COES to graduate six Grand Challenge Scholars

Six Grand Challenge Scholars from the Louisiana Tech College of Engineering and Science will graduate at the Saturday, May 25 ceremony.

GCSP graduates are (from left) Natalie Mueller, Stephen Bierschenk, John Aguillard, Rachel Hegab, Jacob Fontenot, and Seth McReynolds.

GCSP graduates are (from left) Natalie Mueller, Stephen Bierschenk, John Aguillard, Rachel Hegab, Jacob Fontenot, and Seth McReynolds.

The six Scholars who have completed the program for the 2018-19 year are:

  • John Aguillard of Alexandria – electrical engineering
  • Stephen Bierschenk of Dallas – mechanical engineering
  • Jacob Fontenot of Lake Charles – mechanical engineering
  • Rachel Hegab of Ruston – biomedical engineering
  • Natalie Mueller of Batavia, Illinois – biomedical engineering
  • Seth McReynolds of DeRidder – mechanical engineering

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), which started at Louisiana Tech in 2009, is an interdisciplinary, co-curricular program designed to better prepare engineering graduates to solve real-world, 21st century problems and enhance their leadership and interpersonal skills.

Students who participate in the program must complete five components within a curricular plan: mentored research in a grand challenge topic, interdisciplinary understanding of engineering solutions developed through personal engagement, development of a viable business model, understanding of cultural issues surrounding grand challenges, and a deepened social consciousness and motivation to address societal problems.

“This year’s class of Grand Challenge Scholars is one of our most accomplished,” Dr. Leland Weiss, Louisiana Tech GCSP faculty advisor and director of civil engineering, construction engineering technology and mechanical engineering, said. “They’ve traveled the world, worked with engineers and scientists around the globe, and pursued real engineering challenges that face the 21st century.  We’re very proud of them.”

Hegab, who worked on the Grand Challenge to “Engineer Better Medicines” says that her experiences with the GCSP at Louisiana Tech have helped prepare her for a future in medicine.

“My participation in GCSP has given me opportunities to engineer better medicine in the research, interdisciplinary learning, entrepreneurship, global dimension, and outreach,” she said. “Throughout my experiences in the lab, in leadership positions, and in community outreach, I have begun to develop the foundation of research and leadership skills I need to one day run my own research lab or project team at a corporation to innovate medicine that will treat and prevent cancer and other chronic diseases while improving the health of society as a whole.”

Other challenges that the 2019 GCSP graduates addressed are engineering tools of scientific discovery, reverse-engineering the brain, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, and making solar energy economical.

“The GCSP has provided me with the connections and support to become integrated into a research lab and begin my doctoral research at Colorado State University, where I’ll be traveling to Rwanda yearly to outfit homes with clean energy sources,” Fontenot said of his experience with the program. “Hopefully, my team and I will be able to significantly reduce the negative effects of household emissions due to burning kerosene/biomass that plague the people of rural Rwanda.”

“The GCSP has encouraged me to engage in research, entrepreneurship, and service learning opportunities with applications in neurological health,” Mueller added. “This program has equipped me with the technical and communication skills necessary to succeed in graduate school, where I will continue to reverse-engineer the brain. I’m proud to have contributed to the progress surrounding one of the greatest challenges in engineering.”

Dr. Katie Evans, national GCSP proposal review committee chair and associate dean of strategic initiatives for the Louisiana Tech College of Engineering and Science says that she expects these GCSP graduates will significantly improve the world around them.

“I continue to be impressed and humbled by the outstanding accomplishments of our Grand Challenge Scholars,” Evans said. “Together with other Scholars from around the world, they are the engineering and science changemakers on whom our future society depends.”

Students who are interested in joining the GCSP can learn more on the program website.