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Ogden Honors Students Recognized for Cutting-Edge Research

Students nominated for prestigious Goldwater scholarship
Ogden Honors Students Recognized for Cutting-Edge Research

Jon Wilson

LSU has nominated four Ogden Honors students for the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Ashley Curran, of Baton Rouge; John Paul Marceaux, of Lake Charles; Jacob Meariman, of River Ridge; and Jon Wilson, of Greenville, Mississippi, are competing with students from universities across the country for the chance to be named a 2016 Goldwater Scholar. Students must be selected through an internal competition at LSU in order to compete for the scholarship.

“These four finalists are precisely what Congress had in mind when it created the Goldwater scholarship,” Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle said. “Each has come up with fascinating research questions and proposals.”

“Year after year, LSU puts forward its top undergraduate researchers for this prestigious award, and this year’s impressive nominees are enthusiastically involved in cutting-edge research in their fields,” Office of Fellowship Advising Director Drew Lamonica Arms said. “We applaud their achievements—participation in REUs at the country’s top universities, publications in top science journals, presentations at national conferences—and recognize that these opportunities are made possible not only by their ambition and smarts, but also by the valuable working relationships they have with LSU’s top research faculty. These four students are a testament to the high quality, nationally-competitive research that undergraduates can embrace here at LSU.”

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 in these fields. Goldwater Scholarships are widely considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards available to students of the STEM disciplines.

Ashley CurranAshley Curran is a junior studying molecular and cellular biology in the LSU College of Science. Her research essay describes her work in characterizing an important S. cerevisiae DNA damage protein called Hug1 by looking at the protein’s structure and binding mechanisms to yeast and human proteins involved in DNA damage response. The importance of her research rests on its potential as a novel method of next-generation chemotherapy. Curran is currently conducting her research in Dr. Michael Benton’s lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

“I enjoy the creativity involved in the research design process and the knowledge that even the smallest experiments are all part of a larger process of discovery,” Curran said.  “Even on the most frustrating days of failed experiments, the potential of my project to help others in the ongoing fight against cancer and to actively participate in the expansion of knowledge motivates me and helps me not to lose my enjoyment of day-to-day research.”

After graduation, Curran plans to pursue a master’s degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in immunology from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany before conducting immunological research, specifically in the fields of cancer and autoimmune disease research.

John Paul Marceaux is a John Paul Marceauxsophomore studying physics and, more specifically, quantum information, in the LSU College of Science. In his research essay, Marceaux presents his theory that sound waves can provide computation speedup and described his pursuit of this speedup in the form of an acoustic computer. Marceaux is conducting his research with Dr. A. Ravi Rau in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I love the beautiful patterns contained in quantum information,” Marceaux said. “The subject is quite broad and is applicable to an extremely diverse area of science—anything from biology to microscopic molecules. Its patterns seem to be all encompassing, and I enjoy the idea that I can add to this already vast body of information.”

After graduation, Marceaux plans to pursue graduate study in both physics and biochemistry and hopes to continue his own research into the nature of the general quantum computer.

Jacob MearimanJacob Meariman is a junior studying biochemistry and molecular biology in the LSU College of Science. Meariman’s research essay focuses on a particular protein found in a plant pathogen that causes soft rot in potatoes. This protein is a homolog of the multiple antibiotic resistance regulator (MarR) family of proteins and controls the expression of virulence genes. He aims to understand the mechanism by which this protein controls virulence gene expression, which could ultimately lead to the development of antibacterial agents and provide critical information on other MarR proteins, some of which are found in human pathogens. Meariman is conducting his research under Dr. Anne Grove, in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“The thing that I enjoy most about my research is discovering how these complex biological systems function and solving problems within these systems,” Meariman said. “Being able to solve these problems and have it possibly make a difference in the world is something that is extremely fulfilling.”

Meariman plans on pursuing an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry at either Georgetown or St. Louis University. After completing the M.D./Ph.D. program, Meariman hopes to conduct translational research on particular transcription factors involved in various types of cancer.

Jon WilsonJon Wilson is a junior studying chemical engineering in the LSU College of Engineering. Wilson is passionate about renewable energy technologies and energy storage and his research essay reveals a possible solution to a problem in magnesium ion battery research. According to Wilson, rechargeable magnesium ion batteries have the potential to be far better than lithium ion batteries, but some of the best candidate materials for the different components of such a battery do not coordinate appropriately, so the technology is still in development. Wilson is currently working with Dr. Kevin McPeak in the Department of Chemical Engineering on a new project and hopes to write an Honors thesis on his research.

After graduation, Wilson plans to study materials science in graduate school.

Since the Ogden Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created in 2005, LSU has had 18 Goldwater Scholars and 14 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.