By Rachel Webber, WSU News

Growing up, Raquel Murillo wanted to be a chef. But the idea took a bit of a turn in her first community college chemistry class when she discovered a world of other possibilities.

Now a chemical engineering major, Murillo’s refrigerator in the WSU Pullman lab where she works is stocked with ingredients she needs to experiment: tubes of apple cider vinegar, concentrated garlic, and a few Petri dishes of E. Coli.

Murillo, among the growing number of Schweitzer scholars at WSU, is helping the research team learn about complex problems related to the body’s resistance to drugs, particularly antibiotics. One aspect explores how different molecules from food, like garlic, may help combat infection from bacteria that can sometimes cause serious illness.

“If I didn’t have the help of the Schweitzer Scholarship, I don’t know how I would have done it,” she said of her education and upcoming graduation in May.

Murillo and the rest of the WSU community will get a chance this week to thank Edmund O. Schweitzer III for his continuing support of the University’s educational, research and outreach missions.

Ed Schweitzer in profile
Ed Schweitzer

The founder of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories will be on the Pullman campus Tuesday, meeting with students, faculty and staff. He will deliver a keynote address at 2 p.m. in the CUB Senior Ballroom, followed by a dessert and reception. The address, “Fostering free enterprise, inventing the future,” will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

Over the past three decades, Schweitzer, his wife, Beatriz, and the employee-owners of the company he founded have together contributed more than $3.7 million to WSU. That support has spread across nearly every WSU campus and college as well as signature programs such as Extension, Northwest Public Broadcasting, International Programs and Cougar Athletics.

Of that amount, $1.3 million has come directly from Edmund and Beatriz Schweitzer.

It’s the kind of partnership considered critical to helping WSU’s Drive to 25, the push to become one of the Top 25 public research universities in America by the year 2030.

Edmund Schweitzer is recognized as a pioneer in digital protection and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He served on the electrical engineering faculties of Ohio University and WSU, where he received his doctorate.

Although his specialty is inventing, designing and building digital products and systems that protect power grids, Schweitzers’ scholarships and other support for WSU extends across interdisciplinary fields.

Zara Guzman, for example, is a civil engineering student diving into her first hands-on research experience. She’s analyzing water samples from around the Palouse and was inspired to do so after taking a class that opened her eyes to the impact engineering can have on sustaining natural resources.

“I want to do something with water,” Guzman said. “Making sure we have enough and making sure it’s clean.”

Helping solve real-world problems is something that also resonates with mechanical engineering student Beatriz Abad-Martinez. She’s gained experience in engineering through an internship at Hewlett Packard in Boise and education on campus, including a course in welding. For the past year, she’s also had an opportunity to participate in biomedical engineering research projects.

“It was my first hands-on experience with engineering,” said Abad-Martinez, who along with Guzman and Murillo is a Schweitzer scholar. “It was a good way to know how I could apply what I’m learning to my field.”

Murillo is headed to graduate school in the fall to continue her research and studies into the intersection of biology and engineering to help improve human health. She said the Schweitzer scholarship was particularly helpful in the process of applying to graduate schools.

“They do a lot for the community, a lot for the campus, and for students,” Guzman said. “I would recommend other students apply for the scholarship. They are just a very giving family.”