Shell Awards LSU Gift for Energy Institute and New Campus District

Recently, Louisiana State University received a $27.5 million gift from long-time partner Shell USA, Inc., and according to this news release from the school, the investment will be utilized to not only establish a new Institute for Energy Innovation but to also begin construction on a new district of LSU’s campus devoted to interdisciplinary scientific discovery.

The $27.5 million gift from the Shell Corporation is reportedly being recognized as the university’s largest gift ever received from a for-profit corporation. Additionally, it’s simultaneously the largest gift ever received by the school in focused support of energy-related initiatives.

In speaking on LSU deserving the gift, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said, “as a legacy energy state on the front lines of climate change, Louisiana is uniquely positioned to forge meaningful solutions for a clean energy future. This partnership between Shell and Louisiana’s flagship university supports the continued vitality of our state’s energy industry as well as Louisiana’s emerging role as a national leader in carbon management. I look forward to the contributions LSU and Shell will continue to make here in Louisiana to global energy innovation.”

Of their total donation gift, Shell will be dedicating $25 million to launch and establish the LSU Institute for Energy Innovation, an institution that will aim to advance affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy for all. The creation of the Institute for Energy Innovation will set the stage to allow for leaders in energy-thought, talent, and industrial impact to have the opportunity to invest in a collaborative pursuit of a shared vision for the future of energy.

Shell’s gift will provide funding for a five-year vision for the LSU Institute for Energy Innovation, which will be rooted in five work streams: talent, research and development, policy and economics, social and environmental justice, and technology transfer and commercialization. Furthermore, about $6.4 million of Shell’s total gift will be directed toward initiatives centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion. These initiatives will be focused on both faculty and student support as well as workforce development within the energy industry.

The remaining $2.5 million will be used to construct the LSU Our Lady of the Lake Interdisciplinary Science Building, and upon the completion of this new building, LSU will be able to close reportedly more than 50% of the LSU College of Science’s current gap in lab space and educational needs within its five disciplines: Biological Sciences, Chemistry,Geology and Geophysics, Mathematics, and Physics and Astronomy.

Over the past four years, there has been an increase in demand for educational and lab space for LSU’s College of Science. For the past four consecutive years, the college has reported years of enrollment growth while also teaching one-quarter of all student credit hours at LSU and roughly one-third of the total instruction for freshmen and sophomore students. Therefore, this continual growing reliance on LSU’s College of Science will be greatly benefited by the construction of the LSU Our Lady of the Lake Interdisciplinary Science Building.

LSU President William F. Tate IV also commented on the monumental gift, saying: “energy represents a central driver of Louisiana’s economy, and Louisiana buttresses the nation’s energy supply, putting LSU in the unique position to partner with industry to discover innovative methods to fuel our nation. Together with Shell, we invite fellow industry leaders to join us in pioneering the research and development pathways forward to protect and preserve Louisiana’s energy economy, while meeting the nation’s future energy needs.”

Shell’s announcement of their $27.5 million gift is the latest transformative investment in LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda, a dedicated effort to focus on creating solutions considered to be essential to the future of agriculture, biotechnology, the coast, defense, and energy within Louisiana and throughout the nation. With the Scholarship First Agenda, LSU seeks to “ascend to its potential to lead the nation in these five key areas through a combination of private, state and federal support.” Additionally, Shell’s gift is only a part of LSU’s $1.5 billion Fierce for the Future Campaign, which is the largest campaign for higher education in the history of the state of Louisiana.

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LSU Awarded International Award for Innovative Partnership

Recently, it was announced that Louisiana State University was the co-recipient of an international award that recognizes the most innovative and effective models for expanding and developing international education in practice today, according to an LSU Press news release.

LSU has been named the co-recipient of the 2022 IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Educationin the category of Strategic Partnerships for the LSU AgCenter-MENDELU Partnership. The award was given on behalf of the Institute of International Education, or IIE. The bestowing of this internationally-sought after award recognized the impactful and innovative partnership between both LSU AgCenter and Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic.

The 2022 IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education in the category of Strategic Partnershipswas given to both the LSU AgCenter and Mendel University in order to officially recognize and celebrate the multidisciplinary and multidimensional partnership that was originally initiated by the Agricultural Center and primarily focused on agrisciences.

Since its initial conception in 2015, this partnership between LSU and Mendel University has reportedly “created nearly 90 new linkages for research and teaching and has expanded to include the LSU College of Art & Design, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and LSU Leadership Development Institute.” As further listed in the news release, the partnership’s goals include “ joint research, grant proposals, student exchange, faculty exchange, joint courses, a summer school, and a food symposium.”

The partnership between the LSU AgCenter and MENDELU has clearly been seen internationally as an innovative, educational model for collaboration that can be sustainable, creative, and engaging, despite challenges. For instance, even throughout the pandemic, the LSU AgCenter and MENDELU have worked in close collaboration online in order to continue engagement and to develop new programming. More information on the LSU AgCenter’s partnership with Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic can be found in the collaboration’s 2014-2020 Partnership Report.

Interim Vice President for Agriculture and Dean of the LSU College of Agriculture Dr. Luke Laborde, commented on receiving the international honor in saying, “we are excited and gratified by this recognition of our collaboration withMendel University. It is a tribute to the ingenuity and adaptability of the faculty of both universities leading to the success of this collaboration even in the face of a global pandemic. I am truly grateful to our faculty and staff and particularly Ms. Ivana Tregenza, the Director of our Global Network, for leading our efforts.”

IIE awarded LSU along with six other institutions this past year in the category of widening access to international education, student mobility, exchange, strategic partnerships, and models of international education financial support. A full list of this year’s winning initiatives and 150+ programs that have been recognized and given a Heiskell Award to date has been released by the IIE.

Senior International Officer Samba Dieng of LSU also commented on the impact of the LSU AgCenter Global Network director saying “Ms. Ivana Tregenza, LSU AgCenter Global Network director, deserves credit for nurturing this partnership to what is now a gold standard in the field. Her work with colleagues at MENDELU to deepen engagement, even during a global pandemic, is exemplary of creativity and innovation.”

Named after Andrew Heiskell, a former chairman of Time Inc. and a member of the executive committee of IIKE’s Board of Trustees, the IIE Heiskell Awards were created in 2001 in order to promote and honor the most outstanding initiatives being conducted in international higher education institutions by IIENetwork members. Specifically, the award is focused on those  IIENetwork members addressing a specific need, removing institutional barriers, and broadening the base of participation in international teaching and learning.

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LSU Student Astronomers Assisting in Development of New Lunar-Based Telescope

Student astronomers at Louisiana State University are researching and designing a new type of lunar telescope that aims to take new images of the far side of the moon by 2024, as per this article from LSU.

The collaboration is called L-CAM1, and it’s a scientific observing program that’s being worked on by faculty and student astronomers from LSU, Mississippi State University, the SETI Institute, and AstronetX PBC, a public benefit corporation that’s dedicated to enabling frontier research from space. One of the main goals of the scientific observing program collaboration is for LSU students to research and design the creation of the first lunar-based camera.

The photographic instrument, which will be called Astronet L-CAM1, will be designed to capture cosmic images from the moon for research purposes that will contribute to the areas of astrophysics, planetary defense, and planetary science.

Assistant Professors Tabetha Boyajian and Matthew Penny from LSU’s Department of Physics & Astronomy recruited a team of students to work on the Astronet L-CAM1. In speaking on the magnitude of the selection process, LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy assistant professor Tabetha Boyajian said, “giving early-career students the chance to design a frontier, space-based science program that will be operated on the lunar surface is a wonderful and unique opportunity to support the progression of tomorrow’s leading astronomers and astrophysicists.”

When starting to plan the L-CAM1, LSU students had to first develop a complex understanding of the limitations and benefits that present themselves when it comes to lunar observation. The students and faculty then decided to focus on two primary scientific cases for the observing program: to improve the characterization of previously-known exoplanets and to expand asteroid observation and characterization.

Whenever an orbiting exoplanet briefly passes in front of a star, space-based observatory instruments such as the Astronet L-CAM1 will be able to allow for high-precision measurements of parent star brightness changes. Because the L-CAM1 will be able to observe these changes without interruptions over a lunar day (which is equivalent to 14 Earth days,) this instrument will be able to have long, uninterrupted observing sequences of exoplanet transit events. Additionally, during a typical multi-lunar day mission, the L-CAM1 will be able to observe approximately 200 asteroids, which would include nearly one near-Earth asteroid per month.

Senior planetary astronomer at the Carl Sagan Center at SETI Frank Marchis said of what is needed from the student research team, “our student team first needed to create simulations of the portion of lunar sky L-CAM1 will see during the multiple lunar days of the mission as a way of determining visible astrophysical and astronomical targets. One of the unique benefits L-CAM1 will provide is the duration of uninterrupted time individual subjects can be observed.”

Funding for the scientific program’s planning comes from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to AstronetX along with additional support for student participation that’s been provided by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at LSU.

AstronetX is a Delaware public benefit corporation that’s based in Boston, Massachusetts, and they were established to facilitate and enable research in the Earth and space sciences for the overall benefit of humanity by making multi-purposeful space-based observational and database services available to customers. Their customer base includes the space science community, government agencies, the private sector, and citizen scientists.

Farzaneh Zohrabi studies at LSU as a L-CAM1 graduate student science team member. In speaking on the student astronomers being selected to work on the project, Zohrabi said, “working on L-CAM has been a dream come true for me. I’ve been an astronomer since I was 13, and now I’m developing the science program for a lunar surface telescope. This is a frontier science project, starting with getting to speak with the engineers and discussing how the different camera designs being considered will influence the data we’ll capture. A unique thing that we’re planning to do with L-CAM makes really precise measurements of nearby bright stars and their exoplanets. This is something that cannot easily be done using ground-based telescopes on Earth because of the atmosphere and saturation limits.”

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LSU AgCenter Offers Home Restoration Resources Following Hurricane Ida

After devastating Hurricane Ida left countless homes and businesses in Southwest Louisiana in various states of disrepair, the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center is serving those repairing their residences and facilities with valuable information/home restoration resources, according to this article from the University’s Agricultural Center.

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, which has been formally operating under the LSU umbrella since 1971 and has only grown to operate out of 15 total research stations, extension offices in all 64 parishes, and 14 academic and research departments at LSU A&M. Funded by a partnership with federal, state, and local governments, grants, and private funds, the LSU AGCenter is one of the LSU System’s nine total campuses, and since late august’s Hurricane Ida left many in the area beginning to repair their residential and commercial structures on their own, the AgCenter is distributing valuable information and guidance at no cost to residents.

Citizens are being advised to visit the “Flood Recovery and Resilience” page that is located on the LSU AgCenter website for a curated selection of articles and publications on storm recovery and strategies to avoid similar damage in the future.

Claudette Reichel is a housing specialist for the LSU AgCenter who told the University’s press that repairing one’s home following a terrible weather event can be a massively daunting and stressful ordeal due to the financial and health-related costs. She told the press, “the expense, time, and work that go into repairing your home can have a silver lining with clean-up and restoration methods that reward you with a more resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and comfortable home. Even when money is tight, there are opportunities to make choices for a better home.”

One of the more valuable resources located on the LSU AgCenter’s Storm Clean-Up page is the guidance of a publication entitled “Storm Damage Cleanup,” which offers its readers the following tips to adhere when completing repairs following this past storm or preparing for the next one.

  • Before you enter any home that has flooded, you should ensure that all electrical and gas supply lines have been disconnected and carefully assess all potential dangers such as structural damages and snakes prior to entry.
  • For peace of mind, have a professional assess and inspect all service appliances and fixtures prior to their use.
  • A building that has been flood-damaged will require special attention in order to avoid or correct a “mold population explosion.” Please follow the 10-steps listed in the AgCenter’s fact sheet for safe and effective DIY mold removal.
  • It’s suggested that moldy, porous items such as carpeting and gypsum wallboard be removed as soon as possible. Additionally, you should clean and disinfect all surfaces that came into contact with floodwaters and allow those materials to dry thoroughly.
  • You should throw out any food preparation and food storage items made out of wood or plastic that came in contact with floodwater and sanitize all metal and ceramic items that came into contact as well.
  • Test all well water following a storm and refrain from drinking it until it is deemed safe to do so.
  • Be advised that any homes built prior to 1978 will likely have lead-based paint and materials containing asbestos, so proper precautions should be taken when conducting repairs, renovations, or “gutting the walls.”
  • All wet carpet should be removed instead of salvaged while Solid hardwood and ceramic floor tiling can often be restored depending on the types of damage that occurred. When in doubt, it’s best to replace the flooring.
  • When assessing a home that has come into contact with significant amounts of floodwater, you should determine which pieces of damaged furniture can be salvageable. For instance, wooden pieces of furniture can often be restored if they are properly cleaned and allowed to sufficiently dry while upholstered furniture is often found to be incredibly difficult to restore, especially if the item was fully submerged.

Outside of the flood-damage tips, the LSU AgCenter offers an in-depth page of frequently asked questions that cover a wide range of topics that can be pertinent to the resident repairing a recently-flooded home such as replacing insulation and drying home materials.

In addition to offering the public an array of tips and suggested guidance for getting home restoration and getting things back in working order following a damaging storm, precautions should be taken to “wet floodproof” the home to reduce future damage. The term refers to making improvements such as elevating appliances, making repairs with water-resistant materials, and taking precautions to prevent wicking. If these “wet floodproofing” strategies are in place by the time the next tropical depression, heavy thunderstorm, or hurricane comes to town, then there will be a much easier cleanup once the bad weather has passed, thanks to the resources provided by the LSU AgCenter.

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LSU Students Create an Automated Robotic Arm for Crawfish Harvesting

For every pound of delicious Louisiana crawfish, there is a talented and exhausted crawfish farmer whose strenuous, intensive crawfish harvesting labor might soon be aided by a robotic arm designed by students at Louisiana State University, as reported by The Advocate.

When crawfish farmers are harvesting the crop of crustaceans in the summer months, they are oftentimes operating their boat with one foot while leaning over the side, grabbing traps from the waters. Then in an efficiently choreographed, rheumatic motion, they flip the trap at an angle, toss in more bait, and set it back in the water with tactical precision. This method yields 100 million pounds of crawfish every spring, but it is incredibly labor-intensive.

Advocate reporter Caroline Savoie spoke to David Vercher, one of the six LSU biological engineering students who helped to bring an automated crawfish trap-retrieving arm to life. Vercher worked many, many seasons on his family’s farm where they harvested 300,000 pounds of crawfish a day, and he reported that “experienced crawfish farmers get the job done pretty quickly, but it’s hard on their bodies. If they have a device that will make their jobs easier and more sustainable“that makes all the difference.”

Vercher designed, coded, and manufactured the device, which can lift, empty, and re-bait crawfish traps just with a tap of a Playstation 4 controller. The engineering team at the helm of this project are all natives of the state of Louisiana, and they believe that this harvesting arm could save time, money, and potentially prevent back injuries. Funding for the device came from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Tests conducted using the prototype, which is about ⅓ of the size of a commercial crawfish trap, show that it can complete the harvesting task of crawfishing in an average of about 18.3 seconds, which is comparable to a person’s speed.

After she became aware of high costs and labor shortages in the crawfish industry, senior project advisor Professor Chandra Theegala suggested the idea to create the robotic harvester as one of several options for her students’ final assignments. She said of the prototype, “it’s a high-tech project. I originally planned to have a graduate student working on this, but COVID restrictions prohibited that. So I decided to put a team of undergraduates together, and I was extremely impressed with their dedication and interest.” Professor Theegala hopes that the completed project will provide proof of concept to eventually build a harvesting arm to scale.

The project team had worked mostly through Zoom meetings and group messages to delegate the project’s responsibilities according to their enterprises. Vercher has designed the bait reloading device, Ben Thomas programmed and coded the arm’s motion, Damien Glaser constructed the budget and ordered parts, Bryan Tassin conducted background research and managed the team so that everyone was on task, and Sarah Mitchell brought the project to life.

Mitchell accomplished this through the use of her personal 3D printer, which allowed her to produce the harvesting arm’s trap tops, grips, “crawfish,” and “bait” out of PETG plastic, a material that is used in single-use water bottles.

After its completion, the only component of the design that isn’t automatic is aligning the hand with a crawfish trap. This slight incompatibility fuels Thomas’s goal to make the arm entirely automatic so that it can align itself on an actively moving boat. He said that to make his goal a reality, the device would have to also be waterproof, adding, “it would be much quicker. Ideally, the boat would keep moving, and the arm would be able to sense and grab traps at the front of the boat.”

Upon the project’s completion, team member Sarah Mitchell expressed her satisfaction, saying, “I never expected to work on a school project that could make a real difference. It was just our little robot.”

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LSU and LA Tech Partnership Creates Structural Integrity Center

In a game-changing decision for the future of engineering, both Louisiana State University and Louisiana Tech University have teamed up to establish a new Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC), according to an LSU press release made by.   The Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance, also known as CISIA, will serve the industrial and academic community as the epicenter of knowledge and innovations made across many broad industrial sectors in the United States. This commitment to focus on assuring the structural integrity of components for both small and large structures is seen by the involved Universities as a way to instill a sense of industry duty and responsibility in their Engineering students.

This partnership between LSU and La Tech University will, for the first time in the history of either institution, create a single center of structural integrity assurance that aims to focus on innovative solutions, predictive capabilities, and transformative insights for mechanical structures. The center director and professor in the LSU Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michael Khonsari, commented on LSU’s perspective, saying, “our faculty are excited about the establishment of this I/UCRC. It has been one of our long-term strategic goals to form strong and sustainable partnerships with industry, and we are grateful to NSF for making this possible.”

Candidly stated, the potential economic, social, and environmental consequences of infrastructure and component failure can be absolutely catastrophic to the nation on an immensely massive scale. As it stands right now, the predicted failure of aging civil infrastructure is set to result in a United States GDP loss of $4 trillion and 2.5 million jobs over the next ten years. Additionally, there is no I/UCRC that is currently active that is able to match the capabilities of the research and development of CISIA, further proving the importance of its installation.

Dr. Leslie Guice, the president of Louisiana Tech, commented saying, “this Industry-University Cooperative Research Center is a distinct recognition of the excellent research conducted by Louisiana Tech faculty in collaboration with LSU. Our industry partners will greatly benefit from these stronger partnerships with the researchers and talented students, and that will be great for Louisiana.”

According to LSU’s statement, CISIA will be in an optimal position to translate the links between new materials, innovative manufacturing processes, and their “collective impact on reliability across all U.S. industrial sectors.” This advantageous position is a result of CISIA’s integration of validated diagnostics, material testing and characterization occurring on multiple scales, data-driven machine learning, and manufacturing parameter optimization and process characterization.

Unlike the academic and industrial members that make up CISIA, most industrial research and development organizations currently operating in the United States today do not research establishing links among structural integrity, infrastructure performance, and material properties. Because of the depth and scope of their research, CISIA will collaborate closely with industry professionals, LSU, and La Tech to produce a crop of engineers who are expertly trained to utilize modern, innovative methods of structural health monitoring and analysis.

The training of both school’s engineering students will include the studying of state-of-the-art evaluation and testing facilities so that upon graduation, these students will be some of the most highly-qualified, productive workforces in the nation, thus further contributing to the global competitiveness of many US industries.

LSU Interim Executive Vice President & Provost Matt Lee stated, “this is a watershed moment enhancing our efforts to produce eminent engineers of the future, groundbreaking research, and innovative solutions that will significantly further the critical work to address failing and aging infrastructure around the country. We are proud to partner with Louisiana Tech on this cooperative research center, and to better serve our students, the industrial sector, and our nation through the research, training, and collaboration that will be done at the Center for Innovations in Structural Integrity Assurance.”

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