Wongs Create Chemical Engineering Scholarship

Alumnus and widow's donation to be matched by ExxonMobil

The family of a University of Mississippi chemical engineering alumnus is helping future students attend his alma mater through a generous development gift.

The Lorna and Phillip J. Wong Chemical Engineering Scholarship Endowment was established with the couple’s $6,500 gift, which is to be matched 3:1 by ExxonMobil for a total of $26,000. Students applying for the annual award must be enrolled full-time, majoring in chemical engineering and have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average.

“The graduates of chemical engineering reflect highly on the department, our educational mission and all those who make it work,” said Clint Williford, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “Jack did so through his professional and personal life. And now that generosity of spirit will continue to uplift many young people into the future.”

Unprecedented growth in enrollment and quality of students challenged the department to offer the same personal, quality experience that benefited Wong.

“This generous gift will directly ease the financial burden of a good student, lessening hard choices among work, grades and student loans,” Willford said. “Speaking for the faculty, past and present, we all appreciate the good refection of a life well-lived that still continues to pass it on.”

Phillip Jack “PJ” Wong, 57, of Waller, Texas (formerly of Nederland, Texas), died June 22. A native of Cleveland, Mississippi, he graduated salutatorian from Cleveland High School and attended Ole Miss, where he received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

Wong accepted a job with Mobil Oil Co. and moved to Beaumont, Texas, in 1979. He gave his commitment to the company and traveled through several stations, including Saudi Arabia and France in fulfillment of his duties as an engineer. He retired from ExxonMobil in 2014, after 35 years of service.

The Wongs built their dream retirement home in Magnolia, Texas, where they enjoyed the peace and quiet of a country setting in the last few weeks of his earthly life. They took several vacations, including trips to Boston, Maine, Vermont and other places in the United States, as well as abroad in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and many other countries.

Besides his wife, Wong is survived by two brothers, Richard Jack Wong and his wife, Shirley, of Dallas and Jack Hing Wong Jr. and his wife, Lenee, of Beaumont; a sister, Patricia Jack Wong Wolf and her husband, Otto, of Cleveland, Mississippi; nephews, Trey Wong and his wife, Hillary; Trevor Wong; Trent Wong; and Troy Wong, all of Beaumont; and Matthew Wong of Dallas; and many lifelong friends.

Geology Student Wins National Scholarship

Corey Schaal interning at Geotechnology Inc. in Memphis



University of Mississippi senior Corey Schaal of Paris, Tennessee, is the recipient of a national scholarship from the Underground Construction Association of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

The scholarship was established to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue careers in the fields of tunneling, underground construction and associated disciplines. He was officially notified in March that he was a scholarship recipient and traveled to Los Angeles in June to accept the award.

Schaal was urged to apply for the award by Joel Kuszmaul, associate dean for academic and student affairs and associate professor of geology and geological engineering.

“I have known Corey since he was a freshman,” Kuszmaul said. “I was happy to recommend him for this scholarship. Corey has always been an excellent student and is worthy of this major scholarship with national recognition.”

Schaal chose to enroll at Ole Miss as a result of a campus visit and the opportunities available through the geological engineering program.

“I really appreciated the personal treatment offered by every faculty member during my campus visit,” he said. “The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering sent a lot literature that really caught my attention. Combine all of that with a generous scholarship offer and enrolling at Ole Miss was a no-brainer.”

During summer 2013, Schaal completed an internship with Geotechnology Inc. in Memphis, where he was able to put his classroom knowledge to good use.

“I worked in the soils lab and as a construction materials testing technician, but I spent most of the summer working on the back of a drill rig as a field engineer,” he said. “I want to pursue a career as a geotechnical engineer, and I was able to apply information I learned in the classroom to develop important skills through this internship.”

Schaal was asked to return to Geotechnology for a second internship position this summer. He is conducting analysis work and collaborating with the engineering department.

A Provost Scholar, Schaal has maintained a 3.94 GPA while being involved in several campus and community activities. He holds leadership roles in Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Order of Omega and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies. He is also involved with the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Because of his outstanding record, Schaal was named Outstanding Geology/Geological Engineering student during his freshman and junior years. He also received a competitively-awarded Distinguished Senior Scholarship sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Financial Aid.

Schaal is slated to graduate in May 2015. His plans are to marry and move to Knoxville, Tennessee, to pursue graduate studies in geotechnical engineering.

Saying Goodbye to Summer at Ole Miss

With the beginning of Fall semester 2014 less than a month away, the time has come to slowly begin saying goodbye to the joys of summer at Ole Miss.

Farewell abundant parking places near buildings where we work at any given time of day. It’s been great knowing that if I occasionally want to sleep in, there’s still likely to be at least one available spot when I arrive on campus. But I realize it won’t be much longer until University Police officers have more opportunities to write tickets for the various violations that come with increased traffic.

So long hot, humid temperatures. With unseasonal cold fronts already passing through the region, the climate has begun to chill. Thankfully, it’s also been just the right amount of sunshine and rain for those long walks around our award-winning grounds.

Adios to lighter work loads. Most of the faculty, staff and students I serve have been absent the past two months. I know all that will change come mid-August.

Hotty Toddy!


University to Host STEM Summit July 18-19

Meeting focuses on impact of forensic science on 21st century workforce

Students learn about forensic

The second annual STEM Summit will take place July 18-19.

OXFORD, Miss. – Representatives from governmental agencies, including the FBI and DEA, grades K-12 and higher education are scheduled to participate in a national conference this weekend at the University of Mississippi.

The second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Summit meets July 18-19. The two-day event is being sponsored by UM’s forensic chemistry program, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of BioMolecular Sciences, the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory and the Committee for Action Program Services-Analytical Training Laboratory.

“The focus of this summit is to continue the effort to create a consortium of colleges, universities, corporations and government agencies,” said Murell Godfrey, UM director of forensic chemistry and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Our purpose is to address how forensic science will have an impact on the U.S. and the 21st century workforce.”

Scheduled UM speakers Friday include Godfrey; Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and professor of law; and Maurice Eftink, UM associate provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Other presenters are Darrell Davis, former director of the DEA South Central Laboratory and CEO/president of CAPS-ATL, and Sam Howell, director of the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory.

Friday events include tours of the university’s marijuana field and medicinal plant gardens, the city of Oxford and an agency panel discussion featuring representatives from the Army Crime Laboratory, Mississippi State Crime Laboratory, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, DEA, FBI and Aegis Analytical Laboratory.

Saturday’s session includes presentations by Christopher McCurdy, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and representatives from the UM STEM research panel, Bay Waveland Middle School, Oxford-Lafayette County schools and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Registration is $100 for out-of-towners and $50 for Oxford residents. For more information, contact Murrell Godfrey at 662-915-5143 or visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1kZX1b7TQ4Gg0F81X_cUa8IdVkrG9xnb89c5ixElIY2o/viewform?c=0&w=1&usp=mail_form_link.

UM, City of Oxford Renew Fire Contract

Arrangement mutually beneficial for campus, local communities

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

OXFORD, Miss. – Maintaining the longstanding arrangement that yields substantial savings and an improved fire rating, the University of Mississippi has renewed its quadrennial fire protection contract with the city of Oxford.

Effective July 1, the university and the municipality continue the mutually beneficial agreement, which began in the 1980s. The city will continue to lease land from the university for both its existing and new fire stations, while the university will be serviced in the event of fire on campus. The university pays the city $550,000 annually for the protection, along with debt payment assistance on the new station near the University-Oxford Airport.

“We are happy to continue the strong relationship with the city of Oxford for fire protection for our campus,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “No university community has a stronger mutually beneficial relationship between the university and the city than ours. I am grateful to the mayor and other city leaders for this relationship and for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us out of harm’s way.”

On behalf of the board of aldermen, Mayor Pat Patterson said the city of Oxford is pleased to be able to continue to provide fire protection for the university and the students, faculty and staff on campus.

“Chancellor Jones and his team continue to be solid partners and friends with the Oxford-Lafayette community, and we look forward to many more decades of that friendship,” Patterson said.

The Mississippi Insurance Rating Bureau has given the city’s fire department a 4.0 fire rating. The ranking is used to determine local property insurance rates.

Both entities benefit from the decades-old partnership, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at UM and a Lafayette County volunteer firefighter.

“Once again, the university and the city of Oxford teach the nation how we can work in each other’s interest and create a safer community with a top-notch fire department,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “My thanks to Mayor Pat Patterson for his constant optimism and his belief in what we can do together.”

Oxford Fire Chief Cary Sallis agreed.

“The university leases us land for our stations and we share costs for new equipment, which is the biggest benefit to the city,” Sallis said. “It’s definitely a ‘win-win’ situation.”

ChE Alumnus Recalls Good Ole (Miss) Days

C. J. Fayard reflects upon tenure as student, military service and successful career



George Bailey’s not the only man who can claim “It’s been a wonderful life!”

Like the fictional lead character in Frank Capra’s popular Christmas movie, C. J. Fayard (ChE 52) has lived to fulfill the dreams he had as a young man growing up in Bay St. Louis.

“I attended and was valedictorian of St Stanislaus College, a college prep for boys dating back to 1854, and was taught by Sacred Heart brothers,” Fayard said. “After I graduated in 1948, I was awarded a minor scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans.”

After learning Loyola did not have a chemical engineering department, Fayard looked northward.

“I decided to go to Ole Miss to study chemical engineering,” he said. “My decision was based on my older brother’s advice, as he graduated with a C.E. degree.”

Fayard came to Ole Miss in 1948, excelling as a student and earning many honors, including membership in Phi Eta Sigma engineering society and the Arnold Air Society.

“I thought Ole Miss would be my best choice,” Fayard said. “My favorite subjects were heat transfer, which was taught by Frank Anderson, and calculus.”

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Fayard was called to active duty during the Korean conflict. After being indoctrinated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he was assigned to the 4925th Test Group, a top-secret entity dealing with atomic weapons.

“My major projects included testing the B-2 trailer, which was used to load H-bombs,” Fayard said. “We also conducted escape maneuvers of aircraft carrying atomic weapons.”

Upon completing his two-year tour of duty, Fayard, by then a first lieutenant, retired from the military. He was employed with Copolymer Corp. in Baton Rouge for a year before being hired by Shell Chemical in Norco, Louisiana.

“After two years, I transferred to Shell Chemical in Houston, Texas,” Fayard said. “I was hired in the computer programming department and later went into training. Some courses I taught were ‘Presentation and Communication Skills,’ ‘Creative Problem Solving’ and ‘Time Management.’”

Fayard was later assigned to Gesimar, Lousiana, to lead the startup of an oxygen plant.

After 33 years with Shell, Fayard retired but he didn’t stop working.

“I formed CJF Seminars,” he said. “I designed many techniques taught by Dr. Anderson into my seminars. I had great respect for him and he was a great influence on my success. I had workshops in all the courses previously mentioned, plus new ones. I traveled all over and was even invited to teach on a 12-day cruise.”

After enountering some health issues, Fayard retired from teaching. He and Shirley, his wife of 52 years, enjoy spending time with their four married children and 12 grandchildren.

“Without question, my years at Ole Miss were some of the best years of my life,” Fayard said. “It’s been quite a ride.”

CE Doctoral Student’s Paper Voted ‘Best’ at Geophysics Conference

Leti Wodajo invited to present this fall in Greece

Leti Wodajo

Leti Wodajo

A University of Mississippi civil engineering doctoral student’s research into the early detection of dam and levee problems has launched him onto the national and global stage.

Leti Wodajo of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been conducting research in applications of geophysics and geotechnical engineering since becoming a master’s student at Ole Miss. His academic prowess and scholarly presentation yielded him an invitation to present a paper at the Symposium on the Application of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering Problems meeting in April in Boston.

“We submit our abstract, and session committees will review it and notify us if it is accepted for presentation,” Wodajo said. “Over 200 technical papers were presented, including oral and poster presentations. It was a great opportunity to know what is being done in the world of geophysics and its application. It also gave me a great chance to talk to and to learn from distinguished professors in the field and professionals in the industry.”

A few weeks later, Wodajo received an email informing him that his paper, titled “Enhancement of SRT and ERT Interpretations Using Time-Lapse Measurements and Cross-plot Analysis,” was voted on the evaluation ballots as one of the best delivered at the conference. As a result, the organization has invited Wodajo to attend the Near Surface Geoscience Division of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers meeting, set for Sept. 14-18 in Athens, Greece, to deliver his paper.

Wodajo has accepted the invitation and begun preparing to attend.

“I was really excited by the news,” Wodajo said. “My hope is it will be a great learning experience and that I will receive insightful comments to help improve my work.”

For the past several years SAGEEP have been exchanging the “Best Of” papers with the NSG/EAGE Division in Europe. SAGEEP is covering Wodajo’s delegate badge and gala ticket. Airfare, hotel accommodations and meals are his responsibility.

It is an honor and a worthwhile investment in his future success as a scientist, UM engineering faculty members said.

“This is a great platform for us to present our work and also to learn from the European geophysical society,” said Chung Rak Song, associate professor of civil engineering and Wodajo’s academic co-adviser.

Craig Hickey, interim associate director of applied research at the National Center for Physical Acoustics at UM and Wodajo’s research co-adviser, concurs.

“Only four papers out of the 160 oral presentations were selected to attend the Greece meeting,” Hickey said. “So it is a great recognition to the collaborative work we do at the National Center of Physical Acoustics and the civil engineering department and also a validation to what we are contributing.”

Wodajo earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Jimma University in Ethiopia and a master’s degree in civil engineering from UM. His brother, Bikila Wodajo, received his doctoral degree from UM before him.

“That is how I first heard about the university and their civil engineering program,” Wodajo said. “He encouraged me to apply and got me in touch with Dr. Song and Dr. Hickey. I was able to communicate with them and find out the different types of research they do. I was also offered a generous scholarship covering the whole length of my study, which made my decision easy.”

Previous honors and awards include memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society and Mississippi Academy of Science.

After graduation in 2015, Wodajo’s long-term plan is to return to Ethiopia and assume a faculty position, continue doing research and also teach while being involved in the industry as a consultant.

“But in the short term, I would like to be able to stay for a while and do a post-doc and work on different projects,” he said. “This will help me further the work I am doing now and gain experience on the overall aspect of running a research program, starting from proposal preparation to project management and fund allocation.”

Cathy Grace is Amazing!

Geology lecturer recognized for excellence in academic advising of students

Cathy Grace

Cathy Grace

Perhaps the only thing more rewarding than knowing you have done a job well is the acknowledgement that others know it, too.

That’s why when Cathy Grace received word she had been chosen for the Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising Award, she was both surprised and gratified.

“I was very honored and humbled to learn of this award, as I know the level of commitment exhibited by my faculty colleagues,” said the lecturer in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. “I look forward to representing the university at these competitions. I also look forward to hearing from the real ‘experts’ in advising on how I might improve interacting with my students, as advising is not my full-time gig.”

Grace’s amazing journey to honor began when she joined the UM community in 1991 as an “over-the-hill” undergraduate student worker for the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute.

“I teach a lot,” Grace said. “I was instructor of record for over 600 students last semester and there just aren’t enough hours in the day for interactions with all of my students. So, I look forward to learning how the pros do it.”

Those who know her said Grace is truly deserving of her latest accolade.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce the 2014 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising Award winners,” said Travis Hitchcock, assistant director for advising in UM’s Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “Cathy will represent the University of Mississippi for regional and national awards from the National Academic Advising Association.”

A native of Meridian, Grace received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the university in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Before becoming an instructor in 2008, she was employed as a coordinator of academic and administrative affairs and a project coordinator within the geology department and a marine projects coordinator at MMRI and the Center for Marine Resources and Technology.

Grace is a consulting and registered professional geoscientist with the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists. Her principal publications include the Geological Society of America and the American Association of University Women.

Previously, Grace received the 2005 Outstanding Staff Award in the UM School of Engineering and was named Best University Professor by votes to Best of Oxford in 2013.

Her institutional and professional service included reviewing a chapter for “Exploring Geology,” reviewing three chapters in the Laboratory Manual for Physical Geology and being an invited speaker for the 2009 math and science conference at UM’s Tupelo campus.

Since 2004, Grace has delivered multiple presentations regarding geology and geological engineering in Mississippi’s public schools. She has also conducted annual Naturalist in Training seminars and served as a judge for the Lott Leadership Institute’s intra-collegiate debate competition. Grace attended the 2010 National Conference of College Student Women Leaders.

When she’s not spending quality time with her mother in Meridian, Grace enjoys being outdoors.

“I live on a small lake and enjoy fishing and paddling around, either on the little lake or taking my kayak to Sardis and fishing, floating and paddling there,” Grace said. “I also enjoy puttering around on my two acres with flowers, weeds, critters and herbs.”

Jackson Prep Offering Engineering Courses

First dual credit courses scheduled for fall 2014 and spring 2015

Seated from left: Alex Russell and Lila Burton Standing: Camp Geary and Marsha Hobbs

Seated from left: Alex Russell and Lila Burton. Standing: Camp Geary and Marsha Hobbs

The University of Mississippi School of Engineering is offering its pre-engineering curriculum to students at Jackson Preparatory School.

Beginning in August, students will be able to enroll in dual credit courses taught at Jackson Preparatory that can earn them college credit. ENGR 207, a computer graphics course, is available during the fall semester. Introduction to Engineering (ENGR 100) will be taught in spring 2015.

“The purpose of the initiative comes from an effort to stimulate science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the state of Mississippi and encourage more students to pursue degrees in these fields at the college level,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM engineering school.

The courses will be taught by Marsha Hobbs, a Jackson Prep faculty member, in close collaboration with Ole Miss faculty. Additionally, UM faculty will provide guest lectures and students will have opportunities to visit the Oxford campus.

“We are excited about the dual credit course,” Hobbs said. “It will also be our first foray into distance learning, and we will partner with Marni Kendricks in her Engineering 207 course, which teaches AutoCad.

ENGR 207 introduces students to microcomputer-based sketching and drafting, interpretation of graphics, flow and circuit diagrams, graphical representation of data. ENGR 100 provides students with an introduction to the problem-solving methods that engineers use when applying scientific principles for the creation of realistic solutions to everyday technical problems.

Eighteen Jackson Prep students have enrolled in the fall engineering course and are excited about the possibilities of learning new skills.

“I am not sure that I will pursue engineering as part of my career, but I thought it would be beneficial to try it while I can still consider it as a field of study,” said Alex Russell, a senior from Ridgeland. “I enjoy being creative, and to me, engineering sounded like an opportunity to take a science class that embraced this passion.”

Russell said his career plan is to do something in film production, but that he’s still figuring out his options.

“That is why I am going to take this class with an open mind,” he said. “Who knows? I might end up changing my focus onto a more engineering-type career.”

Jackson Prep senior Lila Burton of Brandon echoed Russell’s optimism about the course.

“I enrolled in the course to learn more about engineering because I have gained an interest in what it is,” she said. “I hope to major in political science and have a career in international relations.”

Courses at Prep will mirror the courses at Ole Miss each semester, so that students at both campuses can have the same educational experience, said Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services in the engineering school.

“The courses are meant to give students a better sense and understanding of the opportunities and careers available to them if they earn a degree in engineering or a related field,” Upshaw said. “They will also help them identify if their interests and skills are a good fit for the field.”

Founded in 1900, the UM School of Engineering has been educating engineers for more than 110 years, is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology and offers seven degree programs. School officials hope to develop partnerships with more schools throughout the state to continue to expand STEM education in Mississippi.

Founded in 1970, Jackson Preparatory School was the first and continues to be the largest secondary independent school in the Jackson metropolitan area. Established as a premier coeducational college preparatory day school for grades 7-12, it has exhibited more than four decades of excellence in education and has more National Merit semifinalists and finalists than any other school in Mississippi.

For more information, contact the School of Engineering at 662-915-7407.

ChE Graduate Staying at UM for Law School

Sneed seeking juris doctor and career with successful firm


Lindsey Sneed

At a time when many University of Mississippi engineering graduates are securing their first position with an engineering company or pursuing graduate work in their fields, Lindsey Sneed of Jonesboro, Arkansas, is taking a different route.

Sneed, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, is staying in Oxford to begin studies at the UM School of Law, where she received a generous scholarship.

After considering the University of Arkansas for her undergraduate work, Sneed chose to attend the Ole Miss because of the opportunities available through the School of Engineering and the affordability of the university. She is confident that her engineering school experience will be beneficial as she pursues her law degree.

“Being a student in the School of Engineering has taught me a completely different way to approach and solve problems,” Sneed said. “Reasoning skills are key to the successful practice of law, and I feel that the Ole Miss School of Engineering has taught me that there is no problem too big or too hard.”

Sneed’s short-term goals include completing her law degree and passing the bar exam. She would also like to live in a larger city (such as Nashville, Tennessee) and join a reputable firm with an environmental or intellectual property practice. Ultimately, Sneed hopes to become a law firm partner or begin her own practice.

As an undergraduate, she has developed a passion for environmental engineering. She participated in a study abroad program at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom that focused on the field. She said she believes that the increasing interest in sustainable energy practices will lead to new technological advancements that require patent protection.

“While abroad at Leeds, I learned a lot about alternative energy, as well as the practicality and feasibility of different types of energy: solar, hydro, tidal, and wind power,” Sneed said. “The use of biomass as a fuel source was also touched upon.

“It was very interesting to analyze climate trends, and then discuss the different ways to try and fix some of the damage we’ve done over the past few decades. It was very much an ‘engineering’ approach to climate change.”

During her time outside of class, Sneed was involved with the Associated Student Body, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and Mock Trial, and she served as treasurer of the Society of Women Engineers. She credits John O’Haver, director of UM’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education and professor of chemical engineering; and Peter Sukanek, professor of chemical engineering, for their mentoring and advice during her undergraduate experience.