Chemistry Professor Lands National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Davita Watkins is department's fifth honoree and university's first African-American winner

Davita Watkins (right), assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, works with students Briana Simms and Duong Ngo in her lab in Coulter Hall. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi faculty member has won a prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award for her functional materials research.

Davita L. Watkins, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has received the grant to investigate the role of sigma-hole interactions in advanced functional materials that she develops in her laboratory. The five-year award is for approximately $500,000.

Watkins is the university’s fifth chemistry professor – and first female chemistry professor – selected as an NSF CAREER awardee, and the eighth NSF CAREER awardee in any discipline over the past decade from Ole Miss. She is also the first African-American to win this prestigious award at the university.

“Even now, it still feels surreal,” Watkins said. “The wonderful part about being a scientist and research professor is seeing your thoughts and ideas come to life.

“It’s encouraging and thrilling to know that the scientific community acknowledges the challenge that we are willing to face as scholars and values both the commitment and the work we are doing.”

Previous CAREER awardees from the UM chemistry department are Andrew Cooksy (1995), Nathan Hammer (2010), Amal Dass (2013) and Jared Delcamp (2015).

“I have some amazing and supportive colleagues, so it’s wonderful to know that I am in good company,” Watkins said. “I acknowledge the strides that women and underrepresented minorities are making in STEM.

“In review of the STEM workforce, minority women comprise fewer than one in 10 employed scientists and engineers. In turn, I do not take receiving the award lightly because I know that it transcends beyond me.”

CAREER Awards are among the most prestigious made by the National Science Foundation and are extremely competitive.

“We are so proud of Dr. Watkins for this accomplishment and look forward to the great science this award will enable,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The chemistry department has shown strong leadership in successful CAREER awards. We look forward to even more success across the university in this important NSF program in the coming years.”

The department has a long tradition of identifying and hiring outstanding teacher-scholars, said Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education and professor of chemistry.

“Even with this success, we could not have anticipated that we might find someone as extraordinarily talented as Professor Davita Watkins,” Hussey said. “Not only is she an outstanding person and emerging scholar, she is a gifted instructor too.

Davita Watkins is the university’s fifth chemistry professor – and first female chemistry professor – to win a National Science Foundation Career Award for her work. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“Professor Watkins does research in synthetic organic chemistry, which is one of the most difficult areas of the field of chemistry. This grant award will guarantee that she has the resources and support she needs to fully launch her career.”

Watkins’ research explores the operational efficiency of functional materials – ranging from solar-harvesting polymers to nano-sized therapeutic drug-delivery systems. Efficiency depends upon two factors: the nature of the constituting components – in this case, molecules – and the arrangement of those molecules to yield a useful overall composition.

“The ability to control these molecules and understand their organization into discrete nanoscale arrays that exhibit unique properties affords transformative advances in chemistry and material science,” Watkins said.

“The research focus of this CAREER plan is to establish guidelines towards developing molecules that absorb natural energy and produce/conduct electrical current. These molecules are unique in that they are programmed to self-organize and form structures that enhance those light-harvesting properties.”

The new knowledge gained from this research will lead to the development of more efficient organic-based materials and devices, thereby advancing the pursuit of technological applications, such as electronic devices and biomedical implants.

Watkins plans to collaborate with researchers at both Ole Miss and elsewhere in her research.

“Within the chemistry department, our research programs tend to overlap and we all work together on various projects,” she said. “My primary collaborators are Dr. Nathan Hammer (UM spectroscopist), Dr. Gregory Tschumper (UM computational/theoretical chemist) and Dr. Arnold Rheingold (crystallographer at the University of California at San Diego).”

Additionally, the project affords opportunities to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“Specifically, outreach initiatives are aimed toward increasing the number of females and minorities in chemistry-related fields by immersing rising high school seniors into a summer research program called Operation I Can Be,” said Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “The program ensures continuation in scientific career fields by establishing networks and mentorship across disciplines; in turn, diversifying the future of the scientific workforce and culture.”

Watkins acknowledged her position as a role model for future scientists of color.

“Even thinking about it now, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “I hope to inspire my young scholars to chase after the science that excites them and always thank those who paved the way for them to do so.”

The NSF CAREER Award is funded under grant number 1652094.

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit

University Community Mourns Paul Tobin Maginnis

Retired professor, chair helped build Department of Computer and Information Science

P. Tobin Maginnis

OXFORD, Miss. – Paul Tobin Maginnis, a professor emeritus who served as interim chair and helped build the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Mississippi, died June 14 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford. He was 70.

A private graveside service was held June 16 at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Former colleagues and students reflected upon their relationships with Maginnis.

“Tobin will be missed by all of us, including the thousands of students he taught during his 36 years as an Ole Miss faculty member,” said Conrad Cunningham, former chair and professor of computer and information science and longtime friend of Maginnis. “Tobin’s dedication to the students and to computer science education and research – and his pro-student attitude – helped attract me to the faculty.”

Harley Garrett Jr. of Oxford, a retired Air Force officer with a second career in industry and a third with Global Technical Systems, recalled meeting Maginnis through work between 2003 and 2004. Though Garrett was 65 at the time, he credited Maginnis with having taught him “a lot – about a lot.”

“I have been blessed with three careers and have known many people in my life,” he said. “Out of that population, there are a few whose personality, professionalism and enjoyment of helping others can match Tobin’s.

“We shared moments of discussion on a myriad of topics, even though our professional focus was on the application of computer science in the hands of skilled students.”

Garrett said Maginnis’ love of life, passion for understanding things he was interested in, and kindness and generosity toward others are what he remembers most.

“He was also a gifted teacher whose gift transcended all of his endeavors, not just computer science,” he said.

Yi Liu, another former student of Maginnis’ and associate professor of computer science at South Dakota State University, remembered him as “a nice person.”

“I took two classes from him and he was my mentor in teaching the computer organization class,” she said. “I learned from him and I respected him.

“The last time I saw him was at the ACMSE conference at Ole Miss back in 2010. He gave me a hug. I wish I had spent more time talking to him.”

Bill Taylor, vice president of information technology at FNB Oxford, credited Maginnis with jump-starting his professional career.

“During my first meeting with him, he encouraged me to ask Dr. Cook for a job in the CS department,” Taylor said. “He said, ‘We have never hired a freshman before, but I think you are going to be the first.’ He was right.

“Then, right before Christmas break, he told me that when I came back in January, he wanted to talk to me about an opportunity to help get the first Linux certification program going. My professional career started when Dr. Maginnis recommended me for a local IT position.”

Born in Baltimore to the late Paul Tobin “PT” Maginnis and Emily Maginnis Robishaw, Maginnis began working at the university in 1979. He created and taught an extensive array of undergraduate and graduate courses on operating systems, networks and computer architecture. His hard work, long hours and innovative ideas helped shape the identity of computer science education at Ole Miss.

“He taught, advised and supervised many graduate and undergraduate students,” Cunningham said. “The students recognized and appreciated the passion that he brought to his position.”

Maginnis believed in academic integrity and would go to great lengths to preserve it, said Pam Lawhead, professor emeritus of computer and information science.

“He was fair to a flaw but would not stand for or support any breach of academic integrity,” Lawhead said. “His ability to create assignments that absolutely taught the student the concept in question were unparalleled in our department.

“His respect for the individuality of the many and different employees and students created an interesting environment in which to work.”

Maginnis’ roles evolved over the years, said Jimmy Palmer, information technology coordinator at UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

“Early on, I thought of him as a mentor and teacher,” Palmer said. “A little later, I thought of him as an employer and leader. In more recent years, I thought of him as a colleague and friend.”

Palmer said Maginnis saw something in him that he did not see in himself.

“He trusted me and gave me responsibilities that made me grow as a person and an engineer,” Palmer said. “He asked me to work for him and gave me my first real job in my IT career. I will always be grateful for my relationship with Tobin.”

Maginnis took on the additional responsibility to maintain and support the department’s computer systems for many years. He and his students installed the department’s first network and connected it to the fledgling campus and national networks.

He advocated the use and development of open-source software, computer software that is freely available for anyone to use and modify without the proprietary restrictions imposed by companies. Maginnis used open-source operating systems such as MINIX, Free BSD and Linux in his teaching and research.

Sair Technologies, the company he founded in the 1990s, was at the forefront of open-source technology training and accreditation.

His interest in the “systems” aspect of computing continued until his retirement in 2015, but he adapted to the changing technologies and needs of Ole Miss students.

In the 1990s, Maginnis taught computer graphics and developed interactive “electronic brochures” using the personal computing technologies of that era. In recent years, he expanded his teaching to include web development, microcontroller programming and 3-D printing.

“The building of our 3-D printer lab in 2013 illustrates Tobin’s approach to being a faculty member,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to introduce 3-D printing into one of his courses. As chair at the time, I authorized department funds for that purpose.

“When the kit arrived, Tobin spent a couple of unpaid summer days assembling the kit. I still have the image of Tobin, with all the parts spread out across the conference room table, tools in hand, assembling the printer. I remember the pleasure he had at getting the first 3-D prints off the device. Students have made the resulting Digital Design and 3-D Printing course one of our more popular electives in recent years.”

A member of the Catholic Church in Menominee, Michigan, Maginnis was a sailing enthusiast and enjoyed riding motorcycles. An avid fan of all movies, he particularly loved action flicks and cartoons, and was a devotee of musical theater.

Besides Sair Technologies, he was the founder Gunsmanship Inc., owner of Tobix, an associate member at Wave Technologies and an associate staff member at Global Technology Systems. He also was a member of the Oxford Amateur Radio Club, National Rifle Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a certified home inspector.

Maginnis worked briefly at the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences before moving to the Department of Computer Science, where he was employed for 36 years.

Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by a daughter, Erin Elizabeth Dillon-Maginnis.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth Anneal Dillon of Oxford; daughters Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford and Meredith Dillon-Maginnis of Augusta, Georgia; a son, Jordan Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford; sisters Michael Leonard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Moira Dean of Milwaukee and Katie Winlinski of Green Bay, Wisconsin; and brothers Jack Maginnis of Washington, D.C., and Kevin Maginnis of Chicago.

Memorial designations in Maginnis’ memory can be made to the American Cancer Society, 1380 Livingston Lane, Jackson, MS 39213.

Annual Conference to Explore ‘Faulkner and Money’

July 23-27 event expected to draw hundreds from around the globe

William Faulkner’s typewriter, along with copies of a few of his best-selling novels and those of some of his African-American contemporaries, are on display at Rowan Oak. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – “Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha and Beyond” is the theme for the University of Mississippi’s 44th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, set for July 23-27.

Five days of lectures, panels, tours, exhibits and other presentations will explore the multifaceted economies of Yoknapatawpha County, the Faulkner oeuvre and the literary profession. Besides three keynote lectures, the conference program will include panel presentations, guided daylong tours of north Mississippi and the Delta, and sessions on “Teaching Faulkner.”

“This year’s theme was actually suggested a decade or more ago by one of the legendary figures of Faulkner studies, the late Noel Polk, who often mentioned how fascinating, and entertaining, a conference would be on Faulkner and money,” said Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and professor of English who serves as director of the conference.

“More recently, the program committee had contemplated building a conference around the slightly wider theme of Faulkner and economics. So two years ago, we decided to combine both the specific subject of money and the more general topic of economics and came up with ‘Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha.'”

This year’s subject is rewarding for a number of reasons, Watson said.

“First of all, William Faulkner spent his first 25 years or more as a serious writer of fiction in almost constant financial difficulty,” he said. “He had trouble supporting his extended family off his writing alone, and he worried all the time about money.

“His own financial arrangements, both personal and professional, his relationship to the literary marketplace and his search for other sources of income available to established writers all have the potential to shed important light on the profession of authorship in 20th century America.”

Additionally, and for some of the same reasons, Faulkner’s fiction is especially rich in economic content: money problems, elaborate business arrangements, convoluted bets and wagers, get-rich-quick schemes and con games.

“His people – and sometimes individual characters – run the gamut from enormous wealth to miserable poverty,” Watson said. “Many are unduly preoccupied with money, much like their creator.

“There’s a lot to learn from Faulkner’s work about the economics of rural and small-town life, of the South and of modern America. We’ll be exploring all of these issues in July.”

This bronze statue of William Faulkner near City Hall is a popular attraction for Faulkner enthusiasts visiting Oxford. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

The conference will begin with a reception at the University Museum, after which the academic program of the conference will open with two keynote addresses, followed by a buffet supper on the grounds of Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. Over the next four days, a busy schedule of lectures and panels also includes an afternoon cocktail reception, a picnic at Rowan Oak, the guided tours and a closing party on Thursday afternoon.

The “Teaching Faulkner” sessions will be led by James B. Carothers, of the University of Kansas; Terrell L. Tebbetts, Lyon College; Brian McDonald, Lancaster, Pennsylvania School District; Charles Peek, University of Nebraska at Kearney; and Theresa M. Towner, University of Texas at Dallas.

Throughout the conference, the university’s J.D. Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia. The University Press of Mississippi will exhibit books of interest published by university presses throughout the country.

Faulkner collector Seth Berner is organizing a display of his collection, with books for sale. Berner also will give a brown bag lunch presentation on “Collecting Faulkner.”

Also, collaborators on the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project, a database and digital mapping project at the University of Virginia, will present updates on its progress at a special conference session.

The conference early registration fee, good through June, is $150 for students and $275 for other participants. After July 1, the fee is $175 for students and $300 for others.

To register or for more information, visit

UM Visiting Professor Receives Summer Scholar Award to Vassar

Jaime Cantrell will spend three weeks studying poet Elizabeth Bishop

Jaime Cantrell, visiting assistant professor of English and faculty affiliate to the Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, is studying American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Vassar University this summer. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi English professor is the recipient of a prestigious scholarship award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Jaime Cantrell, visiting assistant professor of English and faculty affiliate at the university’s Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, has been selected as an NEH Summer Scholar from a national applicant pool to attend one of 24 seminars and institutes.

Cantrell will participate in “Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive,” a three-week program directed by Bethany Hicok at Vassar College. Each of the 16 educators selected to participate receive a stipend of $2,700 to cover their travel, study and living expenses.

“My reasons for participating in the ‘Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive’ NEH summer institute are interwoven,” Cantrell said. “Archival research encompasses both bodies of knowledge and embodied experiences, and I am interested in how framing ‘Bishop As Archival Theorist’ begs affective inquiries about our relationship as scholars to the literary archival past – even as it reveals reinvigorated attenuations to space, emotions and material method.”

Bishop was an American poet and author who served as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1949-50 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956 and a National Book Award in 1970.

Although Cantrell herself is not a Bishop expert, she’s a 20th century Americanist.

“In my American lit large lecture courses, students close read Bishop’s ‘One Art’ and ‘In the Waiting Room’ alongside other post-1945 female poets and their works, including Adrienne Rich’s ‘Diving Into the Wreck’ and Sylvia Plath’s ‘Daddy’ and ‘Morning Song,'” Cantrell said.

In her literary criticism courses, Cantrell stresses to students that developing the analytical skills for reading theory deeply and considering how texts continue to resonate can be difficult.

“I think, perhaps, admitting or even confessing our inner amateurs is critically germane to the evolution of our profession and to the excellence of our pedagogy,” she said. “Like our students, we don’t come to the classroom – or in this case, seminar – to learn what we already know.”

Each summer, the NEH supports these enrichment opportunities at colleges, universities and cultural institutions to allow faculty to work in collaboration and study with experts in humanities disciplines.

Cantrell said her strong desire to participate in this NEH summer seminar extends beyond pedagogical practices and into her own scholarly interests.

“As an interpreter of the humanities, I believe the slippages, overlaps and ambiguities between those (unstable) identities – teacher and researcher – are where radical potentialities lie,” she said.

Cantrell’s recognition speaks to her own achievement and those of the Ole Miss English department, said Ivo Kamps, UM chair and professor of English.

“Selection to NEH seminars is highly competitive, and it is to Dr. Cantrell’s credit that she has been chosen,” he said. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is perhaps the most important national agency to support the scholarship of English professors, and we are proud that the NEH has selected visiting professor Jaime Cantrell for one of its prestigious summer seminars.”

Cantrell also teaches specialized cross-listed courses in English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, including Queer Theory, LGBTQ Literatures, Introduction to Gender Studies, Gender and Culture and Women in Literature.

She earned her master’s degree in women’s studies from the University of Alabama and her doctorate in English literature with a graduate concentration in women’s and gender studies from Louisiana State University. She has been awarded library and research grants from Cornell University, Duke University and the NEH.

Cantrell is the author of essays and reviews appearing in Feminist Formations, The Journal of Lesbian Studies, Study the South, Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality, “This Book is An Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics” (UIP Press, 2015), “The Bohemian South: Creating Countercultures, from Poe to Punk” (UNC Press, 2017) and the Journal of Homosexuality.

She co-edited “Out of the Closet, Into the Archive: Researching Sexual Histories” (SUNY Press, Queer Politics and Cultures series, 2015). “Out of the Closet, Into the Archives” is a 2016 Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best LGBT Anthology.

The approximately 537 NEH Summer Scholars who participate in these programs of study will teach more than 93,975 American students the following year.

For more information about the UM Department of English, visit

For more information about the Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, go to

UM English Professor Receives Carnegie Fellowship

Adetayo Alabi to spend summer developing curriculum at Nigerian university

Adetayo Alabi, associate professor of English, will spend this summer developing courses at Kwara State University in Nigeria as a Carnegie Fellowship recipient. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor has received a prestigious Carnegie fellowship to help with curriculum development at a Nigerian university.

Adetayo Alabi, associate professor of English, was awarded the funding by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program. He will spend the summer at Kwara State University in Malete, Nigeria, assisting Mary Kolawole, chair of English and dean of KSU’s postgraduate school.

“Professor Kolawole and I will review the curriculum of the English department, teach their postcolonial and world literature postgraduate program, and be involved in graduate student and early career training and mentoring,” Alabi said. “We will also facilitate workshops on graduate admissions, career progression and publishing in North American universities and carry out research in African literatures and cultures.”

Alabi’s achievement speaks to the high caliber of the department’s faculty, said Ivo Kamps, UM chair and professor of English.

“Professor Alabi is one of our more experienced faculty members, and as a native Nigerian, it should be relatively easy for him to share his knowledge about curriculum development with the faculty at Kwara State University in Nigeria,” Kamps said. “It’s wonderful that Professor Alabi is willing to give of his precious time over the summer to help improve education in his home country.”

The goal is to review and expand the graduate program curriculum in the Department of English at Kwara State to align it with best global practices, Alabi said.

“The fellowship allows me to train and mentor Kwara State graduate students and early career staff in my research areas and facilitate the students’ research, publishing and international exposure,” he said. “It will also enhance education and research collaboration between the University of Mississippi and Kwara State University following a memorandum of agreement signed by both institutions in 2015.”

Alabi earned his doctorate in English from the University of Saskatchewan, master’s degrees from both the University of Guelph and the University of Ibadan and a bachelor’s degree from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His teaching and research interests include postcolonial studies, literary theory and autobiographical genre in comparative black studies.

A respected author, he has written several books and articles. His publications include “Telling Our Stories: Continuities and Divergences in Black Autobiographies” (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), “I of the Valiant Stock: Yoruba Bridal Chant and the Autobiographical Genre,” “Yoruba Creativity: Fiction, Language, Life and Songs” (Africa World Press, 2005), “When a Mouth Is Sweeter than Salt: Toyin Falola and the Autophylographical Genre” (Africa World Press, 2005) and “Theorizing Blackness.’Marvels of the African World: Cultural Patrimony, New World Connections and Identities'” (African World Press, 2003).

The Kwara State University project is among 43 projects that will pair African diaspora scholars with one of 35 higher education institutions and collaborators in Africa to work together in the coming months. The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, in its fourth year, is designed to reverse Africa’s brain drain, build capacity at host institutions and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa, the U.S. and Canada.

It is funded by Carnegie Corp. of New York and managed by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with U.S. International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, which coordinates the activities of the advisory council.

Some 282 African Diaspora fellowships have been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception. Fellowships match host universities with African-born scholars and cover the expenses for project visits between 14 and 90 days, including transportation, a daily stipend and the cost of obtaining visas and health insurance.

For more information about UM’s Department of English, visit

Center for Population Studies Releases State Health and Hunger Atlas

Map addresses food insecurity and poor health outcomes around Mississippi

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies has developed an extensive reference guide to poverty, hunger and chronic health problems in the state, the Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas.

Modeled after the Missouri Hunger Atlas, the resource is the first iteration of its kind in Mississippi and in the South. This atlas addresses high rates of food insecurity and poor health outcomes, two important issues in the state.

“Alarmingly, while national food insecurity trends are declining, Mississippi’s rates are rising,” said Anne Cafer, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology and co-coordinator of the atlas project.

“For the last 15 years, Mississippi has consistently ranked among the top two states with the highest food insecurity rate. Mississippi also consistently ranks poorly for a number of demographic, economic and health statistics when compared to national thresholds.”

This project is also headed by John Green, professor of sociology and anthropology and director of the Center for Population Studies, and Rachel Haggard, an Ole Miss graduate student from San Diego.

Cafer worked on the Missouri Hunger Atlas, which has proven useful to an array of community organizers and legislators. Wanting to bring the concept to Mississippi, she quickly found support from community and university stakeholders.

With the help of Green and Haggard, the Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas was initiated and completed in less than four months.

“The atlas seeks to shed light on county-level variations for a variety of these demographic, health and hunger indicators,” Green said. “Examining these indicators at a county level, patterns, normally overshadowed by standard macro, national, level analysis begin to emerge.

“This atlas is intended to offer a tool for improving assessment of need and performance to promote improved practices and decision-making related to hunger and health in Mississippi.”

The developers have five goals for the atlas:

– Raise awareness regarding the extent and depth of food insecurity and health disparities and needs in Mississippi

– Spread knowledge of what public and private programs are doing to reach vulnerable populations

– Reveal geographic patterns in the state

– Provide need and performance measures that can be updated on a regular basis

– Aid public and private stakeholders to assess their performance and provide a means for improving better resource delivery to the Mississippians they serve

Meeting to discuss the Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas in the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology are (from left) Clifford Holley, Rachel Haggard, Anne Cafer and John Green. Submitted photo

“In this atlas, health and hunger indicators are mapped and used to assess need – such as food security rates, obesity rate, etc. – and performance – including SNAP enrollment and primary care physicians per 100,000 people,” Cafer said. “The economic and demographic data are also mapped to provide additional information on county level context surrounding health and hunger.”

“This visual, spatial analysis helps community stakeholders, policymakers, researchers and other practitioners target their efforts and resources to places most in need,” Green said. “Additionally, each county has a separate page, which provides their exact rates and rankings for each of the variables.”

Efforts to produce the atlas were supported by public agencies such as the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the members of the UM Department of Pharmacy Administration.

“It is through partnerships and collaboration that efforts to reduce hunger and health disparities in Mississippi are possible,” Haggard said. “The atlas is a compilation of hard work from these partners and faculty and students as well as the resources provided by the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi.”

The Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas is available at

Seven UM Freshmen Receive Omicron Delta Kappa Awards

Honor society recognizes outstanding leadership, community service

This year’s recipients of the Omicron Delta Kappa Freshman Leader Awards are (from left) James ‘JC’ Pride of Jackson, Olivia Lanum of Brandon, Caroline Glaze of Hattiesburg, Leah Davis of Tupelo, Savannah Day of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Summer Jefferson of Cumming, Georgia, and Brock Huerkamp of Arkadelphia. Photo by Ryan Upshaw

OXFORD, Miss. – Seven University of Mississippi freshmen have been inducted into the Alpha Phi chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, a prestigious national leadership honor society.

The annual ODK Freshman Leadership Awards, which identify outstanding freshman leaders and community servants, were presented at the organization’s annual induction ceremony. Previous recipients have gone on to serve in roles such as Associated Student Body president and to be inducted into the university’s student Hall of Fame.

This year’s recipients of the ODK Freshman Leader Awards are Leah Davis of Tupelo, Savannah Day of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Caroline Glaze of Hattiesburg, Brock Huerkamp of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Summer Jefferson of Cumming, Georgia, Olivia Lanum of Brandon and James “JC” Pride of Jackson.

“Each year, the selection process becomes more difficult as the university attracts outstanding students from all over the country,” said Ryan Upshaw, ODK adviser and assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering.

“Our society is excited to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions during their first year on campus. We also look forward to their potential membership in our society later in their college career.”

A psychology major, Davis expressed gratitude at the recognition.

“Receiving the ODK Freshman Leader of the Year Award was a very humbling experience for me,” she said. “I was honored to know that the work and service I have done for my beloved university was recognized.

“I am excited for the opportunities that this recognition will bring, and cannot wait to continue to serve my campus!”

Davis is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and is a LuckyDay Scholar. She has participated in the ASB Freshman Council and Black Student Union and is a member of the UM Gospel Choir and Concert Singers. She has volunteered with Green Grove, “Groovin’ at Move-In” and the Oxford Film Festival.

Day is double majoring in public policy leadership and broadcast journalism as a member of both the Honors College and the Lott Leadership Institute. The recipient of a scholarship from the Lott Institute, she served as a legislative aide for the ASB Senate and was a member of the inaugural ASB Freshman Forum program and Lambda Sigma. She also is a news reporter for NewsWatch Ole Miss and has volunteered with RebelTHON and Big Event.

Glaze is an Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholar studying public policy leadership and secondary math education. She is a member of the Honors College, Lott Leadership Institute and the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. She serves as vice president of Pittman Hall Community Council and is a member of ASB Freshman Council and Lambda Sigma. Glaze has volunteered with the Marks Tutoring Project and the Ole Miss Food Bank.

A member of the Honors College and the Lott Leadership Institute, Huerkamp is studying public policy leadership. He has volunteered with RebelTHON and the Big Event and has been a member of the ASB Freshman Council and Lambda Sigma. He will serve on the executive board of RebelTHON 2018.

Jefferson is a biology major as a member of the Honors College. She is the recipient of the Stamps Scholarship, the highest campus scholarship, and is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. Jefferson is a team leader and accounting chair for Coaches Against Cancer and has begun undergraduate research in the Department of Biology. This summer, she will intern with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A member of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Honors College, Lanum is studying mechanical engineering with an emphasis in manufacturing. She is president of the Stewart Hall Community Council and a member of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council, Society of Women Engineers, Lambda Sigma and the NASA Student Launch Initiative Outreach and Structures Team. She has volunteered with the FIRST Robotics Tournament and will travel to South Carolina next fall to work as a co-op student with International Paper Co.

Pride is studying mechanical engineering with an emphasis in manufacturing as part of the CME and the Honors College. He has volunteered with the Big Event, RebelTHON and Coaching for Literacy. Pride is the recipient of the W.R. Newman scholarship and is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class, ASB Freshman Council and Lambda Sigma.

Omicron Delta Kappa is a 103-year-old leadership honor society that has initiated more than 300,000 members at since its founding. The society has more than 285 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States.

McLean Institute Offers Summer Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

Weeklong enrichment camp serves rising 10th- and 11th-graders

Participants in the 2016 McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership Program visit Square Books as part of their enrichment activities. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Rising high school sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply for a University of Mississippi summer enrichment program aimed at training future entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The second annual McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership Program is a weeklong, nonprofit effort for 30 students in 10th and 11th grades. Presented by a cohort of the Innovation Fellows program of the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, initiative at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, it meets July 9-14 on the Oxford campus.

“The goal of the program will be to introduce an initial cohort of students from around the state to the entrepreneurial spirit of community development,” said Brady Ruffin, a senior marketing communications major and executive director of the university’s Students Activities Association.

“To do this, the group of students will interact with community leaders throughout Oxford and Lafayette County, while also being exposed to readings and lectures from professors, community leaders and students.”

The registration deadline is June 23.

The inaugural class of MELP met May 29-June 3, 2016 on the Oxford campus. The weeklong series of activities was sponsored by the McLean Institute in partnership with the Office of Pre-College Programs.

Terrius Harris and Ryan Snow, innovation scholars with the CEED initiative, were instrumental in planning and facilitating that program.

“In this first summer, we sought to introduce an initial cohort of students from around the state to the entrepreneurial approaches to addressing pressing community needs,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and a professor of sociology.

“Our initial assessment indicates that at the beginning of the week, only one student believed that he or she could become an entrepreneur. By week’s end, the overwhelming majority of participants believed they had the potential to become entrepreneurs.”

MELP is structured to help students identify problems in their own communities and use innovative approaches to solve them. Throughout the week, participants study principles of entrepreneurship, data and demographics, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness through readings, lectures from Ole Miss faculty and staff, and field trips to meet with community leaders.

MELP’s first-year goal was to pilot a scalable and replicable program that will stimulate an interest in entrepreneurship among high school students that can be harnessed to solve community and state problems through community engagement.

As a followup, the McLean Institute conducted exit interviews and had students fill out surveys to evaluate the program. When asked to define the term “entrepreneurship,” one student responded with “having the courage to speak up about a problem and make a plan to fix it and follow through with your plan.”

The program’s goal is to bring about this type of inspired and innovative thinking, said J.R. Love, project manager for the CEED initiative.

“Thanks to our CEED students, program partners and the students who joined us this week, we have come together to learn from one another and join forces to address pressing social and economic problems in Mississippi,” Love said. “I am optimistic that we can expand this program in the future and develop a network of partnerships across the state that will impact quality of life in Mississippi.”

Besides the Office of Pre-College Programs, other MELP partners include the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the UM Center for Population Studies, Office of Sustainability, RebelWell and Food Bank, Square Books in Oxford, and Home Place Pastures in Como.

To learn more about the McLean Institute, visit

Four UM Faculty Members Named Liberal Arts New Scholars

Honor encourages continued research, scholarship, publication and creative achievement

Dean Lee Cohen, far left, and Associate Dean Charles Hussey, far right, congratulate UM’s 2017 College of Liberal Arts New Scholars. They are (from left) Jared Delcamp, Joshua Hendrickson, Derrick Harriell and Matthew Wilson. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Four University of Mississippi faculty members have been honored as inaugural recipients of a New Scholar Award in the university’s College of Liberal Arts.

The first recipients are Matthew R. Wilson, assistant professor of theatre arts, Derrick A. Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American studies, Jared Delcamp, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Joshua Hendrickson, assistant professor of economics. Each honoree received a $1,000 cash prize and medal, presented during the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony.

“The College of Liberal Arts continues to recruit some of the very best young faculty in the nation,” said Charles L. Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education and professor of chemistry. “These faculty members represent the ‘best of the best’ in the college and will no doubt prove to be academic leaders in their discipline.”

The New Scholar Award will be presented annually to untenured, tenure-track faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts who are within six years of their initial tenure-track academic appointment and who have demonstrated exemplary performance in research, scholarship and/or creative achievement. Depending on the quality of the pool of nominees, up to four awards will be available, with one each chosen from the areas of natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, and fine and performing arts.

Individuals may receive the award only once, but recipients will retain their eligibility for the College of Liberal Arts Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement, which is normally awarded to post-tenure, senior faculty.

“New scholars must be nominated by the department chair and/or tenured professorial rank colleagues in cooperation with the chair,” Hussey said. “Nominations will remain active for two years. A faculty committee chosen by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts or his designee will select the award recipients.”

Wilson said that for the college to acknowledge his work as an actor, director and choreographer makes him feel at home and proves that the administration is committed to a forward-thinking mission that addresses the plurality of the modern university and the needs of the modern world.

“My only concern in accepting this position was whether I would be able to stay connected to the world of theater practice and keep my professional career viable while based in Oxford,” he said. “My first two years here have worked out better than I had even hoped, and this award is a recognition of what I have been able to accomplish through the support of the university.”

One of Wilson’s specialties focuses on Italian Renaissance masked comedy called “commedia dell’arte.” This was the style of the Ole Miss Theatre production of “The Tooth-Puller” and is the subject of his scholarly book chapters and published plays.

“Each year, I travel to conferences and other universities to perform my ‘The Great One-Man Commedia Epic’ and to lecture on the history and theory of commedia dell’arte,” he said.

“Currently, I am in northern Italy, teaching commedia at a workshop in Siena, which includes several of our theatre arts majors, and traveling to historic theaters and museums for further research. My stipend is proving useful and well-timed in helping to subsidize this research trip.”

Hendrickson said he was surprised and humbled by the award.

“Maintaining an active and growing research agenda requires a lot of time and effort,” he said. “To be recognized as a recipient of this award when I know that there are countless others on the faculty working hard toward similar goals is an honor.”

Hendrickson’s research is predominantly focused on monetary theory, history and policy. He studies the effects of monetary policy on the economy, both in the present and during important historical events.

“My most recent work, for example, shows that the inflation that the British experienced during the Napoleonic Wars was due, in part, to the monetization of government debt by the Bank of England,” he said. “Other recent work examines how inflation affects the production decisions of firms and whether low interest rates can potentially cause boom-bust cycles in investment.”

To be recognized by the university is very rewarding, Harriell said.

“I believe in this university, the English department and our M.F.A. program,” he said. “Additionally, I work hard to sustain the level of excellence that has been set. For the university to acknowledge this means that my carrying of the torch is not being overlooked.”

Harriell’s second collection of poems is a historical collection highlighting the lives of celebrated heavyweight African-American pugilists Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson.

“My third collection is a collection that investigates my own past, as well as my adjustment to Mississippi and the South,” Harriell said.

Delcamp said he was so focused on his field’s research that he really hadn’t considered anyone outside of it taking notice of progress being made.

“To be acknowledged by people outside my own small research world was very fulfilling,” he said. “To be given an award like this certainly has instilled a sense of pride in the work my group has done. It was great to see people outside my field taking note of how hard we have been working.”

Delcamp’s research focuses on dye-sensitized solar cells. These solar cell materials are made from very robust, cost-effective, nonhazardous materials and can be mass produced at a fraction of the cost of solar cells commonly seen on rooftops.

“My group focuses on one specific component of these solar cells that is known to be the performance-limiting material,” Delcamp said. “We are using synthetic organic chemistry to offer new materials, which can be competitive in terms of performance to traditional solar cells while maintaining the tremendous cost advantage.

“So far, my team owns a number of records in this field, and we look forward to breaking them soon.”

For more information about the College of Liberal Arts, go to

LIGO Detects Third Set of Gravitational Waves

UM physicists part of project that has confirmed new population of black holes

The black holes detected by LIGO are much more massive than any previously observed using X-ray telescopes. Here, two black holes spiral around each other just before merging into one massive black hole. Illustration courtesy LSC/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonne

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi researchers involved with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration have confirmed that the international partnership has made a third detection of gravitational waves, demonstrating that a new window in astronomy has been firmly opened.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration is a group of more than 1,000 international scientists who search for cosmic gravitational-wave signals together with the European-based Virgo Collaboration. LIGO made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time, in September 2015.

The second detection was made in December 2015. The third detection, called GW170104 and made Jan. 4, 2017, is described in a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.

“This new detection is important because it allows us to further test the nature of gravity,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy and principal investigator of the Ole Miss LIGO Group. “Our tests show that Einstein’s general relativity works flawlessly even in these extreme situations. None of the tests we performed indicate any need for corrections to Einstein’s theory.”

As was the case with the first two detections, the waves were generated when two black holes merged to form a larger black hole. The latest finding solidifies the case for a new class of black hole pairs, or binary black holes, with masses that are larger than what had been seen before LIGO.

The newfound black hole, formed by a pair’s merger, has a mass about 49 times that of our sun. This fills in a gap between the masses of the two merged black holes detected previously by LIGO, which had solar masses of 62 (first detection) and 21 (second detection) solar masses.

The new observation occurred during LIGO’s current observing run, which began Nov. 30, 2016, and will continue through the summer. The observations are carried out by twin detectors, one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana.

In all three cases, each of LIGO’s twin detectors detected gravitational waves from the tremendously energetic mergers of black hole pairs – collisions that produce more power, during the instant before the black holes merge, than is radiated as light by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any given time.

The recent detection is the farthest yet, with the black holes located about 3 billion light-years from Earth. The black holes in the first and second detections are 1.3 and 1.4 billion light-years away, respectively.

“The University of Mississippi is so pleased to be a member of this international collaboration of talented scientists and engineers, which is producing such astounding breakthroughs,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“It is a testament to the quality and reputation of our physics department and research faculty to be an integral part of this endeavor since 2007. Their work is a great example of UM’s transformative impact on our understanding of the world.”

When black holes merge, they form even more massive black holes. The first two mergers observed by the LIGO Scientific Consortium, GW150914 and GW151226, yielded black holes with 62 and 21 solar masses, respectively. The most recent detection, GW170104, produced a black hole with about 49 solar masses. Graphic courtesy LSC/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet

The newest observation also provides clues about the directions in which the black holes are spinning.

As pairs of black holes spiral around each other, they also spin on their own axes – like a pair of ice skaters spinning individually while also circling each other. Sometimes black holes spin in the same overall orbital direction as the pair is moving – what astronomers refer to as aligned spins – and sometimes they spin in the opposite direction of the orbital motion: an anti-aligned spin.

What’s more, black holes also can be tilted away from the orbital plane. Essentially, they can spin in any direction.

The new LIGO data cannot determine if the recently observed black holes were tilted but they can indicate if the black holes were aligned or anti-aligned compared to the overall orbital motion, and this offers clues about how the pair formed.

Two primary models have developed to explain how binary pairs of black holes can form. In one model, the black holes come together later in life within crowded stellar clusters, pairing up after they sink to the center of a star cluster. In this scenario, the black holes can spin in any direction relative to their orbital motion.

The other model proposes that the black holes are born together, forming when each star in a pair explodes and then, because the original stars were spinning in alignment, the black holes remain aligned.

LIGO sees some evidence that the GW170104 black holes are anti-aligned, mildly favoring the dense stellar cluster theory.

The study also again puts Einstein’s theories to the test. LIGO researchers looked for an effect called dispersion, which occurs when waves in a physical medium travel at different speeds depending on their wavelength.

For example, light in glass disperses; this is how a prism creates a rainbow. Einstein’s general theory of relativity forbids dispersion from happening in gravitational waves as they propagate from their source to Earth. LIGO did not find evidence for this effect.

“This third confirmed gravitational wave detection is another step to an entire new field in astronomy: gravitational wave astronomy,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “This new way of observing will deepen our understanding of our universe in ways we could not imagine just a decade ago. UM is proud to be part of this revolution in astronomy and physics.”

Scientists will continue to search the latest LIGO data for signs of space-time ripples from the far reaches of the cosmos. They are also preparing technical upgrades for LIGO’s next run, scheduled to begin in late 2018.

“During the time between observing runs, the detectors’ sensitivity to gravitational waves will be improved,” said Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy. One of the upgrades will draw from Dooley’s research.

“A squeezed light source will be installed to manipulate the quantum nature of light and make the detectors even more precise measurement devices,” she said.

“With the third confirmed detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes, LIGO is establishing itself as a powerful observatory for revealing the dark side of the universe,” said David Reitze, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology and executive director of the LIGO Laboratory. “While LIGO is uniquely suited to observing these types of events, we hope to see other types of astrophysical events soon, such as the violent collision of two neutron stars.”

LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which conceived and built the project.

LIGO partners with the Virgo Collaboration, a consortium including 280 additional scientists throughout Europe and supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare and Nikhef, as well as Virgo’s host institution, the European Gravitational Observatory. Additional partners are listed at

For more information on LIGO, go to For more information on research and education in the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to