Advancing Brain Research: Insights from LSU’s Neuroscience Symposium

LSU recently hosted its inaugural Neuroscience Symposium, an event that aimed to bring together minds from diverse backgrounds to advance the understanding of the brain and nervous system, according to this news release from Louisiana State University. Held at the Pennington Biomedical Research Conference Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Friday, March 8, the symposium was organized by the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN BTR).

The symposium’s objective was aligned with the mission of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) – to integrate research from various scientific fields focused on biological organization, thereby promoting a deeper understanding of the brain and nervous system. Moreover, it aimed to encourage translational research, which applies knowledge gained from basic research to develop improved treatments and cures for neurological diseases.

A variety of presentations were delivered by esteemed institutions including Louisiana State University (LSU), LSU Health Sciences Center, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Additionally, a Poster Session provided an avenue for researchers to showcase their work. The keynote address, titled “Uncovering principles to sustain neurons’ long lives: signaling redundancy and resiliency at the onset of neurodegenerative disease,” was delivered by Nicolas G. Bazan, MD, PhD, Boyd Professor and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at the Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

Alexander Murashov, PhD, President of SfN BTR and Department Head of LSU Comparative Biomedical Sciences, emphasized the commitment of LSU to prioritize scholarship and support the mission of advancing understanding in neuroscience. He stated, “As the flagship for Louisiana, we are committed to Scholarship First. Being active in the Society for Neuroscience chapter, we are supporting the mission to advance our understanding of the brain and nervous system.”

Echoing this sentiment, Arend Van Gemmert, PhD, Treasurer for SfN BTR and Associate Dean of the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education, highlighted the importance of bringing neuroscience leaders together to showcase the breadth of scientific endeavors aimed at improving lives through basic, behavioral, and translational research.

The symposium featured presentations covering a wide range of topics including the neural correlates of substance abuse, social interaction and fear, memory, and vision. This interdisciplinary approach underscored the commitment ofLSU institutions to prioritize scholarship and address challenges vital to the future of fields such as agriculture, biotechnology, defense, and energy.

The success of the event was made possible through generous contributions from various entities including theDepartment of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, LSU Veterinary School, LSU Foundation, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The Baton Rouge Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience expressed gratitude to these supporters for their commitment to advancing neuroscience research.

In addition to serving as a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing, the inaugural Neuroscience Symposium at LSU sparked conversations that will likely resonate far beyond its duration. The connections forged and insights gained during the event are poised to catalyze future research endeavors, potentially leading to groundbreaking discoveries in the field of neuroscience.

As participants departed from the symposium, they carried with them not only new ideas and perspectives but also a renewed sense of purpose in their quest to unravel the complexities of the brain. With continued dedication to scholarship and collaboration, the impact of LSU’s Neuroscience Symposium is sure to reverberate throughout the scientific community, offering hope for advancements that could ultimately enhance the quality of life for countless individuals affected by neurological disorders.

In conclusion, the inaugural Neuroscience Symposium at LSU served as a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and advancing research in neuroscience. By bringing together experts from diverse fields, the event contributed to the collective effort to unravel the mysteries of the brain and nervous system, paving the way for improved treatments and cures for neurological disorders.

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LSU’s $1M Initiative to Enhance Memory Forensics

In a groundbreaking development, LSU’s cybersecurity team, under the leadership of experts Golden Richard and Aisha Ali-Gombe, has been awarded a significant grant of $1 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This substantial funding comes through the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence at George Mason University, aimed at advancing the field of memory forensics. As per this news release from LSU, the focus of this research is to enhance digital investigations and recover elusive evidence related to criminal activities.

At the forefront of memory forensics development globally, LSU’s cybersecurity team specializes in documenting short-term memory on computers and digital devices, including cell phones. This innovative approach distinguishes itself from traditional digital forensics, which primarily deals with permanently stored data and long-term memory on hard drives. Drawing an analogy to a coroner autopsying a human brain versus documenting a person’s thoughts, memory forensics experts possess an almost supernatural ability to extract evidence.

The team’s prowess in memory forensics has garnered collaborations with state and federal agencies, as well as leading security and defense organizations, such as the National Security Agency, U.S. Secret Service, Louisiana State Police, and Louisiana National Guard. LSU’s recent recognition as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations by the National Security Agency highlights the importance of their ability to teach hands-on memory forensics.

Golden Richard, a professor in the Division of Computer Science and Engineering at LSU, emphasizes the challenges posed by modern cyber threats. He notes, “Malware and cyberattacks now routinely leave no traces on non-volatile data storage devices,” putting immense pressure on investigators trained in traditional forensic techniques.

The urgency to address these challenges comes in the wake of major hacks by foreign adversaries targeting the safety and security of the United States. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has mandated the use of memory forensics as part of incident response for affected agencies. However, the complexity of memory forensics poses accessibility and scalability issues for many agencies lacking user-friendly tools and a sufficient workforce. To tackle this, Richard’s project aims to make memory forensics more accessible. Integrating the Structured Threat Information Expression (STIX) language with the open-source Volatility Framework, the team envisions creating a more user-friendly and efficient toolset. This integration will enable investigators from diverse backgrounds to conduct accurate and efficient cyber operations.

The second project, led by Aisha Ali-Gombe, focuses on recovering code and reconstructing processes on Android devices, which command a 70 percent global market share. This initiative seeks to investigate illegal activities on Android smartphones, including cryptocurrency transactions and chat data between terrorists on encrypted social media platforms. Ali-Gombe explains, “Our framework will be able to reconstruct the execution path of a mobile application that clearly shows the most recent user activity, thus providing investigators with actionable evidence they can use in court.”

The collaborative efforts of both undergraduate and graduate LSU students contribute significantly to these research projects. Lauren Pace, a doctoral student, expresses excitement about impacting real investigations and speeding up information recovery. Meanwhile, Nicholas Tanet, a computer science senior, highlights his appreciation for the research process and newfound interest in memory analysis and reverse engineering.

In conclusion, LSU’s cybersecurity team emerges as a formidable force, seamlessly merging academic excellence with practical cybersecurity solutions. Their dedication to advancing memory forensics not only combats present threats but also positions LSU at the forefront of shaping the future of cybersecurity. As the digital landscape continually evolves, LSU remains a stalwart guardian, propelling the field forward with groundbreaking research and education initiatives.

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LSU’s Mission to Preserve Coastal Heritage

In the heart of Pointe-au-Chien, Louisiana, where the delicate land meets the Gulf of Mexico, the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT) faces the challenges of environmental threats, including storm surges that contribute to the rapid erosion of Terrebonne Bay. This historic settlement, established long before the arrival of Europeans, is not only one of Louisiana’s oldest but also one of the world’s most endangered areas. As per this article from Louisiana State University (LSU), the school has joined hands with PACIT since 2022, embarking on a mission to safeguard the tribe’s ancestral lands and coastal heritage through innovative nature-based solutions.

At the forefront of this crucial initiative for coastal heritage preservation is Matthew Bethel, the associate executive director of research at Louisiana Sea Grant. What started as a $100,000 planning grant has blossomed into a comprehensive $780,000 design project, thanks to the support from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program. Bethel emphasized the importance of adopting a collaborative approach that integrates the Tribe’s perspective, drawing on traditional ecological knowledge and priorities. This holistic method, according to Bethel, can serve as a model for researchers addressing local issues in diverse communities.

Quoting Bethel, “The tribe tried and really liked the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s oyster shell recycling project.” This innovative approach involves placing oyster shells in areas needing protection, functioning not only as shoreline defense systems but also nurturing the growth of baby oysters and supporting thriving fish and crab colonies.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is a key partner in this expanded project. Highlighting the success of a previous oyster shell living shoreline project, Bethel notes how it withstood the forces of Hurricane Ida, prompting the Tribe to seek more such projects for enhanced protection.

The planning process for this coastal heritage preservation unfolds through inclusive focus group meetings with Tribe members of different generations, subject matter experts, parish officials, and various regional groups. Daniel Burger, senior program manager of the Gulf Research Program’s Gulf Health and Resilience Board, underscores the significance of nature-based solutions in bolstering community resilience. He believes that involving community members in the planning and design stages enhances the effectiveness of projects addressing weather and climate hazards.

Cherie Matherne, a Tribe member and Cultural Heritage & Resiliency Coordinator, commends the project’s first phase for seamlessly combining new technology with tribal observations. She describes a meeting where researchers used software to pinpoint areas most in need of protection. This technology, previously utilized along the Florida coast,identifies vulnerable locations and recommends specific interventions based on the Tribe’s experiential knowledge.

As the land diminishes, fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and oysters remain the primary sources of income in Pointe-au-Chien. Yet, these activities are now endangered due to the dwindling habitats for reproduction. Matherne explains, “The erosion not only affects us not being able to live here in this bayou community, but many of the resident fishermen rely on that income to raise their families.” A team of dedicated researchers, including Niki Pace, Melissa Daigle, Earl Melancon, Julie Falgout, DeWitt Braud, and Haley Gambill from Louisiana Sea Grant, along with partners from the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, and other universities, collaborates on this vital project.

Founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program allocates $500 million over 30 years to assist communities relying on the Gulf of Mexico. This substantial funding underscores the program’s commitment to supporting struggling communities and fostering sustainable solutions.

In conclusion, the collaboration between LSU and PACIT exemplifies a proactive approach to address the environmental challenges faced by coastal communities. Through innovative nature-based solutions, the project not only aims to protect ancestral lands but also serves as a beacon of community resilience and adaptive strategies.

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From Lab to Field: LSU’s Ambitious Project to Create Climate-Resilient Rice Variety

LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Manas Gartia, and the LSU AgCenter have recently been awarded a significant $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture sector. According to this news release from Louisiana State University’s College of Engineering, this grant will be used to fund their collaborative effort in designing a new variety of rice that can thrive in drought conditions. The need for such a development arises from the fact that rice is a crucial staple food for more than half of the global population, and as rice production continues to increase, so does the demand for water.

Rice cultivation, particularly the conventional season-long flood irrigation method, contributes to several environmental issues, including the depletion of underground water tables, increased salinity in groundwater, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Gartia emphasized that despite a 39% increase in land-use efficiency and reductions in water and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil losses in U.S. rice production over the past four decades, there is still a need for more resource-efficient practices.

To address these concerns, the research team led by Professor Prasanta Subudhi from LSU’s AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences will focus on two main hypotheses. The first hypothesis suggests that developing new rice varieties with better adaptation to climate variations, coupled with innovative crop management practices, can enhance the sustainability and profitability of rice production systems. The second hypothesis states that implementing educational and outreach extension programs will facilitate the adoption of a climate-resilient rice management system by current and future generations of rice growers in the Southern U.S.

Professor Gartia’s role in the project involves studying the phenotype and molecular changes in rice under various stresses, such as salt, drought, water, and heat. By identifying the genes responsible for the rice plant’s survival under drought conditions, the team aims to create a variety of rice with those specific traits. This will enable rice cultivation even in arid regions, reducing the reliance on water resources.

Gartia plans to utilize innovative metabolomic (NMR, LC-MS) and imaging (Raman microscopy) technologies to examine the leaf metabolic profiling in stress-tolerant plants. His objective is to establish a correlation between metabolite levels and stress tolerance in different rice genotypes under various stress conditions. By observing dynamic fluctuations in metabolite levels in real-time using Raman mapping, Gartia hopes to gain valuable insights into the stress response of rice plants.

Additionally, the team will employ techniques such as mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI) and mass spectrometry coupled with liquid chromatography (LC-MS) to analyze lipidomic profile changes in the leaves due to environmental stressors. These comprehensive methods will aid in characterizing the metabolomic profiles of rice lines exposed to drought and salinity stresses.

The outcome of this project will have significant implications for the rice industry, which is one of the largest sectors in both the United States and Louisiana. In 2022 alone, the U.S. produced over 150 million pounds of rice, solidifying its position as the world’s fifth-largest rice exporter. Louisiana, with its favorable warm climate, abundant water, and water-retaining clay soils, stands as the nation’s third-largest rice-producing state, trailing behind Arkansas and California.

This collaborative effort between LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Manas Gartia and the LSU AgCenter has the potential to revolutionize rice production by creating a drought-resistant rice variety. By reducing the reliance on water resources and promoting more sustainable practices, this research aims to ensure a stable supply of rice for the ever-growing global population. In conclusion, the $10 million grant received by Professor Gartia and the LSU AgCenter will facilitate groundbreaking research in designing a new variety of rice that can withstand drought conditions. By combining innovative technologies and focusing on sustainability, this project has the potential to transform the rice industry, ensuring its resilience in the face of climate variability and environmental challenges.

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Empowering Engaged Citizens: The Impact of LSU’s Center for Community Engagement

The Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership (CCELL) was thrilled to announce a significant milestone recently via this LSU Press Release. At Louisiana State University, 25 seniors have graduated with the prestigious Engaged Citizens distinction in the Spring 2023 ceremony. This cohort represents the largest group of students to have participated in the program to date, and their achievements are truly commendable.

Throughout their academic journey at Louisiana State University, these exceptional students have demonstrated their commitment to making a positive impact on their communities. Collectively, they have earned an impressive 395 service-learning credit hours, demonstrating their dedication to integrating classroom knowledge with real-world experiences to become engaged citizens. Moreover, they have generously contributed approximately 3,240 hours of their time to various local and global initiatives.

Among the numerous volunteer opportunities embraced by this cohort, they have actively engaged with campus entities such as the LSU Food Pantry and the Office of Multicultural Affairs MLK Day of Service. Their involvement has also extended beyond the university grounds, with active participation in organizations like the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS), Companion Animal Alliance, and several East Baton Rouge Parish schools. Notably, one student even embarked on an international medical volunteer trip to Honduras, further exemplifying the commitment to service exhibited by these remarkable individuals.

The Engaged Citizen Program, established jointly by CCELL and LSU Campus Life, serves as a platform to support and recognize the outstanding contributions of undergraduate students who demonstrate a profound dedication to their communities and a sincere desire to address critical societal needs. Any undergraduate student has the opportunity to apply and be part of this remarkable program, which offers a transformative experience that extends beyond the classroom.

CCELL plays a crucial role in fostering the scholarship of community engagement by seamlessly integrating teaching, research, and service. The core principles of civic responsibility and social accountability underpin all of its initiatives. For those interested in delving deeper into service-learning at LSU, CCELL’s website at provides a wealth of valuable information.

CCELL Director Dr. Sarah Becker spoke about this accomplishment by saying, “We are so proud of this illustrious cohort of graduates who completed required, optional, and contract-optional service-learning coursework during their time at LSU. They have gone above and beyond to contribute to and learn from a wide set of communities. The world ahead of us looks brighter as they carry themselves into their post-LSU lives.”

Campus Life, working in close collaboration with over 400 student organizations, countless student organization leaders, and advisors, is an integral part of the Engaged Citizen Program. It serves as a home to some of LSU’s most cherished traditions, while also striving to enhance student learning through innovative initiatives focused on involvement, leadership, and service. With a commitment to cultivating an increasingly vibrant campus community, Campus Life serves a diverse student population.

Josh Finch is the Director of Campus Life, and he was quoted as saying, “Graduates with the Engaged Citizens Distinction have dedicated a collective 3,340 hours to effecting positive change in their community. These individuals have exhibited leadership skills and have made a significant impact not only in Baton Rouge but also in other areas. I am eager to see how these exceptional individuals will continue to create a positive impact in the world as alumni of LSU.”

In conclusion, Louisiana State University’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership plays a pivotal role in promoting service-learning and community engagement. Through its partnership with Campus Life, CCELL supports the Engaged Citizen Program, which recognizes and celebrates undergraduate students who make a significant impact on their communities. By integrating teaching, research, and service, CCELL fosters civic responsibility and social accountability, contributing to the development of well-rounded, socially conscious individuals.

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Baton Rogue’s Red Stick Farmers Market Celebrates 26 Years of Growth

Recently, Lauren Cheramie, a staff writer interviewed Darlene Adams Rowland, the executive director of Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance (BREADA), which oversees numerous locations of Baton Rogue’s Red Stick Farmers Market. The interview gave insight into how this farmers market grew from its origins as an LSU thesis project into much more.

BREADA, the nonprofit organization of which Darlene Adams Rowland is the executive director, works to connect itslocal community to fresh, healthy food and to create more economic opportunities for small family farmers in Louisiana. The Red Stick Farmers Market, which now has four locations that are overseen by Rowlands, originally began as the thesis project of an LSU architecture student named Chris Pampany, under professor Suzanne Turner’sdirection. The first market was then held in November of 1996 in the Government building parking lot in downtown Baton Rouge, and it was officially recognized as a 501© 3 non-profit organization that same year.

Rowlands sees BREADA as “more than just a farmer’s market,” especially since the popularity of farmers markets has risen across the country in the 26 years since the Red Stick Farmers Market’s original conception. Farmers markets not only allow for food distribution and commerce, but for many areas of the country, they stand as a tenet of community gathering.

Rowlands stated the nonprofit’s mission by saying, “we look at our mission as sort of three-pronged. First, supporting and sustaining small family farmers. Second, connecting the community with fresh, healthy food. Third, creating community and a space for people to connect and be together. We saw that was so important right after Hurricane Ida, and of course after the pandemic.”

One of the largest events in BREADA’s growth was the establishment of the Louisiana Small Farm Survival Fund at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in 2005. This fund, which has since given approximately $400,000 in direct grants to small farmers since its 2005 conception, was designed to assist small farmers after any type of natural disaster or weather-related event. This is obviously needed in south Louisiana when devastating hurricanes continually threaten farm infrastructure and crops, so when this happens BREADA’s fund is able to be distributed to get farmers back on their feet.

Another milestone in BREADA’s history is its ability to accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at all of its farmers market locations. Additionally, they are able to double all transactions for low-income families that use SNAP thanks to, according to Rowland, “a successful campaign with the legislature to fund that on a statewide level so that every farmers market in Louisiana will have access to match and double those transactions.”

Rowland is a member of the LSU Agriculture Leadership Class’s Class XVII, and she regularly meets with state and national agricultural leaders in order to address issues facing Louisiana farmers. For over a decade, she has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has even served on their board of directors as secretary, vice president of communications, and governmental relations chair.

Additionally, Rowland is also an accomplished writer, as she is a contributor to Country Roads Magazine, where she curates compelling stories that highlight local foodways and travel. Furthermore, she is the recipient of the 2022 John W. Barton Sr. Excellence in Nonprofit Management Rising Star Award.

When asked about what plans BREADA has for Baton Rouge farmers markets in 2023, Rowlands said, “we’ll be starting the renovation of Main Street Market. A lot of people don’t realize that BREADA also manages the brick-and-mortar facility downtown, Monday through Saturday, six days a week. The state will be embarking on a renovation of that facility sometime in 2023, so that will be exciting. We’re also moving into advocacy so that we can look out for those smaller markets that are just starting like BREADA 26 years ago. We consider ourselves a mentor to other small markets throughout the state.”

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