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Vandal Science News - December 2019

Dear Friends of the College of Science,

We have arrived at the end of the semester in Moscow, and winter commencement is just around the corner. Commencement is a time of great celebration at the university and for the College of Science. We are proud of each of our thirty-three fall graduates, and we faculty are reminded of one of the reasons we love our work — our students.

College of Science graduates are highly respected and sought after by employers and post-graduate programs across the country. Many of our new graduates are going straight into the workforce, while others will be attending graduate or medical school next fall. Our focus on real-world training in research in the College of Science is key to student success. Alumni Dan and Leah Frye, who are featured in this month’s edition of Vandal Science News, are examples of how impactful undergraduate research opportunities are for future career success. We are grateful to Dan and Leah for their ongoing support of the college and our students.

Conducting research that creates new knowledge is a cornerstone of our college mission. Our faculty, who work one-on-one with students, had another stellar year in research with publications in prestigious journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Astronomy and Journal of Theoretical Biology. Jeffrey Hicke (Geography), John Abatzoglou (Geography), Luke Harmon (Biological Sciences) and Paul Hohenlohe (Biological Sciences) have been recognized as being among the world’s most influential researchers of the past decade.

College faculty were awarded numerous grants from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA and the Department of Energy. College of Science faculty currently are funded by a record eight NIH R01 grants and three NSF CAREER Awards for early investigators. These grants are among the most prestigious and highly coveted and speak to the talent of our faculty.

The College of Science had another record year for research expenditures at nearly $12.3 million in 2019. Our amazing faculty are pushing the boundaries of research while also serving as dedicated instructors and mentors to students throughout the university.

Congratulations to our new graduates! We wish them the best as they embark on their next life phase and hope they will reflect positively on their time at the University of Idaho and follow the Fryes’ example of giving back to the university.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season. Go Vandals!

Ginger E. Carney
Dean, College of Science

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2019 College of Science Winter Graduates

Congratulations to all of our College of Science graduates! We know that you will continue to do amazing things!

  • Jacob Alderink B.S. Mathematics
  • Ross Atterberry B.S. Chemistry
  • Elijah Boswell B.S. Geography
  • Kiani Canales B.S. Biology
  • Ian Carlson B.S. Biology
  • Alice Cassel B.S. Biology
  • Alice Cassel B.S. Microbiology
  • Robert Chancia Ph.D. Physics
  • Katelyn Conery B.S. Biochemistry
  • Jackson Cook B.S. Geological Science
  • Krista Dace B.S. Biology
  • Yazhuo Deng M.S. Statistical Science
  • Mason Footh B.S. Physics
  • Kristen Frafjord B.S. Microbiology
  • Alyssa Gomez B.S. Biology
  • Anna Green B.S. Biology
  • Robert Ireland B.S. Geological Science
  • Austin Kindall B.S. Molecular Biol & Biotechnology
  • Jeffrey Larimer Ph.D. Geology
  • Kyle Luchte B.S. Mathematics
  • Lanny McAden M.S. Geography
  • Alex Mckeeken B.S. Medical Sciences
  • Jessica Nicholson B.S. Biology
  • Kenetta Nunn Ph.D. Bioinformatics & Comptnl Biol
  • Maria Nystrom B.S. Statistics
  • Jared Phelps B.S. Geography
  • Ricardo Ruiz-Holguin B.S. Geography
  • Bailey Scott B.S. Mathematics
  • Tyler Siegford B.S. Biochemistry
  • Kathryn Simpson B.S. Mathematics
  • Corbin Smith B.S. Geological Science
  • Andrew Stevens B.S. Mathematics
  • Christine Tsarnas B.S. Biology
  • Sierra Wallace B.S. Geological Science

College of Science Staff Appreciation

Name: Jean Norris

Position: Lab Supervisor, Department of Biological Sciences

How did you find the U of I?

My Mother’s family has historical ties to this region of Idaho (back to the 1890’s) and several of my relatives have graduated from the University of Idaho. Also, as a graduate student at Washington State University, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a U of I researcher on my research project.

Why did you choose to work here?

I enjoyed working with the faculty and staff at U of I during my graduate studies. I also had a chance to get acquainted with the campus and preferred the smaller, close-knit, environment at U of I.

How long have you worked here?

I have worked at U of I for 30+ years, since 1989.

What is your favorite part about working here?

The variety of work that my job entails has always provided new challenges for me. The lab courses I support cover a broad range of biology subjects and instructors are always adding new experiments to their lab sections. I also manage the operation of two teaching greenhouses and Biostore, a department-sponsored service center. Everyday I get to interact with many different types of people coming from different parts of our country and internationally which is another perk to working at U of I. I guess that’s why these last 30 years have gone by so fast.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was raised in a military family and grew up in south central Texas. I have one daughter, Jaclyn, who loves history as much as I do, and now works as a Certified Archivist. I have two cat-fellows, Buddy and Max, who constantly fight over who owns me. Nobody ever owns a cat. Like most Idahoans, I love the great outdoors. Hiking and cross-country skiing are my favorites but I also enjoy scuba diving. My hobbies at the moment are rughooking, print-making and weekend baking.

Jean Norris
Jean Norris, Lab Supervisor, Department of Biological Sciences


  • U of I Researchers Named as Some of the Most Influential of the Past Decade

    Four researchers from the University of Idaho, Jeffrey Hicke, John Abatzoglou, Luke Harmon and Paul Hohenlohe, have been recognized as being among the world’s most influential researchers of the past decade. The list, compiled by Web of Science Group, recognizes the work of influential researchers around the globe who have produced multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year. See the Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list.
  • Geography PhD student, Karen Heeter, is lead-author on a paper recently published in an ISI peer-reviewed journal, Dendrochronologia. Her work details the potential to reconstruct temperature variability across the Eastern United States (US) using a new method in tree-ring analysis. This work is important given the current warming trend across the Eastern US caused by human-induced climate change.
  • Christopher Marx, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, along with Jessica Lee, Siavash Riazi, Shahla Nemati, Jannell Bazurto, Andreas Vasdekis, Benjamin Ridenhour and Christopher Remien, had a paper titled “Microbial phenotypic heterogeneity in response to a metabolic toxin: continuous, dynamically shifting distribution of formaldehyde tolerance in Methylobacterium extorquens populations ”pre-published in PLOS Genetics.
  • Matthew Hedman, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, is featured in an article for WIRED.
  • Undergraduate researcher Courtney Schreiner just had her first lead authored paper published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology. Scott Nuismer, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Andrew Basinski, a postdoc researcher in Nuismer’s lab, co-authored the paper as well.
  • Alexander Woo, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, with co-authors from Florida Gulf Coast University and Smith College, had their paper “A Formula for the Cohomology and K-class of a Regular Hessenberg Variety” accepted by the Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra.


You probably have heard of the famous Fibonacci sequence

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, . . .

To form the sequence we start with two entries of 1, then generate each successive entry by adding the last two numbers in the sequence, so: 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, and so on.

We can create lots of "Fibonacci-like" sequences by starting with whatever two numbers we want and then applying the same generation rule. So, for example, the sequence

3, 7, 10, 17, 27, 44, 71, . . .

is a Fibonacci-like sequence beginning with the numbers 3 and 7.

Now for this month’s puzzler: suppose I have a Fibonacci-like sequence

a1, a2, a3, a4, a5, a6, . . .

so that

a72 - a62 = 517 and a9 = 76.

What is a10?

Hint: try some factoring!

Solution for November 2019:

The area of the larger square is 81 square inches. Even though it looks like a geometry problem, the solution is really just some simple algebra. Also, the “overlap” bit is really just a distraction – it turns out not to matter at all.

First, let x represent the side length of the smaller square (in inches). Then the larger square has side length 5 inches less than twice this amount, or 2x-5 inches. Let Y be the area of the (green) overlap. Then the (blue) area of the rest of the large square must be (2x - 5)2 - Y square inches while the (yellow) area of the rest of the small square must be x2 - Y square inches.

So, the statement of the puzzle becomes the equation:

(2x - 5)2 - Y = x2 - Y + 32

4x2 - 20x + 25 = x2 + 32

3x2 - 20x - 7 = 0

(3x + 1)(x - 7) = 0

So either x = -1/3 or x = 7. Since x can’t be negative, x = 7 must be the solution. The larger square’s side length is then 2(7) - 5 = 9 inches, so its area is 81 square inches.

Correct Solvers

  • Alex Blumenfeld, NMR Lab Manager, UI Chemistry
  • Fred Burton, B.S. Mathematics 1968
  • Carey Edwards, B.S. Forest Products 2002, GIS Certificate 2010
  • Nick Guerra, Stationary Engineer Operator 2, UI Facilities
  • Jay Hunter, B.S. Chemistry 1973, M.D. WWAMI 1977
  • Marianne Milander, Student, Animal and Vet Science
  • Lee Ogren, B.S. Chemistry 1974
  • Greg Stenback, B.S. Geological Engineering 1985, M.S. Statistics 1987


College of Science

Physical Address:
Mines 321

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3025
Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Phone: 208-885-6195

Fax: 208-885-6904


Web: College of Science