Research by Jay Jacobs, a Black Hills State University student pursuing a master’s degree in integrative genomics, was recently highlighted at a National Institutes of Health meeting in Washington, D.C.

Jacobs is conducting research focused on extracting and purifying antimicrobial compounds from medicinal plants that are native to western South Dakota. His research was showcased at a general medical science session at the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) meeting this summer.

Jacobs’ research is funded by the SD BRIN and mentored by Dr. John Dixson, BHSU assistant science professor. Other BHSU faculty members who are collaborating on the research are Dr. Mark Gabel, professor emeritus; Dr. Dave Bergmann, and Jace DeCory.

Jacobs says his research has enhanced his educational experience at BHSU and will be beneficial for his career.
“I have had the opportunity to study and work closely with a number of students and professors through various roles as a teaching assistant, research assistant, undergraduate and graduate student while attending BHSU,” Jacobs says. “I plan to pursue one of several options related to the medical profession or biomedical research when I graduate.”

This research project used an alternative research method to extract compounds from 18 plant species that are native to western South Dakota. Those compounds were screened for antimicrobial activity. Generally, compounds are extracted and purified prior to conducting biological assays. In this reverse approach, the extracts are screened for activity and only the extracts with activity are purified, which reduces the cost and labor making the research possible by small labs with limited funding.

Microbial inhibitory activity was found in 16 extract fractions from eleven plants. Medicinal plants that American Indians historically used to treat a variety of afflictions were investigated. As a part of the research the plants were collected, dried, and a voucher specimen was deposited in the BHSU Herbarium.

BHSU, which has a strong and growing science department, offers bachelor of science degrees in biology, chemistry, and environmental physical science, and physical science. The University also offers minors in biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics. Teaching degrees are available in biology, chemistry, math and science education, and science education. BHSU also offers a master’s degree in Integrative Genomics, an area of biological research that seeks to place the functional significance of an organism’s many genes into an ecological and evolutionary context. In recent years, BHSU has also seen increased interest in students pursuing a pre-professional degree in medicine, pharmacy, and other allied health careers.