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.

New UM Program Funds Summer Undergraduate Research

23 students to conduct mentored summer research projects

Twenty-three University of Mississippi students are involved with the Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, an inaugural program to expand and enhance undergraduate research and creative achievement at UM.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Twenty-three University of Mississippi undergraduate students are participating in the Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, an inaugural program to expand and enhance undergraduate research and creative achievement.

In May, the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs announced that 15 Undergraduate Research Grants, including two Faculty Group Grants and 13 Individual Student Grants, were being awarded from among 45 competing proposals submitted this spring by faculty and students. The grants, totaling $51,000, will provide funding for student living stipends, faculty mentorship stipends, travel, lab materials and other costs associated with these student research projects.

The 15 grants are being funded by the Office of the Provost with assistance from several other schools and departments.

“Undergraduate students can use these research experiences to help really make sense of what they are learning in their different classes and help them put it all together,” said Jason Ritchie, who is an undergraduate research development fellow in the Office of Research. He also serves as an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“Getting them involved in research early is fantastic for the students, and I think they’ll get a lot more out of their undergraduate experience when they are very integrated into their department and integrated into their discipline and working one-on-one with faculty members. They get just a much richer experience out of this.”

Each of the two Faculty Group Grants funds up to five faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects within a disciplinary theme proposed by a faculty team. They are titled “Undergraduate Research in Data Science” and “Decision Making in the Delta: An Investigation of Community Resilience, Nutrition and Health for a Brighter Future.”

These Faculty Group Grants are intended not only to give students a quality summer research experience but also to give faculty experience running a summer student research program – an experience they can leverage in submitting proposals to funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation. The NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, for instance, supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the foundation.

While summer undergraduate research has existed on the UM campus for years, the Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience is a new, organized program.

“Undergraduate research experiences add an important dimension to the undergraduate curriculum for many majors,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “These projects give students practical experience and the chance to work through the details of a problem related to their chosen discipline. These experiences are increasingly important for both prospective employers and admissions for graduate and professional schools.”

Adam Jones, an assistant professor of computer and information science at the University of Mississippi, talks to students and faculty involved in the Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The 13 Individual Student Grants fund student-proposed, faculty-mentored research by students in majors ranging from exercise science and international studies to geology and physics. The projects are intended for each undergraduate student to work closely on his or her research with a faculty member over the summer.

“Research and creative achievement are critical elements of our mission,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “Undergraduate students gain tremendous experience and intellectual benefits by working with faculty to discover, create and expand knowledge. This should be an opportunity afforded to undergraduate students by every discipline on campus.”

All of the grants are expected to result in a student-led creative product, such as a manuscript submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, a student presentation at an academic conference or even a creative performance.

To enable these outcomes, the program also includes travel grants to help undergraduate students who have completed research to present their work at regional or national conferences. Applications from students are accepted year-round for these grants.

“Every discipline has scholarship expectations, and there are opportunities for students to be involved in undergraduate research and scholarship in their discipline,” Ritchie said. “I think we are establishing undergraduate research and scholarship experiences during the summer as a normal and desirable thing for students to want to participate in, and hoping to stimulate those opportunities across campus.”

The projects were selected by committees that include research fellows in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and various other members of the UM research community.

Baseline funding for the Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience has been provided by the Office of the Provost. Year one co-funding is being provided by the College of Liberal Arts, the schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the departments of Computer and Information Science, Geology and Geological Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics and Astronomy, and Biology.

Physical Acoustics Summer School Hosted by UM

School explores acoustics, from bubbles to bottle rockets

Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs at the University of Mississippi, leads a demonstration at the National Center for Physical Acoustics during the 2018 Physical Acoustics Summer School. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Sometimes the quickest introduction to cutting-edge physical acoustics is questioning why a whistling bottle rocket whistles.

That’s why Greg Swift, a member of the Condensed Matter and Magnet Science Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, held a bottle rocket – unlit – in a ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss earlier this month (June 3-8) during the 2018 Physical Acoustics Summer School, or PASS.

The summer school included 43 physical acoustics students and lecturers from around the country as well as the United Kingdom and China, who gathered on the University of Mississippi campus to discuss various physical acoustics subjects, from thermoacoustics to active noise control. During the week, graduate students got the chance to meet with experts and discuss physical acoustics topics they rarely encounter at their own colleges and universities.

“PASS is an intensive week where graduate students from around the world get exposed to a wide variety of fundamental topics in physical acoustics taught by world-class experts,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“In addition to the broad technical knowledge, [the school] provides a wonderful opportunity for the graduate students to form relationships with their peers and professionals in the field. As a PASS 2000 graduate, I still keep in touch with my classmates.”

While Swift’s presentation on thermoacoustics kicked off the week of physical acoustics subject matter, the school also included six more presentations, covering topics such as the acoustics of bubbles and bubbly fluids, biomedical ultrasound and active noise control.

Later during his demonstration, Swift pulled out a blowtorch and heated a glass tube, recreating the “singing tube,” an invention by Charles T. Knipp. A longtime University of Illinois physics professor who died in 1948, Knipp was well-known for his experiments in rainmaking and the conduction of electricity through glass.

The tubes are useful in demonstrations to showcase the conversion of heat energy into sound through a vibrating air column.

Throughout his demonstration, even while going over complex acoustical physics problems such as Fourier’s law of heat conduction, Swift kept the students – from 16 U.S. and two international universities – and lecturers enthralled.

Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs at the University of Mississippi, leads a tour of the National Center for Physical Acoustics during the 2018 Physical Acoustics Summer School. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

Early on, he told the group members that he expected them to participate and peppered his presentation with questions such as “Why do some of these bottle rockets whistle?” “What’s the meaning of the question: Why does it whistle?” “What’s the scientific approach to a puzzle like this?” “What is still missing from our explanation here?”

Swift even showed a cutaway of a whistling bottle rocket that he cut out himself, which was why the cuts were so jagged, he joked.

Students gradually worked through an explanation of why a whistling bottle rocket whistles that involves the bottle rocket’s pyrotechnic composition, shape and combustion dynamics.

During a session on active noise control, Scott Sommerfeldt, a professor in the Brigham Young University Department of Physics and Astronomy, posed more questions to the students.

“Where did the energy go?” he asked. “Are we violating physics here?”

Sommerfeldt is researching methods for reducing unwanted sounds by matching sound against sound to create silence. The research has practical applications from quieting noisy propeller-driven aircraft to hushing air-conditioning systems and office equipment. His talk ranged from an introduction to inventor Paul Lueg, a German generally credited with beginning active noise control in the 1930s, to modern research into noise-cancellation methods.

One afternoon, the students and lecturers toured the National Center for Physical Acoustics, which serves as the Physical Acoustics Archives for the Acoustical Society of America and coordinates the biennial school.

The group toured labs and learned more about the center’s research in areas such as aeroacoustics and porous media, including the study of how to use acoustic waves to detect buried objects and structures such unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devises, and tunnels, and how to use acoustics to measure the sediment payload carried by rivers and streams.

The 2018 edition of the Physical Acoustics Summer School received high marks from attendees, said Gladden, who recently was elected as a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America for his service to and leadership in the field of physical acoustics.

“Having PASS on the Ole Miss campus gives us the chance to show off our physical acoustics facilities right here in Oxford,” he said. “Students got to see cutting-edge acoustics research and ask senior scientists detailed questions.”

This year’s school was supported by the Acoustical Society of America, National Center for Physical Acoustics at UM and Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas.

National Science Foundation Funds Further Lightning Research

UM professors studying the mysteries of how lightning starts

Thomas Marshall (pictured) and Maribeth Stolzenburg, a pair of University of Mississippi professors of physics and astronomy, have been granted two National Science Foundation awards to study lightning initiation.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Science has revealed several fascinating things about lightning. For instance, a lightning flash can heat the surrounding air to temperatures around 50,000 degrees – five times hotter than the sun’s surface.

Lightning bolts roar toward the ground at speeds of 200,000 mph. And an American has about a one-in-14,600 chance of being struck by lightning during an 80-year lifetime.

Questions remain about lightning, though, including how lightning starts, and that’s a secret two University of Mississippi professors are working on unraveling.

Two recent National Science Foundation awards will assist the scientists – Thomas Marshall, professor of physics and astronomy, and Maribeth Stolzenburg, research professor of physics and astronomy – as they pursue the mysteries of lightning initiation.

Knowing how lightning begins could lead to a better understanding of where it might strike and being able to better warn people of approaching weather conditions conducive to lightning strikes. Marshall and Stolzenburg are not working on predicting lightning strikes, as the first question to answer is: How does lightning initiate?

“We’re going to try to get a better understanding about how lightning starts, and then how it moves through the cloud,” Marshall said. “But the starting part is especially interesting because air is not a conductor and when you see the big, bright … return stroke of a lightning flash, that’s a big current and it needs a good conductor.

“How a lightning flash can change a thin path of air from a non-conductor to a conductor has eluded explanation for a long time.”

Stolzenburg said scientists have to have puzzles, and “one of those puzzles is that we’ve known that lightning has existed forever, but all the detailed physics of what has to happen to get that started … is really poorly understood.”

“In terms of why should society care about this research, the answer is: Better understanding of lightning processes may allow us to better predict when lightning will happen or at least understand where it’s going to happen,” she said. “Being able to do that means we may eventually be able to give better warnings about when to get off the golf course or the soccer field.”

Marshall is principal investigator of an award that is for $154,222 for its first year and titled “Lightning Initiation and In-Cloud Electromagnetic Activity in Mississippi Thunderstorms.” Stolzenburg is the co-principal investigator for the award, No. 1742930. Expected future NSF support for the award is $95,419 each year in 2019 and 2020.

The second award is titled “Collaborative Research: High-Speed Slitless Spectroscopy Studies of Natural Lightning Flashes” and is for $154,476 for its first year. Stolzenburg is principal investigator for the award, No. 1745931, and Marshall is co-principal investigator. The award is a continuing grant with an estimated total award amount of $440,314. 

The second project is a collaboration between Ole Miss and Texas A&M University professor Richard Orville and will collect new lightning data, including high-speed video data and lightning spectra.

Thomas Marshall, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi, captured this lightning strike in New Mexico. Two new National Science Foundation awards are allowing Marshall and Maribeth Stolzenburg, research professor of physics and astronomy at UM, to further study lightning initiation. Photo courtesy Tom Marshall

“Lightning is one of the most dramatic natural events, observed through countless generations, but it’s still not fully understood,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “Drs. Marshall and Stolzenburg have deep expertise in lightning initiation, and this NSF grant will help them take our knowledge to the next level.”

The first award allows the duo to analyze data collected in the spring and summer of 2016 in north Mississippi, also funded by the NSF. That award was granted after Marshall and Stolzenburg conducted lightning studies at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2010 and 2011.

In the summer of 2016, lightning data was collected at seven sites in north Mississippi. One of the sites was at the UM Field Station, and another was on the Ole Miss campus.

The data collected is some 20 terabytes of computer memory, enough to max out the storage capacity on about 312 iPhone Xs with 64-gigabyte storage capacities.

The lightning data is on a time scale of less than one-millionth of a second.

The second award will collect new data on lightning initiation using three high-speed video cameras and the seven sensors. The data collection will focus on the initial sparks (with durations of only 5- to 60-millionths of a second) that occur during the time needed to form the lightning channel, roughly the first 3- to 10-thousandths of a second of a lightning flash.

The video cameras will record the initial pulses as they develop.

“Essentially, we are trying to understand all this fine detail in the lightning data to see if it fits with the theories of how lightning starts,” Stolzenburg said. “Or, if it doesn’t fit, then there is something wrong with the theory, so we need to modify the theory.

“Eventually, we need to understand how a flash is able to go from initiation to a conducting channel that travels to ground. Fortunately, we have a lot of lightning data collected in 2016, including data from traditional lightning sensors and from new lightning sensors, to help us investigate how lightning initiation works.”

According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, from 2006 through 2017, 376 people were struck and killed by lightning in the U.S., with almost two-thirds of the deaths involving outdoor leisure activities such as fishing, being on the beach, camping, boating, or playing soccer or golf.

UM Scientists Work toward Natural Remedy for Bedbugs

NCNPR researchers look for safer solution in pest management

Bedbugs are tiny when they hatch, but each insect can grow to one-fourth of an inch in size as it matures.
UM photo by Don F. Stanford

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s a fear for children that monsters reside under the bed. But those monsters could be living on the mattress or in the sheets. They’re called bedbugs.

However, scientists with the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are searching for a natural remedy to stop the insect from not only biting, but growing in rapid numbers.

“In the past few years, the number of bedbug infestations has risen, potentially impacting the hospitality industry” said Amar Chittiboyina, NCNPR assistant director. “The resources at the NCNPR make it an ideal research center for the discovery of a natural chemical as an insecticide.”

Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Insect Management Program looks for a natural compound for management of pests affecting soldiers and the public. Finding that solution is easier said than done, as bedbugs are tough to control, much less eradicate.

Junaid Rehman, research scientist in the NCNPR, works closely with two strains of bedbugs: those that are resistant to insecticides and those that haven’t been exposed to insecticides. Rehman is tasked with the challenge of sorting the tiny bedbugs, which grow to less than one-fourth of an inch in size, by age and making sure each gets its weekly fill of rabbit blood to help maintain the colonies.

Researchers use three delivery methods to test the effectiveness of natural compounds on the bedbugs, Rehman said.

The easiest ones to perform are fumigation and residual methods. In fumigation, the bugs are exposed to the vapor form for 24 hours, while the residual method has the treatment placed on filter paper and the insects are released over it.

The toughest is a topical method, which involves Rehman knocking the insects unconscious with carbon dioxide before applying a drop of test article on each adult’s back. This process can take up to five hours with 50-60 bedbugs in each treatment for statistical significance.

“In most cases of severe infestation, the only option to eradicate the insects is to discard the furniture,” Rehman said. “To avoid such an expensive operation, we are probing several methods for effective delivery of potential insecticides.

“At the end of the day, we are looking for natural compounds that are easy to apply in a laboratory setting and in the field. The hardest part is finding a natural compound that will safely and effectively eradicate or control the growth of bedbugs.”

Junaid Rehman, a research scientist in the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, works to separate bedbugs to prepare for testing of potential control agents in the lab. UM photo by Don F. Stanford

Researchers work in a biosafety lab at the Thad Cochran Research Center where special precautions are taken to prevent the escape of any bugs. Though bedbugs are easily contained in the lab, that’s not the case in public areas. Bedbugs hiding in dark corners and crevices of hotel rooms or other spaces can survive as long as three months without food.

The insect is not known to transfer diseases, but when an infestation is severe, the bites can cause health concerns. Finding a solution for this problem is at the forefront of the NCNPR’s goals.

“We have such unique resources at the NCNPR that we can optimize and convert the knowledge we have into finding a safer solution, as there is currently no easy way to get rid of these bedbugs,” said Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director. “Having this funding from the USDA helps us to work toward our overall goals.”

As Bed Bug Awareness Week (June 3-9) rolls on and as many people prepare to travel for summer vacations, Khan acknowledged that public awareness and preemptive measures help in bedbug cases. NCNPR researchers will continue working to make bedbug nightmares a thing of the past.

“If we can come up with a natural compound that inhibits the bedbugs’ growth or alters its life cycle, and the natural compound has a safety profile needed for approval by the EPA as an insecticide, then we achieved our goals,” Chittiboyina said.

This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, under agreement no. 58-6066-6-043. Any opinions, findings, conclusion or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

UM Signs Agreement with Science and Innovation Consortium

Alabama-based association expands regional academic engagement

Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Chris Crumbly, executive director of the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, sign a memorandum of understanding between the university and the center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has joined the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation-University Consortium to help create a collaborative environment that channels the power of university innovation to tackle challenges in the areas of space and national defense.

Representatives from UM and the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, or VCSI, recently signed a memorandum of understanding. Established in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2006, VCSI is a nonprofit organization specializing in research and development that works to further the mission of key governmental stakeholders through a regional consortium of academic institutions.

The consortium, a team of academic institutions offering unique capabilities in advanced technologies, engineering prototyping, and research and analyses, connects academia thought leaders to the needs of the federal government.

“The University of Mississippi is always looking for better ways to partner with our sister research institutions, so we are excited to join the consortium,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“Robust partnerships are critical in today’s academic research environments, and this group is committed to building a strong coalition of universities. Ole Miss is pleased to become one of the inaugural members of VCSI.”

UM was the first of several universities to join the consortium. The consortium is extending invitations to any and all research universities in the region surrounding Huntsville and recently has added the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Alabama A&M University to the consortium.

“We are excited to sign our first agreement with the University of Mississippi,” said Chris Crumbly, the center’s executive director. “This demonstrates our renewed emphasis for expanding our region of academic engagement with the Huntsville technology community and adds more opportunity to showcase the exciting research ongoing at Ole Miss.”

As a nonprofit, the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation created the consortium to facilitate communications between federal government agencies and universities. Also, the center integrates the universities to add synergy for solving complex problems, Crumbly said.

“This understanding recognizes a mutual relationship of our organizations such that the VCSI will provide actionable information concerning research opportunities in the Huntsville region and represent the University of Mississippi as a contributing member of our consortium,” he said.

UM Partners with Vietnamese University for Teaching and Research

Agreement facilitates student, faculty exchange and collaborations between institutions

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (right) and Pham Duy Hoa, rector at the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam, sign a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has entered into a new international partnership with the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam for student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

A formal memorandum of agreement between the two institutions was signed Thursday (May 10) in the chancellor’s office in the Lyceum. This partnership is NUCE’s first with an institution of higher learning in the United States.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to collaborate with other universities and external partners to foster academic opportunities and enhance excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We expect outstanding outcomes from this agreement with NUCE, including new curriculum, faculty exchanges and research synergies.

“This partnership also contributes to our universitywide strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.”

The university’s global reputation for rigorous academics, innovative research and increasing diversity all influenced NUCE officials’ decision to partner with UM.

“I understood that the University of Mississippi is widely respected and very well known in the United States and beyond,” said NUCE Rector Pham Duy Hoa. “As we seek to expand our global collaborations, we found that the goals and activities of this institution were very compatible with ours.”

Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Blair McElroy, senior international officer; and Kurt Smith, global engagement project coordinator, also were on hand for the signing.

Other NUCE delegates included Pham Quang Dung, vice rector; Nguyen Binh Ha, dean of the graduate school; Nguyen Hoang Giang, director of the International Cooperation Department; Ta Quynh Hoa, dean of faculty of international education; Cao Tuan Anh, director of the Office of Investment Management; and Tran Hong Hai, lecturer of building and industrial engineering.

Following the memorandum signing, NUCE officials interacted with Ole Miss faculty, discussed programming and toured various facilities.

NUCE proposes to establish a 2+2 transfer agreement in which students in an engineering bachelor’s degree program complete two years at one institution and transfer to finish it at the other. Other points of the agreement allow for faculty exchange, research collaborations, English as a Second Language instruction and continued development of the partnership.

“I am pleased with the interest that international institutions have in our outstanding academic programs,” Wilkin said. “Our School of Engineering faculty have worked hard to ensure that students who spend their first two years at fine international universities can have a seamless transition to our programs.

“Further, this will open the door for research collaborations that have international significance.”

The agreement will further enhance goals in the Department of Civil Engineering to increase internationalization, diversity and inclusion, said Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, professor and chair of the department.

“We are happy to see that our curriculum will be emulated by similar program in Vietnam,” he said. “We are looking forward to such collaborations.”

Joining with NUCE provides opportunities for Ole Miss computer and information science majors to gain experience interacting with international students, said Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of the department. “It will expose them to new working relationships and potentially lifelong friendships.”

Negotiations leading to the agreement began unofficially in January 2017. Smith and Tracy Koslowski, associate director of the UM Intensive English Program, traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to establish new international partnerships for academic exchange and collaborations.

Through the university’s Vietnamese Student Association, a connection was made with Pham Quan, second son of Pham Duy Hoa. Pham received his Bachelor of Business Administration in banking and finance from UM during Saturday’s (May 12) Commencement ceremonies.

“My son told me that he has had a wonderful educational experience at the University of Mississippi,” Hoa said. “It is certainly my desire that many more Vietnamese students have the opportunity to come to the University of Mississippi and have experiences similar to his.”

Established in 1966 as Ha Noi University of Civil Engineering, NUCE is one of Vietnam’s leading universities. With the main campus in Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi, the institution is accredited by the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam. NUCE admits more than 3,000 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students annually.

Graduates work in research institutions, engineering firms, construction companies and management agencies across Southeast Asia and worldwide.

For more information about NUCE, visit http://nuce.edu.vn/.