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STEM education gets big boost

STEM education gets big boost

  • Updated

In a move that will advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences for South Dakota students, First Premier Bank has pledged a matching donation of $15,000 each year for the next five years to support the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program.

Hosted by Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead and Black Hills State University in Spearfish, this fully supported summer program allows undergraduate students to explore the world of modern scientific research.

Dana Dykhouse, chief executive officer at First Premier Bank, said the company “enthusiastically supports the program and the experiences it provides to South Dakota students.” By pledging a matching gift, Dykhouse hopes to encourage others to learn about and support the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program as well.

“The opportunity encourages young people’s exploration of the research and discovery being led by Sanford Lab scientists and provides a window to our future,” Dykhouse said.

According to Brianna Mount, director of the program and professor of physics at BHSU, the program provides important experiences at a critical point in a student’s career.

“They are choosing their future career path,” Mount said. “It’s a critical time, because they get exposed to many different disciplines and learn early in their education what professionals do every day, whether in science, engineering or another STEM field.”

Each summer, eight Davis-Bahcall Scholars spend four weeks exploring the world of modern scientific research at world-leading laboratories and universities. Students begin the program at SURF, where they work with scientists, engineers and educators, then travel to labs across the Midwest, ending at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. The final week is spent in Italy, where they visit Gran Sasso National Laboratory.

Whether students are hoping to explore new fields or to narrow down their career path, this program provides real-world experiences that help students pursue an undergraduate career in STEM.

“The program seeks to broaden student experiences with STEM fields,” said Deb Wolf, director of Education, Communication and IDEA at SURF. “Students are immersed in different STEM fields and areas of research to broaden their perspective and create connections with people in those fields from whom they can learn.”

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program was postponed. Students who were selected for the 2020 program were invited to participate in the 2021 program. In 2021, the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program has been shortened from five to two weeks and will include limited travel.

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars program takes its name from two scientists whose collaborative efforts resulted in a major discovery — Dr. Raymond Davis Jr. and his collaborator, Dr. John Bahcall. Based on Bahcall's theory, Davis built his solar neutrino experiment at the 4850 Level of the Homestake Mine, collecting data for nearly 30 years beginning in the mid-1960s. His ground-breaking research led to a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002. This spirit of discovery drives the program, encouraging students to find the scientist, engineer or researcher within.

To learn more or give to the program, visit the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program webpage. To give a gift, visit the SURF Foundation webpage or contact Staci Miller, director of the SURF Foundation, at 605-571-2303.

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