Student researchers can connect with career opportunities at upcoming event

by Sioux Falls Development Foundation
Published 07/09/2019
Originally Published by Sioux Falls.Business

As many as 200 undergraduate students are spending their summer immersed in STEM-related research in South Dakota, and soon they will be in front of business leaders who could go on to hire them.

The research work is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, including the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, and Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, as well as the South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, or SD BRIN.

“This research is happening across the state, typically in groups of eight to 10 students working with a university faculty member to do research related to a particular field,” program director Mel Ustad said.

Areas of study include cyber security, nanomaterials and the Missouri River.

“As part of the program, there needs to be a culminating experience for these students, so we’ve put together a large symposium that in the past has been held in Pierre,” Ustad said.

This year, for the first time, the symposium is moving to Sioux Falls, where Ustad estimates up to 200 students will participate in an event July 29 and 30.

“This will provide the students the experience of participating in a real scientific meeting, including a poster session where they will present their work, professional development and numerous opportunities for networking.”

Students have come from surrounding states in addition to South Dakota to participate in the program, he said.

“For us, that’s a plus because they’re getting to the state and it gives us an opportunity to encourage them to consider moving here to work or for graduate school,” he said.  “And thanks to enhanced partnerships this year, we’re excited to share all the opportunities that exist for the students in the Sioux Falls area and beyond.”

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation, South Dakota Biotech and numerous Sioux Falls businesses have come together to create a destination event for undergraduates in STEM-related fields.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to share the first-class employment opportunities that exist for students with these skills in Sioux Falls,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“We’ve got a terrific lineup of businesses waiting and willing to show these students the various pathways their careers can take them here.”

Students will be able to tour a half -dozen major STEM-related employers, from Avera and Sanford to Experity and EROS, POET and Raven.

“We know these students will have the same surprised, positive reaction that career professionals have when they discover all that’s happening scientifically and in terms of research and development in Sioux Falls,” said Joni Johnson, executive director of South Dakota Biotech.

“If you are a skilled, passionate, research-minded person, you are going to find so many ways to use your ability here that are going to lead directly to real-world applications. That’s what we think young talent is seeking today: the chance to see their research at work to actually impact lives, and that’s what our Sioux Falls-area businesses are achieving every day.”

The students will be hosted at the Sanford House on the campus of the health system’s northeast headquarters for a networking reception co-sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and South Daktoa Biotech from 5 to 6:30 p.m. July 29. Businesses interested in attending can register here. 

The following day brings a packed lineup of activity at the Ramkota Hotel, host of the research symposium. Events will include an ongoing poster session, breakfast with a scientist, information on preparing for graduate school and a lunch panel focusing on businesses offering related career opportunities.

“We’re very excited for the events scheduled both days, and having the event in Sioux Falls has made it much easier to increase the visibility and interaction between students and potential future employers,” Ustad said.

Guzzetta and Johnson are partnering to offer multiple sessions during the July 30 symposium focused on South Dakota opportunities in science.

“We want students to see that not only can they find a rewarding career path here, but we have expanded our bioscience economy enough that there now can be multiple paths as their skills and interests evolve,” Guzzetta said.

“By connecting the dots from graduate education opportunities to professional ones, we hope to encourage them to come back to the Sioux Falls area and continue to grow here.”

As the state affiliate of the international BIO organization, South Dakota Biotech also will share how the state has a growing profile industrywide.

“Our South Dakota bioscience companies have relationships far beyond our state, and the work being done here is beginning to attract industrywide attention,” Johnson said.

“The message for students is if you are thinking of growing a STEM career, you can achieve more here faster because of the collaborative and innovative cultures of our businesses. As undergraduates, they already have been immersed in research, which shows they are the types of individuals we want to retain and grow here. It’s an outstanding opportunity to share our story with them.”