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About Us - CNS

Explorers of the World!

The College of Natural Sciences was launched July 1, 2018. As part of a realignment, the College of Natural Sciences combined the strengths of the STEM majors with the growing leaders of research within four departments: Department of Biology and Microbiology, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences, and Department of Physics. Each department brought closer together to enhance the student experience, engaging the problem-solvers and innovators in various disciplines, to be able to meet the challenges of the world around us. Through research and teachings, the College of Natural Sciences is a collection of interdisciplinary pathways where students will be able to explore their passions, build on their fundamental knowledge, and develop the skill set to impact the communities all across the world. Together, the College of Natural Sciences embraces diversity, recognizing and valuing the ideas of those who explore their surroundings to make a difference. 

Vintage Photo West Hall
Vintage Photo of West Hall

College of Natural Sciences was originally housed at West Hall. Historically, the West Hall building began as the city of Brookings hospital. The building once known for welcoming new life provided a fresh start to a new college. 

Our Departments

Each of our departments offer a wide variety of experiences, support, and research opportunities. Whether it's in the classroom, a lab, in the field, or abroad, students will further enhance their knowledge to impact the challenges of tomorrow. 

Select image below to go to each department's website.

Biology.Microbiology Image

Biology & Microbiology

Chemistry.Biochemistry Image

Chemistry & Biochemistry

Geography.Geospatial Sciences Image

Geography & Geospatial Sciences

Physics Image


Our People

Dr. Charlene Wolf-Hall

Dean Wolf-Hall earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology at South Dakota State. Dean Wolf-Hall earned her Ph.D. in food science and technology with an emphasis in food microbiology and food toxicology from the University of Nebraska after her time at South Dakota State University.

Prior to returning back to South Dakota State University, Dean Wolf-Hall had served as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at NDSU since 2015. Dean Wolf-Hall's time at the university dates to 1996 when she was briefly a laboratory technician in the food and nutrition department. She then moved to assistant professor and associate professor before becoming the interim director for the Great Plains Institute of Food Safety in 2006. In 2009, Wolf-Hall was the assistant dean for the College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies and then became department head for veterinary and microbiological sciences in 2011 after becoming a full professor in 2010. 

Dr. Matt Miller - Associate Dean for Academics and Student Services

Dr. Miller was excited to be selected as the Associate Dean of Academics in the College of Natural Sciences because he believed the person within the position would be involved in new collaborations and programs that would grow the prominence of science in South Dakota. Dr. Miller's involvement in the creation of the new College began as a member of the SDSU Faculty Senate. Through the Senate, Dr. Miller joined numerous discussions regarding the formation of the College of Natural Science. These discussions renewed his belief in the overall relevance of the College and the chance to create a culture of creativity and learning at SDSU. It is clear that students earning a degree in any program within the College of Natural Sciences will be challenged to be creative while they gain skills and knowledge. Dr. Miller believes the College of Natural Sciences will provide SDSU students degrees with competitive skills and knowledge relevant to the 21st century.  

Dr. Heike Bucking - Associate Dean for Research and Scholarly Activities

Dr. Bucking was raised in Bremen, a middle size city in the North of Germany, with a similar number of inhabitants than the whole state of South Dakota. Dr. Bucking studied Biology at the University of Bremen, and finished in Bremen her M.S. and Ph.D. degree and later her habilitation (postdoctoral lecturer qualification). To gain international experience, Dr. Bucking decided to travel to the U.S.. Dr. Bucking initially worked for two years at Michigan State University in East Lansing, then for four years at Rutgers in Camden, New Jersey, before she joined the Biology and Microbiology Department at SDSU in 2009.

Dr. Bucking started to work with beneficial plant microbe interactions when she was a M.S. student at the University of Bremen, which these interactions still fascinate her today. Similar to the human gut microbiome, plants are associated with diverse microbiomes, and many of the organisms that colonize plants have important plant growth promoting capabilities. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, for example, colonize the roots of the majority of land plants, and play a crucial role for the nutrient uptake and stress resistance of plants. To join South Dakota State University, Dr. Bucking believes it has allowed her to take her research to the next level by working closely with commodity groups to help farmers with the goal to improve soil health. In addition, her research has worked with industrial companies to develop novel technologies such as microbial fertilizers or pesticides with the goal to increase plant yield under various stress conditions, enhancing the environmental sustainability of crop agriculture.

As Associate Dean for Research for the College of Natural Sciences, Dr. Bucking's goal is to advance and to elevate the College´s and University´s research mission by developing and prioritizing strategic investments into novel research areas, by establishing new partnerships of researchers across college boundaries, and with national and international research leaders, and with industrial partners, by providing faculty with the resources they need to succeed, and by integrating students into an active research active environment, that allows them to grow into next generation researchers and scientists.

Layne Manson

The first smile you see when you visit the CNS office will be Layne!  She was the first full-time employee of the College of Natural Sciences, and the only full-time employee during the early months; she played an instrumental role in getting things up and running. 

Layne wears many hats throughout the day, assisting students, faculty members, the Dean, and collaborating with many other departments around campus.  Her talents and expertise come from her wide range of work history, ranging from non-profit work to time with a large, world-wide company.  She currently serves on several local committees and loves to be involved in the Brookings community.  All of these experiences have given her a true appreciation for SDSU and the culture here on campus!

Ian Charnley

Enjoy the journey! A motto Ian lives by each day. Born and raised in Nebraska, Ian developed the value of community and seeking knowledge to understand the world around him. Ian would begin his academic journey studying the human mind, exploring the depths of psychology of all ages and stages of life. Conducting research on the effects of mindfulness techniques on stress to analyzing the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the human brain at Creighton University, Ian pursued learning about methods to help individuals achieve their full potential. After obtaining his Bachelors in Psychology, Ian's journey would continue down the path of mental health at Bellevue University. There, Ian studied and practiced therapeutic techniques on various mental disorders & issues (e.g. depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, grief/loss). 

Ian started his professional life as a licensed professional counselor. Ian practiced mental health therapy in various settings, including in-home therapy, juvenile detention centers, group homes, and in private practice. Ian practiced several years before life's journey took him out west to California where he entered the field of Human Resources. His knowledge and skill set transferred from helping individuals achieve personal new heights to now professional satisfaction & fulfillment. Ian's areas of focus included recruitment, training, and employee relation issues. Ian worked for a natural foods store called New Leaf Community Markets before working for the University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) as an employee relations analyst. 

Ian's passion for enhancing the human condition continued to grow, looking for various ways to collaboratively support growth in those around him. Throughout his journey, Ian experienced the power of networking, connecting, and seeking of new knowledge. All of these things Ian identifies as being qualities higher education can bring. Now in his role as Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator for the College of Natural Sciences, Ian hopes to connect students, families, and community members to the opportunities which will expand their knowledge on the world around them. With this knowledge, each person can achieve new heights and begin to understand more of the world around them. And in return, Ian believes each person will feel more self-fulfillment and satisfaction within their life.