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Biomedical research leads to scientific careers for BHSU students, alums

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, March 6, 2019/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Academic Affairs, Alumni, Awards, College of Business and Natural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, Faculty, Scholarships, 2019

Alumni who complete biomedical research while studying at Black Hills State University are succeeding in doctoral programs and making great strides in their scientific careers.

Since 2008, the South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (SD BRIN) has provided 142 Undergraduate Research fellowship awards to 95 individual BHSU students. Fellowships are paid opportunities for students to put scientific principles into practice.

Dr. Cynthia Anderson, program coordinator for SD BRIN and associate professor of biology at BHSU, says this experience prepares students to do well when applying to graduate programs.

“Throughout their research term, students will apply problem-solving skills to formulate testable hypotheses, work with their faculty mentor to design experiments, learn research techniques, gather and analyze data, and participate in the writing and presentation of their research findings,” said Anderson.

Three recent and notable alumni who had BRIN fellowships at BHSU include:
  • Mallory (Ageton) Ballinger, Class of 2013, a PhD candidate in integrative biology at the University of California Berkeley
  • Hayden Bender, Class of 2016, PhD student in molecular, cellular and organismal biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Michael Hurst, Class of 2017, a PhD student in chemistry at the University of Oregon
Neal Porter, chemistry major from Spearfish, is one of seven BHSU students who received $4,000 fellowships from BRIN this year. A sophomore in the pre-dentistry track at BHSU, Neal said he chose to attend BHSU after talking with several dentists in the community who spoke highly of the program.

“It’s a great program. The science faculty go to great lengths to help their students,” said Neal. “Participating in SD BRIN is an excellent resume builder. When I started the project, I had minimal experience in the lab. Now I’m here several times a week doing hands-on chemistry research.”

Dr. Katrina Jensen, associate professor of chemistry, is Neal’s fellowship mentor. In his research project, Jensen said Neal is learning how to set up chemical reactions, handle air-sensitive compounds, purify organic compounds, and determine the structure of organic molecules using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

“Neal is an exceptionally hardworking student with great aptitude for organic chemistry,” said Jensen. “He has the potential to be a really great scientist.”

Other BHSU students who received a SD BRIN fellowship for the 2018-19 academic year:
  • Daniel Borchert, biology major from Black Hawk working with Dr. Amy Asunskis
  • Tyler Bortz, biology and mass communication major from Colstrip, Mont., working with Dr. Justin Ramsey
  • Cathryn Hester, biology major from Rapid City working with Dr. Justin Ramsey
  • Dillon Vanetti, chemistry major from Casper, Wyo., working with Dr. John Dixson
  • Allen Wellman, biology major from Summerset working with Dr. John Dixson
  • Kelsey Wood, biology major from Newcastle, Wyo., working with Dr. Cynthia Anderson
About South Dakota BRIN and EPSCoR
The South Dakota BRIN and EPSCoR Programs at BHSU awarded 14 undergraduate Research Fellowship Awards in the amount of $4,000 each to BHSU students conduct scientific research under a faculty mentor at BHSU during the 2018-19 academic year. Funded by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, SD BRIN’s goal is to develop human resources for undergraduate and graduate programs in the biomedical sciences and bioinformatics at South Dakota institutions.  Similarly, South Dakota’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program funded by the National Science Foundation supports mentored research activities to strengthen research and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across South Dakota to increase science literacy and drive science-based economic development.

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Statement from President Nichols

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It is with a troubled heart that we write this note of concern and support for the Black community. The events over the last few weeks and following the tragic senseless deaths of African Americans in Georgia, Kentucky, and Minnesota have yet again brought racial injustices to the forefront.