Fifth Annual Stauffer Symposium celebrates excellence in student research

students work together in a lab

Tiffanie Jiang and Benjamin Rubalcava

Research exploring bacteria that create antibiotics and the untapped potential of fungi to treat cancer highlighted the fifth annual Stauffer Summer Research Symposium at University of the Pacific, made possible by the John Stauffer Undergraduate Summer Research Endowment.

The impressive research topics were presented August 18 by students in the Department of Chemistry. 

"This program has been instrumental in providing students with the resources and opportunities they need to bring their research to life," said Jianhua Ren, chemistry professor and department co-chair. "It's inspiring to witness their curiosity and determination."

Since 2017, the Stauffer Endowment has provided research opportunities for dozens of undergraduate students majoring in chemistry and biochemistry.

Last year, Pacific alumni, faculty, staff and friends completed a challenge in which the trust would match donations up to $1 million, resulting in a $2 million endowment to fund student research in perpetuity.

This year the Stauffer Endowment provided research stipends for 11 students. Participants gained hands-on laboratory experience that built their research and presentation skills, boosted their confidence, and prepared them for graduate programs and the job market.

For Aliyah Pilien, a fourth-year biochemistry major, the symposium was the emotional culmination of months of arduous work and the realization of a newfound dream.

"I started in the pre-pharmacy program at Pacific, but after joining a research lab my sophomore year, I really fell in love with biochemistry, and I decided to change my major," Pilien said. "I am so thankful to Dr. Georgios Pantouris for accepting me into his lab and really giving me a place to fall in love with research."

The symposium underscores one of the unique facets of a Pacific education: the rare opportunity for undergraduate students to conduct laboratory research early in their academic careers, alongside their peers in the university’s graduate programs, and to connect their work with the communities it serves.

Elisabeth Garner, a third-year biochemistry major whose research explored the untapped potential of fungi to treat infections and cancer, spoke to the importance of her findings in a broader societal context. "With a rising antibiotic crisis, and our continual fight against cancer, finding ways to elicit these results from fungi is crucial, and through our work this summer we were able to do just that,” Garner said.

Scott Biedermann ’05, ‘20, Pacific vice president for development and alumni relations, echoed Garner’s appreciation for the broader ramifications of the students’ work. Biedermann emphasized the powerful impact of philanthropic support for research programs.

“When donors support our student researchers, their gifts not only provide a richer academic experience; they empower students to see themselves as change agents whose work contributes to a healthier world. I can think of no more powerful takeaway from a Pacific education,” Biedermann said.

To support undergraduate research at Pacific, make a gift to the Department of Chemistry online or contact Molly Byrne, senior associate VP for development, at 209.946.2780 or