Stage Fright & Oil Spills, BSU Professors Share Research at MinnState Day at the Capitol

Bemidji State University was well represented at the Minnesota State Day at the Capitol on Feb. 24 where Carl Isaacson, associate professor of environmental studies, Miriam Rios-Sanchez, assistant professor in the Center for Sustainability Studies and Dr. John Perlich, associate professor of communication studies were selected to showcase their research.

Isaacson and Rios-Sanchez, along with students from BSU’s Center for Sustainability Studies, partnered with Rutger University’s Dr. Lee Slater, professor of geophysics and Dr. Dimitrios Ntarlagiannis, associate research professor of earth & environmental sciences, to study oil spill solutions.

In November 2018, the professors formed a student research team to install mineral packets at the site of a 1979 oil spill located outside of Pinewood, Minn. An oil plume was released into the ground following the spill and students have measured the mineral packets to determine how the activity of the microorganisms changed magnetic characteristics of the minerals present in the subsurface.

“When oil is spilled into the environment, microorganisms break down the oil and in doing so they change the electrical properties of the subsurface,” said Isaacson. “Bemidji State students are working to understand how these electrical properties can be used to monitor the effects of oil spills.”

Additionally, Perlich shared his research on virtual reality environments and communication apprehension. Although VRE technology is best known for gaming and play, it offers an environment that has proven effective in the process of desensitization and minimizing fear responses.

“I’ve always felt an incredible degree of sympathy for nervous speakers,” said Perlich. “One of my daughters used to have high levels of stage fright, so finding ways to combat communication apprehension has always been a personal mission. In my career, I have the opportunity to help students overcome something that most people fear more than death — public speaking.”

Minnesota State Day at the Capitol

The Minnesota Day at the Capitol brings together students, staff, faculty, presidents and trustees from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System to emphasize the importance of the system’s 2020–21 fiscal year legislative budget request. The MinnState biennial budget request focuses on meeting the needs of our current and future students, building capacity for innovation and protecting our commitment to affordability. Approving the biennial request would represent a critical investment in the success of our students.



MN State logoBemidji State University, located amid the lakes and forests of northern Minnesota, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,100 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and eight graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. The university’s Shared Fundamental Values include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and international and multicultural understanding. For more, visit or find us at BemidjiState on most of your favorite social media networks.