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Young scholar already reaching beyond the stars

29th March 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Kaelin Maloid
Contributing Writer

Keiana Cavé is merely 17, but she has already had things happen to her that are out of this world.

This Lusher Charter School senior who has had NASA name an asteroid after her was, in February of this year, selected as the only high school student in the country to participate in a live webinar organized by the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The event was titled “2016 Black History Month: the Next Generation of Youth Entrepreneurs in STEM innovation.”

Cavé shared her passion and motivation to spearhead Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) discoveries for the next generation.

“I spoke in the webinar, and the webinar reached about 2,500 people,” said Cavé, a New Orleans native. “It might’ve been more, but that’s how much they told me. It was really exciting, and I hope that I get to do it again in the future.”



Cavé was selected because of her achievements in the STEM field and how her work impacts her community. Through a research program with the University of New Orleans, she examines environmental issues. The 2010 BP Oil Spill was her motivation to do this project, she said, which included identifying two formerly unseen toxins released as the sunlight broke down the oil.

“During an oil spill there will be a thick layer on top of the water for an extended period of time. It releases toxins and chemicals. So I thought it would be important to identify that,” Cavé said.

She entered the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was one of several second-place finalists in the earth and environmental sciences category. She also received honorable mention from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Besides being chosen as a speaker at the webinar, Cavé now has the asteroid formerly known as “20000 GD136” named after her.

First observed in 1979 and lies between Mars and Jupiter, “20000 GD136” is now called “Keianacave.” Less than 15,000 people share this honor.

Cavé is a dual-enrolled student at Lusher. During the course of the school day, she also takes biological anthropology and environmental geology classes at Tulane University.

Like most college students, Cavé has spent countless hours in the laboratory. Currently a member of Tulane University’s Van Bael lab, she has been acknowledged many times for her work. This includes, but is not limited to, a first place United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement and a first place U.S Navy/U.S. Marine Corps Office of Naval Research Scholarship.

Cavé can also boast having previously worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a lab technician and a nanotechnology researcher at the University of New Orleans.

Her latest accomplishment, though, the oil spill research, designed a way for the Environmental Protection Agency to develop certain aidehydes or toxins that form as photoproducts during oil spills.

“We are very proud of Keiana and her accomplishments in the sciences and engineering,” said Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger in an official statement.

Cavé says she wants to study chemical engineering in college. But she sees the stars in her future. Her goal is to become an astronaut.

“She will be able to rise to any challenge, and will work hard to improve the world around her,” says Congressman Cedric Richmond, who met with Cavé during her visit to Washington, D.C.

This article originally published in the March 28, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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