Students Present Scientific Findings at Murdock Conference

On Nov. 11–12, 2022, six students from Walla Walla University presented their research at the Murdock College Science Research Conference in Vancouver, Washington. 

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

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

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

“It is always exciting for them to see how the work they are doing fits in with stories with students from other schools' research,” said Cecilia Brothers, assistant professor of biology, who accompanied students at this year’s conference.

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

Photo of boats on the shore of Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory.

Students partner with professors to conduct research during their undergraduate studies. Often research is conducted at WWU's Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory in Anacortes, Washington.

Chris Drake

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

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

To learn more about undergraduate opportunities in the sciences, visit

Featured in: March/April 2023