Grants provide opportunities for undergraduate research
Greer Darden meets with Wei Xu about her research. Darden, a senior in the LSU College
of Agriculture received an undergraduate research grant from the college to study
environmental effects on oyster larvae after the BP oil spill. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
For two years, Greer Darden has assisted faculty members with their research at the
LSU AgCenter’s Aquaculture Research Station. Darden, an LSU College of Agriculture
senior from Glen Dale, Maryland, is now leading her own project.
One of 12 College of Agriculture students who received an undergraduate research grant
from the college, Darden is studying the effects of environmental factors on oyster
larvae after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Being able to conduct my own research makes me think like a scientist, and I have
the freedom to make the project what I want to be,” Darden said.
Darden is majoring in natural resource ecology and management and is working under
the guidance of Wei Xu, an assistant professor in the School of Renewable Natural
Resources. Each student must work with a faculty member, but Darden is determining
the course of her research.
She is looking at bacteria found in algae from areas of the Gulf where oysters are
present and studying the bacteria’s effect on oyster larvae.
“Some bacteria that can be found in algae are natural biological methods for oil control.
So now we are trying to figure out if these oil-consuming bacteria are present, and
what happens if these bacteria get filtered through the oyster,” she said.
Oysters are most susceptible to environmental factors while they are in the larval
state, Darden said. She will study temperature effects and carbon dioxide levels in
the water as well.
She anticipates the research will continue into the spring semester and may tie in
with another undergraduate research project on oysters in Xu’s lab.
Ryan Ardoin, a senior from Lafayette, Louisiana, majoring in nutrition and food sciences,
is in the second year of his research project - a consumer perception and purchase
Ryan Ardoin, a senior in the LSU College of Agriculture prepares a low-sodium mayonnaise-type
spread. Ardoin is conducting research on consumer preferences of low-sodium mayonnaise
with an undergraduate research grant from the College of Agriculture.Photo by Tobie Blanchard
intent study of a low-sodium mayonnaise-type spread.
Ardoin received an undergraduate research grant last year to begin his study and is
continuing testing potential products.
Ardoin is using potassium chloride to replace sodium chloride at different levels
to determine consumer preference.
“I’m testing different concentrations – no sodium, low sodium and reduced sodium,”
Ardoin is working with Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, a professor in the School of Nutrition
and Food Sciences who overseas the school’s food sensory lab.
“Ryan’s research is part of my ongoing research on sodium reduction in foods,” Prinyawiwatkul
said. “In addition to gaining research experience in the lab, he has had the opportunity
to present his work at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists,
which expands his professional network and is good for his career.”
Potassium chloride tends to be bitter, so Ardoin wants to test consumers preferences
of saltiness and bitterness. He is also adding flavor modifications to the mayonnaise
such as ranch or bacon to see if that makes it more acceptable.
In the consumer preference study, Ardoin tested the likeliness of consumer purchasing
the product. He said in previous tests, consumers were 25 percent more likely to purchase
when they learned that it was a healthier option than regular mayonnaise.
“This study could give consumers alternatives for reducing their daily sodium intake,”
Ardoing said. “It is an important step in figuring out how to alleviate sodium in
the American diet.”
Other students also received College of Agriculture undergraduate research grants.
Torrey Alexis, a senior from New Iberia studying nutrition and food sciences, is working
with nutrition professor Carol O’Neil. He is conducting a case study on the foods
and physical activity opportunities available in East Feliciana Parish.
Cameron Cason, of Baton Rouge, is working to determine the time and temperature parameters
for a hot water treatment during pecan processing that can kill microbes but maintain
pecan quality. Cason, who is studying nutrition and food sciences, is working with
food science assistant professor Achyut Adhikari.
Trent Dugas’ research aims to study and determine the differences in body composition
and meat properties with different goat breeds during their development. Dugas, a
senior from St. Martinville majoring in animal sciences, is working with animal science
professor Kenneth McMillin.
Lauren Gatenby, a senior from Duson studying animal sciences, is working with animal
science professor Kenneth Bondioli. Gatenby will compare different methods of sperm
injection using the conventional sharp beveled pipette verses a piezo drill in oocytes.
Norlethia Harris, a senior from Smyrna, Georgia, studying animal sciences, will work
with animal science assistant professor Shannon Cruzen to determine the effects of
low protein diets on the muscle protein degradation and beef tenderness in cows.
Courtney Healy is working with Wei Xu to study the genomic adaptation of oyster larvae
to the environmental stresses in the Gulf of Mexico. A senior studying natural resource
ecology and management, she is from Rockville, Maryland.
Julie Huynh, a senior from Baton Rouge majoring in natural resource ecology and management,
aims to study the experience and evaluate the needs, preferences and activities of
College of Agriculture undergraduate minority students. She is working with Luke Laborde,
an instructor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.
Samantha Lanjewar, a senior studying animal science, is working with Kenneth Bondioli.
Her objective is to determine whether mutations that cause early onset Alzheimer’s
disease can be inserted into a certain pig gene to create the first large animal model
of Alzheimer’s disease. Lanjewar is from Valhalla, New York.
Grace LeBlanc is studying the effects of hands-on environmental science education
activities on scientific understanding and interest in middle school students. A senior
from New Orleans majoring in environmental management systems, she is working with
professor Maud Walsh in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.
Molly Robin, a senior from Shreveport studying nutrition and food sciences, is working
with professor Georgianna Tuuri to study the effect of participating in a summer nutrition
education and culinary skill-building program on high school students’ diet quality
and consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.