University Relations and Communications

2011 'Chicks in Science' features Billings scientific achievers

February 5, 2011



Kim Schweikert, MSU Billings Downtown, 896-5888
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The fourth annual “Chicks in Science” program at Montana State University Billings will celebrate the appetite for scientific discovery and the achievements of two Billings residents.


The annual program — to be held Saturday, Feb. 26 from 1-4 p.m. at Alterowitz Gym at the MSU Billings main campus — is organized by the university with community partners to showcase opportunities in math, science and technology to young girls.


This year’s event features two Billings guests who have taken their passion for science to the national level.


""Mikayla Nelson is a freshman at Billings Central High who recently returned from Washington D.C., where she was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address.  Mikayla received the Principal’s Leadership Award when she was a student at Will James Middle School and first caught the attention of the White House when she and her team from Will James competed last April at the National Science Bowl.  Her design for a solar-powered car won the best design award at last year’s National Science Bowl.


That attention led to an invitation by the U.S. Department of Energy for Nelson to participate in the White House Science Fair in October, where she met President Obama.  Mikayla is aiming for an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy and a career in mechanical engineering.


""Kathryn E. F. Russell, Ph.D., is a Billings Senior High School graduate who has done work as a planetary scientist and is currently working on an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship with the U.S. State Department.


Russell is also the daughter of Dr. Mary Susan Fishbaugh, interim dean at the MSU Billings College of Education.

Russell has been the postdoctoral Discipline Scientist for Planetary Science at the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland. While there, she convened international conferences and conducted research under an American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship with colleagues at the Niels Bohr Center for Ice and Climate in Copenhagen, Denmark. Afterwards, Kate moved on to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as a competitively-selected member of the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Imaging Science Experiment team.


She graduated from Billings Senior High School in 1994, graduated magna cum laude with a degree in astrophysics from Boston University under a full-tuition Trustee Scholarship in 1998, and earned her Ph.D. in geology from Brown University in 2004. She is the daughter of Dr. Mary Susan Fishbaugh, the interim dean at the MSU Billings College of Education.


Chick in Science 2010“Chicks in Science” was developed in 2008 to encourage girls to enter math- and science-related fields. Studies show that between the fourth and eighth grades, girls start losing interest in math and science.  Yet, industry surveys indicate that many emerging careers will require an understanding of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the problem-solving, critical thinking, adaptive and collaborative skills gained through the study of these subjects.


Kim Schweikert, who organizes the project  through MSU Billings Downtown, said “Chicks in Science” works to breach the psychological barriers, gender expectations, and the “coolness” factors that can stop girls from entering science and math fields. “Chicks in Science” strives to abolish those negative and fearful attitudes about math and science and discredit the stereotype of the ‘nerdy’ scientist, she said.


The event routinely draws hundreds of participants and about 50 booths from area science- and math-based exhibitors.


The event has also drawn wide community and industry support, including Cloud Peak Energy, ExxonMobil, the Billings Clinic, CTA Architects Engineers, PPL Montana, RiverStone Health, Computers Unlimited, Energy Labs, GlaxoSmithKline, the Montana Petroleum Association, the Montana Bioscience Alliance, Valley Federal Credit Union and Rimrock Mall.


The newest sponsor this year, Cloud Peak Energy, recently contributed $10,000 for the event and Walmart last week confirmed a donation of $5,000 for the second straight year. 


The event is free and there is no need to register, but girls in grades 4-8 can get a free gift bag voucher by visiting the “Chicks in Science” booth at Rimrock Mall on Saturday, Feb. 12 from 1–2:30 p.m.


For more information on this year’s “Chicks in Science” event, contact Schweikert at 896-5888 or via e-mail at  More can be found at


""   See also:Chicks in Science web page


PHOTO ABOVE: A representative from CTA Architects/Engineers works with a young girl at the 2010 “Chicks in Science” event. This year’s event is Feb. 26 at the MSU Billings campus.


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