Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Biology department have done over the years.

Abstract: Corticosterone, a stress-triggered steroid hormone, has been shown to rapidly suppress courtship behavior – amplexus - in male Taricha granulosa. Although general depression of activity in medullary reticulospinal neurons due to nongenomic action of corticosterone has been linked to the suppression of amplexus, the ion current and synaptic processing modulations that underlie this suppression are unknown. Examining hormonal-electrical modulation at the cellular level allows insight into the mechanism by which corticosterone coordinately alters diverse neurons to set the ‘state’ of the circuit computation underlying amplexus, selectively filtering it while allowing

Jonathan Saunders (2015)

Abstract: Disease is an overlooked force of change in historical events, but can be significant in understanding modern landscapes. This is a retrospective study analyzing the influence of pandemics from 1820 to 1920 in the Willamette Valley with special attention to the place that is currently occupied by Willamette University. During the 18th and 19th centuries the historic populations of Native Willamette Valley people were devastated by multiple local pandemics introduced with the arrival of European explorers and colonists. These deadly European-born diseases reduced populations from many thousands to only hundreds. The vacancies of productive land in the Willamette Valley facilitated the recolonization of the area by primarily white European immigrants. The primarily white colonists and their descendants were free of major pandemics in the Willamette Valley until the H1N1 influenza virus swept the world in 1918 on the heels of WWI. This pandemic resulted in greater worldwide population devastation than the losses of WWI and WWII combined. As Willamette University donors, faculty and students perished, disease once more shaped the population landscape of this valley and the culture of its inhabitants.

Elizabeth Larson (2019)

Abstract: Ruthenium-based chemotherapeutic drug RAPTA-C has been shown to inhibit tumor growth even at moderate doses and displays strong anti-metastatic activities. Recent studies have also shown that its newly developed analogue, RACAP, exhibits even higher selectivity for cancer cells with greater cytotoxicity. However, the mechanisms behind these characteristics are not well understood. This study utilizes UV-Vis spectrometry and kinetics analysis techniques to assess each drug’s reactivity with transferrin, a protein possibly responsible for these drugs’ selectivity for cancerous cells. Experiments were completed in a variety of conditions that mimicked the chemical environment of healthy human cells and cancer cells.

Beth Corpuz (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Biology department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Unraveling the Mechanisms of Autoimmune Disorders: Examining the role of early infection and microbiome disruption in the immune development, function and autoimmune pathology - Arianna Cannady (Thesis)
  • The MARCKS Gene as a Targeted Treatment of Acute Meyoloid Leukemia - Gabrielle Dewson (Thesis)
  • Analysis of Dopamine Transporter 1 Alleles in Determining Risk-Reward Evaluations Among Individuals From the Add Health Study - Laura Polkinghorn (Thesis)
  • Investigation of interplay between Serotonin Transporter alleles and emotional wellbeing in subjects from the Add Health Survey - Morgan Webster (Thesis)
  • Variation in nutrient transport affects survival phenotypes in Caulobacter crescentus - Karen Espinosa (Thesis)
  • Newly identified genes play a role in oxidative stress defense in Caulobacter crescentus - Michelle Nagata (Thesis)
  • Analysis of taxonomy and function of Tonga Trench microbes using metagenomic analysis - Joshua Sakai (Thesis)
  • A metagenomic approach to the analysis of microbial communities present in vertical transect water samples from the Tonga Trench - Katie Luis (Thesis)
  • Pandemics as a Historical Force in the Landscape of Willamette University - Elizabeth Larson (Independent Research)
  • Landscape and Identity: Reading Willamette University’s Campus - Megan Canniff (Independent Research)
  • A LARC of Walk through Campus Cultural & Natural History - Megan Canniff & Elizabeth Larson (LARC Grant)
  • Assessing the importance of urban Oregon white oak stands as habitat for slender-billed white-breasted nuthatches - Hazel Carr (Thesis)
  • Native Bee Floral Resource Use and Competition with Exotic Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) in Urban and Rural Salem, Oregon - Annie Jolliff (Thesis)
  • Comparing Bee Communities in Urban Salem, Semi-rural Parks, and Rural Restoration Sites - Samantha Coleman (Thesis)
  • Evaluating field identification methods of Tegeticula moths using DNA barcoding - Carli Fawcett (Thesis)
  • Measuring genomic divergence between Tegeticula synthetica and Tegeticula antithetica by RAD Sequencing - Kyly Hiatt (Thesis)
  • NRPS Population in Fiji Sponges and Sediments - Samantha Dueñas (Thesis)
  • Reactivity of Anti-Cancer Ruthenium-Based Drugs RAPTA-C and RACAP with Transferrin Protein - Beth Corpuz (Presidential Scholarship)
  • How can we begin to decolonize biology? - Ash Alunan (Thesis)
  • Certifying Willamette Campus as a Wildlife Habitat - Rachelle Williams (Thesis)
  • Comprehensive Animal Policy Review at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions: A Case Study of Willamette University with Recommendations to the Campus - Joe Carriere (Thesis)


  • NextGen Screening for Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetases Encoding Synthetic Pathways Generating Potentially Novel or Valuable Natural Products - Peter Moma (Thesis)
  • Deep Sea Microbial Diversity below the Tonga Trench Sea Floor - Marcia Smith (Thesis)
  • The Effects of Direct Exposure to Dicamba on the Xenopus Laevis Oocyte Apoptosis Pathway - Emma Sharpe (Thesis)
  • An Analysis of the Neurocognitive and Physiological Effects of Atrazine on Brown Collar Agricultural Workers - Stephanie Ramirez-Hernandez (Thesis)
  • A Potential Requirement for Slingshot in the Localization of E-Cadherin to Drosophila Ring Canals - Carrie Moore (Thesis)
  • Soil Nutrient Levels and How They Impact Native and Invasive Plants - Brandon Kennedy (Thesis)
  • Hemochromatosis-Related Transferrin Receptor 2: Protein Interactions with the Cytoplasmic Domain - Kevin Martz (Thesis)
  • Functional Assessment of Oocyte Cortex During Oogenesis of Drosophila Slingshot Mutant - Nalani Gurnee (Thesis)
  • Dicamba and fertilization: an investigation of the vitelline envelope - William Gamroth (Thesis)
  • Characterization of the Chloride Channel Accessory 1 Protein in the Cervix of Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) for Potential Use in Non-Steroidal Contraceptive Development - Jessenia Chavez (Thesis)
  • The Activity of Slingshot Phosphatase is Essential to Anchor the Oocyte Nucleus During Development in Drosophila melanogaster - Collin Barnum (Thesis)
  • Going the distance: dispersal during Joshua tree pollination by Tegeticula moths - Kendra Autumn (Thesis)
  • Ninebark Experiences Altered Phenological Event Timing - Collin Barnum (Poster)
  • Oregon Fawn Lily Phenology - Annie Jolliff (Poster)
  • Spring Phenology of Indian Plum - Emily Bloechle (Poster)
  • Impact of Climate Change on Red-flowering Currant Phenology - Benjamin Johnston (Poster)
  • Past, Present, and Future Flowering Phenology of camas - Hazel Carr (Poster)
  • Effects of Soil Nutrients on Transplanted Native Plants at Zena - Brandon Kennedy (Poster)
  • Miner's Lettuce Phenology - Joseph Carriere (Poster)
  • Phenology Changes of Kinnikinnick Due to Climate Change - Yoojin Kim (Poster)
  • Changes in Flowering Time of False Solomon's Seal - Samantha Coleman (Poster)
  • Indian Plum and False Solomon's Seal Phenological Timing in Salem, OR - Veronique Krebs (Poster)
  • Phenology of Oregon White Oak - Rachel Dell (Poster)
  • Changing Phenology of Fawn Lily in Salem, Oregon - Carli Fawcett (Poster)
  • Bush Park Cottonwood Phenology has Changed with Temperature - Peter Fredenburg (Poster)
  • Shifts in Native Vine Maple Phenology - Nalani Gurnee (Poster)
  • Evergreen Huckleberry Phenology - Kiley Lin (Poster)
  • Changes in Phenology of Rose Spiraea due to Climate Change - Klaudia Maciag (Poster)
  • Oregon Grape: the Effect of Temperature on Phenology - Kevin Martz (Poster)
  • Response of Trillium to Climate Variables - Carrie Moore (Poster)
  • Shift in Phenology for Red Osier Dogwood in Response to Climate Change - Kelly Toledo (Poster)
  • Flowering Cherry Phenological Responses to a Changing Climate - Michelle Nagata (Poster)
  • The Effects of Temperature on Phenology in Common Lilac - Kali Vickery (Poster)
  • Impact of Climate on the Phenology of Pacific Bleeding Heart - Ty O’Donnell (Poster)
  • Supplementation of artificial granaries in urban and non-urban settings to promote the conservation of Melanepes formicivorus - Hanna Swanson (Poster)
  • Changes in Phenology of Salmonberry in Response to Climate Change - Maira Pelayo Brambila (Poster)
  • Diabetic Neuropathy on Knee Joint Position Sense - Elisabeth Simonovich (Poster)
  • Seasonal Phenology of Indian Plum in the Context of Climate Change - Ira Emmanuel Rubio (Poster)
  • Elderberry Advancing Start Flower Date Due to Climate Change - Cassandra Tallman (Poster)


  • Measuring the Indirect Photolysis Rate of Brominated Estrogens - Maya Bowton (Independent Research)
  • An Overview of Microbial Fuel Cells - Diego Aubert-Vasquez, Lana Foster, Mark Power, Morgan Penning (Poster)
  • Out on a Limb: TonB Dependent Transporters in Caulobacter crescentus. - Xengie Doan (Thesis)
  • The Mystery of Mucoidy: The Caulobacter crescentus EPS layer provides bacteriophage resistance. - Kathryn Herr (Thesis)
  • A Bioassay for Hormonal Contaminants in the Water: Oocyte Maturation in the Frog Xenopus Laevis - Stephanie Matsura (Thesis)
  • The Effects of Diethylhexyl Phthalate on Xenopus laevis Oocyte Maturation - Whitney Sia (Thesis)
  • Cervix and Society: Exploring Hormonal Regulation of Cervical Regulation of Cervical Mucoproteins and Their Role in Contraceptive Efficacy - Ninon Becquart (Presidential Scholarship)
  • Pollination and Oviposition Behaviors in Yucca Moth Pollinator of Joshua Tree - William Cole (Thesis)
  • Variations in Style Length and its effect on Seed Survival in Joshua trees (Yucca spp) - Brandon Kobayashi (Thesis)
  • Reproductive Success and Visitation Patterns of Yucca Moths in a Joshua Tree Hybrid Zone - Jackson Waite-Himmelwright (Thesis)
  • Sequencing and Analysis of the Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia s.l.) Chloroplast Genome - Austin Guimond (Thesis)
  • From Currents to Clasping: Characterizing the Neurons of Taricha Granulosa - Ian Galligar (Thesis)
  • Determining the Genetic Differentiation Between Populations of Great Bustards (Otis tarda) in Europe and Asia - Malia Santos (Thesis)
  • Genetic Structure of Camassia Species in the Snake River Watershed of Northeastern Oregon and Adjacent Western Idaho - Sebastian Mortimer (Thesis)


  • Corticosterone induced electrophysiological modulation in the medullary reticular formation of Taricha granulosa. - Jonathan Saunders (Independent Research)
  • Unraveling the Roles of the Motor Protein Myosin Observing Force Dependence of Acanthamoeba myosin 1c with in vitro assays - Forrest Betton (Independent Research)
  • Measuring Myosin VI Force in RPE Phagocytosis - Max Vellequette (Independent Research)
  • Using RNA Interference to Observe the Role of Myosin VI in the Trafficking of Vesicles in RPE Cells - Elisa Ahern (Independent Research)
  • Diversity of the Gut Microbiota of Culex Mosquitoes - Brittany Smith (Independent Research)
  • Exploring Gut Microbial Communities of Culex in Salem, Oregon - Hayley Glantz (Independent Research)
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