Carroll Showcases Research Excellence at Science Conference

Fortin Science Center

Elliot Wald Earns Top Honors for Outstanding Presentation

HELENA – Carroll College research students from chemistry, environmental science, and biochemistry and molecular biology presented their original research at the 32nd annual Murdock College Science Research Conference (MCSR) held November 10-11 in Vancouver, Washington.

The MCSR conference highlights the collaborative faculty-mentored undergraduate student research that occurs at small colleges in the west. The Murdock Trust is a consistent and strong financial supporter of undergraduate research, academic programming, and capital improvements at Carroll. This year’s conference had close to 470 participants from colleges and universities across the west with poster and oral undergraduate student presentations.

Elliot WaldA highlight of the conference was Carroll chemistry research student Elliot Wald receiving the John Van Zytveld Physical Sciences Award for her outstanding oral research presentation titled, “Metal-oxide Photovoltaic Cells Synthesized using Materials Abundant in the Martian Regolith.” Wald has conducted this research under the guidance of Dr. John Rowley, associate professor of chemistry, and in collaboration with recent Carroll graduates Marguerite Bailey and Timothy Radosevich.

“Student research is an opportunity to do something that sparks your own curiosity, and traveling to conferences such as the MCSR provides a space for you to share that curiosity. It is truly an amazing experience!” said Wald, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major from Spokane, Washington.  

Wald was selected for the John Van Zytveld Award in Physical Sciences based on recommendations made by a panel of judges, using a combination of criteria including: communication, knowledge and careful analysis of the material, creativity of the project, organization and clarity of the presentation, and poise in answering questions from the audience. She “excelled in every way” according to the judges and was awarded a first-place prize of $1,500 to be used for her education and to support and celebrate those involved in undergraduate research at Carroll.

Wald also delivered a poster presentation on her more recent work with Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Ashley Beck titled, “The Effects of Urbanization on Peromyscus sonoriensis: A Microbiome Analysis.”

In addition, senior environmental science student Alison Ross delivered a poster presentation titled, “Mapping Bathymetry and Modeling Groundwater Springs in Lake Helena” on her research under the mentorship of Dr. Patricia Heiser, associate professor of earth science and director of the Environmental Science program.

“My favorite thing about going to Murdock was being able to connect with environmental faculty from different schools,” said Ross. “Environmental is a small program at Carroll, so being able to gain new perspectives and have new people show interest in my project was a great experience. I would strongly recommend that other students present their projects there.”

Biochemistry and molecular biology research student senior Carrie Nelson delivered a poster presentation titled, “The Effects of Natural and Artificial Flavors on the Membrane Integrity of Tetrahymena thermophila,” on her work from Dr. Stefanie Otto-Hitt’s research-based biomolecular chemistry course.

“The Murdock conference is an incredible way for undergraduate students, like myself, to improve research, presentation, and critical thinking skills,” said Nelson. “I highly encourage anyone who is participating in research to pursue attendance. I learned so much about where we are headed in scientific research, and it is inspiring to see the way that undergraduates contribute to real advancements in the field. I would like to give a huge thank you to the Murdock Trust and our faculty at Carroll College for inspiring us to keep searching.”

The Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants and enrichment programs to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, social, spiritual and cultural base in innovative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the Trust has awarded more than 8,300 grants totaling more than $1.3 billion.

The partnership between the Murdock Trust and Carroll College dates back to 1985, when the Trust awarded the college its first grant. Since then, the Murdock Trust has supported Carroll College with nearly $3.5 million for projects and new staffing and programs.

“Carroll College is deeply thankful for the many years of support we have received from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust,” said Dr. John Cech, president of Carroll College. “We are committed to working with the Trust to grow the number of undergraduate research experiences our faculty provide. We look forward to strengthening our partnership so that we can both achieve our common vision for enhancing the quality of life in our region.”

You can join the Murdock Charitable Trust in helping to provide more of these impactful opportunities for Carroll College students just like Elliot, Alison, and Carrie. To learn more about supporting student research opportunities and student scholarships, or creating an endowed faculty professorship, please contact Chris Aimone, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, at, 406-447-4445.

Murdock Trust Group at Presentation
Pictured left to right:Carrie Nelson, Elliot Wald, Dr. John Rowley, Alison Ross and Dr. Patricia Heiser