Subscribe to RSS

2013 STEM Symposium will spotlight chemistry

1200px 650px

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The 7th annual STEM Symposium at Bethel College will feature three alumni presenters, all Kansas natives who have pursued careers in chemistry.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Symposium begins Friday, Oct. 4, as part of Bethel’s 43rd Fall Festival, at 1 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center.

It continues through Saturday’s keynote address at 9 a.m. in the Administration Building chapel, which will be followed by a reception for all STEM alumni and students (STEM covers biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, natural sciences, physics and psychology at Bethel).

The first presenter is Daniel Unruh, speaking on his experiences with uranium chemistry in “Exploring the crystal chemistry of uranium,” at 1 p.m. Oct. 5.

The Peabody native is a 2006 Bethel graduate with a B.S. in chemistry with minors in math and physics. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, studying a novel class of actinide-based polyoxometalates.

Unruh currently lives in Kalona, Iowa, where he is doing post-doctoral work at the University of Iowa, exploring interesting structural and physic properties of actinide-based materials, while also working part-time as assistant director of the X-ray facility in the chemistry department.

Sharon Thieszen is calling her 2 p.m. presentation “Water’s Worth It,” in which she will tie chemistry to the science involved in wastewater treatment (also called “clean water” or “resource recovery”).

She borrowed the title from the Water Environment Federation, which kicked off the Water’s Worth It campaign in 2012 to raise awareness of the value and importance of water, water-related issues and the work that water professionals do every day to provide these vital services.

Thieszen has been “actively engaged in the municipal clean water industry,” including lab, pre-treatment, engineering, regulatory/environmental compliance and operation divisions, for the past 19 years.

She is a native of Little River who graduated from Bethel in 1994 with a B.A. and double majors in natural science and environmental studies and minors in chemistry and international development. From 1994-2011, she worked for the North Shore Sanitary District, Gumee, Ill., the second largest sanitary district in state

Since 2011, she has been with the City of Sheboygan (Wis.) at the Sheboygan Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, where she supervises the lab and administers all aspects of the federally mandated industrial pre-treatment program.

A panel discussion about careers in chemistry will finish off the public part of Friday’s STEM Symposium.

The Saturday speaker, at  9 a.m. in the Ad Building chapel, will be Donald Miller, Winnipeg, Manitoba, on “Minding the gate, breaching the wall: The blood-brain barrier in health and disease.”

Miller, a Hutchinson native, graduated from Bethel  in 1985 with a B.S. in chemistry, and notes proudly that he was a member of the 1984 Athletic Hall of Fame Thresher football team and is married to Bethel biology graduate Jan (Bergen) Miller.

Donald Miller earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Kansas. He spent 12 years at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and seven years at the University of Manitoba, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, where he is now a tenured full professor.

The Friday and Saturday lectures and Friday panel discussion are free and open to the public. The Friday evening dinner, held in Kauffman Museum starting at 5:30 p.m., is by advance registration only.

To make a reservation, call Gary Histand at 316-284-5221. Tickets are $15 per person and must be ordered by Sept. 27.

You can also contact Histand, coordinator of this year’s event, for more information about the STEM Symposium.

For a complete Fall Festival schedule, go to, where you can view and print a festival program.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

Back to News