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The School of Biological Sciences SBS Stories

Fall 2019 SBS Research Night

By: Lauren Matheson

School of Biological Sciences’ Research Night 2019 was a success! Students showed up to Eastlick Student Lounge at 5 pm to enjoy pizza and refreshments before the faculty presentations. This year was the biggest turnout we’ve seen yet!

Research Night is a great way for undergraduates to hear faculty discuss the work being done in their labs and learn about the ways that they can get involved. Each faculty member prepared a brief summary of their studies which ranged from topics such as the ecology of infectious disease, marine biology, animal physiology and much more.

After the presentations faculty and students broke into small groups for one-on-one discussions. Students can ask specific questions about their lab work and how they could get involved.

“Research night is really beneficial to students and allow us explore the different avenues within biological research,” said Sara Bruner.

Research Night is an annual event held for all students and is a great way to get to know faculty members, other biology students and learn more about the SBS research labs.

Small group discussions allow face to face interactions between faculty and students.
Many biology students seized the opportunity to learn more about various studies being conducted throughout the School of Biological Sciences.
Faculty love the opportunity to share their work with students.

WSU SBS Faculty of the Month, Sian Ritchie

By: Hailey Meyer

“Life takes unexpected turns. You have to go with the flow and take opportunities when you get them. Things don’t always follow a standard trajectory, but that makes life more interesting,” said Sian Ritchie.

Sian Ritchie, a Washington State University Clinical Assistant Professor, grew up in the U.K. wanting to teach elementary students.

“It was never my plan, and I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a professor,” Ritchie explained.

She received both her Bachelor’s Degree and PH.D. at the University of Reading in the U.K. She also obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry, and a Master’s Degree in Teaching at Washington State University.

“After my Ph.D. I did research and I really enjoyed that. I also did more here at WSU as well,” Ritchie said.

She worked as a substitute teacher and also at the local science museum. Ritchie was later offered a part-time job teaching labs at WSU. She eventually turned into a full-time professor.

Ritchie now advises students who are pursuing Biology, Zoology, and General Studies-Basic Medical Sciences degrees. She is also fascinated with using technology to improve and help undergraduate students.

Ritchie also runs the exit-surveys for graduate students in her departments and wants to emphasize for incoming students to reach out and talk to professors and other students.

“It’s kind of intimidating to a lot of students but it’s so important to get out there and get involved, students can learn a lot,” Ritchie said.

SBS graduate students awarded endowment scholarships

Congratulations to the following SBS graduate students for being awarded endowment scholarships based on research, teaching, service, notable achievement, or strategic support for Spring 2019:

Austin Patton
Carsten Voelkner
Chris Duke
Clay Bailes
Erin Wiese
Kimberly Cook
Larry Collins
Marci Parra
Mark Smithson
Milica Radanovic
Nolan Scheible
Olivia Smith
Robyn Reeve
Samantha Bussan
Tom Sexton
Zoie Lopez

In addition, Johnna Eilers and Adam Becker were awarded grants from the Smoot Hill Graduate Research Fund in support of research projects at the Hudson Biological Reserve at Smoot Hill.

Congratulations to SURCA award winners mentored by SBS faculty!

Crimson awards
Katelyn Sedig, mentor Dr. Stephanie Porter, on “Diversity in Microbial Mutualists Benefit Plant Growth”
Elise Bugge, mentor Dr. R. Dave Evans, on “Decreasing N2 Fixation in Lobaria oregano is Likely Caused by Anthropogenic Emissions”

Gray awards
Paige Gear, mentor Dr. Kathy Beerman, on “Tamarind – A Regional Food Source in Rural Guatemala Facilitates Iron Fortification of Food Prepared With Lucky Iron Fish”
Megan Brauner, mentor Dr. Tanya Cheeke, on “Development of a New Method to Quantify Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi from Environmental Samples”
Ashley Kophs, mentors Dr. Asaph Cousins and Dr. Robert DiMario, on “Understanding the Kinetic Properties of Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase: A Key Enzyme of C4 Photosynthesis”
Madison Armstrong, mentor Dr. Mark Dybdahl, on “The Evolution of Plastic Expression as an Explanation of Invasion Success”
Brooklin Devine, mentor Dr. Kathy Beerman, on “Prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Rural, Underserved Communities in Guatemala”

WSU SBS Faculty of the Month, R. David Evans

By: Hailey Meyer

CAS Awards 2018

David Evans grew up locally in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington and Oregon. He completed his undergrad and master’s degree in biology at Western Washington University, and also received his Ph.D. in Botany at Washington State University.

Evans is a professor and the Associate Director for undergraduate studies here at WSU. Evans also directs the Stable Isotope Core Laboratory, and has been working at WSU for 16 years now. Before teaching at WSU, Evans was a professor at the University of Arkansas for 9 years.

He knew that he wanted to be a professor while he was completing his Ph.D., “I really enjoyed the research, I had a great professor that really got me into plants,” Evans said.

Evans research is mainly focused on carbon, nitrogen and water dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems. He has done an abundance of work as a desert ecologist, with global change at the center of his attention. His two main projects currently concentrate on atmospheric deposition in the environment.

“We’ve done this all across the Western U.S., and right now I have a graduate student working in the North Cascades,” he explained, “and the other student is working in agricultural systems on more efficient use of nitrogen, and we’re doing that locally.”

Evans couldn’t express enough for undergraduate students to reach out to their professors, and graduate students as well.

“There are so many opportunities here to take advantage of, just get involved as much as you can,” Evans said, “I wouldn’t trade my undergrad for anything, half the fun is finding things out.”