LaPREP returns this summer to challenge aspiring young mathematicians and scientists

Dr. Irina Ilioaea has been named the interim director of the LaPREP program at LSU Shreveport. Dr. Ilioaea joined the LSUS faculty in 2020 as an assistant professor of mathematics.

SHREVEPORT, La. – LaPREP, a free math and science summer enrichment program for middle school students, is set to blast off again in May at LSU Shreveport after a one-year pause.

LaPREP offers in-depth classes in logic, probability and statistics, cyber security, technical writing and engineering, among other topics. Students also participate in hands-on activities, take field trips to local industries, and meet math, science and health professionals.

Dr. Irina Ilioaea, an assistant professor of mathematics at LSU Shreveport, has been named the interim program director after the retirement of LaPREP founder Dr. Carlos Spaht in 2022. Dr. Spaht continues working with the program as an advisor.

LaPREP founder Dr. Carlos Spaht continues working with the program as an advisor after his retirement from LSUS in 2022.

Dr. Ilioaea is a self-described math nerd who participated in the International Mathematical Olympiad while in high school. The competition attracts students from more than 100 countries.

“My parents would say, ‘Please go play,” but I would work on math,” she recalls. “I used to participate a lot in summer programs, and I really enjoyed that you get to work with other kids who are as passionate as you are.”

Dr. Ilioaea joined the LSUS faculty in 2020. She earned a doctorate in mathematics from Georgia State University in 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Florian Enescu. During her doctorate program, she pursued research in theoretical commutative algebra and computational algebra with applications to electrical engineering and computer science. She received the “Mathematics Achievement Award” in 2019 and the “Fred Massey Endowed Award” in 2018 from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Georgia State University for her research publications and teaching activity. A native of Romania, she obtained her master’s degree in algebra and her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Bucharest in Romania.

In this 2016 photo, Rusheon Middle School eighth-grader Danny Winn prepares to a launch a rocket during one of LaPREP’s popular hands-on activities. (Photo Courtesy of the Shreveport Times)

Dr. Ilioaea will teach the LaPREP logic class, a subject she teaches to LSUS students.

“I plan to do a lot of problem solving and show them how we apply logic,” she says. “I want to teach them how to think. I also plan to adjust the class as I get to know the students. I really like to adapt to their needs.”

Founded in 1992, LaPREP aims to encourage minority and female middle school students to pursue math and science degrees, but it’s open to everyone. Two affiliated programs, GetSet and LaPIXEL, expand the studies for younger and older students.

March 28 is the deadline to apply for GetSet and LaPREP. GetSet is open to students completing fourth grade this spring. LaPREP is open to students who have completed sixth or seven grades. Students must submit an application, an essay, a recommendation from a teacher, their report card and standardized test scores.

Students successfully completing two years of LaPREP are eligible to apply for LaPREP scholarships to attend LSUS as entering college freshmen after they graduate from high school. LaPREP has also established a partnership with LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport which allows LaPREP graduates to enter JUMPSTART, one of a series of medical research programs in the LSUHSC pipeline of programs that support and encourage students to pursue medical careers.

The program provides free city bus passes, free meals on campus and covers the expense of field trips so cost is not a barrier for talented, hard-working youngsters. Generous donors and sponsors make this possible.

LSUS Foundation Executive Director Laura Perdue says she’s grateful for the community’s investment in LaPREP for more than 40 years.

“LaPrep has been supported over the years with a number of individual donors and such major foundations and companies as the Carolyn W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation, the Grayson Foundation, The Community Foundation, AEP SWEPCO and the United Way,” Perdue says.