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Student researcher leaves mark on DSU

July 28, 2021

Sammy Drummond
Sammy Drummond in Dr. Gaylor’s lab.

Throughout his time at DSU, recent graduate Sammy Drummond definitely made an impact. He was a successful student-athlete, excelled in the classroom, and was a vital part of DSU’s expanding culture of undergraduate research.

“Sammy has been a delight to mentor,” said Dr. Michael Gaylor, Associate Research Professor of Chemistry. “His passion and drive for achieving the highest levels of research and scholarly productivity has been unprecedented in my research tenure at DSU.”

Gaylor was able to treat Drummond as he would an experienced graduate student during his 1-year stint in the Gaylor Lab conducting. The research focused on the origins of life chemistry in support of a large grant award to DSU from the National Science Foundation and South Dakota EPSCoR. Gaylor noted that Drummond “always generates interesting and provocative data sets that continually spawn ever more exciting and novel avenues of research inquiry for our team.”

Through his research with Gaylor, Drummond has been a recipient of multiple academic awards, multiple research grant awards, lead author on 15 conference papers, and two papers just accepted for publication in the high-impact international peer-reviewed journals Astrobiology and Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. And he is the first author on a manuscript in the final stages of internal review for submission to the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to Gaylor. “Such sophisticated and impactful contributions to the scientific literature by an undergraduate student are truly remarkable (and rare),” he added.     

In addition to working with Gaylor, Drummond completed physics research with Dr. James Maloney, focusing on shielding (protection from radiation) on future NASA missions. NASA is considering different options for propulsion to Mars, and with different methods come different issues, he explained. “It relates to the new propulsion methods, and how we can protect the spaceship and also astronauts from those new issues,” Drummond said.

Maloney and Drummond utilized an automated process to run simulations based on different shielding parameters, allowing for quicker processing of data. They developed a program that picks out the best results from the simulations and then generates new parameters based on those results, Drummond shared.

This research experience has prepared him for the next step in his education.

“This has been very useful for me to understand how research actually works in the real world, in an academic setting, rather than just in a classroom lab,” he said. He is also appreciative of Dakota State’s small program size, which allowed him to develop really close relationships with his professors.

Drummond, a physical science major at DSU, was accepted to 11 graduate programs across the country, including Dartmouth. In August he will be moving on to earn his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of South Carolina. With his education there, he hopes to become a leading scientist in an emerging field and deal with the major problems of our time, like energy issues.

“The demand for energy is obviously increasing and we have to make decisions about how to improve our efficiency,” he said.

He hopes to help solve problems related to the energy field, so he can provide his future family with the ability to live a high-quality life.

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