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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Exemplifying Excellence in Thought

March 2, 2023
Nick Humphries

How WWU’s Women STEM Majors are Impacting the World

Nick Humphries

Walla Walla University has many STEM majors within several programs, including biology, engineering, and chemistry, among others. The Collegian interviewed several women in the biology program to learn about their unique experiences within their areas of expertise. 

Ashley Morrow is a graduate student pursuing her masters in the biology program at WWU. She is currently the head TA for cell biology, which gives her hands-on experience with showing students how to conduct experiments.  

Ashley Morrow is a masters biology student studying the growth to development transition in Stem cells.

Morrow studies the growth to development transition with Dr. David Lindsay. When the body develops, stem cells have the potential to become different types of cells. Sometimes they divide to make more of themselves, but other times they divide and become more specific. Morrow studies how cells decide whether to duplicate themselves or specialize themselves. 

Morrow said she doesn’t see biology as a largely male or female-dominated industry. Instead, she believes that “giving women scholarships just because they’re women lowers us. I don’t like being highlighted necessarily because I’m a woman.” [1] Morrow would prefer to be known for her research first and then as a woman, not the other way around. 

Aurora Coleman is a sophomore biology student working towards becoming a cutaneous oncologist.

Aurora Coleman is a sophomore biology major and an English minor who has focused her research on growing dictyostelium, but she is also a cell biology TA. Coleman is planning on attending a conference during spring break, presenting Morrow’s poster on dictyostelium. Coleman wants to become a cutaneous oncologist, specializing in treating individuals with skin cancer. For Coleman, her English minor is an outlet from her biology commitments. “I like English, I like literature. If I’m here, I might as well have fun.” [2] 

Kristen Whitley is a senior biology student who has spent time researching prostate cancer.

Kristen Whitley is a senior pre-med biochemistry major and has committed much of her time to cancer research. Last summer, Whitley spent time at Loma Linda University studying prostate cancer. She explained that chemotherapy is one of the only ways to treat the type of prostate cancer she was studying. Over time, cancer cells become resistant to the treatment. When this happens, it becomes a death sentence. However, it was hypothesized that a protein within the cell’s mitochondria, if altered by a drug, could make the cells susceptible to chemotherapy once again. By the end of the summer, her team was able to make the cells sensitive to chemotherapy. She hopes to continue the research this coming summer, eventually moving the research to mice by measuring the levels of toxicity and testing how to deliver the drug safely. 

Whitley is also involved with other types of research at WWU. Her lab work is heavy, and some days lasts between 3-4 hours, while other days involve 7-8 hours of research. She has attended several conferences, including one experimental biology conference in Philadelphia, where several scientific research associations come together to present their research. 

Whitley has observed that there are many women in the research industry, but most of the personal investigators who oversee research are men. However, she sees a rise in female researchers. [3] 

The STEM programs at WWU are filled with some of the brightest students on campus. These women give credibility to the programs by using their talents to further understand the world and provide a better future for others, embodying several WWU core themes: excellence in thought, generosity in service, and beauty in expression. 



  1. Interview with Ashley Morrow, 2/23/2023. 
  2. Interview with Aurora Coleman, 2/23/2023. 
  3. Interview with Kristen Whitley, 2/24/2023. 
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