Goldwater Scholar Profiles: LSU Honors College

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series about 2014 Goldwater scholars who are also undergraduates in public university honors colleges or programs.  The following post is from LSU news….

Two LSU Honors College students, Brandon Oubre and Paxton Turner, have been named 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars. Two other LSU Honors students, Rachael Keller and Paul Koenig, were selected as Honorable Mentions by the prestigious scholarship competition.

“The Honors College is exceptionally proud of these students for earning such impressive recognition on a national stage,” said LSU Honors College Dean Nancy Clark. “Their outstanding scholastic achievements in science, math and engineering are a credit to themselves and the university as a whole, and this is further proof of the academic excellence of LSU.”

LSU Honors Students Receive 2014 Goldwater Scholarships

From left to right, Brandon Oubre, Paul Koenig, Paxton Turner, and Rachael Keller

Honors College junior Brandon Oubre, a LaSTEM scholar, is pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics. He is currently working in LSU’s Robotics Research Lab on the creation of a low-cost robot that can be used in the classroom to provide students with hands-on electronics and programming experience. He is also working on a collaboration between Microsoft and LSU to develop a geometry tutoring web application system. He plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Computer Science and is interested in conducting research on robotics for an academic or government organization.

Paxton Turner is also an Honors College junior and is pursuing a major in Mathematics. He is currently researching an Honors Thesis on cluster algebras with Dr. Milen Yakimov in LSU’s Department of Mathematics. Paxton has previously received National Science Foundation funding (through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program) to research cluster algebras and graph theory at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics and ultimately hopes to conduct research in number theory and combinatorics, and teach at the university level.

Rachael Keller is a junior in the Honors College and is pursuing a major in Mathematical Sciences. She plans to research coal-combustion processes with a goal of producing pollutant-dispersal models that can be used to inform policy makers on the environmental impact of various energy-extraction methods. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Studies with a Masters in Public Policy.

Paul Koenig is a sophomore at the Honors College and is pursuing a major in Chemistry. His research interests include experimental organic chemistry—specifically the synthesis of novel, useful molecules—and to that end plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He hopes to teach chemistry at the university level.

This is the third year in a row that all of LSU’s candidates nominated to the competition were recognized by the Goldwater Foundation. All of the nominees worked closely with their faculty research mentors and the LSU Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising throughout the application process.

“We are incredibly proud of Brandon, Paxton, Rachael, and Paul,” said Dr. Drew Lamonica Arms, Director of Fellowship Advising at the Honors College. “This national recognition is a testament to the students’ initiative and to the outstanding undergraduate research that is happening at LSU. We hope their success encourages other students to pursue national fellowships and awards. Congratulations to all four!”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesmen, including 30 years of service in the US Senate. The Foundation’s mission is to assist undergraduate students in becoming professional scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. To that end, its scholarships provide one and two-year $7500 stipends to sophomore and junior undergraduate students pursuing research in these fields. Goldwater Scholarships are widely considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards available to students of the sciences.

LSU Honors College: Strong and Getting Stronger

In the last decade, the LSU Honors College has grown and improved, and with a recent emphasis on prestigious scholarships and an expanded honors residence hall, the college is a strong option in the South.

Now with about 1,200 students, the College is in our category of “smaller” programs–those with fewer than 1,800 honors students.  It appears that the recent trend in honors colleges is to establish residential scholars’ communities of 1,000–1,200 students.

Admission to the College is selective, with a “recommended” SAT of 1330 (ACT 30), plus an essay.  A minimum score of 660 on the SAT critical reading portion is also recommended.   An ACT composite score of 29 is acceptable if the English score is 31. The deadline to apply is November 15.

The Honors House Residence is located in West Laville Hall (renovated in 2010) and now in East Laville Hall, newly renovated and open to students in the Fall of 2012.  Both are located adjacent to the 459 Dining Commons and the French House, home of the College.  About 600 students can be accommodated in the halls, both of which have central air conditioning with individual room controls.  One important feature is that the halls are available to students for all four years of residence.  Although the baths are corridor style, each room has its own sink.

Next to the Honors House is the academic center of the Honors College, the French House, an  historic building resembling a French chateau, where small seminar classes are held, students meet with specialized advisors, and all Honors College events take place, ranging from classical concerts to Quiz Bowl tournaments.

The honors curriculum is substantial, requiring 32 hours of honors credit, including a thesis; an overall GPA of 3.5 is required for graduation.  (This overall requirement compares very favorably with those of the fifty honors programs we have formally evaluated.)  At least 6 honors hours must be in seminars, and at least 12 hours must be upper-division courses, including the thesis.

Students can earn “sophomore honors distinction” if they complete 20 hours of honors work in the first two years, including 6 hours of honors seminars.   Upper division honors distinction requires exemplary work in junior and senior courses along with an excellent honors thesis.

Honors credit may be earned in honors-only seminars; in small versions of regular classes, with an honors component; and in honors “option” courses, requiring the student to arrange individual instruction with a professor.  Honors students have priority registration for honors courses.

Since 2005, when LSU established the Office of Fellowship Advising within the Honors College, LSU students have won 13 Goldwater awards for undergraduate research in STEM fields, and have had 15 finalists for the Truman Scholarship for postgraduate studies.   LSU students also earned seven National Science Graduate Research Foundation grants in 2012.  The establishment of a fellowship office within the honors college or program is an important consideration for prospective students who have an interest in prestigious awards.

Honors students are also encouraged to travel and study abroad “to enrich their education and to gain a wider perspective on the future of this country. The Honors College sponsors summer study trips to China and to South Africa, where students learn foreign languages, engage with students from those countries and learn about their cultures.”