November 5, 2012

While many LSU students were relaxing this past summer and enjoying a break from classes, Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, Fellow Isaiah Woodson was participating in Rutgers University’s Research in Science and Engineering, or RiSE, undergraduate research program that advances diversity in science, math and engineering.

“RiSE at Rutgers aims to excite talented undergraduates from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds about research and future graduate study,” said RiSE Director Evelyn Erenrich.

As part of the program, Woodson, a native of Richmond, Va., studied mechanical and aerospace engineering under Associate Professor Kimberly Cook-Chennault in the Hybrid Energy Systems Laboratory, researching the fabrication and analysis of thick film composite piezoelectric materials.

“RiSE was a great learning experience,” said Woodson. “I became more ambitious and determined to go as far as I can and do as many things as possible.”

RiSE offers GRE preparation, training in scientific writing and oral presentation, and the opportunity to network with academic and industrial scientists and engineers.

“I learned how to balance my research and class work, while still finding time to meet other students and learn about their journeys and aspirations,” said Woodson. “It gave me a different outlook on life.”

Only 40 students from a pool of 500 applicants from across the country and Puerto Rico were selected to participate in the program.

“Through connections with programs like LSU’s BMLI, Rutgers can identify the nation's top candidates, such as Isaiah,” said Erenrich. “By immersing himself in 10 weeks of cutting-edge research and intensive professional development activities, Isaiah is poised to become a leader and role model. He will help to increase the diversity of the 21st century science and engineering workforce.”

"Meeting intelligent and innovative students around the nation has inspired me to strive to be better by taking on new challenges," Woodson said. "With a year and a half until my graduation, I will use this time wisely by building relationships, serving the community and developing new skills." 

Woodson's advice to future students who may be interested in the RiSE program, "Make friends and have fun. You will get to interact with diverse students all across the nation and world. Learning from them will give you an invaluable insight about life that may not happen too often."

The Black Male Leadership Initiative Fellows Program is a retention and leadership development program established by the LSU Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. For more information, or to support BMLI, contact Chaunda Allen at 225-578-4339, by email or visit the BMLI website at


Article written by Chaunda Allen, Office of Multicultural Affairs. Additional material added by Cassie Thibeaux, College of Engineering, or (225) 578-0092. 

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