Seven seniors from the Class of 2017 graduated with distinction and earned the highest academic honor given by the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts during the commencement ceremony held on Saturday, May 20, in Prather Coliseum on the campus of Northwestern State University.

Seven seniors from the Class of 2017 graduated with distinction and earned the highest academic honor given by the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts during the commencement ceremony held on Saturday, May 20, in Prather Coliseum on the campus of Northwestern State University.

Graduation with Distinction is awarded to students who complete a rigorous program of independent academic study or artistic endeavor beyond the formal course requirements of LSMSA.

Eligibility is based on an individual’s academic performance in the junior year as well as on her or his capacity for independent work, as judged by the faculty and the director of academic services.

An interested student must submit a proposal for independent work in the spring of the junior year, and in the senior year must undertake a program of reading, research and creative activity leading to a research project, performance, exhibition, portfolio or comprehensive examination. All projects culminate in a public presentation of the work completed with questions from attending faculty, students and guests.

Joshua Ballagh, of Leesville, was mentored by Dr. Pamela Francis, associate lecturer of English. His project was “The American Novel of World War II: Pitting Individual against Institution.”

Ballagh’s project looked closely at novels written by former American servicemen from the World War II era. Through an examination of the works of Joseph Heller, James Jones and Thomas Heggen, Ballagh considered the author’s responses to various institutional experiences and organizations, exploring questions of individualism, authority, identity and mortality, not just for the authors in question but for the readers who followed.

Varun Amin, of Lake Charles, was mentored by Dr. Jason Anderson, an instructor of biology. Amin’s project was “Analysis of Gene Expression Data from Primary B Cells Infected with Epstein Barr Virus during the Transformation Process.”

This project focused on microarray data from the three stages of EBV infection: resting B-Cell, an early proliferating cell and lymphoblastoid cell lines.

Marcos Cecchini, of Denham Springs, was mentored by Dr. Maria Sanchez, senior lecturer of Spanish. His project was “Spain: The Land of Music.”

In his distinction project, Cecchini carried out a most thorough investigation of the development of the main genres of music popular in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) since early Christianity till the present day. His project offered specific attention to the origin of distinct folk music iterations across several autonomous communities within Spain.

Gwyneth Engeron, of Houma, was mentored by Dr. Allison Landry, lecturer of biology. Her project was “Water Quality and Bacterial Flora of the Alimentary Canal of the Red Swamp Crayfish.”

The objective of this study was to characterize the bacteria present in the crayfish digestive tract and relate it to water quality factors. Crayfish and water samples were taken from both wild and pond locations. The results showed that gram negative bacteria are the majority of the isolations for both wild and pond crayfish, though variation was present. There was no correlation found between water quality parameters and the type of bacteria.

Parker Felterman, of Patterson, was mentored by Jeff Thomakos, associate lecturer of theater. Felterman’s project was “Shades of Shadowlawn: Writing, Producing, Directing and Acting in a Full-Length, Two-Act Play.”

Felterman wrote, directed, produced and acted in his own play last summer in Morgan City. The play drew on stories and the culture of 1920s South Louisiana in an epic tale of greed, mystery and murder. For his project, Felterman catalogued his varied experiences of the complete creative and directorial process through video, audio and written logs.

Bethany Jenkins, of Ville Platte, was mentored by Dr. Jocelyn Donlon, associate lecturer of English. Her project was “The Evolution of Dystopian Literature: Defining a Moving Target.”

In her distinction project, Jenkins examined Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” and finally Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” Her analysis showed how the pressure of young adult reading audiences have led dystopian literature to evolve, so that authors and readers alike are approaching the genre as a thrilling story rather than a haunting idea. The purpose of the literature has shifted, and as a result, young adult dystopian literature should be treated as an entity separate from the original genre.

MyChel Robinson, of Mansura, was mentored by Dr. Maggi Hodge, lecturer of biology, and Dr. Allison Landry, lecturer of biology. Her project was “Testing for antimicrobial Properties of Various Spider Silks.”

The objective of this study was to test silk from the webs and egg sac of three different spider species, both social and non-social, for antimicrobial properties. Samples of spider wilk were collected and placed on growing bacterial colonies. No growth inhibition was noted in the bacterial colonies, leading to the conclusion that the spider silk from the three species tested did not have antimicrobial properties.