|Alicia Benz, biology major from Killdeer, N.D., will graduate from Black Hills State University May 7 as one of the first two students to receive the International University Scholar distinction, a designation earned through her international service learning experience and involvement in the University Honors Program.
Alicia Benz will graduate from Black Hills State University this weekend as an International University Scholar, one of the first two students to receive this distinction in BHSU history.
A biology major from Killdeer, N.D., Benz says traveling to the Philippines to mentor high school students as part of the International Service Learning Program (ISLP) at BHSU was the best decision she’s made in her life.
“I remember sitting in the classroom in the Philippines, listening to our students sing to us and give us handmade cards. Those are memories I can cherish forever,” says Benz. “It was a life-changing experience.”
Joining the University Honors Program as a sophomore, Benz says she was inspired to get more involved on campus. She pursued undergraduate research opportunities and became a Presidential Student Ambassador.
Working under the direction of Dr. Daniel Asunskis, assistant professor of chemistry at BHSU, Benz gained hands-on research experience by examining the nanoparticle cytotoxicity of buffalo rat liver cells, research with impact in the electronics and solar technology fields.
“It’s amazing that from my experience, not only as undergraduate research assistant, but also from the classes I’ve taken at BHSU, that I’m qualified for huge research positions all across the country,” says Benz.
Benz says BHSU helped her funnel her passion for science into key experiences inspiring her to pursue a career in medicine. Dr. Charles Lamb, chair of natural sciences and professor of biology, is one professor whom Benz now calls a mentor, role model, and a friend.
“Dr. Lamb has given me so many opportunities. His teaching style breaks down a topic into an understandable story, and that’s what science is,” says Benz.
As president of the Health Sciences Student Organization and recent recipient of the ‘Spirit of BH’ award, an honor bestowed upon a student who has made significant contributions to the University and the community, Benz says she is ready to take her passion for biology and science one step further. She will take a gap year after graduating from BHSU to further her research and then go to medical school.
“With my understanding of the sciences, and the basic science of how our bodies work, I’m excited to look at health problems and have the knowledge to help people,” says Benz.