Close Menu

Two Whitworth Students Win Awards at Murdock College Science Research Conference

November 19, 2020

Whitworth University is pleased to announce two Whitworth students received honors at the 2020 Murdock College Science Research Conference, which was held online Nov. 6-7.

Biology major Ryan Bax ’21 won the John Van Zytveld Life Sciences Award for his oral presentation, and chemistry major Drew Craddock ’21 won the Murdock Poster Prize for Organic Chemistry. 

Bax’s presentation focused on his work with Professor of Biology Aaron Putzke and the research he does in the lab trying to determine the function and role of a gene (FRK-1) found in roundworm nematodes.

“Winning this award means a lot to me, as it shows that all of my hard work the last few years doing research with Dr. Putzke has been fruitful and is valued by people outside of our lab,” Bax says. “Working with Dr. Putzke has been not only a lot of fun, but also an incredible learning experience for me as I have really learned what it means to do research from Dr. Putzke. He has also trusted me to perform a lot of experiments on my own, which has challenged me and forced me to grow in my research abilities, while always being there for support if I get stuck.”

“From being a Barry Goldwater Scholar to this most recent oral presentation award from the Murdock undergraduate research conference, Ryan has continually pushed himself to be better both in the classroom and the research laboratory,” Putzke says. “He’s also a great human being. He works hard to help others learn, whether being a TA for Intro Biology or training students on new techniques for research. I’m excited to see where his Whitworth experience carries him next.”

Craddock’s poster featured the processes by which molecules recognize one another using X-ray diffraction, a technique usually utilized by Ph.D. students, but which can be performed in Whitworth’s new crystallography center.

“Working with Drew has been exciting,” Professor of Chemistry Kraig Wheeler says. “He is a standout in the classroom and has been a leader in my research lab working on understanding the recognition patterns of organic molecules in crystals.”

“Working with Dr. Wheeler challenged me to be a better scientist and person as our conversations focused not only on the next step of our research but also on how to grow in character,” Craddock says. “I truly enjoyed getting to work alongside a mind as brilliant as Dr. Wheeler’s, using complex machinery and enjoying professional camaraderie throughout the summer.”

The content of Craddock’s poster has also been accepted for publication in the journal CrystEngComm. 

This is the fourth time since 2015 a Whitworth student has won a presentation award at the conference. Alex Hoffman ’16 was awarded in 2015 for his collaborative work with Putzke on zebrafish and cell development. Nicholas Bratt ’19 won the award in 2017 in the life sciences category for his presentation on celiac disease research, and Samartha Shrestha ’20 won the award in the physical sciences category last year for his presentation on a photoresin that would be compatible with the 3D printer in Whitworth’s Microdevices Lab.

Whitworth also won the Best School Spirit Award at this year’s conference. 

Summer Gibbs ’03, a chemistry alumna who is now an associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University, was the conference’s keynote speaker.

The John Van Zytveld Award’s namesake is a longtime senior program director at the Murdock Trust and a champion for undergraduate research and science education. For more information on the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, click here.

About Whitworth University:

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


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