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LSU Faculty and Students Move to the Head of the Class

The Fighting Tigers are not the only members of LSU’s diverse family of faculty, staff, and students to be named among the best in the nation. With dozens of competitive programs spanning the academic spectrum from lizards to landscape architecture, the University is more than well-versed in the challenges involved in coming out ahead of the pack.

Here are just a few members of the LSU family who demonstrate the championship spirit inherent in the Tiger community.



Mark BatzerMark A. Batzer, Andrew C. Pereboom Alumni Departmental Professor of Biological Sciences, has never shied away from competition during his tenure as one of the most highly respected experts on mobile DNA elements. He and his world-renowned research unit, the Batzer Lab, focus on the “jumping genes” responsible for generating changes in the genetic blueprint of a species. Batzer uses his expertise to sequence and analyze the DNA or genome of various animals, including the very first marsupial genome ever to be sequenced.

Recently named fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, Batzer has had his research featured on the cover of Science – two articles in the same issue – once on the cover of Nature, and twice on the cover of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the past year alone. In all, his total body of work encompasses more than 210 publications. The LSU alumnus is also well known for his work in comparative genomics, forensic genomics, and human genetics.

“I chose to join and remain on the LSU faculty because I consider Louisiana to be my home,” said Batzer, a Michigan native. “I really enjoy the many warm and friendly people, down to earth environment, and the excitement of Saturday nights in Death Valley. Forever LSU!”

Zach GodshallZack Godshall’s film, Low and Behold, chronicles an insurance adjuster’s life in post-Katrina New Orleans. The Louisiana native and LSU alumnus, attended film school at UCLA and recently returned to teach screenwriting at his alma mater.

To date, his film has won awards at various film festivals around the country, including being named as an "Official Selection of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival" – the first film by a Louisiana filmmaker selected to Sundance since Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989. The film also received Best Feature awards at the Rome International Film Festival in Rome, Georgia; the Sidewalk Motion Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama; the New Orleans Film Festival; and the Bend Film Festival in Bend, Oregon, along with the Best Director Award at the Sidewalk Motion Picture Festival in Birmingham.

“It’s great to be back at LSU teaching the very courses that gave me the confidence to become a filmmaker,” said Godshall.

Adelaide Russo, professor of French Studies at LSU, has crossed boundaries with her work, becoming one of the only non-native French speakers awarded the Prix Debrousse-Gas-Forestier given by the prestigious Academie des Beaux-Arts in France. She was given this honor for her recent book, Le Peintre Comme Modele, du Surrealisme a L’extreme Contemporain, which explores the complex circular relationship between different types of art.

“I came to LSU because Louisiana is the only state with a vital indigenous French culture which I am constantly discovering,” said Russo.  “The opportunity to work as the assistant editor of the journal L'Esprit Créateur was the deciding factor when I was recruited.  Several colleagues whom were hired at the same time have made our department what it is today.  It was very satisfying to be with such inquisitive researchers.  Thanks to the Center for French and Francophone Studies we have opportunities that few French departments in this country outside of New York City enjoy."

McGuireSaundra McGuire, director of LSU's Center for Academic Success, adjunct professor of chemistry, and associate dean of LSU's University College, understands the challenges that face students, particularly minorities. She has dedicated her career to helping students surpass their goals and expectations through mentoring and advising. McGuire was recently recognized for her efforts with the Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring – or PAESMEM – in a ceremony at the White House. The award recognizes outstanding mentoring efforts and programs designed to enhance the participation of groups under-represented in science, mathematics, and engineering.

McGuire also recently received the 2006-07 Council for Chemistry Research Diversity Award for her efforts, and in the past, was named the Dr. Henry C. McBay Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

“LSU allows me to collaborate with wonderful colleagues who are very interested in helping students achieve their academic, career, and personal goals,” said McGuire.  “Because our efforts focus on helping students develop more effective learning strategies, all students – from first year through graduate and professional school – can take advantage of the services we provide at LSU’s Center for Academic Success.”



Katie FaustKatie Faust recognized LSU’s championship spirit from the beginning.

“I’ve always been interested in birds, and LSU’s Museum of Natural Science has one of the top programs in ornithology in the country,” said Faust. “But ultimately I chose to come to LSU because of the extraordinary research opportunities that exist here for undergraduates. I’ve never made a better decision.”

Faust, a graduating senior in biological sciences, has participated in the illustrious Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program, received a Barry M. Goldwater scholarship, and was selected to participate in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Research Training Program. During the summer of 2007, her hard work culminated in one of her long-time dreams coming true – she flew to Peru on an ornithological collection expedition with several members of the MNS.

“We traveled around southern Peru, down the dry desert coast from Lima over the frigid high Andes, and down into the humid forests near the Bolivian border,” she said. “Altogether, we were there for six weeks and traveled roughly 3,500 kilometers, collecting several target species for which very few specimens existed  – and no tissue samples existed for genetic analysis. It was really an amazing trip!”

Although she is graduating, this certainly is not the end of the line for Katie.

“I am currently applying to graduate schools with the confidence that I could not be more prepared, and I owe it entirely to the nurturing undergraduate environment at LSU – the patient trust of my research mentors, the help and advice of graduate students, and the LSU faculty who have encouraged me every step of the way.”

But before then, she is taking a trip around the world … with a few stops for bird watching along the way, of course.

CJ HaydenCJ Hayden was drawn here by LSU’s world-class Museum of Natural Science and its competitive graduate program in biological sciences.

“I chose LSU because my advisor, Chris Austin, has a New Guinea biological research program of unrivaled caliber in the United States,” said Hayden.

Hayden is the recent recipient of a Fulbright grant to study reptiles and amphibians in the dense jungles of Papua – the Indonesian side of the biologically megadiverse island of New Guinea. Before coming to LSU, Hayden received a Cieba award for Tropical Conservation scholarship and was named a McNair scholar. His high level of achievement as an undergraduate only made the search for a nationally renowned graduate program all the more important.

“The greatest asset LSU offers is a brilliant faculty. This was really the biggest factor in my decision to come here,” said Hayden. “We have an incredible group of professors specializing in molecular evolution, systematics, and population genetics all trying to understand how tropical biological diversity came to be. It’s a really exciting place to be if you’re into biology.”

Shawn Doyle, an LSU senior studying microbiology, is currently facing one of the biggest challenges imaginable – working in the brutal Antarctic environment. As a research assistant in Biology Professor Brent Christner’s lab, he is also on an internship through LSU's Career Services, allowing him to travel to Antarctica for roughly two to three months of field research.

“My field of study is microbiology, and more specifically with Dr. Christner, we are researching the microbiology of permanently cold environments,” said Doyle. “We are in Antarctica searching for signs of metabolically active microorganisms inside Taylor Glacier.”

The Christner team hopes to find evidence demonstrating that microorganisms found inside ice are not archived or frozen in “suspended animation” but are in fact actively metabolizing, proving that the massive ice sheets found on Earth’s poles, Greenland, and other areas similar in climate are in fact active biomes.

“This also provides an excellent analog for other extraterrestrial environments, such as the polar ice caps on Mars, or the massive ice sheets of Jupiter’s moon Europa,” said Doyle.

Ashley Berthelot | LSU Office of Public Affairs
Fall 2007

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