Sullivan Leading MDOT Traffic Division

Civil engineering alumnus worked his way up ranks of organization

Jim Sullivan

James S. Sullivan

Since James S. Sullivan began working for the Mississippi Department of Transportation 11 years ago, the University of Mississippi civil engineering alumnus has continued to rise through the organization’s ranks. The state traffic engineer, he stays busy overseeing all aspects of the traffic engineering division.

“The Traffic Engineering Division is responsible for providing technical guidance on the use of traffic control devices – signs, signals and markings – on the state’s highways,” said Sullivan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1986. “The division is also responsible for administering the Highway Safety Program and the Intelligent Transportation Systems program, the latter of which focuses on strategies to improve operational efficiency and traveler information.”

Sullivan’s area manages the website, traffic alerts via email and social media, MDOTTraffic mobile apps, the 511 traveler information phone service and other ITS deployments. The division also manufactures highway signs, maintains the interstate highway signs and provides traffic signal maintenance for certain districts.

Sullivan said he enjoyed his days on campus.

“My most memorable civil engineering classes at Ole Miss were those with Dr. Stead, Dr. Abdulrahman, and Dr. DeLeeuw,” he said. “Each of these professors, in addition to providing instruction, challenged and encouraged me in their own unique ways – and at times entertained. Times of study with fellow students provided many fond memories as well.”

MDOT’s Traffic Engineering Division has been a leading supporter of the transportation engineering program within the Department of Civil Engineering. Several other alumni serve with Sullivan in the division, including Acey Roberts, Kevin McMillon, Celina Sumrall, Amrik Singh, Brian Hovanec, Eames Henley and Wes Dean, the deputy chief engineer in operations.

“My direct interaction with James was through the MDOT-funded Oxford roundabout project,” said Waheed Uddin, UM professor of civil engineering and CAIT director. “This project received the AASHTO “Sweet Sixteen” Award for MDOT, putting it among the nation’s top 16 state DOTs.”

Sullivan was the contract supervisor of this research project and Uddin was the project principal investigator from 2008 to 2010.

“I appreciate the timely feedback and continuous encouragement that James and other engineering alumni provide to enhance our academic program,” Uddin said. “They frequently lecture civil engineering students at ITE chapter meetings organized by the student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.”

Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering, agreed.

“James has had a great career since graduating from Ole Miss,” he said. “He is a great role model for our students and recent graduates.”

Among his stellar career, Sullivan consider finding MDOT employment to be among his greatest achievements.

“I was fortunate to have been able to work on a number of interesting and significant transportation projects throughout the state,” Sullivan said. “My time with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, all of which has been in Traffic Engineering Division, has proven both professionally and personally rewarding.”

The state of Mississippi adopted a new Strategic Highway Safety Plan earlier this year and along with it, its vision, “Toward Zero Deaths.”

“It’s rewarding to team with a staff dedicated to work daily with the goal in mind to implement highway traffic safety countermeasures, traffic control devices and ITS strategies in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of highway related fatalities and crashes until the ultimate goal of zero is reached,” Sullivan said.

He was thrilled to have been recognized as part of a team that won the Best of ITS Award presented by ITS America for Best New Innovative Practice for Partnership Deployment for the Mississippi River Bridges: Incident Management, Freight Movement and Security ITS Project. The project involved adding multiple ITS deployments at each of the four Mississippi River crossings in Mississippi, using ITS strategies that improve operations at the Mississippi River Bridges through traffic cameras and other sensors and dynamic message boards and other means to convey traveler information.

“This project required close coordination with each of the border states with which Mississippi shares river crossings,” Sullivan said. “The project also includes a traffic incident management component whereby the states build local coalitions designed to improve traffic incident response and clearance times in an effort to minimize congestion related to traffic incidents at each of the river crossings.”

Sullivan serves on a technical committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which serves to provide input to the Federal Highway Administration related to the content of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. He is also on the Traffic Control Devices Committee of the Transportation Research Board.

Sullivan and his wife, Suzanne, enjoy being involved with their church, playing golf, fly fishing, photography and following Ole Miss sports.

Amrita Mishra Joins Mechanical Engineering

New assistant professor excels in teaching, materials research

Amrita Mishra

Amrita Mishra

Amrita Mishra’s research interest in computational materials science has made her an in-demand scholar in the field. The newest faculty member in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, she’s helping produce future graduates who will one day have careers of their own.

“I was looking for an opportunity to utilize my teaching and research skills,” said Mishra, who joined the faculty as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering over the summer. “Having taught undergraduate and graduate students at UNR and ISU, I have a broad perspective of students and their individual needs.”

Courses Mishra teaches include Introduction to Materials Science, Properties and Selection of Materials and Materials lab. Her future course offerings are Electronic Properties of Materials, Ceramics, Nano-materials and Materials Thermodynamics.

Mishra came highly recommended and has already earned the respect of her UM colleagues.

“She has tremendous potential to collaborate with other researchers across the campus working on fundamental material science research area driven by the thermodynamics of the complex systems,” said A.M. Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “I see great opportunity for the department to expand in new research areas through Dr. Mishra.”

Before joining the faculty, Mishra was a graduate teaching assistant and postdoctoral scholar at the University of Nevada at Reno and at Iowa State University.

An accomplished scholar, she has co-authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles. She is also a reviewer of scientific journals such as ThermoChimica Acta, Acta Materials and Calphad. Her professional memberships include the Society of Women Engineers, the Materials Research Society, the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, and Women in Science and Engineering.

“In association with different student bodies and academic chapters, I want to encourage minorities and women in engineering,” Mishra said. “I want to advise them with grants, scholarships and other opportunities to improve their academic success.”

Mishra collaborates with her husband, Gautam Priyadarshan, who is a senior scientist at the university’s National Center for Physical Acoustics.

“Though we are both materials scientists, we complement each other and our work,” she said. “I can predict materials with my theoretical and computational approach, while he can confirm the predictions and models with his research and experimentations.”

Hobbies she enjoys include being outdoors, running trails in Oxford, reading and yoga.

“My husband and I were looking for programs which would allow us to grow in our careers and continue with our research ideas,” Mishra said. “Along with its academic ambience and preceding history, the University of Mississippi fit right into my aspirations and provided me with this exceptional opportunity.”

Chemical Engineering Alumnus Gives Back to Alma Mater, Profession

Russ Alexander is Woods Society member, serves on Advisory Board



James “Russ” Alexander’s career and personal life have been characterized by service to his country, the U.S. Army, his family and his alma mater. For the latter, this means donating his finances, counsel and time to the University of Mississippi School of Engineering.

“As my career matured, the desire to give something back to those responsible for any professional successes that I may have enjoyed became compelling,” said Alexander, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1983. “I joined the Woods Society as a way to give back to the School of Engineering and also to stay in touch with its people.”

A native of Flowood, Alexander also has a master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University at Texarkana, another master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a doctorate in operations research from the University of South Africa.

As an undergraduate, Alexander remembers walking by the plaques of Woods Order members on the walls of Carrier Hall and thinking that these were people who had made a difference.

“It was an honor to be asked to serve on the Engineering Advisory Board,” he said. “I felt that I was at a point in my career where I may have something useful to offer in the way of experience that may be of service to the school. It has also been a two-way street in that I feel I have benefitted much from being on the board and interacting with its members, faculty and students.”

A School of Engineering official praised Alexander’s philanthropy.

“Russ Alexander is a shining example of the kind of alumni produced by the Ole Miss School of Engineering,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the school. “His willingness to give back to the program and people that gave him his start makes him a vital member to our success for both present and future students.”

Alexander is chief of the Office of Research and Technology Applications at the Aviation & Missile Research Development & Engineering Center, which supports all the Army acquisition programs in missiles, aviation and unmanned systems.

“We are one of the larger RD&E centers in the Army, with about 2,500 scientists and engineers and an annual budget of about $2.5 billion,” Alexander said. “My role is to manage the technology transfer function for the center. This involves negotiating all noncontract type agreements between the center and any nonfederal organizations.”

Alexander is most involved in cooperative research and development agreements, patent-licensing agreements, test and engineering service agreements, and educational partnership agreements.

“It is interesting work because I get to be involved with state-of-the-art technologies and also get to work with the scientists and engineers from our center as well as outside organizations,” he said. “I also interact heavily with our intellectual property attorneys.”

Alexander and his wife, Minda, have an 11-year-old daughter, Riley Claire. His stepson, Bruce Connor Burley, is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Chinese through the Croft Institute for International Studies.

When he is not working, Alexander’s favorite pastimes usually involve anything outdoors.

“I live on a mountain in Huntsville, so I get to enjoy hiking and mountain biking,” he said. “I also like to sail, travel quite a bit and, of course, follow Ole Miss sports.”

Twelve Freshmen Receive Engineering Scholarships

Students from six states awarded Brevard, Adler fellowships

From left to right: Cameron Koch, William Kalusche, Chase Rydeen, Ethan Luckett, Marin Troike, Philip Thomas, Paige Lohman, Seth Gray, Jake Azbell and Hunter Myers. Not Pictured: Anna Braswell and Jason Stone

From left to right: Cameron Koch, William Kalusche, Chase Rydeen, Ethan Luckett, Marin Troike, Philip Thomas, Paige Lohman, Seth Gray, Jake Azbell and Hunter Myers.

Twelve University of Mississippi students from six states have received scholarships from the School of Engineering. Representing Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Texas and Tennessee, the students are this year’s Brevard and John G. Adler scholars.

“We appreciate the support and legacy of the Brevard Family and Mr. John Adler, who established these scholarships to enable these students to pursue a first class engineering education at the University of Mississippi,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “This outstanding group of students posts an average ACT score of 33 and an average 3.98 grade-point average from their respective high schools.”

William Kalusche of McComb received the 2014 Brevard Engineering Fellowship. The top scholarship awarded to an incoming freshman is valued at $28,000 over four years. Kalusche was the salutatorian and a STAR student from McComb High School. A member of the National Honor Society, he was captain of both the soccer and tennis teams. He was also a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council.

“When I received the notification from Mr. Upshaw that I had been selected for a Brevard scholarship, I was ecstatic,” said Kalusche, a general engineering major on a pre-medicine track as part of the Provost Scholars program. “I feel that the School of Engineering at Ole Miss is the best place to help me prepare for my future. My plans are to attend medical school and become a licensed physician.”

Other recipients of the Brevard Engineering Scholarship are Cameron Earl Koch of Metropolis, Illinois, Ethan Edward Luckett of Dyersburg, Tennessee, David Chase Rydeen of Frisco, Texas, and Marin Bell Troike of Collierville, Tennessee.

Koch was valedictorian of his class of 146 at Massac County High School. A participant in UM’s Lott Leadership Institute for High School Students, he served as senior class vice president, National Honor Society President and captain of the football team. The Illinois State Scholar plans to study mechanical engineering as part of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Additionally, he was selected for membership in the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

The valedictorian from Dyer County High School, Luckett was named to the ACT Wall of Honor and a Choctaw Scholar, the school’s highest academic honor. He earned honors in statistics, calculus and advanced topics in the Tennessee Mathematics Teacher’s Association Math Competition. He plans to study computer science as part of the Honors College.

Rydeen, who graduated from Ballard High School, was a member of Mu Alpha Theta, National Honors Society, varsity tennis team and was accepted to the Governor’s Scholars Program. He plans to study electrical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A Collierville High School graduate, Troike was a member of the Youth Leadership Council, National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society and served as a Senior Ambassador. She was captain of the varsity volleyball and golf teams. She plans to study civil engineering as part of the Provost Scholars program.

Recipients of the John G. Adler Scholarship include Jacob Skyler Azbell of Riddleton, Tennessee, Anna Elizabeth Braswell of Mobile, Alabama, Seth Brian Gray of Jonesboro, Arkansas, Paige Lohman of Moline, Illinois, Hunter Myers of Mountain Home, Arkansas, Jason Matthew Stone of Union City, Tennessee, and Philip Bradford Thomas of Galveston, Texas.

Azbell was salutatorian of his class of 153 at Smith County High School. Treasurer of the Beta Club and president of the Math & Science Club, he participated in both Smith County Youth Leadership and Tennessee Boys State. He plans to study electrical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A graduate of St. Paul’s Episcopal School, Braswell received academic awards in AP chemistry and calculus and was a four-year member of the Student Government Association. The state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award also served as captain of the cross country team and was a member of the National Honor Society. She plans to study geological engineering as part of the Honors College. Additionally, she will be a member of the Ole Miss women’s track and field team.

Gray, a graduate of Valley View High School, served as a student council officer, National Honor Society president and Interact Club president and attended Arkansas Boys State. He received the DAR Good Citizen award and was a member of the March of Dimes Youth Council. He plans to study chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A Moline High School graduate, Lohman was an Illinois State Scholar and a four-year member of the Student Congress and served as senior class president and captain of the varsity cheerleading squad. She plans to study mechanical engineering as part of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

Myers, a summa cum laude graduate from Mountain Home High School, served as state treasurer of Future Business Leaders of America and attended Arkansas Boys State. He is an Arkansas Distinguished Governor’s Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society. He plans to study chemical engineering as part of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

Union City High School graduate Stone was a member of the varsity football team, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Beta Club. He also received the Jackson, Tennessee, area Ole Miss alumni club scholarship. He plans to study computer science as part of the Provost Scholars program.

Thomas, salutatorian at Ball High School’s STEM Academy, served as Mu Alpha Theta president and founding president of the Diverse Views of Current Events Alliance organization. The National Merit Commended Scholar and AP Scholar with Distinction was a member of the National Honor Society. He won first place in the Junior Laser Security System Project Based Learning Competition and second place in the Freshman Alternative Energy Project-Based Learning Debate. He plans to study chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.