Research in the Real World

The LSU Honors College did a Q+A with one of our biological engineering graduates, Linda Cross, about her Honors Thesis research. For the original article by Liz Billet, please click here.

Tell me a little bit about you—where you’re from, how you ended up at LSU…

I’m from Ruston, Louisiana. LSU was always on the radar—I had some siblings who came to LSU, and I also have a sister who lives in Baton Rouge. Georgia Tech was my competitor with LSU. I got into their Honors program, I got into the Honors College [at LSU] and the deciding factor was money. LSU’s in-state, so that’s great.

Coming to Baton Rouge was a big change, population-wise. But I really found a place within the Honors College. It’s a small community within LSU.

Was there anything that surprised you about the Honors College when you got here? Anything that you weren’t expecting?

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect with the classes, the rigor of the curriculum, what writing a thesis would actually entail. At the beginning, I had to get used to asking for help—get used to interacting with faculty and be able to go to them for assistance with Honors classes. I wasn’t used to not getting the material right away.

Did you find that faculty were receptive to you coming to them?

Definitely. They always want to see that you’re interested in the material and that you’re willing to learn it, and then they’ll help you from there—to teach you, at the beginning, how to learn it, and then from there, the specifics of their subjects.

So how did you get involved in your research?

I started in Biochemistry, but I said to myself, I really want a major that I can be more hands on with, that will apply more clearly in the real world. So I switched to Biological Engineering. I do research on nanoparticle biodistribution. I was planning on writing an Honors Thesis, but I didn’t know exactly what to do it on. I thought, maybe I’ll do it on my research; maybe I’ll do it on my senior design project. [All College of Engineering majors require a design project in the senior year.]

I ended up on an interdisciplinary senior design project—my teammates are mechanical engineers. One of my teammates, Amy Pinner, proposed the project last spring: to design an automated pressure sore reducer for wheelchair leg rests. I was interested in it, so I said, hey, I’ll be on the team. And when I got on to the team, I said, “I could really do more to improve the project through an Honors Thesis.”

Linda and her teammates

Linda and her teammates

Can you explain that to me—an automated pressure sore reducer?

Well, pressure sores result from, usually, over-bony prominences where you have a lot of pressure over a period of time. People with limited mobility don’t have the sensory perception to perceive that pain or discomfort over those areas, and they don’t have the motor control to reposition themselves. So our project worked to redistribute the legs, redistribute pressure, for them.

In the fall [of 2013] we were out in the community. We spoke with mobility-limited patients and wheelchair manufacturers and they gave us feedback on what they would want in the device—what they would actually use, what they have a need for. We also spoke with John Figarola at the National Hansen’s Disease Program Center in Baton Rouge, and they showed us the current technology and what’s being done about pressure sores right now. There’s the automated tilt-in-space wheelchair, which—the entire wheelchair, pretty much every part of it, moves up and down. But for a manual wheelchair there’s not automated technology for the feet. All of the technology revolves around the seat of the wheelchair—mobility limited patients have the technology to move the seat of their wheelchair, but they don’t have anything that moves their feet. So we tried to apply some of those concepts to our project, but with the leg rests. This spring we’ve been building and testing our prototype—with paraplegic and quadriplegic patients at the Hansen’s Disease Program and the Baton Rouge Clinic—to make sure it works.

Wheelchair Design with Pressure Sore Reducer

Wheelchair Design with Pressure Sore Reducer

I saw your presentation at the Honors College Undergraduate Research Colloquium—it seems like you were successful in reducing pressure at those points, but not temperature.

No, our prototype did not decrease temperature. We’re thinking that may correlate with blood flow. The right foot, which was our control foot, did decrease in temperature—we’re thinking that it lost some blood flow, and the left foot, which our prototype was moving, kept the blood flow.

Will you work on this project again in the future, do you think?

Yes—we were selected as one of the finalists for the ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] Undergraduate Design Competition. We’re presenting our prototype at the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics this July. For the conference we may do some additional testing. We have a list of future changes we’d like to make—like implementing a feedback system based on the sensors—and our pad was not as breathable as we would like. There are definitely still improvements to be made.

What else were you involved in during your time at LSU? I know you’re the outgoing president of the Honors College Student Council…

Yes. I originally got involved in a lot through the Honors College Student Organization Fair—I signed up on all the e-mail lists, thought “Oh, I’ll get involved in everything!”—I was a freshman—and when I went to the Honors College Student Council meetings—it was just very friendly and was a very close-knit community. They were very accepting of new members. And their activities were fun and engaging. So I continued in that. I was elected vice president of service [when I was a junior] and then this past year served as president.

What kind of service projects has HCSC organized?

We’ve done service with Best Buddies—we did a kickball tournament with them—and we’ve worked with the Baton Rouge Homeless Youth Program—we did their 2K Walk for Kicks, which raises shoes for homeless children in East Baton Rouge schools. This year we did a local playground build and we organized our first large scale project at the Burden Center, where we worked on reforestation projects.

The skills that I’ve learned through these positions—they’ve taught me a lot about organization, and communication, having to go between peers and faculty and staff. They will definitely apply, wherever I go.

Now that you’ve graduated, what are your plans for the future?

I’ve accepted a job at the Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans as a Cancer Registry Assistant. I will be providing support for tumor boards—multidisciplinary cancer conferences [concerning patient treatment]. I’m hoping this work will provide me with clinical experience and the opportunity to follow cases and interact with doctors. So I’ll do that for the next year while I apply for medical school—I want to become a doctor. Right now I’m thinking something in orthopedics, because of my biological engineering background. I want to be directly involved in serving people.

What advice would you give to our incoming LSU Honors College freshmen?

Get involved! The Honors College is a community—it’s very easy to meet new people with similar interests, and goals, and ambitions, just by getting involved in the organizations, or in Laville [the Honors College residence hall]. They’ve developed a lot of programs and events for Laville, and it’s very convenient for getting to classes, or for forming study groups for those Honors classes. Because they are a challenge! It is extra work, but it’s challenging work that helps you develop as a person, both academically and professionally.

Encounter Engineering in Europe

This month’s blog post comes from a group of engineering students who recently traveled to Germany as part of LSU’s Encounter Engineering in Europe (E3) study abroad program! To read more about their exciting trip, check out their blog at http://ecubed2014.weebly.com/

“DAS WERK” 

Originally published on July 4, 2014

Today we visited the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. We began in the gift shop, and as some of us were in line to pay, we almost missed the tour. After running to catch up with our group, we were seated in a room to see an introductory presentation. After precisely 4 minutes and 11 seconds of technical difficulty (our guide was very specific), we had to move on without the presentation, for Germans value promptness. Our Italian/German tour guide, Giacomo, had a need for speed as he gave us a driving tour through the factory – we were driven in a Volkswagen car (that can, as he demonstrated, accelerate from 0 to 60 in only a few seconds) with a train of seats attached behind.

As we zoomed through the factory, we saw cars and car parts being made, assembled, and quality tested. VW uses 2500 robots in the body shop, and the factory produces 3800 cars per day. Volkswagen has taken steps to improve efficiency by using a kind of high resistance steel, which you can visually discern from regular steel because it’s a darker color. Because the high-resistance steel is more rigid, VW can use thinner pieces of steel that are just as strong as the thicker regular pieces – this replacement makes the cars more lightweight, but just as strong. German dance music played throughout the factory for the workers to enjoy, but according to our tour guide, the employees are “not allowed to dance of course.”

Picture

E3 group in front of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg

The national love of soccer has resulted in an abundance of German pride within the factory. Some machines are green and white in support of the local Wolfsburg soccer team. Additionally, some cars driven through the factory had German flags on the windows. “The Germans are for the Germans, this is clear,” says Giacomo as we zoom by.

Our tour guide has worked his way up through the ranks and knew everything about the factory; he even helped develop one of the newer cars. His expertise included the history of the facility, and he explained to us that, amazingly, some of the original parts of the building have been preserved since WWII. In some parts of the factory, we saw holes in the ceiling where the factory was bombed.

Afterwards we ate currywurst for lunch at a Volkswagen company cafeteria – VW makes over 7 million of its famous sausages per year. The meal was indeed authentic, as well as very delicious. Everything we saw or heard throughout the entire Volkswagen tour was undeniably informative, entertaining, and full of character.

-Anna

Gearing up for Move-In Day!

Updated 5/24/2017

This month’s post will serve as a go-to guide for getting ready for the fall semester! We’ll cover some basic topics like what to pack, tips for settling in, and some information about the Engineering Residential College for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet.

Packing

This can be an overwhelming process so don’t wait until the last minute! Start a list of the things you absolutely need to take with you and work your way up from there.

Resist the urge to bring everything you own with you! You probably won’t have the space in your dorm or apartment, let alone your car. Also, coordinate with your roommates ahead of time to see what they plan on bringing. There’s no need for you both to have a fridge, microwave, coffee-maker, etc.

If you’re coming from out-of-state, wait to buy your organizational items until you get here. For example, trying to haul down storage bins of all shapes and sizes, clothing hangers, etc. is just too much trouble. There are plenty of places around town for you to pick these things up – Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to name a few.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

What about packing for the weather? The best way to describe Louisiana weather: unpredictable. That being said you can generally expect it to be hot and humid your first couple of months here. Two must-haves – rain boots and a raincoat. When it rains, it pours!

If you’re from a cold-weather state, the weather is going to take some getting used to (imagine walking around in a sauna all day). The good news is that when it starts cooling off in the fall, the locals will be bundled up in the 60 degree weather and you’ll still be wearing shorts! So it all evens out.

You don’t need to bring all your fall and winter clothes with you initially, especially if you know you’ll be going home for Fall or Thanksgiving break. You can take the time to swap out clothes during the breaks once you’ve had a chance to see what the weather is like. Just bring a raincoat, and a few layer-able items like a sweatshirt and jacket for that unpredictable weather.

Click here for a more comprehensive list on what items to pack.

LSU also offers some cool things, like “MicroFridge Rentals” and a “Ship to Your Room” program. Check those out here.

Dorm/Residential College Life

If you’ve never had to share a room with a sibling before, the thought of sharing a space with a stranger can be downright terrifying. The good news is that you’re not alone and most likely your new roommate is equally concerned about the new living situation. Here are some ways to help ease your fears.

There's no need to freak out!

There’s no need to freak out!

Get to know your roommate ahead of time. Find them on Facebook, send them an email, do whatever makes you most comfortable and reach out to them. You don’t need to interview them and find out everything there is to know about their life and living habits, but just having a few conversations with this person will make them feel more like a friend and less like a stranger when you move in.

Get to know your other suite-mates or dorm-mates when you move in. If you’re not a very outgoing person, this can seem difficult. But start out by simply saying hello to people in the hallway and start up conversations when you can. Not only will you make some lasting friendships with many of these people, it’s also important from a safety standpoint for the people around you to know who you are. They are going to be your family for the next year – you want them to look out for you just as you should for them.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but be considerate and respectful of your roommate. Most likely, you’re not going to have the same sleep schedule, class schedule, and social schedule. Work out things like who showers when, and what’s a reasonable time for “lights out,” before they become an issue. Don’t be conflict avoidant – this will only make you more frustrated and angry as the problems persist. Be open and honest and make sure that your roommate knows that they can tell you if something is bothering them too. You don’t have to be best friends with this person, but you want this to be a pleasant experience for both of you.

This is one considerate roommate!

This is one considerate roommate!

LSU’s Residential Life has a “Living on Campus Handbook” with safety information, policies and procedures, services, and more. Be sure to read it and stay informed.

For all details associated with Move-In Day please head here. This website provides information on where to check in, directions, and more.

Engineering Residential College (ERC)

A residential college is a living-learning community, generally grouped together by academic interests or majors. LSU’s Engineering Residential College (ERC) is housed in the North Hall and opened in Fall 2012. More than 350 first-year students with a declared major in the College of Engineering enjoy this living-learning community on the west side of campus.

Interior of ERC

Living in the ERC is a great way to meet more people within the college, receive additional instruction in math, physics, and chemistry, and connect with industry partners through corporate sponsored events aimed at exposing students to internship and career development opportunities.

If you’re a prospective student who may be interested in living in the ERC, be sure to check out this website which includes all the benefits of living there as well as the eligibility requirements.

— Contributed by Laura J. Odenwald, LSU alumna and current College of Engineering assistant manager of digital marketing

 

Why We’re Considering LSU – From Two Atlanta High School Students

Since “The Engineered Tiger” is meant for prospective students, we decided that for our first blog post we wanted to see what out-of-state high school students considering LSU’s College of Engineering think about the college! Edward and Thomas Mauger from Atlanta, Georgia have graciously answered our questions and we’ve shared them with you below.

Edward and Thomas are identical twins who, in addition to being interested in engineering, play the tuba and would like to join a college marching band. They are also considering the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Auburn University, Ohio State University, and Georgia Tech for their college education. We hope, of course, that they choose LSU!

Thomas and Edward building a home in Honduras

Thomas and Edward helping to build a home for a family in Honduras over the summer.

 

Here in their own words…

1.) What was your first impression of both LSU and specifically the College of Engineering?

Edward: I met the Dean of the College of Engineering, Richard Koubek, as well as the Recruiting Coordinator, Terrica Jamison, at the College of Engineering reception in Atlanta. I felt comfortable talking to both of them. They were both very friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and had pride in what they were doing. When I had my tour, I noticed the same from everyone I encountered. Even the workers at the restaurants at the Student Union were upbeat and proud of their food, and my roast beef po-boy was really quite good. The campus was one of the best I have visited. Also, the engineering building that is due to be renovated is already a great building. I was impressed to not only see 3D-printers, but 3D-scanners in the communications lab.

Thomas: I have been impressed with LSU since the beginning. LSU’s recruitment has been the best out of any of the universities that I have looked into. I was impressed with the Patrick F. Taylor Hall in its current state and am interested to see how it will be improved in the coming renovation.

2.) What makes the LSU College of Engineering different from other engineering programs?

Edward: LSU’s College of Engineering stands out because of the success of its large funding drive to expand as well as its dedication to students versus other schools that focus so much on research.  LSU’s College of Engineering is also different from other programs because of its focus on teaching communication skills. That makes sense since many employers complain that engineers lack the ability to communicate very well.

Thomas: Dean Koubek made it clear at the engineering information session that the LSU College of Engineering is primarily focused on the education and success of its students. One thing that sets LSU’s College of Engineering apart from other engineering programs is the starting salaries of its graduates. They are higher than at any of the other universities I am looking at.  Other schools have emphasized their research and not even mentioned the salaries of their graduates. Another difference is the repeated references to the college’s involvement in meeting the needs and opportunities of the state of Louisiana. The other colleges haven’t mentioned their involvement in their states at all. I like this service orientation that the engineering college has as its mission for research and training.

3.) During the recruitment process, what made LSU stand out?

Edward: LSU stood out to me because of the exciting expansion taking place in the engineering college, as well as the fact that average LSU engineering salaries even beat out Georgia Tech. The new Marching Band Hall was incredible, and having Roy King take his time to personally show it to my brother and I was a special experience.  At other schools we visited we were unable to even talk to anyone from the marching band, and the facilities we saw were nothing special.

Thomas: It was very impressive that Dean Koubek came out to speak at the engineering information night in Atlanta. The event was very small and personal, and it was great to be able to hear from and speak to him during the event.

4.) During the recruitment process, was there anything that you didn’t like or that could have been improved?

Edward: My biggest issue was how cold it was when we visited during the “Polar Vortex,” which obviously LSU has no control over. I found that the design of the curtains on the golf cart we were transported in could be improved as they did little to keep the wind out. Lauren, our super tour guide, assured us it was usually hot and muggy in Baton Rouge and we would feel right at home coming from Atlanta. I would have also liked to have been able to see more labs in the engineering building than I did.

Thomas: We should have set up an appointment to talk to a financial aid officer, and I wish we could have seen more of the engineering labs.

5.) What made you interested in the field of engineering?

Edward: I have always, since I was a little kid, liked to take things apart and figure out how they worked. I also would put them back together (mostly). In elementary school I spent many hours adjusting and tightening screws and fittings on my sister’s wheel chair.

Thomas: LEGOS

6.) What do you hope to gain from your college education and experience?

Edward: I want to be the best engineer I can be. I also want to be the best tuba player I can be.  LSU can help me to do both at the same time.

Thomas: It is important for me to be at the top of any group that I am in.  I can see that LSU’s College of Engineering will prepare me to be an outstanding engineer. I also want to be a balanced person, which for me means that I continue my development as a tuba player and have continued exposure to students from other disciplines. LSU has it all – an exciting engineering program, a great marching band, and a top honors college. Of all of the schools I have applied to, LSU is the best overall across these three.