AgCenter statistician provides guidance for budding scientists

(12/15/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Honors science students at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge have found help at LSU with crunching the numbers for their projects.

LSU AgCenter statistician Thanos Gentimis said he was contacted by the students last year to help them with statistical analyses for their science fair projects.

Part of his job duties are to be involved in outreach opportunities in the community, and he said it is rare for his department to get such a chance to shine.

“As a part of the AgCenter, we realize that the community is where a lot of our work happens,” he said. “But most people never really get to know what we do in experimental statistics.”

Gentimis was contacted by the coordinator of the science fair about three years ago and personally got involved last year.

“It was a great experience working with these young people,” he said. “Actually, I enjoyed it so much that we’re doing it again next year.”

Jacqueline Savoia, the science fair coordinator at St. Joseph’s, said the sophomore and junior girls involved in the program are required to complete a science research project over a two-year period.

“They are all experiments, and some only require some basic statistics, but a lot of them are a little more complicated and a little beyond their knowledge level,” she said. “We can’t do a lot of what we do without his expertise.”

The help the students have been given has been invaluable for helping them better understand their findings.

“We really needed a professional to come in to instruct and guide them to what would be the best possible statistics to run for their projects,” Savoia said.

Carolyn Herman, a senior, said the project has helped her develop a love for science and experimentation.

“Science fair gave me the opportunity to apply my passion for horseback riding to my love for science,” she said. “My project was titled ‘The Effects of Equine Therapy on Various Tests Measuring Grip Strength and Range of Motion’ and it was about using equine therapy to positively benefit the physical wellbeing of adults and children with disabilities.”

Herman said completing such a large-scale project has also taught her much about the scientific process and has piqued her interest in pursuing a future career related to research.

Maria Hargrave, another science fair participant, said her project was a study of planarians, a free-living flatworm which has a three-branched intestine and a tubular pharynx, typically located halfway down the body.

“I stumbled upon planarians and fell in love with the idea,” she said. “When it was time to start experimentation, I was enthusiastic. But problems beleaguered my experiment from the first day, and by the end of experimentation, I had run a version of the project three times.”

Gentimis said of all the projects that he has helped with, a few have promise and are worthy of being published.

Girl standing by poster.

Carolyn Herman, a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, discusses her science project that looks at the effects of equine therapy on various tests measuring grip strength and range of motion. She received help from LSU AgCenter statistician Thanos Gentimis to crunch her numbers.Photo by Heather Herman

Girl with petri dish.

Maria Hargrave, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, shows off her science project that is a study of planarians, a free-living flatworm that. She received help from LSU AgCenter statistician Thanos Gentimis to crunch her numbers. Photo by Lisa Hargrave

12/16/2020 7:44:15 PM
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