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Student's work published in prestigious science journal

RELEASED: Dec. 14, 2009

Dr. Jim Boulter and Skye Doering
UW-Eau Claire student Skye Doering, right, lead author of an article published in a prestigious science journal this month, works in the lab with his faculty mentor, Dr. James Boulter. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Bill Hoepner)

EAU CLAIRE — Skye Doering, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior chemistry and biology major from Eau Claire, is the lead author of an article published in a prestigious science journal this month.

The article, published in the Journal of Chemical Physics, will focus on the research Doering conducted with Kirsten Strobush, a 2008 UW-Eau Claire chemistry graduate and Altoona native, and Dr. James Boulter, assistant professor of chemistry. The article can be found online.

The journal article, titled "The effect of microwave-frequency discharge-activated oxygen on the microscale structure of low-temperature water ice films," is related to reactions that occur on clouds at the edge of space (polar mesospheric clouds), which may be possible indicators of climate change. Mesospheric clouds are tiny ice particles that form at the poles during certain times of the year in Earth's upper atmosphere, Boulter said, noting that incredible photos of these clouds are available online.

"The students did virtually all the experimental work," Boulter said of the research. "The students and I decided what experiment to pursue and the details of its design, and we designed and built much of the experimental equipment. The data analysis was guided by my previous experience, but carried out mostly by students. Interpretation was mostly performed as a group."

Doering also was involved in editing the manuscript for the journal article, Boulter said.

"He made insightful comments and asked good critical questions in his reading of the manuscript," Boulter said. "These activities are the hallmarks of what we do in this department in our research, and it's what is unique and valuable about UW-Eau Claire's chemistry program."

In summer 2008, Doering was selected as a Kell Scholar, an honor that enabled him to complete a second major and continue his research with Boulter. The prestigious Kell scholarship, established by the Kell Container Corp. of Chippewa Falls, supports a junior or senior who demonstrates outstanding ability in undergraduate student/faculty collaborative research. Doering will graduate this week with degrees in biology and chemistry.

In addition to being the first author on the journal article, Doering also attended the American Chemical Society's spring national meeting in Utah, where he presented the research at the physical chemistry division session. At the conference, he was surrounded by presenters who already were at the graduate or post-doctorate levels, Doering said. The experience helped him appreciate even more the research opportunities available to him as an undergraduate student, he said, adding that that appreciation is now helping shape his plans for the future.

"I'll apply to medical school in the spring, but given my in-depth research experience as an undergraduate, I am considering entering a M.D./Ph.D. program," Doering said.

Research and publishing experiences at the undergraduate level will open many doors for Doering and other students who apply to graduate schools, Boulter said.

"Having a high-caliber journal article in their resume is a significant advantage," Boulter said. "More and more first-rate graduate schools expect incoming students to have a publication record. But it's less likely that undergraduates from Ph.D.-granting institutions would be so immersed across the full extent of research activities since this sort of in-depth involvement is typically dominated by doctoral students and post-docs."

Doering is one of several chemistry students whose work has recently appeared in professional publications, Boulter said, noting that more than 10 articles have been published with students from the chemistry department in the past year.

"One of our highest goals in this department is to give our undergraduate students this sort of experience as the culmination of intentional, focused, one-on-one, high-impact education at the cutting edge of chemistry," Boulter said. "When it works — when a student succeeds and is enthusiastic about the result — that's one for the victory column. And we get the honor and opportunity to work with students to continue contributing to our scientific sub-discipline."

This research was funded through a NASA Geospace Sciences grant, with additional support from Research Corp. and UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Dr. Jochen Marschall of SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., also was a contributing author to the Journal of Chemical Physics article.

For more information, contact Skye Doering at doerinsr@uwec.edu or Dr. James Boulter at 715-836-4175 or boulteje@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB/DW

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