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Vandal Science News


A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends October 2013

Dean's Message

Dear friends of the UI College of Science,

These past few weeks we paid our respects to a truly remarkable man. Malcolm Renfrew achieved international stature as a giant in his field. He loved the University of Idaho and was a contributor to campus life until near the end of his 103 years. It would be impossible to say too much about what his legacy means to the University of Idaho and to the College of Science in particular.

We are determined to carry on that legacy of excellence, and our faculty members do so every day with their work in teaching, research, and service. Their work in mentoring our excellent students will be on display November 8 at our 9th annual Student Research Exposition. This is always an exciting event for our college, and I hope that you’ll drop by to visit with our student researchers about their work if you are in the Moscow area that day.

It’s a period of change for the University of Idaho with a search for a new president underway. But for the College of Science it is a period of growth, with notable additions to our faculty and responsibilities.

This fall, the following faculty joined our ranks:

  • Erkan Buzbas, Assistant Professor, Statistical Sciences
  • Matthew Hedman, Assistant Professor, Physics
  • Stefan Tohaneanu, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
  • Thomas Wood, Associate Professor, Geological Sciences

Additionally, Professor David Tank, an excellent researcher in phylogenetics, recently joined the Biological Sciences faculty, moving from the UI College of Natural Resources. In the related field of systems biology, we’re excited that Professor Chris Marx (currently at Harvard University) will be joining our Biological Sciences faculty. Also joining Biological Sciences next semester will be Christine Parent (evolutionary biology) from the University of Texas and David Pfeiffer (functional morphology) from the University of Alaska Anchorage. We’ll be searching soon for even more new faculty members in biology thanks to the growth of the WWAMI medical education program. Finally, the College of Science has recently added the Idea Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, which holds the largest NIH grant in the state and has a statewide mission for outreach in biomedical education. We’re pleased to work with Professor Carolyn Bohach and her outstanding INBRE team. 

The intellectual vitality of our college is always enhanced by visits from excellent scientists . We recently held our annual Austin Lecture and were privileged to hear an entertaining and informative presentation from Professor Peter Donnelly (Oxford University) on the topic of applications of Statistics in human health and genetics. And this week we will be honored to hear from renowned evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant (Professor Emeriti, Princeton University).

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the College of Science. It’s an exciting time for us, and I hope you catch a sense of that excitement through reading this issue of the Vandal Science News.

- Dean Paul Joyce

Reading the Book of the Brain

Peter Fuerst in his lab. Peter Fuerst has been studying neural connections for 10 years. He and his research team are contributing to the international effort to better understand the brain with a high-resolution confocal microscope and other equipment in UI’s optical imaging core facility. Precise technology is key to understanding the quadrillion connections that make up the book of the brain. read more »

9th Annual COS Student Research Expo

Shannon MacKenzie Forty graduate and undergraduate students will display posters of their research at the 9th annual College of Science Student Research Exposition. The event is on Friday, November 8 from 2:30 to 5:00 pm. read more »

Remembering an Icon

Malcolm Renfrew reading a book about North American birds The University of Idaho community lost an exemplary chemist, teacher, mentor and friend with the passing of Professor Emeritus Malcolm MacKenzie Renfrew. Renfrew leaves a legacy at the university spanning more than eight decades, from his first foray into academia as a young man to his later years as a dedicated supporter of science, art and interdisciplinary activities across campus. read more »

Vandal Science News Puzzler

This issue's puzzler is an intriguing geography challenge. As you know, a country that has no ocean shoreline is said to be "landlocked". You need to cross at least one international border to get from a landlocked country to the Ocean. We'll say that a country is "doubly landlocked" if you have to cross at least two international borders to get from that country to an ocean. Another way to say this would be to say that a doubly landlocked country is landlocked and all of its neighbors are landlocked as well.

There are two doubly landlocked countries in the world. Name at least one of them.


an illustration of the doubly landlocked country Uzbekistan.The two doubly-landlocked countries are Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein. The map here shows Uzbekistan in red, and all of its neighbors in other colors. A quick scan verifies that no neighbor touches an ocean. Liechtenstein, on the other hand, is a tiny country (just 62 square miles) having only two neighbors, Austria and Switzerland, both of which are landlocked

Correct Solutions:

  • Laura Baldwin (Geology, 2007)
  • Zephyr Bizeau (Zoology, 2000)
  • Fred Eberle (MS Geography, 1984)
  • Jessica Edwards (Lincoln Middle School, Pullman WA)
  • Jason Evans (Computer Science, 1996; PhD Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, 2009)
  • Brian Hill (Chemistry, 1965)
  • Tim Householder (Mathematics, 2002)
  • Dorah Mtui (Forney Lab, Department of Biological Sciences)
  • Lee Ogren (Chemistry, 1974)
  • Elizabeth Shawkey Owosina (MS Geology, 1995)
  • Rick Potter (Geology, 2004)
  • Kim Salisbury
  • Trace Yates

On Track in Her Field

Biochemistry major and runner Hannah Kiser excels in academics and athletics. In addition to setting Western Athletic Conference records, earning first team All-American honors at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and being named the 2013 top female student-athlete in the WAC, Kiser has risen to the top of her academic field. She earned a prestigious statewide research fellowship in 2012 and a top student award from the biological sciences department in 2013.
read more »

Elements of Fun

Jean'ne Shreeve

The best of chemist Jean'ne Shreeve's days can be summed in a word: fun. Shreeve has designed rocket fuels, experimented with the most reactive element on Earth and taught hundreds of students during her 53 years with the University of Idaho Department of Chemistry.
read more »

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