Cooper Tire Trainer Co-Teaches UM Engineering Wintersession

Chemical engineering alumna Nichole Williams returned to assist with course

Nichole Williams (left) gives instructions for drawing a pig as UM professor John O’Haver observes during a Wintersession manufacturing class. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss – When Nichole Williams asked seven University of Mississippi students to draw a pig on graph paper, they all thought it would be easy. But the chemical engineering alumna, who has found career success at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Tupelo, wasn’t the least bit impressed.

“Those are not good,” she said. “Let’s try it again. Only this time, I will give you step-by-step instructions.”

The results?

“Much, much better,” Williams said, smiling as she looked at the drawings.

Williams returned to her alma mater earlier this month at the request of John O’Haver, professor and chair of chemical engineering, to lead Six Sigma Green Belt Training.

Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools to improve processes and output quality for manufacturing. The American Society for Quality oversees training and certification for professionals, including the awarding of belts in yellow, green and black, as they complete higher levels of training and proficiency.

Williams, leader for the Cooper Tupelo facility’s process capability improvement efforts, said she was honored and happy to be invited to temporarily join the Ole Miss faculty.

“It feels like coming home, but so much has changed,” said the Iuka native, who is also responsible for facilitating Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training. “It’s exciting to be back, but different, too.”

O’Haver said he asked Williams to return to campus to help equip UM chemical engineering students for future employment.

“In listening to company representatives from manufacturing companies at our career fair, some said they would consider hiring our graduates if they knew Lean Six Sigma,” he said. “Since Nichole is a trainer and Cooper afforded her the opportunity to teach this Wintersession, I felt it was the absolute best thing for our students to have her here.”

Students in O’Haver’s class said they have indeed benefitted from Williams’ teaching.

“This course has given me real-world experience, and not just academic theory,” said Catherine Klara, a junior chemical engineering major from Lafayette, Louisiana. “Knowing this will definitely be useful when I begin looking for work.”

Williams agreed.

A UM engineering student works on her drawing of a pig during a class exercise. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“The ability to provide well-written, precise, easy-to-follow work instructions is of great importance to operators who must follow these instructions in whatever processes they are doing,” she said. “The quality of production often depends upon the instructions given to the workers.”

But Williams’ presence on campus was more than just a favor to one of her professors, said Anne Roman, Cooper’s vice president of communications and public affairs.

“Nichole’s work at Ole Miss is an extension of her involvement with Cooper’s ‘Dream Team,'” Roman said. “The team comprises 40-plus early-career employees selected from throughout the corporation to promote manufacturing career possibilities to students within their local communities.

“It’s a part of Cooper’s overall involvement in efforts of the National Association of Manufacturers, which include significant Manufacturing Day opportunities nationwide. Cooper’s Dream Team is usually focused on students in grades 8 through 12 to capture them early in their thinking about careers, but this was an opportunity to expose students at the college and university level to what manufacturing careers are all about.”

A 2013 graduate, Williams joined the company four years ago as a Six Sigma Black Belt.

“I love the challenge that comes with being a Black Belt,” Williams said. “I get the opportunity to work in several different areas of the plant and get exposure to different levels of our organization. I might go from a project that addresses a specific problem on a specific machine, to a project affecting an entire department, to a project that requires me to interact with our corporate office.”

Recently, Williams was awarded a 2016 Emerging Leader Award by the Manufacturing Institute’s Science Technology Engineering Production Ahead program. A hundred women are chosen to be honorees for achievements in manufacturing, with about 30 of the younger women chosen as Emerging Leaders.

Williams was one of only two to deliver a speech during the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., that highlighted the importance of encouraging the next generation, particularly girls, to pursue careers in manufacturing. 

“Dr. O’Haver is such an inspirational teacher who makes you feel like you can achieve anything,” Williams said. “Dr. (Paul) Scovazzo provided great guidance for a professional career, and I credit him with pushing me to a career in engineering, as opposed to just an education.”

Future of Nanomedicine Topic of January Science Cafe

Previous TEDxUM presenter is first lecturer for spring semester

Randy Wadkins. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Recent breakthroughs in nanomedicine and their impact is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Randy Wadkins, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate member of the UM Medical Center Cancer Institute, will review his 2015 TEDxUM talk, “A Fantastic Voyage to the Future of Nanomedicine.” Admission is free.

Organizers of TEDxUM 2017 said they teamed up with the Science Cafe as a promotional activity for the main event, scheduled Jan. 28 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Wadkins was one of 10 speakers at the inaugural TEDxUM in October 2015.

“Imagine shrinking down robots to a size so small that they can be injected into humans,” Wadkins said. “Imagine them swimming around in our bodies until they reach the sites of disease, where they apply treatment. That future is called nanomedicine, and it is almost here.”

Wadkins’ 30-minute presentation will include how nanomedicine has moved from science fiction in the 1970s to reality. The fluorescent properties and common uses of nanomaterials in daily household products are also highlighted.

“On the nanometer scale, the very small things, such as molecules, are on one end, while the larger things, such as bacteria, are on the other end,” he said. “In between the two is where a lot of new and exciting things in science is happening.”

Wadkins’ research focuses on biologically compatible nanomaterials for possible medical purposes within the human body.

“In 2006, a scientist at Cal-Tech discovered a way to weave nanomaterials with DNA,” Wadkins said. “These can be manipulated into robots that can do things. The future of medicine lies at the nano-scale.”

The university’s first TEDx talk featured 10 brief lectures from Ole Miss faculty members to showcase “ideas worth spreading.” Though the event was open to only 100 attendees, those talks are available on YouTube for everyone who missed it.

“TEDxUM 2015” used the TED Talks conference format, which brings together lecturers and other participants in a globally popular set of conferences run by the Sapling Foundation. Under the rules set by TED, seating was limited for the event, although interest was very high.

UM administrators and professors said Wadkins’ appearance should be most interesting.

“Dr. Wadkins is one of the most prominent scientists in the U.S. using DNA as a nanomaterial,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “His wealth of knowledge is sure to inspire and inform those in attendance.”

Wadkins earned his doctorate and bachelor’s degrees from UM. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He was an assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine before returning to UM.

He also was a 2015-2016 AAAS Science & Technology Congressional Fellow, working in the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis. His research interests are biophysical chemistry, molecular dynamics, fluorescence microscopy and imaging, DNA structure and structural transitions and biosensors.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

University Students, Staff Join Community for MLK Day of Service

Volunteers gathering to raise funds for homeless, share oral histories and more

Martin Luther King Day of Service 2016 brought local families and students together for a family-friendly event benefiting Doors of Hope Transition Ministries and Boys and Girls Club of Oxford. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students, staff and community partners are spearheading efforts to promote community engagement and encourage healthy lifestyles during 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center. Program participants include Chancellor Jeffery Vitter; Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion; Oxford Mayor George G. Patterson; and Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors.

Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies and a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, will deliver the keynote address.

As part of the ceremony, awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in two categories. Community member recipients are Daniel Doyle, Jacelyn Frierson, Laura Shields and Joan Vick. Lyndsey Acree of Olive Branch is the student recipient.

“The Office of the Dean of Students is proud to work, once again, side-by-side with so many excellent community partners,” said Hal Sullivan, UM coordinator of student affairs programs. “Our goal, in the spirit of Dr. King, is to encourage reflection (and) action and redefine ‘service’ for this community.”

Other activities scheduled are:

  • 9 a.m. – A community pancake breakfast at Second Baptist Church
  • 10:30 a.m. – Opening ceremony and presentation of service awards at Burns-Belfry. Living history community stories also will be available for public listening. These testimonials, collected by trained VISTAs, help illustrate what life was like for north Mississippians during the civil rights movement. A diverse group of volunteers each will share their personal, unique perspectives, and a small group of these stories will be available for public listening at the ceremony.
  • 1:30 p.m. – Community showing of “Selma” at the Oxford Conference Center. A conversation about the film, hosted by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, follows.
  • Community give-back night for Interfaith Compassion Ministries benefiting the Oxford Housing Authority. At Chili’s from 5 to 10 p.m. and at Chick-fil-A from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Legacy Celebration at Second Baptist Church. Charles Ross, UM professor of history and director of African-American studies, is the speaker.

UM staff involved in planning MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.

“VISTA members of the North Mississippi VISTA Project have created civil rights lessons for students in Oxford and Lafayette County schools to learn about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute.

“Through a letter writing project, we hope to express gratitude to civil rights leaders who continue their work to this day. We are also excited about our community stories oral history project, which will lift up local leaders and strengthen community partnerships.”

Volunteer Oxford Director Kaitlin Wilkinson said community and campus participation are crucial to the success of the service observance.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” she said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

Executive director of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network, Doyle began his formal role as a volunteer and service member in Mississippi Teacher Corps 11 years ago. He is also a volunteer for Sustainable Oxford, Organic Mothers, Good Food for Oxford Schools, Mississippi Farm to School Network and the Boys and Girls Club.

A senior at Oxford High School, Frierson is actively involved in Girl Scouts, where for the past 13 years she has walked dogs, collected food for the Pantry, visited veterans, made cards for the elderly, read to children, collected books for summer reading, sewed dolls for hospital patients and wrapped gifts at the Christmas Store. She is also president of the African-American History Club at OHS and plays in the Chargers marching band.

A graduate of Harding University, Shields splits her time volunteering for Volunteer Oxford, the American Red Cross, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and the Pantry, and coordinating all digital content and social media for the Oxford Church of Christ. She has helped multiple organizations with social media sites, data collection, compiling research and website assistance.

A retiree, Vick volunteers at RSVP and has given her time to Area 4 Special Olympics, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, the American Red Cross, Double Decker Arts Festival, Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Love Packs, Lafayette County-Oxford Chamber of Commerce, Yocona International Folk Festival and Good Food for Oxford Schools. She is also the mother of five children.

A senior dietetics and nutrition major, Acree is on the Ole Miss track and field team. Her commitment to service for both athletics and the community have included Reading with the Rebels at local elementary schools, Trunk-or-Treat Halloween event, Books and Bears distribution for UM workers, Thanksgiving Adopt-a-Basket collection, Walking Wednesdays at Oxford Elementary, Senior Lifestyle events at the Oxford YMCA, Food Day Festival and Market on campus and Fresh Fruit Fridays at Della Davidson Elementary School.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service events, contact Hal Sullivan at or Kaitlin Wilkinson at

Spero Peters Picks Perfect Profession, Pastimes

Mechanical engineering alumnus has a passion for nuclear power work

Spero Peters is a 2010 alumnus of UM. (Submitted photo)

Spero Peters always seems to make just the right choices for himself.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Germantown, Tennessee, native decided to attend the University of Mississippi. “Between family and friends that had gone or were going to Ole Miss, I was very familiar with the university,” he said. “It just seemed like a good fit after I visited to look at enrolling.”

Once he was accepted into the School of Engineering, Peters chose mechanical engineering as his major.

“The late Dr. (James) Chambers was a favorite for a bunch of us in my class,” Peters said. “His Power Conversion course was by far my favorite course at Ole Miss. I had an interest in nuclear power, and this class let me look into that subject in greater detail.

“Also, the way he taught the course was discussion-based, more like a graduate-level course, which really made it engaging and anything but dull.”

Toward the end of Peters’ time at the university, he accepted an opportunity to work at the National Center for Physical Acoustics.

“Getting to be around a research center like that prepared me for the environment I found myself in when I went to get my master’s in nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville,” he said. “Also, the courses I took in Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer gave me a good foundation in those subjects that came in handy when it was time to take the test for my PE license.”

After earning his degrees, Peters went to work as a nuclear engineer for Bechtel National Inc. in Reston, Virginia. He is working on the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

Spero Peters (far right) answered questions from UM students during his guest lecture in Engineering 400. (Submitted photo)

“Its purpose is to take millions of gallons of radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project sitting in tanks and convert – or vitrify – them into solid glass for safe disposal,” he said. “I model radiation dose rates in the plant using computer simulations and evaluate mechanical system and radiation shielding designs to ensure that doses to future workers are minimized once the plant is constructed.”

Peters has worked on commercial nuclear power projects, including the design of a scaled-down nuclear power plant called a small modular reactor. He considers creating that design to be his most fulfilling professional achievement to date.

“In nuclear power, many of the power plants were built and designed decades ago, so getting to progress a new concept was a unique experience that I enjoyed,” Peters said. “Plus, it really utilized both my nuclear and mechanical backgrounds.”

Since graduation, Peters decided to return to Ole Miss for the Leadership 400 Class and the Power Conversion ME 405 class.

“Dr. Chambers had me back in 2015 to guest lecture the class on nuclear power,” he said. “I learned I couldn’t do it on a Friday – which would have been convenient – because, as he informed me, apparently my classmates and I had talked him out of having a Friday class years ago.

“The students were thankful for my ‘contributions’ to the department, at least!”

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, remembers Peters as one of the department’s shining stars.

“I always noticed his ability to initiate a conversation on any extracurricular activity whether it was related to the student chapter of ASME or the growth of the mechanical engineering department as truly amazing,” he said. “Spero was always proactive in providing outside-the-box ideas to me whenever I approached him for suggestions related to class room teaching or capstone projects.

“I am not surprised to see him very successful in his career thus far.”

Assistant Engineering Dean Marni Kendricks voiced similar sentiments.

“Spero did a great job,” she said. “He and Jim Chambers were very close.”

Peters’ family includes his parents, Manuel and Susanna Peters, and his brother, Alex. Engineering seems to run in the family bloodline.

“Dad’s an electrical engineer, retired from Memphis Light Gas & Water, and Alex is a chemical engineer,” he said.

As for leisure, Peters again found just the right choices.

“When not working, I love getting ribs on the smoker, especially for an Ole Miss game, and am part of a Memphis in May Championship Barbecue competition team,” he said. “I also enjoy running and golf to help balance out the barbecuing’s side effects.”

Top 10 Stories on Ole Miss News in 2016

Year-end recap reveals which headlines had the most views

If you are a regular follower of Ole Miss News, then you probably have read most – if not all – of the 10 most popular stories in 2016. However, in case you missed anything – or simply want to read them again – here’s the list according to which stories had the most views:

10. UM, Oxford Again Ranked Among Nation’s Best and Most Beautiful (3,836 page views) –

9. Construction Projects Continue to Transform Campus (4,006 views) –

8. UM Gets Custom Commencement Regalia (4,285 views) –

7. Ten Seniors Awarded Hall of Fame Honors (4,477 views) –

6. Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction (4,498 views) –

5. UM Student Union Remodeling Project Making Progress, Major Changes (4,671 views) –

4. Clayton Overcomes Addiction, Homelessness to Earn UM Degree (5,079 views) –

3. UM Welcomes Most Accomplished Freshmen Class Ever (6,621 views) –

2. UM Graduate Named to Forbes ’30 Under 30′ List (8,354 views) –

1. Watch Vaught-Hemingway Expansion via Construction Cam (53,759 views) –

Well, that’s it for 2016! Happy holidays and be sure to continue following us on Ole Miss News!


UM Employees Give, Receive Blessings through Books and Bears

Annual program provides toys for children of Facilities Management Department employees

OXFORD, Miss. – “You haven’t been blessed until you are able to bless someone else,” Donald Cole said Friday morning (Dec. 16) at the University of Mississippi’s 19th annual

UM Facilities Management employees enjoy selecting items for their loved ones during the annual Books and Bears Program in Fulton Chapel. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM Facilities Management employees enjoy selecting items for their loved ones during the annual Books and Bears Program in Fulton Chapel. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

program. And plenty of blessings were both given and received at the event, which touches families across north Mississippi.

Several hundred UM Facilities Management Department employees piled into Fulton Chapel, each given a large, empty bag and a number. They sat patiently, but eager for their numbers to be called allowing them to come and receive a book, a bear and a toy.

And while it was seasonally cold outside, the soon-to-be recipients were warmed within by the generosity displayed by their benefactors.

“Books and Bears is truly a blessing program,” said Cole, special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

Sponsored by the university’s Black Faculty and Staff Organization, the annual event distributes more than 1,000 gifts, all donated by Ole Miss faculty, staff, students and alumni. Each year the total number of donations reaches a new record.

Friday’s Books and Bears was the first for both Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter and his wife, Sharon. Both were in attendance with Sharon Vitter pulling the very first number, which was 262. It happened to belong to Iesha Johnson of Oxford, a new employee in Housekeeping.

“Without this event, lots of kids wouldn’t have very much on Christmas Day,” said Johnson, who took home presents for her 2-year-old son, Jaden.”Every little bit helps and a little goes a long way.”

The chancellor told the employees that their daily work does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

“We depend upon what all the staff do to make this university the beautiful place that it is,” Vitter said. “Thank you for all that you do, and have a great holiday.”

Tasha Jones, another new Housekeeping employee from Oxford, received the first of more than 20 bicycles given away was “big” gifts.

“This feels really great,” she said. “I’m truly thankful to be here and to get such a nice gift.”

Locksmith Bill Herron of Batesville, who has attended every Books and Bears distribution since the program began, recalled how Books and Bears has benefited his family over the years.

“The first time I attended, I won a bicycle for my youngest son, who was 13 at the time,” Herron said. “Now, I’m taking gifts from here home to my grandkids, ages 7 to 16. This really helped me financially.”

Specificity is not a requirement for Mike Siner of Water Valley.

“It doesn’t have to be any particular thing for my nieces and nephews,” said the 10-year employee. “Just seeing the excitement on their faces over whatever they receive is a blessing.”

The donations were noticed and greatly appreciated by BFSO officials.

“The thoughtfulness and outpouring of support from the UM family has been nothing short of amazing this year,” said Jackie Vinson, project coordinator in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “By helping others, we have truly captured the spirit of the holidays.”

The spirit of generosity generated by the program appears to be contagious.

“I don’t have any children myself, but this is a way to give back to members of our Ole Miss family who may feel they are underappreciated,” said Stephanie Brown, staff assistant the Vinson’s office. “I just wanted to help him and his family out in any way that I could.”

BSFO members expressed their pleasure at the assistance in obtaining toys and books for the children.

“Over the years, Books and Bears just keeps growing and growing,” said Jackie Certion, senior academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts. “We outgrew the Union Ballroom and the Jackson Avenue Center. Next year, we may need the Ford Center and maybe The Pavilion at Ole Miss after that. Who knows?”

New teddy bears, children’s books and toys have been collected for children of custodial and grounds workers each year since 1997.

UM Student Passes His Way to a $100K Scholarship

Jarrius Adams wins grand prize in the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway in Indiana

UM sophomore Jarrius Adams holds the $100,000 check he won during the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway football throw-off in Indiana. Submitted photo

UM sophomore Jarrius Adams holds the $100,000 check he won during the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway football throw-off in Indiana. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Throwing winning touchdown passes is always gratifying, but for Jarrius Adams on Saturday (Dec. 3), lobbing the football also proved to be very lucrative.

The University of Mississippi sophomore successfully threw 11 15-yard passes into a target to win the $100,000 Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway scholarship. The 30-second throw-off against another finalist was televised live during halftime at the Wisconsin-Penn State Big 10 Conference championship.

The windfall is a welcome surprise for the Hattiesburg native, who is majoring in public policy leadership and political science at Ole Miss.

“It’s a truly wonderful blessing,” the 19-year-old said Monday, still giddy from the prize-winning weekend. “I worked really hard to get to reach this level, but honestly, it’s hard to believe it really happened.”

Adams’ journey to the winner’s circle began in August, when he ran across an ad for the competition on his Facebook page.

“Years before, I’d watched another Ole Miss student I knew win second place in this same competition,” he said. “I told myself then I would one day enter it myself, but forgot about it until I saw the ad. That’s when I decided to enter the contest.”

The soft drink company contest invites students ages 18 to 24 to submit 350-word essays on how they would use their education to change the world. Social media users vote for the entries, and those whose entries receive a minimum of 50 votes each record 1-minute videos to gain even more votes.

To see Adams’ video, go to

Company officials then select 16 finalists who compete in preliminary throw-offs before appearing at ACC, Big 10, SEC and PAC-12 college conference football championships. Other institutions with finalists included Texas A&M University, Cornell University, George Fox University, Oklahoma City University and the universities of Georgia, Northern Colorado and Southern California at Santa Cruz.

Students from the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Enterprise State Community College and Bristol Community College were also finalists in the competition.

“Tuition costs are rising year by year,” Adams said in his video. “The No. 1 financial crisis for this nation for years to come is college students’ debt. The nation must make a commitment to alleviate the pressure on millenials.

“Financial constraints create unbearable obstacles, but I thank Dr Pepper for disabling those barriers for so many students.

Before Saturday’s telecast, Adams rehearsed throwing footballs alone with a friend.

“I really wasn’t nervous, but being on live television in front of thousands of people was a bit distracting at first,” he said. “Once the whistle blew and I started actually throwing the balls, I focused on winning. Only after it was over and I was being presented the check did I realize that I’d won. It felt so good!”

The runner-up got a $20,000 scholarship.

Since his winning moment, Adams has received hundreds of thousands of congratulations via his social media, emails, texts and phone calls. UM Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter was among those who praised him for his winnings.

“I am so thrilled for Jarrius,” Vitter said. “He is such a deserving student who will use his college education to achieve great things and change lives. This prize money will certainly go a long way toward helping him reach his goals.”

A UM orientation leader, Adams is the son of Taquanna and Yahmani Adams of Hattiesburg. His siblings include a brother and a sister.

“To not have to worry about college tuition anymore is such a huge blessing for me,” he said. “I really hope that my good fortune inspires others to seek such opportunities in the future.”

He shared his short- and long-term goals for his unexpected funds.

“There are two issues that I hold dear to my heart: education and voter registration,” Adams said. “With my degree, I will work to rebuild the current educational system to ensure that all students have access to a free and adequate public education. I will continue to be an advocate for voter registration, making sure that it is more feasible for all citizens to participate in the voting process.”

For more information about the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway, visit

UM Engineering School Creates Biomedical Degree Program

Curriculum will prepare students for range of career opportunities in cutting-edge field

Biomedical Engineering students will soon be among those using chemical engineering laboratories such as the one pictured here. Classes in the new degree program begin Fall 2017. Photo by Kevin Bain.

Biomedical engineering students soon will be among those using engineering laboratories such as this one. Classes in the new degree program begin in fall 2017. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – After years of development, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering has launched its new biomedical degree program.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the curriculum for the new major during its November meeting. Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering are encouraged to apply now for admission for the fall 2017 semester.

“Biomedical engineering at the University of Mississippi will prepare students for rapidly growing opportunities in three primary job markets,” said Dwight Waddell, associate professor of electrical engineering and director of the new program. “These include biomolecular engineering, biomedical systems engineering and bioinformatics.”

“I believe that the addition of the new biomedical engineering program will definitely serve the university, state and nation well,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the engineering school. “With so much attention currently being given to the field, having such a program here keeps us highly competitive.”

Biomolecular engineering is a growing discipline at the interface of molecular biology, biophysical chemistry and chemical engineering, whereby students gain expertise developing novel molecular tools.

“These tools are used to translate understanding of fundamental principles of physical biochemistry into useful processes, devices, therapies and diagnostics,” Waddell said.

Biomedical systems engineering incorporates elements of mechanical engineering design with physiological controls and instrumentation.

“Students can employ lessons from bioinstrumentation and systems mechanics to create sensors, test models and build devices to meet currently unmet needs in the medical field,” Waddell explained.

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary hybrid combining computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to analyze and interpret biological data.

“Techniques from bioinformatics have helped unlock the human genome, better understand evolutionary biology and are now pivotal in the coming era of ‘big data’ analysis,” he said.

In addition to fundamental engineering courses, biomedical engineering students will take courses in biology, chemistry and systems physiology to more effectively apply engineering science to specific medical and industrial needs.

The program has been requested by prospective students for several years, said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics in the engineering school.

“I’m delighted to finally be able to direct them to this exciting new opportunity,” Kendricks said. “I believe it will attract some of the best and brightest.”

The idea and initial work for the new program was initiated by Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair of the UM Department of Electrical Engineering, and Cheng. Waddell, also a research associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management at UM, moved into the School of Engineering to facilitate program development in 2013.

“It’s an exciting time,” Waddell said. “With increasing demands to share fiscal resources and promote interdisciplinary research, BME is uniquely situated at the cusp of applied technology, medicine and STEM education.”

A former postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Waddell earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas, and his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University. Formerly a faculty member at Tulane University, he has an active research program, including projects on stuttering mitigation, functional brain imaging and postural control of gait and locomotion.

For more information about UM’s biomedical engineering program, visit

UM Students Share Hospital Shadowing Experiences

Students followed health care professionals at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi

UM Center for Population Studies Director John Green (left) chats with Assistant Professor of Religion Sarah Moses and BMH-NMS Chaplain Director Joe Young during the Medical Humanities students reception.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM Center for Population Studies Director John Green (left) chats with Assistant Professor of Religion Sarah Moses and BMH-NMS Chaplain Director Joe Young during the Medical Humanities students reception.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – After spending several weeks shadowing area health care professionals, University of Mississippi students interested in similar careers shared highlights of their mentorship experiences this week.

The Tuesday (Nov. 29) reception for those enrolled in the fall 2016 Medical Humanities course was held in Bryant Hall gallery on the Oxford campus. Members of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi who mentored the group joined UM administrators, faculty, staff and students for the event, which featured five of the 12 enrolled students making brief presentations.

“Our goal was for the students to gain a better understanding of how various factors shape the human experience in illness and in medicine,” said Sarah Moses, assistant professor of religion and course instructor. “Creating this class took lots of work, but hearing these students’ reflections today shows it was well worth the effort.”

John Green, professor of sociology and director of both the Center for Population Studies and the new Society and Health minor in the College of Liberal Arts, agreed.

“Listening to these students share their reflections is very rewarding,” he said. “We are definitely committed to making this course in the society and health minor a long-term investment.”

Medical Humanities, one of two advanced course requirements for the minor, is a combined readings and field experience course in a hospital setting to study the ethical, social and cultural issues in medicine. Additionally, students must take advanced elective courses.

“While only 12 students were able to take the course this fall, I already have 25 students on the waiting list for Medical Humanities in fall 2017,” Moses said.

Each of the presenters said that being in the course was more like a transformative “life experience” than a class.

“Being in this course made me a more well-rounded person,” said Josh Law, a senior religious studies and pre-med major from Birmingham, Alabama. “Ultimately, I believe I will be a more well-rounded health care professional in the future because of it.”

Sarah Robinson said she discovered how important addressing nonmedical needs and communication are to an ailing patient and his or her family members.

“Being in this course helped me to see both patients and those who work with them in various ways as whole people,” said the junior Spanish and pre-med major from Covington, Louisiana. “That understanding is critical to the effective treatment and care.”

Miller Richmond, a senior international studies and pre-med major from Madison, said Medical Humanities proved to be a perfect followup to his study abroad experience last spring.

“Being immersed in a different culture broadened my understanding of people as human beings,” he said. “Medical Humanities continued to expand my thinking. I now more fully understand that patient care goes much farther than physiology and medicine.”

Other student presenters were J.R. Markos, a senior from Jackson, Tennessee, who is majoring in public policy leadership, and Cayla Scott, a senior religious studies major from Mendenhall.

Green is slated to teach Society and Population Health, the other mandatory advanced course option for students entering the minor, during the spring 2017 semester.

“In Society and Population Health, students learn about health disparities in Mississippi and the value of interdisciplinary and interprofessional teams in tackling these issues,” Green said. “They also make field visits to medical/nursing schools and public health programs.”

Following the completion of Elementary Statistics and one of the advanced courses, Ole Miss students can apply to the minor program. It is also recommended that students take General Psychology and Introductory Sociology to complete the general education social science requirements.

Students must take courses from at least two different departments when completing the last requirement of 12 credit hours of advanced social science and humanities courses. They should note that the same course may not satisfy requirements for both the major and the minor.

Students who complete relevant internships, special topics, study abroad or directed study courses must consult with the director for approval before enrollment in the course.

“This unique and timely minor provides a social science and humanities perspective to the understanding of health,” said Lee M. Cohen, UM liberal arts dean. “I believe such a perspective will foster an appreciation and respect for team-based problem-solving to improve the delivery of health care.”

For more information about the minor in society and health, visit or contact Lynn Woo, research associate with the Center for Population Studies, at or at 662-915-7288.

Charting Their Own Course

Three female chemical engineering graduates find success with Cooper Tire Co.

Jessica Sinak is a Tire Engineer at Cooper Tire. (Submitted photo)

Jessica Sinak is a tire engineer at Cooper Tire. Submitted photo

In a field and industry traditionally dominated by men, three female chemical engineering alumni from the University of Mississippi are making their mark at the Cooper Tire manufacturing plant in Tupelo.

Jessica Sinak, Elizabeth Spence Taylor and Nichole Williams, all of whom earned their degrees within the past five years, each have launched promising careers within the company.

Sinak, a tire engineer in the technical department, works on new product designs and supports the products already run in the plant.

“Cooper is definitely a team atmosphere, and it makes my job more enjoyable knowing that everyone is willing to help if you need it,” said the St. Louis native who celebrates her second anniversary with the company this winter.

“It’s like a little family, and I enjoy coming to work every day. One of the best things about my position is that it changes day to day. I really love that variety and thrive on change.”

The 2014 graduate cited John O’Haver as her favorite professor, saying that his classes were where she learned the most.

“I could go to him about anything, on any given day and he would be there to help,” she said. “The courses were about learning the process, how to problem-solve and really just understanding the basics of engineering principles. It was these classes that made it clear to me that I had chosen the right major.”

A chemical engineer in materials development, Taylor, a 2011 graduate, works with the mixing of tread compounds. The Grenada native said she chose to study chemical engineering because she wanted a challenge after graduating from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Elizabeth Spencer Taylor is a Chemical Engineer in the Tupelo plant. (Submitted photo)

Elizabeth Spencer Taylor is a chemical engineer in the Tupelo plant. Submitted photo

“I fell in love with chemistry and physics in high school, so chemical engineering seemed like a logical choice for me,” she said. “I enjoy the challenge. Every day is different than the last, and my education at Ole Miss fully prepared me for the challenges that I face daily.”

In addition to her daily responsibilities, Taylor is also the co-captain of the Cooper Tire Dream Team. The Dream Team is a part of the Manufacturing Institute’s “Dream It. Do It.” program, an initiative geared toward enhancing the perception of manufacturing among middle school students.

“It’s very rewarding to get students interested in careers in STEM fields,” Taylor said. “I was also awarded a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University’s executive MBA program, which I am currently attending.”

Like Sinak, Taylor said O’Haver was her favorite professor.

“He always emphasized that the major component of engineering is figuring out how to solve problems, and it also happened that he was great at listening to problems, engineering or otherwise,” she said. “I still call him when I need a sounding board.”

Taylor’s husband, Wesley, is also an Ole Miss alumnus, originally from Brookhaven. Her leisure activities include spending time with their daughter, cheering on the Rebels and wine tasting.

Williams, a 2013 graduate, joined the company in 2013 as a Six Sigma Black Belt. She is responsible for leading a variety of process improvement projects for the facility, focused in the plant’s mixing and receiving departments.

“I love the challenge that comes with being a Black Belt,” the Iuka native said. “I get the opportunity to work in several different areas of the plant and get exposure to different levels of our organization. I might go from a project that addresses a specific problem on a specific machine to a project affecting an entire department, to a project that requires me to interact with our corporate office.”

Six Sigma Black Belt Nichole Williams poses with her 2016 Emerging Leader Award. Photo courtesy of the National Assoc. of Manufacturers;Photo by Ian Wagreich

Six Sigma Black Belt Nichole Williams poses with her 2016 Emerging Leader Award. Photo courtesy of the National Association of Manufacturers/Ian Wagreich

Recently, Williams was named a 2016 Emerging Leader by the Manufacturing Institute’s Science Technology Engineering Production Ahead program. While 100 women are chosen annually to be honorees for achievements in manufacturing, only 30 are chosen as Emerging Leaders.

Williams also was one of only two honorees to speak during the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Her speech highlighted the importance of encouraging the next generation, particularly girls, to pursue careers in manufacturing.

Williams said that UM “always felt like home.” She intended to study chemistry but changed her mind after attending a Math Camp sponsored by the university’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education. That’s where Williams was first introduced to chemical engineering.

“I enjoyed each of my professors for different reasons, but two of my favorites were Dr. O’Haver and Dr. (Paul) Scovazzo,” Williams said. “‘Dr. O’ is such an inspirational teacher who makes you feel like you can achieve anything. Dr. Scovazzo provided great guidance for a professional career, and I credit him with pushing me to a career in engineering, as opposed to just an education.”

Williams and her husband, Drew, a 2009 UM computer science graduate, are parents of an infant son, Anderson. When she’s not at work, she enjoys adjusting to life as a new mom, reading, planning the next family trip or buried in whatever hobby she’s taken up recently.

Here’s to the all the UM women engineers. These women engineers are making a difference within a global manufacturing organization.