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UW’s Wyoming Research Scholars Program Welcomes Largest Group to Date

October 20, 2017
Woman in lab using syringe and beakers
Emily Armitage, WRSP student from Cheyenne, works in Associate Professor Naomi Ward’s molecular biology lab. (Jamie Crait Photo)

A University of Wyoming program that began with four students in the fall of 2015 has now grown to 36 undergraduates who are engaged in cutting-edge research with faculty mentors.

The Wyoming Research Scholars Program (WRSP), part of UW’s Science Initiative, pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors to participate in research for multiple years. In addition to the all-important mentorship aspect, the program includes a student salary for each student’s research time, funding for research support and supplies, and money for travel to meetings and conferences.

The WRSP aims to help attract top high school students, retain those students in the sciences, and teach science writing and presentation skills.

WRSP Director Jamie Crait says the program has become increasingly interdisciplinary, with students from engineering, math and education, in addition to those from science fields.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to pair with a faculty mentor,” says sophomore Narisse Trippel, a mechanical engineering student from Worland who is beginning her second year in the program, working with Assistant Professor Erica Belmont in the Belmont Energy Research Group. “I also am really excited about my research in renewable and clean energies.”

Trippel’s projects have included investigating resource availability and economic feasibility of solar and wind energy on oil and gas fields in Wyoming, and looking at the grass Arundo donax for use as a bio-char fuel. She also plans to study agricultural waste for bio-oil and biofuel uses.

Like many students in the program, Trippel hopes to go on to graduate school.

“The program helps the students to be more competitive for positions after graduation because they’ve already been collecting and analyzing data, writing reports and presenting their results at conferences,” Crait says. “These are real research experiences that many people don’t have access to until graduate school or until they enter the workforce.”

WRSP graduates have already gone on to highly competitive graduate programs at institutions including Columbia University, Cornell University and Stanford University, while others have great research positions with companies including Bayer.

Students also conduct outreach during their time as scholars.

“Our students are great ambassadors for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields in Wyoming,” Crait says. Activities include giving presentations at their former high schools, leading lab tours for schoolchildren, helping with the Wyoming State Science Fair and leading workshops at the Women in STEM conference at UW.

Tyler Myers, a sophomore chemistry major from Sheridan who works with Department of Chemistry Professor David Anderson, is among 20 new WRSP awardees for fall 2017. Myers is excited for both the research and the opportunity to work closely with his professor-mentor.

“I’ll be synthesizing titanium ethylene complexes at liquid helium temperatures,” he says. “Basically, the whole purpose is to see how they attract and absorb hydrogen, and try to make a clean hydrogen fuel source.”

One of his goals is to publish a paper with Anderson. Myers encourages students to apply.

“It’s such a great program,” he says. “Once you’re in, the opportunities are so vast and great.”

For more information about the WRSP, visit the website at www.uwyo.edu/wrsp.

Listed are current WRSP students and their hometowns, along with their research topics and faculty mentors:

Buffalo -- Olivia Glassock, physiology, “Physiological effects of obesity in mice,” School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Guanglong He.

Buford -- Amanda Christensen, chemical engineering, project and mentor undetermined.

Casper -- Tatiana Rice, physiology, “Visual neurological development in Xenopus tadpoles,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Associate Professor Kara Pratt.

Centennial -- Jacob Williams, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, “Discrete tomography techniques on novel grid systems and with multisets,” Department of Mathematics and Statistics Professor Bryan Shader.

Cheyenne -- Emily Armitage, biology, “Exploring sterol function in the bacterium Gemmata obscuriglobus,” Department of Molecular Biology Associate Professor Naomi Ward; Thyme Cooke, zoology, “Links between hybridization and natural gas development for a mammalian species of conservation concern,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Associate Professor Jake Goheen; Logan Fairbourn, microbiology, “Bacterial cellulose: determining fiber properties and surmising application potentials as they relate to the textile industry,” Department of Molecular Biology lecturers Rachel Watson and John Willford, and Department of Family and Consumer Sciences Assistant Professor Jennifer Harmon; and Andrew Flaim, geology, “Controls on abrupt forest changes in the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming,” Department of Geology and Geophysics Professor Bryan Shuman.

Cody -- Brittany Nordberg, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, “The evolutionary history of Lake Tanganyika’s Nile perch species,” Department of Botany Assistant Professor Catherine Wagner.

Dillon, Mont. -- Ashleigh Rhea, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, rangeland ecology and watershed management, “Testing for correlations between immune function and carotenoid levels,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Associate Professor Matthew Carling.

Douglas -- Heather Townsend, biology, “Role of TRP proteins in metabolism, exercise and energy expenditure,” School of Pharmacy Associate Professor Baskaran Thyagarajan; and Joshua Walmsley, chemistry, “Using measurements at individual nanoparticles to screen catalysts for water-splitting reactions,” Department of Chemistry Assistant Professor Caleb Hill.

East Wenatchee, Wash. -- Zachary Parsons, zoology, “Energetic costs of flying at altitudinal extremes,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Associate Professor Michael Dillon.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Lukas Lindquist, geology, environment and natural resources, “Sagebrush, climate change and groundwater recharge in Wyoming,” Department of Botany postdoctoral research associate Kyle Palmquist; and Kasey Trotter, chemistry, “Purification and kinetic analysis of Escherichia Coli isocitrate dehydrogenase,” Department of Molecular Biology Professor Peter Thorsness.

Greybull -- Logan Jensen, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, “Citizen CATE experiment,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Michael Pierce; and Anna Savage, environment systems science, “Monitoring vegetation phenology using MODIS time-series data,” Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center research scientist Ramesh Sivanpillai.

Harrisburg, Neb. -- Rebecca Brenner, physiology, “TRPV1 activation enhances thermogenesis by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis in brown adipose tissue,” School of Pharmacy Associate Professor Baskaran Thyagarajan.

Huntsville, Ala. -- Aylin McGough, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, “Exoplanet photometry at Red Buttes Observatory,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky.

Laramie -- Delta Burchi, physiology, name of project undetermined, School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Travis Brown; Ella DeWolf, molecular biology, microbiology, “Interactions of soil microbiome and glucosinolate production in Brassica rapa,” Department of Botany Professor Cynthia Weinig; Isabel Noyes, biology, project and mentor undetermined; Kianna Olson, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, “VLA data reduction,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Michael Brotherton; and Elizabeth Wirsching, rangeland ecology and watershed management, “Quantitative rating system for drone imagery,” Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center research scientist Ramesh Sivanpillai and Department of Botany Professor Greg Brown.

Littleton, Colo. -- Ryan Parziale, astronomy and astrophysics, “Star clusters in nearby galaxies,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Daniel Dale.

Liverpool, N.Y. -- Logan Eicholzer, environmental systems science, environment and natural resources, project and mentor undetermined.

Meeteetse -- Colton Curtis, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, project and mentor undetermined.

Newcastle -- Madison Crawford, botany, “Investigating potential effects of wind turbine color on attracting pollinating insects,” Wyoming Natural Diversity Database research scientist Lusha Tronstad.

North Fork, Calif. -- Veronica Spaulding, chemistry, “Nitrogenated crystalline organic frameworks,” Department of Chemistry Associate Professor John Hoberg.

Palmas, Brazil -- Luiza Bosch, physiology, “CARD9 KO protects the heart from ischemia reperfusion injury,” School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Guanglong He.

Plainview, Minn. -- Danielle Schurhammer, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, “Changing-look quasars,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Adam Myers.

Powell -- Sarah Wurzel, biology, Spanish, “The effect of spraying mosquitoes on macroinvertebrates in Spring Creek, Laramie, Wyo.,” Wyoming Natural Diversity Database research scientist Lusha Tronstad.

Sheridan -- Tyler Myers, chemistry, “Synthesis and characterization of hydrogen storage materials,” Department of Chemistry Professor David Anderson.

Sundance -- Olivia Croft, secondary education/biological science, biology, “The effect of climate change on snail-parasite relationships,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Associate Professor Amy Krist.

Westminster, Mass. -- Sarah Brannon, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, environment and natural resources, “The causes of variation in tropical bird parental care,” Department of Zoology and Physiology Assistant Professor Corey Tarwater.

Worland -- Narisse Trippel, mechanical engineering, “Survey and experimental assessment of agricultural crops and waste for biofuel production,” Department of Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Erica Belmont.


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