BHSU University Honors students to defend thesis, graduate as first international university scholars

Author: Paige Schuurmans/Friday, February 26, 2016/Categories: 2016

Alicia Benz, biology major, from Killdeer, N.D., will present her Honors capstone defense, "In vitro Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity on Buffalo Rat Liver Cells," during the final Geek Speak lecture of the spring 2016 semester.

Ashley Ruegg, Spanish and history major from Gering, Neb., will present her Honors capstone defense, "The Islamic Moorish Influence on the Architecture in the South of Spain," during the final Geek Speak lecture of the spring 2016 semester.

Black Hills State University honors students will present two very different research projects-one measuring how much exposure to nanoparticles (used in TV, solar panels) is harmful to rat livers and one analyzing the influence of Islam on architecture in Spain, for the final Geek Speak lecture of the spring 2016 semester, Thursday, April 28 at 4 p.m. in Joy (Proctor) Krautschun Alumni/Foundation Welcome Center (Joy Center) on BHSU campus.

Alicia Benz, biology major from Killdeer, N.D., will defend her capstone project "In vitro Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity on Buffalo Rat Liver Cells," and Ashley Ruegg, Spanish and history major from Gering, Neb., will defend her Honors capstone project "The Islamic Moorish Influence on the Architecture in the South of Spain."

According to Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English at BHSU, the Honors capstone defense is the students' opportunity to direct their own research or creative activity. They develop a project and work with a faculty committee over the course of a year to produce an Honors capstone project that is then scored and defended.

"At the defense, students introduce their project, discuss their findings, and argue its significance, and then field questions from the audience. This is usually the culmination of a student's work in the University Honors Program, so it is exciting to see what they have produced," said Huse Wika.

Benz's capstone is a part of her undergraduate research with Dr. Daniel Asunskis. For the purpose of the research, Benz had to first grow and culture buffalo rat liver cells, before exposing them to nanoparticles, which also had to be grown and put into a cell solution in a BHSU chemistry research lab. The focus of Benz's capstone was cytotoxicity in buffalo rat liver cells (ATCC, BRL-3A) that have been exposed to nanomaterials.

"The objective of the capstone research was to measure how much cell death occurs after exposure to nanoparticles, used to build everyday appliances as TV and solar panels, and to see what concentration of nanoparticles is not harmful to human body," says Benz.

Benz is currently applying for research positions across the country for a year, prior to going to medical school.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Kelly Kirk, instructor of history at BHSU, Ruegg's capstone project analyzed the influences of Moorish and Islamic culture on the architecture in southern Spain. Ruegg says that over a period of about 780 years, until 1492 when Christian forces took control of the Iberian Peninsula, the Moors and Muslims left a big imprint in southern Spain. This influence can be seen today in the architecture still standing.

"If we look at history through the architecture we can learn things we would otherwise not find in books," says Ruegg.

For the purpose of the research, Ruegg traveled to Spain in fall 2015 where she looked at the architecture, analyzing how Islamic influences still shape the architecture on the Iberian Peninsula.

"Deciding to go abroad to do my research was probably one of the best decisions I ever made," adds Ruegg.

Both Ruegg and Benz will graduate May 7 as International University Scholars as a result of their successful completion of the University Honors Program along with their significant international experiences while at BHSU. Their presentations are free and open to the public.

For more information about honors program or capstone defenses, contact Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email Courtney.HuseWika@BHSU.edu.
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