BHSU students, faculty present research at international conference in Africa

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, November 24, 2015/Categories: 2015

A group of Black Hills State University students, faculty and staff recently returned from a trip to Botswana, Africa, where they attended the Botho University International Research Conference and visited with high school students for a future service learning trip.

Black Hills State University students and faculty found a high level of international attention for research on malaria and underground research that was presented at an international research conference in Africa recently.

Black Hills State University students, faculty and staff returned from a trip to Botswana, Africa, where they presented research and finalized plans for a future service learning trip.

Students attended the Botho University International Research Conference, where BHSU faculty and students presented research on malaria and in the BHSU Underground Campus at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead. Students that attended the conference included Rachel Crawford, chemistry major from Spearfish Kristin Rath, physical science composite major from Canton Madison Jilek, chemistry major from Spearfish and Brett Montieth, who earned his master of science in integrative genomics recently.

"Travel is beneficial in every aspect of life," Crawford said. "I learned an incredible amount about the environment, culture, education, science and research in Botswana. I had the opportunity to talk and listen to incredibly accomplished individuals from around the world. I am so thankful for this opportunity and was proud to represent BHSU."

Conference attendees were greatly interested in the malarial research conducted by Dr. John Dixson, associate professor of chemistry at BHSU, Crawford and Montieth. The group tests small compounds and natural products, like sage, for anti-malarial activity.

The conference allowed Crawford to interact with individuals affected by malaria first-hand, and that experience is a motivator to continue to conduct high quality research at BHSU, she said.

Kristin Rath, physical science composite major from Canton, found the research conference beneficial to her future as a professional science educator.

"Some of the questions they were asking at the conference were the same ideas that are being discussed in my education classes here at BHSU, such as the use of technology in the classrooms," Rath said. "Their take on these issues have helped me see the issues from a new viewpoint."

The trip also served as a site visit for a future service learning trip in Botswana. Representatives met with students at Gaborone Secondary School in Botswana. Crawford said students were interested in starting a recycling program at their school, similar to ones implemented at BHSU, as well as learning study skills, self-motivation and self-confidence in their abilities.

"I'm thrilled to have had the chance to help pave the way for a new service learning program through BHSU," Jilek said.  

"We met with so many passionate people," Crawford added. "People who were passionate for Botswana's economy, education, environment, and research. No matter where we went there was so much zeal for life and for improving the lives of others."

Students also met with prospective international exchange students, sharing their experiences at BHSU. Jilek added students were excited to learn more about the research Mount, along with Jilek and Rath, have completed at the BHSU Underground Campus.

"They were especially interested because we have the capabilities to use technology for distance learning at the Lab, and it would be easy to collaborate with students at Botho University," Jilek said.

Dr. Katie Wildman, director of international relations and global engagement at BHSU, along with other BHSU staff and faculty members, met with Both University faculty, discussing class options for international exchange students. BHSU will be able to send an international exchange student to Botho University as soon as the spring 2016 semester, Wildman said.

BHSU signed a memorandum of understanding with Botho University in March, developing BHSU's first   international partnership in Africa. Botho University is a private university and the largest university in Botswana, Africa.

"Because of this experience I will definitely encourage others to get involved in one of the many innovative research opportunities at BHSU," Rath said. "You never know where your research will take you."

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