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The Explorer

Outstanding Sophomore Exemplifies Honors College Themes of Study Abroad & Research
The Explorer

Photo by Stewart Humble

Whether he’s rock-climbing, performing mathematical research, or trekking across the globe, Jacob Desmond loves to explore new frontiers. 

Desmond, a LA-STEM Research Scholar and 2012 Honors College Outstanding Sophomore, has already managed to travel to Europe six times. Now, he is spending his summer performing research in Leipzig at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). 

The Baton Rouge native began his undergraduate research career with Dr. Stanley in the Chemistry Department during his first semester at LSU.  When he switched his major to mathematics the next semester, he started working with Dr. Neubrander on Differential-Difference Equations, participating in the Office of Strategic Initiatives REU at LSU that summer and made considerable advances in his research.

The aim of Desmond’s current research project at the Helmholtz Center is to analyze air pollution in Beijing, one of the most heavily populated cities in the world and thus one of those worst affected by particulate air pollution, which is absorbed through the respiratory system.

Desmond’s role is to use mathematical modeling techniques to perform analyses, which will be used to determine the extent of the decline in particle concentrations and to analyze the health impact. 

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “The DAAD RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) internship program accepted me and matched me with a university that had a more math-focused project. So I’m doing mathematical modeling of Beijing’s air pollution, specifically from when the Olympics were held there.”

Jacob Desmond in Berlin

In the fall, Desmond plans to remain in Germany, where he will be studying mathematics at the Universität Tübingen for the full academic year and working on his Honors Thesis. 

Not only is he excited to polish his German (which he has been studying for five semesters), but he’s also looking forward to Tübingen’s rocks.  An avid rock climber, Desmond is a regular participant in local rock climbing tournaments.

“There’s a bunch of local tournaments called ‘The Most Ironic Climbing Series,’ because Louisiana doesn’t have a single rock that you can climb — that’s our form of humor,” Desmond said. “I guess that goes to show you don’t always have to let your surroundings limit what you want to be doing.” 

And Desmond has certainly never been limited by his surroundings. 

“My dad brought me to London the summer before fifth grade, and it just completely changed my life,” he said. “London is the most diverse city in the world — you can easily walk down a street and hear ten languages spoken. The number one thing I’ve learned from travelling is that everybody’s different, and I think that’s important, even on a local scale.”

After college, Desmond said he wants to take a year off to continue his travels so that he can explore more of the world before going on to graduate school. 

“I’ve been getting this idea of heading down to Chile, South America, or Argentina, and I’d also like to travel some more around Europe as well and possibly Asia and Africa,” he said. “I really like traveling, and I think that now with technology, everybody on this little world is becoming closer and closer.  The phrase ‘it’s a small world’ is starting to mean something; I think it’s important for everybody to know what’s going on globally and to experience other places.”


Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College

For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831