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Welcome to the 2019 Sciences and Mathematics Undergraduate Research Symposium!

The University of Washington Tacoma Environmental Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Environmental Sustainability, and Mathematics majors host an annual Environmental Research Symposium, Sciences and Mathematics Undergraduate Research Symposium (SAMURS). This event showcases the capstone research projects of our undergraduate students. This year we have a number of poster presentations by our undergraduate students, covering a broad range of questions and projects related to the environment. Projects were conducted in the lab, in the trees, in the mud, in the classroom, at an aquarium, on the water, underwater and on land. Some of the students did original research with a faculty mentor, pushing the boundaries of what is known in their fields. Others participated in internships, where they helped community partners further their missions through service. What all of these diverse students have in common is determination and dedication to complete an independent study as part of their undergraduate education. We hope you are inspired and educated by what they have accomplished.

We’d like to thank the following people for their assistance in planning this symposium: Joyce Dinglasan-Panlilio, Julie Masura, Karen Cowgill, Chris SChell, Amanda Strom, and Michelle Miller


The Faculty and Staff of the Sciences and Mathematics Division (SAM)

Symposium Schedule (all events occur at TLB 400 unless otherwise noted)

Students that are presenting need to arrive to TLB 400 by 1:30pm

2:00-3:00 pm Poster Presentations #1 Purple Session
2:30-3:00 pm Research Talk #1 TLB 115 - Student Heather St. John Presenting
3:00-4:00 pm Poster Presentations #2 Yellow Session
3:30-4:00 pm Research Talk #2 TLB 115 - Student Risa Hess Presenting
4:00-5:00 pm Poster Presentations #3 Red Session
4:00-4:30 pm Research Talk #3 TLB 115 - Students Miranda Makalena & Angela Mitchell Presenting
5:00-7:00 pm Gathering at the Swiss

Faculty, Staff, Students, Family and Friends all Weclome!

Awards will be Announced



Capstone Awards and Honors

2019 Mary Cline Undergraduate Research Awardees

  • Awardees will be posted here Summer 2019

2019 Mathematics Awards

  • Exceptional Capstone Paper Award: Elizabeth Andreas
  • Exceptional Capstone Presentation Award: Kimberly Cote
  • Interdisciplinary Award: Arashk Afshar
  • Math Community Award: Addie Jacobsen
  • Mathematical Growth Award: Eric Wiseman and Charlotte Yan
  • Math Ambassador Award: Addie Jacobsen and Madison Phelps
  • Outstanding Senior Award: Chris Preuss
  • Outstanding Junior Award: Madison Phelps
  • Outstanding Sophomore Award: Kaitlyn Jones

2019 Science Awards

  • Best Poster
    • Tracie Barry
  • Biomedical Sciences Poster 1st Place (tied):
    • Elizabeth Kubay
    • Angela Mitchell and Miranda Makalena
  • Biomedical Sciences Poster 2nd Place (tied):
    • Jocelynn Burt
    • Brendy Fountaine
  • Environmental Sciences Poster 1st Place (tied):
    • Timothy Lane
    • David Mullins
  • Environmental Sciences Poster 2nd Place:
    • Risa Hess
  • Environmental Sustainability Poster 1st Place:
    • Jessi McDonald
  • Environmental Sustainability Poster 2nd Place:
    • Francesca Marvin
  • Mathematics Poster 1st Place:
    • Elizabeth Andreas


Research Talks

  • Research Talk by Heather St. John

Impact of Wildfire-Associated High Atmospheric Pollutants on Local Emergency Medical Services

Wildfires are increasingly prevalent in the Northwest region of the United States in the last twenty years, with a corresponding increase in many air pollutants including carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3).  Many of these pollutants can be dangerous to human health, especially PM2.5, a tiny particle that can easily embed in the lung tissue and decrease one’s ability to breathe.   Numerous studies have shown a correlation between increased wildfire activity and increased visits to emergency departments for both cardiac and respiratory events. 

The aim of my research was to see if a correlation exists between prehospital emergency medical services (EMS) and increased wildfire activity.  I used data from the Tacoma Fire Department, and Pierce County pollutant readings to determine if there was any statistical relationship between EMS calls and worsening air quality.  I focused on cardiac and respiratory related calls from June-September between 2013-2018, as this is well documented as the wildfire season.

We noted an increase in calls in 2018 relative to the other years, which was a summer with record high air quality readings.  Additionally, there was an increase in AQI (air quality index; a standardized index of pollution levels) readings in July and August indicating poorer air quality and suggesting a possible correlation to increased wildfires at that time.  However, data suggests there was no statistically significant correlation between increasing AQI’s and EMS call volume across Tacoma.  Future research may involve increasing sample sizes to improve statistical power.

  • Research Talk by Risa Hess

Seeding STEM Growth: Relatable Early Learning Tools For Diverse Caregivers

STEM fields have underrepresentation from people of color, people with a background of poverty, or LGBTQ affiliation. A lack of diverse thought hinders innovation in solving the global problems that our children will inherit. A majority of Tacoma families are in a socioeconomic category that has historically suffered from scholastic disparity gaps. A phenomenal amount of brain growth occurs before age 5, and students who start behind, tend to stay behind. In the longitudinal Ready, Set, Read-Tacoma study, I’ve coordinated efforts with several non-profit partners, providing more culturally responsive lending libraries with STEM discussion guides to over 900 Tacoma preschooler’s families. Participant’s Kindergarten intake assessment scores are significantly higher in all 7 categories, compared to peers whose families did not use the program tools before starting school. Continuing on this model and now empowering caregivers to engage in short, frequent STEM-based conversations is leading to a cohort of small children already identifying themselves as scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Inclusive early learning activities for disadvantaged families levels the playing field when starting school, reducing demographic gaps and allowing greater learning to occur overall. These seeds can grow to expand a more proportionate diversity in STEM careers for a new generation.


  • Research Talk by Angela Mitchell and Miranda Makalena

Mutational Analysis of Potential Phosphorylation Sites on the Kinetochore-Associated Protein Stu2

The kinetochore plays a key role in aligning chromosomes during mitosis and helps ensure proper separation of duplicated DNA molecules into daughter cells. Some proteins that associate with the kinetochore regulate attachment to microtubules by destabilizing weak attachments and stabilizing strong attachments. In the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the Ipl1 kinase and Stu2 protein have similar effects on regulating kinetochore tension. Since Ipl1 is a kinase, and Stu2 is phosphorylated, we believe Stu2 function may be regulated by Ipl1. To test if Stu2 function is dependent on phosphorylation by Ipl1, we mutated possible Ipl1 phosphorylation sites and observed its effects on Stu2 function. Four Ipl1 target consensus sites within the Stu2 protein were selected for this study. We used site-directed mutagenesis techniques to alter these potential Ipl1 phosphorylation sites on Stu2 by mutating serine codons to alanine codons. We successfully constructed S40A and S430A/S593A mutations in Stu2 using the megaprimer whole plasmid (MEGAWHOP) cloning technique. We then introduced the mutated version of stu2 into yeast and conducted phenotype tests to determine if inactivating these putative phosphorylation sites affected its function. Our initial results indicated that phosphorylation at sites S430 and S593 may not be required for proper Stu2 function. We suggest that further testing of Ipl1 phosphorylation sites could reveal possible mutations that lead to malfunction of Stu2 that then affect the kinetochores ability to release improper attachments to microtubules. This would give insight into how signaling between kinetochore proteins can help to ensure proper chromosome segregation and avoid aneuploidy.



Coming Soon


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