PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University biochemistry major and Honors College student Eric Collins, a 1998 graduate of Bethel High School in Spanaway, was named the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Scholar for February by the College of Sciences.

Collins has worked in the lab of Norman Lewis, director of the Institute of Biological Chemistry at WSU. Collins developed tools for regulating the production of lignans, a complex chemical in plants, by pulling genes related to lignans from mustard grass and inserting them into E. coli bacteria. Lignans are being studied for their chemical properties that may make them possible cancer preventatives.

Last fall, Collins continued his research in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences, where he worked on an electron microscopy project to determine the location of chromium VI reduction in E. coli.

Additionally, Collins studied abroad in Copenhagen at the Molecular Biology Institute, University of Copenhagen. There, he worked with Professor Penny von Wettstein-Knowles on a project to over-express and purify a protein in E. coli.

Collins applies his research skills to answering wide-ranging questions sent to WSU’s Dr. Universe newspaper/Web column. He also created and manages the Web site for the Lewis laboratory.

After graduation in May, Collins hopes to enter graduate school to earn a doctorate in oceanography or microbiology. His career goal is to study undersea hot water vents as they pertain to life on other planets.

His parents are Charles and Debra Collins of Graham.

Outstanding Undergraduate Research Scholars receive $250 book awards. The purpose of the College of Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Research Scholar Award is twofold: to recognize the scholars for their research achievement and the faculty mentors for their caring commitment.

The College of Sciences selects a scholar each month during the academic year.