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Summer 2009 | Volume 32, Number 2 | Campus

SPU’s New Generation of Scientists

Making an Alumni Family Proud

Andrew Caldwell and James Rosser
Andrew Caldwell and James Rosser (Daniel Coffin not pictured)

Andrew Caldwell, Daniel Coffin, and James Rosser are shirttail cousins representing the third and fourth generations of an extended family that has so far produced nearly two dozen Seattle Pacific University graduates. They also represent a generation of students benefiting from recent SPU investments in the sciences, including two buildings and new equipment, faculty, and programs.

All science majors, the trio of students walked together through Commencement ceremonies in June 2008, each with their sights set on graduate school and careers in medicine or research. Now each is pursuing their dream. Caldwell, a biochemistry and chemistry double major, is attending the University of California-San Diego to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry. The focus of his research there relates to the causes of autoimmune diseases and cancer. He says one of the motivations for an advanced degree was his research on the immunoreceptor NKG2D with Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Ben McFarland. He also spent a summer conducting research on the protein Retinoblastoma at the University of California-Santa Cruz through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation.

As a student volunteer in the Trauma Department of Orthopaedics at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, Coffin solidified his plans for a medical career. “Working at Harborview confirmed that a vocation in medicine is my passion — one that provides effective tools to serve God by serving others,” he says. A biology major with a minor in chemistry, Coffin served as a teaching assistant in both disciplines at SPU and before graduation followed doctors in different specialties at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. He begins his graduate education in August at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences — College of Osteopathic Medicine, which trains physicans to work with medically underserved communities.

Rosser is now pursuing doctoral studies in microbiology at the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University. He graduated from Seattle Pacific with a degree in biology and a fascination with genomics, the study of gene structure. Rosser spent two years working in the lab of SPU Assistant Professor of Biology Derek Wood, and the resulting groundbreaking research — which analyzed the entire genome of Azotobacter vinelandii strain DJ, a nitrogen-fixing bacterium — was selected to be presented before lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Another paper on the research was just chosen to be featured on the cover of Journal of Bacteriology.

“I am proud of what students graduating from SPU’s science programs are accomplishing,” says Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Congdon, also a professor of biology. “And I am proud of the faculty who invest so much in teaching them and inspiring them to further achievement.”

Caldwell, Coffin, and Rosser also evoke familial pride. “It’s been great to see how they entered SPU as ‘mild-mannered’ freshmen and now leave with a new maturity and vision,” says John Glancy ’70, SPU’s director of graduate admissions and marketing — and Caldwell’s grand uncle, Coffin’s uncle by marriage, and Rosser’s second cousin. “I hated to see them leave SPU, but I guess getting three new ‘doctors’ in the extended family will keep us on our toes.”

—Photo by Daniel Sheehan

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Department Highlights

Toward Biblical Literacy
SPU receives a $600,000 grant to pursue its signature commitment to biblical and theological education.

Tuition Increase at All-Time Low
SPU increases financial aid and holds the tuition increase to 3.75 percent for 2009–10.

GospelFest Mass Choir
A 500-voice gospel choir rocked Brougham Pavilion in front of a crowd of 1,200.

Perkins Welcomes Students to Mississippi
Students travel to the Perkins Foundation; he gives SPU's 2009 Commencement Address.

Conference Spotlights Issue
The 2009 Microfinance Conference fostered creative ways to solve global poverty.

SPU’s New Generation of Scientists
A family of three young alums go from science programs to medical and research careers.