Nouranian Joins Chemical Engineering Faculty

Former MSU postdoctoral researcher brings knowledge, experience to department

Sasan Nouranian conducting research in the Chemical Engineering laboratory.

Sasan Nouranian conducts research in the chemical engineering laboratory.

When Sasan Nouranian completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Amirkabir University of Technology, he was already in the fast track for academic advancement in higher education. Once he completed his doctorate at Mississippi State University and began working there, he was certain he would remain at MSU indefinitely.

Buy after three years as a postdoctoral associate and six months as an assistant research professor, Nourianian was offered an opportunity too good to pass up. This fall, he became the newest assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

“In the ‘Meet the Faculty’ poster session of the 2013 annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, I was introduced to Dr. (Paul) Scovazzo,” he said. “I learned about an open assistant professor position at Ole Miss, and I later applied.”

Nouranian accepted the position because he knew the university well and was collaborating with Ole Miss faculty while at MSU.

“I saw a potential for growth and an excellent opportunity to build a multidisciplinary research group at Ole Miss,” Nouranian said.

Nouranian is a welcome addition to the chemical engineering department, said Clint Williford, chair and professor of chemical engineering.

“Dr. Nouranian’s expertise combines molecular modeling and experimentation in the material science field,” Williford said. “He adds a new facet to the capabilities supporting our strategic vision. Energetic new professors, such as Sasan, will play an important role in rejuvenating our department into the future.”

Sasan Nouranian enjoys family time with his wife, daughter and son.

Nouranian enjoys family time with his wife, daughter and son.

Nouranian is teaching Introduction to Chemical Engineering I, a freshman course with 80 students divided into two sections, this fall. In the spring, he plans to teach Plant Design II, as senior course in chemical engineering.

“My short-term goals are to establish my own research lab and recruit graduate students to get my research started,” Nouranian said. “My long-term goals are threefold. I want to find better ways to interact with students and help them realize their potential and succeed. I want to establish a polymer processing lab as well as a molecular dynamics simulation lab to conduct multidisciplinary experimental and computational materials research, advance the graduate program in the department, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.

“With respect to service, I want to make contributions to the university, my professional society and my community in general.”

Among his many professional achievements, Nouranian said he is most proud of having had opportunities to collaborate with internationally renowned scholars in the field of computational materials research.

“I was involved in a pioneering work on the development of an interatomic potential for polymers,” Nouranian said. “I am excited to advance this work further and establish my computational materials group at Ole Miss.”

When not at work, Nouranian enjoys reading books and spending time with his wife, their 4-year old daughter and 10-month old son.


Power Broker: EE Alumnus is General Manager of Area Utility

Keith Hayward has been with NEMEPA since 1988

Keith Hayward

Keith Hayward

When Keith Hayward earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mississippi in 1987, he found employment as an engineer and assistant to the general manager of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association. Twenty-six years and many promotions later, the successful alumnus is general manager and chief executive officer of the cooperative.

Remembering where he came from, Hayward readily acknowledged the role Ole Miss engineering faculty played in his professional development and career longevity.

“Charles Smith (the late chair emeritus and professor emeritus of electrical engineering at UM) was a very good person, as well as professor,” Hayward said. “He was instrumental in my decision to change from chemical engineering to electrical engineering. That decision that allowed me to land at NEMEPA, continue with our families’ farming business and remain in Oxford to take care of my parents, who have both recently passed.”

A lifelong resident of Oxford, Hayward briefly worked for a lighting manufacturer in Tupelo before joining NEMEPA in 1988. At the time, the utility had approximately 10,000 meters, 1,600 miles of line and a net utility plant value of $16 million.

“I was promoted to manager of operations at the age of 27 and was soon in charge of overseeing restoration from the largest disaster ever to strike north Mississippi, the 1994 ice storm,” he said. “In 2006, I was promoted to manager of engineering, operation and IT, and began the implementation of many new technologies that have made North East Power one of the most advanced distribution systems in the Tennessee Valley.”

As general manager-CEO, Hayward oversees the total operations of the fastest-growing cooperative in Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley.

“We now provide electric service to nearly 24,000 meters over 2,000 miles of line and have a net utility plant of $83 million,” he said. “My duties have moved away from engineering, although I am still heavily involved in the final decision on expansion and upgrade projects.”

NEMEPA is constantly working on forecasting models to make sure its capital projects will meet the needs of the current and future members of the association, Hayward said. In doing so, he designs rates and secures financing to pay for the projects, while maintaining the association’s good financial health.

“I am also responsible for making sure I am providing a productive, safe work environment for the 60 employees that are the backbone of NEMEPA,” he said. “We have embraced new technology as long as the technology helps and does not hinder.”

Hayward said he manages to do all this while keeping up with a rapidly-changing electric industry.

“I must stay on top of developments in regulations, distributed generation, grid security and smart grid technology, just to name a few,” he said.

Hayward considers becoming general manager-CEO by far his greatest career achievement.

“Having grown up in this area, I feel like I am giving back to the community in which I live,” he said. “Sometimes, it is difficult working for a public entity, but in the end, it is very rewarding.”

Hayward is married to the former Cheryl Caffey, a 1988 UM graduate. They have two daughters: Allison, who plans attend Ole Miss in 2015; and Mary Clark, who also plans to attend in 2018. The Haywards enjoy travel and spending time on their farm just outside town.

Paying It Forward: ME Alumnus’ Generosity Benefitting Students

Pilot Mike Jurgensen serves on Engineering Advisory Board, created scholarship fund

Mike Jurgensen

Mike Jurgensen

Michael “Mike” Jurgensen might never have come to Ole Miss had he not been following his older brother. That decision led to a 30-plus-year career as a pilot. Now semi-retired, Jurgensen generously gives back to the School of Engineering that gave him his start.

A faithful donor, Jurgensen is on the Engineering Advisory Board and usually makes one presentation each semester to engineering students. In November, he plans to speak as a part of the ENGR 400 Leadership and Professionalism course.

“I thoroughly enjoy talking to Ole Miss students,” Jurgensen said. “They are our future!”

Recently, the Jurgensen family endowed a scholarship in the name of his parents, Don and Carolyn Jurgensen, who dearly loved Ole Miss and worked hard to make sure he and his older sibling could attend the school.

“Honestly, I attended Ole Miss because my brother studied mechanical engineering there,” said the 1974 graduate. “We have always had the same interests, so I was sure I would like what he liked.”

Shadowing his sibling, Jurgensen also studied mechanical engineering, but found his interests divided. During his freshman year, he almost decided to pursue another major.

“Without question, Dean Karl Brenkert rescued me from making a poor decision to leave engineering,” he said. “I remember him as a kind, soft-spoken man who always thought before he spoke, cared for all of his students and had a great wit.”

John Fox, chair emeritus and professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, also influenced Jurgensen to go the distance.

“Dr. Fox was also a quiet man who had a caring personality and always had time to talk,” he said. “I enjoyed every math class I took. Also, thermodynamics and a class called ‘Elements of Propulsion’ (which delved into various types of engines) were very interesting to me.”

While his sibling went on with a successful career in mechanical engineering, Jurgensen’s love for airplanes led him to a job as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for six years. He returned to mechanical engineering for about four years before finally becoming a pilot at Federal Express, performing several other interesting and challenging aviation-related jobs. Jurgensen’s flying career in the Air Force and at FedEx spanned 31 years.

“I recently retired from Federal Express but have returned on a limited basis as a technical pilot for the B777F, the same job I had before I retired,” Jurgensen said. “My responsibilities include acting as a company pilot representative to the aircraft manufacturer on pilot-related issues, interfacing with the manufacturer on design-related issues, producing manuals for flight crew members, answering questions for other parts of our company that are involved with the aircraft, the integration, testing and documentation of new pilot-related equipment installed onboard the aircraft, and acting as a resource for the discussion of the acquisition of additional aircraft.”

While humbled to have received some honors while in college, Jurgensen said he is most proud of the confidence and trust that FedEx showed in allowing him to manage several advanced technology projects, including the flight test and development of a new variant of the DC-10F (the MD10F), the development and certification of GPS-based instrument approaches in the Philippines and the position of technical pilot on the DC-10F, MD-10F, A380F and B777F aircraft.

“Without question, the engineering skills I learned at Ole Miss helped to prepare me for each one of these jobs,” Jurgensen said.

Jurgensen is married to the former Cindy Sharp, who attended Texas Tech University. The couple has three daughters who graduated from Ole Miss: Carrie Anne (BSME 05), Cathleen (BAEd 08) and Cassie (BSN-RN). Jurgensen’s hobbies include working on cars, antique firearms, fishing and international outreach through his church.

ME Student Interns at Naval Research Department

Ben Branson spent 10 weeks discovering, improving analytical skills

Many students vacation in Florida, but Ben Branson spent 10 weeks there this summer for a very different reason.

The mechanical engineering sophomore from Madison interned with the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program in Panama City. The NREIP is designed to provide college students in various STEM fields an opportunity to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer.

The program’s goals are to encourage participating students to pursue science and engineering careers, to further education via mentoring by laboratory personnel and their participation in research, and to make them aware of DoN research and technology efforts, which can lead to employment within the agency.

A member of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Branson was made aware of the program through a weekly email from the School of Engineering Student Services office notifying undergraduates of various opportunities for research, co-ops/internships and other professional development opportunities.

“I felt that it was important to begin gaining potential job-related experience early in my college career,” Branson said. “The traditional route is to start seeking internships after sophomore year. I wanted to be ahead of that, so I was looking around for opportunities I thought would be interesting.

“This program was appealing because of the available locations, generous funding and the variety of experiences offered.”

While working with the NREIP program, he was tasked with writing the code for a systems control box being used in a collegiate robotics competition. Through this process, Branson was able to learn the Python language, compile code, troubleshoot problem areas and document his code.

He also learned more about himself along the way.

“Not only did I improve my problem-solving abilities, but I gained great insight into the type of work environment that is the best for me,” Branson said. “This will help me in the future when I am seeking employment.”

Branson said he feels that internships are important because they give students a chance to spot-check their perceived strengths and develop skills in any weak areas. They also provide credibility, necessary training and opportunities to utilize previous classroom experiences in real-world settings.

Entering his second year on campus, Branson is still undecided on his career path but is sure that it will involve design, working with his hands and problem-solving.

“I am certain, though, that the educational opportunities afforded to me at the University of Mississippi will be beneficial regardless of the path I choose after graduation,” he said.