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UW Research Program Names 2016-17 Student Scholars

September 13, 2016
woman working with chemical glassware behind protective glass barrier
Jordan Brophy, a senior from Wray, Colo., conducts research in a UW chemistry laboratory as part of the Wyoming Research Scholars Program. (Rachael Coleman Photo)

Twenty-two new and returning University of Wyoming students have been named to the 2016-17 class of student researchers in the Wyoming Research Scholars Program (WRSP).

The WRSP, a UW Science Initiative-supported program, pairs undergraduate students with faculty mentors who can model the scholarship, teaching, service and outreach activities of a professional scientist. Research Scholars are selected based on research proposals, academic records and letters of recommendation.

“The program provides hands-on, cutting-edge research opportunities that represent the pinnacle of active learning, which is the direction we aim to go at UW in terms of student learning and student success,” says Jamie Crait, WRSP director.

Starting as early as their freshman year, science students can participate in significant research experiences.

Darbi Schlenker, a freshman from Meeteetse, is the first official new member of the 2016-17 class. Last March, the WRSP awarded the first WRSP Special Award at the Wyoming State Science Fair to Schlenker. As part of her award, she was accepted to the WRSP.

Schlenker, a chemistry major, says she chose to attend UW for many reasons, but her acceptance to the WRSP was a strong deciding factor.

“This program offers me opportunities in the lab and in science that no other school could match,” she says. “I was accepted to Brown University, and turning down the Ivy League offer was tough but, ultimately, the research opportunities I received from UW were too beneficial for me to pass up. The chance to get in a lab and start doing research my freshman year is amazing, especially because I have a say in what type of research I will be doing.”

Schlenker says she looks forward to discovering new ideas, working with professionals and exploring different facets of conducting research.

The WRSP funds students’ salaries for their work on research projects, covers the costs of some lab supplies and provides funding for students to present their work at professional conferences. Funding also is available for summer research.

Research Scholars must participate in a one-credit seminar class each year to learn about the scientific process, ethics, public speaking and writing. Additionally, students will gain experience in communicating science to public audiences through outreach activities such as discussing their research with K-12 students.

Crait says faculty and staff involved with the program want to create a sense of community where students from diverse science departments interact and share their research with each other throughout the year.

“The program is an interdisciplinary one, so the students are able to benefit from learning from their peers in other science fields, which is exactly how they will eventually work with colleagues in their future professions,” he says.

Students continue to be eligible for WRSP funding if they maintain a 3.3 GPA and make consistent progress as a full-time student toward a degree.

Jordan Brophy and Delta Burchi, two members of last year’s inaugural class of Research Scholars, will continue their research activities with another year of WRSP funding.

“In my research, I work with Dr. John Hoberg and Dr. Bruce Parkinson to create new and novel materials via synthetic chemistry that are hopefully pertinent in next-generation electronics and energy research, among other exciting applications,” Brophy says.

woman holding equipment in gloved hands in chemistry lab

Kasey Trotter, a junior from Fort Collins, Colo., works in UW Assistant Professor Elliott Hulley’s chemistry laboratory. Trotter is a second-year Wyoming Research Scholar. (Rachael Coleman Photo)

The senior, from Wray, Colo., says the WRSP has provided her with numerous opportunities, including networking with other students, attending a professional conference and speaking to the UW Board of Trustees and state officials about her experiences.

“This program provides an avenue to help students become involved in their education on a deeper level,” Brophy says. “The insights I have received from the staff and faculty involved in WRSP on scientific communication, grad school, networking and other topics have been invaluable.”

Burchi, a sophomore from Laramie, works in Department of Zoology and Physiology Professor Bill Flynn’s laboratory. She is researching the neurotransmitter/hormone vasopressin, which is essential for the regulation of the body’s retention of water.

Burchi says being in the program allows her to apply information and learn new skills.

“My experience with the program has been nothing short of amazing,” she says. “Not only is it a great way to get early exposure to a lab setting, but it also has been a fantastic learning experience.”

For more information about the WRSP, visit the website at

New Research Scholars, listed by hometowns, years in school, majors, titles of projects and UW faculty mentors, are:

Buffalo -- Olivia Glassock, freshman, physiology, research project and mentor to be determined.

Cheyenne -- Logan Fairbourn, junior, microbiology, “Bacterial cellulose: determining fiber properties and surmising application potentials as they relate to the textile industry,” Jennifer Harmon, Rachel Watson and John Willford; and Samantha Haller, senior, physiology, “Activation of CARD9: the role of adipocyte lipolysis,” Guanglong He.

Dillon, Mont. -- Ashleigh Rhea, senior, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, “Testing for correlations between immune function and carotenoid levels,” Matthew Carling.

Douglas -- Heather Townsend, junior, biology, research project and mentor to be determined.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Lukas Lindquist, junior, geology, “Sagebrush, climate change and groundwater recharge in Wyoming,” Kyle Palmquist.

Greybull -- Logan Jensen, junior, astronomy and astrophysics, “Citizen CATE Experiment,” mentor to be determined.

Laramie -- Ella DeWolf, sophomore, molecular biology, research project to be determined, Cynthia Weinig; and Kianna Olson, freshman, physics and astronomy, research project to be determined, Michael Brotherton.

Littleton, Colo. -- Ryan Parziale, sophomore, astronomy and astrophysics, “Classifying star clusters in nearby galaxies,” Daniel Dale.

Liverpool, N.Y. -- Logan Eicholzer, freshman, environmental systems science, and environment and natural resources, research project to be determined, Ramesh Sivanpillai.

Meeteetse -- Darbi Schlenker, freshman, chemistry, research project and mentor to be determined.

Westminster, Mass. -- Sarah Brannon, junior, wildlife and fisheries biology and management, “The causes of variation in tropical bird parental care,” Corey Tarwater.

Worland -- Narisse Trippel, freshman, mechanical engineering, research project and mentor to be determined.

Returning Research Scholars, listed by hometowns, years in school, majors, titles of projects and UW faculty mentors, are:

Buffalo -- Rex Yeigh, senior, physics and astronomy, “Transit photometry of exoplanets using a robotized telescope,” Hannah Jang-Condell.

Cheyenne -- Isabella Buongiorno, senior, agroecology, and environment and natural resources, “The local food system map of Wyoming,” Christine Porter; and Ken Madsen, senior, chemistry, “Synthesis and properties of carbide buckypaper,” Brian Leonard.

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

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Kasey Trotter, junior, chemistry, “Synthesis and characterization of Ruthenium (II) complexes for perchlorate remediation,” Elliott Hulley.

Laramie -- Delta Burchi, sophomore, zoology and physiology, “Effects of salt on the neurotransmitter vasopressin in rats,” Bill Flynn.

Rock Springs -- Aaron Strom, senior, chemistry, “Acetylene reactions in solid molecular hydrogen and helium recovery,” David Anderson.

Wray, Colo. -- Jordan Brophy, senior, chemistry, “Synthesis of nitrogen containing graphitic-like materials,” John Hoberg.

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