Graduate Student Council Hosting Annual Research Symposium Thursday

Nearly 60 students slated to present projects

The Graduate Student Council is hosting its seventh annual research symposium Thursday at the Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Graduate Student Council at the University of Mississippi is hosting its seventh annual research symposium from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday (March 2) at the Inn at Ole Miss.

The symposium acts as a mini-conference, allowing graduate students to discuss their research through podium and poster presentations in the categories of social sciences, education, business, accounting, physical and life sciences, arts, humanities, journalism, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

“Events like this are very important for the professional development of graduate students,” said Christy Wyandt, interim dean of the Graduate School. “It gives them an opportunity to practice presenting, to network with faculty and students outside their departments, and to receive constructive advice about their research from peers and faculty.”

The 59 students participating in podium and poster presentations will be competing for $3,000 in academic conference travel awards, co-sponsored by the GSC and the Graduate School, given to the first- and second-place winners in each category. Faculty members and postdoctoral researchers will judge presentations based on content, organization and delivery.

“By presenting, the student also gets the experience of having to explain their research, methodology and results,” said Alexandros Vasios Sivvopoulos, GSC president. “We often have a very clear idea of what a project looks like in our own mind, but explaining it to someone that does not know as much is a whole different story.”

Winners will be announced early next week.

“In February 2016, our university was included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities, and I believe research carried out by our graduate students is an important component and driver of this success,” said Yelda Serinagaoglu, director of academic and professional development for the GSC.

“Events such as ours give students an opportunity to share their research with the university community, sharpen their presentation skills, get feedback from their peers and the faculty, and network. It’s also a day away from the laboratories or classrooms to socialize with each other.”

Students to Give Back to L-O-U Community through the Big Event

Annual day of service expected to draw nearly 2,000 participants

UM students work on landscaping as part of The Big Event, a day students dedicate to community service and building relationships with the citizens of Oxford. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Hundreds of University of Mississippi students are expected for this year’s installment of The Big Event, the largest day of community service in the state of Mississippi, to say “thank you” to the Oxford and Lafayette County communities.

Set for March 25, The Big Event begins at 8 a.m. at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Students will volunteer for various projects throughout the community, including painting homes, organizing garages, helping with yard work and cleaning up highways.

“The Big Event is about service and gratitude to the community for everything they do for us,” said Alex Martin, a senior from Madison who is one of this year’s co-directors of the initiative. “I think this is a really cool way to let students meet the community. I love getting to hear them talk about who they met and what they did.”

The Big Event began in 2011 with about 1,000 students volunteering. Martin, who is majoring in mathematics and international studies with minors in Arabic and economics, and co-director Miller Richmond began planning this year’s event soon after last year’s event in the hopes to make it the most successful yet.

Some 1,700 students have registered for this year’s day of service, and organizers hope to reach at least 2,000 volunteers.

Martin and Richmond look forward to seeing the impact not only upon the community, but also their fellow students. They said they hope the Big Event will lead to students continuing to volunteer their time to other projects in the future.

“We always work closely with the city, county, local nonprofits and residents,” said Richmond, a senior from Madison who is majoring in international studies with minors in Arabic and chemistry. “A lot of students get that first taste of community service and then they realize they want to come back again.”

Ole Miss students interested in volunteering for the event should sign up through the myOleMiss portal. Once signed in, they should select the “Get Involved” tab, click on “Big Event Volunteer Registration” and complete the form. The deadline to register is Friday (March 3), but walk-ins are welcome on the day of the event.

Volunteers get breakfast and a free T-shirt before heading out to work on a variety of projects.

Community members interested in registering a project should visit http://www.bigevent.olemiss.edu and click “Register Projects” to fill out the form. The deadline is March 3.

Major corporate sponsors for The Big Event include The Hub, C Spire and Heritage Properties. Many other businesses and campus organizations have contributed to the effort, organizers said.

For more information on the Big Event, visit http://www.bigevent.olemiss.edu. To view a video from the 2016 Big Event, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMd6sITeV7Q.

UM School of Engineering Teams with Tech Firms for STEM Initiative

New E2I programs aim to attract underserved youth and educators to university

Civil engineering professor and CAIT Director Waheed Uddin (center) is the UM point of contact for a developing partnership between the School of Engineering and GroupNotions LLC.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and two technology companies are working together to create a program aimed at attracting more underrepresented youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

The engineering school, in partnership with GroupNotions LLC and Group HI LLC, is launching Engineering and Innovation Initiative, or E2I, programs to increase the number of underrepresented students interested in pursuing STEM careers, ultimately increasing workforce diversity.

E2I programs will include meeting and working with faculty, alumni and industry leaders to provide opportunities for 10th-grade students and high school teachers to gain insights into the type of science, engineering, technology and manufacturing jobs and skill sets that will be in demand in coming years.

Initially, the programs will include students and educators in Mississippi, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

“We are very excited to work with GroupNotions and Group HI,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM School of Engineering. “Collaborating with these advanced technology companies to provide a new approach for students and educators is a potential game changer for our school and will enable us to learn how to inspire future generations best.”

Based in Honolulu, GroupNotions teams with distinguished institutions and large corporations to develop and position advanced security and surveillance nanotechnologies. An Anchorage, Alaska-based firm, Group HI designs and shapes advanced nanotechnology solutions for the military, transportation and critical infrastructure industries.

An E2I advisory board, composed of government, institution, industry and community leaders, is being formed to address operational and financial support for the program. Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Technology, will represent Ole Miss on the board.

Representatives from both firms said they are excited about collaborating with the university.

“This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with a major global institution that shares our vision of increasing workforce diversity in advanced technologies,” said Dan Akiu, managing partner for GroupNotions and executive director and a member of the E2I Core Team.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit http://www.engineering.olemiss.edu.

For more about GroupNotions and Group HI, go to http://www.GroupNotions.com and http://www.GroupHI.net.

RebelTHON Fundraiser Shatters Goal

UM dance marathon raises more than $172,000 for Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital

UM students dance the night away during RebelTHON 2017. The annual marathon fundraiser generated more than $172,000 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The annual RebelTHON charity fundraiser celebrated hope and generated more of the same for ailing children by exceeding the $150,000 goal set for the dance marathon.

After last year’s event almost doubled its goal to raise $60,000, RebelTHON organizers set the bar high this year with a goal of $150,000. When the final tally came in around 3 a.m. Sunday (Feb. 19), participants had eclipsed that mark, bringing in $172,169.22 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center.

“It was always the expectation to not only meet our goal, but to surpass it,” said Charlie Walker, a UM senior from Carmel, Indiana, and 2016-17 development director for RebelTHON. “It was a really awesome feeling to know that we did exactly what we set out to do for the kids.”

Ole Miss students danced nonstop for 12 hours beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb 18) at the Turner Center. During each hour, students listened as families shared their stories and experiences from Batson.

The visiting children danced and played games with the students throughout the night. Members of the Ole Miss football, baseball, basketball and track and field teams, plus cheerleading and Rebelette squads came out to spend time with the children, walking them down the runway for a surprise fashion show, posing for photos and signing autographs for the families.

Ken and Brittney Bullock, of Pearl, attended RebelTHON for the first time with their son Colton, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 3 years old.

“Batson means the world to us because it was right there in our backyard, and we didn’t even really know it was there,” Ken Bullock said. “We have a jewel right here in Jackson, and the money being raised is awesome.”

This year, part of the money raised at RebelTHON is going to the renovation of the Children’s Cancer Clinic at Batson Hospital. The center has not been updated since the 1990s.

“So Batson is about to expand and it’s going to get a new cancer clinic,” Ken Bullock said. “It’s awesome that part of this money is going straight to that. It’s so great that these students danced the night away and raised that money for Batson. It is truly a blessing.”

Angela Cook and daughter Analiese, both of Brookhaven, also were first-time RebelTHON participants. At age 3, Analiese was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Batson.

“You see this hospital and you hear all of the wonderful things, but until you are actually a part of it and you feel it, you can never really understand the magnitude of it and the effect that it has on this community and this place,” Angela Cook said. “That is why RebelTHON is so important in celebrating because this money goes straight to the kids, and these kids fight and fight hard and fight for their lives, and it’s the least we can do to give them the chance to fight.”

Brandi Mead, of Madison, attended RebelTHON for the second year with daughter Sydney, who was born with a rare genetic disease called Williams syndrome and had heart surgery only days after birth.

“We are so thankful for Batson and so blessed to be 10 minutes away from it because we have had many ER visits, and it is so great to know that we can get in the car, drive to Batson and be with all of her doctors,” Brandi Mead said.

At the beginning of the dance marathon, the children were introduced one by one and ran down a red carpet to the stage. RebelTHON is one of few dance marathons that brings children and their families to the events, said Andrew Russell, Children’s Miracle Network coordinator.

“I think RebelTHON is our most unique event, and it’s one of our cooler events for our patients,” Russell said. “These students literally roll out the red carpet for these kids.

“The money raised goes to a good cause, but the way they make these kids actually come to the event is so special. We are so appreciative of the students and we know they work hard throughout the year.”

The unique nature of RebelTHON makes it fun for participants, said Walker, who has been involved in the event every year at Ole Miss and has participated in similar dance marathons since middle school.

“The really cool thing about this organization is that it is unlike any other thing on this campus,” he said. “The ability to be so close to the cause, to see actually where your money is going and see and be a part of the difference you’re making is unprecedented to any other organization I have ever been a part of.”

“We work really hard all year putting on events, and it all culminates in this one night where we get to stand on our feet for 12 hours for kids who can’t stand for themselves. We are legitimately making a difference in the lives of these children and their families who really need it at Batson.”

Cooper Tire ‘Dream Team’ Visits UM

Manufacturer donated tire cutaway display to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Representatives from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. meet with UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence administrators and staff recently. Present were (front, from left) Scott Kilpatrick, Ross Blare, Jessica Sinak, Nicole Williams, Robert Haggerty, (back, from left) Ryan Miller, Tyler Biggs, Josh Lavanway, Matthew Fulmer and Randy Moore. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Expanding upon an already solid relationship with the University of Mississippi, the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. “Dream Team” visited the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence on Wednesday (Feb. 15).

Led by plant manager Robert Haggerty, six rising, early-career employees from the manufacturing firm’s Tupelo facility met with CME administrators and School of Engineering faculty members for an extended discussion and tour of the center. The Cooper group donated a sectional tire display, which shows the various layers of an SUV tire manufactured at the company’s Arkansas plant.

“Cooper Tire is a leading manufacturer with deep roots in Mississippi,” said Scott Kilpatrick, CME associate director of internal operations. “This concept certainly aligns with the mission of the CME in providing support to new and existing manufacturers in our state.

“This display will be important in demonstrating not only Cooper Tire makes their products, but it will also remind out students that there are exciting career paths available through the manufacturing sector right here in Mississippi.”

The “Dream Team” is a group of employees who visit middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities to inform students of career opportunities in manufacturing and with Cooper, Haggerty said.

Ole Miss chemical engineering alumni Nicole Williams, a Master SigmaSix Blackbelt; and Jessica Sinak, tire engineer; are on the team. Other members include Randy Moore, liability lead; Ross Blare, wire assembly utility; Josh Lavanway, VMI MAXX operator; and Matthew Fulmer, mechanical engineer.

“Through the ‘Dream Team,’ Cooper wants to show bright young students that they can find rewarding manufacturing opportunities right here in Mississippi,” Haggerty said. “Through automation in daily operations, we’re improving both the quality and increasing the quantity of tires we make.”

Sinak and Williams briefly explained the tire manufacturing process.

“Operators load raw materials into a mixing machine,” Sinak said. “Once the machine mixes the materials into rubber, it goes on to materials preparation, where the various tire components are made.”

The components go from material preparation into the VMI MAXX equipment.

“Inside the VMI MAXX, robots assemble the components into what we call a ‘green tire,” Williams said. “The green tires then go into a curing process where they are heated. Once they are done, the tires go to the finishing process.”

The VMI MAXX can assemble all the components into a “green” tire in seconds, Haggerty said.

“Each and every tire is placed on a test wheel, inspected and quality-checked before it is sent off to our warehouses,” he said. “Our goal is to build the best tire we possibly can in the fastest manner possible.”

The company’s longevity and the consistent quality of its products are cause for celebration, said Ryan Mille, CME associate director.

“Manufacturing, such as occurs at Cooper, has been ongoing in Mississippi for a long, long time,” Miller said. “The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence certainly want to continue contributing to the state’s economic growth by producing graduates who find stable jobs within the state of Mississippi.”

The CME was established in June 2008 to provide opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The center is developing interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that provides students with the practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative skill sets needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.

Cooper’s U.S. history dates back to 1914, when brothers-in-law John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart purchased M and M Manufacturing Co. in Akron, Ohio, producing tire patches, tire cement and repair kits. In 1915, Schaefer and Hart purchased The Giant Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, a tire rebuilding business, and two years later moved the business to Findlay, Ohio. The firm changed its name to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in 1946, and by July 11, 1960, the company became a publicly held corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more information about the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, visit http://www.cme.ms/. For more information about Cooper Tire, go to http://us.coopertire.com/.

UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

The business (including accounting) and engineering programs were also ranked nationally.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by CollegeMagazine.com)
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among both public and private colleges in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

University’s Annual Pack-a-thon Surpasses Goal

More than 1 million meals have been packed over seven-year campaign

Pack-a-thon volunteers fill meal bags at this year’s annual event. In seven years, more than  1 million meals have been prepared in Oxford for Feed the Hunger. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Seven years of diligent work paid off big time Saturday (Feb. 18) when a University of Mississippi-led Feed the Hunger campaign topped its goal to provide 1 million meals for impoverished children.

“We packed 180,000 meals,” said Emily Barnhnouse of Dallas, a sophomore business marketing major and chair for the event.

Roughly 700 Ole Miss students and Oxford-Lafayette County residents participated in the weekend packing sessions in the Oxford Intermediate School gym. Money for the event was raised through donations from campus organizations, local businesses and churches.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when we not only reached the goal of a million meals, but surpassed it,” Barnhouse said. “I shed tears of joy and happiness watching the community come together to make this goal achievable.”

UM was the first university in the nation to partner with the nonprofit organization in conducting pack-a-thon events. Since then, at least six other universities have also launched Feed-the-Hunger programs.

Workers (from left) Mary Rhodes Manley, Gracyn Perry, Witt Bolton, Mary Katherine Phillips and Lynlee Addy happily help pack nearly 200,000 meals during the Pack-a-thon. Submitted photo

A Mississippi State University student who participated in an Ole Miss pack-a-thon four years ago shared her experience with students on the Starkville campus. MSU conducted its first pack-a-thon two weekends ago.

“Over the years, it has been an honor to have the University of Mississippi partner with us to feed hungry children around the world,” said Melinda Staples, project manager at the organization’s headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. “We hope that this relationship continues to grow, impacting thousands of lives everywhere.”

Students who participate in the pack-a-thon often travel to other countries to make deliveries.

“The meals that are packed are now on an 18-wheeler and are waiting to be shipped overseas,” Barnhouse said. “Our packing number was ‘4,’ therefore we can track our boxes through photographs and see where it is and at what stages of the delivery process.”

Plans are already in the works for future pack-a-thons.

“We will be hosting at least two more events during this spring school semester to start raising funds for next year’s pack-a-thon,” Barnhouse said. “The next packing event will be taking place again at the end of February.

“Each year we try and make it bigger than the last. Next year, I believe the pack-a-thon chair will reach for an even higher packing goal.”

Cayla Hari, last year’s Pack-a-Thon chairperson, was among those who made the trip to Haiti in January. She described what she witnessed while visiting Haitian schools, orphanages and remote villages.

“Being able to make a difference beside those who are in your community is so rewarding,” said Harli, a junior psychology and Spanish major from Southaven.

“The need in Haiti is so great. One day, we witnessed school kids literally filling their pockets and backpacks with extra food in order to take it home to their starving families. It was heartbreaking.”

Hundreds from UM, Oxford and surrounding areas participate in the Feed the Hunger Pack-a-thon at Oxford Intermediate School. Submitted photo

Staples said she understands how deeply being involved with actual deliveries affects students.

“Actually seeing these malnourished children helps university students to briefly step out of their world and connects them to something great,” Staples said. “Most times, the meal delivered is the only one these children may eat the whole day. Sometimes, it’s the only one they have for an entire week.”

Barnhouse said participants also brought donations for the local program Love Packs, which provides meals for Oxford and Lafayette County school students who may not have meals over the weekend. Items being collected included Beanee Weenees, pop-top soup or ravioli, applesauce and granola bars.

“We’re showing the local community how passionate we are about feeding children that need it,” she said. “These people really need us. That’s the message we want to get across.”

To learn more about Feed the Hunger, go to http://www.feedthehunger.org/

Physicists to Gather for International Workshop at UM

Scientists from around the globe coming to Feb. 27-March 2 event on gravitational research

Luca Bombelli (left) and Marco Cavaglia are members of the Ole Miss Gravitational, Astrophysical and Theoretical Physics Group. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of esteemed scientists from around the globe are headed to the University of Mississippi for a four-day workshop on the latest in gravitational-wave astronomy, hosted by the UM Gravitation, Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The “Strong Gravity and Binary Dynamics with Gravitational Wave Observations” workshop convenes Feb. 27 to March 2 in the Yerby Conference Center. The event is supported in part by Emanuele Berti’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award and by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange Action network, funded by the European Union’s FP7 program.

“This network supports exchanges of gravity researchers among the participating nodes,” said Berti, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “In addition to Ole Miss, there are five nodes in Europe, one in in Japan and one in Canada. A dozen researchers will visit campus for a month before and after the workshop.”

About 50 scientists representing some 30 research agencies and institutions of higher learning are scheduled to attend. Researchers will discuss several topics in the newborn field of gravitational-wave astronomy, including the astrophysics of compact binary populations, spin measurements in compact binaries, strong-field tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and how to look for hints of new gravitational physics beyond Einstein’s theory.

U.S. registrants include researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, NASA, Montana State University, and the universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas at Dallas, among others.

International affiliates include Instituto Superior Técnico-Lisbon and University of Aveiro in Portugal; Sapienza University of Rome; Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris; the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham in England; Nagoya University in Japan; and Amsterdam University in the Netherlands.

Emanuele Berti is coordinating the international Strong Gravity Workshop at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Berti is well-known for his theoretical work in gravitational physics. He was invited to write a “Viewpoint” piece that accompanied the paper announcing the discovery of gravitational waves in the journal Physical Review Letters. Other scientists often visit the university to collaborate with him.

“Mauricio Richartz, a professor in Brazil, won a Fulbright fellowship to visit my group for four months in 2017,” Berti said. “Caio Macedo, a postdoc in Brazil, won an American Physical Society Travel Award to work with me this spring.”

Ole Miss physicists were part of the research collaboration that first detected gravitational waves in 2015. Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy, serves as assistant spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and was founding chair of its Education and Public Outreach and Diversity Committees.

The department’s standing in research circles is reflected in U.S. News’ 2017 listing of Best Global Universities, where the university is ranked No. 11 globally for overall international collaborations in physics. Also, the department’s faculty rank No. 6 in the world in terms of producing work that is cited by others in their research publications.

“Our department’s worldwide reputation and competitiveness has been increasing in recent years because of the quality of our research and our strong ties to global collaborations, and we have been able to attract high-quality faculty and graduate students with international backgrounds,” said Luca Bombelli, chair and associate professor of physics and astronomy.

These achievements continue to benefit the department as it branches out into new areas, says Josh Gladden, who joined the faculty in 2005 and is the university’s interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“When you raise the bar like that in a department, the standard becomes nationally and internationally recognized work, and that breeds more nationally and internationally recognized work,” said Gladden, also an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “If that’s what you’re around – your colleagues are publishing papers and getting invited to present at conferences around the world and being recognized for their contributions to their fields – then that’s the bar you’re going to try to jump over. It really elevates the work that everybody does.”

For more about the workshop, visit http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/StronGBaD/. For more about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to http://physics.olemiss.edu/.

Nominations for Sullivan Award for Community Service Due Feb. 24

Annual honors recognize students, alumni and local residents

OXFORD, Miss. – The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi is seeking nominations for The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

The award recognizes those who exhibit “nobility of character, exemplified by selfless service to others and the community.” UM will accept nominations through Feb. 24 for one student, either undergraduate or graduate; one alumnus; and one member of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community.

To nominate someone, visit the McLean Institute’s website. Recipients will be announced at 3 p.m. April 5 in the ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award nominations are due Feb. 24. Recipients of the community service award, which is given to one student, one alumnus and one member of the community, will be announced April 5. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Recognizing service is crucial to the mission of the McLean Institute, which supports transformation through service, said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director.

“This is UM’s fourth annual celebration of service recognition, and we’re proud to honor wonderful individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make lives better for others,” Nylander said. “The Sullivan Award is an opportunity to honor a student, an alumnus and community member who have made our community a better place because of their humble service.”

Last year, UM senior Ann-Marie Herod and alumna Barbara Wortham were honored.

Herod was double-majoring in broadcast journalism and African-American studies, served with the McLean Institute’s Horizons program, College Corps, Ole Miss Ambassadors and the Black Student Union, in addition to years of volunteer work.

Wortham is coordinator for the Adult Basic Literary Education program for the Lafayette County Literacy Council and a tutor and instructor who has helped more than 400 people get their GED, among other accomplishments. 

Like honorees in years past, ideal candidates are selfless and committed to improving life for others, said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. 

“The Sullivan Award honors individuals who place serve above self,” Martin said. “Sullivan Award recipients have distinguished themselves by embodying the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion.”

The honor was established in 1890 to recognize those who emphasize service to others before oneself, while also having integrity and being honest, moral, ethical, responsible, determined, courageous and compassionate. Those who do not actively seek recognition are prime candidates.

The award has been given for 130 years and is awarded at 72 colleges and universities across the South, said Steve McDavid, president of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. 

“The Sullivan Award is the highest nonacademic honor at most schools where it is given,” McDavid said. “The award recognizes and honors those that humbly serve others in their day-to-day life.”

RebelTHON Team Sets High Goal for Weekend Fundraiser

Annual event benefits Batson Children's Hospital; portion to help renovate cancer center

RebelTHON 2017 begins at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) at the Turner Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With last year’s RebelTHON fundraising event at the University of Mississippi almost doubling its goal, the bar is set high for the 2017 dance marathon to benefit the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center.

This year’s event begins at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) at the Turner Center. The entertainment will be similar to last year’s event, but some details are being kept secret in hopes of surprising the dancers and families.

“This year, we really wanted to get our name out to the students and faculty even more, which I think we accomplished through various events like bar nights, percentage nights and union tables on campus,” said Marianna Schmidt, a UM senior from Houston, Texas, and executive director of RebelTHON.

RebelTHON organizers have set a goal to raise $150,000 by the end of the 12-hour dance marathon.

“To build up anticipation since the dance is so close, we have taken down our thermometer showing our fundraising progress on the donor drive,” said Schmidt, a business management major.

The organizers to do something a little different with part of their donations this year. They will be giving some of the final total directly to help fund renovation of the hospital’s Children’s Cancer Center.

“It will provide a more comforting area for kids that sometimes spend days in the center,” Schmidt said. “The Cancer Clinic lobby hasn’t changed much since the ’90s, so it will be great for it to receive a facelift.”

The event is a major boost each year for the hospital, said Jennifer Hospodor, director of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and community-based fundraising for the UM Medical Center.

“RebelTHON is an enormous inspiration to our team, and more importantly, it inspires our patients,” Hospodor said. “To see this group of college students work together like they do, with different personalities and backgrounds, all for the sake of our patients, is extraordinary. And then to see how their hard work pays off in such a big way makes their efforts truly astounding.

“We are all so grateful for these students and the countless hours of hard work they put in for the kids. Inspiring may not cover it.”

 Anyone interested in attending the event should visit http://www.rebelthon.org and click “Register.” Participants can sign up until the day of the event, but each person must raise $100 in order to attend. For those who cannot attend the full dance marathon, a community block party is set for 6-9 p.m., when any student or member of the L-O-U community can pay $5 to see what RebelTHON is all about.

Anyone interested in donating to RebelTHON can go to the website and click “Donate.” The site allows donors to designate a specific dancer or give to the event in general. Donations will be accepted throughout the event until one hour before the final reveal.

Chili’s will host a RebelTHON percentage night tonight (Feb 15) at the restaurant on West Jackson Avenue. A flyer will be posted on social media that participants must show in order for RebelTHON to get a percentage of purchases.

“We would love to see people there getting ready for the dance,” Schmidt said.

To learn more about RebelTHON, go to http://www.rebelthon.org. To view a YouTube video from the 2016 Ole Miss RebelTHON, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAfak4pzGks.