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 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.

Biology Professors Receive NSF Award to Study Biodiversity

Funds support research into ecological, evolutionary processes

Ryan Garrick (left), UM associate professor of biology, and Colin Jackson, professor of biology and associate chair for graduate studies, are recipients of a National Science Foundation award to explore the Earth’s biodiversity. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi biology professors have received a National Science Foundation award for nearly $800,000 to explore interactions between microorganisms and freshwater mussels in an effort to better understand the Earth’s biodiversity, focusing on how ecosystems function.

Colin Jackson, professor of biology, is principal investigator for the award, and Ryan Garrick, associate professor of biology, is co-principal investigator. The pair is working in tandem with Carla Atkinson and Jeff Lozier, two University of Alabama biological sciences professors who received their own NSF award.

The $799,456 award to Jackson and Garrick is titled “Processes that generate and maintain phylogenetic, genetic, and functional diversity of the freshwater mussel holobiont across multiple scales.”

Holobiont is the term referring to the idea that animals contain a diverse community of microbes, their microbiome, which interacts with them. To better appreciate how an animal functions in its natural habitat, scientists need to consider not only the animal itself (the host) but also all its associated microorganisms (the microbiome).

What is little known is how variation among hosts influences their microbiome, Jackson said.

“What we will be researching is how different types of genetic variation interact and relate to the microorganisms that are found within an animal – the microbiome – and how these microorganisms affect how the host functions,” he said.

“Freshwater mussels are an ideal group of animals to investigate such questions. In their natural habitats, mussels are constantly taking in water, so they are surrounded by and exposed to many different species of microorganisms.”

Freshwater mussels are important contributors to how aquatic ecosystems function, serving as “ecosystem engineers” as they can modify aquatic habitats to make them more suitable for themselves and other organisms. The Southeastern U.S. is regarded as a global hot spot for mussel species diversity.

Mussels clean water by removing particles; reduce erosion by anchoring themselves to lake or stream beds; provide a location for algae and aquatic insects to attach, creating habitats for fish; and serve as food for aquatic birds, such as herons and egrets, and mammals, such as raccoons and otters.

“Because they filter feed and pass large volumes of water through their bodies, mussels are also great indicators of the health of freshwater environments,” Jackson said. “The presence of a diverse community of mussels usually indicates a healthy aquatic habitat that can support good fisheries and waterfowl.”

But freshwater mussels are imperiled because of changes in river patterns associated with human activities, such as damming and channeling rivers, and increased erosion and runoff from agriculture and urban development.

“Because mussels are important in helping clean aquatic ecosystems and provide habitat for other organisms, understanding their genetic diversity and how mussels function is important for restoration and conservation of these organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit,” Jackson said.

Two UM professors, Ryan Garrick (left) and Colin Jackson (third from left), are working in tandem with University of Alabama biological sciences professors Carla Atkinson (right) and Jeff Lozier on National Science Foundation awards studying the Earth’s biodiversity. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“If the mussel’s microbiome helps the organism function – such as by helping to remove pollutants or helping the mussel acquire nutrients – then conservation efforts can’t just focus on the host organism; they have to consider the whole holobiont, the host and its microorganisms. Even having the increased amount of genetic and ecological data on different mussel species that this research will generate will be helpful in their conservation.”

The researchers also will be training students in approaches to studying biodiversity and creating materials to educate the public about the importance of mussels and freshwater biodiversity in general.

The research will involve a combination of field research and laboratory analyses, with mussels being collected from Southeastern U.S. rivers and streams, mainly within the Mobile and Tennessee River basins in Alabama and Tennessee.

“At UM, we’ll primarily be focusing on laboratory work, using modern DNA sequencing approaches to characterize the microbial community, or microbiome, of mussels that the UA team collects, and to determine the genetics of different mussel species,” Jackson said.

The research team already has some mussel samples for genetic and microbiome work but will begin collecting more mussels in summer 2019. The award, No. 1831531, runs through August 2022 and includes funding for graduate students and a postdoctoral scientist to work with Jackson and Garrick.

The award is among 10 awards from the NSF to fund $18 million in research examining processes in nature and their complex interactions with climate, land use and invasive species at local, regional and continental scales. The awards are funded through NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity program in the agency’s Division of Environmental Biology.

The goal of the Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is to transform how the scope and role of life on Earth are described and understood.

“This research is unique in that multiple dimensions of biodiversity are addressed simultaneously,” said Joanne Tornow, acting assistant director for NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences. “These are novel approaches that intend to get at synergistic roles of critical ecological and evolutionary processes.”

UM, JSU Join Accelerator Hub for Biomedical Technologies

Group includes consortium of academic institutions in Southeast

The University of Mississippi has joined a consortium of Southeastern academic institutions to create a technology transfer accelerator hub for biomedical technologies. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Jackson State University have joined a consortium of academic institutions to create a technology transfer accelerator hub for biomedical technologies in the Southeastern U.S.

The consortium is led by the University of Kentucky in partnership with the University of Louisville and West Virginia University, along with XLerateHealth, a Louisville, Kentucky-based health care technology accelerator that focuses on startups and commercialization. XLerateHealth is the primary awardee of $491,840 for the first year of a potential three-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant creates the accelerator hub in the Southeast Institutional Development Award region, or IDeA, which includes Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and West Virginia.

The hub will be one of four funded hubs around the country to help IDeA states accelerate early-stage biomedical technology from the laboratory to market. The goal is to enhance the capacity to move scientific results from academic institutions into commercialization and to promote a sustainable culture of biomedical entrepreneurship.

“We are thrilled to partner with Jackson State University on our commercialization and entrepreneurship efforts,” said Allyson Best, director of the UM Office of Technology Commercialization. “There are many opportunities for collaboration among our biomedical research programs, and we look forward to coordinating Mississippi’s contributions to the accelerator hub.”

UM and JSU are part of the Mississippi Research Consortium, which also includes Mississippi’s two other research universities, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, in the aim of developing and sustaining nationally competitive research programs in the state.

Allyson Best

“This grant is the first of its kind at JSU and we are pleased to partner with the University of Mississippi, XLerateHealth, the University of Kentucky and the other partnering institutions in accelerating biomedical technologies in the Southeast,” said Almesha L. Campbell, director of technology transfer and commercialization at JSU. “This partnership will also help to enhance the tech transfer operations at JSU and provide our faculty and students with the tools to commercialize their ideas.”

The grant will fund the creation of an online “virtual hub” through which XLerateHealth, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and West Virginia University can connect and coordinate programming, resources and commercialization tools for utilization across the network of participating institutions. The hub will develop and share educational curriculum at participating institution sites across the region.

A focused intellectual property and technology transfer support services component for regional and historically black colleges and universities will be available to assist where those services are not otherwise available.

“This accelerator hub is timely and will make a huge impact on the acceleration of biomedical technologies in Mississippi and the Southeast,” said Joseph A. Whittaker, JSU associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs. “We are currently making strides in our technology transfer, innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship activities at JSU, and this grant will only help to increase our capacity to support our faculty and students.”

The UM School of Engineering launched a new biomedical engineering degree program in fall 2017. Biomedical engineering is the application of principles and design concepts in engineering to problems in medicine and biology for health care purposes.

“This is an important grant not just for the two named campuses, but the entire state,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “The objective is to network as many resources as possible in order to catalyze biomedical innovation out of the state’s academic institutions.”

Josh Gladden

The IDeA program was established in 1993 to broaden the geographic distribution of National Institutes of Health funding and builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research; faculty and student development; and scientific infrastructure improvements.

The institutions in the consortium who have pledged their support and who will be participating in managing the program’s various committees and initiatives include: the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, West Virginia University, Benedict College, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, Eastern Kentucky University, Jackson State University, Louisiana State University Health Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Northern Kentucky University, Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust and University of Puerto Rico, Southern University, Tulane University, University of Arkansas, UM, Western Kentucky University and Winthrop University.

About Jackson State University

Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high-research activity university in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. Jackson State’s nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi’s urban university, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, health care, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in the Jackson metropolitan area, Jackson State is located near downtown, with five satellite locations throughout the area.

About the University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is the state’s flagship university. Included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, it has a long history of producing leaders in public service, academics and business. With more than 23,000 students, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university and is ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing institutions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school, nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy, and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

Josh Gladden Appointed to Top Research Position at UM

Vice chancellor role oversees Office of Research and Sponsored Programs

Josh Gladden

OXFORD, Miss. – Josh Gladden has been named vice chancellor for the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Mississippi following a nationwide search. The vice chancellor serves as the university’s chief research officer.

Gladden, who joined the university in July 2005 as an assistant professor of physics and moved up through the ranks, had held the title of interim vice chancellor since 2016. The office serves and supports UM faculty, staff and students who are pursuing research or other sponsored projects funded by federal, state or private agencies and organizations.

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been chosen for this role,” Gladden said. “My time as interim vice chancellor reinforced how interesting and fulfilling this job is.

“I have come to understand the incredible breadth and quality of research and creative activities happening at UM, and am most excited about partnering with deans, directors, chairs, faculty and research staff, along with our hardworking and knowledgeable team, to help them achieve their goals in this important component of our mission as a university.”

While serving as interim vice chancellor, Gladden developed or played a leadership role in various initiatives such as Flagship Constellations, which includes multidisciplinary research teams of UM faculty and staff addressing grand challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

He also initiated or helped initiate programs at UM such as research development fellows and undergraduate research fellows, strengthened and expanded relationships in both the public and private sectors, and aided the university’s existing centers and institutes while fostering the creation of new ones, such as the Center for Graphene Research and Innovation.

“We are so pleased that Dr. Josh Gladden will serve as the chief research officer for the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Dr. Gladden brings a wealth of experience and recognition as a national leader in his field.

“In addition, he has demonstrated tremendous dedication to elevating the impact of the university’s scholarly research and discovery. Through his collaborative and innovative approaches, Dr. Gladden embodies the exceptional standard we’ve come to expect of this position.”

Increasing the impact of the university’s research and scholarly activities will require efforts on many fronts, Gladden said.

Foremost among those endeavors are “firmly establishing the multidisciplinary Flagship Constellation teams, broadly telling the story of research at UM, growing undergraduate research opportunities, continuing to grow partnerships with both the public and private sectors, transitioning UM technologies into the marketplace and mentoring early career faculty in grantsmanship,” he said.

Gladden was among four candidates for the position invited to campus for interviews and public presentations.

“Dr. Gladden has a distinguished record as a researcher and university administrator who holds the respect of his colleagues,” said Donna Strum, the university’s associate provost, who chaired the search committee.

“Dr. Gladden’s vision will build upon our strengths and enable our research enterprise to grow and thrive. We welcome his expertise in building on our successes and guiding us to the next level of excellence.”

Before joining the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Gladden served as director of the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics from 2013 to 2016. During that time, external funding for the center increased from $2.8 million to $6.2 million.

Gladden was an assistant professor until 2011, when he was promoted to associate professor of physics. In July of this year, he was again promoted, this time to full professor of physics.

Josh Gladden is the new UM vice chancellor for the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs following a nationwide search. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I am elated that Josh Gladden has accepted our offer to be our next vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “He has a solid understanding of what it takes to facilitate growth in the research enterprise, appreciates the dynamics involved in faculty productivity and has a commitment to foster scholarship and creative achievement in all disciplines.

“I am confident in his ability to facilitate our institutional research and creative achievement goals, and I thank the committee and the Parker Executive Search firm for conducting a well-run search.”

Gladden earned his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 2003 and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in physics and mathematics at Penn State before joining UM.

Before receiving his doctorate, he worked three years as a physics instructor at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West in Montezuma, New Mexico. The college is an international school for gifted students representing approximately 75 countries with a network of 16 sister campuses on five continents.

Gladden received his master’s degree in physics from the University of Montana in 1994 and his bachelor’s in physics from the University of the South in 1991.

His research interests are focused on energy-related materials and include developing novel methods of acoustics and vibration sensing in harsh environments and using these methods to study numerous energy-related materials. Recently, his research has started focusing on vibrational and acoustic energy harvesting methods, as well as structural health monitoring in harsh or complex environments such as in storage casks for spent nuclear fuel rods.

Gladden serves as president of the University of Mississippi Research Foundation and as chair of the Mississippi Research Consortium, which represents Mississippi’s four research universities – UM, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi – in developing and sustaining nationally competitive research programs.

Gladden is a fellow and member of the Acoustical Society of America and a member of the American Physical Society and The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society.

He has authored or co-authored 28 refereed publications and made 34 invited presentations. In 2007, Gladden co-authored a paper, “Motion of a Viscoelastic Micellar Fluid Around a Cylinder: Flow and Fracture,” which was listed in “Physics News of 2007” by the American Physical Society.

UM, Shorelight Education Partnership Broadens Global Access

Ole Miss International will welcome first students in the fall of 2019

Officials from the University of Mississippi and Boston-based Shorelight Education gather in the Lyceum to observe the signing of a contract that will help attract more international students to the state’s flagship university. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. and BOSTON – The University of Mississippi and Shorelight Education have launched a joint program, Ole Miss International, to broaden global access to UM’s highly regarded undergraduate and graduate programs for international students.

Ole Miss International will welcome its first cohort starting in fall 2019.

UM and Boston-based Shorelight created this personalized program to enrich the university’s campus community and enhance its educational experience with unparalleled international student support services. Shorelight uses a proprietary database that identifies the strongest areas of international demand for a U.S. higher education experience.

With a distribution network in more than 150 countries, Shorelight operates across multiple channels, including digital marketing, high school promotion, sponsorship agencies and a network of counselors.

Despite overall declines in international student enrollment numbers nationwide, Shorelight’s partner university enrollments are up more than 40 percent nationally.

“This strategic initiative advances our university’s priority of educating and engaging global citizens,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We look forward to expanding our international footprint and extending educational opportunities to even more students across the world.”

In January, the university and Shorelight agreed on a partnership that will support the recruitment, retention and success of international students at UM, as well as elevate the global presence of the university. Shorelight Education partners with top-ranked, nonprofit American universities to build comprehensive programs and services that are both high-touch and technology-driven to help talented students succeed on campus and become globally minded alumni.

With the first students of the program set to arrive next fall, Vitter emphasized the importance of providing robust learning environments with a rich diversity of talents, cultures and contributions.

“I believe that excellence and diversity go hand in hand,” he said. “Diversity makes our ideas better, our approaches more effective, our results stronger and our relationships deeper.

“Not only will this partnership expand the diversity of our global outreach, but it also will enhance the academic and social experience for all of us in the Ole Miss community.”

Shorelight Education CEO and co-founder Tom Dretler signs a contract partnering with the University of Mississippi to attract more international students to the university. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Shorelight has seen a 92 percent progression rate for its students across all its partnerships – well above the national average.

Shorelight CEO Tom Dretler attributed continued enrollment growth in the company’s programs to the quality of its partners, its multichannel approach to identifying talented students and its industry-leading support services to ensure academic success.

“There is extraordinary international student demand for undergraduate and graduate degrees from top U.S. universities like Ole Miss,” Dretler said. “Our approach is to tap into that demand in over 150 counties and use our technology platforms and best-in-class support services to deliver an outstanding experience.

“Our programs would not be thriving as they are today without our partnerships with top-tier universities like Ole Miss that provide international students with access to high-demand degree programs.”

Through this new partnership, UM and Shorelight share a common mission centered on student success.

“It’s not just about recruiting the right students for the university,” Dretler said. “Our focus is on equipping students with the tools and resources needed to succeed and become globally minded alumni.”

For the current academic semester, UM has 875 international students enrolled, not including students enrolled in Optional Practical Training, a temporary employment that is directly related to an international student’s major area of study.

“The accelerator programs offered by the University of Mississippi with Ole Miss International will provide a comprehensive path for international students in their cultural adjustment, career development and academic success at the University of Mississippi,” said Blair McElroy, UM senior international officer and director of the Study Abroad Office.

According to the NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students in Mississippi contributed $87.1 million to the state’s economy in 2016, supporting 907 jobs.

State Awarded $20 Million to Establish Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics

JACKSON, Miss. – A $20 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation will spur creative discovery and economic opportunities through Mississippi’s research universities.

With the grant funding, the state of Mississippi will establish the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics, an interdisciplinary, multi-institution materials research program. Mississippi State University will serve as the project’s administrative lead, and the University of Southern Mississippi will serve as the science lead.

Along with MSU and USM, Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi will be part of the new center, which will facilitate the development of research capabilities and educational opportunities in the growing optoelectronic, energy and biotechnology research fields.

The NSF grant comes through the organization’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR program, which enhances the research competitiveness of states and jurisdictions by strengthening STEM capacity and capability.

“This initiative will be a tremendous benefit to the people of Mississippi and to our research universities,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “Increasing our university research capabilities makes our state and our institutions more competitive, increases educational opportunities and keeps us at the forefront of emerging technologies.

“This new center and its focus on organic semiconductors will make existing Mississippi industries more competitive and help the state attract new companies. I am proud that MSU is playing a lead role in this endeavor.”

David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development, is principal investigator and project director for the grant. Sarah Morgan of USM is the science director. Co-principal investigators are Jason Azoulay from USM, Jared Delcamp from UM and Glake Hill from JSU.

“I am so pleased that the National Science Foundation selected our faculty as the science lead for this important project,” USM President Rodney D. Bennett said.

“With USM’s Center for Optoelectronic Materials and Devices serving as the mission center for this grant, our internationally-renowned polymer science and engineering experts look forward to partnering with Mississippi’s other research institutions as they examine far more complicated processes than ever before. I am confident their work will impact our communities positively for many years to come.”

The Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics will develop new, unified research methodologies on organic semiconductors, an area that is vital to the advancement of diverse areas such as technology, electronics and biomedicine. To facilitate the research, the center will establish state-of-the-art research instrumentation for common use across the state and support collaborative research among institutions.

The new scientific infrastructure will fill a void for the state and facilitate advanced basic and applied research.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to be a member of this dynamic, multi-institutional team for the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics and help develop pivotal research capabilities that will be benefit Mississippi, our nation and the world,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said.

“This initiative will bolster collaborative research efforts and continue pioneering STEM workforce development, which is critical for attracting high-tech industry to the state.” 

New optoelectronic functionality developed by center will support the basic knowledge necessary to bring new technologies to reality, resulting in new intellectual property and potential job creation.

“Jackson State University is elated to be a partner of this groundbreaking venture for the state of Mississippi and historically black colleges and universities,” said William B. Bynum Jr., JSU president. “It is my hope that we continue to expand on these opportunities to spur economic growth for Mississippi and enhance educational opportunities for our students.”

The new center will benefit from connections to national laboratories, NSF Top 100 research universities, state development officials and representatives from industry. The grant will also fund K-14 outreach efforts aimed at creating a stronger, more diverse pipeline of STEM students.

“The grant from the National Science Foundation demonstrates the incredible capabilities housed within our research universities,” said Alfred Rankins Jr., commissioner of higher education. “Working together, these capabilities are amplified. The research conducted through this grant will put Mississippi on the forefront of emerging technologies.”

Hodge-Penn Named UM Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research

Research administration veteran brings 15 years of experience

Melissa Hodge-Penn

OXFORD, Miss. – Melissa Hodge-Penn is the new assistant vice chancellor for the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Mississippi. She brings more than 15 years of experience in program development, grant management and research administration at the university level.

Hodge-Penn joined UM earlier this month after a national search. She most recently served as director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

“I’m excited about being at Ole Miss,” she said. “I felt as though (this position) was an opportunity for me to leverage my experiences to help the university expand its research portfolio.

“I also thought that it was an opportunity for me to grow my own scope of work and what I’ve been able to accomplish over the years.”

As assistant vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, Hodge-Penn’s roles will include oversight and management of the office’s sponsored programs administration (the pre-award team), while also serving on the office’s leadership team and managing office budgets. She also will work closely with faculty, research staff and other administrators to improve the office’s processes and service as it expands the level of external support for the university’s research mission.

“We are excited for Melissa Hodge-Penn to join our team in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Mississippi,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for the office. “Ms. Hodge-Penn brings with her extensive experience in research administration accrued at Georgia State University and Emory University.”

Hodge-Penn entered the realm of higher education as director of the Senior Corps Program in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in 2002. She later worked in the Technical College System of Georgia in the Office of Adult Education, leading first the Workplace Education/Health Literacy program and later becoming director of the Workforce Education – Transition Services program.

While there, she provided oversight to subgrantees at 25 technical colleges and managed the statewide professional development process for senior administrators and instructional staff with more than 90,000 students.

In 2014 and 2015, she was grants manager in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, where she managed a $45 million sponsored research grants and contracts portfolio.

She returned to Georgia State University in 2015 as associate director of the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs at GSU’s Perimeter College before being promoted to her former role.

While at Georgia State University, Hodge-Penn led the restructuring of the College of Education and Human Development’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, making it more efficient in proposal development and award management, aligning it with university policies and practices, and building capacity for projected funding growth.

A native of Atlanta, Hodge-Penn received her bachelor’s degree from Grambling State University and her master’s from Liberty University. She graduated from Georgia State University’s Executive Leadership Academy for Women in 2017.

She is a member of the American Society for Public Administration, National Council of University Research Administrators, Society of Research Administrators International and other professional, social and civic organizations.

Beyond her professional achievements, Hodge-Penn also has experience in community service, leadership and engagement roles. She was a member of the Georgia Parent Teacher Association, served on the Dekalb Community Service Board and was a member of the superintendent search committee for the Atlanta Public Schools in 2013 and 2014.

Hodge-Penn and her husband, Derex, have one child, 14-year-old Dilyn.

Professor Working to Make Solar Cells More Efficient

Jared Delcamp awarded $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue work

Jared Delcamp

OXFORD, Miss. – A highly selective $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science will continue funding a University of Mississippi professor’s research into improving solar energy technologies.

Jared Delcamp, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been awarded the grant funding through the department’s prestigious Early Career Research Program.

The award will support Delcamp, along with a post-doctoral student and a graduate student, in their research to better understand how to use high-energy visible light efficiently in relation to solar energy.

Delcamp was among 84 scientists this year from across the nation – including 54 university researchers – to receive a research grant through the program, which is in its ninth year.

“It is very exciting to me to get an Early Career Research award,” said Delcamp, who joined the UM faculty in 2013. “The division it is coming from is full of the best solar energy researchers in the U.S.

“It is a fierce competition to become part of the group, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I’m excited to start contributing research progress to the division.”

The Early Career Research Program is designed to develop the individual research programs of outstanding scientists at universities and Department of Energy national laboratories early in their careers and stimulate research careers in the disciplines supported by the department’s Office of Science.

No more than 10 years can have passed between the year the principal investigator’s Ph.D. was awarded and the year of the deadline for the proposal. A native of Monticello, Kentucky, Delcamp graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with his doctorate in chemistry in 2010.

Delcamp is the first UM faculty member to receive the award.

“We are so proud of Dr. Delcamp’s accomplishments at Ole Miss,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “Early Career Research awards are extremely competitive and a true mark of a faculty member who has established themselves quickly on the national stage. Dr. Delcamp’s research has enormous potential, and we can’t wait to see what he will do next.”

Delcamp runs the Delcamp Group, a renewable energy research lab at the university. The lab focuses on using sunlight to separate charges across two materials, Delcamp said.

With sunlight energy being wasted in the visible region just after the ultraviolet region in a lot of solar technologies, Delcamp’s research is studying ways to stop this loss. New discoveries in this field potentially could improve dramatically technologies used in the fields of solar cells, direct solar-to-fuel devices and solar-powered batteries.

Since joining the Ole Miss faculty, Delcamp has won several awards and grants, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015, several NSF awards and a NASA Research Infrastructure Development award.

“Dr. Delcamp’s research is addressing a major unmet need for improved efficiency in capturing and converting solar energy,” said Allyson Best, director of the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization. “The university has filed patent applications covering novel chemistry discovered in his laboratory and has received very promising feedback from potential commercial partners.”

In 2017, Delcamp received a Michael L. Edmonds New Scholar Award, presented annually to junior faculty at UM demonstrating exemplary performance in research, scholarship and/or creative achievement.

The funding allows Delcamp to focus on training the best scientists possible while making important discoveries that are being recognized internationally, he said.

“We have been atypically successful in terms of funding,” Delcamp said. “We use our funding very carefully to ensure important experiments are being done and science is being progressed responsibly.

“This level of funding being used responsibly has allowed us to focus on how to best solve a science problem rather than a funding problem. This is incredibly freeing in terms of mentoring students and getting research done.”

Delcamp’s project, titled “Controlling Interfacial Charge Separation Energetics and Kinetics,” is funded through DOE grant No. DE-SC0019131, which runs through Aug. 31, 2023.