April 18, 2018

The science of success

Samantha Wells and Jessica Buelow, Science Fest co-presidents.

Samantha Wells and Jessica Buelow, Science Fest co-presidents.

Two UW-Superior students find success as co-presidents of Science Fest and beyond

Science Fest has grown to be the largest student-organized event at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, attracting between 1,000-2,000 people each year. While many people are involved in making the event happen, two students have been at the helm for the past three years.

Senior biology majors Jessica Buelow and Samantha Wells got involved with Science Fest when they joined the Students of Science Club as freshmen. One year later, they found themselves ‘in charge’ as co-presidents of the event.

Science Fest 2018

This year, Mother Nature threatened to damper attendance, but 1,200 people braved the snow to attend the must-see event featuring 35 student-run science exhibits and 18 community-sponsored displays.

“It’s so satisfying to see how much fun the kids and families have,” said Buelow.

This year’s featured presenter was “Mad Science,” transforming laboratory science into an interactive and entertaining show for kids. Other highlights included an interactive display by the Superior Police and Fire Departments, shark dissection, chemistry shows, baby goats and zoo animals, beekeeping exhibits, insects and aquatic invertebrates, ‘breathing cockroaches,’ anatomy and physiology displays,  robotics demonstrations, and much more.

“One of my favorite memories from the event was when one of the kids coming out of the Mad Science show threw his arms up in the air, did a little skip, and exclaimed, ‘That was awesome,’” said Buelow. “That’s exactly our goal for this event — to excite and inspire kids about science.”

With all the media attention of the event, Buelow and Wells have gotten somewhat used to being in the limelight. This year, the two did an experiment involving sound waves live on Good Morning Northland to promote the event and were interviewed by a number of media outlets.

Academic stand outs

Science Fest isn’t the only place Buelow and Wells have excelled. Their academic achievements at UW-Superior have garnered attention, as well. Both received a Swenson Family Scholarship, a prestigious award made possible by the generosity of Jim and Sue Swenson, which covers the cost of tuition and books.

“Jessica and I met each other in our first biology class and we’ve been friends ever since,” said Wells. “Yep, she was my very first friend on campus,” Buelow recalled.

Each of them is busy with senior capstone research projects, both involving bees. Buelow is studying the potential of using bees to detect cancer in humans.

“We know bees have been trained to detect tuberculosis,” she said. “I want to see if I can train them to detect cancer cells.”

As for Wells, she’s studying the health of honeybees.

“I’m collecting data on a parasite that lives harmlessly in bees to see if it may be a ‘red flag’ indicator of diseases or environmental issues that are causing bees to die,” she said.

Both young women have lofty goals after graduation. Wells has been accepted to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities School of Public Health, which she will attend for two years and then plans to apply to medical school to become a neurosurgeon.

Buelow is currently waiting to hear back from several graduate schools she has applied to, and hopes to be accepted into a graduate research program to study animal behavior and physiology and how it can be used to positively influence human health.

“This year’s Science Fest is like a culmination of our campus experience,” said Buelow. “The science department here is outstanding and I’m so grateful to my professors, advisors, and fellow students for making my four years here the very best. Samantha and I feel well prepared for our futures because of the opportunities we’ve been given.”

Samantha Wells and Jessica Buelow, Science Fest co-presidents.

Samantha Wells and Jessica Buelow, Science Fest co-presidents.

Buelow and Wells found their academic niche within the Natural Science Department, a multidisciplinary group of programs in biology, chemistry, physics, geology and geography. Curriculum focuses on using scientific inquiry as a way of understanding and applying scientific knowledge to societal issues of local, regional, and global importance.

Our faculty has diverse teaching and research experiences affording students research opportunities in the field and laboratory. 

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