the Goldwater Scholarship website:

Over its 30-year history, Goldwater Scholarships have been awarded to thousands of undergraduates, many of whom have gone on to win other prestigious awards like the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship that support our Scholars’ graduate school work. Today, Goldwater alumni can be found conducting research that is helping defend the Nation, finding cures for catastrophic diseases and teaching future generations of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Spring Planting

This week Professor Romey Haberle and her students embarked on a planting project outside the Carol Sheffels Quigg Greenhouse. They filled the new raised beds with native prairie plants – these plants are an example of what will soon be springing up in the dirt outside the greenhouse. Romey and Ken Cote (Grounds) have seeded the bare space with native prairie plants, but they’re growing from scratch, so it’ll take a little time. In the meantime, check out the preview in the raised beds!

And for more pictures, visit the Biology Facebook page.

Remind Your Students!

Sustainability Fellowship

Rachel Carson Lecture

Suggest a Speaker!

Do you have a suggestion for the 2020 Rachel Carson Lecture speaker? We’d love to hear from you. Click the button below to submit your suggestion to the Rachel Carson Committee.

Faculty & Staff News

Heidi Schutz and her research collaborators have an article in the newest issue of Mitochondrion –
“Mitochondrial haplotypes are not associated with mice selectively bred for high voluntary wheel running.” Heidi’s coauthors include Bernard W.M. Wone, Won C. Yima, Thomas H. Meek, and Theodore Garland Jr.

Jon Freeman presented on his research during a Current Topics session at the ACS in New Orleans.

Justin Lytle presented during the “Innovative Chemistry & Materials for Electrochemical Energy Storage” session at ACS 2018. His research – “Studying the rate of electron transfer at pyrolytic carbon electrodes” was conducted with student researchers: Gabrielle Kamm, Trang Le, Jeffrey Long, Emily Ness, Joseph Parker, and Debra Rolison.

Laurie Murphy has been asked to serve on the Senior Program Committee for the International Computing Education Research (ICER) Workshop.

Elizabeth Alemán will be on vacation from Tuesday, April 10th – Friday, April 14th. When she returns on the 16th, she’ll be switching to an afternoon schedule in Rieke: 1pm – 5pm.

Christine Nicolai is switching to mornings in Rieke beginning April 16th. That means Christine will be haunting the Rieke office from 8am – noon and in Morken from 1pm – 5pm.

Sean O’Neill and physics students Emma Southard and Daniel Richards enjoyed judging fascinating and fun science fair projects for the Aspire Middle School Highly Capable Program in Lacey, WA in March.

Division Calendar

April 1 – 30: Open Enrollment for PLU Benefits – time to make changes, if needed!

April 1 – 30: Sexual Assault Awareness Month – multiple events

April 9: Wild Hope Vocation Celebration Events, 2:30 – 5:00pm in the Regency Room

April 10: Benefits Fair in the CK Hall, 9am – 2pm

April 10 – 14: Elizabeth is on vacation.

April 10: Lisa Wade Lecture, 7pm in the Scan Center –  “New Sexual Culture on Campus”

April 12: Desserts & Demos, 7pm in Rieke Lobby

April 16: Elizabeth switches to afternoons in Rieke; Christine moves to mornings in Rieke

April 17: Earth Day Lecture, 7:30pm in the Scan Center

March 23, 2018 | ISSUE 16

MESA Day 2018

The culmination of a year’s work from students, teachers, and the South Puget Sound MESA team, MESA Day took place on Saturday, March 10th when PLU welcomed elementary, middle, and high school students, parents, and teachers to campus for a celebration of science, learning, and fun!

In addition to the tireless efforts of the SPS MESA team – J.R. Nobles, June Ellis, Catalina Rodriguez, Christine Ignacio, and Nate Ward – MESA Day couldn’t happen without support from a terrific group of volunteers. We were pleased to see the Natural Sciences well-represented this year, with staff and faculty in attendance. Check out the slideshow above to glimpse the fun. To view the full MESA Day 2018 album, click here.

Thank you to J.R., June, Catalina, Christine, and Nate for all their incredible work in making MESA Day a huge success every year!

Drop in on Justin's Office Hours

Justin Lytle recently participated in the Office Hours photography and interview series by Marketing and Communications. Each photo includes a caption explaining the provenance of the objects featured. Office Hours seeks to illuminate our spaces, showcase our creativity and passion (and probably humanize our faculty a little too – we’re all just people!). Check out the full series here.

Do you think your office is up to snuff? PLU Photographer extraordinaire, John Froschauer, is on the hunt for interesting offices/people to feature in upcoming photo shoots. If you don’t want to be braggy, but think your office is awesome, let Christine know and she’ll send a secret message to John.

Student & Alumni News

Matthew Abel ’19 was accepted to an NSF REU program at the University of New Mexico. He’ll spend ten weeks working in one of the top nano-bio-materials science and engineering research programs in the country. While he hasn’t been assigned to a specific mentor at this point, his work will be oriented towards nano materials used for energy conversion at the UNM Center for Micro-Engineered Materials (CMEM).

Gabrielle Kamm ’18 received acceptance letters from several grad schools, but has finally decided to attend SUNY Stonybrook.

Ashley Marshall ’12 just finished her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Colorado – Boulder and is going on to complete a postdoc at Oxford University in the UK.

Jacob McKenzie ’18 has been accepted into the MS with Industrial Internship program at the University of Oregon to begin in June 2018.

Matthew Conover just accepted a summer technology internship with T-Mobile; he’ll be working on development of backed systems and/or GUIs for maintenance. We expect him to return in the fall with lots of cool T-Mobile swag!

Travis Bejines ’17 has been accepted into graduate school for physics at Idaho State University.

Under the Microscope!

Six Questions with Yajun An

Math Professor Yajun An

1.What scientific discovery would you have loved to be part of/present for?
I think the period when Godel’s incompleteness theorems were discovered was a interesting time. I wish I were alive to see that.

2. What are you most excited to be working on right now?
I am working on some alternating series and a project in image recognition.

3.If students left your class with only one concept, what would you want them to take away?
Work hard and be kind!

4.If you could have immediate and total mastery of a new skill, what would it be?
Capoeira Angola

5.Are you involved in any community organizations? Please tell us about it.
I am in the math club and league of legend clubs. I am also a mentor for the Math alliances, although nobody is my mentee now.

6.What do you like to do in your free time?
I am learning to play the Erhu, so recently I like to make squeaky noises in my free time.

In Memoriam

Larry Huestis
Professor Larry Huestis
Larry Edison
Professor Larry Edison

The division recently lost two members of our family: Professor Larry Edison (Computer Science & Mathematics) and Professor Laurie Huestis (Chemistry). The loss of these two great educators, scientists, and friends of the division has been a blow and our hearts go out the Edison and Huestis families.

The PLU Office of the President released memoriam statements on both professors Huestis and Edison, and you can read the statements here:

Chemistry Professor Laurie Huestis

CS & Mathematics Professor Larry Edison

A memorial service honoring Professor Huestis is schedule for the afternoon of Saturday, April 14 at 2PM, at Summit United Methodist Church, 5316 104th St E, Tacoma, WA 98466. Professor Edison’s memorial service was held Saturday, February, 10th at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Tacoma.

Faculty & Staff News

Shannon Seidel recently coauthored an essay in the March issue of Life Sciences Education“Scientific Presenting: Using Evidence-Based Classroom Practices to Deliver Effective Conference Presentations.” Shannon’s coauthors include Lisa A. Corwin from the University of Colorado and Amy Prunuske from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Hakme Lee ’07, our Chemistry Department Lab Manager, recently accepted a position in the Chemistry Department at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Hakme has worked for PLU since 2014 and will be greatly missed by her Natural Sciences family. If you’d like to get in contact with Hakme, her forwarding email is hakme@u.washington.edu.

Andrea Munro was recognized as an inspirational woman at the Center for Gender Equity’s Annual Celebration of Inspirational Women on March 20th. Women are nominated by students, faculty, and staff, and few faculty members were recognized this year, which makes Andrea’s nomination a great honor!

Claire Todd was recognized as an inspirational woman at the Center for Gender Equity’s Annual Celebration of Inspirational Women on March 20th. Women are nominated by students, faculty, and staff, and few faculty members were recognized this year, which makes Claire’s nomination a great honor!

Tom Edgar published an article in the April issue of Mathematics Magazine“Staircase Series.”

Ksenija Simic-Muller, N. Justice, and the PLU Mathletes coaches welcomed 20 Keithley Middle School Matheletes to campus on March 19th. They solved a “whodunit” probability & counting puzzle with Professor Justice, engaged in some mathematical paper folding, ate pizza, and asked questions about college life. Seven PLU students (5 mathematics, 1 physics, and 1 education major) participated in the event. Keithley students will be returning to campus on April 23. If you are interested in doing an activity with the students, inviting them to your class or lab, or interacting with them, please contact Ksenija Simic-Muller at simicmka@plu.edu

Jessica Sklar delivered a lecture titled “Money! Mystery! Murder! Madness! Metaphor! (& Mathematics).” as part of the Seattle University Math Colloquium on March 8th. Jessica subsequently won the award for Best Lecture Title Ever; this much-coveted award is given annually to the PLU professor who most impresses the person who assembles the Synapse news.

Division Calendar

March 23: No Division Meeting

March 26 – 30: Spring Break!

March 26: Fire alarm testing in Morken, 8:00am – 10:30am

March 26: Fire alarm testing in Rieke, 10:30am – 12:30pm

March 27: HVAC work in Morken, 8am – 5pm

March 30: Good Friday Holiday – PLU offices closed

March 2, 2018 | ISSUE 15

The Case for Engineering Our Food

We’re pleased to welcome Dr. Pamela Ronald, a plant pathologist and geneticist, as this year’s speaker for the George (class of ’66) and Helen Long endowed Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture. Dr. Ronald will present her talk – The Case for Engineering Food – on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 7:30pm in the Anderson University Center.

Dr. Ronald is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at UC Davis, and together with her collaborators, she has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threaten rice crops in Asia and Africa. A scientist, researcher, author and educator, Dr. Ronald has received numerous accolades for her work to secure a more sustainable future.

We hope you’ll join us for an evening with Dr. Ronald, as we come together to explore and discuss the topics of plant genetics, food security and sustainable agriculture.

Learn more about the Rachel Carson Lecture here.

To continue our conversation on sustainable agriculture and genetics, biology professor Kara Lanning will lead a book group on Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food by Dr. Pamela Ronald and Raoul W. Adamchak. All are welcome to participate in the book group, including students, faculty, and staff.

The book group will include 2 meetings to discuss the book, a field trip to an organic farmer or local plant breeder, a guest speaker on farming or genetics, and veggie starts to grow at home! There might also be some delicious treats to share during the meetings…

The group can accommodate up to 12 students (who will receive free books), and there’s no limit on faculty and staff participants (but you’ll need to buy your own books). If you’d like to join the group, please sign up here.

It's Almost Here!

Are you ready for MESA Day?

It’s not too late to volunteer as a scorekeeper or judge for MESA Day on Saturday, March 10th! Volunteers are critical to making MESA Day a success and your involvement not only helps the MESA team, it also provides encouragement for the student participants and gives them a supportive and positive audience for their projects and experiments. To ramp things up this year, MESA has invited PLU’s awesome step team – LuteNation – to demonstrate their skills and lead the students in a routine!

Biology Professor Heidi Schutz just published an article with her coauthors in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The paper – “Locomotor activity, growth hormones, and systemic robusticity: An investigation of cranial vault thickness in mouse lines bred for high endurance running” – “investigates the relationships among the components of the systemic robusticity hypothesis (SRH): voluntary exercise on wheels, spontaneous physical activity (SPA) in cages, growth hormones, and skeletal robusticity, especially cranial vault thickness (CVT).”

Not to spoil the article, but their research efforts failed “to provide support for the systemic robusticity hypothesis, suggesting it is important to rethink the long-standing theory that increased CVT in Homo erectus reflects increased physical activity compared other hominin species.”

Math Professor Ksenija Simic-Muller recently published an article with PLU Education major Liz Griffith in Noticias de TODOS. Their paper – “World Cup, Fairness, and Teaching Mathematics” – explores the need “to help teachers put human rights at the center of their teaching practice” and offers “an example of using mathematics to shed light on human rights abuses in the context of a mathematics course for preservice teachers.” With input from both Ksenija and Liz, the importance of integrating social justice issues into mathematics education – indeed, all education – becomes quite apparent.

Under the Microscope!

Meet George and Helen Long


Have you ever wondered where the Long in the Long Science, Technology and Society Endowed Fund came from? Well, that name belongs to George and Helen Long, our benefactors for not only the Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture but also the Long Endowed Internship Fund. Let’s learn a little about the Longs!

Dr. George Long graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 1966 with degrees in both Biology and Chemistry. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brandeis University in 1971, where he studied invertebrate lactate dehydrogenases. He then worked on nuclear DNA polymerases as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Long was Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Pomona College from 1971-79 and from 1979-1982 he was an NIH Senior Fellow in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. Subsequently, from 1982-1986 he was a Senior Research Scientist at Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis where his lab studied the genes of proteins regulating blood coagulation. Now, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Vermont, Dr. Long served as Professor of Biochemistry in the College of Medicine from 1986 to 2006.

In 2002, Dr. Long was awarded National Inventor of the year by the National Organization for Intellectual Property. He was elected to the Vermont Academy of Science and Technology in 2003 and was named Distinguished Alumnus at Pacific Lutheran University in 2005.

Dr. Long is the proud father of five daughters. In 2000, George married Helen Seltstedt. Together George and Helen owned and operated a bed and breakfast for 13 years in Burlington, Vermont where they remain active in the community. For example, George has been a Guardian Ad Litem in the County Courts since 2006 and enjoys helping elementary school children with their reading. Helen, for many years, has served on the Boards of the University of Vermont Medical Center Hospital Auxiliary, the Burlington Garden Club, and Joseph’s House. Together, the Longs enjoy gardening, bicycling, cooking, travel, and reading and currently spend winters in Arizona. They also enjoy time and activities with their grandchildren.

In 2015, Dr. George and Mrs. Helen Long named Pacific Lutheran University as a beneficiary of their estate and established the George L. and Helen B. Long Science, Technology and Society Endowment for the Natural Science Division at PLU. The endowment includes the opportunity to bring an expert in the field to present at the Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Annual Lecture and to support the funding for three student paid summer internships. Since the establishment of the endowment, the Longs have made a financial gift to the university each year so they are able to see the impact of their gift during their lifetime by covering the annual costs of the lecture/internships and to grow the endowed fund.

George and Helen will be on campus for this year’s Rachel Carson Lecture on March 6th. Be sure to say hello if you see them out and about with Dean Ann Auman or Sr. Advancement Officer Lauralee Hagen!

Faculty & Staff News

Mary Ellard-Ivey presented a lecture for the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at the University of Oregon on  February 22nd. Mary’s talk “A Passion for Pedagogy” discussed evidence-based practices that reach all students in the science classroom and foster an inclusive and equitable environment. She taught practical tips to address gender disparity in participation in the biology classroom and gave examples of the kinds of research and scholarship that can be accomplished as a faculty member at a small liberal arts college.

Heidi Schutz published a paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology“Locomotor activity, growth hormones, and systemic robusticity: An investigation of cranial vault thickness in mouse lines bred for high endurance running.”

Hakme Lee ’07, our Chemistry Department Lab Manager, recently accepted a position in the Chemistry Department at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Hakme has worked for PLU since 2014 and will be greatly missed by her Natural Sciences family. Good luck, Hakme!

Tarka Wilcox received word last week that his Murdock Grant proposal was accepted. The grant will cover the next 3 years and supports 6 students (in Geosciences or Computer Sciences) who will conduct summer research on studying erosion patterns and rates using small unmanned aerial systems (“drones”) to advance high-resolution topographical mapping, followed by considerable data analysis and modeling.

The results of this research will be helpful in studying landslides as well as flood risks associated with dams formed due to sediment deposited into waterways both during and following landslide events. Ultimately, this research is significant in that the resulting models will be useful in assessing and preparing for geological hazards. Study sites include the Steelhead Haven area of Oso, WA in Snohomish County, which experienced a devastating landslide in March of 2014 that killed over 40 people, and a similar sized community near Orting, WA, on the Carbon River that also experiences regular landslides.

Tom Edgar was a keynote speaker at the 12th annual Western Washington Community College Student Mathematics Conference on Saturday, February 24th. This event was held at Bellevue College.

Ksenija Simic-Muller and PLU Education student Liza Griffith recently published an article in Noticias de Todos’ Mathematics for All newsletter – “World Cup, Fairness, and Teaching Mathematics.”

Ksenija is also the Peace Scholars Coordinator, and two of her scholars – Sarah Ward ’19 and Aziza Ahmed ’19 – were recently featured on PLU’s Facebook page. The’ll head off to Norway to represent PLU  as they attend intensive workshops on building peace and fostering dialogue.

June Ellis is recruiting MESA Day volunteers! This year’s MESA Day is on Saturday March 10, 2018 from 9am-2pm.

Katie Hay will present at Agnus Dei Lutheran Church in Gig Harbor at 9:45-10:45am on Sunday March 18th, as part of their series on energy and climate.  PLU Professors Brian Naasz and Kevin O’Brien will also be presenting on March 4, and March 11, as part of the same series.

Katie’s talk “Power in the Present and Our Energy Future” will focus on What powers our devices? What is energy? In this interactive presentation, she will explain how we get power from natural resources. We will imagine our energy future, as well as innovations and impacts of energy sources, including hydroelectric, wind, nuclear, ocean wave, and geothermal. Sources once considered science fiction are now preparing to power the next generation.

Bret Underwood recently wrote an article on becoming a theoretical physicist for a piece in the winter issue of the SPS Observer (the magazine of the national Society of Physics Students) “Considering a Career in Physics Research?” Bret’s article is titled “From the Theoretical Physicist.”

Student & Alumni News

Gabrielle Kamm and Emily Ness both received a travel award from the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry to support the presentation of their student-faculty research mentored by Justin at the ACS National Meeting in New Orleans. These are often competitive awards from a national pool of applicants, so major congrats to Gabrielle and Emily!

George Long ’66 returns to campus, with his wife Helen, on March 6th to attend the 2nd annual Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture, funded by the George and Helen’s endowment to PLU.

Division Calendar

March 5-7: Michelle Moore is out of the office

March 6: Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture, 7PM in the CK

March 8-9: Wang Center Symposium on Migration – register here

March 10: MESA Day – sign up to volunteer here

March 13-16: Christine Nicolai is out of the office

March 16: Deadline to sign up for the Tomorrow’s Table book group

February 16, 2018 | ISSUE 14

The Case for Engineering Our Food

We’re pleased to welcome Dr. Pamela Ronald, a plant pathologist and geneticist, as this year’s speaker for the George (class of ’66) and Helen Long endowed Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture. Dr. Ronald will present her talk – The Case for Engineering Food – on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 7:30pm in the Anderson University Center.

Dr. Ronald is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at UC Davis, and together with her collaborators, she has engineered rice for resistance to disease and tolerance to flooding, which seriously threaten rice crops in Asia and Africa. A scientist, researcher, author and educator, Dr. Ronald has received numerous accolades for her work to secure a more sustainable future.

We hope you’ll join us for an evening with Dr. Ronald, as we come together to explore and discuss the topics of plant genetics, food security and sustainable agriculture.

Learn more about the Rachel Carson Lecture here.

Are You Ready for MESA Day?

Support Tacoma MESA!

MESA relies on its wonderful volunteers to make the day a success!

This year, MESA is switching things up with a Saturday MESA Day! You can join the fun by volunteering your time during the event as a judge or scorekeeper. Volunteers are critical to making MESA Day a success and your involvement not only helps the MESA team, it also provides encouragement for the student participants and gives them a supportive and positive audience for their projects and experiments. To ramp things up this year, MESA has invited PLU’s awesome step team – LuteNation – to demonstrate their skills and lead the students in a routine! Click the button above to volunteer or contact June Ellis for more details: ellisjr@plu.edu.

High School Programming Contest 2018

PLU’s 2018 High School Programming Contest (HSPC) had its best year yet with 39 teams (comprised of 89 middle and high school students) competing to take top honors in the novice and advanced programming categories. There were 25 school represented on the Saturday, February 9 event, which was run by computer science Professor Ken Blaha (who executed the event from sabbatical), members of the CS faculty, current CS majors, and a faithful group of CS alumni who graciously support the event through volunteering and prize donations.

Some student teams have been participating in the HSPC for several years, moving from the novice to advanced categories. A mother of one programming team emailed Ken following the event to say that her kids were

indeed honored to have been able to participate in the competition and to have met you in person. Thank you for taking care of them so well. We really appreciate your thoughtfulness, and we all had a great time. Both of them enjoyed the competition as well as the yummy pizzas. The T-shirts are just superb – they have already worn them to school. Looking forward to next year for sure! Kindly convey our thanks for everyone for putting together such a fun competition.

Along with the dedication of faculty and volunteers, the HSPC is made possible with generous support from Hewlett Packard, TEALS – Microsoft Corporation, and McNeel & Associates. Thank you to all!

Faculty & Staff Development

February 28th & March 1st

Human Resources is pleased to present Personal & Professional Development Opportunities for 2018. Sessions will be held between 8am and 5pm on Wednesday, February 28 & Thursday, March 1.

All faculty and staff are invited to participate in a wide variety of sessions designed to enrich both your personal and professional life. Plus, there’s a complimentary pancake breakfast on the 28th!

PLU's 1st Darwin Day Celebration

On Monday, February 12th, PLU’s Biology Dept joined universities and scientific communities around the world in celebration of Darwin Day – a holiday in honor of the scientific achievements of Charles Darwin, who was born on that day in 1809. To mark this special occasion, faculty in the biology department – Mike Behrens, Jacob Egge, Romey Haberle, and Heidi Schutz – demonstrated the impact Darwin’s research had on various disciplines and areas of study, from barnacles and beetles to carnivorous plants, coral atolls, and the skulls of mammals. Students from the Natural Sciences Division and beyond visited the displays to learn about sexual dimorphism, Victorian insect collecting, and what exactly is inside the trap of a pitcher plant (it was an earwig!).

Members of the Biology Club ran a Darwin Finch game where players were challenged to retrieve items of different shapes and sizes (representing nuts, fruit, and seeds) using a wide range of implements (representing finch beaks). The player who collected the most “food” was declared the winning finch and received a Charles Darwin button and bragging rights as the finch who survived to pass on its genes to the next generation.

Because we’re sweet on Charles Darwin (and it was so near Valentine’s Day), we handed out science-themed valentines, Darwin book recommendations, and birthday cake! Students ( faculty) also took a moment to pose for pictures with Darwin in our photo booth. To see all the pictures from our Darwin Day celebration, click here.

Under the Microscope!

Six Questions with Daniel Heath


1.What are you most excited to be working on right now?

I recently created and taught an experimental course in which the students used current technology to design a spaceship that could take humans to another star. They quickly realized that the journey will take a long time, perhaps 1000 years, so that an ecology and manufacturing have to be built in, but absolutely must be sustainable. It forced them to rethink the way we are doing things here on Earth. This semester my colleague Scott Rogers is teaching the second seminar in the two part series, in which the same students will imagine how to live on the ship they designed, designing on board architecture, government, and the like. It is bringing together essentially every branch of human knowledge as our students struggle with big ideas, and relate them back to our lives here on Earth.

2.What is the most interesting thing in your field right now?
I think that mathematics is being recognized as a powerful tool, and we are finding more and more ways to use it to study things that at first glance might seem very non-mathematical. For example, once researchers found a way to mathematically model human relationships; they were able to predict with great accuracy which marriages would survive and which would end in divorce, and then use that to figure out ways to help the couples who really needed it. I am excited about this recent ability to utilize mathematics to solve very real human problems.

3.What scientific/mathematical discovery would you have loved to be part of/present for?
Perhaps the most important theorem in mathematics is the Pythagorean Theorem. The Greeks, and in particular Pythagoras, have gotten credit for proving it first as a general theorem, but it was probably known before that time in North Africa, Babylon, China, India, and Meso-America; it is hard to imagine their great feats of architecture and engineering without knowing the Pythagorean Theorem. It would be fascinating to go back to ancient times and speak with the great thinkers to find out how this came about, especially the Meso-Americans, most of whose ancient libraries were intentionally destroyed by the Conquistadores.

4.What was the last book you read? Movie you watched?
John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe is a great read, and made me appreciate how special our planet is. Although it doesn’t have any math, I could not avoid wondering about the mathematical models that were used to discover some of our most recent knowledge about our galaxy, solar system, and planet that the book discusses. I’m also amidst Make Your Own Working Paper Clock by James Smith Rudolph, as a math and paper engineering project. This book is quite literally a template for building a working clock out of (mostly) paper and glue.

And, well, I took my son to see The Last Jedi.

5.If you could travel back in time or into the future, which would you choose? Why?
I’d want to see the world a thousand years from now. Will we still exist? If so, what will our technology look like: super advanced, or will we be back to sticks and stones? And maybe more importantly, can I learn to build my own lightsaber to impress my son?

6.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
As a high school student I used to hand draw animations, and even tried my hand at claymation. Although I am quite happy about my choice of career, I would love to try working for an animation company like Pixar or Studio Ghibli, maybe during a sabbatical or summer vacation. I’ve also considered writing educational pop-up books.

For the Love of Chocolate

Chemistry and Dining teamed up to bring the sweet science of chocolate to a group of over 160 students, faculty, staff, and community members on the evening of February 7th. Erica Fickeisen, PLU’s Lead Baker, and Justin Lytle, Associate Professor of Chemistry, explored the history and chemistry of chocolate, from the legend of Aztec leader Moctezuma consuming flagons of drinking chocolate (which was not sweet and delicious by today’s standards), to the somewhat dubious properties of white chocolate (made from cocoa butter – you know, like the lotion), to the silky sweet dream treat we love today.

And after the lecture came the sampling. The delicious, decadent sampling – at which time Erica reminded everyone to enjoy whatever type of chocolate makes you happy.

Faculty & Staff News

Julie Smith is currently teaching in Namibia!

Rick Spillman (Professor Emeritus) recently signed a three book deal with Mountain Brook Ink, a Christian publishing house. His first book, The Awakened, will be released in January 2019; the second and third book in this trilogy will be released in June 2019 and January 2020. This is the culmination of a lifelong dream of Rick’s to write and publish fiction, and one of the main characters in his trilogy teaches computer science at a medium-sized (unnamed) university in Tacoma. Go, Rick!

Tom Edgar published a paper in the fall issue of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal – “Digital representations of rows of Pascal’s triangle with no entries divisible by a fixed prime power.” His coauthors on this paper include two PLU alumni – Desiree Domini and Devon Johnson.

June Ellis is recruiting MESA Day volunteers! This year’s MESA Day is on Saturday March 10, 2018 from 9am-2pm.

Student & Alumni News

Gabrielle Kamm ’18 has been accepted at four doctoral programs in chemistry: Colorado State University, the University of Nevada, Reno, SUNY Stony Brook, and the University of Kentucky. Chemistry superstar!

Division Calendar

February 19: President’s Day – PLU closed

February 22: Tech Talk – “Release Engineering” 1:45-3:15PM in Morken 216

February 22: Math & Physics Seminar – “Mathematical Modeling of Chaotic Natural Convection” 4-5:00PM in Morken 131

February 23: Fred Hutchinson Internship Info Session, 2-3PM in Morken 105

February 23: NatSci Division Meeting, 3-4PM in Morken 132

February 28 – March 1: Personal & Professional Development Opportunities, various times

February 28: Student-Researcher Fellowship Applications due by 5PM

March 6: Rachel Carson Science, Technology and Society Lecture, 7PM in the CK

March 10: MESA Day – sign up to volunteer here

January 23, 2018 | ISSUE 13

Ksenija Simic-Muller Receives Faculty Excellence Award for Mentoring

President Allan Belton presents an award to Ksenija Simic-Muller.

Congratulations to Ksenija, winner of the 2017 Faculty Excellence Award in Mentoring! This award recognizes the efforts of a faculty member who serves as a “personal or professional guide” to students or colleagues and who makes a profound differences in the lives of others as a role model, confidant, critic or co-learner.

Ksenija’s students recognize her as someone who is invested in their personal and academic well-being, someone who exemplifies compassion, wisdom, and conviction – a partner in their education and a trusted guide. One student wrote,  “I cannot count the number of occasions when Ksenija reminded me to breathe, take care of myself, and give myself some grace. She is patient, empathetic and caring.”

The full award citation can be read here.

Christine Receives Staff Award

Allan Belton presents an award to Christine Nicolai at the PLU Christmas Celebration. (Photo: John Froschauer)

Christine received one of this year’s four Distinguished Staff Awards “for her invaluable support to the PLU Community; for consistently going above and beyond the call of duty; for significantly enhancing the quality of the work and campus life for others in the PLU Community; and for being a well-respected and admired individual.” Christine is very honored and wishes to thank all her amazing colleagues and friends for writing letters and recommendations. 😉

MESA DAY 2018

Support Tacoma MESA!

MESA relies on its wonderful volunteers to make the day a success!

This year, MESA is switching things up with a Saturday MESA Day! You can join the fun by volunteering your time during the event as a judge or scorekeeper. Volunteers are critical to making MESA Day a success and your involvement not only helps the MESA team, it also provides encouragement for the student participants and gives them a supportive and positive audience for their projects and experiments. To ramp things up this year, MESA has invited PLU’s awesome step team – LuteNation – to demonstrate their skills and lead the students in a routine! Click the button above to volunteer or contact June Ellis for more details: ellisjr@plu.edu.

High School Programming Contest


PLU’s 8th annual High School Programming Contest is Saturday February 10th.  This contest brings together talented students from middle and high schools throughout the state of Washington to compete in a spirit of fun. Professor Ken Blaha has been visiting schools during his sabbatical to talk to students about computer science and programming and recruit them for the contest. Teams of up to three students, as well as solo students, will compete on the 10th to prove their programming skills and problem solving ability. Winners receive medals, have their names engraved on our trophy, and get bragging rights for a year. Prizes are awarded for runners-up and donated computer science and tech gifts are given away to participants. This is a great event to connect future students with current PLU CS majors and with our CS faculty and alums.

PLU is proud to host the year’s South Puget Sound Higher Education Diversity Partnership (SPSHEDP) Institute on Wednesday January 31st. The SPSHEDP is a consortium of public and private colleges and universities whose primary goal is to build positive relationships that nurture respect for our diverse communities.

The 2018 topic is “Creation over Critique: Moments of Joy, Happiness, and Resistance” and will feature Dr. Susana Morris (Auburn University) and Dr. Robin Boylorn  (University of Alabama), and Eesha Pandit, co-founder of The Center for Advancing Innovative Policy of Crunk Feminist Collective.

The Crunk Feminist Collective is a community of scholar-activists who share a commitment to nurturing and sustaining one another through progressive feminism. On January 31st, we will discuss the idea of disparate voices, dissonance, and noise as paths to production and resistance. The focus of the conversation will be on the tension between our work in the academy and as activists.

Faculty & Staff News

Julie Smith is currently teaching in Namibia!

Ken Blaha served as a judge for the December Puget Sound Computer Science Teachers Association (PSCSTA) Programming Contest held at the Microsoft Commons. There were over 250 students registered in 114 teams – representing  about 45 different schools.

Laurie Murphy co-authored a paper for the ACM Transactions on Computer Science Education titled “How Student Centered is the Computer Science Classroom? A Survey of College Faculty.” Her coauthors included Scott Grissom, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI and Renée Mccauley, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC.

Yajun An and Tom Edgar just had a short note entitled “Proof without words: Rearranged alternating harmonic series” in the College Mathematics Journal.

Tom Edgar recently published an article in the Rocky Mountain Journal of Mathematics entitled “The distribution of the number of parts of m-ary partitions modulo m.”

Ksenija Simic-Muller presented a poster titled “Mathlete Coaching Project at Pacific Lutheran University” at the at poster session on outreach organized by MAA at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.

Ksenija also participated in a panel titled “Ethics, Morality and Politics in the Quantitative Literacy Classroom” at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.

Ksenija’s daughter Oona and Matthew Hacker’s son Isaak performed in Annie Jr. together at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse two weeks ago. Reviews (from the parents) state they both did quite well!

June Ellis is recruiting MESA Day volunteers! This year’s MESA Day is on Saturday March 10, 2018 from 9am-2pm.

Matthew Hacker’s son Isaak and Ksenija’s daughter Oona performed in Annie Jr. together at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse two weeks ago. Reviews (from the parents) state they both did quite well.

Under the Microscope!

Six Questions with Rose McKenney


1.What attracted you to PLU when you were applying for jobs? How long have you been here?

I was interested in the interdisciplinary opportunity provided by teaching in Environmental Studies, appreciated PLU’s ‘good school’ reputation, and was excited to return to the west coast 15 years ago.

2.If students left your class with only one concept, what would you want them to take away?
How to interpret scientific data in the context of field observations.

3.What is something you’d like the general public to know about your field?
How landscape change impacts buildings and infrastructure.

4.What was the last book you read? Movie you watched?
I have lots of books I dip into off & on. Elite by Mercedes Lackey; SilverSmithing for Jewelry Makers by Elizabeth Bone; Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen are some recent non-work books; Movie – Wonder Woman.

5.If you could travel back in time or into the future, which would you choose? Why?
I’ve always been fascinated by early Constantinople, so I’d go back in time to see it.

6.What do you like to do in your free time?
Irish dancing–hard and soft shoe, making jewelry–beaded and worked metal, baking, traveling, learning to make things and watching English Premier League Football.

6:30PM, February 7th, Leraas Lecture Hall, Rieke 103

Did you know that chocolate is actually fermented? That cocoa powder contains some of the same ingredients as nail polish remover? That some people think chocolate is a drug to which people become addicted?

Join Erica Fickeisen, PLU’s Lead baker, and Justin Lytle, Associate Professor of Chemistry, for a special Valentine’s Day treat. We will explore the science of making and enjoying chocolate. There will even be free chocolate samples for taste testing afterwards.

Scenes from the Christmas Celebration!

Dean and Biology Professor Ann Auman and Chemistry Chair and Associate Professor Neal Yakelis emceed the 2017 PLU Christmas Celebration. (All photos by John Froschauer)

Neal and Ann wore Star Wars Christmas sweaters!

Ann even had light saber earrings! (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Ann and Neal talk with Lace Smith – one of last year’s emcees and fellow fancy sweater aficionado.

Student & Alumni News

Division Calendar

January 31: J-Term classes end.

January 31: SPSHEDP Institute: Creation over Critique, AUC CK, 8:00am – 3:30pm

February 7: For the Love of Chocolate – lecture and chocolate tasting with Justin Lytle and Erica Fickeisen.

February 10: 8th Annual High School Programming Contest – spearheaded by Ken Blaha and Computer Science.

February 12: Darwin Day! Join PLU Biology for Museum show & tell and Darwin birthday treats, 3:40-5:00pm!

November 10, 2017 | ISSUE 12

PLU @ GSA 2017 in Seattle

PLU Geosciences faculty, students, and alumni at GSA 2017 in Seattle. Photo by Bill Cronin.

Geosciences faculty, students, and alumni gathered at the Geological Society of America’s Annual Meeting, October 22-25 in Seattle. Students presented their research posters, including Samantha Denham ’18 and Justin Johnsen ’18 (working with Tarka Wilcox); Alex Yanello ’19, Hannah Bortel ’18, and Logan Krehbiel ’19 (all working with Claire Todd). There were also several alums and former students presenting at the conference, including Victoria Benson ’17, Aerin Basehart, Aaron Steelquist ’14, and Christina Gray ’16. To view all the photos from the GSA meeting, check out the Geosciences Facebook page.

George and Helen Long Endowment

Helen and George Long at the Rachel Carson Lecture. (Photo by Molly Ivey ’20)


Not only does the George and Helen Long Endowment fund the annual Rachel Carson Lecture Series, it also provides funding for student internship experiences at non-profits. Click here to read more about the Longs and the students who received internship funds this year.

STEM House Visits Fred Hutch

STEM House students recently took a field trip to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center with Matt Smith. They enjoyed a guided tour of the facilities, learning about the history of the center and the ground-breaking work being conducted there. The tour included a walk-through of some lab space and common areas, as well as a stop by their double helix-inspired staircase. The trip ended with discussion and some very high quality cafeteria food in the Fred Hutch cafeteria.

Faculty Grant Opportunity

In case you missed it in the Office of the Provost Faculty Newsletter: The New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U), of which PLU is a founding member, is excited to announce the inaugural Collaboration, Growth, and Innovation (CGI) Grants Program. Click the button below for a full description of the program, including eligibility guidelines and application instructions. The deadline for applications is December 1, 2017.

Click here

Friday Fun with Science

In case you missed it, scroll down to the bottom of the Fall 2017 ResoLute webpage. You’ll see Groovy Noodles and more fun with science! 😉

Under the Microscope!

Six Questions with Dean Waldow

Dean Waldow hiking in the mountains

1.What attracted you to PLU when you were applying for jobs? How long have you been here?
a. I was interested in teaching and doing research at a PUI and I had connections to ELCA schools so PLU was a natural fit. The mountains and the Puget Sound were a bonus.

b. Let’s just say, over twenty years. 😉

2.What are you most excited to be working on right now?
Teaching-wise: flipped content. Research-wise: Working with students on my battery research.

3.If students left your class with only one concept, what would you want them to take away?
Developing a physical picture to go with abstract concepts.

4.Are you involved in any community organizations?
South Sound Symphonic Band, Evergreen Woodworkers Guild

5.What was the last book you read? Movie you watched?
Broadband Dielectric Spectroscopy (or did you mean a non-science book 🙂 ) Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them.

6.What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time? What is that… Exercise, hike, run, golf, garden, music, make things…

Faculty Development

This fall we’ve offered faculty members several options for collaboration and development – with programs focused on teaching, scholarship, and issues of diversity, equity, and social justice.

  • writing groups
  • teaching squares
  • diversity book group
  • caffeine and collaboration

We’d like to continue these opportunities into the next semester. If you’re interested in taking part, please let us know. Click the button below to take the Spring 2018 survey.

Faculty & Staff News

Jon Freeman and Andrea Munro are attending the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference in Spokane, WA on November 10-11, 2017.

Renzhi Cao is attending the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference in Spokane, WA on November 10-11, 2017.

Peter Davis, Duncan Foley, Alex Lechler, Claire Todd, Jill Whitman, and Tarka Wilcox all attended the GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, October 22 – 25, 2017.

Jessica Sklar just published an open source textbook under the GNU Free Documentation License, 2017. First-Semester Abstract Algebra: A Structural Approach.

Jessica also had a mathematical poem published: “Disciple.” Journal of Humanistic Mathematics 7(2) (July 2017), 418.

Student & Alumni News

Tyler Johnson and Christine Sohn are headed to Spokane for the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference Oral Presentations. They will present “Botryococcene Pathway Optimization With a Fluorescent Screen.” Taylor and Christine’s mentor is Jon Freeman.

Matthew Conover is headed to Spokane for the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference Oral Presentations. Matthew will present “AngularQA: Protein Model Quality Assessment with LSTM Networks.” His mentor is Dr. Renzhi Cao.

Aerin Basehart (former PLU Geosciences major) attended GSA 2017 and presented her research poster: “Mapping Supraglacial Debris on Emmons Glacier.” Claire Todd was her research mentor.

Victoria Benson ’17 attended GSA 2017 and presented her research poster: “Identifying Influences on Glacial Meltwater Hydrochemistry Using Laboratory Simulations of Subglacial Chemical Erosion.” Claire Todd was her research mentor.

Hannah Bortel ’18 attended GSA 2017 and presented her research poster: “Seasonal and Diurnal Fluctuations in Suspended Sediment Concentrations in Glacial Meltwater on Mount Rainier, Washington.” Claire Todd is her research mentor.

Samantha Denham ’18 attended GSA 2017 and presented her research poster: “Potential extents and volume scenarios of landslide induced impoundment lakes within Deer Creek drainage, Washington.” Tarka Wilcox is her research mentor.

Christina Gray ’16 attended GSA 2017 and presented her research poster: “Regional Modeling of Glaciers in the Olympic Mountains, Washington.”Christina was representing Portland State University.

Justin Johnsen ’18 attended GSA 2017 and presented his research poster: “Quantifying Surface Roughness within a Landslide Denuded Zone using sUAS Photogrammetry Techniques.” Tarka Wilcox is his research mentor.

Logan Krehbiel ’19 attended GSA 2017 and presented his research poster: “Assessing the risk of glacial outburst floods from Emmons Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Washington.” Claire Todd is his research mentor.

Aaron Steelquist ’14 attended GSA 2017 and presented his research poster: “Fluvial incision rates of the San Juan River using In-Situ Be, Mexican Hat Utah.” Aaron was representing Stanford University.

Alex Yanello ’19 attended GSA 2017 and presented his research poster: “Investigating subglacial hydrothermal influence on Mount Rainier through hydrochemical analyses of glacial meltwater.” Claire Todd is his research mentor.

Division Calendar

November 13: Chemistry Seminar – University of Oregon Master’s Industrial Internship Program – Morken 103, 12:30-1:35pm

November 14: CS Tech Talk – Xinli Zou or Wyzlink, Inc. – Morken 103, 1:45-2:45pm

November 16: Math/Physics/Computer Science field trip to the Museum of Glass – 5:00-8:00pm

November 17: Biology Seminar – “Beyond Force Transduction: Exploring the Role of Muscle’s Extracellular Matrix in Injury Adaptation” – Leraas, 2:00-3:00pm

November 20-22: Christine is on vacation – plan accordingly.

November 21: Turkey baskets will be dropped off first thing in the morning. Don’t forget your refrigerated food donations!

November 23-24: Thanksgiving Holiday! PLU is closed.

October 27, 2017 | ISSUE 11

PLU Alum Wins MESA Teacher of the Year

 

We’re so pleased to announce that Phillip Schmitt, a teacher at Gray Middle School (Tacoma Public Schools), was honored at the recent Washington MESA Board Champion Dinner and received one of two Teacher of the Year Awards! ‍

Phillip is a PLU grad (MA in Education) and one of the many teachers who have benefited from our own Tacoma/SPS MESA Center here at PLU. That’s our MESA Director JR Nobles in the picture with Phillip. Yay, JR! We love seeing alums like Phillip doing great work to support science education for underrepresented students right here in our backyard, all supported by MESA staff housed here at PLU.

New Bird Species in North America

Female Cassia Crossbill foraging on a lodgepole pine cone.

Julie Smith has been studying speciation in a group of birds and the work has resulted in the recognition of a new bird species in North America. Here’s what Julie has to say about the research and discovery:

North American Red Crossbills are resource specialists with each of the ten recognized call types specializing on a different species of conifer. I have investigated with the help of collaborators whether the different call types are reproductively isolated and hence separate species. This year we resubmitted a proposal to the American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU) that provides evidence that one of the call types shows high levels of reproductive isolation and should be given species status. The AOU accepted our recommendation and the Cassia crossbill is now recognized as a new species of bird in North America. The Cassia crossbill is restricted to two small mountain ranges in southern Idaho making it the rarest bird in North America.

Caffeine & Collaboration

Need to brainstorm? Or maybe just get out of the office? Grab a colleague for coffee or tea! Elizabeth and Christine would love to give you a card good for one free drink (up to $5) at any of the cafes on campus.

Summer Research 101!

Do your students have questions about summer internships and research experiences? Justin Lytle just gave a presentation (standing-room only!) on Summer Research 101. Justin’s PowerPoint is available as a PDF on the homepage of the division and all department websites, as well as on the Facebook pages. If your students have questions, feel free to give them the link or direct them to the website.

Summer Research in ResoLute

Speaking of summer research…if you haven’t already perused the Fall 2017 issue of ResoLute, we recommend starting with the “Summer of Science.” Six faculty members and their student researchers were featured in this issue, which also contains video from each of the research groups. Read the articles, watch the videos, and get jazzed about all the possibilities for summer research 2018!

Student & Alumni News

Genevieve Brandt (Spring ’17) is attending Georgia Tech’s Bioinformatics Master’s program.

George Duma (Spring ’17) was hired as an Extraction Technician at Cordant Health Solutions.

Lee Shaffer ’16 was a coauthor on a paper published in the April issue of Molecular Metabolism: “Astrocyte IKKβ/NF-κB signaling is required for diet-induced obesity and hypothalamic inflammation.

Ben Sonnenberg began his PhD program at the University of Nevada Reno in Vladimir Pravosudov’s lab which focuses on focuses on behavioral Ecology with special emphasis on animal cognition.

Katie Caspary ’17 started at Oregon State University this fall. She is pursuing her Chemistry Ph.D.

Bryan Gutierrez ’17 started at Rutgers University this fall. He is pursuing his Chemistry Ph.D.

Alice Henderson ’16 is with the Washington Conservation Corps/Americorps, WA Dept. of Ecology Coastal Monitoring and Analysis.

Tyler Johnson and Christine Sohn were selected to represent PLU’s Life Sciences at the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference Oral Presentations. They will present “Botryococcene Pathway Optimization With a Fluorescent Screen.” Taylor and Christine’s mentor is Jon Freeman.

Tom Kolibaba ’16 is at Texas A&M University, pursuing his Chemistry Ph.D.

Ashlee McGovern ’17 began at Penn State University this fall. She is pursuing her Chemistry Ph.D.

Miles Radford ’17 started the Chemistry Ph.D. program at Washington State University this fall.

Maddie Smith ’17 is currently with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group devoted to “a religious response to global warming” in Washington DC.

Brandon Tabor ’17 began the Pharm.D. program at Washington State University Pharmacy School this fall.

Jenn Wong ’17 is at the University of Washington. She began the Chemistry Ph.D. program this fall.

Matthew Conover was selected to represent PLU’s Physical Sciences at the 26th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference Oral Presentations. Matthew will present “AngularQA: Protein Model Quality Assessment with LSTM Networks.” His mentor is Dr. Renzhi Cao.

Under the Microscope!

Six Questions with Amy Siegesmund

1.What attracted you to PLU when you were applying for jobs? How long have you been here?
This is my 10th year at PLU. My “dream job” was to teach at a small liberal arts school where my primary focus would be teaching but I would also have the opportunity to do research with students. Initially, I applied for a visiting position (2 years). It was so out of character for me to take such a risk–I had no guarantee that I would have a job after 2 years! But it was what I wanted to do and so I took the risk. Within my first weeks here, I knew this was a perfect match for me. Our students are absolutely amazing and I have some of the best colleagues any person could ask for. 10 years later, I feel the same way.

2.What scientific discovery would you have loved to be part of/present for?
I would have loved to been part of the discovery of the first oncogene, ras. It was the late 1970s, early ‘80s and about 3 labs were in a neck-and-neck race to be the first to identify a human oncogene. The discovery in and of itself was amazing and changed the entire field of cancer biology. But I also think it was a time in medical research when discovery was still valued and the competition that was happening between those labs led to better, more rigorous science.

3.What makes you feel accomplished?
I work hard to try to help students become more effective problem solvers and critical thinkers and admittedly, I push students outside of their academic comfort zone. One of the things that makes me happy is when a student who has really been working hard and pushing themselves realizes that he or she has the ability to do something they previously thought unattainable. That realization and sense of empowerment and confidence that comes with it is one of the best things I get to witness as an educator.

4.What was the last book you read? Movie you watched? 
I just finished “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder.  I find that lately I have a hard time sitting and concentrating on a movie, so I’ve been watching more TV series–Grantchester is my current pleasure.  But my tastes are pretty diverse–if you looked through my viewing history you’d see The OA, Broadchurch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Crown, Vikings, Archer, and The Golden Girls!

5.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else–teaching is my vocation and I feel lucky to do this every day.  That said, I have often said that when I retire, I would like to have a yak ranch.  They are supposedly quite docile and their hair can be spun into fiber that is as soft as cashmere and warmer than wool!

6.What do you like to do in your free time?
Camping, hiking, and backpacking!

Carol Quigg Visits the Division

On September 13th, the division hosted an open house to celebrate the completion of the Rieke 220 classroom renovation. Generous supporter and friend to the Natural Sciences, Carol Sheffels Quigg joined us for the open house and toured some of the areas that have benefited from her donations. In addition to contributing to the renovation of Rieke 220, Carol is a benefactor of the new ICP-MS instrument in chemistry, the GRAPL (Glacial Research at Pacific Lutheran) program, the Intro to Bio Lab, and the greenhouse that bears her name. Students, faculty, and special guests President Allen Belton, Executive Director of Gift Planning Doug Page, and Executive Director for Institutional Support Aileen Bacon attended and discussed how the increased usability of the new space would benefit all.

Follow us on Facebook!

Did you know that all six departments and the division have Facebook pages? This is a great way to keep connected with all the events in our area, as well as student and faculty updates, scholarship and job opportunities, and photos. Encourage students to follow their department (or multiple departments) to receive the latest updates.

And do you have something fantastic to share? News or student opportunities or an interesting article? Send it to Christine – she’ll see that it’s posted and hashtagged.

Biology
Chemistry
Computer Science
Environmental Studies
Geosciences
Mathematics
Physics
Division of Natural Sciences

Faculty & Staff News

Julie Smith has been studying speciation in a group of birds and the work has resulted in the recognition of a new bird species in North America.

Eric Finney published an article in the September issue of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research: “Catalyst Sintering Kinetics Data: Is There a Minimal Chemical Mechanism Underlying Kinetics Previously Fit by Empirical Power-Law Expressions-and if So, What are its Implications?” Coauthor: Richard G. Finke

Justin Lytle and undergraduate coauthors Gabrielle E. Kamm and Ashlee D. McGovern published an article in the June issue of LANGMUIR: “Rewriting Electron-Transfer Kinetics at Pyrolytic Carbon Electrodes Decorated with Nanometric Ruthenium Oxide.”

Renzhi Cao just had an article accepted to Molecules‘ Bioorganic Chemistry section: “ProLanGO: protein function prediction using neural machine translation based on recurrent neural network.” Coauthors include Computer Science student Colton Freitas and PLU Assistant Professor of Business Leong Chan.

Renzhi had an article accepted in the International Journal of Computational Intelligence in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology: “SMISS: A protein function prediction server by integrating multiple sources.” His coauthors include Zhaolong Zhong and Jianlin Cheng.

Renzhi also applied for and received a couple small grants over the summer! He was awarded $400 in credits from the Earth on AWS Cloud Credits for Research program, as well as a Google Cloud Platform Education Grant from Google, which gives 30 students in Renzhi’s Artificial Intelligence CS 330 course $50 in credits each. This grant is meant to help students explore the cutting-edge technology used by Google.

Rachid Benkhalti has an article forthcoming in Project Euclid – “On a Bohr-Neugebauer Property for Some Almost Automorphic Abstract Delay Equations.” Coauthors include Ph.D. student Mr. Es-sebbar and Professor Khalil Ezzinbi.

Tom Edgar had an essay in the September issue of Math Horizons:  “Happiness Is Integral But Not Rational.” Tom’s coauthors included two PLU alumni – Desiree Domini ’17 and Devon Johnson ’17, as well as 5 other undergraduates and 1 faculty member: Andre Bland, Zoe Cramer, Philip de Castro, Steven Klee, Joseph Koblitz, and Ranjani Sundaresan.

Tom participated in the NSF SUMmER REU at Seattle University. He worked with 6 undergraduates including one PLU student, Paul Dalenberg. His  co-mentor was a high school teacher and PLU alum, Tyler Ball.

Tom also has a short note in the October issue of Mathematics Magazine: “Proof Without Words: Series of Perfect Powers.

Ksenija Simic-Muller has given several talks related to social justice math:

  1. “Social justice, place-based learning, and mathematical modeling: An approach
    to teaching quantitative literacy.” Mathematical Association of America Pacific Northwest Division
    Meeting, Spokane, WA – June 2017.
  2. “Teaching math for social justice: The promise and practice.” (Invited) Mathematical Association of America Pacific Northwest Division Meeting, Spokane, WA – June 2017
  3. “Math lesson sharing.” Tenth Annual Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice, Seattle, WA – October 2017

Ksenija also has the Mathlete Coaching Project in full swing, with 7 coaches working with Keithley Middle School students. The project is funded by the Tensor-SUMMA grant from the MAA.  And who made that grant happen? KSENIJA! 

Jessica Sklar just published an open source textbook under the GNU Free Documentation License, 2017. First-Semester Abstract Algebra: A Structural Approach.

Jessica also had a mathematical poem published: “Disciple.” Journal of Humanistic Mathematics 7(2) (July 2017), 418.

Ann Auman, Heidi Schutz, Andrea Munro, Dean Waldow, Ann Tolo, and Shannon Seidel met with Dr. Stephanie August, a program officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) at the National Science Foundation. Dr. August gave an overview of NSF and the merit review process, reviewed funding opportunities, and answered questions.

Bret Underwood published a paper in the May edition of Physical Review D: “Consistent Cosmic Bubble Embeddings” with his collaborator Shajid Haque, about the types of bubble universes allowed in Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Bret also attended the Washington Section meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers at Central Washington University on Oct 6-7 at Central Washington University, where he learned about open-source planetarium software and project-based learning.

Division Calendar

October 27: Division Meeting – STEM House, Leraas Lecture Hall, 2:40-3:40PM

October 30: Halloween Bake Sale to raise funds for the Art Club – AUC from 4:30-8:30PM

October 31: Free Ghoulish Foods from Dining & Culinary Services – AUC 12:00-1:30PM

November 1-3: Powell-Heller Holocaust Conference

Through November 3: Joseph Rossano’s Vanity in the University Gallery.

November 3: Biology Department Seminar, 2-3PM in Leraas – “Performance benefits of careful behavior: reducing thermal risk at a snail’s pace” Hilary Hayford from UW Dept of Biology

November 9: Meant to Live Lecture by Major Margaret Witt, Scan Center 7PM