#ScholarshipFirst is the theme behind LSU President Dr. William F. Tate IV’s bus tour crisscrossing Louisiana, and Tate received a heaping helping of anticancer research Tuesday from LSU Shreveport students and faculty along with his loaded omelet during breakfast at historic diner Strawn’s Eat Shop.
Tate, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology, engaged with LSUS students about their work in studying how medicinal plants produce anticancer compounds and methods to sustainably and economically produce these compounds.
“These science students are amazing, and they highlighted how they really enjoy working directly with faculty in this research,” said Tate, who was starting his second day of the tour after visiting with LSU Health Sciences Center representatives Monday evening. “This type of research certainly fits in with our #ScholarshipFirst agenda, which focuses on agriculture, biomedical sciences, coastal and defense-related science and energy.
“We’re discussing our agenda around the state but also listening to students, faculty and benefactors to learn about them and their needs. What I learned from the LSUS students today is that the campus is intimate in terms of size, which allows them to have personal relationships with the faculty. That’s very special, and that speaks to what we want to continue here at LSUS.”
The research, headed by assistant professor Dr. Vonny Salim, involves an interdisciplinary approach which includes ideas from the fields of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and computer science among others.
Biochemistry senior Madison McMullen explained how she is inserting green fluorescent protein, which glows, into an E. coli culture in an attempt to identify useful proteins -- a similar process taking place in the anticancer research.
Senior Audrey Lashley, who holds an accounting degree but is pursuing medical school, said being involved in research attempting to reduce the cost of cancer drugs is rewarding.
“There are certain drugs in high demand that are not being produced in the quantities that are needed,” Lashley said. “It was awesome to talk to the LSU President about that, and he’s a really nice guy that listened to us. It was great to see him in Shreveport.”
The research is being conducted in the LSUS Cyber Collaboratory, a state-of-the-art immersive learning space where students, faculty and industry partners can use technology like large-scale 3D printing and robotics to create solutions.
Computer science is a part of the anticancer research, using holograms to create 3D molecules.
Salim said students learning to collaborate with others across industries is a key factor in the hands-on experience.
“We have people with biochemistry and computer science backgrounds, even one student with an accounting degree (Lashley) working together in this interdisciplinary approach to solve biological problems,” Salim said. “It’s amazing to share what we’ve accomplished so far with (Tate), knowing that we do have a long way to go in this research.
“Students are using the latest technology in a hands-on way, and that’s very beneficial to future experiences.”
Salim is in the middle of a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network for the research, and she is seeking additional funding at the national level.
Senior cellular and molecular biology major Piper Davis just began on the research project, and she told Tate how this experience could open doors in an array of fields.
The conversation didn’t just revolve around glowing proteins and potentially life-altering scientific discovery.
Tate shared bits of wisdom around the breakfast table, including the nugget, “Choose mentors over money. If you don’t have the right mentor, your life could be a nightmare.”
Computer science graduate student Luis Pena Marquez connected with Tate’s advice.
“He was amazing – a great person and very humble,” Pena Marquez said. “He listened to our ideas and really tried to get to know us, our background and our future.
“He’s a man of leadership who also has a background in science, so it was great for us to speak to him about what we’re doing.”
Any trip to Strawn’s isn’t complete without a pie, and Tate and his LSU bus mates packed plenty to go in celebration of International Pie Day (Tuesday’s numerical date is 3.14).
That pie traveled east on Interstate 20 to Monroe and will head south back to the toe of the Louisiana boot.
The 1,000-mile bus tour continues Wednesday and Thursday across South Louisiana.
To learn more about the tour, visit https://www.lsu.edu/president/tour/index.php