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Paid fellowship offers BHSU students the opportunity to conduct research with faculty members

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, April 18, 2019/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Campus Currents, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, Faculty, Scholarships, 2019

Emily Weatherill of Madison is one of 14 students at Black Hills State University who received a $4,000 fellowship to conduct scientific research with a faculty mentor at BHSU this year.

Emily will graduate in May with a double major in biology and psychology. She is currently completing a year of biology research alongside biology professor Dr. Dave Bergmann.

Through the National Science Foundation funded S.D. EPSCoR project, Emily received a monetary stipend and invaluable experience in her field.

“Emily is working towards DNA fingerprinting to determine how many possible species we have in bacterial isolates recovered from dry sediment in the Sanford Underground Research Facility,” says Bergmann.

This research is important, says Bergmann, because the isolates appear to consist of bacteria which often produce antibacterial compounds, some of which are used in medicine.

“This experience will be useful to Emily as she conducts future research in microbiology or any health- science related field,” says Bergmann.

From working with pipettes to DNA sequencing, Emily says this research has allowed her to continue to apply knowledge and skills she’s learned in the classroom at BHSU.

“My courses in genetics and molecular biology provided good introductory information for this project. I’d taken a few classes with Dr. Bergmann, and I’d heard about his work on genetic characterization of this bacteria. When applying for the fellowship, I mentioned I wanted to work with him,” says Emily.

After taking 21 credits of online dual-credit classes through Black Hills State University while still in high school, Emily knew she would become a Yellow Jacket. Academic quality, combined with the environmental emphasis in biology she wanted, and a beautiful location, made the choice to attend BHSU an easy decision.

Emily’s career goal is to work in zoology or ethology, animal behavior, combining her two major areas at BHSU. In addition to her fellowship with Dr. Bergmann, Emily also completed an internship at Avera Institute of Genetics during her sophomore year of college and volunteered at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls.

It’s these three experiences that have inspired Emily’s interest in epigenetics -  a field within genetics that studies changes in gene expression that not caused by changes in the genetic code or DNA.

“Diet, sleep, exercise can all affect how different genes are turned or off. I want to examine how animals are affected, on an epigenetic level, by habitat destruction or climate change to guide conservation practices,” says Emily.

Students who received an EPSCoR fellowship for the 2018-19 academic year:
Grace Baumgarten, chemistry major from Rapid City working with Dr. Katrina Jensen
Zach Davis, exploratory studies major from Spearfish working with Dr. Justin Ramsey
Alison Jones, biology major from Spearfish working with Dr. Amy Asunskis
Kanyon Lalley, environmental physical science major from Rapid City working with Dr. Abigail Domagall
Hannah Owens, chemistry major from Spearfish working with Dr. Katrina Jensen
Dartanian Vukota, biology and chemistry major from Sheridan, Wyo., working with Dr. Dan Asunskis
Emily Weatherill, biology and psychology major from Madison working with Dr. Dave Bergmann
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 2018-2019 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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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.