LSU HSSR Program Participants Place at Competitions

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March 24, 2021

Kalina Namikas holding tabletBATON ROUGE, LA – In the summer of 2020, 18 high schoolers from across South Louisiana participated in the LSU College of Engineering High School Summer Research (HSSR) program created by Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Adam Melvin, with help from Recruiting and Outreach Manager Andy Osborn. Though doing the program virtually was a challenge this past year, two students in particular were able to excel and go on to present their work at fairs and competitions.

Baton Rouge Magnet High School sophomore Kalina Namikas, who was mentored by LSU Biological Engineering Assistant Professor Kevin Hoffseth, created a program that would mimic the structure of bone and could be used as a model to show how different medicines affect it.

“The structure of bone is affected by lots of different factors, such as age, gender, and genetics,” Namikas said. “It was based on parameters and info that I found in research. I put those into the program, where I can change the parameters. So, if I know how medicine affects the parameters, we can see how it would affect the bone structure.”

Namikas did an HSSR poster presentation in July via Zoom, then went on to the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) in January 2021, where she placed third. She also presented her work at the Regional Science Fair, qualifying for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which will take place at the end of May.

Namikas, who is interested in biology, said, “The HSSR program definitely introduced me to how biology is involved in biological engineering. My dream job would be to work for a big organization like the World Health Organization (WHO).”

Another student, St. Joseph’s Academy junior Alexis Harvey, placed second in the HSSR program for her project under LSU Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Shyam Menon titled, “Shockwave-Induced Droplet Breakup,” which considers fuel droplets in an oxidizing environment and uses computational fluid dynamics simulations to characterize ignition and combustion processes resulting from shock-induced droplet breakup.

“An example of this is when jets come into contact with rain drops in the air or when rotating detonation engines ignite and combust, which is how they operate,” Harvey said.

Alexis Harvey headshotHarvey presented her project at the SJA Science Fair, where she placed first in the Embedded Systems division. She then went to regionals and placed first in her division. Her project is currently being judged at the state fair-level. Harvey also presented at the Louisiana Symposium Fair, finishing fourth in the finals, and will now attend the nationals in early April, which will be a four-day Zoom event. She was also excited to receive the American Meteorologist Society Award.

Harvey will again participate in the HSSR program at LSU this summer and continue her work from last year, though she will make variations on her project.

“HSSR has been an amazing opportunity,” she said. “My favorite part about HSSR was watching the different steps unfold. As I did my project, I did three series of my project. Just being able to go from the different steps to creating a regular, simulated tube to a shock tube to actually analyzing a droplet within a shock tube was really amazing, and I can’t wait to create a real shock tube this summer with the HSSR program.”

Melvin said that doing the HSSR program virtually this year was challenging, since the students were unable to work in the labs, but there is an advantage.

“I can honestly say that the success of the 2020 cohort was strongly based on the mentors finding ways for the HSSR students to still be engaged in research, even in a remote setting,” he said. “The college was also very supportive of our efforts and worked with the students and mentors to get them access to virtual machines and/or software needed to continue the projects. One benefit to what we learned with the virtual research in 2020 is that some projects that are more theoretical/computational in nature can be performed remotely. This could allow for students all across Louisiana to participate in the program, not just the ones who live close to LSU.”

The HSSR program is an outreach initiative aimed at engaging high-achieving high school students in real research in the fields of engineering, computer science, and construction management. Applications are accepted in October for the next year’s program, which runs from June to July. 


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Contact: Libby Haydel

Communications Specialist