Biomedical research leads to scientific careers for BHSU students, alums

Neal Porter, chemistry major from Spearfish, is among 14 students at Black Hills State University who received a $4,000 fellowship to conduct scientific research under a faculty mentor at BHSU during the 2018-2019 academic year. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — 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, said 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, a PhD candidate in integrative biology at the University of California Berkeley; Hayden Bender, PhD student in molecular, cellular and organismal biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston; and Michael Hurst, 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, Porter 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 Porter. “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 Porter’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; and Kelsey Wood, biology major from Newcastle, Wyo., working with Dr. Cynthia Anderson.

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