School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences graduates first student in the medicinal plant sciences concentration

By Malorey Uzee

David Boudin listens as Ted Gauthier demonstrates how to use their equipment to do high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC is the preferred methodology to potency determination for different plants. Photo by Annabelle Stokes/College of AgriculturePlant and soil systems major, David Baudoin, was among the first LSU College of Agriculture students to graduate with a concentration in medicinal plants. 

Baudoin says he always had an interest in nutrition, botany, and alternative forms of medicine. When he found out that the LSU College of Agriculture published a concentration in medicinal plants, he immediately knew that it would be a perfect fit for him and would be a great way to supplement his knowledge of horticulture.

“I was always interested in alternative medicines instead of pharmaceutical medicines because a lot of the time they have less harsh side effects...I’m really interested in the treatment of chronic diseases with herbal medicine as opposed to pharmaceuticals,” Baudoin stated.

The medicinal plant sciences concentration aims to prepare students to grow various plant species in highly controlled environments for medicinal uses. The concentration includes courses focused on plant identification, propagation, growth, and processing, coupled with courses in plant pathology, entomology, and chemistry.

Associate professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, Dr. Ted Gauthier, explained that medicinal plant programs are traditionally housed in chemistry departments, as their primary goal is typically to extract compounds from plants. 

Gauthier stated, “They look at the plants as a source of material to start from, but they don’t analyze the plant to any large extent or try to manipulate the plants and the conditions that they grow in.” 

The program at LSU focuses not only on compound extraction but also on the plants themselves. It aims to manipulate the growing conditions of plants to enhance the compounds they produce.

Gauthier explains how many organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, have recognized that there is a growing need for research in the area of medicinal plants and have recently been placing more emphasis on funding it.

There are many opportunities for LSU College of Agriculture to get involved with undergraduate research projects that principal investigators have funded to study different aspects of medicinal plants.

Baudoin had an internship funded by A. Wilbert’s Sons to test how plants respond to drought stress and how that might affect different quantities and qualities of the essential oils they produce.  

 “The most exciting thing I have done personally is my research project. With different faculty, I started an essential oils project where I followed seedling plants —oregano and rosemary— just from when they only had a few true leaves all the way to the final product of essential oils,” Baudoin stated.

Baudoin says that doing research in the area of medicinal plants helps to bridge the gap between agriculture and chemistry for people who are interested in working in controlled environments.

Baudoin's post-graduation plans are to attend the biotechnology graduate program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, then enter the pharmaceutical industry and focus on drug discovery and development.