Louisiana Higher Ed: More grants fill gaps across college disciplines 

Your weekly update on the higher education news that didn’t make the front page 

By: - October 7, 2022 2:39 pm

Pictured from left: Dr. Balaji Ramachandran, Geomatics program coordinator at Nicholls State University; Jonathan Dufrene, president of the Louisiana Society of Professional Surveyors; Jeremy Becker, executive director of the Nicholls Foundation; Dr. Esra Tekdal Yilmaz, department head of Applied Sciences at Nicholls State University; Dr. John Dennis, assistant professor of Geomatics; Allison Clune, Nicholls First Lady; and Dr. Jay Clune, Nicholls State University President. Photo courtesy of Nicholls State University.

The Louisiana Illuminator takes a weekly look at news from universities and colleges around the state. Have a tip or want to submit a Louisiana Higher Ed news item? Contact [email protected] 

Green research by green researchers 

A group of LSU faculty members has received $450,000  from the National Academy of Sciences to support undergraduate research and creative projects to benefit Gulf Coast communities.

The money will be used to create the Gulf Renaissance Scholars Program, an expansion of an existing undergraduate research program at LSU. The program will focus on recruiting undergraduates who are interested in projects that protect and support coastal communities, ecosystems and industries. 

Linda Hooper-Bùi, an environmental science professor, will direct the program

“A lot of the challenges facing the Gulf region are also growing global issues,” Hooper-Bùi said. “We see this as an opportunity for transdisciplinary work, meaning not just interdisciplinary – involving all of our various colleges and schools and offering the opportunity to look at something through various lenses – but involving communities, from the sea to our coastal dunes, to the swamps and salt marshes.”

The program will begin with 25 students, with the goal of growing to 100 by the third year. Each student will be eligible for up to $6,000 in support per year. 

University leaders hope the program will help keep economically disadvantaged students enrolled in school. 

Nicholls maps out $100K for geomatics program 

The Louisiana Society of Professional Surveyors made a $100,000 gift to the Nicholls State University geomatics department. 

Esra Tekdal Yilmaz, head of Nicholls’ Department of Applied Sciences and a geomatics professor, said that the money would be used to hire a full-time faculty member to teach surveying and mapping. 

Nicholls is the only school in Louisiana to offer a four-year geomatics program.

Nurse educator grant to address 5-state shortage 

LSU’s medical school in New Orleans has received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve health equity and care in rural and medically underserved communities in five states. 

The grant, one of 10 federal health officials awarded, will be used to create a Clinical Nurse Educator Academy to address nursing needs in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. 

Leanne Fowler, Program Director of the Nurse Practitioner Programs at LSU Health Sciences New Orleans, said that increasing the number of nurse educators will help address the shortage of nurses in underserved areas. 

The nation has been in the grip of a nursing shortage that was exacerbated by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently thousands of open nursing positions in Louisiana.  

A closer look at wetland methane emissions

Xavier University of Louisiana chemistry professor Samrat Dutta has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to fund methane emission research. 

Dutta’s research will focus on the wetlands surrounding Lake Pontchartrain. The area makes up one of the largest wetlands on the Gulf Coast. The research aims to show how wetland methane emissions compound  to human  methane emissions, the latter of which experts say accounts for 25% of global warming and climate change

“Since 2006, there has been an abnormal rise of methane in the atmosphere. It’s been indicated that the wetlands have a role in its rising, but no one is sure how much,” Dutta said in an announcement from Xavier. “The idea is to study emissions and their local connection so that we can have a better idea about the wetlands surrounding Lake Pontchartrain and its contribution to our environment.”

Part of the grant will pay for  a portable infrared device that collects data on methane in soil, which will be shared with Xavier faculty. 

Dutta believes his research will contribute to the state’s future environmental strategy. 

“As there are plans to dredge Lake Pontchartrain by 2050, this research is pertinent to Louisiana and can make an immediate impact on policymakers,” Dutta said. 

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Piper Hutchinson
Piper Hutchinson

Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She has covered the Legislature and state government extensively for the LSU Manship News Service and The Reveille, where she was named editor in chief for summer 2022.

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