College Celebrates the Class of 2015 | LSU College of Science

College Celebrates the Class of 2015

The LSU College of Science has a long-standing reputation for graduating some of LSU’s top scholars. The college continued that tradition of excellence during its spring 2015 ceremony held May 15 in the Maddox Field House.
The College of Science Class of 2015 includes 17 University Medalists, students graduating with the highest grade point average; 13 with College Honors, the highest recognition awarded jointly by the College of Science and the Honors College; and 120 students graduating with Latin Honors. The College also had two students to graduate with the Distinguished Communicator Award and one commissioned as an officer in the Armed Forces.
Dean Cynthia Peterson presided over the exercise, which included a crash course in the keys to living a successful life from Ron Neal, LSU geology alumnus, co-founder/co-owner Houston Energy L.P. and the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
“My definition of success is being able to follow your dreams and find happiness. Remember, happiness, not money, is your goal,” said Neal, who earned a Bachelor of Science in zoology from LSU in 1974 and a master’s degree in geology in 1977.
“The day I graduated 41 years ago was the most depressing day of my life,” said Neal. “I walked out of the PMAC with an undergraduate degree in zoology and nobody interested in me. For years I heard the expression that if you get a college degree, the world will be your oyster. At that moment, I though that the oyster meant for me must have not gotten the message.”
After graduation, Neal talked his way into LSU’s graduate geology program and found a professor who took him on as a student. But he admitted that the best decision he ever made occurred during the summer of 1974 when he began dating his future wife, LSU alumnus Dr. Mary Neal.
“I am here today because someone thinks I have been successful,” said Neal. “If that is true, I am successful because I have been married to the same woman for 39 years, we have three children who all live in Houston, have graduated from college and are trying to find their own oyster,” said Neal.
“Today, I am co-owner of Houston Energy L.P. We are a private oil and gas exploration company playing on the biggest stage in the U.S.,” said Neal. “We are in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico competing and winning against the largest companies in the world and I could not have done this without the encouragement and support of Mary.”
Neal noted that some of the graduates will be going further in school, others have jobs, but some may need a job. So, for those on the market, he reminded them that, “…everyone regardless of their job or position in life is in sales. The first and most important product you will sell is yourself. This never ends and this makes selling a critical life skill.”
Neal added that being smart is not enough. “Smart is common, brilliance is rare. All of you are smart.” He also urged the graduates to create opportunities on the job, show initiative, be dependable, and to know your value.
“When interviewing someone, the last question I ask is ‘Why should I hire you?’ Most people are unprepared to sell themselves and stutter while others just nail it. Take the time to think about how you would answer this question and if the interviewer doesn’t, offer it as your closing argument in favor of your case,” said Neal.
This year’s spring graduates are paving a way to a promising future with a number of them going on to graduate and professional programs and other prestigious institutions including Stanford, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, Rice, LSU School of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center and University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
The class of 2015 includes Zachary Fitzpatrick, biochemistry major and Honors College student, La-STEM scholar, Fulbright scholar and LSU’s first recipient of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Fitzpatrick will be pursuing a master’s degree in advanced immunology at Pierre and Marie Curie University and the Pasteur Institute of Paris. After completing his studies in France, he will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in clinical science at the University of Cambridge.
A number of the college’s top performing students hail from the Department of Mathematics. These graduates will be entering some of the nation’s top PhD and master’s programs like Paxton Turner who will be attending MIT in the fall, 2014 Goldwater Scholar Bruno Beltran, who will be conducting research at Yale this summer and pursuing his PhD at Stanford, and Rachael Keller, who will be participating in the Research in Industrial Programs for Students, or RIPS program, in Hong Kong this summer and will begin doctoral studies at Columbia University in the fall.

This is just a sampling of the college’s high achievers. Take a look at the graduate profile below and learn more about some of our exceptional graduates.


Spring 2015 Graduate Profile

  • Students receiving the Master of Science degree 17
  • Students receiving the Bachelor of Science degree 348
  • Our spring graduates are from 17 countries, 22 states, and 37 parishes within Louisiana

The oldest undergraduate is 35, and the youngest is 20. The oldest graduate student is 53 and the youngest is 24.  
Including our Ph.D. students who received their degrees during the main ceremony, May 14:

  • 192 are men
  • 200 are women


University Medalist

LSU awards the University Medal to undergraduate students graduating with the highest grade point average.  The graduates listed below have maintained a 4.00 grade point average throughout their academic careers. 

  • Ryan Craig Bolotte, biological Sciences
    Hometown: New Orleans, LA
    High School: Ponchatoula High School
    Future Plans: Ryan plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall.

  • Elizabeth Elaine Cooper, mathematics
    Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
    High School: Episcopal High School
    Future Plans: Elizabeth plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall.

  • Victoria Rose D’Antonio, mathematics with a concentration in Secondary Education (GeauxTeach Student)
    Hometown: Covington, Louisiana
    High School: Saint Scholastica Academy
    Future Plans: Victoria plans to work as a secondary education teacher next school year.


  • Kelsey Renee Doguet, biological sciences  
    Hometown: Iota, LA
    High School: Iota High School
    Future Plans: Kelsey plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall.


  • Julie Elizabeth Farrar, biological sciences
    Hometown: Monroe, LA
    High School: St. Frederick High School
    Future Plans: Julie plans to attend the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy in Memphis, TN


  • Amy Katherine Galiano, biochemistry
    Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
    High School: Central Private School
    Future Plans: Amy plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans this fall. 


College Honors

Students receiving College Honors have completed Honors coursework, participated in research under the direction of a faculty mentor, and have written and defended a senior thesis.

  • Bruno Gabriel Beltran, mathematics
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Frank Neubrander
    Thesis Title: Matrix Exponentiation without Scaling and Squaring
    Future Plans: Bruno will be working at Yale this summer and plans to attend Stanford's Ph.D. program in Chemical & Systems Biology. From there he plans to pursue a professorship in systems biology while continuing to be involved in mathematics and computer science educational outreach.


  • Emily Christine Bennett, biological sciences
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Batzer
    Thesis title: Mobilization of Alu Elements Throughout Papio and Theropithecus Genomes
    Future Plans: Emily plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport


  • Katie Marie Benson, biological sciences
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Hellberg
    Thesis Title: Shell matrix protein gene composition in two marine bivalve species, Saxidomus gigantea and Mytilus trossulus
    Future Plans: Katie is applying to nursing schools in Denver, Colorado


  • Amanda Kay Breaux, biological sciences
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Grover Waldrop
    Thesis Title: Structure Activity Relationships of Biotin Carboxyl Carrier Protein of E. coli Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase
    Future Plans: Amanda plans to attend Tulane School of Medicine this fall.


  • Zachary Louis Fitzpatrick, biochemistry
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gus Kousoulas
    Thesis title: “Employing Extracellular Vesicles to Overcome Immunological Barriers to AAV-mediated Gene Transfer” & “Ethical and Policy Implications of Orphan Drug Development and Accessibility”
    Future Plans: Zachary will be pursuing a MSc in Advanced Immunology at Pierre and Marie Curie University and the Pasteur Institute of Paris. Upon completion of his studies in France, Zachary will be pursuing an MPhil in Clinical Science at the University of Cambridge.


  • Hardy Hang, microbiology
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jacqueline Stephens
    Thesis title: Studies to elucidate the location and function of STAT5A/pyruvate dehydrogenase complex in adipocytes
    Future Plans: After graduating, Hardy plans to work as a research assistant in Dr. Stephens’s lab and will be applying to medical school.


  • Rachael Tara Keller, mathematics
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Oliver Dasbach
    Thesis title: Encoding Knots
    Future Plans: Over the summer, Rachael will be participating in the RIPS program in Hong Kong. From there, she plans to attend Columbia University to pursue a doctorate in Applied Mathematics.


  • Jason Donald Mueller, physics and mathematics
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Hwang Lee
    Thesis title: Geometrical Phases on the Poincaré and Bloch Spheres
    Future Plans: Jason plans to attend graduate school at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, in pursuit of a PhD degree in quantum engineering.


  • Sreeja Sanampudi, biochemistry
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Batzer
    Thesis title: Characterization of a novel retrotransposon in New World monkeys
    Future Plans: Sreeja plans to attend the University of Kentucky College of Medicine this fall.


  • Desmarie Stewart, biological sciences
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui
    Thesis title: Aggressiveness in Inland and Coastal Colonies of Solenopsis invicta
    Future Plans: Desmarie plans to attend medical school at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.


  • Elliott Reid Thompson, biological sciences
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui
    Thesis title: Crematogaster pilosa Ants as Bioindicators of Ecosystem Marsh Health Post BP Oil Disaster
    Future Plans: Elliott plans to attend the LSU School of Medicine.


  • Jeremy Robert Tillay, mathematics
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stephen Shipman
    Thesis title: Scattering of Motion on a Half-Infinite Quantum Graph Tube
    Future Plans: Jeremy plans to attend Rice University's PhD in Computational and Applied Math Program. Over the summer, he will be participating in the RIPS program in Hong Kong, where he will do industrial research for local companies.


  • Paxton Mark Turner, mathematics
    Faculty Mentor: Dr. Blaise Bourdin
    Thesis title: Modeling Deformations of Solids at the Continuum Scale
    Future Plans: Paxton plans to attend MIT beginning Fall 2016.


Military Honors

  • Travoll Payne, biochemistry major, was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy.


Distinguished Communicator

This award is the first of its kind in the nation and recipients are outstanding in four areas of communication:  written, spoken, visual, and technological. Graduates earning the Distinguished Communicator award will be recognized as they cross the stage to receive their diploma.


  • April Chow, mathematics,
    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bogdan Oporowski


  • Arielle Nabatilan, chemistry
    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Maria Vicente


LSU Commencement Coverage:

    LSU Graduates Largest Ever Spring Class  

2015 University Medalists Recognition Ceremony

Distinguished Communicator Award  

LSU Recognizes 420 Honor Graduates at Commencement 

Math Majors Enter Top PhD Programs