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Whitworth Student Wins Life Science Award for Celiac Disease Research

December 4, 2017
Whitworth University chemistry student Nicholas Bratt, ’19, was presented with the John Van Zytveld Award in the Life Sciences at the 2017 Murdock College Science Research Program Conference held in Spokane, Wash., on Nov. 10.

Bratt’s oral presentation, “Investigation of a Dipeptidase from Lactobacillis helveticus for the Enzymatic Detoxification of Gluten,” examined the effectiveness of certain bacterial enzymes in the detoxification of gluten. Bratt’s research was focused on the possible treatment of Celiac Disease.

Bratt was judged on his knowledge and analysis of the material, creativity and clarity. He received a check for $1,500, which will be split between Bratt and Whitworth’s science program to fund future research.

“Whitworth’s chemistry department is very proud of Nicholas for the work and effort he put into his research and oral presentation at the Murdock conference,” says Dr. Deanna Ojennus, associate professor of chemistry. “Research is a valuable learning experience for students, and Nicholas is an excellent example of how undergraduate students can be engaged in research at a professional level.”   
This is the second time since 2015 a Whitworth student has won a presentation award at the conference. Alex Hoffmann, ’16, received an award in 2015 for his collaborative work with Aaron Putzke, associate professor of biology, on zebrafish and cell development.

Also at this year’s conference, Whitworth students Travis Widmer, ’18, and Thomas Dale, ’19, won the Physics and Engineering Poster Prize. Their research topic was “Parallelized Computational Model of Plasma Flows in Ion-Ion Thrusters.” To learn more about the MCSRP:

The John Van Zytveld Award’s namesake is a longtime senior program director at the Murdock Trust and champion for undergraduate research and science education.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Deanna Ojennus, associate professor of chemistry, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4860 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or