UM Hosts State Robotics Competition this Weekend

Center for Mathematics and Science Education prepares for fifth annual FIRST Tech Challenge

Mississippi middle and high school students compete during the 2016 FIRST Tech Challenge at UM. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Middle and high school students from across the state will compete in Mississippi’s fifth annual FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition Saturday (March 4) at the University of Mississippi.

Hosted by UM’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education, judging begins at 7 a.m. in Tad Smith Coliseum. Public events begin at 10 a.m., and the competition runs through 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Two dozen teams of students, ranging from seventh to 12th grade, will pilot their robots with the hopes of qualifying for FIRST’s South Super Regional competition in Athens, Georgia, later this month. This year’s game is dubbed Velocity Vortex, a challenge where robots are programmed to push or lift different sized balls in a specially designed arena.

“Our goal is to inspire students into learning because we are losing our engineering group,” said Mannie Lowe, FIRST program manager at the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. “Our engineers are aging out and no one is coming up to fill the void in this country.”

The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, nonprofit organization was founded 25 years ago by inventor Dean Kaman in an effort to build interest in STEM fields.

Teams comprise up to 15 people, and any organization can form a team, not just schools. Students are guided by teachers, coaches, mentors and community members. Teams must design and build their own robots, keep an engineer’s notebook and do some kind of outreach to promote STEM careers.

“I guarantee you, part of my group would not have otherwise thought about a STEM career beforehand,” said Holly Reynolds, team mentor for Bigweld’s Bots and associate dean for the UM College of Liberal Arts.

Bigweld’s Bots is an all-female team featuring members of Girl Scout Troop 33016, one of two Girl Scout trrops in the state that does robotics. The two troops soon will be featured on “Mississippi Roads” a PBS show.

During the competition, teams of two face off against each other. This allows teams to learn how to work with other teams and enjoy healthy competition at the same time.

Each match plays for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. For the first 30 seconds, the robots operate autonomously, then they are operated by the students through handheld driver controllers for the final two minutes.

The robots can be built out of virtually any material as long as teams follow regulation rules. In the past, some teams have built their robots out of PVC pipe, wood and aluminum. However, the competition is about more than just robots.

“The fun in my job is watching and working with the kids,” Lowe said. “When you see their ‘aha!’ light come on, it is amazing. It’s the realization that they can do this. They can build, they can program, they can design.

“Once they realize that, the world is theirs. They can do whatever they want.”

In the past, Mississippi teams have done well at FIRST Super Regional competitions. Last year, a Mississippi team won the Inspire Award, the highest given in the competition.

Some 5,000 teams participate worldwide, and the program has grown tremendously in Mississippi, where only four teams took part in the challenge five years ago.

Students begin designing and building their robots in September when the theme is announced. Last-minute changes are normal, and teams keep working to improve their robots until the competition begins.

“FIRST events are part rock concert, part NASCAR race because of the sponsor logos and team numbers on the side of each robot,” Lowe said. “They are also part chess tournament, due to each team’s different strategy, and just general fun. It’s a big party.”

Chinese Flagship Program to Present Teaching Success in San Francisco

UM program uses technology to help students improve overall reading, writing and listening skills

Henrietta Yang, co-director of the UM Chinese Flagship Program, is among those presenting classroom technologies in San Francisco in March. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Representatives of the University of Mississippi’s Chinese Language Flagship Program will travel to San Francisco March 9-10 to participate in a workshop hosted by the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center at the University of Hawaii.

Language programs from across the country will work together to identify best practices for technology integration and give priority to the effective use of blended learning, the feasibility of extending practice across languages and the likelihood of adoption by students and other instructors.

UM Chinese Language Flagship Program co-director Henrietta Yang, flagship instructor Rongrong Hao and flagship capstone-bound student Brendan Ryan have been invited to present “A Flipped Course through Blackboard Discussion Board.”

Yang said one of the most successful practices she has implemented involving technology includes posting video resources and reading materials to the Blackboard discussion board, allowing students to report what they’ve learned and discuss the video and supplemented articles.

“Since students learn at different rates and have diverse learning styles, technologies play an important role in helping to enhance language learning and to differentiate instruction, as well as to increase learning motivation,” Yang said. “In this type of classroom setting, time is allotted less to directly teaching the material and more toward finessing the skills students have discovered on their own prior to class.”

Using using this method, students have improved their overall reading, writing and listening skills outside of class, allowing them to use the target language as much as possible to communicate in the classroom, Yang said.

“Every student made significant progress after one semester’s training,” she said. “Students have commented that this kind of learning not only provides a tremendous sense of accomplishment, but also provides great fun.”

The Tech Center will provide financial support for all Ole Miss participants, including a student travel stipend.

UM Chemistry Department Achieves National Recognition for Diversity

Stanley C. Israel Regional Award recognizes engagement of minorities and women in the field

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has attracted several top female honors students to the program through its biochemistry emphasis. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communication

OXFORD, Miss. – Mixing people, like chemicals, can yield either victorious or violent results. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi has done so successfully and recently was nationally recognized for its achievements.

The American Chemical Society presented the department with its Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the Southeastern Region. The department received a plaque and $1,000 to continue its efforts.

“We are honored that the department’s long-term and continued commitment to increasing diversity in a central STEM discipline has been recognized with this significant award,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The nomination package submitted by the UM local section of ACS included a number of accolades, which were the direct result of the department’s longstanding efforts to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities in chemistry. Of particular note was the hiring of Davita Watkins, the department’s first African-American woman as an assistant professor, in 2014.

Three recent African-American graduates, Margo Montgomery-Richardson, Kari Copeland and Shana Stoddard, were hired as assistant professors at Alcorn State University, Allen University and Rhodes College, respectively.

Also, a former summer program participant, Sharifa T. Love-Rutledge, who at the time was a Tougaloo College undergraduate, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to earn a chemistry degree at the University of Alabama.

Overall, five African-Americans and one Hispanic, three of whom are women, earned their chemistry doctorates from the Ole Miss chemistry department over a one-year period in 2012-13.

Other notable achievements include a graduate population that has maintained a 30 percent to 50 percent female and a 10 percent to 15 percent minority rate over the past five years and an undergraduate forensic chemistry program where 76 percent of the majors are women.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has produced several African-American doctoral graduates in recent years, including (front row, from left) Shana Stoddard, Kari Copeland, Jeffrey Veal and Margo Montgomery. Also shown (back row, from left) are professors Greg Tschumper, Walter Cleland, Steven Davis and Maurice Eftink. Submitted photo

“The department has vigorously adopted a number of new strategies to recruit underrepresented students into the chemistry program,” said Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“There is a new awards celebration, which, in 2015 alone, recognized 32 female undergraduate chemistry students. The department has implemented a ‘welcome to school’ picnic for undergraduate chemistry students, which also has increased the number of women and minority chemistry majors.”

Further, the department recently modified its ACS-accredited Bachelor of Science in Chemistry program to have an optional biochemistry emphasis to attract pre-med students, which resulted in women becoming nearly half those majors.

Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, commended the department for its efforts and subsequent recognition.

“Congratulations to the department for receiving this honor,” Caldwell said. “Your efforts will contribute greatly to the university’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and equity.”

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has more than 500 undergraduate chemistry majors and nearly 50 graduate students. It offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The UM local section of the ACS in north Mississippi encompasses 21 counties. The chapter’s goals focus on meaningful social and professional relationships between chemistry-related professionals including high school and college students, teachers at all levels of the chemical sciences and professional chemists.

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit http://chemistry.olemiss.edu/.

Southern Studies Center Launches M.F.A. in Documentary Expression

New UM program teaches the intersection of documentary skills and scholarly approaches

The new MFA program in documentary expression allows students to use their documentary skills, including photography, oral history and filmmaking. Photo by David Wharton

OXFORD, Miss. – A new Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Expression begins this fall at the University of Mississippi, and prospective students are encouraged to apply before the April 13 deadline.

The new degree, housed at the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, will be a two-year, 30-hour graduate program that combines three forms of training.

Some classes will emphasize documentary production, with advanced training in photography, film and audio production. Some classes will emphasize the study of particular subjects. Also, students will spend about half their hours in the program completing a documentary project.

“We are excited to offer this opportunity, particularly because it grows out of the interest our students have increasingly expressed over the years,” said Katie McKee, the center’s graduate student adviser, McMullan Associate Professor of Southern Studies and associate professor of English. “They have found photography, oral history and filmmaking invigorating ways to explore region and place, and this degree will formalize the centrality of documentary work to our curriculum.”

As the proposal for the new M.F.A. states, “The degree emphasizes the skills – observing, listening, storytelling and understanding context and multiple perspectives – that are central to the Southern studies program.

“The degree program does not simply teach technical skills to Southern studies students or teach interdisciplinary techniques to documentarians. Rather, the degree program teaches the intersection of documentary skills and scholarly approaches so students who already have an advanced degree can conceptualize and complete documentary projects of exceptional quality.”

The new program allows students to learn documentary methods within the cultural studies framework that the center has developed for decades, said Andy Harper, director of the Southern Documentary Project.

“It recognizes and combines a few of the things we do best and allows us to pass those skills on to a new generation of storytellers,” Harper said.

A unique feature of this program is that it includes interdisciplinary study of the American South while also requiring that students master some of the skills of documentary work. Students will need to show an academic understanding of their subject as part of doing their films, photography and audio documentary work.

Students can enter the M.F.A. program only if they already have a Master of Arts in the humanities, social sciences or journalism. Students with master’s degrees in Southern studies likely will be among the students, but the program will accept students with graduate training in numerous disciplines.

“This program will offer a new generation of students who are actively studying something specific about the South an excellent opportunity to tell the rest of world what they have learned in new – personal, nontraditional and exciting – ways,” said David Wharton, the center’s director of documentary studies.

The impetus for the new degree came from several directions, said Ted Ownby, the center’s director.

First, Southern studies faculty and staff have been doing documentary work throughout the center’s history, dating back to the films and photography founding director Bill Ferris was making at Ole Miss in the 1970s, he said. Today, documentary work is the backbone of the oral histories, ethnographic work, films and photographic work of numerous faculty members, along with the filmmakers in the Southern Documentary Project, the interviews and photography of Living Blues magazine, and the oral histories, films, podcasts and publications of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Students thinking about documentary work might look to the center’s multimedia documentary website Mississippi Stories at http://mississippistories.org/, the films of the Southern Documentary Project, and the films, podcasts and oral history work of the Southern Foodways Alliance as examples.

“Second, many of our students have asked for the M.F.A. or something like it,” Ownby said. “Several have said they are becoming comfortable with some documentary skills just as it’s time to wrap up their M.A. theses.

“Third and more broadly, we live in an age in which technology allows all of us to be documentarians. One could make a good argument that documentary skills represent a new type of literacy. So this M.F.A. degree will bring together people who already know how to study social and cultural issues and turn them loose to do great things.”

The program will start on a limited scale in fall 2017 and have a full range of classes beginning in 2018. Students can apply at http://gradschool.olemiss.edu/.

UM Professors Receive IHL Excellence in Diversity Awards

Sociologist Willa Johnson and health clinician Hamed Benghuzzi lauded at ceremonies in Jackson

Willa Johnson (center), UM associate professor of sociology, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. She is congratulated by (from left) IHL trustee Shane Hooper and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty members at the University of Mississippi and the university’s Medical Center have been honored with diversity awards by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Willa Johnson, associate professor of sociology, and Hamed Benghuzzi, professor and chair of clinical health sciences, were recognized at the IHL’s Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony Feb. 16 in Jackson. Each was presented a plaque by Shane Hooper, IHL trustee and chair of the Diversity Committee.

“Dr. Johnson and Dr. Benghuzzi make a profound difference on the students at the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” Hooper said. “They are committed to ensuring that all students are welcomed and provided every opportunity to succeed. Their dedication creates a better campus climate for all students, faculty and visitors.”

Both Johnson and Benghuzzi said they were humbled by their recognitions.

“I was surprised by the news,” Johnson said. “It is a wonderful honor. None of what has been done would be possible without the stalwart support of my department chair, Dr. Kirsten Dellinger, and my friends and colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who are always willing to do whatever they can to further the work of awareness and learning about diversity and inclusion.”

“I was extremely surprised and had no idea who nominated me,” Benghuzzi said. “I am so humbled and thankful to all who nominated me and to the UMMC leadership for allowing me to be part of a team that promotes diversity and inclusion.”

Each IHL member institution, as well as UMMC and Mississippi State University Division of Agricultural, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, submitted one nomination for consideration to the board of trustees Diversity Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on positive contributions to the campus and the state and advancing diversity among their respective institutions.

Johnson serves on the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women and in other university capacities. However, she considers her diversity-related work as a natural extension of her research and teaching.

Dr. Hamed Benghuzzi (second from right), professor and chair of clinical health sciences at UMMC, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. He is congratulated by (from left) Shane Hooper, IHL trustee; Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; and UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

She teaches courses on Judaism, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, disability, racism and religion, and also mentors students and faculty on the UM campus and at other universities. She utilizes every opportunity to champion equality and equal rights.

“In other words, this is not a ‘me’ award; it is a campuswide award,” Johnson said. “We live in a space that has a painful racial history, but as folks who have inherited that history we are focused on making a positive difference in the state of Mississippi.

“I simply try to cobble together different groups of campus partners and outside funders to work on issues of mutual concern.”

Benghuzzi’s achievements in diversity include serving as adviser to more than 40 Ph.D. students, a mentor to Jackson-area high school students in UMMC’s Base Pair program and a mentor for Jackson State University’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. He also was a mentor for a National Science Foundation-funded biomedical science program for minority high school students.

“I have always believed diversity constitutes strength in the academic setting,” Benghuzzi said. “I have received many national and state awards throughout my career, but this award is most meaningful because I was nominated by people who believe I have demonstrated that all people, regardless of their social status, gender, race or religion, should be treated equally.”

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of trustee Karen Cummins in recognition that Cummins’ life epitomized what the award is all about: helping to improve Mississippi’s communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit. Cummins was appointed to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning in 2012 by Gov. Phil Bryant and served with commitment and dedication until her recent death.

Johnson was nominated by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. Benghuzzi was nominated by Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs.

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts at UM, go to http://diversity.olemiss.edu/. For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at cblanton@mississippi.edu.

 

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.”

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/.

Chemistry of Milk Topic of UM Science Cafe for February

Chemistry professor and student team up for second presentation of spring semester

Chemistry professor Susan Pedigo will discuss the chemistry of milk and dairy products for this month’s Science Cafe. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The chemistry of dairy products is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Susan Pedigo, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, along with Lemuel Tsang, a senior biochemistry major from D’Iberville, will discuss “The Chemistry of Milk.” Admission is free.

“Through the millennia, human cultures have exploited one biomolecule or another to create a wide range of foods from milk,” Pedigo said. “We will cover a diverse range of topics, including the incredible origin of milk, butter and its close cousin, margarine, and the art of cheese-making.”

Pedigo and Tsang’s 30-minute presentation will tour the chemistry of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in milk. They were motivated to discuss this topic to encourage recognition of the beauty and complexity in the ordinary.

“We tend to take milk for granted, but there are a surprising number and a diverse range of edible products made from milk,” she said. “Since it can support the growth and maturation of a new mammalian creature, it has water and all the required nutrients for life: proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.”

Pedigo said that food is really an interest for her.

“Why is some cheese stringy and other cheese crumbly?” she said. “We have been discussing the chemistry of food since Lemuel took biochemistry last year.”

The presentation should be captivating for all, said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy and organizer of the Science Cafe series.

“Dr. Pedigo shares knowledge in a fascinating and yet understandable manner,” Cavaglia said. “Her discussion on milk and its by-products should be most enlightening.”

Pedigo earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Colorado, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Iowa. Before coming to Ole Miss, she was a postdoctoral scientist at Vanderbilt University

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-7046.

Former UM Director Receives Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Ferris to be honored at 2017 Governor's Arts Awards

Bill Ferris (left) looks over a copy of Living Blues magazine with blues great B.B. King during a visit by King to the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, when Ferris was director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William R. Ferris, the preeminent scholar and documenter of Mississippi’s rich culture, music and folklore, has been documenting the lives of Mississippians for more than 50 years. On Feb. 16, the Mississippi Arts Commission will honor him with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Ferris is a scholar, author, documentary filmmaker and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. For him, the award is linked to the center in a deep and wonderful way, as well as to the Oxford community.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I know it would never have happened without the work I was blessed to do at the University of Mississippi and at the center,” Ferris said. “It was a special period in my life that connected me to Mississippi in ways that were very special and very moving, and I know full well that the friendships I was able to share there are a big part of why I was selected for this honor.”

The award is an opportunity to look back and appreciate more deeply what one’s life’s work represents, since in the moment, totally engaged and working, it can be difficult to see where things will land, said Ferris, who was on the Ole Miss faculty from 1979 to 1998.

Southern studies students are leading various areas in new and exciting ways, said Ferris, who keeps up with the program’s students and alumni.

“I look around the state, the region and the nation and know there are powerful voices that were shaped at the center and by the Southern studies program,” he said.

Ferris grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg and developed an early love of storytelling, books, art and music. In 1997, he became chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton.

Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina.

The 2017 recipients will be recognized at the 29th annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson at 6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 16). A public reception at 4:30 precedes the awards.

“When I first found myself out in the cultural landscape of Mississippi’s vast richness, Bill was already there, established and knee-deep in the exploration of art and culture,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “Bill is a pathfinder and an icon of this work, and I am proud to be at the helm of MAC on this occasion of his recognition.”

Other award recipients include Sammy Britt (MFA art ’66), Excellence in Visual Art; Vasti Jackson, Arts Ambassador; Lucy Richardson Janoush, Arts Patron; Jaimoe Johnie Johnson, Excellence in Music; and the Mississippi Opera, Artistic Excellence.

“Because these six recipients have made a significant and lasting impact on our state’s arts culture, it is fitting to recognize them during Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration,” White said.

Ferris is the author of 10 books, including “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), “You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget it All: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules, and Men” (Anchor Books, 1992) and his latest, “The South in Color: A Visual Journey” (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities and France’s Chevalier and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters. The Blues Hall of Fame recognized his book “Blues from the Delta” (Anchor Press, 1978) as one of the classics of blues literature.

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations for the excellence of their work in a wide variety of art forms including visual, literary and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.

History Professor Awarded Prestigious NEH Fellowship

Jarod Roll among nation's top scholars chosen for distinction

History professor Jarod Roll has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jarod Roll, associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a coveted fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The yearlong fellowship allows scholars in the humanities to focus solely on their research or writing. Of the 1,298 scholars who applied for the 2017 fellowship, only 86 – less than 7 percent – were chosen for the award. Roll, a highly regarded historian of modern America with a focus on labor in U.S. history, joined the faculty in the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History in 2014.

He plans to use his fellowship, which begins in August, to complete a book project, tentatively titled “American Metal Miners and the Lure of Capitalism 1850-1950.” Roll is exploring the history of the white working-class anti-unionism and conservatism movements in the Tri-State Mining District of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, a region that was national leader in the production of zinc and lead.

“Unlike miners elsewhere in the United States, the Tri-State miners resisted unionization and government reforms for over a century,” he said. “I am particularly interested in how their ideas about capitalism, as well as ethnicity and gender, influenced these views.

“Scholars in my field of labor history have not given much attention to workers who opposed unions, particularly over an extended period. My research fills that gap. It’s important, I think, to understand that white working-class conservatism is not a recent development, as some commentators would have it, but rather a subject with a deep history that we can trace back into the middle of the 19th century.”

“We are very proud of Dr. Roll’s achievement and what it represents for the university’s legacy of academic excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “This fellowship is one of the most coveted and competitive awards in the humanities, and Dr. Roll’s selection by the NEH is further evidence of his standing as one of the top humanities researchers in the country.”

The honor also is important because of the role humanities play in understanding and applying arts and sciences in today’s world, said Lee Cohen, dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts

“Research in the humanities helps us not only to contextualize development in the sciences, innovations in technology and advances in medicine, it offers us an opportunity to recognize that the work being done on campus by our faculty has a broad reach, beyond the laboratory, beyond the studies and beyond the classroom,” Cohen said.

“This work influences how we understand ourselves in very real, very tangible ways that impact our everyday lives. Dr. Roll being chosen for this well-regarded NEH fellowship indicates that his work is being recognized at the highest level, which is consistent with an R1 institution.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said William D. Adams, NEH chairman. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

Roll has previously authored two books “Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South” (University of Illinois Press, 2010) and “The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America” (University of Illinois Press, 2011).