Murdock Conference Opens Doors To Scientific Discovery
FOREST GROVE, Ore. — Emily Kresin ’24 has always had an interest in science and research.
So when the opportunity for the environmental biology senior from Shawnee, Kansas to present at one of the Northwest’s prestigious Murdock College Science Research Conference was presented to her, she jumped at it.
“Something that I have wanted to do since I was a little kid was to have a poster presentation and a capstone,” Kresin said. “It was really special and a good career moment for me.”
Kresin was among 14 Pacific University undergraduate students who made poster presentations and three who presented oral presentations at the 2023 edition of the conference, held Nov. 10 and 11 in Vancouver, Washington. Sponsored annually by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, this year’s conference was co-hosted by Pacific University.
Kresin’s poster presentation, entitled “Stop & Smell The Goldenrod: Nectar Preferences Of The Threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly,” was a continuation of a summer research project studying the effect of the abundance of flower nectar on the threatened species’ survival.
The reception to Kresin’s presentation was largely positive among the attendees that presented on subjects covering the entire spectrum of scientific disciplines.
“Everyone thought it was really cool and interesting, especially the conservation aspects of my research,” Kresin said. “I was trying to find out what kind of flowers these butterflies prefer. A lot of people thought that was interesting and was a good way to apply my research.”
The breadth of knowledge at the conference impressed Harrison Freeman ’24, who also was among Pacific’s presenters. He noted the number of research projects that would be considered niche by the general public or other presenters but have considerable importance in the natural world.
“I met one guy from the College of Idaho who was doing research on the speed stars traveled out of a globular cluster to find the origins of the Milky Way,” Freeman said. “That is a world, literally, away from my northern spotted owl research. Everything you find there is impressive.”
Freeman, a senior from Vermillion, South Dakota, presented on “Predictive Modeling Of Fecundity Oscillations In Northern Spotted Owl Populations,” focusing on the species’ ability to reproduce on a certain cycle.
In the Murdock Conference’s poster presentation setting, the room was split into two groups. While the first group spent 90 minutes presenting, the second group visited different posters and listened to the first group’s presentations. The groups then switched and the process was repeated.
While the presentations were nerve-wracking at first, Freeman said that they became easier as the 90-minute window progressed and he settled into his speech. But once the groups switched, he really started learning.
“Going around and seeing everyone else’s stuff was really cool because of the different range of projects,” Freeman said. “Most of them were hard to understand since it ranged a wide variety of subjects, but I got to meet a bunch of great people. The best way to learn about projects is to talk with people and that was great.”
Pacific University is one of 12 Northwest universities that are members of the Murdock College Science Research Program, which focuses on sharing and advancing new knowledge in the natural sciences created or discovered through collaborative faculty-student research.
In addition to the 17 Pacific students who presented at the conference, eight faculty mentors from the university attended and judged presentations.
Over 250 students were invited to make poster presentations while another 30 students made oral presentations during the two-day conference. The conference also provided keynote speakers and collaboration opportunities for students and faculty.
Among the speakers representing Pacific University as the conference co-hosts were President Jenny Coyle, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs Ann Barr-Gillespie and Acting Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Jaye Cee Whitehead.
The Murdock Conference presents awards to both oral and poster presenters, honoring those who demonstrate excellence not only in presentation but in the demonstration of content and research outcomes. Michelle Winfield ’24 received one of three Murdock Poster Prizes For Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity for her presentation on “Can Zebra Finches Overcome Noise-Induced Cognitive Impairment Through Habituation?”
For Kresin, the Murdock Conference provided the opportunity to build critical presentation skills as she looks to a career in field research after graduation.
“It can be really scary to talk to a bunch of people. I don’t know what they are going to ask and what if I don’t know the answers?” Kresin said. “So now when I go to other conferences or receive other academic opportunities, it’s not so scary. I have done it before.”
Pacific University is the only comprehensive university in Washington County, Oregon, serving more than 3,600 undergraduate, graduate and professional students in the arts and sciences, business, education, health professions and optometry.