Daniel Roberts Reflects Upon His Days with UM Black Student Union

Organization provided support, fellowship and opportunities for many African-American students

Daniel Curtis Roberts, a 2014 UM public policy graduate from Moss Point, now works as an account executive for Edelman, the world’s largest communications marketing firm,in New York. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – While others may have questioned Daniel Roberts’ decision to enroll at the University of Mississippi, the Moss Point native felt no apprehension about being on campus. And any doubts about whether he belonged soon disappeared, thanks to his involvement in the Black Student Union.

Black Student Union was a safe space for black students,” said Roberts, who graduated in 2014 with a degree in public policy leadership and a minor in political science. “It provided a place to talk about the challenges we saw on campus and strategize ways to address them.

“BSU allowed us to be ourselves and stay in touch with the culture that we experienced growing up, while navigating a predominantly white university. It taught us about the different hues of blackness and the varied experiences many of us have.”

Most importantly, the organization, which celebrates its 50th year in 2018, helped African-American students maneuver through campus while being unapologetically black, said Roberts, who lives in New York City.

“I appreciate BSU for that,” he said. “I continue supporting the university by playing an active role in the internship program. I work with the staff twice a year to speak with students who are interning in my city and help connect them with professionals in their fields of interest.”

Roberts said he had always told himself if he didn’t go to college on the East Coast, he’d go to the best school in Mississippi: Ole Miss. After being accepted to the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Trent Lott Leadership Institute and receiving a full scholarship, it was a no brainer.

“I didn’t have any apprehension, but there were a lot of people who questioned my decision because of the university’s history involving integration,” Roberts said.

Roberts is remembered by UM staff members as a leader who worked with purpose.

“Daniel was personally motivated to make a difference for the active students in the Black Student Union,” said Valeria Ross, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Leadership and Advocacy. “He wanted to contribute however he could.

“What I remember most about Daniel was the intentionality with which he approached his support for the Black Student Union. He was very creative and he helped students pursue, oftentimes, unique opportunities … definitely ones that many times the student had not considered.”

Roberts pushed the importance of networking, internships and planning for the next step beyond the undergraduate experience with members of the Black Student Union, Ross said.

“He was one of the Black Student Union leaders who I remember passionately pushing study abroad, summer internships, connecting with alumni, all in an effort to encourage intentionality in charting the student leader journey so that it would connect to the student’s overall future career and/or graduate school plans,” she said.

As a student, Roberts served as chief of staff to BSU President Quadray Kohlhiem.

“My most memorable moment in BSU was during the university’s 50th year of integration,” Roberts said. “Our school received a great deal of international media coverage – noting the progress we made – and brought monumental speakers including Attorney General Eric Holder and civil rights leader Harry Belafonte.

“During this time, BSU leaders played a huge role in sharing stories of progress, while pointing out areas that still needed addressing.”

An account executive at Edelman, the world’s largest communications marketing firm, Roberts’ work includes doing a mix of public relations such as crisis management, executive visibility and celebrity engagement for several major brands.

“Ole Miss prepared me for this path by providing me countless opportunities to engage in global thinking through studying abroad three times (Ecuador, Germany and South Africa) and interning with first lady Michelle Obama at the White House,” he said. “Those experiences led to me securing a full-time role at the White House where I worked in communications and legislative affairs before starting my current role.”

Roberts’ parents, Ruben and Debra Roberts, and sister, Rachael Roberts, still reside in Moss Point.

Wild Mushrooms Topic for November Science Cafe

Biologist Jason Hoeksema will discuss ecology and culinary potential of fungi

Several varieties of wild mushrooms will be discussed during the November Oxford Science Cafe. Submitted photo by Jason Hoeksema

OXFORD, Miss. – The ecology and edibility of wild mushrooms is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s third meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Lusa Bakery and Cafe, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Jason Hoeksema, UM associate professor of biology, will discuss “Wild mushrooms: Ecology, edibility and more.” Admission is free.

“What is a mushroom? What is its natural function for fungi? Which ones are delicious and which ones will make you ill or worse?” Hoeksema said. “In this presentation, we’ll answer all these questions.

“We’ll start with a discussion of fungal ecology, especially focusing on how fungi obtain food and the really interesting ways that fungi can change the ecology of plants and nutrient cycling.”

Hoeksema’s 45-minute presentation also will examine the role of mushrooms in the life cycles of fungi.

“Finally, we’ll discuss strategies for finding and safely enjoying wild mushrooms in northern Mississippi,” he said.

A Science Cafe organizer said Hoeksema’s discussion should be most interesting.

“I’m eagerly waiting for Dr. Hoeksema’s presentation,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy. “The world of mushrooms is so fascinating.

“When I was a kid, I spent many weekends mushroom hunting with my dad. Nowadays, when I hike in the woods of Mississippi, I’m still mesmerized by the variety and beauty of wild mushrooms.”

Hoeksema received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Davis, respectively. A member of the Ole Miss faculty since 2006, he teaches courses in ecology, evolution, statistics, microbiology, mycology and ornithology. He also occasionally leads mushroom field trips for the public.

His research addresses questions regarding the ecological and evolutionary consequences of species interactions – such as mutualism, parasitism and competition – on populations and communities, with a focus on interactions between plants and mycorrhizal fungi.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-7046.

Adopt-a-Basket Program Helps Feed UM Families

Donations being accepted through mid-November

Volunteer Brad Aldridge (left) helps Valerie Ross, associate dean of students for leadership and advocacy, box food for hungry families during a previous UM Adopt-a-Basket effort. The program is conducted annually around Thanksgiving. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – As winter holidays draw near, the University of Mississippi community is working together to provide meals for area families in need.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the 13th Adopt-a-Basket program is accepting food donations at the Jackson Avenue Center. Collection dates and times are noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 13, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 14 and 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 15.

The event is co-sponsored by the Associated Student Body and the Office of Leadership and Advocacy.

“This year, we are focusing our efforts on members of our university family,” said Hal Sullivan, coordinator of student affairs programs. “We want to ensure that each member of the Ole Miss community has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.”

Anyone interested in participating in this initiative is encouraged to sponsor an entire basket rather than individual items. No cash donations will be accepted, but a $25 gift card to Larson’s Cash Saver, Kroger or Wal-Mart is requested to allow recipients to buy a turkey and perishable items such as eggs and milk.

The accepted items to fill a basket are:

  • 2 cans of corn
  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 2 onions
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 can cinnamon
  • 1 bottle vanilla extract
  • 5-pound bag of sweet potatoes
  • 5-pound bag of potatoes
  • 5-pound bag of sugar
  • 5-pound bag of cornmeal
  • $25 gift card

The event has provided meals for more than 1,000 (combined) families over the last several years.

“Adopt-a-Basket facilitates university students, faculty and staff purchasing and donating baskets of goods that will feed a family of four to six a hearty meal on Thanksgiving Day and any other day,” said Valarie Ross, associate dean of students for leadership and advocacy. “Several campus offices and groups serve as supporting campus partners in this effort.”

McLean Institute to Co-Host Pitch Night for Entrepreneurs

Free Nov. 7 event designed to spur ideas and collaborations

Taeisha Gambrel is a CEED innovation fellow alumna of the McLean Institute. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Entrepreneurs and anyone interested in starting his or her own businesses in the Lafayette County-Oxford-University community are encouraged to attend a gathering of the minds Nov. 7 at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m., and the program begins at 7. The event is free and open to the public.

Pitch Night is co-sponsored by the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.

“We want to get all the entrepreneurial-minded folks of Oxford and Ole Miss in a room together,” said Nicole Park, a senior accountancy major from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and event coordinator. “We also want to provide an opportunity for them to get some honest, immediate feedback on their business ideas.

“Even if you don’t have a proposal yet, come enjoy others’ ideas. By contributing feedback, maybe this event will get the creative juices flowing.”

One Ole Miss student and two recent alumni are scheduled to present their own business proposals during the mix-and-mingle meeting. Jessica Clarke, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Franklin, Tennessee, will share her vision for Inside Out Fitness in Vardaman.

Taeisha Gambrel, an alumna from Belden who earned a degree in community health counseling, is pitching Sisters of Faith, a community-based support group for young women of faith that also sells apparel.

William Lee Ingram, a 2017 accountancy graduate from Madison, will discuss how he became founder and CEO of Collegiate Tutoring, an operation he began at the university and has since expanded to at least two other SEC schools.

Clarke is an innovation scholar with the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative of the McLean Institute, and Gambrel was a CEED innovation fellow.

Representatives from the sponsoring organizations said they are pleased to collaborate in such a worthy effort.

“YAC launched an arts incubator with quarterly workshops in 2009 to help artists develop sustainable business models and connect them with business expert,” said Meghan Gallagher, education and outreach coordinator for YAC. “Last fall, we teamed up with the chamber to offer free monthly workshops and expand the network of mentors through the Big Bad Business Series, with the financial help of an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jessica Clarke is a CEED innovation scholar in the McLean Institute. Submitted photo

“We’re committed to building a supportive environment for small businesses so people who love Oxford can stay in Oxford and not feel like they have to move away to a city with more opportunities and resources.”

Vice President of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation Allen Kurr said EDF’s goal is to support local entrepreneurs in art-space  businesses.

‘This Pitch Night brings together the best of Oxford’s entrepreneurial resources and connects them with start-ups and students,” he said. “We are extremely excited to support this program and look forward to the opportunities it provides local business enthusiasts.”

Park emphasized that Pitch Night is not a contest.

“There are no judges, no prizes, no winners and certainly no losers,” she said. “We just want to engage people in conversations about small business, big ideas, entrepreneurship and our lovely city of Oxford.”

Business leaders and owners, professors and experts in many fields are expected to attend, providing opportunities for constructive feedback and insights.

“YAC wants all community members, particularly students at the University of Mississippi, to be able to engage with the small business experts and cheerleaders in our community,” Gallagher said. “Pitch Night was designed specifically for students, so we’re hoping to bridge the gap in communication so that students feel welcomed and engaged.”

Pitch Night is based upon 1 Million Cups, a free program created by the Kauffman Foundation designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.

Free parking is available next to the Burns-Belfrey Museum, at 710 East Jackson Ave.

For assistance related to a disability, call 662-236-6429. For more information, contact Park at ncpark@go.olemiss.edu.

UM United Campaign Way Underway

Goal is $150,000 for annual fundraiser to benefit LOU community

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi annual United Way campaign is underway with a goal of raising at least $150,000 of the United Way’s $525,000 communitywide goal.

“Oxford has recently lost several large businesses, and this impacts both our ability to raise funds and the people that need United Way assistance,” said Lucile McCook, instructional professor and curator of the Pullen Herbarium who serves as co-chair of the campus campaign with University Police Officer Thelma Curry. “It is my hope that you will all speak with your colleagues about the importance of United Way and encourage them to give to the workplace campaign.”

The university accounts for about 30 percent of the community fundraising goal.

“Our local United Way is proud to partner with the University of Mississippi in order to improve lives and meet needs throughout the Lafayette-Oxford-University community,” said Kurt Brummett, executive director of United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.

“The university’s support is vital to our mission and I sincerely appreciate all of our donors, volunteers, partners and advocates on campus, as our organization cannot make such a significant difference in the lives of others without their generosity and dedication.”

Committee members encourage university employees to participate in Fair Share, Associate or Leadership giving plans. Fair Share givers contribute one hour’s wages each month to the United Way. Associate givers donate $250 to $499. Leadership givers contribute at least $500.

Ninety-nine percent of the money raised for United Way stays in Lafayette County to help fund 16 or more local charities, including American Red Cross of North Mississippi, Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, Dignity Period Oxford, Doors of Hope Transition Ministries, Exchange Club Family Center, Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi, Girl Scouts Heart of the South, Good Food for Oxford Schools, Horizons at the University of Mississippi, Interfaith Compassion Ministry, Lafayette County Literacy Council, Leap Frog Program, LOU Saves, North Mississippi Kidney Foundation, Oxford Community Market, Special Olympics Mississippi – Area IV and Three Rivers Planning and Development District.

“A donation to the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County provides the means to touch every age group and demographic in our community,” Brummett said. “All funding decisions are locally driven and our award process ensures accountability as applicants must demonstrate the positive outcomes of their programs as well as the severity of the needs being addressed.”

“Your contribution will truly make a difference,” McCook said. “For example, a gift of only $5 per pay period provides four children a free book each month. A gift of $10 per pay period provides 100 healthy meals for homebound seniors. A gift of $25 per pay period can provide food to a family of four for a month.”

All Ole Miss employees receive pledge cards, allowing them to pay gifts in full or in installments through payroll deduction. Other giving options include text-to-give, online donations, intradepartmental competitions and student organization-led events.

“Regardless of the method or amount, please give,” McCook said. “Thank you for believing in our local United Way’s mission and your assistance in making our LOU community a great place to live.”

For more information, contact Brummett at 662-236-4265 or at Kurt@unitedwayoxfordms.org.

Still Time for Tailgating around Brevard Hall

Sponsorships available for next season's home football games

Students, alumni, faculty and friends of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering enjoy tailgating in the Circle in front of Brevard Hall. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw.

As if life is not grand enough in the world of Ole Miss Engineering, during the fall semester, there is an added element of football, free food, outstanding student organizations, wonderful alumni, faculty and staff, friends and prospective students all converging on a premier real estate spot on the Circle.

Multiple red and blue tents provide cover for the Brevard Hall School of Engineering tailgate! The event is complete with big-screen game coverage and plenty of live color commentary. It’s always a fun and memorable game-day Saturday when spending it with your engineering friends at the tent or just stopping by on your way to the game.

Master chef/engineering professor Greg Easson continues the tradition of serving a few hundred of our closest friends who come to the tent for some of the finest game-day food available on campus.

“It was very cool to come to the engineering tent for the South Alabama game,” said David Prather, a high school senior from Oxford. “The food was great, and I got to talk to several engineering students and even the dean.”

Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services, organizes student participation to cover football season.

“We can’t thank Dr. Easson enough for all the work he does to make sure each game is a win for engineering,” Upshaw said. “We’re probably enjoying a winning record of about 70-0 at this point!”

Two generous sponsors for the School of Engineering tailgate tent claimed their dates for the 2017 season. The Asset Co. of Canton is sponsoring the Nov. 11 game along with its tailgate host, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, chapter. And BorgWarner of Water Valley sponsored the Oct. 21 game along with its host, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, or AIChE, chapter. 

If you would like to be a $1,000 sponsor next year, please email marni@olemiss.edu. We would be happy to hang a banner with your name on it.

Alumni and friends, join us anytime. Thank you to all of our student organizations for helping make football season special in the School of Engineering, including AIChE, IEEE, the Engineering Student Body, Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers, Tau Beta Pi and American Society of Civil Engineers.

Hotty Toddy from Brevard Hall!

Engineering Students Take Study USA Intersession Course in New York City

Civil engineering professor guides class to close-up of bridges, sites in the Big Apple

Christopher Mullen (center) stands with his students in front of the area where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood. Submitted photo

During May 2017 intersession, seven University of Mississippi civil engineering students ventured to New York City as enrollees of a new course titled “Bridges of New York.” The first offering proved to be an adventure in many respects for all involved.

“The idea for the course grew out of a bridge engineering course I taught the year before,” said Chris Mullen, UM associate professor of civil engineering. “I’d worked in Manhattan a number of years before beginning my academic career and thought that my excitement about the topic would be best shared and explored firsthand.”

Participant Tennant Duckworth agreed, finding it “a wonderful experience both in terms of academic knowledge and life experience.”

“Walking around the city helped to reinforce the topics covered in class,” he said. “Meeting with the various professionals and professors living and working in New York City was a great experience to gather a greater idea of the scope of the projects.”

The course was structured through a proposal submitted to UM’s Study USA program. After the idea was approved, a detailed agenda was mapped out with program director Laura Antonow, who had received her M.F.A. degree at Parsons School of Design in New York.

“It was decided to spend three days on campus preparing for the trip and a full week in New York City,” Mullen said. “While the focus would be on site visits to major bridges, time would be spent meeting with engineering professionals, with a number of museum visits and tours to provide cultural exposure.”

Before traveling, the class met for four hours each of the three days on campus to review structural engineering concepts related to bridge analysis, design, technology and maintenance. Textbook and assigned reading selections provided historical context and details of individual bridges, some of which the students visited.

UM engineering students listen as professor Andrew Smyth (right) gives them an overview of the Carleton Laboratory at Columbia University. Submitted photo

A variety of technical assignments were given including research on travel times to traverse multimodal transportation routes, design calculations for main cables of suspension bridges, live loads for locomotives, and influence lines for shear and moment in beam girders.

“After traveling on their own the night before, the class literally hit the ground running the first day,” Mullen said. “The class departed the hotel at 9 a.m., caught a subway from Grand Central Terminal to Brooklyn Bridge station, walked the milelong trek on the bike/pedestrian promenade across the bridge and down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and caught another subway that passed through a tunnel under the East River back to Manhattan.”

The group then listened to an hourlong presentation by young bridge project engineers in the offices of WAI, a major consulting firm located on Wall Street, caught yet another subway to Times Square, walked a half mile to Pier 83, took a one-and-a-half-hour Hudson and East River cruise on the Circle Line multilevel vessel around Lower Manhattan, passed under three historic East River suspension bridges, reversed their walk back to Times Square, passed the Port Authority bus terminal and returned to Grand Central Terminal and the hotel.

“The entire first day, they walked a total of over 20,000 steps in one day, according to one student’s fitness tracker,” Mullen said.

After the first day, the rest of the week flew by. The class became experts in subway travel by the third day and were able to enjoy many sites on their own at the end of each day including a number of museums.

The second day was a bit more relaxed and included a morning tour of the One World Observatory at the top of the Freedom Tower, which afforded views of all of Manhattan, the Hudson and East rivers, and the New York Bay, as well as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the newly completed Oculus and World Trade Center Transportation Hub, and the Tribeca Bridge.

“Visits to the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges were spread over subsequent days,” Mullen said. “On route to the GWB, the class visited the main campus of Columbia University and received a guided tour of the Carleton Laboratory inside the

UM civil engineering professor Christopher Mullen (center) shares a moment with the project manager for the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Submitted photo

multistory engineering building.

The tour was led by a civil engineering professor who explained details of a unique test apparatus for a full-scale bridge cable, a moderate scale shake table he used for his research, and a loading machine capable of applying nearly a million pounds of force to bridge components.”

After lunch at Chelsea Market, the class traveled by chartered van to the New York Thruway Authority project office for the new New York (now Mario Cuomo) Bridge that carries Thruway traffic along a 3.2-mile crossing of the Hudson River. Weather prohibited access to the actual construction site, but the class saw a detailed presentation of the complete design and construction of the bridge including novel cost-saving techniques for prefabrication of deck and piers, delivery by river, and installation by dedicated derrick barge moored at the site.

“The final day was capped by a relaxed breakfast at the Princeton Club,” Mullen said. “Those who did (not) have morning flights were treated to an informal discussion with a world-class structural engineering expert who asked them some very challenging questions relating to the future of the profession.”


13 Engineering Students Named Brevard, Adler Scholars

Freshmen hail from four states and represent several majors

Dean Alex Cheng (back row, left) meets with Brevard and Adler scholars (front row, from left): Haley Watts, Kelly Bates, Nayan Chawla; (back row, from left): Bryce Little, Laine Keel and William Guy. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw

Thirteen University of Mississippi students have been named recipients of major scholarships in the School of Engineering this fall.

Representing Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois and Tennessee, they are this year’s Brevard and John G. Adler scholars. This exceptional group of students posted an average ACT score of 33.4 and an average 3.92 high school grade-point average.

“We are pleased to welcome these outstanding students into the School of Engineering,” Dean Alex Cheng said. “We are also thankful for the generous support of our donors who make it possible for us to award these scholarships and attract the best and brightest students to the university.”

A graduate of West Lauderdale High School, Kelly Bates is one of this year’s recipients of the Brevard Engineering Scholarship. After being recruited by universities such as Yale, Vanderbilt and Harvard, she chose to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering at Ole Miss and accepted membership in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“I was completely humbled,” she said. “I never expected to receive something like this, and it just solidified my decision that Ole Miss would help me thrive, grow and experience the most as a college student.”

Bates, a native of Collinsville, earned the title of STAR student and valedictorian. Named one of Mississippi’s U.S. Presidential Scholars, she participated in the UM Summer College for High School Students engineering program. She served as president of the National Honor Society and on the Youth Ambassador Council for the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

She hopes to get involved in undergraduate research experiences early on in her college career as she prepares to attend medical school.

“The research opportunities here along with the close-knit community makes it the best of both worlds,” Bates said. “Where else can you work in an R1 rated lab where the professor knows you by name and wants to help you learn and grow?”

Other Brevard scholars include Nayan Chawla of Cleveland, William Guy of Saltillo, Baylee Howard of Corinth, Bryce Little of Clinton, Laine Keel of Lucedale and Jennifer Myers of Raymond.

Chawla was named a STAR student and National Merit Finalist at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. He served as a student government senator and member of the physics club, mock trial team and Technology Student Association. He plans to study computer science as a member of the Honors College.

Salutatorian at Saltillo High School, Guy served as vice president and president of the student council, junior class president, senior class secretary and attended Mississippi Boys State. He was also a member of the Scholars Bowl and math and science teams. He plans to study electrical engineering as part of the Honors College. He will also be a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

Corinth High School’s STAR student, Howard earned the title of salutatorian and was named to the Hall of Fame. She served as student council vice president and was a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council and Junior Leadership Alcorn. She received various honors at state-level math and science competitions. She will pursue a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Finalist, Little earned the rank of Eagle Scout at Clinton High School. Ranked eighth in his class, he participated in the Tech Jackson Computer Coding Competition and was named Model United Nations Outstanding Diplomat. He attended Mississippi Boys State and participated in the Clinton Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Committee. He will study biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Keel was ranked third in his class at George County High School. He attended the APEX Leadership Summit at Ole Miss and received numerous academic awards. He was captain of the quiz bowl team and president of the mathematics club. He will study biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Myers was named STAR student and valedictorian at Hillcrest Christian School. She served as vice president of the National Honor Society and editor of the yearbook. She played varsity soccer for four years and has volunteered as a youth soccer coach. She plans to study biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Receiving the Adler scholarship sealed the deal for Jake Noll of Columbia, Illinois, to enroll at the university.

“This scholarship was the final push in my decision to choose Ole Miss as my future home,” he said. “Thanks to this generous scholarship, I will be coming out of college debt free. This lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders and allows me to focus entirely on my studies.”

Noll graduated as valedictorian of Columbia High School. An Eagle Scout, he served as vice president of the National Honor Society and captain of the cross-country team. He was also a member of student council and the scholastic bowl. He will study chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

“I toured many schools across the country. I found what was missing once I toured Ole Miss and visited its engineering department, Noll said. “What Ole Miss had that other schools lacked was this: personal connection and belonging. At Ole Miss, I felt that I would be a name and not a number.”

He hopes to work in the area of alternative energy or the aerospace industry, and he would like to further his education in materials engineering after graduation.

This year’s other Adler scholars are Charles Gilliland of Memphis, Tennessee, Elizabeth McCutcheon of Hartselle, Alabama, Ashton Murrah of Corinth, Samuel Plash of Mobile, Alabama, and Haley Watts of Hattiesburg.

Gilliland was a National Merit Commended Scholar at Memphis University School. Listed on the faculty honor roll, he was captain of the cross-country team. He has worked with the Memphis Research Group as an intern in security research analysis and database management. He will study computer science as part of the Provost Scholars program.

McCutcheon earned the status of valedictorian and AP Scholar with Distinction at Hartselle High School. She also participated in the UM “Heads in the Game” summer research program. She served as senior class president, HHS ambassador and attended Alabama Girls State. She will study biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Commended student, Murrah was ranked third in her class at Corinth High School and chosen for the Hall of Fame. She was a member of Junior Leadership Alcorn and the Mayor’s Youth Council. She was also a student council representative and captain of the cheerleading squad. She will pursue a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Finalist, Plash served as student body president and was named valedictorian at UMS-Wright Preparatory School. He served as class president for two years and was captain of the football team. He received various academic awards including the Edward C. Greene scholarship for the top student in the junior class. He will pursue a degree in civil engineering as part of the Honors College. Plash will also be a member of the Ole Miss football team.

Watts represented the Mississippi School for Math and Science at the Lott Leadership Institute in summer 2016. She served as an MSMS emissary and was a member of the student government association and mock trial team. She participated in university research in an epidemiology lab. She will pursue a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College.





NCCHE Software System Provides Real-Time Solutions during Floods

Cutting-edge technology used to predict flows and estimate consequences when dams, levees fail

Members of the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering research team collaborate on the latest user request on the DSS-WISE Lite software the team created for dam and levee failure projections. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A cutting-edge software program developed by scientists at the University of Mississippi is proving beneficial in dam- and levee-breach flood predictions and preparations across the country.

Researchers at UM’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering created DSS-WISE Lite, a web-based, automated and fully geographic information systems-integrated, two-dimensional dam- and levee-break flood modeling and mapping system.

With resolutions from 20 feet to 200 feet, the free system is being accessed by users from the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, 10 FEMA regional offices, stakeholder federal agencies and state dam safety offices.

“Since its startup 10 months ago, the system handled more than 1,800 simulations,” said Mustafa Altinakar, NCCHE director and research professor. “There are currently 200 users from all over the U.S., and the number of users is growing fast.”

By using the web-based system, vetted users can easily set up and run simulations of varying scenarios in the event of a dam or levee failure and obtain outcomes. The results, including fully GIS-compatible maps, are being returned to the user within a half-hour in 73 percent of the cases and within two hours in 90 percent of the cases.

“The challenge is to get these calculations in real time in order to best facilitate emergency action plans,” Altinakar said. “This is a truly unique system. There’s no system like this anywhere else in the world.”

An example of the system’s use is when a steady barrage of storms in early 2017 resulted in serious damage to the Lake Oroville spillways north of Sacramento, California, which included a concrete failure on the lower chute of the gated flood control spillway. The California Department of Water Resources used DSS-WISE Lite extensively during the incident to generate emergency flood mapping so it could prepare appropriate emergency response plans. 

NCCHE is partnering with Argonne National Laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy to add a new module to the DSS-WISE Lite system for estimating potential human consequences of dam- or levee-break floods. This new module provides population-at-risk and loss-of-life analyses – based on the USBR method – and flood-risk mapping.

“This system is so well designed that you don’t have to be an expert engineer in order to set it up and run it,” said Marcus McGrath, a research associate at NCCHE. “It literally won’t let you make a mistake.”

Computational models forecasting the effects of flooding on Texas should various categories of hurricanes strike played a major role in dealing with Hurricane Harvey and several earlier disaster forecasts.

“The system can compute many different dam- and levee-failures scenarios very quickly,” said Vijay Ramalingam, NCCHE research scientist. “It has proven to have the necessary computational speed to serve during actual emergencies.”

Because DSW-WISE Lite involves multiple web connections, the research scientists carry out frequent penetration tests to prevent cyber attacks. The system also is designed to suspend computations and then resume them in event of electrical power outages on campus.

“Our team conducts tabletop exercises and teaches short courses on how to use the system,” said Paul Smith, coordinator of computing facilities at NCCHE. “So far, we have four different locations scheduled for courses in 2018.”

With the 2017 hurricane season already having produced Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria in the past few months, Altinakar and his team have been assisting various federal and state agencies by running emergency simulations and responding to technical questions.

“Our team is truly dedicated,” Altinakar said. “Whenever we receive a call for our help, we respond on the dot, knowing that accurate and timely information yielded by the system can literally save lives.”

Physics Department Offers Ghoulish Fun

Spooky Physics Night provides frights and excitement with a side of science

An Oxford Elementary School student lies on a bed of nails as a volunteer places a weight on her while other Spooky Physics Night participants observe. Photo by Nathan Latin/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Frights, food and fun are the order of the evening when the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy presents Spooky Physics Night on Friday (Oct. 27) in Lewis Hall.

The program, which runs 7-9 p.m., includes a stage show at 7:45 p.m. Hands-on activities through the evening include freezing objects in liquid nitrogen (at minus 320 degrees), generating sound waves with Bunsen burners and tubes, and levitating magnets with superconductors. Other fun presentations include optical illusions with mirrors, a Van de Graaff generator, a bed of nails and other contraptions.

Physics department personnel also will prepare ice cream with liquid nitrogen and award prizes for the most original, scariest and cutest costumes to children 12 and under. It’s all in the name of making learning about science fun and exciting, said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and coordinator of the evening’s activities.

“We at the Department of Physics and Astronomy really look forward to this event,” Cavaglia said. “As in the past years, there will be shows and a lot of hands-on science demonstrations with a Halloween twist to experience weird physics phenomena, from electricity to heat and pressure to the ultracold.

“And to make the evening ‘sweeter,’ guests will be able to taste our world-famous liquid nitrogen ice cream!”

Parents and children should be able to find plenty to enjoy at the event, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“Spooky Physics Night is an opportunity for the public to come and enjoy what we do all the time in a relaxed and refreshing manner,” he said. “For our faculty and students alike, it’s something everyone looks forward to each October.”

Parking for the event is available near Lewis Hall in the areas alongside or behind the Turner Center and the old athletics administration building, in the Pavilion garage or in the Tad Smith Coliseum parking lot.  All vehicles must be off campus by midnight.

For more information or for assistance related to a disability, call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 662-915-5325.