Friday, September 2, 2016

Sophomore Finds Potential Treatment for Antibiotic-Resistant Tuberculosis

Could this LETU sophomore have found the solution to extreme antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis? 

Sophomore Blake Maxfeldt, right, and Dr. Greg Frederick
Sophomore biology major Blake Maxfeldt discovered a new virus through LETU's Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (PHAGES) program. It's an undergraduate research project partnering with Howard Hughes Medical Institute that LETU biology students started working on last year. These students have been hunting for a specific type of virus: the bacteriophage, often referred to as the "phage." 

Here's the importance of the phage: a phage is a virus that attacks bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, which don't change once entered in the body, a phage can mutate in accordance with the bacteria in order to kill it. 

"Certain strains of tuberculosis are particularly antibiotic-resistant and mutate quickly," Dr. Greg Frederick, LETU Department Chair of Biology and Kinesiology, said. "This alternative treatment could potentially solve the problem of this antibiotic-resistant disease." 

Blake tested a soil sample from LETU's campus last year and isolated the phage that was determined to be a new discovery. He says he's grateful for the rare opportunity to do hands-on research as an undergraduate. 

"I've learned so many skills throughout the process that I feel will put me at a great advantage when I apply for graduate school," he said.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why I Chose LeTourneau

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year! We at LeTourneau have enjoyed getting to know our new students as well as greeting familiar faces. Choosing a college is a major decision, so we asked a few new students to share why they're choosing to spend these important years at LETU. Whether you're a new or returning student or an alumnus, we'd love to know your reason for choosing LeTourneau. Tell us in the comments below!  

"I really liked the idea of going to school close to home. I was really looking for a rigorous academic challenge and I'm fortunate that that was available to me locally."

-Konnor Timmons/computer science engineering major/Longview, TX

"The engineering program–I like that I'm going to get to build things with my own hands and not just sit in a lecture hall all the time. LeTourneau is the best Christian school for engineering."

Josh Kessler/mechanical engineering major/Lancaster, PA

"I was recruited to play golf. The athletics department was so inviting and friendly, it made me decide that this is where I wanted to spend the next four years."

Stephanie Starr/criminal justice major/Gilmer, TX

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

From Fiji to Texas: What it's Like to be an International Student

“I arrived with one suitcase, and I wasn’t scared at all.”

Meet Cecilia Kim, junior aviation student. A self-described “third-culture kid,” she was born in South Korea and moved to Fiji at the age of eight. When it came time for her to choose a university, Cecilia considered going to college internationally. Her goal was to earn a bachelor’s degree in aviation; no such programs exist in Fiji, but she found her answer at LETU. 

Cecilia Kim
“There are a lot of aviation schools in the States, but LETU’s program had the best reputation and the most impressive alumni.”

With the decision made, Cecilia traveled to the U.S. for the very first time as a brand-new college freshman. This transition didn’t come without adjustments, but she had help from LETU faculty, staff and students through every step.

“Being an international aviation student, I had to go through the process of getting TSA approval. Professors were very supportive during that time. If I went to someone for help, they’d always find a way to make it work.”

“I also had to deal with learning adjustments–cultural learning styles are different here than in Fiji. With the help and encouragement of faculty, I have achieved my academic goals. I just flew my first solo flight!”

This new way of life wasn’t just full of difficult changes; it also brought some welcome developments for Cecilia.  

“Students here are very open. Where I’m from, friends aren’t as open with their feelings with each other. Fiji is very individualistic, and we do a lot of things by ourselves there. Students here take initiative and people become friends faster. At LETU, I have learned to trust people more.”

Cecilia, right after completing her first solo flight.
“There’s also a difference with professors. Here, you can address a professor in a friendly manner, but that wouldn’t be acceptable in Fiji.”

As a freshman, Cecilia immediately found her place in life groups:

“Life groups give us time to be together. We have dinner, messages and good discussions. We are like a family to each other. We pray for one another and are there for each other in hard situations.”

Cecilia wasn’t done traveling after she arrived in Texas. She’s spent her breaks from school visiting 15 different states in only two years. Boston and Chicago are her favorite cities so far.

“America feels like each state is its own country. The people, accents, land are all different. I feel like I’ve gotten to visit a bunch of different countries. I also now completely understand why people say Texas is its own country.”

The consensus on going to college internationally from this third-culture kid?

“Every day has favorite moments for me. This has been such an enjoyable transition, and I feel like God brought me to LETU for a reason.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Student Perspectives: Audra in Israel

Below is a first-hand account of LETU's recent Israel trip from Audra Cole. Audra will be senior this fall and is studying civil engineering. 

This May, I was blessed to have the incredible opportunity to go on an academic trip to Israel. When I first heard the announcement about the upcoming trip, I knew that I wanted to go. I have wanted to visit Israel since I was a young girl. I thought college was the perfect time to go, and the trip counted towards six credit hours as well. Little did I know that God was planning on transforming my heart and mindset while I dove into a rich Biblical and historical learning experience.

The first couple days of our trip were spent in the Sea of Galilee region. For me, this was the most impactful portion of the trip spiritually. This past semester, I was extremely sick with a viral infection, pneumonia and strep all at the same time. Up until this point on the trip I had been struggling in my personal relationship with God and questioning where He was when I was so sick. When I was standing on the shores of Galilee, I was able to reconnect with God and get some perspective on what I was supposed to learn through the season that I had just walked through. I realized that God had been carrying me the whole way.

I would love to tell you every single site that we visited and how amazing they were, but that would be much too long of a post. Instead, I will highlight some of my other favorite spots. 

On our way from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem, we stayed the night in a Bedouin camp in the wilderness. It was at this time I started to realize the friendships that I was forming with my fellow students and professors were going to be something that I will cherish for years to come. At the Bedouin camp, we had the opportunity to ride camels and it was a blast, except for the fact that the camel behind me thought my hair looked pretty tasty!

After the Bedouin Camp, we traveled to Jerusalem. On our way, we had the opportunity to climb Masada. When we arrived at the site, I was slightly afraid that my lungs would not be able to help me make it to the top. However, I was able to, and the whole way back down my lungs were working wonderfully. This moment on the trip was a huge victory for me because I realized that I no longer needed to be worried about my health and that I was completely healed.
After Masada, we had the opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea. I absolutely loved this experience. Being in water in which you cannot sink was one of the strangest feelings, but it was so awesome to share this memory with the group. We then spent the rest of our trip in Jerusalem. It was absolutely amazing. I loved every site that we visited; it really made the Bible come to life in my mind. Being able to tangibly see the places that we had been studying in our Bible and history classes enriched our learning experience exponentially. The whole time I was in Jerusalem I kept thinking, "This is where so much history from the Bible has occurred and I get to be here to experience it.”

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip. It changed my life in more ways than one. I grew so much spiritually, academically and recovered physically while I was in Israel. I would emphatically recommend this trip to anyone who is considering it. The richness that our tour guides Mishi and Diane, as well as Professors Ostendorff and Roudkovski, brought to this trip was invaluable. Being able to complete my personal pilgrimage to Israel has changed my life forever.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

10 Signs You Know You’re a LeTourneau Student

1. When half your wardrobe is free LeTourneau shirts.
Whether it’s sports, music, events or freshman orientation, LETU loves to give out t-shirts. One day you look up and realize they’ve taken over your closet.

2. You know the difference between a cape and a cloak.
Cloaks have hoods. C’mon that’s just common knowledge (here at LeTourneau).

Get it right.

3. Everyone has a 3D printer.
Ever since the freshman started building their own 3D printers, it’s not uncommon to pass at least a dozen people carrying one while on your way to class.

They literally broke a world record.

4. You’ve been ponded.
Ponding (noun): throwing an LETU peer into the pond.
Some people see ponding as a right of passage; others see it as a birthday celebration. Either way, it happens quite frequently and is usually well deserved.

It's not that deep...we think.

5. Hootenanny is above all.
Hootenanny is the best event that LeTourneau University puts on every year during Homecoming. It’s the big one. Nothing will ever top it.


6. You know walking the loop makes you official.
Everyone knows if you walk the loop around campus with another person, you’re practically married.

7. You thought the dance was an April Fool’s joke.
This is a recent phenomenon. YAC announced there would be a dance on April 1st and everyone was skeptical. It was a barn dance and it was awesome. It also actually did happen.

It took an official announcement to convince everyone it was real.

8. You own a longboard, have almost been run over by a longboard, or have watched someone fall off a longboard.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.

9. The bell tower has made you jump.

You know it’s 11:59 and the bell tower will ring in one minute. You still jump. 

10. Your floor is home.
Dorm floors are much more than a place to live. Your floor is who you eat with, play intramurals with, hang out with and live life with. It is a community unlike any other.

Fam for life. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

How Flooders Got its Name

We at LETU know that each floor of campus' residence halls have their own unique bond and history. Here's the story of how one floor was given its fitting name, as told by former resident and alumnus Phil Burks.

Flooders, circa 1970
When I was a new freshman in the fall of 1970, one of my roommates (we'll call him Rod) was a senior mechanical engineering student. We were in a room in Tyler Hall West on the third floor. That room was right across from the bathrooms, which are now a lounge. I was curious about the Flooder story and Rod was happy to tell me since it happened while he was an underclassman.

Rod described that he was sitting at his built-in desk on the wall that is adjacent to the hallway, deep in study. He heard huge commotion, then noticed his feet getting wet. Rod was also one of the LeTourneau EMTs who drove an ambulance for the City of Longview, so not much phased him. He simply tucked his feet under his seat and kept on studying while the water gushed into the room, then just as quickly disappeared.

A little background is appropriate. The bathrooms in Tyler Hall West include a shower that is a room with six shower heads, a passageway in, and a central drain. Back to the story...

Phil Burks with David Lingberg, current Flooders RA 
Finally Rod's curiosity got the best of him. It turns out that some of the third floor guys figured out that the bookshelf boards in their dorm rooms actually fit rather nicely into the shower door way! They learned that if they put a towel over the drain–yep–a swimming pool! I'm not really sure how long it lasted, but the techies learned a huge structural engineering lesson that day; water has a lot of weight and a lot of force! The boards gave way, water gushed out, went down the stairwells and went into the second floor electrical system.

I've since heard that in fact there is no evidence of any structural damage, but there were many light fixtures on the second floor and some on the first that had to be replaced. I've also confirmed the story with a friend who "may or may not have been involved in the science experiment that went awry."  Even though he and my roommate were there, we can't seem to pin down exactly when the flood happened. So, until someone confirms, we're calling it 1968-ish.

Many Flooders have gone on to be well-known and very successful in life and industry. All of us hope that every Flooder uses their ingenuity powers for good, not evil!  The following was posted on a Flooder Facebook page last week: "Let's all remember something...we all have a lot of fun with our heritage as Flooders. Wear the shirt with pride. But please use it as a conversation starter to tell people about Jesus. Tell people how he can flood their hearts with his love!"  

Flooders from across the decades will be gathering for a reunion this Homecoming Weekend, so if you see a Flooder, you might consider grabbing a pair of rubber boots. You never know when they'll decide they want to go swimming again. 

Flooders reunion t-shirt

Thursday, March 31, 2016

LETU Sophomore Guaranteed Medical School Acceptance

Acceptance into medical school can be a worrisome experience for students hoping to become physicians; competition is fierce and getting the grades to qualify is no easy feat. But LETU student Keren Engulu doesn't have to worry about getting into medical school. This sophomore is already in.

Keren is one of very few college students in Texas to have guaranteed acceptance into medical school. The biology major was chosen for the Joint Admissions Medical Program (JAMP), which offers only 100 spots in the state to highly-qualified college students studying biology, chemistry, math or physics. JAMP provides students paid summer internships, free MCAT preparation courses, and guaranteed acceptance to one of Texas' nine medical schools.

While JAMP holds a high GPA as a crucial factor for entering the program, they also consider "personal factors such as motivation, maturity, integrity, interpersonal communication, service to others and a demonstrated commitment to study medicine.

Read below to hear from Keren about her path toward JAMP acceptance and future plans as a physician. 

Keren Engulu
How did LETU prepare you for acceptance into JAMP?
LeTourneau has a distinct incorporation of Christ in its curriculum. It is very obvious that our school holds members of the body of Christ; professors speak of God in their classes and students show their love for the Lord through kindness for others and selflessly building community. How can one not learn and feel encouraged to do their best in this environment? I am at LeTourneau to learn and gain a strong foundation for whatever God has for me. For this reason, I feel I am prepared for the rigorous work JAMP will require of me as I prepare for medical school. I know God will be with me every step of the way.

Why did you choose to study biology?
Originally, I chose to major in chemistry with a biological concentration. After a reflection of the classes I would have to take, I chose to switch my major to biology. I enjoyed studying chemistry, but some of the courses required to graduate were not topics that I personally enjoyed studying. The courses I will take for my major in biology are much more suited to my interests and will prepare me for medical school.

Why did you choose LETU?
Two weeks before my high school graduation, I came to visit LeTourneau. Students had gone home for the summer, but my tour guide, Ally, made me feel like I was already part of the LeTourneau family, along with other staff and students who were still on campus. The Christian environment was so authentic.

What are your career plans? 
I want to become a physician and a medical missionary. With JAMP, I have been gifted with the opportunity to make these dreams of mine a reality. Though I am not entirely sure what specialty I will go into, I know I want to work with children and help those who are in most need. I am willing to do whatever God has for me and go wherever He calls me. The future is such a mystery to me, but I know God is already there. 

Interested in studying biology like Keren? Click here

Monday, March 21, 2016

Student Perspectives: Beach Reach 2016

Amman Beeftu is a senior communications major at LETU from Colorado Springs, CO. He's a proud resident of Tyler Hall and enjoys soccer and acrylic painting when he's not longboarding around campus. 

Spring break at a typical university involves parties, beaches, and drinks all around. LeTourneau, however, isn’t a typical university. Instead of traditional spring break partying, I had the opportunity to serve with LETU’s Beach Reach team. 

Beach Reach is a 36-year-old mission to reach out to people who are partying on South Padre Island during their spring break. It shows God’s love in a practical way by offering free van rides to anyone who may need one. During these van rides, Beach Reachers have the opportunity to share the gospel with their passengers or challenge them to think about their faith. Beach Reach effectively shares the love of Christ while keeping students safe and intoxicated drivers off the road. 

This spring break, I went on Beach Reach for the first time. From what I heard about previous years, God did amazing things in and through so many people who went on the trip. I knew that it would be a challenging environment, but I was excited for what God planned for me.

Beach Reach 2016 team
Looking back at my trip, I can say that I was a completely different person going into Beach Reach than I am now. I was so nervous about sharing my faith to strangers or how I would bring up God in conversations. I was looking at my own life and seeing how broken I was, but God showed up in the midst of my brokenness and healed my heart. He showed me His unconditional love; love that doesn’t give up on the broken, love that always heals, love that I can never fully understand. He gave me a heart for the countless broken people in this world and He showed me how His heart breaks for all His lost sons and daughters. He challenged me to rely on Him when I am completely physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. He taught me that the gospel isn’t just shared through eloquent words and refined speech, but can be expressed through actions as simple as loving someone regardless of what they do. 

When I first signed up for Beach Reach I was so excited for the opportunity to impact and change people’s lives with the love of Christ. I didn’t realize that God would so greatly impact my own life.

Beach Reach South Padre began in 1980 with 20 college students and has since grown to hundreds in number. The mission of Beach Reach is to provide for physical and spiritual needs of college students during their spring break. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Incredible Aviation: Top Hawk 2016

It's a powerhouse partnership: the renowned Cessna Aircraft Company has teamed up with LeTourneau University Aviation, Texas' only comprehensive, university-level aviation program.

LETU's Skyhawk 172S
Cessna, a subsidiary of Textron Aviation, chose LETU as one of four universities in the nation as a Top Hawk Partner University. Partners are chosen based on their commitment to excellence in aviation and training the next generation of pilots.

Along with the partnership, LETU has received a brand-new Cessna Skyhawk 172S, custom-branded with LETU colors and logo. The aircraft will be used to conduct flight training and for outreach and recruiting trips across the country.

Director of Flight Operations Laura Laster explains the benefit of adding the aircraft to LETU's fleet:

"The Top Hawk program will give LETU students and flight instructors a unique opportunity to build flight experience while sharing the joy of aviation with people all over Texas and beyond. All of our students will benefit from the use of a brand-new Cessna Skyhawk 172S, as they will be able to utilize the aircraft for flight training activities."

One LETU aviation student will land a coveted internship with Cessna, where he or she will job-shadow different positions and take part in marketing, sales and customer service events.

The Cessna Skyhawk 172S is officially presented to LETU.
The Skyhawk 172S was recently unveiled at LETU's world-class Abbott Aviation Center where it received a warm welcome from students and faculty.

"I have accepted a summer internship in flight operations at Textron Aviation (outside of the Top Hawk program). Working with Top Hawk will give me even more exposure to some of the products I may be working with this summer," LETU aviation student Kyle van Kooten said. "I'm excited to be a part of this program as it allows me to promote involvement in a field I am passionate about and in which LeTourneau excels."

Want to take a ride in the Cessna Skyhawk 172S? Schedule a free flight here

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Incredible Alumni: Shannon Toews Potter

Shannon Toews Potter graduated from LETU in 2006 with a Bachelor's degree in biology. She went on to attend the University of Texas School of Medicine, followed by a residency at St. Louis University School of Medicine, where she was named Best Teaching Resident. She now lives in Congo and works as an OB/GYN and Director of Maternity Services with Samaritan's Purse World Medical Mission. She spends her days bettering the lives of women and children and making LETU proud to call her an alumna.

What does an average day look like for you?
Shannon Toews Potter
The light from the sun and the sound of the community wake us around 6:00 a.m. I go in to the hospital at 7:00 a.m., discuss and treat patients with other doctors or medical students, and do surgery three times a week. We have a two hour lunch break and then it's back to the hospital until 5:00 p.m. Dinners are usually shared with another missionary family. It's a small community and easier to cook for a few extra than to cook every night. We have a gardener and house help, which replace the dishwasher or lawnmower that most people in the US have and gives people in the community a very respected job. In the evenings, we occasionally listen to a podcast, watch a movie, prepare teaching lessons for the next day, make homemade ice cream or play a board game. We are board game nerds and brought over 40 pounds in games.

What are some of your responsibilities in your current position?
Responsibilities include performing surgeries three days a week, participating in official teaching meetings and patient rounds with medical students and residents three times a week, improving the structure and quality of care in the maternity ward, seeing patients, performing and teaching ultrasound techniques and teaching nurses newborn resuscitation.

Describe a high point in your career since graduating from LeTourneau. 
I was named Best Teaching Resident out of all residents and fellows at St. Louis University, as voted by the medical students and received the medical student teaching award specifically for OB/GYN three times during residency. Passing on knowledge to the next generation is such a joy to me and being recognized for my efforts was very special.

How is your LeTourneau education benefitting your current position?
It's more often who you know that matters, rather than what you know. As I continued to add layers of knowledge in medical school, it is hard to know exactly when I learned specific information that I use every day, but the people I know from my time at LETU continue to benefit me. For instance, a fellow LETU student connected me with someone in admissions at the medical school I went to (it's hard to get in to a Texas medical school when one is from out-of-state). LETU professors and alumni support us financially and prayerfully as we are on the mission field. Some even promised that support over eight years before it happened! I email a fellow classmate surgical questions I need second opinions on. A former LETU professor visited us in language school in France and we are even working with LETU alumni here in Congo. The network of people, nerdy–ahem–smart enough to have taught or graduated from LETU is also crazy enough to follow God's call on their life, be that here in Congo, an oilfield in the Middle East, the business place in China, a farm in Texas, or giving back by teaching other LETU students.

What would you say to a current LETU student in your same major? What would you say to someone considering the same major? 
Dr. Jarstfer, then the dean and also my professor for many of my biology courses, counseled me not to settle. That's different for everyone, but don't settle just for lack of trying. If you can go for a PA or MPH or Master's level, don't settle with a Bachelor's. If you can go for an MD, DO, or Doctorate, then don't settle for an MPH, a Master's level or a PA. Get to the highest level you can that will open the doors that you don't even see yet. You won't regret it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Zika in Texas: What You Need to Know

With the recent Zika virus diagnosis in Texas, many of the state's residents have questions about the disease. Addressing your concerns is Professor and Chair of LETU's Department of Biology Dr. Greg Frederick. Dr. Frederick has over 35 years of experience as a biologist, has been professionally published more than a dozen times and has been awarded multiple professional honors and research grants. 

There’s been a confirmed diagnosis of Zika virus in Texas. Should Texans be concerned?
There are two different genres of mosquitos that can harbor Zika virus that are endemic to Texas. If a patient comes to this area, is bit by a mosquito and the mosquito bites you, then theoretically, it can be transmitted to you. How likely is that? The cases worldwide still aren’t enormous. I don’t think we need to be overly concerned about it.

There are two main mechanisms for protection. Don’t have standing pools of water around your home. Mosquitos like to grow anywhere water can be trapped. Use insecticide. As far as general transmission, at this point in time, there’s no indication that the mosquito population of Texas has been vastly affected.

There have been reports that the larvicide pyriproxyfen might actually be causing microcephaly. Do you think this is a reliable claim? 
I would encourage sticking with more credible sources. There are WHO documents supporting the use of pyriproxyfen in water in many nations further back than 2008. These birth defects have not been reported in other areas. Therefore, I do not believe this larvicide as possibly causative should be discussed at this point. 

Texas had an Ebola scare recently; is this more or less of a threat?
Both infections cause very serious devastation but the impact is very different. Ebola can very easily kill an adult, whereas Zika virus is much less likely to do so. It has much more impact on a developing fetus. It’s really only a concern for women who are pregnant, and especially in the early stages of pregnancy. It can cause abnormalities in development such as microcephaly.

Zika virus isn’t new. Because of advanced surveillance systems, we can now detect disease more effectively. That creates a larger knowledge base but also tends to give the media ammunition for hysteria. If you’re not on the border or the Gulf Coast area, I don’t think you need to worry about it nearly as much as the media implies. We’ll see how things progress as the climate warms up this summer. Avoid being bit by mosquitoes as much as possible, though; I’d be more worried about West Nile than Zika.

What areas of Texas are most at risk?
Areas close to the Mexican border and Gulf Coast areas. Moisture and humidity that makes for potential breeding grounds are at risk. However, it can be transmitted anywhere if an infected person travels into that area and is bitten by mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
The symptoms seem to be very minor: fever, headache. Most people who are infected don’t even realize they have it. For adults, the immune system will take care of it within a few weeks. It shouldn’t be a problem after that period of time. If you’re anyone other than a pregnant woman, it’s not a major cause for concern.

The good side of the coin is, as more people become infected and the immune system deals with the virus, there are less potential hosts for the virus to transmit into the mosquito population. We see that with a lot of the diseases–humans get it and then become protected from the virus. It’s essentially a natural vaccination process.

Do pregnant women go through this natural vaccination process?
There’s a real complication with that because a fetus has little functional immunity. Once the virus gets into the fetus, it has some passive immunity from antibodies that are passed from the mother through the placenta to the fetus. However, unless the mother was infected prior to pregnancy and already developed immunity, it will take seven to ten days for her to develop antibodies to the virus. By then, the virus has already had a lot of time to infect the fetus and cause devastation. If the mother had been exposed previous and developed immunity, the fetus should be protected by this passive immunity.

Taking precaution against mosquito-borne disease is never a bad idea, especially for pregnant women. Stock up on insecticide, then visit to learn about STEM career fields.