Concordia’s Chapter of Sigma Zeta Receives Recognition at National Convention

Convention included awards, honors, and elections

Concordia’s Gamma Gamma chapter of Sigma Zeta participated in the 2021 National Sigma Zeta Convention, which was held remotely, and received several awards and honors.

Concordia was set to host the 2020 national convention, but it was canceled due to the pandemic so there were a few changes to awards and terms since there wasn’t a convention in 2020. 

For their work on planning 2020’s convention, Sonja Gilje ’20 and Mollie Francis ’20 both received Chapter Honor Awards this year. These are typically nominated by the local chapter but awarded by the national chapter. There is a limit of one per year, per chapter, but because of the exceptional effort that Gilje and Francis put into planning and executing the convention before it was canceled last spring, the national officers agreed to award it to both of them. 

“Other officers and volunteers also put in a great deal of time and energy, especially Miriah Forness ’20, but Mollie and Sonja went well above and beyond,” said Dr. Joseph Whittaker, associate professor of biology.

Since there were no elections held in 2020 as a result of the meeting being canceled, Dr. Graeme Wyllie, assistant professor of chemistry, served as the national president from 2019-21, which was a first as presidential terms have always been only one year. He starts his term as past president now for 2021-22. 

Dr. Ellen Aho, professor of biology, received a Howard Wilkinson Distinguished Alumni Award. Awardees are selected by a local chapter in recognition of Sigma Zeta alumni who make significant contributions to the fields of science, mathematics, or computer science. Each recipient is recognized annually at the national convention. The award is named after Dr. Harold Wilkinson, who served as the organization’s first executive director from 1998-2007 and as historian from 2008-13.

“I think we can all agree with her research and teaching excellence that she was highly deserving,” Whittaker said.

Aho was eligible for the award because she earned her undergraduate degree at Concordia in 1980. Students in Concordia’s chapter nominated her for the award in 2020 when she was originally scheduled to speak before the convention was canceled. Aho was the convention’s keynote speaker this year. 

Lauryn Hinckley ’22 won the best poster award for her poster “Determination of the Efficacy of Chitosan-Alginate Bioplastics as a Delivery system of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen.” Hinckley also was one of the students awarded a Sigma Zeta Undergraduate Research Grant last year. She did research over the past year with Wyllie. 

Eight of the 21 poster presentations at the national conference this year were by Concordia students. The recording of the presentations can be viewed on the Sigma Zeta YouTube channel.

Research Award recipients named at the conference include Lauryn Petrich ’21 and Vanessa Petrich ’21 for “Differentiating White-Footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) from Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) through the analysis of their Salivary Amylase and Cellulose Acetate Gel Electrophoresis.”

Eliana Rutherford ’23 and Faith James ’22 were also named Research Award recipients for “Examining Anthropogenic Impacts on Foraging Behaviors of Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), American Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), and Northern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus).”

Biology major Taylor Devine ’23 was elected as the National Student Representative. He will be serving in this capacity for the next year. Devine will serve as a liaison between the students and the faculty serving on the executive committee. He will also be attempting to expand the social media reach of Sigma Zeta.

Concordia is planning to host the meeting in May 2022, which will be the 10-year anniversary of having a chapter. 

“We are hoping we will be able to hold the meeting in person,” Whittaker added. “We were about a week away from hosting in 2020 when COVID shut down the campus and forced us to cancel the national conference.”