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Undergraduate Research at LSU

From LSU Research, the university publication celebrating the constant pursuit of discovery.

Devon Wade received the prestigious Truman Scholarship prior to graduation and also received a Ford Fellowship to support his graduate studies.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

LSU is home to a variety of outstanding research programs and opportunities. Some, like the Office of Research & Economic Development’s Chancellor’s Future Leaders in Research, or CFLR, program, offer scholarships to undergraduate students with outstanding academic potential. The CFLR program provides a unique opportunity to conduct research early in a college career. Students work side-by-side with mentor professors in a research setting, such as a laboratory or in the field, and learn what a career in their chosen field is like. Other opportunities, such as working with faculty in the acclaimed LSU Museum of Natural Science, allow students access to world-class DNA and ornithological collections to support their studies. LSU students also successfully compete for excellent internship opportunities at foundations, museums, and universities across the globe.

Students participating in undergraduate research programs at LSU have won some of the world’s most prestigious awards, including the Udall Award, the Truman Scholarship, Ford Fellowships, and more.

Below are just a sample of the many outstanding undergraduate researchers at LSU. This list is in no way meant to be inclusive. For more information about research opportunities for undergraduates at LSU, visit http://research.lsu.edu/UndergraduateResearch/item21716.html.

Lauren Oliver is an undergraduate researcher at LSU’s Museum of Science, where she works with Chris Austin, curator of herpetology. Currently working on population genetics of invasive species, specifically Carlia from various Pacific islands, Lauren has a manuscript in press at Biological Invasions and is working on a project on the genetics, phylogeny and systematics of a group of frogs from New Guinea that will be soon be submitted for publication. She spent the summer of 2011 in New York at the American Museum of Natural History on a prestigious AMNH Summer Fellowship. “Lauren is outstanding,” said Austin. “She will be pursuing a PhD in the near future at a top school and I am convinced she will be a great scientist.”

Lauren Oliver, an undergraduate researcher at LSU's Museum of Science, pictured with her mentor, Chris Austin, curator of herpetology.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

Justin Kutz started working with Prosanta Chakrabarty at the Museum of Natural Science as a high school student. Now a freshman, he has created www.cacichlids.com, an extremely useful resource for people studying Central American cichlids. It has all the original descriptions of the nearly 150 species of cichlid from Central America. He also conducted a project for the LSU Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, during the summer of 2011 with graduate student Caleb McMahan, and presented a poster at the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network Summer Undergraduate Research Forum. His poster focused on one particular species of Central American cichlid that was once recognized as two. His project looked at how the color-pattern character used to separate those two species was in fact due to environment and allometric (growth/size) effects and not due to a separate ancestry (since the character may not be heritable), doing an outstanding job of quantifying what was previously only described qualitatively. “Justin did all the scanning and literature searches to get papers into cacichlids.com, which was hundreds of hours of work. The website also includes info on the work my lab is doing on my NSF taxonomy grant,” said Chakrabarty. “Justin is a freshman and is interested in becoming a human geneticist.

Parker House, another student of Chakrabarty’s at the museum, is doing a lit bit of everything. He has put in a tremendous amount of effort to improve the collections where the majority of the 300,000 fish in the museum’s collection are stored, and has also been making X-rays for various projects, including one for Jim Cronin, associate professor of biological sciences, focusing on the ecology of parasitoids. “Parker is outstanding. We recently submitted a paper dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and which fish species may be the most vulnerable,” said Chakrabarty. “He will be traveling to Honduras for part of a collecting trip that my grad student Caleb and postdoc Wilfredo Matamoros will be leading.”

Justin Kutz and Parker House, both undergraduate researchers at LSU's Museum of Natural Science, work with Prosanta Chakrabarty, curator of ichthyology.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

Leigh A. Griffin, biological sciences junior at LSU, is a Chancellor’s Future Leaders in Research scholar. She is in her second year of conducting scientific field research on conservation ecology of longleaf pine at Camp Whispering Pines in Tangipahoa Parish. She is investigating the effects of restoration of fire regimes to pine savannas on recruitment and patch dynamics of longleaf pine by building on her faculty mentor, Professor of Biological Sciences William Platt’s, previous research. Griffin submitted her research for publication in the fall of 2011.

Anna A. Meyer, biological sciences and renewable natural resources senior, is also mentored by Platt, and has spent more than a year studying the effects of larger mammalian herbivores (deer, rabbits, cotton rats) on the dominant grasses in pine savannas being restored. She has extended her work to explore the importance of herbivores on the plant community during restoration of natural fire regimes.

Devon Wade received the prestigious Truman Scholarship prior to graduation and also received a Ford Fellowship to support his graduate studies. While at LSU, he studied with sociology professor and associate vice chancellor for research & economic development Matthew Lee. “Devon was an outstanding student who completed a very good research project on the effects of parental incarceration on their children’s educational aspirations and achievements. This research experience helped lay the groundwork for his acceptance to several top tier sociology graduate programs, and he will be an excellent ambassador for LSU at Columbia University.” Wade is currently pursuing a PhD in sociology at Columbia University, focusing on social phenomenon that plague urban or inner city children and families.

LSU Research is published by the Office of Research & Economic Development, or ORED. For more information or a copy of the 2011 issue, contact ORED at 225-578-5833. To see the current issue online, visit http://issuu.com/lsuored/docs/ored_research_magazine_fall_2011_online?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222.


Top banner photo: Undergraduate researchers Leigh Griffin and Anna Meyers in the field with their mentor, Professor of Biological Sciences William Platt.