Mike Spinner, a Chemistry and Biochemistry major from Pocatello, has been named the College of Science's Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award winner for 2011. Mike entered UI as a new freshman student in fall of 2007. In 2009 he began work with Professor Ray von Wandruszka on a project to analyze the residues in antique bottles recovered as part of an archeology dig in Sandpoint, Idaho. The bottles dated to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and most had no label or other indication of what the content might have been, so the analysis took on the air of an authentic mystery. Through a combination of techniques ranging from simple spot tests to sophisticated spectroscopy, more than 50 bottle residues were evaluated. The most interesting, according to Mike, was probably a bottle of facial crème that turned out to contain a mercury compound.
Participation in undergraduate research has been the highlight of Mike's experience at UI. Through this project he's had opportunities to present papers at both the Northwest Regional Anthropology conference and the regional meeting of the American Chemical Society as well as to attend the national conference for analytic chemistry. This fall, Mike will begin graduate work in Biochemistry at the University of Oregon.