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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