Caddo Parish students win at state science and engineering fair

Elijah Burks won 1st place in the Cellular and Molecular Biology category at the Louisiana State Science and Engineering Fair.

Five students associated with BRF’s STEM education programs placed in the recent Louisiana State Science and Engineering Fair held in Baton Rouge at the end of March. Two current and two future participants in the Bobbie Cates Hicks Science and Medicine Academic Research Training (SMART) program and one participant in the BioStart Internship Program, part of the Biotechnology Magnet Academy at Southwood High School, placed in their respective categories. The honorees are:

Cellular and Molecular Biology

    • 1st place: Elijah Burks, Caddo Parish Magnet High School, 2021-2022 SMART participant
      • Project: The Binding of Interferon Regulatory Factor 3 to Transforming Growth Factor Beta 1 Promoter


    • 1st place: Nhi Dao, Caddo Parish Magnet High School, 2022-2023 SMART participant
      • Project: Functional Analysis of Parameterized Torus Knots


    • 1st place: Caroline Henry, Loyola College Prep, 2021-2022 SMART participant
      • Project: How HCMV Infection Regulates Syntaxin 6 to Promote Viral Nuclear Translocation

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

    • 1st place: Raj Letchuman, Caddo Parish Magnet High School, 2022-2023 SMART participant
      • Project: Identifying Promising Antiviral Drug Candidates Against SARS-CoV-2


    • 4th place: Haylee Davis, Southwood High School, 2021 BioStart Internship participant
      • Project: Neurogranin expression in the mitochondria and cardiac myocytes

Pictured with her LSU Health Shreveport mentor Dr. Andrew Yurochko, Caroline Henry (right) won 1st place in the Microbiology category at the Louisiana State Science and Engineering Fair.

Elijah Burks and Caroline Henry won their categories with projects they developed in the SMART program. Nhi Dao has received a bid to compete in the Regeneron ISEF International Science Fair from May 8-14 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The SMART program, launched in 1997, is a yearlong research experience for approximately 10-12 academically advanced high school seniors from Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto parishes. The students work alongside investigators at LSU Health Shreveport on research studies. SMART students have a career interest in medicine, biomedical research or biomedical engineering. The program is a partnership among BRF; LSU Health Shreveport; and the Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto Parish School Boards. Caddo Parish Magnet High School science teacher Kris Clements is the SMART program coordinator.

BRF helped launch the Biotechnology Magnet Academy and BioStart programs in conjunction with the Caddo Parish School Board, LSU Health Shreveport, LSU Shreveport, participating biotech companies and Southwood High School in 2009. The four-year academy enrolls an average of over 200 students and targets those who are traditionally underserved in STEM education and fields including women, minorities, individuals from low-income families, and first-generation college-bound students.

To learn more about these programs, visit To support STEM-related education in our region, please consider donating to BRF’s STEM education programs through the Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s Give for Good event on May 3. Early giving begins on April 19, and more information can be found at