Two Pharmacy Faculty Win New Investigator Awards

Cancer and antibiotics research earns support for junior faculty

Hoang Le

OXFORD, Miss. – Two assistant professors in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, both from the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, have won prestigious 2018 New Investigator Awards from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Hoang Le, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, and Cole Stevens, assistant professor of pharmacognosy, each won one of only 16 new investigator awards bestowed by AACP this year.

“This is truly outstanding for the biomolecular sciences department and for our school,” said David D. Allen, Ole Miss pharmacy dean. “These awards are extremely competitive, and for Cole and Hoang to both receive one in a single year is fantastic.”

Le’s award resulted from his research on the rational design of inhibitors of two biologically complementary enzymes in cancer cell metabolism.

“Hoang has a laser-sharp focus and a contagiously positive mindset,” said Chalet Tan, associate professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and collaborator on this research. “This is a highly significant project that could potentially lead to the discovery of novel anticancer agents.”

Le said he is “deeply honored and grateful” to receive the award, calling it an excellent first extramural research funding opportunity for new researchers.

“Some very successful faculty in our great School of Pharmacy have received this award, and I hope to be able to follow in their footsteps,” Le said.

Stevens’ winning research focused on using previously untried laboratory methods to discover new natural sources of antibiotics.

Cole Stevens

“Our group is interested in the holistic role of bacterial natural products in microbial environments,” Stevens said. “We believe that drug discovery works best when it’s serendipitous, and that bacteria are indifferent to our ills and wants.”

Josh Sharp, an assistant professor of pharmacology who collaborated on this research, called Stevens “a very creative researcher” who looks at bacteria in an almost entirely new way.

“Dr. Stevens’ approach to discovering new molecules and drug candidates is fairly unique, but in retrospect, it seems almost obvious based on how much sense it makes,” Sharp said. “He has a lot of potential to make a very large impact and discover entirely new classes of molecules.”

This is both Le’s and Stevens’ first award as independent researchers, and both hope that the award will help build a foundation for obtaining more funding in the future.

“I was immensely honored to receive this award and grateful to AACP for the opportunity and support,” Stevens said.

Office of the Provost Creates Initiative to Improve Work-Life Balance

Career-Life Connector offers navigators for faculty and staff

In an effort to improve career-life balance for University of Mississippi employees, the Office of the Provost has created the Career-Life Connector Initiative to help faculty and staff balance professional and personal responsibilities.

The initiative includes four career-life navigators who share their experiences of integrating work and personal life with the understanding that individuals have different priorities in their own lives. Navigators guide and direct faculty and staff to multiple resources so they can make informed decisions based on individual situations, from starting and raising a family to caring for a sick partner or aging loved one to managing difficult situations while balancing work.

Faculty and staff members may email or a navigator directly to schedule a meeting.

“We are committed to helping faculty and staff balance the responsibilities in both their professional and personal lives,” Associate Provost Donna Strum said. “Navigators will provide information that employees need to achieve a healthy work-life balance. We are pleased to foster an environment that supports work-life integration.”

The navigators are John Adrian, business manager for the Office of the Provost; Katherine Centellas, an associate professor of anthropology in the Croft Institute for International Studies; Kelly Brown Houston, an administrative coordinator in the Department of History; and Melinda Valliant, an associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management.

“The navigator may serve as a ‘first stop’ for employees in need of direction,” Strum said.

Faculty and staff may not want to go directly to their supervisors to share personal information or ask questions about family caregiving needs or work-life balance, so the navigators allow faculty and staff members to speak with peers and inquire about various work-life situations confidentially.

The navigators attended several training sessions and engaged with leaders across campus to learn about available resources. They also met with people in various units, including Human Resources, the offices of Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, and the University Ombuds, and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.

Employers that offer work-life balance are likely to have the competitive edge. The most successful businesses realize that effectively addressing work-life balance issues with their workforce can increase morale and foster commitment, improve employee recruitment and retention, and raise productivity.

“Having a work-life balance leads to lower stress levels, better overall health, and better job satisfaction and performance,” Centellas said. “It also can help address issues proactively. A satisfactory work-life balance – however that is defined by the employee – also can contribute to a more inclusive, respectful and equal campus. This is because how people define and achieve work-live balance will be diverse, but we want to support the paths that are meaningful to each employee.”

The Career-Life Connector Initiative also provides career-life consultants to facilitate recruitment and provide information about work-life integration during the search process, as requested by job candidates. Consultants include Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director for academic support; Melissa Dennis, head of research and instruction services at the J.D. Williams Library; Kathy Knight, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management; and Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.

Search committee chairs can email to request assistance with the interview process.

For more information about navigators, consultants and the UM Career-Life Connector Initiative, visit

University to Unveil History and Context Plaques March 2

Six markers offer history and insight into campus sites

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will hold a ceremony Friday (March 2) to unveil six history and context plaques, which contain wording recommended by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context following months of study and feedback from hundreds of stakeholders.

The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Plaques will be unveiled for Barnard Observatory, Lamar Hall, Longstreet Hall and George Hall; another recognizing the university’s enslaved laborers in the construction of Barnard Observatory, the Old Chapel (now Croft), the Lyceum and the Hilgard Cut; and a final plaque for the stained-glass Tiffany windows in Ventress Hall recognizing the University Greys, a company of primarily UM students during the Civil War that suffered 100 percent casualties – killed, wounded or captured.

Shuttles from the Ford Center to the plaque sites will be available after the ceremony.

Logistics and planning for the March 2 event are being led by a committee made up of members of the Oxford campus community, including faculty, students and staff:

  • Katrina Caldwell, co-chair, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement
  • Alice Clark, co-chair, interim vice chancellor for university relations
  • Don Cole, assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics
  • Jennifer Ford, head of archives and special collections and professor, J.D. Williams Library
  • Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology
  • Dion Kevin III, Associated Student Body president
  • Amy Lewis, external affairs director, University Relations
  • John Neff, associate professor of history
  • Ethel Young Scurlock, associate professor of English and African American studies and senior fellow of Luckyday Residential College
  • Deetra Wiley, applications analyst and business communications specialist, Office of Information Technology, and marketing coordinator for UM Staff Council

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter established the CACHC in the summer of 2016 to address Recommendation 5 of the university’s 2014 Action Plan, which urged the university to “offer more history, putting the past into context” and to do so “without attempts to erase history, even some difficult history.” The university’s contextualization efforts were an academically- and fact-focused process.

The committee’s full recommendations, its final report, and renderings and map locations of the plaques can be found here.

Q&A: Meet Amanda Drew, UM’s New Emergency Management Coordinator

Amanda Drew. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Amanda Drew, who has worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and also as a firefighter in Massachusetts, became the University of Mississippi’s new emergency management coordinator Feb. 19. 

Drew, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, was a FEMA applicant services programs specialist before coming to Ole Miss. She also previously held the position of head dispatcher and emergency management coordinator at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. 

She said Ole Miss seemed like the perfect fit for her because she wanted to work on a larger campus, and the town of Oxford also won her over on her visit here.

“Ole Miss is a flagship university; even with the size of the university, I could see what a close community it is,” Drew said. “There is something about college communities I enjoy. They are vibrant and a great environment to enhance my skills and knowledge as well as making a contribution to the university’s safety and preparedness.” 

Drew answered some questions for Inside Ole Miss to let the university community learn more about her role and the services her office provides.

IOM: Tell us a little about your background in emergency management.

Drew: My background in emergency management starts in the fire service. I was a volunteer and paid on-call firefighter for about 10 years, I started getting into emergency management about the time I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2013. I went on to complete my master’s and had the opportunity to work as the deputy emergency management director for a small town outside Worcester, Massachusetts.

Through my work as a campus police dispatcher at Assumption College I was given the opportunity to help with the campus emergency management. The work at Assumption included developing pre-plans, designing and facilitating trainings for the emergency response team, and I wrote a program design for a Community Emergency Response Team program.

Through both of these experiences, I worked very closely with city and state emergency management agencies. I took part in many training sessions offered by the state and coordinated efforts between the state and Assumption, as well as the town for which I was the EMD.


IOM: Tell us about your role with the university and what some of your new duties will be.

Drew: My role at the university is emergency management coordinator. Some of my duties will include comprehensive planning for the university and completing an analysis to be sure the plan meets the needs of the university. I will also be meeting with the Oxford fire chief, police chief and emergency manager, in addition to the county emergency manager to discuss the preparedness of the university and coordinate training, preparedness, response and recovery operations for incidents on campus.

I will be exploring different preparedness activities for students, staff and faculty to partake in, in addition to seeking out opportunities for them to volunteer and grow within the emergency management capacity.


IOM: What can we expect from the emergency management coordinator job with you at the helm?

Drew: The university can expect whole-community involvement! I believe in training and empowering the students, staff and faculty of Ole Miss in emergency management practices to help them prepare for emergencies.

The programing and skills will not only help the Ole Miss community on campus, but these life skills that can be taken off-campus to enhance their own communities. Training and programs will be interactive and engaging, community input and ideas will be encouraged to ensure the campus needs are met. Preparedness is a community effort.


IOM: Talk about some of the most critical aspects of responding to an emergency situation.

Drew: The best response to a critical incident begins with proper pre-planning and training. This preparedness goes beyond the emergency response team and includes the whole university community.

Teaching students and staff how to respond to an emergency will help during those critical moments before first responders arrive. During an incident, response must be timely, with priorities of life safety, incident stabilization and preservation of property.

Listening to directions from university officials is also a critical aspect; this will ensure we help the university community in the most safe and efficient manner. 


IOM: What are the keys to being safe during an emergency?

Drew: In the fire service, we have a saying, ‘Train like you work.’ Just like athletes need to practice and actors and actresses need to rehearse, safety needs to be planned and practiced in order to be successful.

Incorporating simple safety habits into everyday life will make them second nature during an emergency, when our ability to think clearly may be compromised. Some of the habits include knowing two ways out of buildings, checking surroundings and being observant to everything going on around you. 

During an emergency, it is imperative that all community members listen to the directions of campus police and follow these directions. Community members should also be observant to hazards that might be present during an emergency.


IOM: Tell us about what sort of services you will offer to faculty and staff.

Drew: I would like to see what services the university currently offers and what the staff and faculty would like to have offered.

My hope is to train the staff and faculty in leadership roles within the buildings they work in, should an emergency occur. I would like to look into offering volunteer opportunities to anyone that would like to participate in emergency management activities on the campus. Input will always be welcome.

UM Waste-Reduction Work Leads to ‘Recycler of the Year’ Award

Recycling, compost program and educational outreach cited among's university's achievements

The University of Mississippi has been named ‘Recycler of the Year’ among educational institutions in the state and recognized at Recycling Day at the State Capitol. Campus volunteers are pictured here sorting recycling items collected in the Grove. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s campuswide work to reduce waste that winds up in landfills has led to the university being named “Recycler of the Year” among educational institutions in the state and recognized at Recycling Day at the State Capitol.

The Mississippi Recycling Coalition honored the university with the award for its 2017 efforts, which included composting, recycling waste collected on Ole Miss football game days, “tree cycling” and mulching, and education programs. Several campus entities, including Facilities Management, Landscape Services and the Office of Sustainability, as well as the city of Oxford Recycling Department, contributed to the work.

“This is truly a collaborative effort among multiple departments on campus, and it’s great to see recognition for their hard work,” said Ian Banner, UM’s director of sustainability and facilities planning, and university architect. “While we are grateful for the publicity, it is important to know there is a huge amount of work still to do. There is demonstrated commitment of all those involved, and we fully intend to continue our push toward a healthier environment.”

UM’s growing recycling program, compost program and educational outreach such as Green Week were cited among the university’s notable achievements in the area of waste reduction, said Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability. She accepted the award at the Capitol on behalf of the university.

“While we still have much work to do, it’s important to take a moment to recognize that we have taken significant steps forward in recent years, all of which have been achieved through cross-campus collaboration,” Abernathy said. “We thank everyone for their support of these efforts and look forward to future projects.”

The university has taken on several programs that have helped make UM a greener campus.

A campuswide recycling program, which is operated by Facilities Management and through the city of Oxford Recycling Department, allows UM students, faculty and staff to recycle mixed paper, cardboard, plastics No. 1 and No. 2, aluminum and steel in recycling stations in all campus buildings.

The Green Grove Gameday Recycling Program is a popular and well-known program in the UM student community. More than 650 students have volunteered with the program over the past two years. In 2017, the program diverted 2.78 tons of recyclables from landfills. This program is made possible through a partnership with Landscape Services, the Office of Sustainability and the city’s recycling department.

The UM Compost Program has diverted more than 45 tons of pre-consumer food waste from landfills since its establishment in 2013 through collecting materials from campus dining locations. The finished compost is used in educational gardens on campus and is available to community members for purchase.

The program also engages about 50 student volunteers each academic year through regular sifting events. While sifting the compost, students learn about the program, the importance of composting and the process through which composting takes place.

Students working with the UM Food Bank, UM Garden Club and UM Compost Program have worked together to provide fresh food to students. They also reduce food waste and support the campus garden’s efforts to employ organic methods, such as the use of compost instead of chemical fertilizer, to grow produce.

The Office of Sustainability employs students in its Green Student Intern Program each year to operate the Green Grove Gameday Recycling Program, UM Compost Program and to support additional waste-reduction initiatives. Students can also participate in the Green Grove Ambassadors Program.

Members of the Green Student Intern Program, staff and volunteers regularly involve K-12 students in waste-reduction education programs. In fall 2017, staff and UM Eco Reps members helped collect food waste for composting at Oxford Elementary School as part of its annual Food Day Celebration. Staff members frequently speak to students about recycling and conduct tours of the compost site.

Several other campus programs are part of the university’s broad efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and reuse as many materials as possible.

Ole Miss has been a very active member of the Mississippi Recycling Coalition for several years, so the committee was familiar with its work, said Jennifer Milner, state recycling coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. But, the overall scope of the programs impressed even those committee members.

“Ole Miss has really gone above and beyond to change the culture by getting buy-in from students, faculty, staff, campus visitors and the surrounding community on putting their wastes to work,” Milner said. “It has set itself apart to serve as an example for other educational institutions and communities in the state.”

Mechanical Engineering Alumnus Shows He’s a Team Player

Justin Carrillo works for US Army Corps of ERDC in Vicksburg

Mechanical engineering alumnus Justin Carrillo is part of an award-winning division at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Economic Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

Five years ago, Justin Carrillo (BSME 13) was only beginning his career as a professional engineer. Today, the University of Mississippi alumnus works as a research mechanical engineer and is one of the award-winning team members in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.

“The U.S. Army ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort is one of the most fulfilling achievements in my professional career,” Carrillo said. “Personally, the best measure of success of any organization is the ability of teams to work together to accomplish overall objectives and goals of an organization. I firmly believe a successful team is greater than the sum of its parts. This award highlights the most important goal of my career.”

A Raymond native, Carillo decided to attend UM for several reasons.

“First, I had family members that graduated from Ole Miss as well as family that was currently attending Ole Miss at the time,” he said. “Second, the trips that were taken to view the engineering program made a big difference in deciding to be involved in Ole Miss’ engineering program and thus lead me to attending Ole Miss.

“Lastly, the amount of opportunities that Ole Miss provided both in and outside of the classroom played a major role.”

As an undergraduate, Carrillo gained practical experience by participating in the Student Temporary Employment Program at ERDC and in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. He graduated magna cum laude.

“My favorite professors were Dr. Jeffrey Roux, Dr. Tyrus McCarty, Dr. Ellen Lackey, Dr. Alexander Yakovlev and Dr. James Chambers,” Carrillo said. “All of the professors listed were without a doubt passionate, although expressed in different ways, about teaching and devoted to the success of their students even beyond the classroom. They were the professors in my eyes that made the biggest difference in the future of their students.”

Carrillo’s favorite engineering courses typically required heavy use of mathematics or use of some form of programming.

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, said he knew Carrillo would have a successful career one day.

“Justin graduated in the top 5 percent of his class in terms of overall GPA, with a unique talent to excel in all academic studies, including undergraduate research,” Rajendran said. “As I always believed that Justin would pursue his graduate degree, he is obtaining his master’s degree from the Purdue University under ERDC sponsorship. I am indeed very proud of our graduates like Justin who always bring laurels to Ole Miss as alumni.”

While working for the Mobility Systems Branch, Carrillo specialized in the area of high-performance computing for computational modeling of sensors, vehicle-terrain interaction and vehicle dynamics, as well as vehicle and sensor field testing.

He is a principal investigator and work unit manager on various programs related to the off-road performance of manned/unmanned ground vehicles, manned-unmanned teaming, and development of high-performance computer-based simulations for testing and evaluation of autonomous systems through sensor-environment interactions.

Justin Carrillo stands beside two of the vehicles he drives when at work with the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

“My Ole Miss engineering education has given me the academic background that is needed to become successful in my career combined with additional broad-based skills that have played an even bigger role in the success of my career,” said Carrillo, who is working on receiving his master’s degree in computational engineering from Purdue University in 2019. “An Ole Miss engineering education comes with both academic and in-the-field knowledge, communication skills, leadership skills and, most importantly, teamwork skills that are critical for being successful in any career.”

A published author, Carrillo has written articles for numerous professional journals. He holds membership in the International Society for Terrain-Vehicle Systems and has received both the 2015 ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort and the 2014 Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

Carrillo lives in Raymond, with his wife, Carra, and children, Lillian and Walter. When not working, he likes to play baseball, basketball and golf.


UM Professor’s Research Highlighted in Ship Technology Publication

Waheed Uddin shares insights into how infrastructure improvements can protect ports during coastal disasters

Waheed Uddin is a civil engineering professor and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

A University of Mississippi civil engineering professor’s research about how infrastructure improvements can help protect ports from the effects of coastal disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis was featured in a technology publication recently.

Waheed Uddin, director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, was featured in a story appearing in the digital magazine Ship Technology on Nov. 9, 2017. Uddin conducted a study that uses computer modeling and geospatial analysis of natural disaster risks to identify the priority measures that ports can take to build a comprehensive resilience management strategy. Two of Uddin’s civil engineering graduate students assisted in his study: Quang Nguyen (PhD 17) and W. Tucker Stafford (MS 17). Uddin and Nguyen presented the results for Vietnam’s port city at an international infrastructure and disaster resilience conference in Seoul, Korea, in July 2017.

To read the Ship Technology article, visit


5 Students Selected for Outstanding Senior Leadership Awards

All are members of Center for Manufacturing Excellence or Honors College

Five seniors have been named recipients of the 2017-18 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award from the University of Mississippi School of Engineering.

Honorees are William Garrett of Greenfield, Indiana; Harleigh Huggins of Oxford, Colbert Lehr of Brandon, Zachary Mitchell of Moss Point and David Rozier of Oxford. Each recipient was selected through a competitive nomination process in his or her respective department.

Nominations are based on the students’ records of academic achievement, leadership, professional development and community service. The students also delivered a presentation to the selection committee about their undergraduate experiences while pursuing their engineering degrees.

“This year’s selection process was particularly difficult for the review committee,” said Dean Alexander Cheng. “These five students rose to the top of an exceptional group of nominees from the senior class, and we are always excited to celebrate the accomplishments of our students.”

A mechanical engineering major, Huggins has maintained a 4.0 GPA while also being a part of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has been extensively involved in engineering student organizations, having served as president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, the Collegiate Automotive Manufacturing Society and the Society of Women Engineers.

Huggins also served as co-chair of the CME student advisory board and was selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board societies. She also held two separate internships with ABB Inc. and completed co-ops with BorgWarner and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing.

“I am honored and proud to be receiving this award, especially with all of the amazing students we have graduating from the School of Engineering this year,” Huggins said. “I am grateful for all of the opportunities that the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the mechanical engineering department have afforded me during my collegiate career. I look forward to representing the School of Engineering, and I will do my best to reflect its excellence.”

In addition to the leadership award, Huggins was named the university’s representative to the Mississippi Engineering Society’s Outstanding Senior award program in Jackson. After graduation, she will assume a full-time position with ABB Inc.’s Manufacturing Engineering group in Senatobia.

Garrett, who is also pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, is a member of the CME and has maintained a 3.98 GPA. He has been an active member of Engineers Without Borders and Tau Beta Pi. Garrett has also been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, and served as house manager and chaplain of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha.

He held internships with Ingersoll Rand and Rolls Royce North America, and completed two separate co-ops with South Mississippi Electric Power Association in Batesville and Viking Range in Greenwood. Garrett has accepted a full-time position with Milwaukee Tool at one of its Mississippi locations.

An electrical engineering major, Lehr served as Engineering Student Body president during the 2016-17 academic year and has served as a member of the ESB Leadership Council for four years. He also represented the School of Engineering at the National Association of Engineering Student Councils Conference, as well as the PULSE Leadership Conference in 2016.

Having maintained a 3.98 GPA, Lehr has been selected for membership in a variety of honor societies, including Omicron Delta Kappa, Lambda Sigma, Mortar Board, Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi. He has volunteered extensively with the FIRST Robotics program, serving as a team mentor and referee for the event. Lehr also completed two internships with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Forest.

He plans to return to Raytheon full time after graduation and to complete a master’s degree in electrical engineering while employed.

Mitchell, a general engineering major, is a member of the Honors College and has maintained a 3.91 GPA. He serves as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s. Mitchell is also a member of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council and active with Sigma Nu fraternity. He has been selected for membership in Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi and has volunteered in the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford.

Mitchell has also served as both a teaching assistant and a research assistant in the Department of Biology. He is working on his honors thesis, titled “Nonlinear Analysis of Postural Stability in Postmenopausal Women and Its Relationship to Estrogen Deficiency.” After graduation, Mitchell plans to attend medical school.

A member of the Honors College and the CME, Rozier maintained a 4.0 GPA in chemical engineering and completed his honors thesis in 2017. He was named a Taylor Medalist in 2016 and received Who’s Who honors in 2017. Rozier also received the Outstanding Chemical Engineering Student Award in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He serves on the CME student advisory board and has been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. He is also an active member of Sigma Nu.

Rozier completed three summer internships: two with International Paper in Vicksburg and one with 3M in Decatur, Alabama, as well as a co-op with ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After graduation, he will return to International Paper as a full-time process engineer.



Dwight Waddell Directs Successful, New Biomedical Engineering Degree Program

With 51 students in the inaugural class, the number of applicants continues to increase

Electrical engineering assistant professor Dwight Waddell continues teaching courses while leading UM’s new biomedical engineering degree program. Submitted photo

Years ago, a biomedical engineering degree program in the University of Mississippi School of Engineering was only a dream. But with 51 students accepted into the inaugural class last fall, the dream is now a wonderful reality.

“The word is apparently out,” said Dwight Waddell, BME program director and associate professor of electrical engineering. “Our current BME class has representatives from states across the country. Twenty-six are new freshmen, and we had a fair number of transfers from other departments on campus after we got started last August.”

The idea and initial work for the new program were initiated by Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, with support from Alex Cheng, engineering dean. Waddell, who was a UM associate professor of health, exercise and recreation management, joined the engineering faculty in 2013 to facilitate program development.

“I was responsible for newly created courses, including Physiology for Biomedical Engineers, Biosignal Analysis, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and a lab-based course to teach bio-measurement techniques,” said Waddell, who worked with Paul Scovazzo, associate professor of chemical engineering, to launch the emphasis. “Prior to this, I taught courses in biomechanics, electromyography and neuromotor control.”

Waddell said the inaugural class is exceptional.

“In truth, it is a hard curriculum, but the inaugural class was notable in their academic preparation before university,” he said. “The average ACT score and high school GPA of the applicants were quite high, which was very exciting for everyone involved. The students are very proactive. They are hungry.”

Last semester, the charter for UM’s Biomedical Engineering Society student chapter was established.

“It was really two students who did the lion’s share of work getting national approval,” Waddell said. “A big shoutout to BME students Justin Reynolds and Juliana Davis for making it happen and recruiting over 20 inaugural student members. It is an exciting time around here.”

If preliminary fall 2018 enrollment figures are any indication of what’s to be expected, the BME program is just getting started.

“The number of admitted applicants for the upcoming fall term is impressive,” Waddell said. “As of Feb 12, we have already admitted 142 biomedical engineering first-year students. This is a substantial increase in admitted students over the same time last year.”

While Waddell said not all of these students will decide to attend the university, he is confident that the number of incoming students will match and exceed expectations.

“Our number of retained students (admitted versus actual attendees) last year was above 50 percent,” he said. “We estimated 30 freshmen for the second year, and I am confident we will meet and exceed that number.”

Chairs in both the electrical and chemical engineering departments said Waddell’s leadership has exceeded their expectations.

“Dwight is extremely busy this academic year,” Viswanathan said. “In addition to advising all (biomedical engineering) students, he’s juggling teaching two courses each semester, advising students’ research, conducting a search for two tenure-track faculty positions and serving on several university committees.”

“Dwight has done an outstanding job of moving the BME program forward,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “His passion for the program, for the students, and his ability to work well with the departments that are involved in the program have caused it to progress rapidly and well.”

A former postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Waddell has a master’s and a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the biomedical engineering program in 2016. Biomedical engineering prepares students for rapidly growing opportunities in three primary job markets: biomolecular engineering, biomedical systems engineering and bioinformatics.

For more information about UM’s biomedical engineering program, visit


Elsie M. Hood Award Nominations Due March 1

Honor is university's top teaching accolade

Nominations for the UM Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award are due March 1. John Rimoldi (left), the 2017 winner, accepts the award from Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is seeking nominations for the 2018 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award, which is the highest honor the university bestows upon its professors.

Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to submit nominations by March 1 for this year’s honoree. Assistant, associate and full professors are eligible, except previous recipients of the award. The winner receives a $5,000 prize and a personal engraved plaque, and their name also goes on a permanent display in the J.D. Williams Library.

“At the University of Mississippi, we uphold the highest standards of teaching excellence and student engagement in higher education,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “Each year, we honor one of our many inspiring and extraordinary faculty with the coveted Elsie M. Hood Award, which is considered the pinnacle of reaching this standard.

“We have exceptional, engaging teachers across all disciplines, and I am eager to see who will join the esteemed list of honorees going back more than 50 years.”

The selection committee comprises previous recipients, along with the director of Alumni Affairs and a student representative. Criteria include nominating letters that describe examples of exceptional teaching and letters that have been submitted for the nominees in previous years. 

UM’s Faculty Senate submitted a proposal to then-Chancellor J. D. Williams in 1965 to create a program of recognition and awards for superior teaching. The following spring, a committee solicited nominations for an Outstanding Teacher Award from faculty, students and alumni.

Then-Vice Chancellor W. Alton Bryant suggested that the award be presented on Honors Days and announced during Commencement exercises, and this has remained the policy.

Previous winners of the award include John Rimoldi, Mark Wilder, Laurdella Foulkes-Levy, David Willson, Gregory Schirmer, John Neff, Kelly G. Wilson, Ethel Young-Minor, John O’Haver, Ann Fisher-Wirth, William Berry and Bob Brown.

John Czarnetzky, the Mitchell, McNutt and Sams Lecturer at the School of Law, won the award in 2016. He chairs the committee that will select this year’s winner. 

“Having known and admired several previous recipients, my first thought upon receiving the award was genuine humility and surprise at being recognized as part of that group,” Czarnetzky said. “Perhaps the most gratifying thing about receiving the award is the fact that recipients are nominated by the Ole Miss community, and it is nominations by students that are particularly important.

“I can think of no other honor I could receive as an academic that would mean more to me than receiving the Elsie M. Hood Award.”

Nominations can be submitted by faculty, students, and alumni online here, by email to or by mail to the Office of the Chancellor, Lyceum 123, University, MS 38677.