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The Biology program at BHSU is designed to give you a broad background and hands-on training in Biology with cutting-edge laboratory facilities. This program prepares you through a rigorous curriculum for advanced study in graduate or professional programs, or for a career in the science or science education.

We encourage you to conduct directed research with our faculty members. BHSU provides valuable opportunities to learn science while working with scientists on real research projects. Interacting closely with faculty through their courses and through one-on-one advising and mentoring.

BHSU’s science faculties are committed to providing the best education possible, and our science students have an outstanding record of accomplishment.   


The Kathryn Johnson Life Sciences Laboratory

A new 24,896 sq.ft science building for Biology and Chemistry has now been finished! This new facility is necessary in part due to the dramatic growth in the science program at BHSU in the last decade. This new Biology and Chemistry building is home to state of the art teaching and research laboratories. The price tag for the new building was $8.2 million, and was funded in part by South Dakota House Bill 1085 which authorized $74.5 million in state bond issued to finance construction, renovation, and modernization of 11 higher education science facility and laboratory projects. The new building meets the specifications for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the silver level. BHSU has made a commitment to sustainability and is incorporating components to ensure the buildings are LEED certified. With this project, 90 percent of the materials are being re-used or recycled.

The new science building is home to the Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources (CCBR), a plant research laboratory, two chemistry research laboratories, and six new teaching laboratories for biology and chemistry.


DNA Sequencer

The DNA Sequencer is an integral part of BHSU's Genetics Laboratory. This is a four capillary sequencer, model 3100 Avant Genetic Analyzer.


GCMS Machine

A gas chromatograph (GC) is used to separate any quantitative compounds that are volatile; that is, materials that can be turned into gases. Typically, GC's are used for characterize very small amounts (1 or 2 micrograms) of organic compounds. They have found routine use in drug testing, pesticide research, and many other areas of trace analysis. We have two Agilent 6890N GC systems, both split/splitless injectors and FID detectors. One of these systems has an additional Agilent 5973 Quadrupolar Mass sensitive detector. The FID detectors (Flame Ionization Detectors) are very sensitive detectors that, essentially, burn the material as it comes off the GC column to turn into ions and then detects those ions. With this detector you can observe any material that can be burned, but you cannot directly identify what it is. The mass sensitive detector is a complete quadrupolar mass spectrometer that determines the mass spectrum of each compound instantaneously as it comes off the GC column. The mass spectrum is then used to identify each compound. This detector is not quite as sensitive as the FID detector, but the ability to identify each compound as it comes off the column makes it a powerful analytical tool.


Growth Chamber

The growth chamber is a controlled environment in which plants can be grown. During certain experimentation with plants, a person may control the amount of daylight, the temperature and other environmental factors.



The BHSU Herbarium, which has been housing plant specimens for research and teaching since the founding of the Dakota Territorial Normal School in 1883, has approximately 35,000 plant specimens. The Augustana College Herbarium, formerly located in Sioux Falls, has recently been added to our collection.

The herbarium, essentially a “library” of plants, preserves most specimens pressed, dried and mounted on archival paper accompanied by a label that provides the scientific name of the plant and pertinent collection data. In addition to plant specimens, the Herbarium also holds approximately 3,000 fungal specimens thanks to the recent research efforts of emeritus faculty member Audrey Gabel. The BHSU Herbarium is home to one of the largest collections of Miocene age (approximately 5 to 24 million years before the present) plant fossils from the Great Plains of North America. With more than 10,000 fossils from throughout the Great Plains, the fossils are a key to an understanding of the environment that created the Great Plains.

The Herbarium then obtained a major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to database all of the plants from “West River” South Dakota and eastern Wyoming from the BHSU Herbarium and 15 additional herbaria.  The grant will provide a web-accessible database with all label data from over 100,000 specimens by 2009.  The NSF grant also enabled the BHSU Herbarium to double the amount of specimen holdings through the purchase and installation of a mobile storage compactor system. The Herbarium is a vital resource for the community. Staff members are often called upon to identify plants for government agencies, ranchers, gardeners, USDA Forest Service staff, Game Fish and Parks Department staff, county weed control officers, and curious citizens. Herbarium staff members are available to give presentations to a wide variety of groups including civic organizations, visiting student groups, USDA Forest Service groups or other audiences.

Visit the Herbarium Site


HPLC Machine

An HPLC system is a High Pressure Liquid Chromatography system that is used to characterize and purify various liquid samples. Black Hills State University's HPLC system is used primarily in Dr. Zehfus' fisheries research, where samples from fish tissues are injected onto the machine to purify and quantitate the thiamine, thiamine monophosphate, and thiamine pyrophosphate found in these tissues. The HPLC system has also been used to purify peptides synthesized as part of Dr. Zehfus' hydrogen bond project. This instrument is available for use in Chemistry 434, Instrumental Analysis. The Waters HPLC system consists of two 501 pumps, a 486 tunable absorbance detector, a 474 scanning fluorescence detector, and a 717 autosampler so the machine can run many samples unattended. The entire system is controlled by a computer using the Waters Millennium software package. Other added components to this system include an Eppendorf TC-45 Temperature control unit and a CH-30 column heater unit. Solvents are degassed using an Alltech NO-OX vacuum degassing system. Even though this machine is primarily used in the Chemistry Department, the Biology Department may use it to supplement research that they are conducting.


IR Machine

An Infrared Spectrometer determines the wavelength and absorbance of a sample in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared spectrometers are a major workhorse instrument for the analysis of organic compounds for two reasons. First, the analysis is fast and easy to perform, and second, every organic compound has a unique infrared spectrum that allows any compound to be uniquely identified. Our instrument is a Matteson Genesis II FTIR that was purchased in the summer of 2001. This machine has been incorporated into labs in Survey, General Chemistry, Organic, and Analytical classes. Perhaps the most fun lab is in the survey class, where the students fill a plastic garbage bag with auto exhaust, then transfer the exhaust gases into a gas cell, and analyze the gas for CO and CO 2 content using the IR. This is another machine that is mainly used in the chemistry department, but also is integral to some research in the biology department.


Molecular Biology Labs

The Molecular Genetics Laboratories at Black Hills State University are equipped for DNA sequencing and genotype analysis. The available equipment includes 5 thermocyclers for PCR, a Fotodyne digital imaging system for visualizing and documenting electrophoretic gels, a Genequant microcell ultra spectrophotometer used primarily for quantification of DNA samples, 2 automated genetic analyzers (ABI 310 and ABI 3100), as well as other standard laboratory equipment such as micropipettes, centrifuges etc. 

The Molecular Genetics Laboratories are also equipped for genomics research and data collection. The available equipment includes an ABI 7000 Sequence Detection System for real-time PCR and gene expression analysis, a MJ Research Opticon II Real Time PCR System for gene expression analysis, and a GenePix 4200 Array Scanner for microarray analysis.


Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab

The Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab (SEM Lab) includes a JOEL 5600LV scanning electron microscope that is capable of producing low to high magnification images of nearly any type of material that can be inserted into a microscope.  It produces excellent images (either digital or on film) and has the capacity to allow the user to view specimens in low vacuum environments, increasing the range of samples that can be observed.  Linked to the microscope is an Oxford INCA energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer that allows elemental analysis of specimens while they are being imaged.

BHSU offers the only electron microscopy course in the region that provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to use these sophisticated research tools.  The primary users of the microscope are undergraduate students conducting research with BHSU faculty members.


Contact Info

Cynthia Anderson
Phone: 605-642-6519
Black Hills State University
1200 University St.
Spearfish, SD, USA 57799

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