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Three Undergraduate LaSSO Research Projects Funded

The first three undergraduate research projects funded through a Louisiana Sea Grant/Louisiana Space Grant (LSG/LaSPACE) collaboration have been announced. The joint program, called Louisiana Space and Sea Grant Opportunity (LaSSO), is modeled after similar, long-established undergraduate research programs at both LSG and LaSPACE.

Photo: Kevin Toups

Kevin Toups
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

LSG will be funding a project titled:

  • Applying Deep Learning for Prediction of Shoreline Dynamics in Coastal Louisiana at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dhan Lord B. Fortela, an instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the principal investigator. Kevin Toups, a chemical engineering major, is the student researcher.

The project involves using Deep Learning (DL) – commonly known as machine learning – techniques to model the dynamics of shoreline changes in coastal Louisiana, while taking into account the effects of key weather variables through time. “This grant will allow me to develop skills that could secure a job involving data analytics and machine learning with NOAA, NASA or other related agencies,” said Toups, who is a sophomore. “The new skills will also broaden my prospect job positions in the chemical engineering industry.”

The projects funded by LaSPACE are:

  • Removal of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances from Water Sources: Converting Toxic Compounds into Building Blocks for Fuel Conversion at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Yohaselly Santiago-Rodriguez, assistant professor in the School of Biological and Physical Sciences, is the principal investigator. Elisha Scott, a senior physical science major, is the student researcher.
  • Impact of Carbon Dioxide Enrichments in Seawater on Post-Ecdysial Shell Calcification in the Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Enmin Zou, Theodore Shepard Endowed Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is the principal investigator. Yusra Soorya, a senior chemistry major, is the student researcher.

Each nine-month project will receive $4,000 in funding. LaSSO is directed at science and engineering students who are working on projects in research areas deemed a priority by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The intent of LaSSO is to supplement and enhance the undergraduate academic curriculum by providing science/engineering students with a hands-on, mentored research experience relevant to space, earth, coastal and/or marine sciences.

“I’m really excited to see this new collaboration between Sea Grant and Space Grant. LaSSO will provide a unique opportunity for students to contribute to NASA (Space Grant) and NOAA (Sea Grant) priorities,” said Julie Lively, LSG executive director.

“If this initial Space and Sea Grant collaboration is successful, LaSSO could be the basis for future collaborative efforts supporting graduate students and, early career faculty, as well as overall diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) enhancement initiatives,” said Colleen H. Fava, LaSPACE assistant director.