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PAID Summer Research Opportunities for Undergraduate

Looking to get some research experience this summer? The following SBS faculty members are looking for undergraduates to work in their labs. Email them directly to apply!

At WSU Pullman:

Dr. Wes Dowd (

           Project: Multiple stressors of tidepool copepods

Dr. Erica Crespi and Jesse Brunner ( or

           Project: Stress and disease ecology in the wood frog – ranavirus system

Dr. Ben Harlow (

           Project: Gaining technical lab experience in the WSU Stable Isotope Core Facility

Dr. Mechthild Tegeder (

            Project: Molecular biology of plant nutrient dynamics

At WSU Vancouver:

Dr. Jonah Piovia-Scott (

            Project: Amphibian conservation in the Cascades and Sierras

SBS Graduate Students Take Top Honors

Pictured: Erika Serrano

Inaugural Week of Women in STEM

By: Sophia O’Brien

WSU’s inaugural Week of Women in STEM will be held April 2-5. It is a week to celebrate, acknowledge, and inspire women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women remain underrepresented in all fields of STEM, and are continually paid less than their male counterparts. Women can be credited for many accomplishments in science, but have historically been shadowed by male peers. While there are pioneers for women in the STEM fields like Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, Mary Leakey, and Rosalind Franklin, young girls are still in dire need of role models in their everyday lives. The week is designed to help Washington State University women in STEM gain the confidence they need to excel in their futures.

On Monday, a screening of the acclaimed movie Hidden Figures will take place, it is the story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. CUB Auditorium at 8 p.m.

Events continue on Tuesday with a keynote address by Cougar Alumnae, Starbucks Executive V.P. and Chief Technology Officer, Gerri Martin- Flickinger.

A dinner on Wednesday night will include a networking session and panel discussion with STEM professionals. Dr. Noel Schulz, WSU First Lady and professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will moderate the discussion. This is a private event that required previous registration and invite.

Thursday includes workshops by AAUW on salary negotiations. It will compromise of two workshops, one for those just beginning in their careers, and another on how to advocate for a raise or promotion. AAUW’s research on the gender pay gap shows that, one year out of college, women are already paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

The week wraps up with showings of WSU Performing Arts production of the play Silent Sky. Based on the true story of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, the play explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed—until men claimed credit for them.

Animal Cognition, Communication Expert Pepperberg to Deliver Jonas Lecture in Biology at WSU

Dr. Irene Pepperberg will present the 2018 Robert Jonas Lecture in Biological Sciences, “Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots,” on Tuesday, March 27, at 6:00 p.m. in Todd Hall, 230. Pepperberg is a lecturer and research associate at Harvard University and well known for her comparative studies into the cognitive fundamentals of language and communication. She was one of the first to work on language learning in animals other than the human species. She is also active in wildlife conservation, especially related to parrots.

The 2018 Robert Jonas Lecture is sponsored by the WSU Zoology Club, School of Biological Sciences, and College of Arts & Sciences. The lectureship was established in memory of professor “Bob” Jonas, who taught biology and wildlife management at WSU for 25 years, and brings to campus prominent speakers on important conservation and environmental topics.

The Dirt on Undergraduate Research

By: Sophia O’Brien

Senior Claire Popke, doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty, especially if there are earthworms involved.

A few semesters ago, Popke decided she wanted to get involved in research as an undergraduate at WSU. Now she works closely with University of Idaho professor, Dr. Jodi Johnson-Maynard, analyzing soil samples’ isotopic C:N values in hopes of finding a relationship between earthworms and soil quality. This tells them how healthy the soil is by comparing the amount of carbon to the amount of nitrogen. They are looking into how the soil microbiology is affected by invasive and noninvasive earthworm species. Studying earthworms becomes challenging because, according to Popke, most earthworms are invasive species from Europe.

Because invasive species typically carry the connotation of being bad for a native area, Dr. Johnson-Maynard wanted to look into that relationship with earthworms. Invasive earthworms can damage the organic earth matter that sits on the forest floor. This could cause a transformation between of the relationships between plants and animals and the soil. Dr. Johnson-Maynard, her team of graduate students, and Popke are researching how these invasive earthworms could be affecting the Palouse environment.

According to Popke’s preliminary findings, there might not be a huge difference between native and invasive earthworms.

“Earthworms just seem to help the soil, whether they’re invasive or not,” she said. “This is different from most invasive species which are shown to be harmful.”

Popke grew up outside of Seattle in Edmonds, WA and has always been fascinated by earthworms. When she decided she wanted to get involved in undergraduate research, she looked to one of her favorite professors, Dr. Dave Evans. After class one day she asked if she could work in his lab, and soon began work with one of his graduate students. Popke began with helping the graduate student analyze her soil samples until Dr. Evans asked how she felt about earthworms; once he learned of her unique love for earthworms, he put her in contact with Dr. Johnson-Maynard at U of I.

Popke graduates this May from WSU and will head to Thailand the following month for a veterinary service. She plans on having that be a deciding factor in whether to pursue veterinary school or not. Popke feels she made find the conservation part of the project more exciting than the veterinary studies.

Undergraduate research has been a staple in Popke’s experience here. Not only did she feel more prepared for her microbiology classes because of it, but she feels more prepared for graduation in general.