Two Ogden Honors, College of Science students named 2022-23 Astronaut Scholars by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

June 16, 2022

LSU students Rachael Coates and Cale Locicero were named 2022-23 Astronaut Scholars, becoming LSU’s thirteenth and fourteenth recipients. 

The scholarship recognizes the best and brightest minds in STEM who show initiative, creativity, and excellence in their chosen field. Presented by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), the scholarship provides up to $15,000 to promising scholars while commemorating the legacy of America’s Mercury 7 astronauts — each of whom sponsored and fundraised to establish the current scholarship program. This year ASF awarded 68 scholarships to students from 45 different universities across the nation.

Coates is a rising Ogden Honors College senior studying biological sciences in LSU’s College of Science.

“I applied because the scholarship program is specifically intended for people who have a lot of experience with and passion for research as an undergraduate with the potential to push the boundaries of their field,” said Coates. “I'm familiar with research at LSU: I am now in my 6th year of cancer research. The research I have partaken in has potential for large impacts and a change in the way we think about breast cancer. In conjunction with my research experience, I think my publications and my experience with Research Ambassadors (an LSU organization that aims to provide undergraduates with opportunities to get involved in research) made me competitive for this award.” 

As a high school sophomore, she began working with LSU Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Adam Melvin to research the effects of fluid shear stress (FSS) on tumor cells. 

Coates is currently working in Dr. Elizabeth Martin's lab, studying the effects of MAPK15 overexpression in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). MAPK15 is overexpressed in a subset of Black women with TNBC. Her research aims to explore the role MAPK15 overexpression may play in women with this type of TNBC. She is also a part of the LSU Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which provides high-impact research experiences to a diverse pool of undergraduates and prepares them for entry into graduate programs in the biomedical sciences.

“I would like to thank Dr. Melvin and Dr. Martin for their mentorship before and throughout the process of applying for the Astronaut Scholarship. I’d also like to thank Dr. Fontenot for putting the resources of the Office of Fellowship Advising behind me which led me to be successful in this competition,” Coates said. 

Locicero, also a 2022 Goldwater Scholar, is a rising Ogden Honors College senior studying chemistry in LSU’s College of Science

Locicero performs research with the Kartika Group in the LSU Department of Chemistry. “Broadly speaking, the research we perform aims toward the development of new synthetic reactions that can be used in downstream biomedical endeavors such as drug discovery and be applied toward the synthesis of biologically and pharmaceutically relevant organic molecules,” noted Locicero. “The research project I work on centers on the stereoselective synthesis of fully functionalized sp3-hybridized alpha carbons on carbonyl compounds. This chemical structure represents unexplored territory in chemical space that can be investigated in drug discovery.”

Locicero is  a Louis Stokes Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-LAMP) Scholar. He was also recently selected for the American Chemical Society Scholars program.

"I would like to thank the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for this award and the opportunities it has unlocked. I would also like to thank Dr. Kartika, Dr. Lee, and Dr. Fontenot for their support and guidance throughout this process," Locicero added.