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Vandal Science News - October 2019

The Stillinger Herbarium

Research for the University of Idaho and beyond

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Dear College of Science Family,

Fall semester is well underway and the leaves are starting to change into the vibrant colors we associate with autumn in Moscow. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful area and to be associated with such a vibrant university community. I am proud to be a Vandal!

Welcome to New Faculty

The College of Science welcomed several new faculty at the university faculty meeting in September. Jim Bull, Professor of Biological Sciences, joins us from the University of Texas. Jim is a familiar face in the College of Science as he has many long-term collaborative research projects with our faculty. Jim is also a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. He is the first academy member in the state of Idaho, and we are pleased that he is continuing his career in the College of Science. Jim is passionate about educating undergraduates, particularly students who are not science majors, in the practice of science, and we look forward to his new undergraduate course “Science for Non-scientists” in spring 2020.

While not new to the Department of Biological Sciences, JT Van Leuven and Jagdish Patel are newly appointed Research Assistant Professors. Both faculty members have vibrant research programs that are associated with the Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation (IMCI, formerly CMCI) .

We also welcomed John Hiller, Professor and Chair of Physics. John joins us from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, as does Sophia Chabysheva, Clinical Assistant Professor, who is a researcher and instructor in the upper division physics program. John and Sophia are theoretical physicists and add to our nationally-renowned group in this research area.

Alina Andrasi is a new Instructor in our lower division Chemistry program. We are excited to have a new full-time faculty member to guide our students through their introductory chemistry courses.

This Month’s News Features

I became a scientist because I love learning about the natural world and the processes that underlie it at both the macroscopic and microscopic level. Research-based learning is certainly at the heart of our mission at the University of Idaho and in the College of Science.

To fit with our fall theme, this month we are featuring the ongoing work of a vibrant university research facility, the Stillinger Herbarium. David Tank, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, serves as Director of the facility. The Stillinger Herbarium houses an ever-growing collection of plant and fungal specimens from across Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. It is an important local resource for U of I faculty and students from many disciplines, including biology, anthropology, history, and natural resources, as well as researchers from across the region and U.S. The herbarium collections and research activities recently moved to a newly-renovated space in the first floor of the Mines building in an effort to consolidate its work under one roof. The college is proud to host such an important and unique facility.

I hope you enjoy learning about the faculty, students and alumni who are engaged in herbarium research.

Upcoming Events

Homecoming 2019 “Vandals in the Game”
Oct. 13 - 19, 2019

Leadership Weekend
Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2019
This annual event is an opportunity for alumni to meet the president and hear his vision for the university while catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. The College of Science will host its advisory board on campus and has several activities planned.

Student Research Expo
Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
IRIC Atrium
685 S Line Street, Moscow

Stillinger Herbarium Open House
Friday, November 1, 2019
4:30 p.m.
Mines 117
825 W 7th Street, Moscow

I hope to see you at Homecoming activities, the Student Research Expo and the Stillinger Herbarium Open House.

Go Vandals!

Ginger E. Carney
Dean, College of Science

Kudos, Achievements and Awards

  • The University of Idaho has been identified as having one of the top online Master’s degrees in Statistics for 2019 in the Data Science Degree Programs Guide recent ranking. University of Idaho was ranked #7.
  • Frank Gao, Professor, Department of Mathematics, received a grant from the National Science Foundation for $312,016. This project is entitled "Collaborative Research: Integrating Physics and Generative Machine Learning Models for Inverse Materials Design."
  • Audrey Fu, Assistant Professor, Department of Statistical Science, and Bryn Martin, Associate Professor, College of Engineering, have been selected for funding through NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) to evaluate countermeasures that prevent or mitigate the signs and symptoms associated with Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS). Fu will help with data analysis in this project. The budget is $250K per year for three years (10/01/19-09/30/22).
  • Barrie Robison, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, recently received a $74,700 IGEM grant from the Idaho State Board of Education. He and co-PI Terence Soule will use the grant to create a mobile version of the first game produced by the Polymorphic Games Studio, entitled “Darwin’s Demons”. 
  • Judith Parrish, Professor Emerita, Department of Geological Sciences, published an article on the ages of Navajo sandstones in Geology.
  • Craig McGowan, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, co-authored an article on a new term in biophysics. It is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
  • Paul Rowley, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, is featured in Infectious Disease Hub Identifying novel antifungal proteins from ‘killer yeasts:’
  • Kristopher V. Waynant,  Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, and chemistry students Vincent M. Groner, Garrett E. Larson and Yuwei Kan had an article on the synthesis and crystal structure of bis[3,3-diethyl-1-(phenylimino-jN)thiourea-jS]- silver hexafluoridophosphate in Crystallography Journals Online.
  • Patrick J. Hrdlicka, Professor, Department of Chemistry, co-authored the article entitled “Recognition of mixed-sequence DNA targets using spermine-modified Invader probes,”  has been accepted for publication as a cover article in an upcoming issue of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, a journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Eileen Hartmann, alumna and advisory board member (B.S. Math 1972), won the 9th Annual National Park Photo Contest presented by Tamron in the wildlife category.


We’ll go to Physics for this issue’s puzzler. A rock is dropped (initial velocity zero) from the top of a tall building, and at the same instant a similar rock is thrown upward from the base of the building with an initial velocity of 50 feet per second. Remarkably, the two rocks hit the ground at the exact same instant. How tall is the building?

To solve this, remember the formula from elementary Physics: if an object is thrown upward from an initial height of H feet and with an initial velocity of V feet per second, its height (in feet) after t seconds will be given by the function

h(t) = H + Vt - 16t2

(Actually this equation disregards air resistance and assumes we are at sea level -- but it's a pretty good approximation in many cases.)

Solution to the Sept. 2019 Puzzler

There are 10 possibilities for painting the cubes. The easiest approach is simply to consider cases:

  • There is only one way to paint the cube if all six faces are going to be red.
  • Likewise, there is just one way to paint the cube if five faces are red and one is blue.
  • There are two ways to paint the cube with four red faces and two blue faces: the two blue faces are either opposite each other or they touch each other.
  • Likewise, there are two ways to paint the cube with three red faces and three blue faces: the blue either includes two opposite faces or the three blue faces must all surround one corner of the cube.
  • The remaining cases (four, five, or six red faces) simply duplicate the first three cases we examined above, with the colors reversed, so these account for 2+1+1 more possibilities.

Adding these up gives us our total of 10.

There are much more difficult variations on this problem. For instance, suppose we want to paint the 12 faces of a dodecahedron so that five are red, five are blue, and two are black. How many distinguishable patterns are there in this case? It turns out the answer is 278, but you’d not likely succeed in finding it just by counting cases as we did above. Fortunately, there are more sophisticated tools available! If you’re interested in the subject, try reading up on Burnside's Lemma.

Correct Solvers

  • Christopher Birkinbine, Physics 2013
  • Alex Blumenfeld, NMR Lab Manager, U of I Chemistry Department
  • Jeremy Ellis, Microbiology major
  • Steve Funk, BS Zoology 1994; PhD Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry 1996
  • Nick Guerra, Stationary Engineer Operator 2, U of I Facilities
  • Tim Householder, Mathematics 2002
  • Chris Marx, U of I Department of Biological Sciences
  • Lee Ogren, Chemistry 1974
  • John Stutz, MS Physics 1973


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