LSMSA Seniors Compete at LSU Undergraduate Research Conference

Acacia Coker ('20)
Seniors conducted in-depth experiments alongside distinguished mentors for a chance to exhibit and compete in this annual conference.
On Oct. 26, five Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) seniors competed at the 2018 Undergraduate Research Conference, hosted by Louisiana State University’s Office of Strategic Initiatives. Students exhibited poster presentations in their respective field of research and competed against undergraduates from a variety of universities.

The five seniors were Daniel Metzger, Marlies Carter, Colt Crain, Juliet Flanagan, and Casey Tonnies. Metzger competed in the Engineering and Technology category while Carter, Crain, Flanagan, and Tonnies competed in the Science and Mathematics category.

Metzger placed second in his section with his project titled “Ensemble vs. Deterministic Simulation for Predicting Storm Surge.” The experiment was conducted at the Stennis Space Center Naval Research Lab in New Orleans under the direction of oceanographer Dr. J. Veeramony. Metzger developed a deterministic model for Hurricane Sandy and constructed a probable hurricane forecast surrounding the model. He developed this with the hope of improving accuracy while keeping costs and computing time low.

Carter conducted “The Larval Life History of the Salamander Eurycea Cirrigera across the Florida Parishes.” Under the supervisor of her mentor, Professor of Biology Dr. Christopher Beachy, she tested the rate of larval growth of salamanders from three different localities and participated in the amphibians’ growth. The project was conducted at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Crain conducted “The Effect of Multi-Ion Stress on the Root Growth of Arabidopsis thaliana and Schrenkiella parvula” at Louisiana State University with his mentor, Biologist Dr. Maheshi Dassanayake. Crain tested the effects of varying levels of multi-salt and ion concentration on the growth rate of plants cultivated on MS agar medium.

Flanagan’s experiment, “Optimizing methods and Assessing Epstein-Barr Virus Strain Variation in Burkitt Lymphomas,” was performed at Duke University. Her mentors were Virologist Dr. Micah Luftig, a LSMSA alum from the class of 1994, and Lab Research Analyst Ashley Barry. Under their direction, Flanagan tested possible procedures to enhance Western blots tests by measuring the protein expression of the Esptein-Barr Virus strains.

Tonnies conducted “Determining the Concentration of Hydrogen Peroxide for Use in Reactive Aging of µECoG Devices.” Tested at Duke University under the mentorship of Bioengineers Dr. Ashely J. Williams and Dr. Jonathan Viventi, Tonnies developed a method to determine the concentration of hydrogen peroxide so that it can be used in experiments to mimic the body’s immune response on electrodes.

Student research presentations were evaluated by at least two judges and ranked based on several criteria. In total, 45 participants competed in the poster presentation. Following the poster presentation, oral presentations commenced and an address was given by the conference’s keynote speaker, Psychometric Analyst Dr. Kenna Arbuthnot.

LSMSA’s Sciences Department offers courses such as robotics, anatomy, and quantum mechanics. Many of these classes are taught by faculty members who have received the highest degrees available in their field. For more on the department, visit