Forty-six WSU Undergraduates Land 37 Research Awards at the SURCA 2019 Poster Event March 25

MEDIA: Shelley Pressley, WSU Office of Undergraduate Research, 509-335-1214,

Group photo of SURCA 2019 award winners posing on stage in the CUB auditorium.PULLMAN, Wash.—Nearly a quarter of Washington State University students who delivered poster presentations won monetary awards at the eighth annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) on March 25 in Pullman.

SURCA is the unique WSU-wide venue for students from all majors, years in college, and from all WSU campuses.

Heading into the afternoon event, 206 students from five campuses had been accepted to present 167 posters detailing their research, scholarship, and creative activity conducted with a mentor. Faculty, postdoctoral students, and community experts used a common rubric to judge and score all presentations in eight SURCA categories that cover all disciplines at the college.

At the concluding awards ceremony, 46 students were announced as the recipients of a total of 37 awards; one student received two awards. Awardees are from Pullman, the Global Campus, and campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Vancouver.

WSU Tradition

“Being selected to present at this showcase is an honor, and the project quality and variety presented at SURCA this year was very impressive,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education. “The event showed that our students are eager to engage in learning activities beyond classrooms while also contributing to knowledge in their fields of study,

“The work they perform with their research mentors helps WSU move ahead in its drive to be a top 25 research university by 2030.”

Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said SURCA has become a WSU tradition. “It is rewarding to see that this event, which our office launched in 2012, is one that brings together several segments of the community—the undergraduates, faculty, staff, and guests. SURCA is part of WSU Showcase Week, which celebrates scholarly achievements across the institution. We are proud that SURCA is a significant part of that.”

Supporting Students

Sponsors make the annual SURCA event possible. For 2019, they include: Alturas Analytics, Inc.; alumnus Robert H. (’77 Engineering and Honors) and Mary L. Rieck, CougParents from Richland; the WSU Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President; and the WSU Undergraduate Research Club.

SURCA 2019 Award Winners:

Winners are students in Pullman unless otherwise noted. By SURCA category in alphabetical order, the awardees and their mentors and research topics are:

Applied Sciences

  • Crimson Award (1): Tatum Hardy, mentor Carolyn Ross, on “Development of Foods with Modified Textures for Infants and Children with Feeding Difficulties”
  • Gray Award (1): Paige Gear, mentor Kathy Beerman, on “Tamarind – A Regional Food Source in Rural Guatemala Facilitates Iron Fortification of Food Prepared With Lucky Iron Fish”

Arts and Design

  • Crimson Award (1): Jamie Kemple and Keyaira Mumford, mentors Robert Krikac and Michael Sanchez, on “Pullman Depot Heritage Center”

Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, and Information Sciences

  • Crimson Award (1): Krista Brutman, mentor Bertrand Tanner, on “Computational Simulations of Length-dependent Activation in Human Cardiac Muscle”

Engineering and Physical Sciences

  • Crimson Awards (3): Evon Branton, mentor Aaron Steiner, on “Evolution of the Strawberry Volcanics and Phreatomagmatic Eruptions”; Connor Spencer, mentor Fred Gittes, on “The Landau Theory of Phase Transitions Applied to Chemical and Biological Systems”; and, Chandler Shannon, mentor Anita Vasavada, on “Effects of Sit-Stand Desks on Postural Sway of the Head and Trunk”
  • Gray Awards (5): Stephen Bone, mentor Su Ha, on “Applying Efficient Glucose Oxidase to Facilitate Direct Electron Transfer in Biofuel Cells”; Brittany Kesic, mentor Cliff Berkman, on “Phosphoramidate Derivatives as Controlled Release Prodrugs of L-Dopa”; Cory Gunson, mentor Peter Pfromm, on “Decoupling Food and Fossil Fuel Using an Iron Membrane Reactor to Produce Ammonia”; Kacie Salmon, mentor Jacob Leachman, on “Hydrogen-Based Regenerator Alternatives for Cryocooling”; Seth McPherson, mentor Kelvin Lynn, on “Characterization of ACRT-grown CZT for Use in High-resolution Gamma Radiation Detectors”
  • Novice Award (1): Stephen Bone, Tyler Sager, Tanner Stahl, and Mitchell Weholt, mentors Howard Davis and Marie Mayes, on “Crimson Medical Solutions”


  • Crimson Award (1): Kaitlin Srader, mentors Faith Price and Trevor Bond, on “Preservation of Born-Digital Newsletters from WSU Native Programs”
  • Gray Award (1): Ryan Moore, mentor Lydia Gerber, on “Notions of Uyghur Identity Within Xinjiang and Their Development During the Late 20th Century”

Molecular, Cellular, and Chemical Biology

  • Crimson Awards (3): Brooke Barton, Devinae McNeil, and Jenna Rock, mentor Wipawee Winuthayanon, “The Efficacy and Toxicity of a Protease Inhibitor as a Novel Contraceptive”; Olivia Hayden, mentor Alan Goodman, “The Drosophila melanogaster STING Homolog (dmSTING) Protects Against Coxiella burnetii Infection”; and, Owen Canterbury, mentor Michael Varnum, on “Novel Model for Blindness Generated Using Inducible CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Editing in Zebrafish”
  • Gray Awards (4): Rachel Stout, mentor Jennifer Watts, on “Exploration of Two Dihydroceramide Desaturase Genes”; WSU Tri-Cities student Megan Brauner, mentor Tanya Cheeke, on “Development of a New Method to Quantify Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi from Environmental Samples”; Ashley Kophs, mentors Asaph Cousins and Robert DiMario, on “Understanding the Kinetic Properties of Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase: A Key Enzyme of C4 Photosynthesis”; and, Nathan Michellys, mentor Michael Konkel, on “Beware of Eating Chicken: It Harbors a Bacterium That Is a Major Cause of Foodborne Illness”
  • Novice Awards (2): Austin Lenssen, mentor Andrei Smertenko, on “Identification of Novel Genetic Markers for Drought Tolerance in Wheat”; Jessica Fisher, mentors Andrei Smertenko and Kathleen Hickey, on “Reactive Oxygen Species Scavenging Mechanisms Combating Drought Stress in Wheat”

Organismal, Population, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology

  • Crimson Awards (2): WSU Vancouver student Katelyn Sedig, mentor Stephanie Porter, on “Diversity in Microbial Mutualists Benefit Plant Growth”; and, Elise Bugge, mentor R. Dave Evans, on “Decreasing N2 Fixation in Lobaria oregana is Likely Caused by Anthropogenic Emissions”
  • Gray Awards (2): Madison Armstrong, mentor Mark Dybdahl, on “The Evolution of Plastic Expression as an Explanation of Invasion Success”; and, Tina Wang, mentor Heiko Jansen, on “Reversing Insulin Resistance in Hibernating Grizzly Bears”

Social Sciences

  • Crimson Awards (2): WSU Spokane student Jacquelyn Deichman, mentor Janessa Graves, on “Return-to-play Legislation and Concussions: Are More Youth Leaving the Emergency Department Without Being Seen?”; and, Global Campus student Charles Nevin, mentor Lee Daffin, on “The Sound of One Hand Texting: Examining the Paradox Between Mindfulness Meditation Apps and Problematic Smartphone Use”
  • Gray Awards (6): Haven Warwick, mentor Tammy Barry, on “Sensorimotor Deficits in Children with Subclinical ASD/ADHD Predicting Levels of Cognitive Functioning”; Brooklin Devine, mentor Kathy Beerman, on “Prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Rural, Underserved Communities in Guatemala”; Justin Frow, mentor Nisha Raghunath, on “Robot Activity Support (RAS): Comparing Younger and Older Adults’ Feedback”; Global Campus student Sydney Wright, mentor Lee Daffin, on “Test Anxiety and Performance on Proctored and Non-Proctored Exams in Online Classes Study”; Hannah Heizer, mentor Kathleen Rodgers, on “A Systematic Review of Prevention and Educational Programs to Promote Healthy Adolescent Sexual and Romantic Relationships: Where Are the Parents?”; and, Amanda Tomchick, mentor Erica Austin, on “Life Happens: An Examination of the Reasons Why Students Withdraw from Courses”
  • Novice Awards (1): Patricia Bumgarner, Derek Ginrich, Nicholas Gottlob, Tiffany Kite, and AnnMarie McCracken, mentor Erin Thornton, on “Uncovering the Mystery Behind University Held Skeletal Collections”