Spearfish chemistry connections bring opportunities for high school students at BHSU

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, June 23, 2016/Categories: 2016

 Far right, Dr. Katrina Jensen, assistant professor of chemistry at Black Hills State University, demonstrates a chemistry experiment for Spearfish High School students who visited BHSU recently. During the event the students conducted experiments and learned about the diverse careers they could pursue with a background in chemistry.

Center, Dr. Micheal Zehfus, professor of chemistry at BHSU, assists Spearfish High School students with an experiment during their visit to the University recently to see the state-of-the-art labs and instrumentation housed at BHSU.

Far right, Dr. Daniel Asunskis, associate professor of chemistry at BHSU, helps Spearfish High School students determine the amount of vitamin C and citric acid in a sports drink. The high school chemistry students visited the state-of-the-art science labs at BHSU recently.  

For the past several years, Dr. Katrina Jensen, assistant professor of chemistry at Black Hills State University, has worked with her former teacher, Jessica Zwaschka, chemistry teacher at Spearfish High School, to organize an annual chemistry learning day at BHSU for high school students.

All students enrolled in chemistry at Spearfish High School toured the state-of-the-art science labs at BHSU, viewed demonstrations, and worked with BHSU faculty and undergraduate students on experiments during their recent visit.

Jensen said she initiated the event to create more ties between Spearfish High School and BHSU, and to share the expanding opportunities at BHSU for students in the sciences.

"I graduated from Spearfish High School but didn't always know what was going on at BHSU. And since my time as a student at BHSU, the opportunities for studying science have expanded so much," said Jensen. "This is a good opportunity for high school students to learn more about the diverse types of careers they could have with a background in chemistry."

Zwaschka said the experience shows her high school students the opportunities available when studying science at the university level.

"It's a chance for our students to see the impressive facilities at BHSU and work with instrumentation we don't have in high school," said Zwaschka.

Another of Zwaschka's former students, Thomas Trimble, chemistry major from Spearfish, ran a demonstration for the high schoolers. He prepped samples for an exercise to determine an unknown molecule using the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy instrument housed at BHSU.

Trimble said he remembers visiting BHSU during the chemistry visit day as a Spearfish High School student himself. He shared his undergraduate research experience with the high school students.

"Undergraduate research at BHSU inspired me to want to become a scientist. I've had opportunities to travel and share my research and it's a pretty great summer job," said Trimble.

Mollie Zvorak, a Spearfish High School student, said the chemistry day at BHSU furthered her interest in the medical field and nursing.

"I knew BHSU had a good science program, but I didn't know it was this extensive. This has been really cool and it makes me want to go into science and work in the labs," said Zvorak.


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