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UW Students Gain Research Experience as Undergraduates

April 19, 2013

University of Wyoming students Wil Chapple and James Mouton are experiencing something that many other undergraduates do not experience early in their college careers -- the chance to conduct meaningful research before they graduate.

And both the science/health and environment fields benefit from their research.

Their research, and that conducted by other UW students, will be on display at the 14th annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day April 27, with both oral and poster presentations.

Oral presentations take place from noon-4 p.m. in the Classroom Building, and the poster session will be from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Family Room. Each presentation is 15 minutes in length with a five-minute, question-and-answer session scheduled. All presentations are free and open to the public.

UW and Wyoming’s community colleges provide many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in independent research projects across many disciplines. Undergraduate Research Day recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of undergraduate student researchers. The event showcases undergraduate students' research in a wide variety of subject areas, including agriculture, business, education, engineering, health sciences, biological and physical sciences, mathematical sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

This year, UW students, along with representatives from most Wyoming community colleges, will give 362 presentations -- 298 oral presenters and 133 poster presentations, with some conducting both.

“The students that present at Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day are a great example of making the most of a higher education. They didn’t just sit in a classroom and memorized facts long enough to pass an exam; they all engaged in active research,” says Rick Matlock, UW project coordinator of Wyoming EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) and coordinator of the research day. “The students took the hands-on approach to perfecting their chosen craft. Research day is great because it showcases all of this hard work that has been going on behind lab doors and out in the field all year, and now it’s available in one place for all to enjoy.”

He says undergraduates can conduct meaningful research while at UW, something that many of their counterparts across the nation cannot achieve. He says that’s why the Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day is valuable to UW and Wyoming community college students.

“For the students, it’s a great opportunity to gain presentation skills that will be valuable beyond their undergraduate careers. For those continuing on with a career in research, it’s a preview of what’s to come because presenting at professional conferences comes with the territory,” he adds. “Typically, one would expect to get that experience beginning in graduate school. Presenting at an esteemed event such as UW’s Undergraduate Research Day is a great accomplishment.”

Chapple and Moulton are among UW students who have been active in research work for most of their UW careers.

Chapple, a senior from Littleton, Colo., is pursuing degrees in rangeland ecology and watershed management, and environment and natural resources, while also completing a minor in history. His research focuses on the Snowy Range ecosystem and hydrologic functions. He conducts the research with Dave Williams, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management professor, to determine the plant-water relationship of the nearby Libby Creek watershed.

Their research is in conjunction with the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics, located at UW. Chapple also is co-founder and president of the Environment and Natural Resource student club, and has worked as a supplemental instructor for the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Tom Moulton, a senior dual major in molecular biology and chemistry from Glenrock, bottom, will present his work in the study of protein structure and function at the annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day. (UW Photo)Moulton, a senior dual major in molecular biology and chemistry from Glenrock, has been involved in INBRE (Wyoming IDeA Networks for Biomedical Excellence) research for four years.

He currently works in a structural biology research group, led by Krisztina Varga, UW Department of Chemistry assistant professor. They use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and other biophysical methods to study protein structure and function.

Moulton is a member of the American Chemical Society, and has been recognized as a "Superior Student" in the UW Department of Chemistry.

The UW Libraries will provide a repository for electronic copies of the student presentations. Electronic copies will be made available through the UW Libraries Digital Initiative at

Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day is sponsored by the UW offices of Research and Economic Development, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agriculture, College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Health Sciences, Wyoming INBRE, UW Honors Program, the McNair Scholars Program, Wyoming EPSCoR and Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium.

For more information, contact Matlock at (307) 766-3545 or email

Wil Chapple (top), a senior from Littleton, Colo., works in a University of Wyoming lab, as he prepares to present is work at the annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day Saturday, April 27. (UW Photo)

Tom Moulton (bottom), a senior with a dual major in molecular biology and chemistry from Glenrock, will present his work in the study of protein structure and function at the annual Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day. (UW Photo)

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