Cowen Institute to aid public school grads

Tulane University's Cowen Institute will launch a new research initiative aimed at helping more New Orleans public school graduates — especially those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged — enter and complete college, officials said.

Funding comes from a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

During the next 15 months, the Cowen Institute will conduct research, draft policy recommendations and engage national experts in creating a unified plan for post-secondary success in New Orleans.

Amanda Kruger Hill, Cowen's executive director, said the goal of the program is to create a model that could be used nationwide.

Only 9 percent of young people in New Orleans’ bottom income quartile earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of high school graduation. That's compared to 80 percent in the top quartile, officials said.

Previous Cowen Institute research found that more than 14 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in New Orleans are disconnected from both employment and education.

The institute will create a detailed report on the current state of youth in New Orleans and how disadvantaged youth fare in the city after high school. The report will include data for specific age groups to determine who is employed, who is enrolled in degree programs and who is neither in school nor employed.

UNO student wins leadership award

University of New Orleans doctoral student Treva Brown has received a leadership award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

The Winifred Burks-Houck Graduate Leadership Award recognized Brown for demonstrating leadership, scientific achievements and community service while pursuing a career in science.

Brown was presented with the award this month at the organization’s annual meeting in Minneapolis. She is set to receive her Ph.D. in chemistry from UNO next month. A native of Baton Rouge, she earned her bachelor’s degree from LSU.

At UNO, Brown served as president of the Graduate Chemical Society, emphasizing outreach. She organized events to promote awareness of STEM education and personally recruited both graduate and undergraduate students to participate. She encouraged the organization to work on exposing elementary school students to STEM activities.

Brown is also a founding member of the UNO chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity, where she implemented volunteer outreach activities for chemistry students.

She recently completed her graduate studies under John Wiley, director of UNO’s Advanced Materials Research Institute. Her dissertation was on atomic force microscopy, which involves the magnification of objects under force.

The Winifred Burks-Houck Graduate Leadership Award is named for the first female president of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Burks-Houck, an environmental organic chemist, died in 2004. 

Tulane professor gets Defense Dept. grant

A professor at Tulane University has receive a $1.7 million, three-year grant from the Department of Defense for blood vessel research.

Stryder Meadows, a cell and molecular biology professor, received the money to study how arteriovenous malformations, or defects in arteries, veins and capillaries, form a genetic disorder.

The disorder, hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, affects about 1 in 5,000 people.

Also known as Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, the disorder causes red spots to form in the skin and gastrointestinal tract due to the widening of small blood vessels. It also creates abnormal connections between arteries and veins in organs such as the lungs, liver and brain.

In arteriovenous malformations, capillaries become enlarged and form a direct connection between the arteries and veins. That means the blood flow never slows when it enters the veins to travel to the heart.

The syndrome can cause hemorrhaging and life-threatening complications.

Patients are born with the mutation for the disorder, but the defects arise when the capillaries enlarge. Meadows' research team hopes to identify the genes that directly regulate the formation of the connecting capillaries.

Follow Della Hasselle on Twitter, @dellahasselle.