CAS undergraduate excellence recognized at SURCA

SURCA awardees on stage.Students in the College of Arts and Sciences took home almost half of all the 2022 Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) awards.

SURCA is a WSU-wide event for students from all majors and all WSU campuses to share their faculty mentored activities, and receive feedback from independent judges on their presentation.

At this year’s event, 140 students from four campuses were among those accepted to present 112 posters. Faculty, postdoctoral students, and community experts used a common rubric to evaluate and score presentations across nine SURCA categories.

At the awards ceremony, 15 of the 33 awards went to CAS students, plus one more for an interdisciplinary project with a CAS faculty mentor. Combined, the 33 SURCA awards included nearly $8,000 in prize money to support continuing efforts.

Showcasing high-impact activity and learning

“It is always a pleasure to see what our students are researching, and to have them together to present in person in one room again this year was great,” said Jeremy Lessmann, director of the WSU Office of Undergraduate Research and a chemistry faculty member.

“Undergraduate research is vital to our university as a high-impact activity that enriches every student’s academic pursuits, and to host SURCA as the premier place to showcase their work is both an honor and a tradition,” said William Davis, interim vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement.

SURCA 2022 awardees

Four levels of awards in each SURCA category are available: the top Crimson Award, followed by the Gray Award, plus additional honors recognizing early-career awards for first-year and sophomore students and novice researcher awards for those engaged in a project for two semesters or less.

By SURCA category, the students awardees in the College of Arts and Sciences are:

Organismal, Population, Ecological Evolutionary Biology


  • Randi Richards, biology (WSU Vancouver)
    “The Distribution and Genetics of Resistance to UV Irradiation in Nitrogen Fixing Soil Bacteria”
    Faculty Mentor: Stephanie Porter, biological sciences


  • Alexander Iritani, environmental and ecosystem sciences
    “Influence of Egg Size and Egg Metabolism on Survival and Fitness of Chinook Salmon Embryos”
    Faculty Mentor: Michael Phelps, animal sciences

Molecular, Cellular, and Chemical Biology


  • Alexandra Malena, neuroscience and psychology
    “Long-Term Effects of Maternal Cannabis Use on Offspring Emotional Reactivity and Anxiety-like Behavior in Rats”
    Faculty Mentor: Ryan McLaughlin, neuroscience
  • Evelyn Rowe, basic medical sciences; Honors College
    “Insulin-mediated Antiviral Immunity to WNV Using the Drosophila melanogaster
    Faculty Mentors: Alan Goodman and Chasity Trammell, molecular biosciences


  • Stephen Fawcett, microbiology and Spanish; Honors College
    “Characterization of Novel Cell Lines for Viral Infection Assays”
    Faculty Mentor: Michael Letko, global animal health
  • Justine Strickler, biology and neuroscience
    “Genetic Drift of the C57BL6/J Mouse Supports a Role of the Cerebellum in Genetic Predilection to Alcohol Use Disorder”
    Faculty Mentor: David Rossi, integrative physiology

Research Proposal


  • Olivia Willis, neuroscience and psychology; Honors College
    “Exploring the Stereotypes of Scientists in Fourth Through Eighth Grade Students”
    Faculty Mentor: Xianming Shi, civil and environmental engineering
    Staff Mentor: Cheryl Reed, WSU communications
  • Maya Nuno, neuroscience and psychology; Honors College
    “Sex Differences in the Drinking Behavior of Dependent and Non-dependent Rodents”
    Faculty Mentor: Angela Henricks, psychology

Applied Sciences


  • Lauren Forseth, biology
    “Multifunctional Hierarchically Porous Materials for the One-pot Fixation of CO2 with Alkenes”
    Faculty Mentor: Qiang Zhang, chemistry


Engineering and Physical Sciences


  • Christine Lovingier, chemistry
    “PSMA Targeted Turn On Probe for Imaging Cargo Release in Prostate Cancer Cells”
    Faculty Mentor: Cliff Berkman, chemistry


  • Emma Speight, physics
    “Dynamics of Ordering of Conductive Polymer Films Printed Under Controlled Airflow”
    Faculty Mentor: Brian Collins, physics and astronomy
  • Joshua Bilsky, chemistry and physics; Honors College
    “Statistical Analysis of Brownian Motion Data Published in Jean Perrin’s Book ‘Les Atomes’”
    Faculty Mentor: Fred Gittes, physics and astronomy

Social Sciences


  • Caitlin Ottaway and Matteya Proctor, neuroscience and psychology; Honors College, and Cheyenne Schneider, neuroscience and psychology
    “Sleep Loss and Risk Taking: An Integrative Review”
    Faculty Mentors: Courtney Kurinec, John Hinson, and Paul Whitney, psychology
  • Mollee Gray, neuroscience; Honors College
    “The Relationship Between Somatic Markers and Working Memory in Risky Decision Making”
    Faculty Mentors: Paul Whitney and John Hinson, psychology



See the full list of SURCA 2022 winners on the SURCA website.

Top photo: Award winners for SURCA 2022 pose together for a group photo on the stage of the CUB auditorium (photo by WSU Photo Services).

By Beverly Makhani for WSU Insider