Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction

UM scientists join colleagues in celebration of historic achievement

Members of the University of Mississippi LIGO Team include (from left) Camillo Cocchieri, visiting scholar; Mohammad Afrough, graduate student; Marco Cavaglia associate professor of of physics and astronomy; Katherine Dooley, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; Jared Wofford, undergraduate researcher; and Hunter Gabbard, undergraduate research assistant. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Members of the UM LIGO Team include (from left) Camillo Cocchieri, visiting scholar; Mohammad Afrough, graduate student; Marco Cavaglia associate professor of of physics and astronomy; Katherine Dooley, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; and Jared Wofford and Hunter Gabbard, both undergraduate research assistants. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected at 4:51 a.m. Sept. 14, 2015 by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation and were conceived, built and are operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy, and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

“Using sophisticated algorithms and data analysis techniques, we estimate that the black hole collision took place about 1.3 billion years ago,” said Marco Cavaglià, University of Mississippi associate professor of physics and astronomy and assistant spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. “The two black holes had a mass of about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun.”

The black holes collided with each other at nearly half the speed of light, said Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy and senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

“The explosion released so much energy that about three times the mass of the sun was converted to gravitational waves in only a fraction of a second,” Dooley said. “These are the gravitational waves that LIGO has observed.”

LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration.

UM has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2007. Cavaglià founded the group at UM and has contributed to understanding artifacts of the instrument data that come from sources other than gravitational waves, a critical component for being able to positively identify a gravitational wave signal. Since 2012, Cavaglià has served as the collaboration’s assistant spokesperson.

Dooley joined UM this past fall after having worked for over nine years on building and improving the LIGO and GEO600 detectors. The detectors use laser light to measure infinitesimal changes in the distance between mirrors mounted 2-1/2 miles (4 kilometers) apart.

“The detected gravitational waves changed this distance by one-billionth of a billionth of a meter, about one-thousandth the diameter of a proton,” Dooley said. She designed techniques to control the angular pointing of the laser beam, helping push the limits of the precision measurement technology that was needed to make this detection possible.

Cavaglià, Dooley, UM post-doctoral research assistant Shivaraj Kandhasamy and three doctoral students from the UM-LIGO team are among the authors of the discovery paper. The UM LIGO team also includes a master’s student, an undergraduate and three undergraduate exchange students from Italy.

“LIGO’s detection opens a new way to look at the cosmos,” Cavaglià said. “I think LIGO will go down in history in the same way as we now remember Galileo’s telescope.”

The entire university community shares in the excitement of this extraordinary achievement, UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said.

“This astounding breakthrough is the result of decades of international collaboration by a talented team of scientists and engineers,” Vitter said.  “Everyone at UM congratulates our colleagues in the physics department for their role in this historic discovery. The University of Mississippi is committed to pursuing research and scholarship that helps us understand and improve our world.”

The discovery was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments, compared to the first-generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed – and the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run.

LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, MIT professor emeritus of physics; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics; and Ronald Drever, Caltech professor emeritus of physics.

The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Several universities designed, built and tested key components for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University in New York and Louisiana State University.

The NSF leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project.

Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy; two in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland and the European Gravitational Observatory, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.

“This is a momentous event,” Dooley said. “LIGO has opened our ears to the universe. For the first time ever, we can now listen to the cosmos.”

For more information on the UM LIGO team, go to http://ligo.phy.olemiss.edu/.

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 Department of Energy 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 http://research.olemiss.edu/.

UM Sophomore Wins Free Tuition

Journalism major Marlee Crawford victorious in C Spire-sponsored competition

Oxford, Mississippi native and 19-year-old sophomore Marlee Crawford, a journalism major at the University of Mississippi, won the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest Saturday - earning free tuition for the remainder of her college education. (PRNewsFoto/C Spire)

Marlee Crawford, a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Mississippi, won the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest, earning free tuition for the remainder of her college education. (PRNewsFoto/C Spire)

OXFORD, Miss. – Marlee Crawford, a University of Mississippi sophomore, bested a student from Mississippi State University in a game of bean bag toss before the Nov. 28 Egg Bowl to win free tuition for the remainder of her education here.

Crawford, a journalism major from Oxford, defeated Emily Ware, a junior at MSU, in the C Spire Toss for Tuition by a score of 21-16 as 2,000 friends, family and spectators cheered.

“Actually playing corn hole at the game just felt like a dream,” Crawford said. “I was so nervous, but when I won, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was so grateful and thrilled for that amazing opportunity – it was truly a blessing.” 

The company sponsored the contest in November at all its 56 store locations in the state. Hundreds of students and their families had entered the contest, and Crawford and Ware were chosen as the two finalists to battle it out for tuition.

The Mississippi-based company has donated more than $3 million since 2008 to higher education-related scholarships, causes and programs across Mississippi through its nonprofit foundation. Crawford’s victory could yield her an estimated $18,360 in tuition funds.

“At C Spire, support for education has been a key focus for over 27 years, and we are passionately committed to helping elementary, high school and college-age students succeed in school, in the workforce and in life,” said Jim Richmond, vice president of corporate communications for C Spire. “Our children are our future. We need to prepare and support the next generation to be leaders in their communities and the world.”

Interim UM Chancellor Morris Stocks congratulated Crawford.

“We are thrilled for Marlee and her good fortune,” Stocks said. “We are also extremely grateful to C Spire for its outstanding support of higher education in Mississippi.”

Crawford said she was shocked when she was told she was selected for the showdown. She had one week to learn the rules of the game and practice her throws with a borrowed game set, but she immediately went to work. Her mother, Tammy Crawford, paced nervously during the competition.

“She couldn’t have practiced harder, and I’m so proud of her,” Tammy Crawford said. “It’s a sincere blessing.” 

After she won, her father, Ray Crawford, was there to hug her. He said the funds are a huge blessing for the family.

“It’s amazing that C Spire would do that for some fortunate individual, but it’s even more incredible that it’s our daughter,” Ray Crawford said. “We were shocked and overjoyed that she won. God definitely had a hand in this. It’s a huge load off of our shoulders, as we are helping to pay for her schooling.”

With the big victory behind her, Crawford said the money will be extremely beneficial to her, especially since she is planning to study abroad in England in 2016.

“College is such a financial burden for families, and I’m grateful to C Spire for providing opportunities like this one for students,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system: my family and friends that practiced with me, coached me and were there cheering me on.”

Natchez Native Joins University’s CEED Program

Janae Owens hopes to use her experiences to help create opportunities across the state

Janae Owens (left) and Albert Nylander

Janae Owens (left) and Albert Nylander

OXFORD, Miss. – Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River in Natchez can be an adventure that immerses residents in the heart of a rich, vibrant history that is complemented by Southern cultural celebrations and events.

However, accompanying that atmosphere is a state of wealth that serves as a jarring contrast to the poverty, crime and economic stagnation seen by LaKyre’a Janae Owens, who was born into a family that resided in Natchez for generations. A graduate of Natchez High School and Mississippi State University, she lives in Oxford, where she is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Mississippi.

While leaving her hometown was bittersweet for Owens, it also paved the way for her to step back and see what the city has to offer and what resources are needed to provide growth.

“I believe the unique history and live culture of Natchez can be seen by anyone,” Owens said. “That down-home Southern atmosphere can be used as a valuable resource, when envisioning the city in unity, to help overcome the health disparities, social inequalities and illiteracy that exist throughout the city.”

Owens said she believes it is crucial that the community find ways to create economic growth and develop opportunities for all the people of Natchez. That’s why Owens joined the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at UM as a graduate innovation fellow.

Vaughn Grisham, a leader in the field of community development, founded the McLean Institute at Ole Miss in 1984. From that foundation, the McLean Institute is being dramatically expanded as part of UM 2020, the university’s strategic plan that calls for an increase in service to benefit Mississippi.

The McLean Institute seeks to make community engagement a distinctive part of the university’s educational culture by promoting engaged scholarship and reflective community action.

Owens has been named a McLean Institute Innovation Fellow within the institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, known as CEED. Throughout the year, she will be working alongside some 30 other UM students to establish partnerships throughout rural communities in Mississippi.

CEED organizers hope that these partnerships will help boost economic development and entrepreneurship throughout these communities.

“Janae’s role as an innovation fellow at the McLean Institute provides her the opportunity to engage her background from Natchez and her health education/promotion major to advance the mission of the McLean Institute,” said. J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The goal of each innovation fellow is to develop a specific sustainable solution within a community. The scholars attain the solutions by making connections with communities and by developing a method of research that includes participating in a summerlong internship in their chosen community. Each fellow presents some sort of business plan or research paper at the end of two years.

Although she has many paths left to explore before selecting an area to address, Owens said she is considering focusing her efforts on improving the health, wellness and overall quality of life throughout Mississippi.

She said she hopes her service to the state will play a part in nurturing the growth and development of future generations of Mississippians and, as a result, having a healthier and better-prepared workforce will contribute to sustaining economic development in all corners of the Magnolia State.

UM Student Organization Seeks Funds to Fight Hunger Locally

Ignite Ole Miss campaign facilitates effort to raise support for campus food bank

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has launched a crowd-funding campaign in an effort to raise $10,000 to support the Ole Miss Food Bank, a student-run organization that makes nutritious foods available to those in need.

Contributions to the campaign via https://ignite.olemiss.edu/finsup4food will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce. Additionally, funding will support the bank’s supply of canned goods and personal hygiene items, all of which are made available free to qualified members of the campus community.

“Students’ health and nutrition is important to us here at the Food Bank,” said Toni Cruse, UM Food Bank chair. “We believe every student deserves to feel nourished and satisfied when they go to bed at night.”

The food bank was created in 2012 to foster a healthy college community by working to alleviate hunger on the UM campus. With support from volunteers and donors, the Food Bank has grown ever since.

“It is a grim reality that nutritious meals are not an option for some of our students due to the expense,” Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said. “Through the Ole Miss Food Bank, we have been able to alleviate hunger in our campus community and make nutritious meals more accessible.”

For more information on the Ole Miss Food Bank, visit http://dos.orgsync.com/org/umfoodbank, and for information on the Ignite OleMiss campaign, go to https://ignite.olemiss.edu/finsup4food or contact Maura Wakefield at mmwakefi@olemiss.edu.

Facebook, LinkedIn Representatives Featured at ‘Data Day’

Students to learn how data can impact businesses, careers

Ole Miss Data Day to be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Overby Auditorium.

Ole Miss Data Day to be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Overby Auditorium.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi presents the first Ole Miss New Media Data Day on Thursday (Nov. 5) in the Overby Center auditorium.

Data Day will bring in representatives of two of the world’s most recognized social networking entities, Facebook and LinkedIn, to discuss the importance of data and how it is used to build and retain customer relationships.­­­­­

Guest speakers will be Sean Callahan, senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn, and Eric Schnabel, North America director of Facebook Creative Shop. Callahan and Schnabel will share their expertise and provide insights into trends and opportunities within the industry, and what these mean for those in the marketing and communications professions.

The speakers will conduct identical 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. sessions, with an optional workshop at 11 a.m. The free event will benefit both professionals and students and is open to the public.

The workshop is offered by the UM Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning to give journalists and others valuable insight into Ole Miss campus data.

Scott Fiene, director of the undergraduate integrated marketing communications program at UM, said students who know the importance of data and how to use it will have a big advantage in finding jobs after graduation. Data Day will examine some of the careers related to data and ways data can benefit businesses.

“Good communications involves creativity, but it also requires an understanding of targeting, segmenting and using data to make decisions” Fiene said. “Most companies use data, but we thought since so many entry-level jobs today are in the social media arena that it would be good to bring in experts from a couple of the largest social media brands to explain what they’re doing.”

For more information, visit http://www.olemissdataday.com or contact Fiene at safiene@olemiss.edu.

Board of Trustees Names Preferred Candidate for UM Chancellor

Campus listening sessions were held on the campuses in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee

Campus listening sessions were conducted in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee

OXFORD, Miss. – The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning has selected Jeffrey S. Vitter as the preferred candidate for the chancellorship of the University of Mississippi. A renowned computer scientist and academic leader, Vitter is provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas.

Vitter was recommended by the Board Search Committee, chaired by Alan Perry, the IHL president, with input from the Campus Search Advisory Committee and the Interview Search Advisory Committee following careful review of all applications and interviews.

“The Board of Trustees is beyond pleased to announce Dr. Vitter as the preferred candidate,” Perry said. “His credentials and experience are stellar. He has demonstrated tremendous leadership at a number of exceptional institutions and has been recognized as a leading researcher in the field of computer science.”

Vitter serves as provost and executive vice chancellor and the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas. His academic home is the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and he is a member of the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. KU includes the main campus in Lawrence, with 10 colleges and schools, the Edwards Campus in Overland Park and the Medical Center campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina, Kansas. As provost, Vitter is the chief academic and operations officer for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.

Vitter initiated and co-led the campuswide development of KU’s strategic plan, “Bold Aspirations: The Strategic Plan for the University of Kansas, 2012-2017.” The plan is the university’s transformative road map toward its vision of excellence as a top-tier public international research university.

While at KU, he created the first-ever universitywide KU core curriculum; oversaw major facilities improvements and expansion; and led the expansion of the schools of Engineering, Business and Pharmacy.

He also enhanced multidisciplinary research and funding around four strategic initiatives:

  • Alumni outreach and furthering the goals of the capital campaign
  • Major growth of technology commercialization and corporate partnerships
  • Incentivizing innovation
  • Administrative reorganization and efficiency

Previously, Vitter was on the faculty of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. At Texas A&M, he served as provost and executive vice president for academics and oversaw the academic mission of the university in Galveston, Texas, and Doha, Qatar.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter

Before joining Texas A&M, Vitter served as the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science and professor of computer science at Purdue University. As dean, he was the chief academic officer and administrator of the College of Science, responsible for overseeing the discovery, learning, engagement and diversity activities of the college’s seven academic departments.

At Duke University, Vitter held a distinguished professorship as the Gilbert, Louis and Edward Lehrman Professor. He also served as chair of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and as co-director and a founding member of Duke’s Center for Geometric and Biological Computing.

Before joining Duke, Vitter progressed through the faculty ranks and served in various leadership roles in the Department of Computer Science at Brown University.

A native of New Orleans, Vitter graduated with highest honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1977 and earned a Ph.D. under Don Knuth in computer science at Stanford University in 1980. He also holds an MBA from Duke University.

Vitter and his wife, Sharon, have three adult children.

Campus listening sessions were conducted on the campuses in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee to hear what qualities and qualifications stakeholders believed the next institutional executive officer should possess. After careful review of all applicants, the Campus Search Advisory Committee submitted the names of several candidates unranked to the Board Search Committee and nominated fellow members to serve on the Interview Search Advisory Committee.

“I would like to thank the members of the Campus Search Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Alice Clark, for devoting their time and expertise to this process,” Perry said. “Each one understood the weight of the decision and took the responsibility as the voice of the campus community very seriously. Their input was vital throughout the search.”

The members of the UM Campus Search Advisory Committee were Alice Clark, Michele Alexandre, Claiborne Barksdale, Michael Barnett, Ross Bjork, Rod Bridges, Jimmy Brown, Robert Brown, Claude Brunson, Ralph Didlake, Jack Dunbar, Jan Farrington, Rose Flenorl, Mike Glenn, Charles Hussey, Trentice Imbler, Andrea Jekabsons, Jesse Mitchell III, Charles O’Mara, Pat Patterson, Lisa Percy, Rachna Prakash, David Rock, Charles Ross, Mary Sharp Rayner, Larry Sparks, Sovent Taylor, Melinda Valliant, Alex Vasios-Sivopoulous, Wendell Weakley, Clarence Webster III, Noel E. Wilkin, Roy C. Williams and Ethel Young-Scurlock.

“The Campus Search Advisory Committee and I appreciate the feedback that we received from the campus community during the listening sessions,” said Clark, who chaired the Campus Search Advisory Committee. “Dr. Vitter is an exceptional academician, educator, researcher and leader. He understands what it means to be a top-tier public research university and has a vision for leading the University of Mississippi to even greater success.”

Vitter will meet with campus constituency groups Oct. 29 in Oxford. A detailed schedule will be announced soon.

Updates on the search progress will be posted to the Chancellor Search website, http://www.mississippi.edu/ieo/um/, and on Twitter @UM_Search.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi: Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University, including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi, including the UM Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Ole Miss Law Wins World Championship in Space Law

Team of three students triumphs over groups from India and Greece en route to victory

UM School of Law wins world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem

A team from the UM School of Law wins the world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem.

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi School of Law has won the world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem. The team beat India’s Nalsar University of Law in the semifinals and triumphed over National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, today (Oct. 15) in the final round.

UM is one of three law schools in the world to offer a Master of Laws in Air and Space Law, but the only school to offer a certificate in remote sensing, air and space law at the Juris Doctor level, a distinction that contributed to the team’s success.

“The law school congratulates our team on their truly outstanding accomplishment – the University of Mississippi School of Law’s first international moot court championship,” said Debbie Bell, UM law dean.

“Success like this only further highlights the strength of our advocacy programs and space law program in general.”

The championship team includes Olivia Hoff of Gulfport and C.J. Robison from Lubbock, Texas, both third-year law students in the space law certificate program. Joining them is Ian Perry of Ellis County, Texas, a 2013 J.D. recipient who is working on his space law LL.M., and Michael Dodge, an adjunct assistant UM professor who graduated from the school’s space law program in 2008.

Competing at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the teams each argued a hypothetical case involving an asteroid mining dispute and liability for a failed attempt to divert an asteroid from colliding with the Earth. Three members of the International Court of Justice served as judges for the competition.

In its 24th year, the competition takes place under the guidance of the International Institute of Space Law, headquartered in Paris, and attracts more than 60 law schools from around the globe. Three members of the International Court of Justice served as judges for the competition.

The team won the national championship March 21 at the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition at Georgetown University Law Center, which qualified them to compete in the world finals.

“I am so proud of our students,” said Jacquie Serrao, director of the university’s LL.M. program in air and space law. “Their hard work, determination, substantive knowledge and oral and written advocacy skills really set them apart from others in the competition. That, combined with the amazing professors at the law school who contributed so much of their time in mooting our students, really made the difference.”

This victory builds on a string of successes for the Ole Miss law school’s advocacy programs, which include winning the nation’s pre-eminent environmental law moot court competition in February for the fourth time in five years, winning four national championships in 2014 alone, earning a top 18 national ranking for the school’s moot court board in 2014, receiving second place at the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition last fall, and achieving a top-eight finish at the moot court National Championship hosted by the University of Houston Law Center in January.

FBI, UM Student Affairs Honor UPD Officers

Three presented awards, praised for contributing to statue noose investigation

UPD Chief Tim Potts speaks at a ceremony where representatives of the FBI recognized the members of UPD who helped with the James Meredith Statue case. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

UPD Chief Tim Potts speaks at a ceremony where FBI representatives recognized the UPD officers who helped with the James Meredith statue vandalism case. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi police officers were honored Wednesday (Oct. 14) for their involvement in the investigation of vandalism to the James Meredith statue on campus last year.

During a brief ceremony on the back porch of the Lyceum, just feet from the statue, Bryan McCloskey, senior supervisory resident agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Jackson division, presented UPD Capt. Jane Tutor, Lt. Jeremy Cook and Sgt. Shayla McGuire with personalized certificates from FBI Director James B. Comey, commending them for their cooperation and diligence in the probe.

Brandi Hephner Labanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, also presented the three with 1848 employee lapel pins and bookends made from wood reclaimed from the Grove. About 70 UM administrators, faculty, staff and students attended the afternoon event.

UPD’s combined detective skills helped federal law enforcement officials arrest three former UM students as suspects in the February 2014 incident.

“This was a major investigation for us and nothing less than a hate crime,” McCloskey said. “The FBI wouldn’t have successfully solved the case and been able to bring prosecution without UPD’s collaborative efforts. Hopefully, because of this stance, reprehensible incidents like this won’t happen here again.”

Each of the UPD officers expressed humility and appreciation at the recognition.

“We spent countless hours staying abreast of this case,” said Tutor, a Toccopola native who became UPD’s first female detective in July 2003. “I hope that all UM students realize that we always put their safety first.”

Cook, an Oxford native and 2008 UM graduate who joined the force a year later, agreed.

“Being rewarded for the hard work we do every day is something special,” he said. “We care about everybody.”

“Our team takes great pride in having helped solve this particular case, but all cases, whether misdemeanors or felonies, are equally important to us,” said McGuire, also an Oxford native. “Still, I think it’s pretty cool to be recognized, even though we don’t do it for that reason at all.”

UPD Chief Tim Potts, who oversaw the program, said it is fitting that campus law enforcement officials be honored for contributing to the investigation.

“Under the leadership of former UPD Chief Calvin Sellers, our department was involved in the investigation of this reprehensible incident from beginning to end,” Potts said. “They each did their jobs and did them well. They deserve this recognition and I’m proud of them.”

The incident’s horrible message of hatred, rejection and fear was countered positively by UPD’s efforts to solve the case and ensure the campus remains a safe place for all members of its community, Hephner Labanc said.

“Justice has been served, members of our minority community have been supported and civil rights have been validated,” she said. “This is community. This is Ole Miss.”

Former UM student Graeme Phillip Harris of Alphraetta, Georgia, admitted to helping two others place a noose and a former version of the Georgia state flag on the statue sometime before dawn on Feb. 16, 2014. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills sentenced Harris in September to six months in prison beginning Jan. 4, followed by 12 months of supervised release.

Harris pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees, and prosecutors agreed to drop a felony charge. Harris admitted to undertaking the plan after a night of drinking in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. The then-freshmen were fraternity members at the time.

The fraternity voted to remove the men from the organization. The chapter was subsequently removed from campus after an investigation sparked by the incident revealed it was involved in hazing.

Austin Reed Edenfield of Georgia, who also allegedly took part in the vandalism, had been scheduled to plead guilty to an unspecified crime last month, but that hearing was postponed without explanation in court papers.

A third unnamed former UM student alleged to have participated in the act has not been charged. Prosecutors said the investigation is ongoing.

Meredith integrated Ole Miss amid rioting that was suppressed by federal troops in 1962.

ATO Chapter Honored with True Merit Award

UM fraternity receives award for eighth straight year

William Fisher, chapter president, accepted the True Merit award.

William Fisher, chapter president, accepts the True Merit award.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Delta Psi chapter of Alpha Tau Omega at the University of Mississippi received the True Merit award at the ATO national convention for its outstanding accomplishments for the 2014-15 academic year.

This is the eighth year in a row for the UM fraternity.

“Because of Mississippi’s proven success as a chapter, individual members enjoy a strong ATO experience that enhances their college education and makes them more valuable as citizens, currently on their campus, but very soon, as members of their respective communities,” said Wynn Smiley, chief executive officer of the national fraternity.

The True Merit award is recognition of the chapter’s overall excellence, including community and campus involvement.

“Receiving a true merit bowl is a significant honor for our chapter,” said William Fisher, chapter president, of Greenwood. “It makes me proud to know that we are continuing a legacy that has been set by many of the Ole Miss ATOs that came before us.”

The men of the Delta Psi chapter raised more than $40,000 for Delta Streets Academy, recruited pledge classes of more than 80 men and continually excel in campus involvement.

“The fact that the men have won this award eight straight years shows in incredible level of consistency,” said Dylan Farrell, leadership consultant for the Mississippi chapter.

All chapters are required to submit an annual report detailing each area of their performance throughout the year. The reports are presented to a panel of judges not affiliated with ATO.

“Even though we are the largest chapter in the country, we still excel in almost every category on campus and nationally. We are constantly striving to be the best that we can be,” Fisher said.