SPEARFISH | Ashley Davis, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribe, from Belcourt, N.D., plays the wing position for the Black Hills State University basketball team and majors in exercise science.

This summer, Davis had the opportunity to conduct research measuring radioactivity at underground research facilities in the Black Hills and in Italy.

The research was part of the Germanium Materials and Detectors Advancement Research Consortium (GEMADARC) undergraduate research experience.

The GEMADARC project holds a global partnership of 11 institutions across five countries including Canada, China, Taiwan, Germany and the United States. Their mission is to advance knowledge, research and discovery in fundamental physics, provide opportunities for undergraduate STEM majors, and to improve global collaboration on Germanium-related technology.

Urla Marcus, director of American Indian Studies at BHSU, urged Davis to apply for the project. A little hesitant, Davis applied and was accepted. She explains, “I thought it would give me a chance to broaden my knowledge in the science field. My group’s research activity was measuring the radioactivity of different sources.”

Other BHSU students that participated this year were Cortez Standing Bear, biology major from Aberdeen; Erika Redinger, physical science major from St. Onge, and Tada Vargas of Oglala Lakota College.

As a part of the project, Davis spent 15 days in Europe. The students went to the underground physics lab Grand Sasso National Laboratory in central Italy. They also participated in research at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead.

“Our GEMADARC project included learning about radioactivity and taking measurements on sources. A germanium detector was used at the underground facility in Lead to measure radioactivity. We surrounded it with lead block to limit radioactive substances in our surroundings,” Davis said.

Davis hopes to attend graduate school for occupational therapy after graduating with her bachelor's degree. Eventually, she wants to go back to a reservation for work. “My overall goal is to help Native American people in any way I can,” she adds. With her passion for sports, she also hopes to coach volleyball or basketball.

Balancing academics, sports and extracurriculars is no easy feat. First and foremost, academics come first, Davis says. “Some days are harder than others, but I try to stay motivated every day.” A good night of rest and keeping a planner are Davis’ two pieces of advice for balancing the opportunities available in college.

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