UM Honors College Welcomes 15 Scholarship Recipients this Fall

Freshmen awarded some of the university's most prestigious scholarships

Fifteen freshmen in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College have received a total of $466,000 from five of the university’s most distinguished scholarships. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – One is an award-winning poet. Another is an archer with a love of biology. And one is a violinist who also runs cross country.

These are just three of the 15 freshmen this fall at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi who received a total of $466,000 from five of the university’s most distinguished scholarships.

Four of the freshmen earned McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships, six were recipients of Doris Raymond Honors Scholarships, two were awarded Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships, two were honored with Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships and one was presented with an Everett-Williams Memorial Scholarship.

“These citizen scholars represent some of the best and brightest students not only at the University of Mississippi but also in the country,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, Honors College dean. “We can’t wait to see what they will accomplish.”

Those students receiving McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships are Anahita Behrouz of Ridgeland, William Ray Bradford of Tupelo, Lawson David Marchetti of Jackson and Robert Cade Slaughter of Hattiesburg.

Doris Raymond Honors Scholarship recipients are Ainsley Parker Ash of Meridian; Nathan Lancaster of Ridgeland; Madeleine Louise McCracken of Austin, Texas; Tyler Jesse Moore of Little Falls, Minnesota; Kylie Elizabeth Rogers of Texarkana, Texas; and Alexander Lawrence Watts of Columbia.

Receiving Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships are Margaret Lee Baldwin of Birmingham, Alabama; and Sarah Marie Peterson of Fenton, Missouri.

Laurel Ashley Lee of Canton and Gloma Marie Milner of Boaz, Alabama, are recipients of Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships.

Receiving the Everett-Williams Memorial Scholarship is Yasmine Malone of Clarksdale.

Ash is a graduate of West Lauderdale High School, where she was president of the student council (and four-year member of the council) and received awards in AP biology, Spanish and personal finance while being named to the National Honor Society. She also graduated from Leadership Lauderdale Youth and the Mississippi Governor’s School, and was an all-district cross country runner. She is majoring in psychology.

A graduate of Spain Park High School, Baldwin was a National Merit Semifinalist; National Honor Society president; member of Mu Alpha Theta, Rho Kappa and National Spanish Society; and earned awards in English, chemistry, algebra, pre-calculus and U.S. history. She also volunteered at Children’s of Alabama hospital and the Birmingham Zoo, and was a math tutor. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Behrouz is a graduate of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School. She was a member of the National Honor Society and received summa cum laude and maxima cum laude honors on the National Latin Exam. She is an archer, and she served as a youth ambassador at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and as an educator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. She is majoring in biology.

Bradford, a graduate of Tupelo High School, was the valedictorian of his class and also president of the student body. He was a National Merit Semifinalist, an AP Scholar with distinction, twice chosen as student of the year and a member of the National Honor Society, which he served as vice president. A violinist, Baldwin also participated in cross country and track and field. He is majoring in biology.

Lancaster graduated from Saint Joseph Catholic School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and twice earned summa cum laude on the National Latin Exam. A Questbridge Finalist and Scholar, he was a member of the varsity football and bowling teams, along with the Gaming Club and the Astronomy Club. He is majoring in civil engineering.

Lee won awards in Mississippi studies, Spanish, geometry, zoology, world history, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, nutrition and wellness, and algebra during high school. She also was a member of the All A’s Honor Roll for four years, was captain of the Germantown High School dance team, and was a member of the Beta Club, Spanish Club and Art Club. She is majoring in biology.

A Clarksdale High School graduate, Malone was a member of the school’s marching/concert band, student council and newspaper, and sang in her school and church choir while serving on the principal’s advisory committee. She also was a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She was on the Delta Innovative Youth Council. She is majoring in political science.

Marchetti, an Eagle Scout, is a graduate of Jackson Preparatory School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, Cum Laude Society and Mu Alpha Theta, and served as Patriot Man, the school’s mascot. A poet, he was a Poetry Out Loud state finalist and Poetry Out Loud state champion, earning a national honorable mention. He co-founded the Jackson Prep Film Club. He is majoring in music.

A Veritas Academy graduate, McCracken was a member of the National Honor Society and earned multiple awards in English and Latin, maxima cum laude honors on the National Latin Exam and was selected as an AP Scholar. She was a member of the Veritas Academy Speech and Debate Team, where she was a state finalist. She also played on the varsity soccer and tennis teams. She is majoring in classics.

The salutatorian of her class at Albertville High School, Milner was a National Merit Commended Scholar, AP Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. An Alabama All-State Chorus participant and member of the show choir, serving as president and section leader, Milner also was a member of the Math Team and captain of the Scholars Bowl team. She is majoring in pharmaceutical sciences.

Moore graduated from Little Falls Community High School, where he was valedictorian and a member of the National Honor Society. He earned academic all-state honors in cross country and track and field – also serving as captain of the teams – and was twice named the St. Cloud Times Runner of the Year. He also played in the school’s jazz band and brass quintet. Moore is majoring in engineering.

Peterson is a graduate of Rockwood Summit High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and a Gold Scholar. Captain of her varsity golf team, Peterson earned all-conference and all-district honors in the sport while being a state golf qualifier her senior year. She also served as a counselor at Camp Rainbow, an overnight camp for children with cancer. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Rogers is a graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, where she was the salutatorian and an AP Scholar, while also being a University Interscholastic League Prose and Poetry Medalist and Literary Criticism Medalist. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Quill and Scroll Society, Science Club, student council and yearbook staff. She also was a varsity soccer player, serving as captain. She is majoring in English.

The valedictorian at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Slaughter was a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Future Business Leaders of America and Hattiesburg’s Dream Youth Leadership Council. He also was a member of the yearbook staff and student council, serving as president his senior year, and played on the school’s varsity tennis team. He is majoring in public policy leadership.

A graduate of Presbyterian Christian High School, Watts was a member of the Key Club and Mu Alpha Theta, and was a district and state winner at the Academic Betterment Competition. He also participated in the show choir and in drama, and was a member of the annual staff, chemistry club and Beta Club. He played in the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir and Orchestra. He is majoring in public policy leadership.

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit

Flagship Constellations Mini-Conference Set for Jan. 19

Registration is open for event focused on disaster resilience

OXFORD, Miss. – A mini-conference on the Disaster Resilience Flagship Constellation at the University of Mississippi is set for Jan. 19.

Information related to disaster resilience will be shared at the event through a general-information session led by the interim constellation leadership team, a series of five-minute presentations from individual faculty and researchers, and breakout discussions focusing on constellation sub-themes.

The event is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19 with in-person and online participation options. A location is to be announced. Lunch will be provided.

The mini-conference is open to all faculty and staff, but pre-registration is requested by 5 p.m. Jan. 17.

There are two ways to register. Oxford campus attendees who have not decided to present a five-minute talk can register at Be sure to click on the appropriate registration option: in person or remote. Registrants will be contacted later to see if they want to present.

Everyone else – including all University of Mississippi Medical Center personnel and anyone who already knows they want to present – should email Ahmed Al-Ostaz, Brevard Family Chair in Civil Engineering and professor of civil engineering, at Once again, registrants should specify whether they will attend in person or remotely.

Attendees interested in giving a five-minute talk should specify a title, and provide a 150-word (max) abstract – or an abstract can be offered later.

Questions about this mini-conference should be directed to Al-Ostaz.

The Flagships Constellations are a new UM initiative involving multidisciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students searching for meaningful solutions to complicated issues through collaborative thinking in four areas: big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

UM Researchers Working on Acoustic Detection for Undersea Oil Leaks

Team gets $591,000 grant for work to make crude production safer for the environment

Zhiqu Lu, senior research scientist at the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics, is leading a team working to develop technology to detect leaks in offshore deep-water oil and gas lines and production equipment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Snaking beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are thousands of miles of pipelines carrying oil and natural gas from offshore wells. They carry the fuel that keeps the American economy rolling, with Gulf production accounting for 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and 5 percent of total U.S. dry natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Even with safety protocols in place, though, a grave threat to offshore oil and gas operations is the leakage of hydrocarbons – a chief component of oil and natural gas – and the resulting damage to human health and safety, the environment and infrastructure.

Most recently, in October, an oil pipe fractured in the Gulf about 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, releasing between 7,950 and 9,350 barrels of oil before being halted. And, in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon spill leaked more than 3 million barrels into the Gulf.

“Oil exploration in the Gulf brings new economic development opportunities but also brings risks,” said Josh Gladden, University of Mississippi interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “The University of Mississippi has developed expertise in a number of areas, from engineering and sensing technologies to Biosystems, that can be brought to bear to minimize these risks and mitigate the impact.”

With that in mind, a team of UM researchers is working on technology that could quickly detect, locate and characterize these undersea hydrocarbon leakages in offshore deep-water oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, the trio of scientists received a $591,000 grant from the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to assist in their research.

The research is focused on utilizing acoustic technologies to develop a functional real-time monitoring system that can find leaks in deep-water oil and gas production in the Gulf over a large area while still being cost-effective. Early detection and location of leaks could minimize their impact. Current monitoring techniques are limited, including being unable to monitor in real time.

The Ole Miss team consists of three active researchers in acoustics, physics and electrical engineering. Zhiqu Lu, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Physical Acoustics, is responsible for the experimentation and overview of the project. Likun Zhang, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, is responsible for the implementation and development of acoustic bubble modeling. Lei Cao, professor of electrical engineering, is responsible for the development of localization algorithms.

The researchers also are recruiting three graduate students to assist in experiments, programming and investigation in signal processing and acoustic signal modeling.

“When we heard the grant approval news, we were very excited and a little bit surprise, since among 66 submitted proposals only six projects were approved,” Lu said.

“This grant will provide a great opportunity to expand our research area that exploits the advantages of both underwater acoustic sensing techniques and oil spill-induced underwater sound mechanisms, along with an advanced localization technique.”

This project’s results could have tremendous applications in petroleum industries, environmental monitoring and other fields, he said.

“Further testing in the ocean, along with prototyping and commercializing efforts, will be immediately pursued upon the success of the current project,” Lu said. “That will be the next project.”

An “early warning system … is essential for preventing the next oil spill as well as for seafloor hydrocarbon seepage detection,” he said.

The researchers plan to build a network-based, real-time passive monitoring system of hydrophones, or underwater microphones, for detecting, locating and characterizing hydrocarbon leakages.

During an oil spill, the leaked hydrocarbon is injected into seawater at high speeds, creating an underwater sound through gas bubbles. The sounds of the bubbles can be recorded via the hydrophones over long distances that would indicate an oil spill.

“Using a hydrophone network, a triangulation localization method, similar to GPS-based navigation, can be developed to determine the leak location,” Lu said. “The oil-bubble sounds can be further analyzed to estimate the sizes and intensities of the oil leakages.

“Before the technology is full-developed and employed in ocean environments, we are going to first develop and test our detection and localization techniques/algorithm in a small-scale water tank under controlled oil spill conditions. This functional system will help us to acquire the acoustic signatures of bubble sound, improve detection and location techniques, and gain better understanding of bubble sound.”

The grant was one of six announced Dec. 7. The grants, involving research into new technologies that could improve the understanding and management of risks in offshore oil and gas operations, totaled $10.8 million.

Zhiqu Lu demonstrates his team’s approach for developing acoustic technology to detect gas bubbles from deep-water oil and gas leaks. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These projects address several facets of risk in offshore operations,” said Kelly Oskvig, program officer for the Gulf Research Program’s Safer Offshore Energy Systems initiative. “This includes research on the problem of gas unloading within deep-water drilling risers, development of remote detection capabilities of hydrocarbon releases, design of improved cementing mixtures and better techniques for sealing wells, and development of tools to assist team decision-making in the offshore environment.”

The six projects were selected after an external peer-review process.

The UM researchers are closely collaborating with GOWell International, an international oil and energy company, to ensure the relevance of the experiment to real scenarios and to aid in early prototyping of potential technologies, Lu said.

“The NCPA at the University of Mississippi has a long history of developing acoustics-based solutions for a wide variety of problems,” said Gladden, who is former director of the center. “Dr. Lu has many years of experience in linear and nonlinear acoustics in sediments and soils, and will provide excellent leadership on this project.”

In 2016, U.S. crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico set an annual high of 1.6 million barrels per day, surpassing the previous high set in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The administration estimates that annual crude oil production in the Gulf could increase to an average of 1.7 million barrels per day in 2017 and 1.9 million barrels per day in 2018.

For more information about the National Center for Physical Acoustics, visit

The National Academies’ Gulf Research Program is an independent, science-based program founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements with the companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The program seeks to enhance offshore energy system safety and protect human health and the environment.

The program has $500 million for use over 30 years to fund grants, fellowships and other activities in the areas of research and development, education and training, and monitoring and synthesis.

Visit to learn more.