CAS Newsletter: Student Success

Tessa Durnin, a Biology and Environmental Science major with a Certificate in Organismal Biology, was the recipient of two prestigious awards this year. She received an Instars Fellowship from the Society for Freshwater Science that provided support for her to join over 800 freshwater scientists from around the world at the Society’s annual meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. While at the conference, Durnin presented the results of her research conducted at Northern; her presentation was titled Effects of Prescribed Burns on Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) Communities. Durnin also presented the results of her research work in this area during the National Science Foundation South Dakota EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) RII Track 1 site visit at McCrory Gardens in Brookings, South Dakota in September, where she gave a poster presentation to an audience including a panel of seven National Science Foundation members and representatives. The second award Durnin received is the Mary E. Baylor Memorial Scholarship from the South Dakota Ornithologists’ Union, a prestigious and competitive scholarship given annually to one undergraduate student attending a South Dakota college or university. Durnin is the second NSU student in the past three years to receive this award, following in the footsteps of 2015 recipient and NSU alumna Christina Renz. After completing her degree at Northern, Durnin is planning to attend graduate school to continue her work in environmental research.

Taylor Bice, an NSU senior with a double major in Human Services and English, was the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program Award from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Bice is only the third NSU student in recent years to receive a grant from the Fulbright program, a U.S. government-sponsored scholarship program that promotes international educational exchange. He is one of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English, and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-18 academic year through the Fulbright program. Bice’s program of study at Northern was aimed at a career in teaching English overseas: in addition to completing his dual-major degree, he earned a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and spent a semester as an exchange student at Anyang University in South Korea in 2014. While he studied abroad, Bice helped teach English to children at the elementary, middle school, and high school level. In Aberdeen, he volunteered at Cornerstones Career Learning Center, working with adults learning English as a second language. He also completed an internship with Aberdeen Central High School’s ESL classes. After his Fulbright year overseas, Bice plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching, and then to teach in another country or stay in the U.S. to work with refugee students.

Kevin Heilman, a Chemistry major, and Zach Mohs, a Biology major, participated in the Project 8: Crystal Structure Identification in Natural Organic Matter as part of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. With NSU’s Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Guangwei Ding as their mentor, they began their work with an orientation session in Pierre in May, and in the next ten weeks engaged in review of the literature, sample collection, sample analysis at South Dakota State University (Dr. Rice’s lab) and Northern State University (Dr. Ding’s lab), data processing and analysis, poster preparation and presentation. The hypothesis for the experiment was that the location from where the soil sample originates changes the natural organic matter in the soil sample and that the extracted humic acid substance will have differences in Natural Organic Matter (NOM) compared to the whole soil sample. The objectives were to select the appropriate samples and identify the characters (e.g., aromatic carbon and aliphatic carbon) of the sample. The results of the experiment were presented in August in the state-wide REU Undergraduate Research Symposium in Pierre, South Dakota, in two posters titled “Divergent molecular structures of natural organic matter” and “Suitability of different spectroscopic techniques in the characterization of natural organic matter.” The Symposium was sponsored by the South Dakota EPSCoR Program.