Breanna Helland, a senior from Frederick, S.D., and Nate Vinzant, a junior from Sioux Falls, S.D., were selected by USD faculty to display their outstanding research, in poster form, during the Pierre Poster Session, which is co-sponsored by the Research Affairs Council of the South Dakota Board of Regents, the South Dakota EPSCoR Office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Helland and Vinzant are part of a select group of students from South Dakota colleges and universities who are annually invited to participate in this prestigious research display.

Helland’s poster, “Human Trafficking in the Midwest: A Policy Recommendation for the State of South Dakota,” details human trafficking as a national issue and proposes a policy recommendation for South Dakota. With increasing cases in South Dakota, human trafficking studies have recommended best practices in law enforcement and health care but little has been done by way of policy and legislation. Helland’s research is under the supervision of Sandy McKeown, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at USD, and is co-sponsored by the Council for Undergraduate Research & Creative Scholarship and the Center for Academic & Global Engagement at USD. Helland is a criminal justice and political science major who plans to intern for U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson this summer before attending law school in the fall.

“Using Nanotechnology to Deliver Anxiety-Relieving Drugs to the Brain” is the title of Vinzant’s research.  Vinzant’s poster describes the anxiety that comes from attempting to stop drug abuse, withdrawal, and notes that the symptoms of withdrawal are so severe that addicts often relapse to escape the anxiety. Iron oxide nanoparticles represent a possible solution to this problem as they can be transported across the blood-brain barrier. Overall, Vinzant’s findings indicate a novel approach to drug delivery to the brain and efficacy of drug treatments delivered via nanotechnology. His research was funded by a USD Nelson Faculty Research Grant to Gina Forster, Ph.D., associate professor of basic biomedical sciences, and Ranjit Koodali, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and a U. Discover Fellowship and mini-grant from the Council for Undergraduate Research & Creative Scholarship and the Center for Academic & Global Engagement at USD. Vinzant is pursuing a degree in medical biology and he has worked in Forster’s neuroscience lab since 2013.

The Pierre Poster Session is an opportunity for undergraduate students to showcase their research and for universities to highlight the state’s investment into research and graduate education. In addition, research collaborations between various state institutions, industry and federal agencies will be exhibited with undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty researchers available to answer questions and meet with legislators, media and visitors to the capitol building. For more information about undergraduate research opportunities at USD please contact

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