Students Impress National Scientists:
Inspirations Abounds at American Indian Science & Engineering Society Conference

posted on November 19, 2013

Students from Red Cloud High School have wowed judges, scientists and their peers after taking first and third place in their division at the annual American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) Conference in Denver, Colorado. AISES is the premier conference for Native scientists and engineers.

Savannah Jensen ‘14 won first place for her research using optogenetics to assist researchers at the National Institutes of Health develop methods for healing the brain after strokes and nerve damage.

Myriam Rama ‘15 won second for her research conducted this summer with the University of South Dakota’s Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP) where some accidental innovation led to a breakthrough in metal ion detection, which will support more efficient and capable metal detectors in the future.

The Chair of Red Cloud’s science department Wendell Gehman traveled with the eight Red Cloud students participating. And for the entire group, the experience was nothing short of inspiring. Here, they reflect on the conference and what they learned.

Randy Hughes ‘15:

“I met a lot of interesting individuals within the Native science community, including a Navajo scientist at the conference’s powwow. He wasn’t familiar with traditional ways or practices, so it was an opportunity to tell him about our culture and how a wačhípi works. After I made that connection he told me about MITES, a science summer program for high school juniors at MIT, and I’m going to look into that program now.”

Savannah Jensen ‘14:

“My project was mapping the expression of a protein for optogenetics, which is where you take a type of protein and transfect it with a virus, then inject that into an organism and track it using special lights to assist your research. In my experiment,which took place at the National Institutes of Health this past summer, I injected the protein into the left side of a brain to monitor how the brain communicates between the right and left sides. I then mapped out the expression of this transfer to see if there was a retrograde to help the scientists better understand this process in their larger experiments to stimulate the brain to heal after strokes or nerve damage. A lot of people thought I registered in the wrong section—they didn’t understand how we could be doing projects like this in high school; they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t in college.”

Wendell Gehman, Science Department Chair:

“There were eight students who attended AISES; four with projects and four without. Those not presenting visited a career fair and each student was tasked with learning about four presentation posters, three schools, two companies and one government agency. I was so proud we took home two of three awards in our student’s category.”

Bobby Pourier ‘16:

“I enjoyed speaking with Ohio State. The representative was great, she basically helped me lay out my whole life. I now have ideas about summer internships, studying experimental psychology as an undergraduate, and I hope to then move on to a PhD. I also met with someone from Berkley University. And because of our conversation she actually wants to come up to visit Red Cloud to speak with more students. This was my first year and I think it was a really positive experience. I want to do a project so that I can go again next year.”

Augusta Terkildsen ‘15:

“I met a woman who worked for BP while I was there. She helped put me in touch with people who I’m now talking with about summer internships in archeology and dinosaur digs in Utah. I liked being there and seeing how many Native people were interested in science.”

Jamie Red Willow Richards ‘15:

“I presented my project on the preparation and characterization of gold nanorods using nanotechnology in front of representatives from Yale and some other big universities. I didn’t know who they were at first but they told me they liked my presentation and when they gave me their card I couldn’t believe it!”



The trip was made possible through the generous support of the Toyota Foundation.

For more pictures from the trip, visit our Flickr or Facebook.

All Content ©Red Cloud Indian School, 2013