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Student Experiences

Student Experiences

Leah Miiller ? current DWU student
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Corsica, S.D.

Leah Miiller, a junior biochemistry major and psychology minor at DWU, was one of 73 undergraduate students selected to present research at Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C., in April. She was chosen out of 850 applicants nationwide and was the only South Dakotan chosen and the first since 2009.

She conducted her research, ?Effects of Adolescent Bullying on Adult Cognitive Function,? during a 10-week South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network internship at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.

?Adolescent bullying is a severe stressor experienced by many teenagers worldwide and is associated with greater incidence of psychiatric disorders that can persist into adulthood. Such disorders are characterized by a deficit in executive functioning; the cognitive process that allows complex decision making,? states Miiller?s abstract on her research.

Miiller, and the team she worked with, used rats to study the effects of bullying.

?A group of younger rats was paired with aggressive adult male rats to study the psychiatric disorders that could result from bullying and persist into adulthood. After a series of experiments, it was found that bullying of the adult males was linked to decreased cognitive functioning in the prefrontal cortex of the brain of the adolescent rats, or the part of the brain that handles personality, decision making and social behavior,? stated a Mitchell Daily Republic article about Miiller.

While in D.C., she and DWU?s Paula Mazzer, assistant professor of biochemistry, visited the National Aquarium and the Department of Commerce, and Miiller also spoke with representatives from both Sen. Tim Johnson?s and Rep. Kristi Noem?s offices about the importance of undergraduate research.

?This conference not only showed me the importance of undergraduate research and scientific research in general, but also the importance of talking to congressmen about funding and other issues in the scientific community,? Miiller said. ?This event has made me think even harder about pursuing a career in research and has made me realize all of the different fields of research there are.?

Colton Duxbury – 2012 DWU graduate
Internship: Lakeview Veterinary Clinic, Mitchell
Major: Allied Health
Hometown: Wessington, S.D.

Private liberal arts colleges can provide individualized attention and flexibility that larger universities can’t – making the student’s personal success a faculty member’s personal mission.

Colton Duxbury, Wessington, transferred to DWU as an athletic training major in 2009 from Northern Arizona University. He found medical classes were the right course for him, but struggled with his

“As an athletic trainer, I could do a number of different things in the medical field, such as PA, PT, MD, etc.,” he said. “I shadowed some people in these professions over the next year and a half, but I didn’t find anything that really pushed me to join that profession myself.”

That winter break he was talking to a veterinarian on his family’s farm when his interest was sparked. His next step was to talk to his adviser and see what could be done to switch gears halfway through the game.

He switched to a biology major and began interning for Lakeview Veterinary Clinic in Mitchell for spring 2011 and fall 2011 semesters.

“I really enjoyed working with the animals as well as the people who owned them,” he said. “Veterinary medicine doesn’t tie me down into one specialty, either; I can go from working on a dog one minute to a cow the next.”

Switching majors is common enough, in fact, Duxbury had switched from construction management to athletic training while still at his former school, but in order to graduate within a total of four years, hard work was involved on his part and some creativity by a professor.

“Professor Brian Patrick really helped out a lot during my transition to biology. He made sure that I had everything squared away in order to graduate on time. He is also the person responsible for putting together my individualized allied health major,” Duxbury said. “When I was talking to him about adding an allied health minor to my transcript so my athletic training classes did not go to waste, he posed the idea of combining the chemistry and allied health minors into one major.”

Duxbury graduated in May and has been accepted to Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. By 2016, he will graduate with a combined Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health degree.

Renee Butler Renee Butler – 2009 DWU graduate
Internship: Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, Mitchell, and PHS Indian Hospital, Rosebud
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Elko, Nevada

Putting your chosen career into perspective occasionally requires a little more altitude.

Renee Butler, of Elko, Nev., took part in an internship in 2008 that not only provided an array of experience, but also allowed her to take part in outreach programs on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

“During a typical day at Avera Queen of Peace, I sat together with the radiologist while he interpreted plain films, CT scans, mammograms, MRIs and ultrasounds. I was also able to observe him while he conducted minor surgical procedures,” she said.

The doctor she interned for also allowed her to sit in on pre- and post-operative meetings with patients.

“On outreach days, the doctor’s assistant and I would fly with him in his jet to the reservation,” Butler explained.

They would put in about a 10-hour day during these visits and she watched him treat numerous patients each trip. The majority of the time was spent on non-invasive procedures done with image guidance, and reading plain film X-rays.

Internships are an opportunity of a lifetime – allowing students to not only experience their field first-hand, but giving them the chance to embark on a little self-discovery.

“Truthfully, there is no better way to tell if you would be compatible with a job unless you observe it closely and visit with a person in that field,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself throughout this entire experience. I gained a lot of confidence while being in the hospital setting, and I learned so much about the field of radiology. I realized that I would love to not only be a diagnostic radiologist, but that interventional radiology would also be an amazing occupation. Everything about this internship confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine.”

Lynn GeukeLynn Geuke, 2011 DWU graduate
Internship: SD GF&P
Major: Wildlife Management and Criminal Justice
Hometown: Elkton, S.D.

Internships are all about on-site, hands-on experience. And some take the term “field work” seriously.

Lynn Geuke, a DWU junior, completed an internship in the summer of 2009 for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GF&P) in goose depredation.

He wasn’t assigned to the town he originally wanted, and it turned out to be for the best. He had hoped for Watertown – which has a crew of two and covers about four to five counties in Region 4. He ended up in Webster, part of a crew of four covering three counties in Region 4 – Day, Roberts and Marshall – and they happen to be the counties with the most complaints about geese.

The team would receive complaints from landowners and then go about using a series of techniques to rid the problem geese from the fields. Methods included hazing (non-lethal shotgun rounds), propane cannons, flags and finally, using electric fencing. They had about 15 corn-feed sites for the geese scattered throughout the three counties. He had to learn the best techniques for the situation and time of year. For example, when geese molt, they lose the ability to fly, and so a fence is the only way to keep them from migrating from field to field, eating farmers’ crops. When molting is done and the goslings are old enough to fly, the fences are taken down and other methods are used.

In addition to learning how to handle geese, Geuke had to learn the art of public relations. He said some landowners “hate geese with a passion” and didn’t think the GF&P was working hard enough to keep the geese out, while others “were just happy that we were helping them keep their hard work safe.”

“I really got to work with a variety of different people,” he said. “I definitely had to have people skills, and if I didn’t before this job, I did when I got done.”

Internships help students get experience, but also to decide if their current course of study is really for them. Geuke had the opportunity to ride along with conservation officers in Day County and came to his own conclusion.

“It made me realize what I wanted to do for sure and that is to become a conservation officer,” he said.

And it just so happens, a conservation officer internship is what he’s shooting for next.

Mark MingoMark Mingo, 2011 DWU graduate
Internship: Dakota Laboratories, Mitchell
Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Armour, S.D.

This summer, Mark Mingo, of Armour, took the opportunity to work for Dakota Laboratories in Mitchell, working in quality testing. He said his internship was great because it allowed him to accomplish three big goals this summer – acquire work experience, summer money and college credits. Call it multi-tasking.

Dakota Laboratories is a multi-service laboratory with a focus in the areas of environmental microbiology and biotechnology, according to its Web site.

Mingo is a biochemistry major planning to go on to medical school. During the internship, he worked with various microorganisms and media.

“I also used an assortment of lab equipment for testing on products,” he said. “I got to make a few standard operating procedures that are getting reviewed to be used for future references to run tests or equipment.”

One of those operating procedures includes how to “gown-up” for lab work.

Mark MingoGoing into the internship, he was nervous, but after that wore off he really started enjoying his work and realized he was better prepared than he thought.

“A lot of the stuff that I actually did in microbiology here (at DWU) applied to my job,” he said, which initially surprised him that classroom work would be so similar to the real thing. “This is for a pharmaceutical quality control lab … I was surprised to see a lot of the different techniques we used were actually used in my internship.”

Taking the opportunity to do an internship before his junior year allowed him to test the waters of his major and also become more familiar with the subject so he could possibly go into a research internship this coming summer.

“I think that if I was going into another internship or research project I’d still be a little nervous but I’d feel more comfortable going in, know a little more of what to expect,” he said.

The experience also helped him realize something about himself – he knows he’s on the right track to med school and that becoming a doctor is the right fit for him.

“I learned that I can do a lot more things and stay organized even with a whirlwind of tasks in front of me. My career goals have not changed. I would still like to go to medical school.”

Carly HayesCarly Hayes, 2011 DWU graduate
Internship: Sioux Falls Zoo and Delbridge Museum
Major: Business-finance with a biology minor
Hometown: Aberdeen, S.D.

The beauty of an internship isn’t to sell a student a career, but to allow the student to explore it. Carly Hayes, of Aberdeen, went into an internship for Sioux Falls Zoo to explore the atmosphere and dynamic of working for a zoo. Her typical day consisted of zoo maintenance – cleaning, enrichment and training.

“The most memorable experience that occurred was when we were able to feed the bears from above their enclosure,” she said. “Being one step away from a mouth full of teeth was exciting.”

The experience was an informative one for Hayes, who actually was able to learn a little something about what she wants to do by doing what she didn’t.

“Something I would tell other students considering doing an internship is that it is really important to experience the job first hand before committing to it so that you do not end up in a field you are not happy with.”

Hayes doesn’t discredit the experience she received, even though her internship won’t lead to a job at a zoo.

“Being at the zoo taught me that although I love animals and respect all that the keepers have to do, it is just not for me,” she said. “Thus, I am looking more into an administrative position, where I can apply my organization and passion for working with people.”

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Last updated: 7/13/12