UM Recognized Among Country’s Elite Research Universities

Carnegie Classification recognizes R&D investment, doctoral degrees granted and faculty achievement

Caleb Ezell (left) and Eleanor Anthony, both students in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, work with English professor Gregory Heyworth to examine a 15th century Italian manuscript for Oberlin College. The work is part of the Lazarus Project, which uses multispectral imaging technology to analyze old and/or damaged documents and recover faded or erased text. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Caleb Ezell (left) and Eleanor Anthony, both students in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, work with English professor Gregory Heyworth to examine a 15th century Italian manuscript for Oberlin College. The work is part of the Lazarus Project, which uses multispectral imaging technology to analyze old and/or damaged documents and recover faded or erased text. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is included in the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral research universities in the United States.

UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the “highest research,” or R-1 category. This group represents the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The Carnegie Classification analyzes Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, data from all U.S. post-secondary institutions and evaluates measures of research activity for doctoral universities in making its assessments, which are released every five years.

“As a flagship university, the University of Mississippi is determined to play a key role in the cycle of research and discovery that drives and sustains our community and world,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “This ranking was achieved thanks to our outstanding faculty and their dedication to research and education.”

The Carnegie Classification’s assignment to categories of highest, higher and moderate research activity is based on research and development expenditures, science and engineering research staff including post-doctoral candidates and non-faculty staff members with doctorates, and doctoral conferrals in humanities and social sciences fields, in STEM fields and in other areas such as business, education, public policy and social work.

Dr. Wael ElShamy, director of the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program, has received a patent on a method to diagnose and treat several cancer types and subtypes. The method may lead to the first targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and add to therapies for other cancers.

Dr. Wael ElShamy, director of the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program, has received a patent on a method to diagnose and treat several cancer types and subtypes. The method may lead to the first targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and add to therapies for other cancers.

Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, applauded the university’s new classification and affirmed the vital economic role that a world-class research institution plays in the state and region.

“Attaining the Carnegie ‘highest research activity’ classification is historic for our university,” Clark said. “It illustrates the value we place on scholarly inquiry and the application of our expertise to understanding and improving our world and educating future leaders. Our faculty, staff and students deserve this recognition of their efforts to create and innovate.”

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the UM Medical Center, was elated at the Carnegie distinction.

“We are very pleased and proud to be a part of a university where research and scholarly activity are highly valued,” she said. “From internationally renowned basic science research in physiology to large population studies being conducted through the MIND Center and the Jackson Heart Study, UMMC is leading the way in research on the diseases that impact Mississippians most.”

The university received more than $117 million in sponsored awards, with more than $105 million in research and development expenditures, during fiscal year 2015. Of that total, more than $77 million was in federal grants, more than $16 million was from foundations, about $11 million came from the state of Mississippi, approximately $8 million was from industry and roughly $4 million came from other sources.

UM researchers submitted 876 proposals and 546 research projects were funded in the last fiscal year.

Among the university’s most prestigious and longstanding research projects is the Jackson Heart Study. UMMC researchers are collaborating with Tougaloo College and Jackson State University on the world’s largest long-term study of cardiovascular risk factors in African-Americans.

In 2013, the university joined the American Heart Association and Boston University for “Heart Studies v2.0,” which will expand upon the landmark Framingham and Jackson studies to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular ailments.

The population study has followed the health of 5,000 participants, producing data that continues to yield insights into the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease. In 2013, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, each a part of the National Institutes of Health, announced renewed funding for the JHS.

Other long-term prestigious projects are the marijuana research project conducted by the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research, jet noise reduction studies at the National Center for Physical Acoustics, known as NCPA, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory collaboration through the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Faculty and postdoctoral researchers in the physics department played major roles in the search and discovery of the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle thought to be responsible for all mass in the universe. The discovery was announced July 2012 by scientists at CERN, a multinational research center headquartered in Geneva.

Most recently, two faculty members within the physics department and NCPA received a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to study nuclear fuel storage safety and stability.

Three Ole Miss professors received Faculty Early Career Development Awards from the National Science Foundation within the past eight months. Patrick Curtis, assistant professor of biology, is the seventh CAREER award recipient at the university in the last eight years. Sarah Liljegren, associate professor of biology, received the award last November and Jared Delcamp, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, earned a similar award in June 2015. This marks the first time three UM faculty members were selected in the same academic year.

From its first class of 80 students in 1848, UM has grown to a doctoral degree-granting university with 15 academic divisions and more than 23,800 students. Located on its main campus in Oxford are the College of Liberal Arts; the schools of Accountancy, Applied Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Journalism and New Media, Pharmacy and Law; and the Graduate School. The Medical Center in Jackson trains professionals in its schools of Medicine, Nursing, Health Related Professions, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Graduate Studies.

In all, more than 100 programs of study offer superior academic experiences that provide each graduate with the background necessary for a lifetime of scholastic, social and professional growth. Strengthening and expanding the academic experience are the acclaimed Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies and Lott Leadership Institute.

For more information about research at UM, visit

UM Civil Engineers Assist MDOT with Bridges and Highways

Researchers provide expertise, technology for inspections

Civil engineering graduate students take vibration measurements on Ford Center Bridge.

UM civil engineering graduate students take vibration measurements on University Avenue bridge over Gertrude Ford Boulevard.

OXFORD, Miss. – As Mississippi lawmakers continue to examine means to fund a $375 million proposal for state highways and bridges, University of Mississippi civil engineers are developing new ways to assist with inspections and maintenance.

The Mississippi Economic Council and state Chamber of Commerce released a report in December advising that Mississippi needs to invest funds to replace 562 deficient bridges and repave many roads. Though financial sources remain uncertain, the report suggests lawmakers consider higher fuel taxes, license plate fees, rental car taxes and/or general sales taxes.

“For several years now, the University of Mississippi has been a leading contributor in helping MDOT with these infrastructure challenges,” said Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology at UM. “Through our collaborative efforts with them and researchers at other universities, we have developed programs that have repeatedly proven successful in achieving transportation objectives.”

The university’s researchers have developed ways to use such high-tech tools as computational modeling, laser-assisted measuring devices and more to help MDOT monitor bridges and roads throughout the state.

For example, Uddin’s CAIT lab has conducted two MDOT Research Division studies since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, using ground-penetrating radar to assess the structural integrity of state highways and to check bridges.

UM civil engineering professor Elizabeth Ervin (right) inspects the University Avenue bridge for weaknesses.

UM civil engineering professor Elizabeth Ervin (right) inspects the University Avenue bridge for weaknesses.

Working with the university’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering, Uddin and his students also have used extreme flood simulation results and created three-dimensional computational models of bridges to show how catastrophic failures happen. This work is helping improve the resilience of bridges built over streams and rivers.

“When funding is extremely limited, asset management becomes all the more important,” said Uddin, who serves as a member of the Mississippi Transportation Institute board of directors. “By using a Highway Asset Management System, MDOT has been able to monitor existing roads and bridges for maintenance, safety and stability.”

Another project, a partnership with MDOT’s Construction Division and NASA, has yielded a laser technology to conduct aerial surveys for highway and bridge design alignment.

“Most states’ Department of Transportation agencies now use this technology, which was evaluated for accuracy and cost right here at the University of Mississippi,” Uddin said.

The MDOT Traffic Engineering Division worked with Ole Miss professors when deciding to conduct a field performance study of roundabouts on South Lamar Avenue in Oxford.

Following the construction of roundabouts on both ends of the Highway 6 bridge on South Lamar – which have proven highly successful in promoting safety and traffic flow – the roundabout project was selected as one of the Sweet 16 projects for national recognition by American Association of State Highways and Transportation officials.

Roundabouts were later built on Old Taylor Road, easing traffic flow on the Highway 6 bridge on this major link between the Ole Miss campus and new housing developments in Oxford and Lafayette County.

Another important new tool is a software package called Structural Health Evaluation, developed by Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering.

The system measures vibrations on a bridge to locate its weakest points. The measurements can usually be taken in less than a day and do not require roads to be closed. Data collected has the potential to help inspectors better determine which bridges are most likely to fail and how to best address the issues.

“Visual observation alone of bridges is no longer the best way to select and prioritize them for repairs,” Ervin said. “While the vibration sensors can’t make predictions, it can help inspectors know which bridges are weakest and most likely to fail first.”

Chris Mullen, another Ole Miss civil engineering professor, is using computational modeling to help determine which structural parts are most likely to cause critical failure (such as in the case of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2015). Combining Mullen’s modeling technology and Ervin’s vibration sensors could greatly enhance the effectiveness of bridge inspection practices, Ervin said.

UM civil engineering professor Waheed Uddin checks data using his ground penetrating radar system.

UM civil engineering professor Waheed Uddin checks data using terrain laser mapping sensor equipment aboard an aircraft.

“Of course, no one can accurately predict exactly when a structure will fail,” she said. “We can only give our best guesses about when it might occur and, based on that data, determine a plan of action. Lowering truck weight limits alone is not a guarantee. Research and technology offer better alternatives.”

Uddin and Ervin both said they’re hopeful that funding for infrastructure improvements can be found.

“We’re certainly very hopeful that the Mississippi Legislature will pass the MDOT funding proposal,” Uddin said. “We want to continue offering our expertise in partnership with other institutions and agencies for the good of all transportation users.”

“This proposal, if it passes, is a good start,” Ervin said. “Still, the maintenance of existing bridges and highways, not to mention the possible construction of new ones, is a mind-boggling problem. We still have a long, long way to go.”

Hail to the Chief: Hugh Warren is ESB President

Senior electrical engineering major faces challenges, enjoys successes of leadership

Hugh Warren

Hugh Warren

After representing the University of Mississippi School of Engineering in key leadership roles, Hugh Warren felt compelled to run for the position of Engineering Student Body president and continue to work to better the engineering school.

The Madison Central High School graduate was elected last spring and has begun working with the ESB Leadership Council to plan events and discuss initiatives to help both current and future engineering students. Other officers are Taylor Maldonado of Houston, Texas, vice president; and Dustin Dykes of Madison, Alabama, secretary-treasurer.

“I love our School of Engineering and saw this role as a great opportunity to serve its students,” said Warren, a senior electrical engineering major. “I felt that my experience as the Associated Student Body senator for the School of Engineering and serving as an engineering ambassador would be of value to me in this position.”

Warren is confident that his leadership team’s outreach has improved visibility of events hosted by the ESB, and he hopes to continue that trend through the rest of his term. They continue traditions – such as coordinating the engineering tailgate – and they have hosted new events, including like a town hall meeting to hear student feedback and providing snacks in Carrier and Brevard halls during finals week.

“This year’s Leadership Council has greatly increased awareness of ESB activities, and we have seen great turnouts for all of them so far,” Warren said.

He also pointed to a large increase in applications from students interested in serving on the ESB Leadership Council as a success.

Even though a new ESB president will soon be elected, Warren is working hard to make sure that the spring 2016 semester is a success. The group still has events to continue planning, he said, noting that he looks forward to working with the new ESB officers to facilitate a smooth transition.

The ESB Leadership Council is organizing events for National Engineers Week in late February, as well as planning the Engineering Formal. The group is also planning to have a keynote speaker before the semester’s end.

Although the activities of the ESB Leadership Council have been successful, Warren realizes the semester has not been without particular challenges. In addition to serving as ESB president, he is balancing a co-op position at BorgWarner, an automotive components and parts supplier in Water Valley.

“Without the support of Taylor, Dustin and the Leadership Council, it would have been nearly impossible to manage both of these roles,” he said. He advises that any students considering taking on a leadership role weigh all their responsibilities and to not take on too much.

As commencement approaches, Warren is still uncertain of his plans. He is interested in pursuing graduate school, but he is also considering starting his own biotech company.

As the student governing organization for the school, the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council represents all seven disciplines. ESB provides student services and coordinates social and professional development events throughout the year. The group is also responsible for seeking feedback from engineering students and facilitating discussions with the administrators or faculty members.

Engineers Without Borders Returns to Togo

Following successful crowd-funding campaign, team advances infrastructure project

Dr. Bob Holt (left) explains to Paige Lohman and Vera Gardner how to classify soil cuttings from the drilling operation. A worker places a sample of soil cuttings on the ground for Holt to log.

Dr. Bob Holt (left) explains to Paige Lohman and Vera Gardner how to classify soil cuttings from the drilling operation. A worker places a sample of soil cuttings on the ground for Holt to log.

Entering its fourth year of helping the people of a few villages in the West African nation of Togo build a sound infrastructure, members of the Ole Miss chapter of Engineers Without Borders recently returned there to assist in the planning stages for a deep-water well installation.

The group left for the impoverished country Jan. 12, a month after launching a highly successful crowd-fundraising campaign through With help from more than 100 donors, the amount raised easily surpassed the $20,000 goal.

The contributions received enabled members of EWB and School of Engineering faculty members to spend seven days there planning how to provide clean water to a children’s hospital in the rural village of Akoumape. They also made a followup visit to the school building built by EWB in 2014.

“One good thing we didn’t expect to happen is that we had time and an available rig to drill a shallow irrigation well,” said Cris Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering and faculty adviser of Ole Miss-EWB. “Due to equipment issues, we weren’t able to complete the project, but Dr. (Bob) Holt (geology and geological engineering professor) taught the people there how to finish it after our departure.”

Other team members included Paul Scovazzo, chemical engineering professor and construction guru; Vera Gardner, junior mechanical engineering major; Timothy Steenwyk, junior mechanical engineering major and chapter vice president for outreach; Zach Lepchitz, graduate student in geological engineering; Paige Lohman, sophomore mechanical engineering major and team health and safety officer; and Dillon Hall, sophomore mechanical engineering major, with expertise in building and manufacturing.

Two of the most enjoyable aspects of the trip were meetings UM team members had with the geology faculty and students at the University of Lomė, as well as the governor of the Vo prefecture (similar to a county).

“The Lomė university group provided very helpful information that proved useful to us as our own project got underway,” Surbeck said. “Our students enjoyed fellowshipping with the Lomé students as well.”

The UM team met with the governor, who went with them to the school. He introduced them to the Togo students and gave them his overwhelming support. More than 100 children attend the school Mondays through Fridays.

“My most memorable experience on this trip would have to be when we visited the school that the UM-EWB team completed in January 2014,” said Gardner, a Memphis, Tennessee native who originally visited the country as a freshman two years ago. “When we saw the students attending classes and learning in their new schoolhouse, it showed that the community’s efforts and the UM-EWB chapter’s work was being used for its intended use and a good cause. Everyone’s hard work paid off.”

Steenwyk has been involved in the organization for three years, but this was his first time to visit Togo.

Workers drill a borehole with a rig and drilling mud as Zack Lepchitz and Dillon Hall examine soil cuttings.

Workers drill a borehole with a rig and drilling mud as Zack Lepchitz and Dillon Hall examine soil cuttings.

“The most memorable part of the trip for me would be our visit to the school that we had built,” the Ocean Springs native said. “It was amazing to see how the engineering drawings that we worked on in Oxford became a usable facility for children on the other side of the world. I hope we will see the same results for the well we are planning.”

First-time travelers to Togo found it an amazing, eye-opening seven days.

“My most memorable experience was spending time with the local children,” said Lohman of Moline, Illinois. “I befriended a 12-year-old boy named Voku, and we played catch and talked about his school. When I was at the local church, a little girl walked up to me and waited until I picked her up and set her on my lap, where she stayed the rest of the church service. It was very difficult for me to imagine growing up with a lifestyle similar to theirs. Seeing the poverty firsthand really made me thank my lucky stars to have the life I live.”

Hall said attending the service opened his eyes to the real needs of the people and also how much the children of the area aspire to great things.

“It was baffling to hear from these kids that they wanted to aspire to be doctors, lawyers, engineers and congressmen when it seemed like they hardly had the resources to finish grade school,” the Saltillo native said. “Their will to achieve something greater in their lives convinced me to not take for granted the opportunities that I have to achieve my career goals.”

During the service, Hall also had an opportunity to translate Ewe readings from Scripture to English.

“I had thought to bring a pocket-sized New Testament along, so it was pretty cool to be able to connect with the members of the church despite a significant language barrier,” he said.

As on previous excursions to Togo, there were unexpected challenges as well. One such case involved the temporary incapacitation of one of the motor vehicles the group used.

“The roads are so rough that they often cause cars to break down,” Surbeck said.

However, by the end of the trip, the mission of planning the digging of a deep water later this year was completed. The well will provide drinking water to a children’s hospital, which is being built by a nonprofit organization. EWB-Ole Miss is committed to drill a well and install a distribution pipe and a public tap stand.

“It’s going to be an expensive effort requiring professional construction crews and electricians,” Surbeck said. “Several Rotary Clubs in Mississippi and Tennessee are raising $100,000 for this particular project’s expenses.”

 The EWB-Ole Miss team made a long-term commitment in 2012 to work with rural villages in Togo to improve community infrastructure and health care. With four productive trips completed since that time, the EWB-Ole Miss team has built a school that provides a safe setting for dozens of children to benefit from educational opportunities.

“All of these travelers, and countless other chapter members, have invested time, money and deeply committed efforts to this project through to completion,” Surbeck said. “Faculty members donate all of their travel time without compensation. Participants are passionate about seeing this children’s hospital have clean water, which, in turn, will help health care workers care for sick children.”

All the students said if they have the opportunity to return with EWB to Togo for future trips, they would do so without a second thought.

“There is so much information and resources that America can provide for these people that I would hate to see go to waste,” Dillon said.