UM Faculty Travel across Southeast for Collaborations

Ten faculty members participate in SEC Faculty Travel Program

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi faculty members are taking part in the SEC Faculty Travel Program this academic year, joining more than 100 fellow faculty members from other Southeastern Conference institutions.

Established in 2012 by the SEC provosts, the program provides financial assistance from the SEC office that bolters intra-SEC collaboration. Participants travel to other SEC universities to exchange ideas, develop grant proposals, conduct research and deliver lectures or performances. Areas of interest for this year’s Ole Miss class include music, engineering, anthropology and African American studies.

Travel of the UM faculty is made possible partly through a $10,000 award from the SEC.

“Being a member of the SEC means more than being in an athletic conference,” UM Provost Noel Wilkin said. “This faculty travel program brings together faculty from across the SEC to explore collaborative projects that might otherwise be difficult to initiate or fund.

“We value our SEC partners and our collaborations with other SEC universities.”

Participants from UM for the 2018-19 academic year are:

  • Graham Bodie, professor of integrated marketing communication, visiting Auburn University
  • Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Micah Everett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of South Carolina
  • Selim Giray, assistant professor of music and orchestra director, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Samuel Lisi, assistant professor of mathematics, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Adrienne Park, instructor in music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Charles Ross, director of African American studies and professor of history, visiting the University of Alabama
  • Michael Rowlett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Hakan Yasarer, assistant professor of civil engineering, visiting Auburn University

The SEC Faculty Travel Program is one of several academic endeavors designed to support the teaching, research, service and economic development focus of the SEC’s 14 member universities. Past program participants have been invited to present their research at conferences, been awarded competitive grants and secured publications in leading journals.

“The SEC Faculty Travel Program provides faculty at all SEC universities the opportunity to broaden their network of scholars and professionals,” UM Associate Provost Donna Strum said. “This opportunity often leads to collaboration on intercollegiate teaching and research projects, which advance our mission. We appreciate the SECs support and look forward to the 2018-19 program.”

Several additional Ole Miss faculty members also completed trips to SEC institutions earlier this year:

  • Shennette Monique Garrett-Scott, assistant professor of history and African American studies, visited the University of Tennessee
  • Robert Cummings, executive director of academic innovation and associate professor of writing and rhetoric, visited the University of Georgia
  • Dinorah Sapp, lecturer in intensive English, visited the University of Kentucky.

National Chemical Journal Features UM Professors’ Paper

Research explores new class of solvents called ionic liquids

OXFORD, Miss. – A trio of University of Mississippi chemistry and biochemistry professors are cover stars, with their paper landing on the front of the latest issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

The professors are Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Joining them as authors of the paper are Charley Hutchison, who was a student at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland at the time the research was conducted; Chad Williams, a UM Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates student from Central Alabama Community College; and Sarah Johnson, an Ole Miss graduate student in chemistry.

The paper, “Hydration of Ionic Liquid Induces Vibrational Frequency Shifts to Higher Energy,” is the cover feature of the Dec. 6, Volume 122, No. 48 issue of the journal, which is published weekly by the American Chemical Society.

“In this work, we show how water molecules affect the physical properties of an important new class of solvents called ionic liquids,” Hammer said. “Ionic liquids are salts that are actually liquid at room temperature and that have important uses in a number of applications, including nuclear waste disposal.”

Understanding how water affects the properties of ionic liquids will help the professors and students identify potential hazards and considerations for their use, Hammer said. It also will help them better engineer future ionic liquid mixtures that take advantage of predictable and designer properties.

“This work will also help computational chemists identify the best computational methods and practices for the accurate modeling of similar systems,” he said.

The professors all specialize in different areas, with Hammer concentrating on molecular spectroscopy, Hussey on ionic liquids and Tschumper on computational chemistry.

Hutchison conceived of and started the project during a summer research experience at UM, and Williams worked on the project during a summer. Johnson took what the younger students had started and completed it at a high level, Hammer said.

The cover spot highlights the research to funding agencies – both those that funded the work and also those that might be solicited for future funding, Hammer said. And it “gives us media resources to use in recruiting high-quality graduate students to our department and individual research groups.”

The cover also brings attention to research being done across campus.

“Whenever a paper or other scholarly work is featured on the cover of a prominent journal, it helps raise the national and international awareness of the important and outstanding research being performed at the University of Mississippi,” Tschumper said.

Peter W. Grandjean Named New Applied Sciences Dean

Former Baylor associate dean has more than 30 years of education experience

Peter Grandjean

OXFORD, Miss. – Peter W. Grandjean has been named the new dean of the School of Applied Sciences at the University of Mississippi.

Grandjean comes to UM from Baylor University, where he served as associate dean for research collaboration and graduate studies, director of the university’s Division of Health Professions, and as a professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

A nationally recognized professor and researcher, Grandjean has more than 30 years of experience in education, beginning as a high school biology teacher in New Braunfels, Texas, in 1986.

Grandjean, who assumes his Ole Miss role Jan. 3, takes the spot of Teresa Carr Carithers, who has served as the school’s interim dean since July 2017.

“Dr. Carithers and her leadership team have done a remarkable job in establishing the school’s firm foundation, growth and trajectory,” Grandjean said. “I look forward to building on the great work already going on within the school by fostering an environment where interdisciplinary teams can serve and research together to address major challenges that exist in our world today.

“I look forward to supporting faculty and staff as they strengthen existing academic programs and grow new degree programs and certificates that highlight the need to serve others through interprofessional cooperation.”

Grandjean received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Anderson University in Indiana in 1986, his master’s in exercise physiology from Texas Christian University in 1992 and his doctorate in exercise physiology from Texas A&M University in 1996.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Grandjean has accepted our offer to be the next dean of the School of Applied Sciences,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “He is an accomplished faculty member and leader who has the experiences to benefit the school.”

Established in 2001, the School of Applied Sciences includes the departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management; Legal Studies; Nutrition and Hospitality Management; and Social Work, along with an interprofessional degree program for applied gerontology, the Institute of Child Nutrition and the Jackson Heart Study Vanguard Center at Oxford.

As dean of applied sciences, Grandjean will oversee one of the fastest-growing schools on campus. The school, which seeks to improve the lives and conditions of people and communities across Mississippi and the region, also has a growing research imprint at UM, with more than $8.4 million in external funding received in fiscal year 2018.

“I was immediately captured by the University of Mississippi’s strong reputation as one of the nation’s top academic and research universities and by the interdisciplinary potential within the School of Applied Sciences,” Grandjean said. “The school includes an exciting group of academic departments, an institute and center that are known for developing leaders who advance and apply knowledge of health, well-being and human flourishing in an integrated, interprofessional manner.

“I was particularly drawn by the opportunity to build on the strong, vibrant programs that already exist within the school and to work alongside other academic units as we nurture team-based approaches to experiential learning, research and service among our students.”

Grandjean joined the Baylor faculty in 2010 as an associate professor. He previously was a faculty member at Auburn University, and before that served as a graduate assistant and post-doctoral research associate at Texas A&M and as a graduate assistant at Texas Christian University.

While at Baylor, he also served as director of the Baylor Laboratories for Exercise Science and Technology, and as director of The Center for Healthy Living.

Grandjean is a member of the American Physiological Society, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association and several other professional affiliations.

Carithers will return to the School of Applied Sciences faculty as a professor of nutrition and hospitality management and program director of applied gerontology.

“We are grateful to Dr. Teresa Carithers for her exceptional leadership of the school during this transition,” Wilkin said. “She has brought stability to the school and continued its trajectory of success.”

Past Meets Future with UM Research into Greek Plaques

Classics, engineering professors team up to explore ancient history

Brad Cook, UM associate professor of classics, balances an ancient Greek inscription over an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer as Lance Yarbrough, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, collections manager for the University Museum, watch. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – It is a delicate balancing act Brad Cook performs as he places a more-than-2,000-year-old golden Greek artifact atop a high-energy X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. In position, the wafer-thin ancient article soon will be beamed with billions of photons, all to unlock its age.

Cook, an associate professor of classics at the University of Mississippi, is working in a back room of the University Museum on an October morning alongside Lance Yarbrough, UM assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, the museum’s collections manager.

Today meets a yesterday of centuries ago as the trio is using the spectrometer to peer into a gold, and then a bronze, inscription to discover the elemental compositions of the Greek relics. The results will offer a clue whether the inscriptions – both part of the museum’s David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities – are ancient or modern.

Because it is undetermined where the inscriptions were originally found and because the survival of metal inscriptions is so rare – they were commonly melted down, even in antiquity, and “recycled” – there is doubt as to whether the inscriptions are ancient or more modern. While the scans cannot prove the plaques are ancient beyond a doubt, they can reveal the absence of anything that would signal modern manufacturing.

After scanning, the gold inscription is found to contain 99.8 percent gold, with the remaining 0.2 percent being below the detection limit of the device. The bronze inscription’s makeup is 82.2 percent copper and 17.8 percent tin. The percentages are definitive.

“The results of the scans for the two metal inscriptions show that there is nothing modern about the composition of the metals,” Cook said. “These scans, then, provide an answer that is one of many answers that collectively build a case that argues for the antiquity of both inscriptions.

“Without these scans, there would always be a ‘what if?’ hanging around the room. In the broadest terms, every artifact has a story to tell, and these artifacts in the museum have, I suspect, a unique story to tell.”

The research into the composition of the inscriptions continues Cook’s work from earlier this year, when he received a $21,000 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the two inscriptions, including five months of work based at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece.

While other parts of the roughly 2,000-piece Robinson collection have been the subject of published works, these inscriptions – both about the size of an index card – have not been.

A gold Greek inscription, an artifact at the University Museum, records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The gold inscription records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia, a strategic town on the Dardanelles between the Aegean and Black seas. The bronze inscription records the freeing of a slave woman named Philista in northwestern Greece about the same time.

“A ‘mini’ version of a treaty on gold is, however, unparalleled, so much of my research is trying to finding comparanda for such things so I can answer … what is the purpose of a gold epitome of a treaty,” Cook said.

Classics and engineering might seem like strange research partners, but Cook has a friend, Scott Pike, an archaeological geologist at Willamette University in Oregon, who uses a spectrometer. Witnessing the usefulness of the instrument in that line of work and how it might aid him, Cook asked Pike where to find such an instrument. He told Cook: Ask your geology department.

“Brad sought us out,” Yarbrough said. “He emailed my chair, Dr. Gregg Davidson, hoping we had an XRF device. I only recently purchased the device in the spring of 2017, so it was good timing.

“One of the most useful aspects of (X-ray fluorescence) is that it is nondestructive. Many other methods of elemental analysis require you to destroy or consume a portion of the item.”

The spectrometer, a Bruker Tracer housed at the UM School of Engineering, is an apparatus that knocks electrons loose from their atomic orbital positions via an X-ray beam. The resulting burst of energy yields an elemental fingerprint that the instrument categorizes by element.

During the course of all this knocking, yielding and categorizing, the instrument ejects a minimal dose of radiation right above its “eye.” It is a “really safe” level, Yarbrough said. Still, he wears a radiation badge dosimeter just as a precaution.

His advice? Don’t stand over the spectrometer while it is beaming.

While handling the relics, Antonelli and Cook have their own safety precautions, wearing either white cotton gloves or blue industrial nitrile gloves when carefully positioning the articles over the “eye” of the spectrometer. Once the instrument starts lighting up yellow to red, everyone stands back and awaits the elemental composition percentages to calculate on Yarbrough’s laptop.

A scan takes a minute or two from positioning to final percentages.

Having answered the questions about the elemental composition of the two inscriptions, Antonelli, Cook and Yarbrough soon get curious about the composition of other museum artifacts, including ancient arrowheads, a jug and a ladle, which is found to be a surprising 67 percent silver.

The trio is having fun with its work, letting scientific inquisitiveness run wild for a while, but what they are uncovering is also valuable information to be used by future researchers.

“Understanding the composition of the artifacts helps us determine whether it may be modern or ancient since it is harder to visually date metal artifacts,” Antonelli said. “As the University of Mississippi Museum, we strive to be accessible for all scholarly research and to educate the public about our collection with the most accurate information possible. Any new information aids in this mission.

“So much of the antiquities collection could benefit from further scientific study. In the past, doing this kind of testing would have necessitated sending the artifact to another university. It’s wonderful that we have this technology on campus, and that Lance has been such a collegial partner readily willing to help Brad with his research.”

UM Establishes Center for Researching Multi-messenger Astrophysics

Emergent scientific field arose from discovery of gravitational waves

Neutron stars – pictured in this artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars – are among the phenomena to be studied at the new UM Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics. The narrow beam represents the gamma-ray burst, and the rippling spacetime grid indicates the isotropic gravitational waves that characterize the merger. Swirling clouds of materials ejected from the collision are a possible source of the light that was seen at lower energies. Graphic courtesy National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

OXFORD, Miss. – Riding a new frontier of scientific discovery into gravitational waves, the University of Mississippi is now home to the Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics.

The center was launched Nov. 1 after the center’s creation was approved by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning in August. It will allow UM researchers to play a prominent role in the emergent field of multi-messenger astrophysics, which is a new branch of science born in 2015 through the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

Multi-messenger astrophysics studies “messengers” – electromagnetic waves, high-energy particles and gravitational waves – to reveal information about the universe.

“That event really opened up a new branch of astronomy and astrophysics,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy and the center’s director. “Since the dawn of humanity, most, if not all, of the information we had from the universe was in the form of light, with some exceptions because we also use particle physics.

“Gravitational waves are a completely new way of looking at objects – for example looking at black holes, what happens to the center of stars when they explode and even the beginning of the universe.

“The main goal is to learn more about the universe, how the universe works. This is really frontier science. Science has always been motivated by trying to understand the world and the universe around us.”

Marco Cavaglia, UM professor of physics and astronomy and an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, is director of the new Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Cavaglia also is principal investigator of the UM Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Group, which is an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

Last year, the LIGO detectors, along with the Europe-based Virgo detector and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories, directly detected gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in addition to light from the merging of two neutron stars. It was the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.

The center will allow Ole Miss faculty and students to further their research into the field and build upon existing research programs and expertise of faculty within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where the center will be housed. Plans call for adding two additional full-time faculty members affiliated with the center in fall 2019, with at least one more added by 2021.

The center also will support several post-doctoral research associates and graduate student research assistants.

“The experimental detection of gravitational waves marked a historic event in physics, and UM is so proud to have played a role in that discovery,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “With strengths in high energy physics, observational astronomy and now gravitational waves, UM is well-positioned to establish a Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics.”

This new branch of physics has exploded, and the time is right to have a center dedicated to multi-messenger astrophysics that will boost the image of the department while conducting groundbreaking research, Cavaglia said.

“I really hope that it will help put Mississippi on the map more when it comes to this kind of research,” he said. “And it will attract and retain new faculty and students. This is an emerging field.

“It will really help recruit bright minds from around the world to come here and do research. That aligns well with the research mission of the university and also its educational component. And it’s cool. It’s cool stuff.”

University Initiative Funding Research to Solve Statewide Issues

Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation awards $17,000 in grants

Members of a research team collect water samples in Jackson, where the University of Mississippi’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation is funding a grant to explore the link between water quality and health. Photo by Kristie Willett/UM School of Pharmacy

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a year since its launch, the University of Mississippi‘s Flagship Constellations initiative is already benefiting Mississippi, with four seed grants recently awarded to research teams within the Community Wellbeing constellation.

The grants, which total $17,200, fund a range of research that affects Mississippi, from uncovering the link between water quality and health in Jackson to identifying key barriers to political empowerment and participation in the state. The research teams consist of faculty, staff and students from UM Oxford and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The Flagship Constellations initiative was unveiled in November 2017 as a collaborative effort among faculty, staff and students to explore and solve complex issues through the diversity of ideas. The initiative includes multidisciplinary teams working to find solutions to grand challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

With communities representing both rural and urban settings facing increasing challenges in areas such as personal health and housing and infrastructure, the Community Wellbeing constellation’s research teams and programs work within communities to identify factors impairing their well-being and deploy new programs and practices to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Grand challenges will require new and innovative partnerships,” said John Green, constellation team leader, professor of sociology and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “In that spirit, for the seed grants, we required that applicants include investigators from at least two different departments to be eligible, and we strongly encouraged collaboration linking UM with UMMC.

“Applications were also scored based on their contributions to scholarship and to addressing needs in Mississippi communities.”

Fourteen different units at UM and UMMC are represented among the four awardees. The grants are supported by a $1 million donation to the Flagship Constellations by Thomas and Jim Duff, who created the Ernest R. Duff Flagship Constellation Fund in honor of their father.

“The Flagship Constellations is a significant initiative at the university that seeks to tie together broad expertise that exists at UM around grand-challenge issues facing society,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs at UM.

“Such challenges are inherently multidimensional, and comprehensive research universities are uniquely suited to address them. We are so thankful to the Duff family whose gift was critical for getting this important initiative off the ground and enabling UM researchers to develop practical solutions in these areas.”

The awardees are:

  • Community Political Empowerment Assessment Project: This project uses fuzzy cognitive mapping and community focus groups to identify the key barriers to political empowerment and participation, as well as identifying resources for overcoming those barriers. This information will be used to work with local stakeholders to hold informational sessions around barriers and develop a voter empowerment brief to inform local, state and national leadership on issues being faced by these rural, marginalized communities.
  • Helping Communities Uncover the Link between Water Quality and Health in Jackson, Mississippi: This award supports the efforts of the Jackson Water Coalition to improve water quality and infrastructure in Jackson. The project team is working on an information briefing for the coalition that provides an overview of the connections between water quality and health and infrastructure challenges. The team also is partnering with the coalition and other stakeholders to organize a series of drinking water and water body sampling events.
  • Learning about HIV Risk and Resilience among African-American Adolescents through Storytelling: This project is identifying barriers and inroads to HIV prevention among African-American adolescents. An interdisciplinary health communication class in spring 2019, created through the university’s new MPartner program, will assist the team in facilitating expressive writing, creative role play and a series of peer-led focus groups in Charleston. Findings will inform an AIDS prevention agenda for the Mississippi Delta, including a culturally sensitive information campaign and behavioral intervention opportunities within the faith community.
  • Student-Centered Outcomes Research Experience, or SCORE – Pilot: Project SCORE is engaging Mississippi high school students from communities with significant health disparities in the development of relevant health behavior research questions by partnering with graduate students in the health sciences to train them in basic research methodology. The project is aiding the development of student-conducted research projects to explore student-driven research questions related to health behavior and develop a student-centered prevention and wellness research agenda to address student-identified needs.

“We were looking for proposals that were scientifically sound, demonstrated a broad collaborative team membership, (encouraged) engagement from nonuniversity partners and that could be leveraged into larger project proposals in the future,” said Meagen Rosenthal, constellation team leader and assistant professor of pharmacy administration.

Besides Green and Rosenthal, other Community Wellbeing team leaders are Seena Haines, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice; and Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of UMMC’s Department of Preventive Medicine.

The constellation team leaders recently announced a second call for seed-funding proposals for fall 2018, with roughly $20,000 available for awards. These awards will be selected in early 2019.

For additional information, visit http://flagshipconstellations.olemiss.edu/community-wellbeing/.

UM Diversity, Community Engagement Division Welcomes New Leaders

Shawnboda Mead, Cade Smith join unit as assistant vice chancellors

Shawnboda Mead

OXFORD, Miss. – For Shawnboda Mead, her passion for working on diversity, inclusion and cross-cultural engagement efforts in higher education began during her undergraduate college experience and continued during her graduate school years.

In the case of Cade Smith, his dedication for driving social change and inspiring independent, self-sufficient and successful students is a product of time and place as a public school student in 1970s and 1980s Mississippi.

The two will further explore those passions and dedications as new hires in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. Mead is the new assistant vice chancellor for diversity within the division, and Smith is the division’s new assistant vice chancellor for community engagement.

“The mission of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement is to lead UM’s efforts to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive educational environment for all members of the community and to advance community-engaged scholarship, learning and service across the institution,” said Katrina Caldwell, the university’s vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“The role of the assistant vice chancellors is to assist in developing the infrastructure, vision and strategic frameworks for the campuswide integration of diversity and community engagement initiatives.

Both Mead and Smith bring experience in creating building programs that positively affect the community, Caldwell said.

“They will help us expand our capacity to have a significant positive impact in the lives of our students, staff, faculty, alumni and community partners,” she said

Mead started her new job Sept. 10 but joined UM in July 2014 as inaugural director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.

While there, she oversaw the rebranding of the Bias Incident Response Team and development of an online reporting mechanism; expanded the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, Conference, while developing the MOST Mentoring Program and Reunion; and created a variety of diversity and inclusion events, facilitated cultural competency workshops and presentations, and developed student leadership opportunities among other endeavors.

“It’s a little bittersweet that I leave that role, but I saw this as an opportunity to further expand the work that I am able to do,” Mead said. “I will still continue to support the student efforts and initiatives and continue to supervise the center in that work but also will be looking at (diversity and inclusion) from a broader perspective, including faculty and staff engagement.”

A native of Prentiss, Mead earned her bachelor’s degree in educational psychology from Mississippi State University and her master’s in student affairs in higher education from Western Kentucky University. She is working on a doctorate in higher education administration at UM.

Previously, Mead served as associate director of diversity and multicultural education at the University of Tennessee. She’s also worked as an assistant director in Residence Education and First-Year Experience at the University of Southern Mississippi and as a student development specialist at Texas A&M University.

Her line of work is not always easy and comes with challenges, Mead said, but “for me, it is those ‘aha’ moments for individuals who may not have previously found value in an aspect of identity, but eventually commit to simple acts that will create a more inclusive campus environment.”

“We don’t have to all agree, but there should be a level of respect and treating people with dignity,” she said. “Certainly there are still issues with diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, so we have not arrived, but we are at a place where we have allocated additional resources, and the university has shown there’s a dedicated commitment to this work.”

Mead is married to Neal Mead, Ole Miss assistant athletics director for event management. The couple has two children.

Cade Smith

Smith is a Grenada native who joined the UM administration Sept. 4. He came to the university from MSU, where he was assistant dean of students and director of student leadership and community engagement.

He also served as chair of the MSU Community Engagement Committee, director of the Center for Community-Engaged Learning, director of leadership programs, director of Maroon Volunteer Center Programs and co-creator and director of the Mississippi Racial Equity Community of Practice.

“This (new) position is just really a natural, based on the things that I have done and also the things that I care about,” he said. “If you look at the role of higher education, it is not only in educating a citizenry and discovering new knowledge but, to me, one of the most important things is what are the graduates, the affiliates of this institution, capable of doing that advances the public good and also benefits humanity.”

Before joining the MSU Division of Student Affairs, Smith was a research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Before that, he was a research specialist in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Arkansas.

He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Rhodes College, his master’s in agronomy from Arkansas and his doctorate in plant and soil sciences from MSU.

Smith said his agricultural background has been effective in his student affairs and community engagement work, as agriculture is an applied science with a systems approach, much like educational institutions and communities are systems.

“Taking a systems approach allows me to be a more effective educator and a more effective administrator,” he said. “The curiosity of asking why is a fundamental basis of being a scientist. What am I seeing, why is it happening and what can I do about it?

“Student access, student development and student success have always been central in my role as a scientist.”

Smith was attracted to the new position because of the emphasis that UM is “placing on advancing community-engaged research, learning and service, both from a scholarly perspective and also from a student-engagement perspective.”

“Broadening people’s perspectives is a huge goal of mine, and it is really fundamental in creating a culture that appropriately contextualizes community engagement and then begins to track and assess community engagement and the impact that this institution has on our state, our nation and the globe,” he said.

Smith is married to Becky Smith, director of the MSU Extension Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy. The couple has five children.

Eight UM Students Earn Prestigious Croft Scholarships

Exceptional scholars receive $4,000 per semester to further studies

The 2018 UM Croft Scholars are (front, from left) David McDonald, Emma Lane, Akshaya Vijayasankar and Delaney Smith, and (back) Jess Cooley, Olivia Jaramillo, Reed Peets and Ava Cooper. Photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Miss. – Eight students at the University of Mississippi‘s Croft Institute for International Studies are recipients of this year’s distinguished Croft Scholarships.

The prestigious scholarships pay up to $32,000 over four years, and the funds can be combined with other scholarships. Croft Scholars retain the funds as long as they stay in the international studies major and maintain a 3.4 grade-point average both in the major and overall.

The eight students are Jess Cooley, Ava Cooper, Olivia Jaramillo, Emma Lane, David McDonald, Reed Peets, Delaney Smith and Akshaya Vijayasankar.

For their international studies major, Croft students typically select a regional concentration from among East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and a related foreign language before their first semester in the program. Students later select a thematic concentration from among global economics and business, global health, international governance and politics, and social and cultural identity.

“We are very excited about this group of Croft Scholars,” said Oliver Dinius, Croft executive director. “Their chosen foreign languages represent all of Croft’s four regions and they have already expressed broad thematic interests, although they will not have to declare that concentration until their sophomore year.

“Croft Scholars often are among the most dynamic and involved international studies majors, and they are an essential part of making the program special.”

Of more than 217 applicants to the Croft Institute this year, 128 were admitted, and from that pool, the admissions committee selected 29 prospective students to interview for the scholarships. They answered follow-up questions about their application essays and questions about current affairs, their intellectual interests and their motivations for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

A native of Laurel and graduate of West Jones High School, Cooley is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“Being a Croft Scholar is a blessing and genuinely humbling because my cohort is full of outstanding students,” Cooley said. “The highly regarded Croft Institute is why I came to the University of Mississippi, and this is because Croft provides so many opportunities for me to pursue my passion of studying cultures, global economics and business, and language.”

Cooper, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, graduated from Berean Christian High School and is studying Chinese with a concentration on East Asia.

Jaramillo is a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a graduate of Central Magnet School who is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“As a recipient of the Croft Scholarship, I have the opportunity to become a more educated global citizen and continue on the path to fluency with Spanish,” Jaramillo said. “I feel very blessed to have received a fully funded undergraduate education in such a prestigious organization.”

Lane is from La Grange, Kentucky, and a graduate of Oldham County High School who is studying Arabic with a concentration on the Middle East.

“For me, my college experience depended on this Croft Scholarship,” Lane said. “It has allowed me to live in Pittman (Hall) among my other Honors College peers, and it allowed me to attend Ole Miss without taking out any loans.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to graduate from college without any debt, and this provides me the means to travel abroad during and after my time here at Ole Miss.”

From Madison, McDonald graduated from Madison Central High School and is studying Russian with a concentration on Europe.

“I felt very honored to receive a scholarship from the Croft Institute,” McDonald said. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study what I’m passionate about at Croft, and this scholarship is what helped make all of that possible.”

A graduate of Jackson Preparatory School and native of Jackson, Peets is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“It is an awesome honor to be recognized by such an outstanding institution,” Peets said. “To have my name among the top scholars of the Croft Institute is a humbling responsibility.

“I see this award as an opportunity to become a leader among leaders – to strive for further growth within a group of diverse students ripe with a passion for exploration.”

Smith is from Overland Park, Kansas, and graduated from Saint Thomas Aquinas High School. She is studying German with a concentration on Europe.

“I’m so honored to be a student of the Croft Institute and to have been chosen as a recipient of the Croft Scholarship,” Smith said. “The Croft Institute allows me to study a subject that I’m passionate about alongside incredibly gifted classmates.

“Being named a scholar within my cohort is very humbling, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities to further my education that this scholarship will provide me.”

An Oxford native, Akshaya Vijayasankar is a graduate of Oxford High School studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled to be a recipient of this award,” Vijayasankarsaid. “The Croft Institute of International Studies has allowed me to pursue my passion for studying global health care and Spanish, and receiving this scholarship has put me one step closer to achieving my dream.

“This scholarship made it possible for me to attend this prestigious institution, where I’m surrounded by peers who are just as ardent (as I am) about learning new cultures, languages and politics.”

UM External Research Funding Surpasses $134 Million in 2017-18

Money funds projects that assist state, country and world

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – External funding for research at the University of Mississippi reached its highest level in four years in 2017-18, with more than $134 million in funding awarded.

A total of $134,735,332 in external funding was awarded to the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, with research dollars being used to favorably impact lives in Mississippi and around the globe, fuel economic growth and prosperity, educate future leaders and innovators, and more.

The external funding amount for fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, is the highest since 2014 and an increase of 9.3 percent from last year.

“The gains in external funding speak to the stellar research talent and culture at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They also reflect our continuing commitment to produce scientific discoveries and innovations that enhance quality of life and benefit the citizens of our state and society at large.”

For fiscal year 2018, the university’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses received 581 awards. Examples of these awards include helping fund the data analytics graduate programs at the Patterson School of Accountancy, researching solar energy technologies, investigating the safety of antimalarial drug products and exploring solutions to improve the health and development outcomes for Mississippi children.

On the Oxford campus, awards to faculty and staff resulted in more than $71 million in external funding. The amount is the highest since 2010-11, when the campus received $78.8 million in external funding, an increase of 23 percent from 2016-17.

“The impact of UM research continues to grow, and that is reflected in increased success by our faculty, researchers and research centers on the national level,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs on the Oxford campus. “External funding for research and scholarly activity is extremely competitive, which makes this increase even more notable.”

The UM Medical Center received more than $63.6 million in external funding in 2017-18.

“Research is the lifeblood of our institution,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. “When the research mission is strong, we are able to help our education and health care missions succeed.”

In 2017-18, federal funding at both campuses included 387 awards for more than $101.5 million. The awards, agency and funding include:

  • 175 awards from the National Institutes of Health for $42.8 million
  • 35 awards from the U.S. Department of Defense for $13 million
  • 19 awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $11.9 million
  • 32 awards from the Health Resources and Services Administration for $8.8 million
  • 31 awards from the National Science Foundation for $6.9 million
  • 26 awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for $5.7 million
  • 10 awards from NASA for $2.7 million.

Awards from corporate, private, state and other sources funded more than $33.1 million during 2017-18. Foundations and nonprofit groups provided $18.7 in funding, private or corporate business and industry provided $8.4 million, and state agencies in Mississippi provided $5.7 million. All other sources were almost $300,000.

The School of Pharmacy on the Oxford campus received 62 awards for $16.7 million. Both were the most for any unit on the Oxford campus.

According to the 2017 Faculty Research Grant Institutional Rankings published by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the UM School of Pharmacy ranked 13th in the nation for external research funding.

“The investigators at the School of Pharmacy have worked tirelessly to secure funding for projects that have the potential to impact the health of millions of people,” said David D. Allen, dean of the school. “This is truly a whole-school effort, as our faculty, research scientists, staff and students are all integral to our research mission.”

The pharmacy school has several grants investigating aspects of opioid use, including a study on long-term opioid use in older adults, led by principal investigator Yi Yang, professor of pharmacy administration. Older adults are more likely to have chronic pain and to be taking more than one medication, putting them at higher risk of harmful drug combinations.

“Our scientists and faculty are taking on the opioid epidemic from all sides, and this study aims to uncover the impact of sustained opioid therapy in older adults,” Allen said. “The elderly are just as vulnerable to the negative effects of opioid use as younger adults, but they aren’t studied as frequently.”

The School of Medicine at UMMC totaled 267 awards for $54.9 million, the most on that campus.

The top-funded units at UMMC were the departments of Physiology and Biophysics, Cell and Molecular Biology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Biomedical Materials Science, and the John D. Bower School of Population Health.

UM Professor Part of Upcoming American Chemical Society Webinar

Presentation puts astrochemistry research program in spotlight

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi chemistry professor is offering a glimpse into interstellar molecules and the mysteries of life in space during a free interactive webinar on Thursday (Nov. 1).

Ryan Fortenberry, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UM, will open the discussion, moderate and field questions for the American Chemical Society webinar “An Evolutionary Mystery: Mirror Asymmetry in Life and in Space.” 

Joining Fortenberry for the 1 p.m. webinar is the main speaker, Brett McGuire, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Life uses molecules of only one type of handedness, including amino acids, sugars and most anything with carbon atoms in it,” said Fortenberry, who joined the Ole Miss faculty in July and serves as chair-elect for the American Chemical Society’s Astrochemistry Subdivision. “If placed in a mirror, your right hand will become your left hand. However, without that mirror, your right hand and your left hand will always be different, opposites in fact.

“Some molecules, especially those involved in life, have a similar property. Can this property be used to find life in space or is it just a fluke that life did this here on Earth?”

Ryan Fortenberry

The single-handedness of life using only one side of the mirror is a geometric property in chemistry known as homochirality, but questions remain, such as how and why this single-handed world emerged.

The webinar will explore this question along with the impact of homochirality on biology and chemical evolution, the potential origins of homochirality and the challenges in studying possible interstellar origins, and the first detection of a chiral interstellar molecule and challenges associated with measuring a potential chiral excess in space.

One of the biggest challenges in studying possible interstellar origins is that conditions of space and even the best conditions of a laboratory are still pretty different, Fortenberry said.

“What we’re studying in space is really far away, making small concentrations of molecules really hard to distinguish from any noise we get in our instruments,” he said. “Also, there’s a lot of stuff in space, since it’s so big.

“Hence, you may think you’re looking at a faraway star, but it’s really just a cloud of molecules between here and there.”

A Clinton native, Fortenberry runs the Computational Astrochemistry Group (Fortenberry Lab) at UM. Computational astrochemistry is the application of quantum chemical techniques to molecules of astrophysical significance.

Fortenberry runs computer programs to simulate the way electrons and nuclei interact within a molecule. This then delivers information about chemical reactions, data for remote sensing and how molecules may evolve.

“The chemistry department is very excited about this event,” said Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Dr. Fortenberry is our newest faculty member, and this webinar will effectively put a large spotlight on the strong astrochemistry research program he is establishing here at the University of Mississippi as he shares a virtual stage with Dr. Brett McGuire in front of a national and international audience.”

Astrochemistry is one of the purest forms of chemistry available to study that still has an application, Fortenberry said.

“The Earth is such a small subset of conditions that we often pigeonhole our creativity,” he said. “By exploring questions that force us to get out of our Earth-centered mindset, we can find all kinds of new science that we wouldn’t otherwise.

“My favorite example is nanotechnology, which largely arose from the late Sir Harry Kroto, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of a new form of carbon called fullerene. This has revolutionized materials science, but it wouldn’t have happened if an astrochemist hadn’t wondered what types of molecules could be made in the atmospheres of carbon-rich stars.”