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Announcing the 2015 Roger Hadfield Ogden Leaders

Ogden Honors funds independently designed student projects that benefit Louisiana
Announcing the 2015 Roger Hadfield Ogden Leaders

Zackari Murphy and Blake Kruger (Not Pictured: David Judd)

The LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College has named David Judd, Blake Kruger, and Zackari Murphy as its 2015 Roger Hadfield Ogden Leaders. Ogden Leaders are awarded up to $5,000 to fund an independent project of their own design with relevance to issues or activities important to the state of Louisiana.

David Judd was awarded an Ogden Leaders scholarship for his Paideia Project, which aims to help local students develop a love of learning through fun, intellectually engaging philosophical discussions. In conjunction with Volunteers in Public Schools, Judd will use his Ogden Leaders funding to establish a pilot version of the Paideia Project at Brookstown Middle Magnet in Baton Rouge next spring. He will conduct a one-hour long weekly meeting with select Brookstown students, during which he’ll use the Common Core-approved textbook Philosophy for Kids to foster a discussion of a topically-relevant philosophical question, such as “How do you know who your friends are?” or “Should you be rewarded for your effort in school?”

“I want to stress that although I am using a book on philosophy, I will not being teaching any philosophy,” Judd explained. “The goal of Paideia is to help kids appreciate the joys of thinking for themselves, while imparting critical, creative, and communicative thinking skills along the way.”

Judd will use oral and written exercises (such as thought experiments or problem-solving challenges) to help guide students through contemplation, discussion, and debate of the issue at hand. His Ogden Leaders scholarship will help to pay for project supplies, such as snacks for the students and printing costs.

Blake Kruger has received Ogden Leaders funding in support of his proposed project to develop a low-cost treatment for Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), a type of cancer for which immunosuppressed patients (such as HIV-positive) are particularly at risk. Kruger will use his Ogden Leaders funding to build direct-injection gene-gun therapy for KS patients in the earlier stages of the disease. Gene guns are devices that use nanoparticles to inject cells with genetic information. Kruger plans to use gold nanoparticles to deliver RNA into malignant KS cells; that RNA will diminish the cells’ production of emmprin, a protein that is essential to the survival and spread of KS in the body.

If successful, Kruger’s project may have particular application to the state of Louisiana; two of its cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, have led the nation in new HIV incidence rates for a number of years. A set of zip codes in these two cities alone account for, on average, 8% of the nation’s new HIV diagnoses per year.

“HIV, being a racially and socioeconomically correlated illness, poses formidable challenges when it comes to providing affordable treatment to patients without the requisite insurance or means to cover the treatment,” Kruger said. “It is through the creation of an affordable treatment for Kaposi’s Sarcoma that I strive to provide treatment to individuals who may otherwise be economically prevented from attaining such necessary care. I hope to expand on current gold-nanoparticle based therapies to create an affordable therapy for KS.”

Kruger became involved in KS therapy research while working last summer as a medical undergraduate researcher under Dr. Christopher Parsons at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. He credits both Dr. Parsons and his faculty mentor at LSU, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Louis Haber, with not only involving him in nanoparticle research, but also providing him with “continued intellectual and emotional support.”

Zackari Murphy has received an Ogden Leaders scholarship for his proposed mentorship program for black, male high school students. His program aims to equip these students with the necessary skills and resources required to successfully pursue a college education and a career. Through tri-monthly meetings held over the course of a school year, Murphy’s program will lead students through exercises and discussions designed to encourage personal development in three areas of focus: character, cultural awareness, and professionalism. Meeting topics and activities will include, for example, definitions of professional and personal success; a panel discussion on representations of the black male in media; and an etiquette dinner.

“In our society, some individuals with great potential are set to a specific path and narrative due to unforeseen circumstances and events out of their control,” Murphy said. “I hope to ease this consequence by creating an outreach program that provides these individuals with proper mentoring, intellectual discussions, and preparation so they are better equipped to understand and deal with the adversity they face. “

Murphy will recruit a diverse group of LSU students to help lead these meetings, which will take on ten to fifteen black male students from Baton Rouge high schools. His Ogden Leaders scholarship will fund outings and activities for program participants, and Murphy credits the Ogden Honors College with inspiring him to consider giving back. “My Ogden Honors classes have made me more culturally-aware, and have helped me to consider ways I can take a more proactive role in the community,” he said.