OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy honored its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the annual Alumni Weekend Awards Banquet and Reunion Dinner.
Jeffery Steevens, senior scientist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was recognized for his involvement in student service and professional achievement.
“We are so pleased to honor Dr. Steevens,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “He is the quintessential Alumnus of the Year. In addition to his distinguished career, he has time and time again mentored our students and served our school in multiple capacities.”
Steevens came to the university as a student in 1994 to work with Bill Benson, former faculty member and environmental toxicology research leader. Steevens graduated with a Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1999. That year, he accepted a position in Vicksburg, with the Army Corps of Engineers at the then-named Waterways Experiment Station.
“I started out as a team member on a toxicology team there,” Steevens said. “I was initially involved in a contaminant assessment in New York Harbor, where I worked with the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Within a year of graduating, Steevens was involved in developing an international treaty called the London Convention. The agreement controls ocean pollution and specifically addresses radioactive materials.
“The project was very interesting,” Steevens said. “I had to develop a guidance document for what is acceptable in regard to disposing radioactive materials at sea. Today, that document is used as the standard approach to this issue.”
In 2005, Steevens became one of only 28 senior scientists in the Army – an extraordinary accomplishment.
“The Army picks different focus areas for its senior scientists,” Steevens said. “My area is biotechnology. It’s a fairly broad topic. I’m currently involved in making sure that some of the new technologies that the Army is developing are safe for the environment and our soldiers.”
Nanotechnology is an emerging field that Steevens is evaluating.
“This is an exciting area right now,” Steevens said. “There are great opportunities for things like body armor, medicine and protective materials. These can be used to help the soldier, but at the same time, we want to make sure that the materials don’t harm the soldier or the environment.”
Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology, has worked with Steevens over the years.
“Jeff has been so supportive of our program and our students,” Willett said. “With his role in the Vicksburg labs, he lectures to our students each year in my toxicology class. It’s an incredible experience for them because he has real-world examples from projects that he’s worked on around the world.”
Steevens is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, which allows him to serve on student committees. Additionally, he serves on the school’s Board of Visitors, an external advisory group.
Upon learning of his selection for the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award, Steevens said he was excited and humbled.
“I have a very strong connection to the university and to the School of Pharmacy in particular,” he said. “I have a lot of great memories here. I’m thankful for the education I’ve received and contacts that I’ve made here, as well as to the people that have helped me along the way.”