Sciences

The chemistry and biochemistry, geography and geographic information sciences, and physics departments are the science programs in the college.

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Brian Peterson, biochemistry ’17, will enroll at the University of Michigan for its doctoral program in biomedical sciences.

“A lot of my family members came to SDSU. Two older brothers graduated, and both my mom and dad went here. And my grandpa was a professor, so it’s kind of been a family tradition.

“After I came to SDSU, my biochemistry professors were great and the classes went well; it just seemed like the right major for me. I really wanted to go into the biological sciences and knew biochemistry was for me. It gives a more analytical mechanistic understanding of things, which is a good fit for my interests.

“The professor I did most of my research with is Dr. Surtag Iram. He really has been a great mentor and adviser. I even published a research article on the work I did in his lab on anticancer drugs. He helped solidify my interests in research during the two years I worked with him.

“I also had two internships where I conducted research funded by fellowships from the Joseph F. Nelson mentorship from the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College and the Biochemical Spatio-temporal NeTwork Resource Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity through the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (SDEPSCoR).

“I have to get through grad school before I can decide for sure what my dream job will be. But I think conducting research in the life science or medical field whether that be industry, academia or being a professor, will be my dream job.”

By Courtney Johnson, agricultural communication senior from Brookings

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Tony Busche is a chemist who has worked for 3M for 37 years. He employs chemistry majors as interns.

“I graduated from Minnesota State University, Moorhead in 1979 with a degree in biology. I applied for a job at 3M in Minnesota right out of college and was hired for the position as the plant chemist specialist. I worked there until I transferred to the Brookings location in 1995. I kept my position as the plant chemist specialist when I transferred.

“I realized there was too much work for me to get done on my own when I began working in Brookings. To solve this problem, around 1997, I decided to start an internship program. I knew a couple professors on campus so I contacted them about hiring an intern. I thought this internship would be a win-win situation for both the intern and myself.

“The internship is beneficial for the students because they get valuable expertise in the laboratory. Also, they get paid, which is a huge bonus.

“I have the interns trained to run all the equipment I do so when I am at meetings they can cover for me. I work in the industrial process, so I look at the defects from the production line and determine what is wrong. The interns help me determine defects by running samples. They also aid with new developments and instrument replacement.

“Some of the many instruments the interns learn how to use are electron microscopes, infrared microscopes, X-ray spectrometers, infrared spectrometers and MMRs. They learn how to effectively and successfully run instruments that they will likely be using in the field.

“Throughout the internship, the students also work on individual research projects. The projects vary depending on what the student is interested in and what needs to be accomplished.

“So far, I have had seven interns throughout my time here. I always choose students from SDSU since they are located close and can be taking classes while working on the internship. If they were going to a different college, they probably wouldn’t be able to take classes while doing the internship. School is the priority to me so I want the students to be able to do the internship as a supplement to their education.

“The internship lasts for the entire summer and continues into the fall semester. Overall, it is 900 hours in a year. Usually, the intern works full time during the summer and part time during the fall, but this depends on what works best for the student. They work about 20 hours during the school year but this also varies with course load. I always tell them that school comes first.

“Some students have been interns for me several times. I have had a few work for me as many as two to three years.

“Following the internship, three of the students have come back and been hired as full-time employees. Two of them are currently working as chemists and the other is working as an engineer.

“A couple of my interns also went on to graduate school. One student is graduating with a Ph.D. this year.

“The main thing the students take away from the internship is real experience in the laboratory, which they generally will not get on campus, and they also get to run state-of–the-art instrumentation. We try to keep all of the instruments up to snuff. They also get a taste of corporate life.

“The interns have all been fabulous, highly qualified and have impressive work ethics. Overall, I have had great results with all of the students. I have been very pleased with every one of the interns and I’m sure it will continue to be this way.

“I plan to continue having an intern as long as I work at 3M as it has been a great and beneficial experience. I haven’t made many changes throughout the years because it has gone really well. I foresee that I will keep running the program the same way into the future since it has been successful so far.”

By Sydney Sleep, agricultural communications senior from Spearfish

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Jace Waybright

Joel Rauber, physics department head, said Jace Waybright was involved in undergraduate research in the summer before officially arriving on campus as a freshman.

“I’m a freshman from Lincoln, Nebraska. I came here as a physics and math double major. I discovered in high school that I really had an affinity for physics and math. It just kind of came easy to me, so I figured it was something I’d want to do with my life.

“As far as career goals, I want to go to grad school to become a college professor. I want to be very involved in research at whatever university I’m at. That’s actually something I started before I came last fall.

“Last summer, Dr. Joel Rauber arranged for me to work on research at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln with Dr. Parashu Kharel, an assistant professor of physics from SDSU. Dr. Kharel was working as a research associate at the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

“I worked 40 hours a week, and they paid me. I even got to live on campus. It was a miracle that it worked out that way. It was a lot of fun.

“Not having any research experience before was my biggest hurdle to overcome those couple of months. I’m going there again this year, and I’m going to be paired with a professor from UNL. “In doing research, the fact that you are making materials that nobody else has made before and measuring properties of these materials that have never been measured before is really exciting. It’s very different from doing a textbook problem that millions of people have solved already. You’re looking for solutions to questions that haven’t been answered yet.

“I think that’s a lot about what is physics. There are so many problems you’re thrown into that are unique, and you have to use general techniques and applications to maneuver your way around the problem.

“What I learned is that I really like fundamental science, and physics is arguably the most fundamental science. Physics can describe every other science, some in very complicated ways. That’s why I want to get a double major in physics and math; both are fundamental studies. A lot of it is based on theory versus observations.

“I think it takes a particular mindset to be a physics or math major. You have to really find joy in equations.”

By Nicole Hamilton, agricultural communication senior from Hitchcock

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Doug Raynie, head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, completed his first year in the position.

“As a land-grant university, we have teaching, research and service missions. We have to be strong at what we do but know we can’t do everything.

“In research, the whole idea of exploring or coming up with new ideas is still very exciting to me. So, as part of this job, even though I’m spending most of my time doing administrative stuff, I still try to get in the lab and at least direct graduate students as much as I can.

“I like to tell students that learning chemistry is like learning to play basketball. You can read about how to play basketball, and it’ll tell you to square your shoulders up to the basket and follow through on your shot.

“And, yes, you could just read a chemistry book. You can watch and learn basketball and see the relationship between the players, and, just as in chemistry, you can watch a lecture. But, if you really want to learn how to play basketball, you have to get in the gym. It’s the same thing with chemistry; to really learn it, you need to go to labs—do some research. Chemistry, in some respects, has a bad reputation because it’s hard and it’s abstract, but it’s not when you understand what’s going on.

“I give one of the anatomy professors a hard time. I tell him, ‘You can feel your bones; you know what your lungs do; but to understand what’s happening with an electron inside an atom, that’s a lot more difficult for students.’

“I’ve spent most of 15 years teaching some variety of freshman chemistry, so I was teaching 700-800 students a year. Every five to 10 years you have that one student who makes it all worthwhile, and, luckily, I’ve had three or four of those.”

By Kelly Morrison, agricultural communication senior from Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Photo by Kelly Morrison

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Jerry Blazey, a 1980 graduate from South Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics, serves as vice president of research and innovation partnerships at Northern Illinois University. Before he entered university administration, Blazey worked at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and advised the White House within the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

While Jerry Blazey’s passion for science has taken him away from his South Dakota roots, he remains active in the SDSU community through family ties, consulting work for the Department of Physics and attending the occasional athletics event. His father, Charles H. Blazey, was an SDSU professor emeritus.

“I wanted to be a scientist. I think the second half of my career in science policy and administration was somewhat unexpected. I always thought I’d be a scientist.

“Of the last 10 years, I’ve spent six years in Washington, D.C.—first in the Office of Science and the Department of Energy and, second in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House. I was a sort of liaison between the White House and parts of the Office of Science and parts of the National Science Foundation. Anyway, since I got a taste for science policy, when I came back to Northern Illinois University, vice president of research seemed a natural evolution. So, over my career, I’ve moved from research to policy to administration.

“I really think science is important to society, and I want to be sure that we are benefiting from it as much as we can and its value is properly presented to the public.

“You have to put your time into your work if you want to succeed. Second, you have to take a deliberative approach. You need to figure out your long-term goals and shape your efforts and your interests to reach those goals.”

By Makenzie Huber, political science and journalism senior from Sioux Falls
Photo by Makenzie Huber

 

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