After his summer 2019 experience as a Davis-Bahcall Scholar, Black Hills State University student Curtis Petersen gained another research opportunity—this time a little closer to home. Petersen, a mathematics education major from Parade, S.D., was accepted into the NSF-funded BHSU Underground Science Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).
“Right now, I am working with Dr. Andy Johnson on physics education research,” Petersen explains. Their research is on students’ misconceptions of radiation and how perceptions change over the course of a physics class.
Each year, eight students from South Dakota universities are selected for an all-expenses paid summer-study program, the Davis-Bahcall Scholar Program. A year ago, Petersen was one of the students selected, and he recalls that the experience was amazing and inspiring.
“I was able to experience labs in the Midwest, and then in Italy,” Petersen says. The group started at Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) in Lead and continued to the EROS (Earth Resources Observation and Science) data center and Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, the drone lab at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin which is involved in an experiment at the South Pole called the “IceCube,” Chicago’s Fermilab, The Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, and then the Laboratori Nazionali Del Gran Sasso (LNGS) Lab in Italy.
According to Petersen, a BHSU professor recommended him for the program. “I don’t think I would have had a similar experience at a different college. The professors are interested in their students, like myself, and they want them to get more out of college. I wouldn’t have heard about the program at all if it wasn’t for Black Hills State University.”
Johnson, assistant professor of physics at BHSU, says, “Curtis is learning techniques and habits of mind that are basic for doing science in education or the social, psychological, and learning sciences. He is looking at data that we collected in previous semesters and trying to make sense of the various statements that students make about waves.” According to Johnson, the overall purpose of the REU program is to give students legitimate experiences in real science so they better understand what it is.
Black Hills State University is a masters-level state university with more than 3,600 students. The campus leads the region in sustainability efforts and maintains top academic programs in business (AACSB Accredited), exercise science, natural sciences, social sciences, the arts, mass communication, health sciences and education. The University, founded in 1883, is located in the northern Black Hills, a region abundant with outdoor activity and culture. Spearfish, S.D., is recognized as one of the top 10 most livable small towns in the USA and has also been recognized nationally for outdoor recreational opportunities. A second location, BHSU-RC, was established in Rapid City, the state’s second largest city. BHSU, a member of NCAA Division II athletics, offers 14 sports. BHSU has a legacy of champion rodeo teams.
About the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program
The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program is sponsored by First Premier Bank, the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC), Black Hills State University and Sanford Lab. The SDSCG has sponsored the Davis-Bahcall program for several years as part of its mission to instill the spirit of exploration and discovery in students, educators and in the general public.
For more than six years, the program was sponsored by the 3-M corporation.