Delgado student wins SkillsUSA gold medal

Jeff Fontenot, a motor vehicle technology student at Delgado Community College, won the gold medal in automotive service technology at the Louisiana SkillsUSA competition last month in Shreveport.

Another Delgado motor vehicle technology student, Ross Robichaux, won the bronze medal at the statewide competition.

Fontenot is eligible to represent Delgado at the national SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky, this summer.

Each year, technical and community college students from across the state gather at Louisiana SkillsUSA to compete in two dozen areas, including allied health, automotive service technology, welding, collision repair technology, advertising, practical nursing and other in-demand career fields.

The event is considered a “Workforce Olympics” of career and technical education in Louisiana. During the competitions, students test their abilities in contests designed and judged by experts from local industry. 

SkillsUSA, a national organization in all 50 states, has the support of more than 1,100 corporations, trade associations and labor unions. More than 10.5 million people have been involved in SkillsUSA since its founding as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America in 1965.

UNO student gets prestigious fellowship

University of New Orleans student Prerak Chapagain will participate in a paid summer program with the Australian Astronomical Observatory after becoming one of six students granted a prestigious fellowship.

The 12-week fellowship is in Sydney, Australia.

Chapagain, a native of Nepal, is a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and mathematics.

The summer program is open to students who are studying astronomy, astrophysics, applied physics, engineering, math or other related subjects.

Students are chosen for the fellowship based on academic merit, a candidate’s statement and the strength of their academic references. Andrew Hopkins, head of research and outreach at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, said there were 10 times as many applicants as spaces.

Chapagain said his work in the program will be focused on helping to research and develop a new robotic device that can accurately position large payloads over the focal surfaces of what are known as “extremely large telescopes.” 

The internship provides an opportunity for Chapagain to combine his lifelong interests in engineering and astronomy. He said his ultimate goal is to work in the field of renewable energy and efficient energy conversion.

LSU Health to seek stronger dental fillings

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health has awarded LSU Health New Orleans’ School of Dentistry a $2.5 million grant to develop stronger, longer-lasting dental filling materials.

The materials are to have antibacterial properties to inhibit recurrent cavities and extend the life of the restoration.

Professor Xiaoming Xu, head of the Division of Biomaterials, is the principal investigator on the grant.

Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic oral disease. The treatment for cavities is to remove the decayed tooth tissues and restore teeth with filling materials such as dental composites. However, composite restorations have a limited life, about five to seven years, and their replacement accounts for 60 percent of dental operations.

A bacterial biofilm is a slimy layer or film containing colonies of bacteria and the sticky substance they excrete, which allows them to attach to a surface. Biofilms are more resistant than ordinary bacteria because they contain different kinds of bacteria that stick together, and the substance they excrete also forms a protective barrier around them.

The biofilms on teeth are known as dental plaque. The plaque uses the food people consume to produce acids that break down tooth enamel, leading to decay.

Although much effort has been directed toward developing dental materials that can inhibit bacterial biofilms and reduce secondary cavities, most have had poor mechanical properties or an unacceptable dark shade.

Xu’s group has been developing a series of materials that have shown enhanced fluoride-releasing and recharge capabilities, promising antibacterial effect, and good mechanical properties or bonding strength.

The new grant will support further development of these materials. The researchers will test a combination of new technologies that will release antibacterial agents in response to the presence of acids. These materials may also be used in sealants, crowns and cement, as well as other dental applications.

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