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Yotes present at Murdock Research Conference

November 18, 2016

College of Idaho students and professors made the trek to Spokane, Wash., this November to showcase student research from a variety of scientific disciplines at the 25th Annual Murdock College Science Research Conference. The conference focuses on sharing and advancing new knowledge in the natural sciences created or discovered through collaborative faculty-student research.

And for some Yotes, it was their first time presenting.

“I was excited, but also nervous,” said junior math-physics major Natasha Dacic.

Dacic, along with senior Donovan Maude, spent the summer with C of I geoscience Professor Jaime Goode, researching how wildfires play a role in shaping salmon spawning habitat. After gathering information, Dacic had the challenge of condensing it onto a poster and finding a way to relate her new wealth of knowledge to a broad audience.

And in the end, she really had no reason to be nervous—she took home the Murdock Poster Prize in Environmental Science/Geology. The prize came with a ribbon, a cash award and a gift for the faculty research advisor (Dr. Goode).

“[When they announced my name] I could hear all of the C of I professors from across the room hollering and everyone at my table was cheering me on,” Dacic said. “It was fantastic.”

Tanisha Khurana also found herself presenting for the first time. A pre-med student, she never thought research was in her future. That was until this summer, when she researched the freshwater crustacean daphnia in the lab of Dr. Thomas Pirtle. Alongside lab partner Troy Carr, Khurana worked to establish that the heart of Daphnia is similar to a vertebrate heart, and thus a useful substitute for research of vertebrate hearts.

“It was a really new experience,” Khurana said. “I’ve never done anything like [researching or presenting], but I’m so glad I did because I really enjoyed it.”

Dacic and Khurana were joined be fellow students Will Callahan, Hailey Chambers, Sam Chandler, Johanna Mori, Leo Trujillo and Florence Wavreil at the conference, which boasted a smorgasbord of undergraduate research from institutions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Everything from biology and physics to environmental science and chemistry was on display.

“It was really impressive,” Khurana said. “It really motivated me to do more research and expand my knowledge of other subjects.”

In addition to sharing research, Pirtle said conferences help students see the value in what they’re doing—that they can do meaningful science that leads to a public presentation and maybe publication. Plus, students learn to effectively communicate their work—an invaluable skill across disciplines.

“If you’re not able to communicate the importance of what you’re doing, then what you’re doing isn’t important,” Pirtle said.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit