By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Kimberly Friesen knows she wants to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The Aurora High School senior already filled out the housing application and she even has a roommate lined up.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Friesen, who plans to study radiologic technology, a health care field that uses X-rays, MRIs and other imaging procedures to diagnose and treat ailments.
On Friday, Friesen got a sneak peek at some of the classes she’ll be taking next fall. She signed up for UNK’s Science Day so she could learn more about the university’s academic programs while participating in a variety of hands-on activities.
“I’m kind of a nerd and I love science,” she said with a laugh. “I just find it all really fascinating.”
There are plenty of others who share this passion.
More than 100 students from a dozen high schools attended Friday’s event on the UNK campus, where they explored areas such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, health sciences, math and physics. Science Day included a number of lab and classroom activities, as well as a planetarium show and lunch at The Graze dining hall.
For Chelsey Liess, principal at Heartland Lutheran High School in Grand Island, it was an opportunity to broaden her students’ education and expose them to different career options.
“This event gives them another experience,” she said. “Maybe they haven’t been on a college campus before or they haven’t thought about what they want to do yet. This gives them an opportunity to see what’s out there.”
There’s a growing demand for STEM professionals across the state and country, and most of these high-paying positions require higher education. Events like UNK’s Science Day can help spark an interest that leads to a successful career.
“Students don’t always know what the different pathways in science are,” UNK associate biology professor Melissa Wuellner said. “When I was an undergrad, I didn’t know you could be a freshwater fisheries biologist. Hopefully, by participating in this event, we can give students a sense for where they could go if they choose to have a career in science.”
Wuellner led the wildlife biology session during Science Day, using candy and blindfolded volunteers to explain the optimal foraging theory, a model that suggests natural selection favors animals that can maximize their intake while minimizing energy loss and risk when they’re searching for food.
“There’s always more that we can learn about the world,” Wuellner said. “We’re not done learning or discovering new things. There are always more questions to be answered. So, we need really good people to take on these roles to help us understand the world in which we live.”
That’s what makes this topic so exciting for students like Friesen. Although she’s focused on a career in health care, she enjoys all aspects of scientific discovery.
“There are a lot of different things you can look at,” Friesen said. “Science Day really helps show that.”
UNK also hosted Science Day during the fall semester, with 115 students from 13 high schools attending.