SURCA gives 49 undergraduates research awards

Group photo of SURCA 2023 undergraduate research award recipients.
SURCA 2023 undergraduate research award recipients.

Of the nearly 200 Washington State University students presenting at the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) 2023 event on March 27, 49 received a total of 43 awards totaling $9,200.

SURCA is the only WSU-wide venue for undergraduates from all majors, years in college, and all campus locations to share their mentored research, scholarship, and creative activities, and have judges evaluate their work based on their poster and oral presentation. At this year’s event, more than 130 faculty, post-doc, and community experts reviewed 159 posters and heard presentations from 190 students from WSU Pullman, Vancouver, Spokane, and Global Campus.

Numbers, energy up over 2022

“Student participation topped our expectations, with the number of presenters up more than 36% over last year, which was our first in-person SURCA since the COVID-19 pandemic struck,” said Jeremy Lessmann, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, event host and part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement in the provost’s office. “We were very pleased to give 30% more awards — and more than an additional $1,000 — to deserving researchers this year, as well.”

Sponsors of SURCA 2023 were Alturas Analytics, Robert H. (’77 Engineering and Honors) and Mary L. Rieck, and the WSU Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

“You could definitely feel excitement in the air, and presenters seemed to be having fun,” said Mary Sánchez Lanier, assistant vice provost. “They may have been shy when they entered the CUB senior ballroom, but as soon as they began talking to their judges, you could see they were thrilled to share information about their projects. It may have been our best SURCA yet since it began in 2012.”

2023 awardees

There are nine categories that presenters can choose for their SURCA presentation. There are four possible levels of awards that can be given in each category. Awards range from the top crimson award (there were 15 this year) to the second-highest gray award (19), and from novice (5) for those engaged in a project for two semesters or less to early career (4) for first-year and sophomore students. In addition to SURCA awards, additional awards may go to top presenters from the WSU LSAMP program, the Global Campus, or the WSU Emerit Society.

The awards were presented at a post-showcase ceremony led by WSU Provost and Executive Vice President and WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton, interim Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement William B. Davis, Sánchez Lanier, and Lessmann.

Abstracts and additional information about each SURCA presenter is available online. By SURCA category in alphabetical order, the top presenters’ names, majors, mentors, campus (noted only if not WSU Pullman), and project titles are:

Applied Sciences


  • Addison Thompson
    Mentor: Ryan McLaughlin

    “Effects of Cannabis Use During Pregnancy on the Postpartum Phenotype in Rodent Models”


  • Andrew Bartelheimer
    Animal Sciences
    Mentor: Marcos Marcondes

    “Effectiveness of Triticale Silage as a Replacement for Corn Silage in a High Producing Dairy Cattle Ration”
  • Nhan Nguyen
    Mentor: Stephen Ficklin

    “Quantifying Superficial Scald in Granny Smith Apple Using a Deep Convolutional Neural Network and Computer Vision Techniques”


  • Valerie Achziger
    Major: Animal Sciences
    Mentor: Marcos Marcondes

    “Does Improving Reproduction Impact Methane and Phosphorus Excretion in Washington and Florida Dairies?”

Arts and Design


  • Zoey Thompson
    Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles
    Mentor: Armine Ghalachyan

    Sophie Woodman
    Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles
    Mentor: Armine Ghalachyan

    “Scrunch and Snap: Adaptable Backpack”


  • Rowena Gonzalez
    Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles
    Mentor: Armine Ghalachyan

    “Bacterial Cellulose as a Sustainable Biotextile: Developing Sustainable Leather”
  • Ana Borgheriu
    Interior Design
    Mentors: Robert Krikac and Michael Sanchez

    Harleen Kennedy
    Architectural Studies, Construction Management
    Mentors: Robert Krikac and Michael Sanchez

    Isabella Loera
    Interior Design
    Mentors: Robert Krikac and Michael Sanchez

    Lakshita Malhotra
    Landscape Architecture
    Mentors: Robert Krikac and Michael Sanchez

    “Fernwood Tri-Community Library”

Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, and Information Sciences


  • Shira Feinberg
    Computer Science
    Mentor: Venera Arnaoudova, Davjeet Roy, and Ziyi Zhang

    “Identifying Debugging Strategies”


  • Aiden Walker
    Computer Science
    Mentors: Diane Cook, Raven Weaver, and Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe

    “Predicting Stress Levels with Smart Watches and Machine Learning”
  • Eric Simpson
    Mathematics, Philosophy
    Mentor: Daryl DeFord

    “Dynamics of Voting Networks: Implications for Fairness, Representation, and Accountability”


  • Kallie Distler
    Mentor: Daryl Deford

    “Null Models for Social Network Analysis of Elementary School Students”

Engineering and Physical Sciences


  • John Bussey
    Materials Science and Engineering
    Mentor: John McCloy

    “Investigation of Glass-Ceramics Formed from Ga2O3 – B2O3 Melts”
  • Zakora Moore
    Mentor: Bernard Van Wie

    “Optimizing Growth of Cancer-Fighting T Cells by Modeling Dissolved Oxygen Levels in a Perfusion Bioreactor”


  • Domenica Gachet
    Civil Engineering
    Mentor: Vikram Yadama and Muhammad Khusairy Bin Bakri

    “Biochar as an Admixture for Partially Replacing Cellulose Ether in Cementitious Grout”
  • Clara Ehinger
    Chemical Engineering
    Mentor: Su Ha

    “Electrochemical Synthesis of Highly Dispersed Palladium Catalysts on Sulfur Doped Graphene”
  • Laina Wyrick
    Physics and Astronomy
    Mentor: Philip Marston

    “Feedback Control of the Vibrations of a Wire Using Optical Sensing and Maxwell Stresses”
  • Jacob Roibal
    Architectural Studies
    Mentors: Shelby Ruiz and Julia Day

    “Somethings Got to Give: Integrating Methodological Changes in the Face of Limitations Following a Smart Power Strip Study Implementation at WSU”


  • Nicolas Rijhwani
    Chemical Engineering
    Mentor: Anthony Savoy

    “Effect of Ceria Nanoparticle Shape on Isobutene Formation Through Acetone Carbon-Carbon Coupling”

Early Career

  • Juan Pena
    Physics and Astronomy
    Mentor: Vivienne Baldassare

    “Large Mass Black Holes in Low Mass Galaxies”



  • Alicia Callahan
    Mentor: Raymond Sun

    “Soldiers of the Sixth Armored Division”


  • Samuel Neunzig
    Anthropology, Human Biology
    Mentor: Rachel Horowitz

    “Understanding the Efficiency of Projectile Technology: Comparing the Atlatl and the Bow”

Molecular, Cellular, and Chemical Biology


  • Hannah Peha
    Agricultural Biotechnology
    Mentor: Robert Brueggeman

    “Identifying a Gene Responsible for Infection Within an Important Pathogen of Barley”
  • Stephen Fawcett
    Microbiology, Spanish
    Mentor: Alan Goodman

    “Innate Immune Suppression by West Nile Virus NY-99 in Drosophila melanogaster
  • Hannah Johnson
    Genetics and Cell Biology
    Mentors: Azeez Abdul and Phil Bates

    “Functional Genomics Approach to Increasing Plant Oil Biosynthesis”
  • Sylvia Xaivong
    Mentors: Anjali Sharma and Anunay Pulukuri

    “Dendrimer Drug Delivery to Reverse Multidrug Resistance Phenomenon in Prostate Cancer Cells”


  • Kalli Stephens
    Genetics and Cell Biology
    Mentor: Wipawee Winuthayanon

    “Proteomic Analysis of Extracellular Vesicle Content in the Mouse Oviduct During Early Pregnancy”
  • Brook Mac
    Animal Sciences
    Mentor: Nancy Irlbeck

    “Determining the Locus for the Moorit Phenotype in Wensleydale Sheep”
  • Alina Filkowski
    Mentor: Michael Varnum

    “Mechanisms Underlying Melatonin-dependent Protection of Photoreceptor Neurons in FASD Model”
  • Ty Gray
    Mentor: David Rossi
  • Samantha Shippell Stiles
    Mentor: David Rossi

    “Exploring the Role of Cannabidiol in Decreasing Voluntary Alcohol Consumption During Chronic Alcohol Withdrawal” 


  • Peter Martinak
    Mentors: Alan Goodman and Manish Chauhan

    “Toll 9 Mediation of the Immune Response to Drosophila C Virus in Drosophila melanogaster
  • Taylor Moore
    Mentor: Bertrand Tanner

    “Regional Variations of Regulatory Light Chain Phosphorylation in Male and Female Rats”

Early Career

  • Brayan Osegueda
    Mentor: Alla Kostyukova

    “Leimodin-Tropomyosin Binding and How Point Mutations Affect Affinity”
  • Madison Arreola
    Mentors: Jenna Douglas and James MacLean

    “The Role of INSR and IGF1R in the Mouse Ovary”

Organismal, Population, Ecological, and Evolutionary Biology


  • Calis Emery
    Mentor: Erica Crespi

    “Warmer Temperatures Prolong Survival in Cold Adapted Amphibians After Viral Infection”
  • Grace Fields
    Animal Sciences
    Mentor: Marcos Marcondes

    “Intake, Performance, and Health of Calves Influenced by Different Physical Forms of Starter Feed”


  • Grace McLaughlin
    Genetics and Cell Biology
    Mentor: Ellie Armstrong

    “Investigating Patterns of Sex-biased Dispersal and Gene Flow in Lower 48 Brown Bears Using Mitogenomic Data”
  • Pooja Reddy
    Mentors: Jennifer Madigan and Erica Crespi

    “Third Trimester Maternal Hair Cortisol Concentration as a Possible Measure of Birth and Health Outcomes”

Social Sciences


  • Matteya Proctor
    Neuroscience, Psychology
    Mentor: Courtney Kurinec

    “Coping Behaviors Moderate the Subjective Experience of Total Sleep Deprivation”
  • Ashley Robillard (WSU Vancouver)
    Mentor: David Makin

    Karen Veloz
    Criminal Justice and Criminology
    Mentor: David Makin

    “Forensic Practice and Knowledge Among Washington Police Departments”


  • Giselle Jimenez
    Criminal Justice and Criminology, Psychology, Spanish
    Mentor: Jennifer Duckworth

    “A Thematic Analyses of Latinx Parents’ Experiences of Sending Their Students Off to College”

Research Proposal


  • Katy Ayers
    Biochemistry, Bioengineering
    Mentors: Nick Naeger and Jennifer Han

    “Mushroom mechanics: An Analysis of Fungal Biomaterials for Wild Bee Conservation”


  • Akira Park
    Mentor: Ashley Boyd

    “Am I Qualified?: Studying the Inclusion of Asian American Literature in English Classrooms”

Early Career

  • Ethan Villalovoz
    Computer Science
    Mentor: Diane Cook

    “Innovation On Your Wrist: Developing Ambient Smartwatches for Automated Cognitive Health”

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