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Pictured Above, Left to Right:  Morgan Eikanger, Emily Eisenbraun and Kylie Christiansen

Each year, USD’s Nolop Institute of Medical Biology awards three Nolop Summer Research Scholarships to undergraduate students who perform medically significant research with their faculty mentors. In 2017, the family of Keith Nolop, M.D., endowed The Nolop Institute of Medical Biology in memory of the 1975 USD alumnus who had a successful career in research and pharmaceuticals.

The 2021 Nolop Summer Research Scholars are Kylie Christiansen, Morgan Eikanger and Emily Eisenbraun.

Christiansen, a native of Rapid City, South Dakota, is a medical biology major. With faculty mentor Bernie Wone, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, Christiansen is examining protein-protein interactions and identifying the genes associated with flight muscle aging and senescence in hawk moths. These insects give insights into similar processes in humans and other organisms. Muscle senescence increases the likelihood of muscle-related injuries and a large range of other illnesses, and Christiansen’s work aims to help better understand that process.

Eikanger, a New Ulm, Minnesota, native, is a medical biology and English major working with Khosrow Rezvani, Ph.D., associate professor of basic biomedical sciences, to test whether a plant-derived anticancer molecule can suppress cancer stem cells that play a key role in colorectal cancer in humans. Specifically, Eikanger wants to determine if smart nanoparticles can effectively target and induce cell death in these stem cells. Smart nanoparticle delivery systems carry and release the anticancer molecules only at the site of the tumor in the colon, which reduces harm to other sites in the body.

Eisenbraun, a Rapid City, South Dakota, native, is a medical biology major. Professor of Biology Jacob Kerby, Ph.D., is directing Eisenbraun’s research, which focuses on understanding the impact of the mineral selenium on the immune system of wildlife. Selenium is a heavy metal that occurs in low concentrations in the environment but can be harmful to animals and humans when it increases in concentration. Tile drainage helps mobilize selenium locked in soils and delivers it to streams and wetlands where it can play a role in wildlife disease outbreaks and cause reproductive issues. Eisenbraun conducts experiments exposing the painted turtle Chrysemys picta to elevated levels of selenium and then evaluates their immune responses. Her research has important implications for understanding the impacts of such selenium exposure for disease susceptibility in wildlife, and, potentially, for those that consume fish and wildlife.


2021 Nationally Competitive Scholarship and Fellowship Winners

The College of Arts & Sciences is the academic home to the vast majority of USD’s national awardwinning students. These scholarships and fellowships offer financial support and experiences to USD students who demonstrate academic achievement, evidence of leadership and public service. 

Ross Oyler ’21 B.A. Hometown: Rapid City, South Dakota Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. Oyler is one of more than 2,100 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research and teach abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The international studies and political science double major will spend the 2021–2022 academic year teaching English in Tajikistan. This Fulbright Award provides participants the opportunity to assist in teaching English and American culture in Tajikistan’s American Spaces and to immerse in the local culture. He will live in one of Tajikistan’s eight American Spaces which serve as dedicated information centers. In 2019 and 2020, Oyler spent his junior year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as a recipient of the David L. Boren Scholarship.

Carter Linke. Hometown: Woonsocket, South Dakota Benjamin A. Gilman International ScholarshipLinke, sophomore political science and media and journalism major, received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study in Germany at the Free University of Berlin. The Gilman International Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Students compete on a national level and must provide strong academic, personal and professional reasoning behind their study abroad program and location. Linke, a first-generation college student, is an active student on campus and is a part of the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity, the Honors Program and the Student Government Association. He will travel to Berlin in the spring of 2022 to study how the media works with politics.

Elena Freeman ’21 B.A. Hometown: Vermillion, South Dakota Princeton in Africa Fellowship. Freeman, who recently graduated with degrees in international studies and French, will work with a non-governmental organization on the African continent for a 12-month service experience in 2021. The program works with nearly 50 organizations that focus on such issues as economic development, public health and conservation. During her fellowship, Freeman hopes to serve in South Africa, Benin, Ghana or Rwanda. Freeman previously studied in Africa and interned remotely for the U.S. Embassy in Gambia. As the recipient of a David L. Boren national security scholarship in 2019, she traveled to Senegal.

Tylar Larsen. Hometown: Cansayapi, Minnesota Udall ScholarshipThe Udall Foundation awards scholarships for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment. Psychology major Larsen received a Udall Scholarship this year in the Tribal Public Policy category. He is Bdewakantunwan Dakota and plans to help combat historical trauma in Native communities. He has worked on the Lower Sioux’s Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, collaborating with the American Indian Cancer Foundation, and he helped write and pass two policies. Larsen is in the Honors Program at USD and holds leadership positions in multiple student organizations on campus. After completing his education, he hopes to return to Cansayapi to work in public health.