Research

Undergraduate Research Program

The purpose of the College of Agriculture Undergraduate Research program is to encourage research by students as a part of their education. Students partner with a faculty member to conduct research in their area of interest. To date, over 150 student projects have been funded for a total of over $200,000. 

Students receiving funding must submit a written report on their work. Many students present their research findings at local, regional, or national meetings and/or conferences, which is excellent experience to include on a résumé or graduate/professional school application.

Last year thirteen LSU students were awarded undergraduate research grants with funding from the LSU College of Agriculture and the LSU AgCenter.

Executive Associate Dean Michael Burnett said these grants allow students to get experience in their field of interest outside of the classroom and contribute to research in that area. To receive a grant, students must be supervised by a College of Agriculture faculty member.

“Undergraduates should get involved with research, especially if they have aspirations to work in academia,” Burnett said.

Conducting research as an undergraduate gives students an advantage when they go to graduate school, Burnett said, but research isn’t just for those who plan to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D.

“Understanding the scientific method is a skill highly beneficial to anyone,” he said.

Research awards went to the following students:

Luke Boagni, a senior in biological sciences, is working with entomology professor Michael Stout to understand the effects of herbicides like 2,4-D on rice plants and the rice water weevils that feed on rice plants.

Sonia Dudgaokar, also working with Stout, wants to acquire a better understanding of the relationship between the root- and shoot-feeding periods of the rice water weevil. Dudgoakar is a senior majoring in psychology and works in the rice entomology laboratory. The study could lead to a better technique to reduce the effects of rice water weevils on rice plants.

Molly Bourg is a junior in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and plans to develop a rapid method for screening varieties of rice for amylose content in starch. Amylose plays a key role in functionality of starches. Bourg is working with Joan King, a food science professor.

Amanda Daniel, a senior in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, is working with Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, a food science professor, to determine if chitosan, a biopolymer produced from the shells of crustaceans, can be combined with soybean oil and used as a coating to extend the shelf life of hard-boiled eggs.

Alexis Dufrene, a senior in the School of Animal Sciences, wants to see if probiotic bacteria can survive in a beverage of acid whey from Greek yogurt. She is working with Kayanush Aryana, a dairy science professor. Acid whey is a byproduct of the manufacturing of Greek yogurt.

Laura Garcia, a junior in the School of Animal Sciences, hopes to determine the ideal heat treatment time for chicken eggs to improve hatch rates. She is working with poultry science professor Theresia Lavergne and will also see if there is any effect on the growth of the chicks hatched from eggs that underwent pre-storage warming treatments.

Elizabeth Gravette, a senior in the School of Animal Sciences, is working with Kenneth Bondioli, an associate professor. Her project will look at cryopreservation of immature and mature bovine egg cells, or oocytes. The study will test two criteria to help determine both the optimal stage for oocyte cryopreservation and the preferred method of oocyte cryopreservation in cattle.

Matthew Landry, a senior in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, is working with entomology professor Gregg Henderson. Landry hopes his research will help him gain a better understanding of how fire ants interact with baits and how oils and oil-based insecticides are distributed within fire ant colonies.

Sara Mercer will be working with Neely Walker and Matt Garcia, both assistant professors in the School of Animal Sciences, to evaluate candidate genes influencing sports performance and injury in a population of athletically trained horses. Mercer, a senior in the School of Animal Sciences, believes her study will allow for the early identification of horses predisposed for certain performance traits or injury type.

Jean Pittman, a sophomore in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, is studying the effects of neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide, on honeybee foraging. She is working with entomologist Kristen Healy and plans to feed insecticides to honeybees to find the specific concentration that yields no observable effects.

Morgan Richard, a junior in the School of Animal Sciences, plans to validate whether a commercially available hand-held beta-hydroxybutyrate meter can adequately assess rumen development in young dairy cattle. Beta-hydroxybutyrate is an important metabolite used by the body as an energy source and is an indicator of rumen development. Richard is working with dairy science professor Cathy Williams. She hopes her study results can provide information on reducing heat stress in calves.

Carly Thaxton will document nutrient intake, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in pregnant women participating in the Louisiana Moms and Baby Nutritional Studies. Thaxton, a junior in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, is working with nutrition professor Carol Lammi-Keefe. Thaxton expects the study results will help health professionals make food recommendations for pregnant women to ensure the women meet their recommended daily intake for DHA.

Brittany Zawodniak, a junior in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, is developing a survey to estimate high school students’ willingness to consume foods recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Zawodniak is working with associate professor Georgianna Tuuri. Her survey will include 10 food and beverage items that follow the dietary guidelines and 10 highly marketed high-fat, high sugar alternatives to these items.

The grants help pay for supplies to conduct the research, for some of the students to attend conferences to present their research, and in some cases, salaries for the students to work in AgCenter labs.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, held a research symposium for freshmen in September and encouraged them to start research early in their undergraduate careers.