BHSU News & Events

BHSU biology students earn NASA research stipends

 
 Black Hills State University student Tayler Ripley from Pierre received a $3,000 NASA Space Grant stipend for his research investigating cellular responses to nanomaterials. Ripley is working with Dr. Dan Asunskis, assistant professor of chemistry.
 
 Black Hills State University student Jillian Draine from Spearfish received a $1,000 NASA Space Grant stipend for her research surrounding sage's possible antimalarial properties. Draine is working with Dr. John Dixson, associate professor of chemistry.
Black Hills State University students Tayler Ripley, from Pierre, and Jillian Draine, from Spearfish, were recently selected to receive NASA Space Grant stipends for research. Both are pursuing double majors in chemistry and biology in the School of Natural Sciences.

Ripley received a stipend of $3,000 and Draine received $1,000. The research stipends can be used during the upcoming fall, spring or summer semesters.  

Ripley and Draine, who were selected by the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium Management Team, will use the stipends for their current research projects. Ripley is working with Dr. Dan Asunskis, BHSU assistant professor of chemistry, to investigate cellular responses to nanomaterials. Draine is working with Dr. John Dixson, associate professor of chemistry, to extract natural products from sages native to western South Dakota and test their antimalarial activity.  These projects are two of many underway at BHSU which give students the opportunity to participate in faculty mentored research on issues that have national and international impact. Other students at BHSU are currently doing research on solar cells, drought, and prairie rattlesnakes.

Both students said they were excited to receive the grants which will help in the progression of their research.  

“When I got the news that I was selected for the grant, my immediate emotions were elation and gratification quickly followed by a greater feeling of obligation to make this venture a successful one for myself and the BHSU science department staff that have shown their support,” Ripley said.

Ripley, who began his research on nanomaterials in May, said this school year they will begin exposing cells to silver, cadmium oxide and titanium oxide nanomaterials which are used and produced in massive quantities worldwide. Since the establishment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000, nanomaterials have been produced for use in a variety of products ranging from sporting equipment and cosmetics to clothing and computers, Ripley said. However, some scientists are concerned with the increase of nanomaterial production due to a lack of information on how the microscopic particles affect living cells.

“The possibility that nanomaterials could have effects on or interfere with these processes commands our attention,” Ripley said.

Draine has been working on research surrounding sage’s possible antimalarial properties since last June. According to the World Health Organization, there is a growing resistance to antimalarial medicines and with hundreds of millions of new malaria cases reported annually there is a critical need for a new antimalarial medicine.

“We have found antimalarial activity in a number of our crude extracts which prompted us to begin purifying them into factions to separate out the active compounds,” she said. “We are hoping to further purify these factions and to begin structural work.”

The vision of the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC) is to expand opportunities for all South Dakotans through education, research, and public service in the fields of aerospace, earth science, and supporting STEM disciplines. As the link between NASA and the citizens of South Dakota, SDSGC's mission is to instill the spirit of exploration and discovery in students and educators and in the general public, with a special focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that are essential for the development of the nation’s workforce.

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