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LSU Nominates Four Students for Goldwater Scholarship

Students recognized for innovative undergraduate research

LSU has nominated four students for the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Faiz Alam, Caitlin Billiot, John Paul Marceaux and Jackson Mierl will compete with students from universities across the country for the chance to be named a 2017 Goldwater Scholar. Students must be selected through an internal competition at LSU in order to compete for the scholarship.

“I am so pleased to put forward these four excellent students to compete for our nation’s most prestigious scholarship in the natural sciences, math, and engineering,” said Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle. “If previous years are any indication, they’ll perform well in the national competition.”

“The work and commitment of LSU’s four Goldwater nominees not only represent the best of LSU’s undergraduate research initiatives but also exemplify precisely the kinds of life-long scientific discovery the Goldwater Foundation seeks to support,” said Drew Lamonica Arms, director of the Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising. “All have taken advantage of the research opportunities here at LSU and shown great promise in pursuing their own lines of inquiry in their fields.”    

Goldwater Scholars are awarded one and two-year $7,500 stipends to pursue undergraduate research in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. To apply for the scholarship, students must submit a research essay that demonstrates their interest and ability in these fields. Goldwater Scholarships are widely considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards available to students of the STEM disciplines.

Faiz Alam, of Lafayette, La., is a junior studying biological engineering in the  College of Faiz AlamEngineering. His research involves the design, creation and testing of microfluidic devices used to address biological problems. He has conducted research on a device that is designed to determine the efficacy of cryopreservation techniques for zebra fish sperm, an organism that is important in embryology and developmental biology research, and on a device that is designed to assess livestock fertility in resource-poor environments. Alam works in Dr. W. Todd Monroe’s Biophotonics and BioMEMS Laboratory.

“More than anything, I enjoy the people,” Alam said. “Dr. Monroe is a great mentor, and I have learned a lot from him. He is always eager to help me improve my ideas and work, and he always gives great advice, not only about my research, but also regarding career and extracurricular topics.”

After graduation, Alam plans to take some time off before pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, incorporating robotics as part of his education.

Caitlin Billiot, of Gretna, La., is a sophomore studying microbiology in the College of Caitlin BilliotScience. Billiot’s research essay concerns multi-drug resistant strains of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumonia, which cause many infections each year. She is working on a project that will help researchers understand the functions of specific genes that were found to be important to Klebsiella’s ability to survive in the presence of antibiotics. Billiot is conducting this research under Dr. William Doerrler’s, in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“I enjoy my research because it is one way that I can contribute to our current understanding of how the world works,” Billiot said. “Antibiotic resistance has become an epidemic in recent years, and understanding how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics is the first step to combatting it.” 

After graduation, Billiot plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in Microbiology. 

John Paul Marceaux, of Lake Charles, La., is a junior studying physics in the LSU John Paul MarceauxCollege of Science. In his research essay, Marceaux presents a code that he constructed alongside Dr. A. Ravi Rau in the Department of Physics and Astronomy that exploits the Lie-Clifford algebra of quantum operators to perform a mapping to projective geometry, thereby resolving the Kirkman design system, an important problem in both computer science and quantum information.

“With this type of basic research, there is a sense that one is approaching some ideas that are both beautiful and fundamental,” Marceaux said. “I enjoy the mental challenge of research, and I take great excitement when a code comes to fruition. I often think of the topics addressed in quantum theory as artistic, and I like to compare my coding depictions of these ideas to painting or printmaking.”  

After graduation, Marceaux plans to pursue a master’s degree in physics at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.

Jackson Mierl, of Mandeville, La., is a junior pursuing dual degrees in biology andJackson Mierl philosophy. Mierl’s research essay focused on computational methods for genetic discovery associated with congenital heart disease. The purpose of his research is to create a computational pipeline analysis that identifies new genetic mutations in whole genome sequencing data in clinical patients. He is working in Dr. Mark Batzer’s Laboratory of Comparative Genomics

“I think numbers are very telling in science,” Mierl said. “When analyzing the results, it’s interesting to see what statistics can be drawn to show the relationship between different genomes.”

After graduation, Mierl plans to pursue a Ph.D. in systems biology.

Since the Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created in 2005, LSU has had 18 Goldwater Scholars and 15 Goldwater Honorable Mentions. The Office advises current students and recent graduates from all colleges at LSU as they apply for prestigious national and international fellowships. Students interested in applying for a Goldwater Scholarship may contact Drew Lamonica Arms, director of the Office of Fellowship Advising, at fellowships@lsu.edu.

Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The scholarship was designed to alleviate a critical, current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The Ogden Honors College, established in 1992, is a vibrant, diverse and prestigious community located at the heart of LSU. The Ogden Honors College provides students with a curriculum of rigorous seminar classes, as well as opportunities for undergraduate research, culminating in the Honors Thesis. Its focus on community service, study abroad, internships and independent research helps today’s high-achieving students become tomorrow’s leaders.

 

 

 

Allison S. Howell, Ogden Honors College