LSU College of Science Celebrates 20 Years of Honoring Trailblazers in Research and Education

April 18, 2024

BATON ROUGE — For two decades, the LSU College of Science has recognized individuals who have distinguished themselves in their endless pursuit of excellence and fervent dedication to scientific leadership through induction into its Hall of Distinction.

Induction into the Hall of Distinction is the most prestigious honor conferred by the College of Science. The first ceremony was held in 2004, and since then, the college has recognized 95 individuals representing a variety of science disciplines. In 2023, an additional honor was created to recognize an industry partner who has made a transformational investment in the college, impacting students and faculty for years to come.

"Every year, we look forward to celebrating the outstanding achievements of our honorees and industry champions. This year is extra special as we commemorate 20 years of unwavering commitment to advancing science at LSU," said Cynthia Peterson, Dean of the LSU College of Science. "We are excited about continuing to honor our scientific trailblazers for many years to come."

On Friday, April 19, the LSU College of Science will induct three honorees and an Industry Champion into the 2024 Hall of Distinction.

2024 Hall of Distinction Honorees

Diola Bagayoko, PhD - Chancellor’s Fellow and SU System Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics 

Dr. Bagayoko's headshotDr. Diola Bagayoko, an alumnus and supporter of LSU's Department of Physics & Astronomy, has distinguished himself in condensed matter research and demonstrated a strong commitment to STEM education. His notable academic achievements include founding the Timbuktu Academy in 1990, which has mentored over 2300 undergraduate students in STEM fields. Supported by major organizations like NSF, NASA, and the Office of Naval Research, this initiative has had a significant impact on STEM education across Louisiana.

Bagayoko has also played a crucial role in creating the Joint Faculty Appointment Program (JFAP), which aims to foster collaboration between Louisiana's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and majority White institutions. The LSU-Southern JFAP program was the first in the state and is now the longest-lasting, largely due to Bagayoko’s efforts and dedication. 

Bagayoko's leadership and advocacy for STEM education have earned him prestigious awards such as the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring and the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from AAAS. His tireless efforts continue to inspire generations of students and researchers, leaving a lasting impact on STEM education and academic collaboration.

Alfred Gardner, PhD - Emeritus Curator of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gardner's headshotDr. Alfred Gardner, a prominent wildlife biologist, had an outstanding career spanning nearly five decades as the Curator of North American Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. An LSU Zoology Ph.D. graduate, Gardner maintains a strong connection to LSU, evidenced by his generous support as a donor to the LSU Museum of Natural Science (MNS). Under the mentorship of Dr. George Lowery, the MNS founder, Gardner's doctoral research significantly enhanced the MNS's global reputation in biodiversity science. His extensive fieldwork in the Neotropics added nearly 4000 specimens to the MNS collections, establishing him as a foundational figure in the mammal research community and solidifying the MNS as a premier resource for biodiversity researchers worldwide.

Gardner's extensive contributions to mammal research, spanning seven decades and two continents, have significantly impacted taxonomy and inspired future generations of mammalogists. His work includes over 180 papers and the description of two new genera and 20 mammal species. Additionally, his influential publication of Volume 1 of The Mammals of South America in 2008 remains a cornerstone in the field. Gardner's dedication has fostered a wealth of subsequent research and continues to shape the study of mammals globally.

William Stickle, PhD - Emeritus Professor, LSU Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. Stickle's headshotDr. William Stickle has made extensive contributions to mentorship, research, and philanthropy within the College of Science over his five-decade tenure. As an emeritus professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Stickle's mentorship has significantly impacted students, guiding them through academic milestones and fostering active engagement in professional networks.

His expertise in organismic physiology and environmental stressors has greatly contributed to the field of environmental physiology of marine fauna, proven by his numerous publications and successful grant funding from prestigious agencies. Beyond his own research, Stickle's passion for marine biology led to his establishment of the LSU Marine Biology in Alaska Program, offering undergraduate students immersive experiences in marine biology through lectures, field courses, and interactions with experts in Juneau, Alaska. Stickle's dedication to student success is evident in his support of the Marine Biology Travel Fund, which provides vital financial assistance to participants and ensures the program's ongoing success. His continued generosity and support for the College of Science extend to his active membership on the Executive Committee, as well as his contributions to essential programs and initiatives in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Museum of Natural Science, reflecting his commitment to shaping the future of science at LSU.

2024 Industry Champion


Shell logo

With more than 3,000 employees across Louisiana, Shell is pivotal to state and local economies and communities. Over the past four decades, Shell has contributed nearly $63 million in support of academic and research initiatives at LSU. In 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Shell donated $3.5 million to leverage the school’s scientific and academic expertise in support of environmental and business recovery efforts. This investment resulted in a state-of-the-art forecasting system along the Mississippi River Delta, the Shell Endowed Chair in the College of Coast & Environment and the Shell Coastal Environmental Modeling Laboratory.

In 2011, Shell made a $3 million commitment to help establish a student leadership program in the Honors College, endow a professorship in oceanography and wetland studies and support honors engineering course development. As part of this commitment, the Shell Tutorial Center was created and later renewed in 2018, helping to improve the graduation rate among students. Most recently, in 2022, the company invested $27.5 million to establish the LSU Institute for Energy Innovation and enable construction of the LSU Our Lady of the Lake Health Interdisciplinary Science Building. The investment is the university’s largest gift ever from a for-profit corporation and also the largest in support of energy-related initiatives.

With Shell’s investment as founding partner, the new Institute for Energy Innovation is advancing opportunities for reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy for all through a just and equity-driven pathway. As part of the gift, $6.4 million is directed specifically towards engagement initiatives centered on faculty and student support, as well as workforce development, within the energy industry.

Together, Shell and LSU’s partnership is a model for future energy-related collaborations that will serve to attract and educate the next generation of scientists and energy leaders across the globe.

The 2024 LSU Science Hall of Distinction dinner and ceremony will be held Friday, April 19 at 6 p.m. at the Lod Cook Alumni Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.