Bobbie Cates Hicks Science and Medicine Academic Research Training (SMART) program celebrates 25 years

The education of our future science and technology workforce is an important component of BRF’s mission to diversify and grow our region’s economy. The SMART program, launched in 1997, provides a yearlong research experience for 10-12 academically advanced high school seniors with career interest in medicine, biomedical research or biomedical engineering. Applicants come from Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto parishes. SMART students participate in hands-on research projects under the guidance of faculty mentors at LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport.

Examples of research project subjects include Parkinson’s Disease progression, breast and pancreatic cancer cell studies, the effects of mental stress on the cardiovascular system, cerebral autoregulation in Alzheimer’s Disease, coronary artery bypass grafts, and more. SMART participants give presentations throughout the year regarding their research and participate in regional, state, national and international science competitions and fairs. These experiences offer participants greater scholarship opportunities, build their resumes, may result in meaningful summer employment, and can place students ahead of their college freshman peers.

The importance of this program has been highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis, as many of these students will pursue training in medical and research fields and will tackle the healthcare challenges of tomorrow.

The 2021-2022 SMART class is a diverse group, including students from four high schools, nine females, various races and ethnicities, and a wide range of interests. The students are:

  • Elijah Burks, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Caroline Henry, Loyola College Prep
  • Kanchan Javalkar, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Sarah Johnson, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Jordan Lowe, Stanley High School
  • Isabella Mainiero, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Ashini Modi, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Milena Murov, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Sara Oberle, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Ruhani Sachdeva, Caddo Magnet High School
  • Karaline Simpson, Captain Shreve High School

Eleven mentors from LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport have also volunteered their time to participate, including:

  • Jason Bodily, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Andrew D. Yurochko, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology; Director of Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats
  • Yunfeng Zhao, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Neuroscience
  • Monica Cartelle Gestal, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
  • Giovanni Solitro, PhD, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Elizabeth Disbrow, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology; Director of Center for Brain Health
  • Lynn Harrison, PhD, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
  • Sumitra Miriyala, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cellular Biology and Anatomy
  • Kevin S. Murnane, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Neuroscience; Associate Professor of Psychiatry; Director of Basic Science Research for Louisiana Addiction Research Center
  • J. Steven Alexander, PhD, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
  • Krista Rodgers, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cellular Biology and Anatomy

Now in its 25th year, the program has served 249 students. BRF could not achieve its mission and educational program goals without the support of generous donors. Recent and long-time supporters include Bobbie Cates Hicks, The Bruce J. Heim Foundation, The Magale Foundation, and those who contribute during the Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s annual Give for Good campaign.

SMART is a partnership among BRF, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, and the Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto Parish school boards.