Davis-Bahcall Scholars arrive at Sanford Lab

Above: From left, John Wieland, Jackson Peterson, Greydon Shangreaux, Jared Bitz, Isaac Rath, Shouri Dirks, Joseph Abrahamson, Mariya Sachek, Karissa Kjenstad. Below: The scholars show off treasures found on a scavenger hunt at Black Hills State University.
Credit: 
Adam Gomez

For seven years, the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program has given students from across South Dakota the opportunity to learn from scientists and engineers around the world, including some very close to home.  Today, nine students arrived at Sanford Lab to begin a five-week journey that will take them from Sanford Lab to Fermilab in Illinois to Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.

The students are excited about the opportunity to travel and be immersed in the scientific community. “I’m fascinated by the way the world works,” said Mariya Sachek. “I’ve always wanted to discover new pieces of the puzzle.” Sachek graduated from Roosevelt High in Sioux Falls and will be attending South Dakota School of Mines & Technology this fall.

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program has been sponsored by 3M Company in partnership with the Governor’s office, the State of South Dakota and Sanford Lab for the past seven years. In addition to providing financial support for the program, 3M offers internships and development opportunities.

"I thank 3M for giving young South Dakotans the opportunity to learn about the cutting-edge research conducted at the Sanford Lab and to become acquainted with the scientists who manage those projects. The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program is truly an experience like no other," said Governor Dennis Daugaard.

3M is a global company that employs nearly 90,000 people in more than 70 countries. Aberdeen and Brookings are home to some of the largest plants, with more than 1,600 employees.

“Our significant investments at both plants underscore the importance we attach to the state,” said Jim Fay, plant manager in Brookings.

“Because research and development are the lifeblood of 3M and the foundation of 3M ‘Science Applied to Life,’ we have been pleased to be part of Gov. Daugaard's exciting venture, which is designed to nurture future scientists,” added Nadine Gropp, plant manager in Aberdeen.

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars will tour 3M in Aberdeen, where they will meet with senior engineers for an educational panel discussion and a tour of the facility. “We want to expose them to the diverse technologies 3M has to offer,” Gropp said.

From Aberdeen, the students will travel to the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab in Illinois. The final week will be spent in Italy, where they will visit Gran Sasso National Laboratory.

“I’m excited to be a part of the whole spirit of international collaboration,” said Jared Bitz, who graduated from Lincoln High in Sioux Falls. “I’m very thankful that we have the funding and opportunity to participate in this amazing program in South Dakota.” Jared will attend Stanford this fall.

The program, open to high school seniors and college freshmen, is named in honor of Dr. Ray Davis Jr. and Dr. John Bahcall. Davis, who built his experiment at the 4850 Level of the Homestake Mine, received the Nobel Prize in 2002 for his groundbreaking research into neutrinos.

“The exceptional students participating this year will have the unique opportunity to visit some of the world's leading labs, which are at the forefront of science. We hope the program will motivate them to persevere in their studies," said Brianna Mount, Research Assistant Professor of Physics at Black Hills State University and coordinator of the program.

Jennifer Black, 3M’s human resource manager said the company supports the program because it offers educational and development opportunities for gifted students in South Dakota. “This is core to 3M’s giving strategy,” she said. “Involvement and partnership in programs like Davis-Bahcall give us a chance to increase student achievement and make learning relevant through connections to everyday life and future careers.” 

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program is also supported with funding through the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium and Black Hills State University.

“We are grateful to 3M and the Governor for sponsoring this program for the past seven years,” said Mike Headley, Executive Director of Sanford Lab. “Their generosity is giving students opportunities they would not otherwise have.” 

The nine students selected this year come from across the state.

Greydon Shangreaux, White River, S.D., is a freshman at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSMT) studying geological engineering. Shangreaux received the 2014 Gates Millennium Scholarship. He is an ambassador for indigenous youth in STEM through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

  • Isaac Rath, Canton, S.D., is a senior at Canton High School. He will attend SDSMT this fall to pursue a degree in computer science or computer engineering.
  • Mariya Sachek, Sioux Falls, S.D., is a senior at Roosevelt High School. She will attend SDSMT to pursue an electrical engineering degree.
  • John Wieland, Aberdeen, S.D., is a senior at Aberdeen Central High School. He will begin college this fall at SDSMT. Future plans include a Ph.D. in physics.
  • Joseph Abrahamson, Howard, S.D., graduated from Howard High School. A freshman at South Dakota State University, Abrahamson is majoring in mechanical engineering.  
  • Karissa Kjenstad, Tacoma, Wash., is a freshman at SDSMT, where she is majoring in Chemical Engineering. She plans to work in research. 
  • Shouri Dirks, Harrisburg, S.D., is a senior at Harrisburg High School. She will attend the University of Michigan to major in neuroscience. Shouri hopes to work as a neurologist or researcher.
  • Jackson Peterson, Sturgis, S.D., is a senior at Sturgis Brown High School. Peterson plans to pursue a degree in biotechnology.
  • Jared Bitz, Sioux Falls, S.D., is a senior at Lincoln High School. He plans to pursue a degree in symbolic systems with a minor in music at Stanford University.  He hopes to do research in artificial intelligence.