College program helps Killdeer grad with her passion for science

Killdeer’s Alicia Benz graduated from Black Hills State University as an International University Scholar, one of the first two students to receive this distinction in school history.


A biology major, Benz says traveling to the Philippines to mentor high school students as part of the International Service Learning Program at BHSU was the best decision she’s made.

“I remember sitting in the classroom in the Philippines, listening to our students sing to us and give us handmade cards. Those are memories I can cherish forever,” says Benz. “It was a life-changing experience.”

Joining the University Honors Program as a sophomore, Benz pursued undergraduate research opportunities and became a Presidential Student Ambassador.

Working with Dr. Daniel Asunskis, assistant professor of chemistry, Benz gained hands-on research experience by examining the nanoparticle cytotoxicity of buffalo rat liver cells, research with impact in the electronics and solar technology fields.

“It’s amazing that from my experience, not only as undergraduate research assistant, but also from the classes I’ve taken at BHSU, that I’m qualified for huge research positions all across the country,” says Benz.

Benz says BHSU helped her funnel her passion for science into key experiences inspiring her to pursue a career in medicine.

As president of the Health Sciences Student Organization and recent recipient of the ‘Spirit of BH’ award, Benz says she is ready to take her passion for biology and science one step further. She will take a gap year after graduating from BHSU to further her research and then go to medical school.

“With my understanding of the sciences, and the basic science of how our bodies work, I’m excited to look at health problems and have the knowledge to help people,” says Benz.

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