LSU Engineering Hosts High School Summer Research Program

September 8, 2020

Group photo of high school students in HSSR programBATON ROUGE, LA – Over the summer, 18 high-schoolers from across South Louisiana participated in the High School Summer Research (HSSR) program created by LSU Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Adam Melvin and hosted by LSU’s College of Engineering.

Melvin started working with high school students from St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge in fall 2016. Students signed up to work in an engineering lab to learn about their field of interest, while Melvin and other LSU Engineering professors served as mentors.

“In the spring of 2019, I started brainstorming how to implement this college-wide and then launch the program in the fall,” Melvin said.

In 2020, the program finally got its HSSR name with the help of Melvin and LSU College of Engineering Recruiting and Outreach Manager Andy Osborn.

“The college took notice of Adam’s efforts and successes with this program, and then he and I realized we could build on that to expand the program to more students and faculty,” Osborn said. “The HSSR program is an especially great outreach and recruiting opportunity because it puts high-achieving high school students in direct contact with our outstanding faculty and research projects. The students get invaluable experience in a professional research lab setting, which helps them build interest in the degrees we offer and the fields of engineering, computer science, and construction management, in general.”

This summer, the students participated in the HSSR Virtual Poster Presentation Day that kicked off with a greeting from LSU College of Engineering Dean Judy Wornat. The half-day event ended with students receiving awards for the top-three projects.

First place was awarded to Ellington Hemphill of Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans for his project, “Variability and Uncertainty of Overlay Tester Testing Data, Analysis, and Results,” which he completed under the mentorship of LSU Construction Management Assistant Professor Husam Sadek. The project deals with identifying and categorizing the potential sources of variability in overlay testing data as it relates to cracking in asphalt.

Second place went to Alexis Harvey of St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge for her project, “Shockwave-Induced Droplet Breakup,” which she completed under the mentorship of LSU Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Shyam Menon. Her project will consider fuel droplets in an oxidizing environment and use computational fluid dynamics simulations to characterize ignition and combustion processes resulting from shock-induced droplet breakup.

Third place went to Orna Mukhopadhyay of Baton Rouge Magnet High School for the project titled, “Machine Learning-Based Feature Analysis and Classification for ICG-Assisted Vibrational Spectroscopic Data of Pancreatic Carcinoma,” under the mentorship of LSU Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Jian Xu. This project will allow for a faster diagnosis, accurate resectability and thorough evaluation of spectroscopy techniques in a clinical setting with regard to pancreatic cancer.

Melvin’s own students engaged in projects that focused on 3D-tumor spheroid generation using a droplet microfluidic device, circulating microfluidic co-culture device for the dynamic analysis of the tumor secretome, and the development of a modular microfluidic platform to investigate the role of fluid shear stress on cancer cell phenotype.

Other projects included breath-monitoring through the use of wireless earbuds, characterization of animal nest-building geomaterials, and using pulsed UV light for enhanced water disinfection, among others. Mentors for HSSR 2020 included Kevin Hoffseth, Yongchan Kwon, and Philip Jung, Biological Engineering; Melvin and James Dorman, Chemical Engineering; Jian Xu, Electrical Engineering; Samuel Snow, Environmental Engineering; Shyam Menon, Mechanical Engineering; Hai Lin, Civil Engineering; Chen Wang, Computer Science; and Momen Mousa and Husam Sadek, Construction Management.

“The HSSR program helps students stand out as they are applying to colleges and looking for research experiences in the future, since they have already had some experience as a high school student,” Osbourn said. “We also hope it will show some of these really outstanding students the type of exciting and cutting-edge research happening right here in LSU’s College of Engineering.”

Melvin says their plan moving forward is to open the program to a range of high schools, not just the initial four the program started with in its early stages.

“We are thinking about how to accommodate students who live further away from Baton Rouge by potentially having some projects focus on virtual research,” Melvin said. “Our mentors did an amazing job dealing with COVID and still providing the students with a research experience when they weren’t able to come to PFT (Patrick F. Taylor Hall).”

The LSU HSSR program has many advantages for the students and mentors, one of which is students helping the mentors advance their projects. Melvin said he has had some amazing high school students who ended up as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications, as well as two students who were able to independently take the projects in new directions.

“I’ve also had students decide to major in engineering over biology or chemistry because of their experience in the lab,” he said. “One thing we found out from the end-of-program surveys was that this experience in HSSR opened up the high schoolers’ eyes on how much engineers can do.”


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Contact: Libby Haydel

Communications Specialist