Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves Produced by Colliding Neutron Stars

Joint LIGO-Virgo discovery marks first cosmic event observed in both gravitational waves and light

An artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. 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. – For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marks the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.

The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, known as LIGO, the Europe-based Virgo detector, and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist and are formed when massive stars explode in supernovas. As these neutron stars spiraled together, they emitted gravitational waves that were detectable for about 100 seconds; when they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted and seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational waves.

In the days and weeks following the smashup, other forms of light, or electromagnetic radiation – including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared and radio waves – were detected.

“This is really the beginning of multimessenger astronomy,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi and principal investigator of the Ole Miss LIGO group. “Since the time humans have first gazed at the sky, people have just relied on light to learn about the universe.

“Today, we proved we can simultaneously observe a cosmic event using two different carriers of information: electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves. This is a revolution in astronomy comparable to Galileo’s first telescopic observations.”

The observations have given astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to probe a collision of two neutron stars. For example, observations made by the U.S. Gemini Observatory, the European Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal signatures of recently synthesized material, including gold and platinum, solving a decades-long mystery of where about half of all elements heavier than iron are produced.

The LIGO-Virgo results are published today in the journal Physical Review Letters; additional papers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations and the astronomical community have been either submitted or accepted for publication in various journals.

The gravitational signal, named GW170817, was first detected at 7:41 a.m. Aug. 17; the detection was made by the two identical LIGO detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. The information provided by the third detector, Virgo, situated near Pisa, Italy, enabled an improvement in localizing the cosmic event.

At the time, LIGO was nearing the end of its second observing run since being upgraded in a program called Advanced LIGO, while Virgo had begun its first run after recently completing an upgrade known as Advanced Virgo.

The National Science Foundation-funded LIGO observatories were conceived, constructed, and operated by Caltech and MIT. Virgo is funded by the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, and operated by the European Gravitational Observatory. Some 1,500 scientists in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration work together to operate the detectors and to process and understand the gravitational-wave data they capture.

Each observatory consists of two long tunnels arranged in an “L” shape, at the joint of which a laser beam is split in two. Light is sent down the length of each tunnel, then reflected back in the direction it came from by a suspended mirror. In the absence of gravitational waves, the laser light in each tunnel should return to the location where the beams were split at precisely the same time. If a gravitational wave passes through the observatory, it will alter each laser beam’s arrival time, creating an almost imperceptible change in the observatory’s output signal.

On Aug. 17, LIGO’s real-time data analysis software caught a strong signal of gravitational waves from space in one of the two LIGO detectors. At nearly the same time, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on NASA’s Fermi space telescope had detected a burst of gamma rays.

Rapid gravitational-wave detection by the LIGO-Virgo team, coupled with Fermi’s gamma-ray detection, enabled the launch of follow-up by telescopes around the world.

The LIGO data indicated that two astrophysical objects located at the relatively close distance of about 130 million light-years from Earth had been spiraling in toward each other. It appeared that the objects were not as massive as binary black holes – objects that LIGO and Virgo have previously detected.

Instead, the inspiraling objects were estimated to be in a range from around 1.1 to 1.6 times the mass of the sun, in the mass range of neutron stars. A neutron star is about 12 miles in diameter and is so dense that a teaspoon of neutron star material has a mass of about a billion tons.

“The scientific community has been eagerly awaiting this moment,” says Kate Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy and a member of the LIGO team that designed and built the detectors.

“Coalescing neutron stars provide such an exciting laboratory for new physics. We can study how neutrons behave when they’re packed so closely together, and even make an independent measurement of the expansion of the universe. We are tremendously lucky this event was relatively close by and could also be so precisely pinpointed in the sky.”

Theorists have predicted that when neutron stars collide, they should give off gravitational waves and gamma rays, along with powerful jets that emit light across the electromagnetic spectrum. The gamma-ray burst detected by Fermi, and soon thereafter confirmed by the European Space Agency’s gamma-ray observatory INTEGRAL, is what’s called a short gamma-ray burst.

The new observations confirm that at least some short gamma-ray bursts are generated by the merging of neutron stars – something that was only theorized before.

“This result is a great example of the effectiveness of teamwork, of the importance of coordinating and of the value of scientific collaboration,” said Federico Ferrini, director of the European Gravitational Observatory. “We are delighted to have played our relevant part in this extraordinary scientific challenge: Without Virgo, it would have been very difficult to locate the source of the gravitational waves.

Each electromagnetic observatory will be releasing its own detailed observations of the astrophysical event. In the meantime, a general picture is emerging among all observatories involved that further confirms that the initial gravitational-wave signal indeed came from a pair of inspiraling neutron stars.

Approximately 130 million years ago, the two neutron stars were in their final moments of orbiting each other, separated only by about 200 miles and gathering speed while closing the distance between them. As the stars spiraled faster and closer together, they stretched and distorted the surrounding space-time, giving off energy in the form of gravitational waves before smashing into each other.

At the moment of collision, the bulk of the two neutron stars merged into one ultra-dense object, emitting a “fireball” of gamma rays. The initial gamma-ray measurements, combined with the gravitational-wave detection, also provide confirmation for Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts that gravitational waves should travel at the speed of light.

Swope and Magellan telescope optical and near-infrared images of the first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave source, SSS17a, in its galaxy, NGC 4993. The left image is from Aug. 17, 11 hours after the LIGO/Virgo detection of the gravitational wave source, and contains the first optical photons of a gravitational wave source. The right image is from four days later. SSS17a, which is the aftermath of a neutron star merger, is marked with a red arrow. On the first night, SSS17a was relatively bright and blue. In only a few days, it faded significantly and its color became much redder. These observations show that heavy elements like gold and platinum were created in the merger. Photos courtesy 1M2H/UC Santa Cruz and Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley

Theorists have predicted that what follows the initial fireball is a “kilonova,” a phenomenon by which the material that is left over from the neutron star collision, which glows with light, is blown out of the immediate region and far out into space. The new light-based observations show that heavy elements, such as lead and gold, are created in these collisions and subsequently distributed throughout the universe.

In the weeks and months ahead, telescopes around the world will continue to observe the afterglow of the neutron star merger and gather further evidence about various stages of the merger, its interaction with its surroundings and the processes that produce the heaviest elements in the universe.

“Gravitational wave astronomy continues to provide exciting new ways to observe our universe,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “A particularly exciting aspect of this discovery is that this event could be observed by both traditional electromagnetic (light) astronomy as well as by gravitational waves, which allows for direct comparisons.

“We are proud that our gravity group at Ole Miss continues to provide important contributions to the LIGO effort.”

LIGO is funded by the NSF, and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived of LIGO and led the Initial and Advanced LIGO projects. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by the NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project.

More than 1,200 scientists and some 100 institutions from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian collaboration OzGrav. Additional partners are listed at

The Virgo collaboration consists of more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy; two in the Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with the University of Valencia; and the European Gravitational Observatory, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy, funded by CNRS, INFN, and Nikhef.

UM communications specialist Edwin Smith contributed to this report.

Grant Supports Student Internships in East Asia

Freeman Foundation provides $100,000 for experiential learning initiative

Palmer Whiters (left) and William Bumpas, recent graduates of the UM Croft Institute for International Studies, completed a one-semester internship in China during their capstone year of the Chinese Flagship Program. The university has been awarded a grant from the Freeman Foundation to fund UM Experiential Learning in East Asia, an initiative to support internships in East and Southeast Asia. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont, has awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Mississippi for an initiative to support student internships in East and Southeast Asia.

The program, UM Experiential Learning in East Asia, will allow 18 undergraduates to complete a summer internship of at least eight weeks in summer 2018. Each recipient will receive $5,000 from the Freeman Foundation grant and an additional $2,500 provided by the university’s Office of Global Engagement and the successful applicants’ respective UM school(s).

“The Croft Institute has been the campus leader in promoting engagement with East Asia for the last 20 years, and this generous grant by the Freeman Foundation will allow us to add another important dimension to those efforts,” said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies.

Dinius will administer the program and is working with Joshua Howard, Croft associate professor of history, Minjoo Oh, associate professor of sociology; and Blair McElroy, the university’s senior international officer, to design the application process, select award recipients and assist students as they prepare for their internships.

The goal of the Freeman Foundation’s grant is to help students gain real-life experience while interacting regularly with local populations. Established in 1994 by the estate of AIG cofounder Mansfield Freeman, the foundation’s general mission is “to strengthen the bonds of friendship between this country and those of the Far East” and “to stimulate an exchange of ideas in economic and cultural fields which will help create mutual understanding.”

Headed by Mansfield’s grandson, Graeme Freeman, the foundation donates approximately $50 million annually to programs such as study abroad scholarships for Asian and American students and the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, which has supported the Croft Institute’s efforts to strengthen teaching about East Asia in Mississippi for more than 15 years.

The grant will provide students with life-changing opportunities to work and experience life in East Asia, Howard said. Participating students will “be able to put their learning into practice – whether it’s in the field of engineering, accounting, language studies, just to name a few examples – and become global citizens in the process,” he said.

This grant will allow the Croft Institute and the other participating units on the Oxford campus to deliver on the university’s commitment to greater internationalization and support for experiential learning, two core goals set by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Provost Noel Wilkin. Students chosen for UM Experiential Learning in East Asia will learn how a foreign culture affects the work environment and help prepare them to succeed.

“International experiences give students the skills they need in an increasingly global workplace, such as intercultural communication skills, self-awareness, knowledge of current events and their impact upon the world, and open-mindedness,” McElroy said.

Interested students should find their own internship and apply for the UM-administered funding with a specific proposal. The program welcomes proposals for internships in all parts of East Asia, although priority is given to sending students to countries that are at the heart of UM’s long-standing engagement with East Asia: China, Japan and South Korea.

Oh, a native of Korea, is excited about the potential of this grant reinforcing UM’s recent commitment to Korean studies.

“I hope that many students will take advantage of this opportunity to complete internships in Korea, deepening our engagement with one of the most culturally and economically dynamic places in the world,” she said.

The program is open to undergraduate students from all schools and majors on the Oxford campus. The only restriction is that they must be enrolled as full-time Ole Miss undergraduate students in the semester after completing their summer internship.

Individual awards are designed to offset costs that may otherwise discourage students from interning abroad, including airfare, accommodations and meals. The program will begin accepting applications in mid-October.

Interested students should visit for details about the application process and deadlines. For more information, contact William Mahoney, Croft’s coordinator for career planning, at

Truth-Telling Teeth is Topic for October Science Cafe

Anthropologist Carolyn Freiwald is second lecturer for fall semester

Carolyn Friewald, UM assistant professor of anthropology, reviews human teeth and bone fragments in her campus lab. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The use of teeth in anthropological investigations and modern forensics is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Carolyn Freiwald, UM assistant professor of anthropology, will discuss “This is your life in a tooth.” Admission is free.

“A single tooth contains a record of your life, from the types of food that you ate to where you lived, to how healthy you were as a child,” Freiwald said. “In this presentation, we’ll look at how science works to help us solve both ancient and modern mysteries.”

Friewald’s 45-minute presentation also will cover how bone chemistry has important applications in forensic cases, including identifying missing persons.

“Archaeologists use chemistry to reconstruct the past, learning what ancient people ate and drank, and discovering just how mobile they were,” she said. “Vegetarians and barbecue lovers have different chemical markers, and so do people with jobs such as blacksmiths. It is ‘you are what you eat’ at the molecular level.”

An Ole Miss professor said Freiwald’s discussion should be most interesting.

This human tooth is among many recovered by Carolyn Friewald during her archaeological excavations. Submitted photo

“Dr. Freiwald’s work bridges two disciplines: anthropology that studies aspects of human society, and chemistry that studies the natural world we humans live in,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy. “Her presentations are sure to be fascinating and enlightening.”

Freiwald received her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, entering graduate school after earning a bachelor’s degree in history and international relations.

Her research interests are ancient Latin American civilizations, and she has ongoing research projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Freiwald also has worked on archaeology projects in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Romania, Denmark, and the Upper Midwest and Mississippi.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

Alumni Association to Honor Outstanding Graduates at Homecoming

Recipients will be recognized on the field during Vanderbilt game

Don Frugé

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Alumni Association is awarding seven distinguished University of Mississippi alumni with its highest annual awards as part of Homecoming 2017.

Inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame for 2017 are: Don Frugé (BBA 67, JD 70) of Oxford; Walton Gresham III (BBA 71) of Indianola; James E. Keeton (BA 61, MD 65) of Jackson; Tom Papa (BBA 57) of Jackson; and Mary Sharp Rayner (BAEd 64) of Oxford.

Former Gov. William Winter (BA 43, LLB 49) of Jackson will receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association over an extended period. Candie L. Simmons (BBA 02, MBA 15) of Ridgeland will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

The Alumni Association will host a reception for the honorees at 6 p.m. Friday (Oct. 13) in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A dinner for the award recipients follows at 7 p.m.

Created in 1974, the Hall of Fame honors select alumni who have made an outstanding contribution to their country, state or university through good deeds, services or contributions that have perpetuated the good name of Ole Miss.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have shown exemplary leadership throughout their first 15 years of alumni status in both their careers and dedication to Ole Miss.

Frugé is chairman and CEO of Fruge Capital Advisors LLC, an independently registered investment advisory firm. He is also of counsel at the Fruge Law Firm PLLC, of Oxford.

A 1963 graduate of Meridian High School, Frugé received his Bachelor of Business Administration and Juris Doctor degrees from UM followed by a Master of Law degree in taxation from New York University in 1971. He joined the law faculty in 1971 and has continued to teach courses in estate planning, taxation and nonprofit organizations.

Frugé has served the university in a number of capacities, including professor of law, executive director of development, vice chancellor for university affairs, vice chancellor for university advancement, head golf coach and as president and CEO of the University of Mississippi Foundation. He serves as chairman of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation (2005 to present), a board member of the UM Foundation, a member of the Joint Committee on University Investments (1984 to present) and professor emeritus of law.

Frugé and his wife, Mary Ann (BA 66, MA 70), are active members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford.

Walton Gresham III

Gresham serves as president of Gresham Petroleum Co., secretary of Double Quick, secretary of Delta Terminal and director and member of the executive committee of Planters Bank & Trust Co.

He is active in his community and profession and is a past president of Delta Council, the Indianola Rotary Club, the Indianola Educational Foundation and the Indianola Chamber of Commerce. He is chairman of the Community Foundation of Sunflower County. Gresham is past president of the Mississippi Propane Gas Association and Mississippi Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. He also served as the Mississippi director to the National Propane Gas Association.

A longtime volunteer leader, Gresham’s passion is to promote economic development and a better infrastructure in the Mississippi Delta and the state of Mississippi.

Gresham is married to the former Laura Ethridge (BAEd 71) of Oxford, and they have two daughters and five grandchildren. He is a lifelong member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, serving in all offices over the past 45 years in addition to being a licensed lay reader.

James E. Keeton

Keeton served as UMMC’s vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine from 2009 to 2015. He retired in January 2017 and holds emeritus status in these roles and as professor of surgery and pediatrics.

During his tenure, Keeton oversaw planning of and secured funding for a new, state-of-the-art School of Medicine building that is allowing UMMC to expand medical classes to train more doctors for Mississippi.

Keeton was instrumental in planning the construction of the $25 million University Heart Center, the $68 million Translational Research Center and a $23 million public-private project to create housing close to campus for students and faculty.

He shepherded the Medical Center through a $90 million, multiyear effort to implement an enterprise electronic health record that culminated in conversion from paper to computer records in a single day in June 2012.

Keeton was named the 2014 Distinguished Medical Alumnus by his peers. The award is given to an alumnus who made distinctive contributions to the field of medicine.

Keeton and his wife, Jona (MSN 90), live in Jackson and are parents of two children and grandparents to seven grandchildren.

Tom Papa

Papa was born and raised in Helena, Arkansas. He graduated high school from Subiaco Academy in May 1947 and joined the U.S. Navy. He went on to attend UM, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration. While at Ole Miss, Papa was an active member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

After graduation, Papa returned to Jackson to work for the Internal Revenue Service. Shortly thereafter, he began his private practice accounting career at Touche Ross & Co. Upon his retirement, Papa helped form the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, where he served as president for many years. In 1998, the Ford Foundation awarded the university $20 million to design and build the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Through his work at the foundation, Papa has been instrumental in the foundation’s support of the university, including gifts to the planned new science building and the UMMC Mind Center.

Papa lives in Jackson with his wife, Gayle. He is the father of two children and grandfather of four.

Mary Sharp Rayner

A native of Grenada, Rayner graduated from Ole Miss with a Bachelor of Arts in Education. She taught history, speech and English for several years in the Jackson and Memphis public school systems. After she and her husband, Jim (MD 66), moved to Oxford, she worked in his ophthalmology practice as a front office manager.

Since moving to Oxford in 1971, Rayner has served on the founding boards of Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and the first Oxford Little Theatre. She also served on the boards of numerous other local organizations. She has remained active in her collegiate sorority, Delta Delta Delta, serving in many advisory capacities locally and as a national officer. She served as president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association from 2002 to ’03 and was chair of the Ole Miss Women’s Council in 2007-09.

Rayner volunteers her time with several local organizations, her church, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation board of governors and the Ole Miss Women’s Council. She remains active in the Ole Miss Alumni Association as a member of the board of directors.

Rayner and her husband have three children and four grandchildren.

William Winter

Alumni Service Award recipient Winter served as governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984. Before that, he was elected to the offices of state representative, state tax collector, state treasurer and lieutenant governor. He served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid-South, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

Winter was a member of President Clinton’s National Advisory Board on Race and was instrumental in the founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at UM. He was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

In 1998, Winter was the recipient of the Mississippi Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His credentials within the academic community are longstanding: Jamie Whitten Professor of Law and Government at the UM School of Law (1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (1989); fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University (1985); and president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association (1978).

Born in Grenada, Winter served overseas as an infantry officer in the Pacific in World War II. An attorney in the Jones Walker law firm in Jackson, he is married to the former Elise Varner (BA 48). They have three daughters, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Candie L. Simmons

The Outstand Young Alumni Award recipient, Simmons is a senior vice president and regional marketing director for Regions Financial Corp. in Jackson.

A native of Ocean Springs, she is the youngest African-American on the bank’s Mississippi Executive Leadership Team and youngest senior vice president in Mississippi. In 2017, she was selected for Regions Financial Corp.’s prestigious Leaders at All Levels III Class.

Simmons was selected by the Mississippi Business Journal as a 2009 “Top 40 Under 40” and 2013 “Top 50 Leading Business Woman,” where she placed in the top 10. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., recently completing her second term as treasurer for her local chapter and was voted 2013 Soror of the Year.

Simmons was selected for the 2018 American Heart Association Executive Leadership Team and selected as a 2017 Champion of Change and a Woman Making a Difference in Madison County for the Madison County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

Davenport Gift to Support University’s ‘Seat of Knowledge’

UM alumnus designates J.D. Williams Library in estate plans

UM alumnus Bill Davenport has designated the J.D. Williams Library as recipient of his planned gift because of the library’s central role on campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi was once known as the campus where everybody speaks. Even today, despite smart phones and ear buds, Ole Miss retains its reputation as a place where professors know students by name and strangers are just friends who haven’t yet become acquainted.

That personable atmosphere goes a long way. In fact, for at least one alumnus, it was the catalyst that inspired a $200,000 gift to the J.D. Williams Library.

A personal letter set Bill Davenport, associate dean of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas School of Dentistry, on a path to making a legacy gift.

“A number of factors went into this decision,” said Davenport, a Corinth native. “First and foremost, I loved Ole Miss. It opened up a whole new vista to a small-town country boy. I loved the school and the students, and the majority of the professors were truly motivating and inspiring. I always wanted to give something back.

“As everyone says, you can’t really describe your attachment to Ole Miss after going to school there.”

Davenport, who’s active in the Ole Miss Alumni Association and has made other contributions to the university, said he began to consider a major gift after he received a letter from the late Charles Noyes, then chair of English, when the Friends of the Library philanthropy was being organized.

“The library is the cornerstone of the university and is truly the most visible icon for education and life-long learning,” Davenport said. “The personal letter was what convinced me as it included comments regarding my time in his sophomore literature course.

“I was hooked. I never figured out how Dr. Noyes even remembered me.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter expressed gratitude for Davenport’s planned gift.

“The J.D. Williams Library is a hub of excellence for our university,” Vitter said. “It enables the superb quality of education that our students receive. As one of our most highly-valued resources, it can have a tremendous transformative effect on turning students into scholars and scholars into informed citizens who will make an impact on our world. ”

William Davenport

In high school, Davenport thought he wanted to become an electrical engineer until he took chemistry under an engaging teacher. He entered Ole Miss as a chemistry major but changed his focus once again after taking a required biology elective taught by the late Georgia St. Amand, whom he says was extremely inspiring.

“After that course, chemistry lost its luster to me, so I switched to biology,” Davenport remembers. “As a biology major, I encountered her husband, Dr. Wilbrod St. Amand, also in the biology department, who became a great mentor and friend to this day.”

Even then, UM’s personable atmosphere influenced Davenport’s life: His relationship with the St. Amands, as well as having the opportunity to be a teacher’s assistant in the biology labs, guided his decision to become an educator.

Davenport graduated from Ole Miss with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology in 1969 and 1971, respectively. He taught biology at Arkansas State University for a year before enrolling at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where he earned a doctorate in 1976.

While completing his doctorate remotely, Davenport joined the UM Medical Center faculty and taught the first seven dental school classes from 1975 to 1982 before transferring to the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry in New Orleans, where he taught for the next 20 years.

“Serendipitously, in 2002, the opportunity came to come to UNLV in Las Vegas and help start the new dental school,” he said. “Salaries were very good, benefits even better. Thinking I would work a few years in Vegas and move on, but I blinked and here I am 16 years later.”

Davenport said he designated his planned gift for the library because he believes it is the center of knowledge, initially for the entering student and secondarily for the lifelong learner.

“The library is the seat of intellectualism,” he said. “I hope that my gift will provide the library with funds to contribute to the ever-changing technology and methodology that will attract and benefit the students that will be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Private gifts provide critical support to the library, more than ever as public institutions constantly struggle with budget issues, said Cecilia Botero, library dean. Gifts such as Davenport’s help the library cover costs associated with digital and paper subscriptions and increasing numbers of journals used as resources by students on a myriad of different career paths.

“I am so grateful that Dr. Davenport chose to support the library with his generous gift. It will help sustain our services in countless ways,” Botero said.

Though distance has kept Davenport from returning to campus, he fondly remembers his days at Ole Miss.

“I was there in Archie’s heyday. What could be more exciting than that!” Davenport exclaimed, adding that being in the Grove during football season was a special time as was participating in the Army ROTC band, being active in his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, eating at Grundy’s and Mistilis, and bowling at Kiamie’s.

For information on designating a deferred gift to Ole Miss, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or To support the J.D. Williams Library, contact Angela Barlow Brown at 662-915-3181 or

Social Work Presentation Kicks Off LGBTQ History Month

LSU expert presents history and culturally competent professional practice guidelines

Elaine Maccio, associate professor of social work at Louisiana State University, presents ‘Culturally Competent Social Work Practice with LGBTQ Persons’ to faculty and students in the UM Department of Social Work. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Social workers have a duty to help clients from diverse backgrounds, and the best practitioners understand their clients’ cultural histories and social context, a scholar on the issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people told students and faculty this week at the University of Mississippi.

Elaine Maccio, associate professor of social work at Louisiana State University, visited UM for a couple of presentations as a kickoff to the university’s LGBTQ History Month programming. Her visit was co-sponsored by the Department of Social Work and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.

“When you understand their history, it helps really personalize an entire group of people,” Maccio said. “If you don’t talk about history or things that make the culture unique, it is easy to just dismiss them and trivialize them. The more you personalize it and humanize it, the harder it is to just dismiss LGBTQ people.

“As social workers, in particular, that can’t happen, especially steeped in social justice the way (the practice) is, helping those who are traditionally underserved. This is just part of the normal curriculum that would be associated with any of the populations that we work with, and history is a part of that.”

Social workers must educate themselves on any population with which they’re working, Maccio explained. For many clinicians, it helps to immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures.

“Attending presentations like this is certainly a part of that,” she said. “Getting to know LGBTQ people, frequenting places the LGBTQ people might be, attending events – anything that sensitizes them to what life and reality is like for LGBTQ people – helps develop their sensitivities and their competence around this population.”

Statistically, social workers will be presented with issues that affect their LGBTQ clients more frequently than their heterosexual peers. Though individuals identifying as LGBTQ account for only 3.8 percent of the U.S. population, they are the victims in 21 percent of reported hate crimes.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 46.4 percent of lesbian women, 74.9 percent of bisexual women, 40.2 percent of gay men and 47.4 percent of bisexual men report being victims of sexual violence.

Some 2 million children in the United States are being raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender parents who have limited access to a range of health services, insurance and tax breaks available to heterosexual couples. Social workers are responsible for helping many of those families traverse these added stressors through counseling and outreach, she said.

Daphne Cain (left), chair of the UM social work department, and social work faculty members Amy Fisher (second from left), Drew Leffman (second from right) and Na Youn Lee (right) welcome LGBTQ studies expert Elaine Maccio, (third from right) and her wife, Sherry Desselle. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Maccio provided appropriate terminology and best practices for managing the care of LGBTQ clients and their families, explaining how to build rapport, exercise empowerment practice and self-assess to identify personal feelings and biases about sexuality. She also discussed resources such as PFLAG and other support groups and how to incorporate them into treatment plans.

“It is critical that we as social workers make every effort to learn as much as we can about the people we serve, especially underrepresented and vulnerable populations,” said Daphne Cain, social work department chair. “We are so lucky to have had Dr. Maccio on campus to help us develop deeper cultural competence for our practice.”

In another presentation, Maccio detailed the development of LGBTQ culture from ancient to modern times, highlighting critical moments in history, such as the emergence of the first gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society, and the 1960s Stonewall riots, which was the first time the gay community of Greenwich Village fought back against police harassment. She also discussed the evolution of laws that affect sexual freedom, marriage equality and children of LGBTQ families.

“I came away from the talk with an extremely informative timeline of key moments in the formation of queer identity, beginning as far back as 800 BCE,” said Laura Wilson, a third-year doctoral student in English. “What seemed most interesting in the presentation was the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ sense of progress that Dr. Maccio discussed as she elaborated on legal motions that enabled more equality for the LGBTQ community, followed almost immediately by bills that seek to remove these human rights.”

A native of the U.K., Wilson said she was fascinated by the discussion of how American perspectives are grounded in legal changes at the state and federal levels.

“That a history of queer identity would be so punctuated by juridical changes like this, clearly demonstrates to me that LGBTQ equality is a vitally important issue of social justice,” she said.

For more information about the Department of Social Work, email For information about the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and a schedule of LGBTQ History Month events, visit

Living Music Resource Teams with Sarah Isom Center for Sarahfest

Collaboration brings in talented music performances for education celebration

Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band performs their own brand of Mississippi ‘country blues.’ Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The third annual Sarahfest, billed as a multidisciplinary “artistic journey” hosted by the University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and Living Music Resource, is underway with the theme “Liberty and Justice for All.”

One of the highlights of this year’s Sarafest is a concert by Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. The group is set to perform classic Mississippi folk music at 5 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 8) in Nutt Auditorium.

Thomas is the granddaughter of Mississippi blues legend Othar “Otha” Turner. Turner founded the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, whose music has been featured in films including Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” The band also has worked with musical giants such as Eric Clapton and Cyndi Lauper.

“Sharde Thomas continues the legacy of a style of music older than the blues,” said Nancy Maria Balach, UM associate professor of music and director of the Living Music Resource. LMR is an online video resource featuring interviews with renowned vocalists and composers recorded on campus.

This is the second year that the Sarah Isom Center and LMR have teamed to host Sarahfest. The two entities share the same fervor for collaboration and community, so the partnership was a natural step, Balach said.

“The interdisciplinary collaborations between the Sarah Isom Center and LMR are achieving these efforts through innovative educational events that foster human connection, empathy, education and understanding both on and off campus,” she said.

After the Sunday concert, Thomas will appear on “LMR Live,” an interactive live interview series hosted by Balach. In previous years, “LMR Live” was taped at the Yoknapatawpha Art Council’s Powerhouse, but this edition will be staged in Nutt Auditorium.

Scott Baretta, who hosts Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Highway 61” program, also will be on set with Thomas.

A group of six Ole Miss music majors, referred to as the “Dream Team,” help Balach with her production of “LMR Live” and will assist with the show.

Former Ole Miss student Price Walden will perform his work ‘A Song of Songs’ Oct. 27 in Nutt Auditorium. Submitted photo

Later this month, LMR and the Sarah Isom Center team up again for more Sarahfest events. UM alumnus and composer Price Walden will be the guest at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 on “LMR Live” and then  is set to perform one of his piano compositions at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in Nutt Auditorium.

Walden is one of Southern Living’s first-ever “Heroes of the New South,” and his works explore religion, sexuality and his experience in the region. His latest work is a piece commissioned by Bruce Levingston, the chancellor’s Honors College artist-in-residence, for the Mississippi bicentennial.

“Sharde Thomas and her Rising Star Fife and Drum Band and Cecil Price Walden are amazing artists,” said Theresa Starkey, associate director of the Sarah Isom Center. “Our partnership with LMR made these two dynamic performances possible, which is exciting. It reflects what happens when you’re open to an interdisciplinary approach to programming and have a belief in the power of the arts to create transformative spaces.”

All Sarahfest events are free and open to the public.

Science Day Returns to UM Field Station

Researchers to host LOU community on Saturday, Oct. 7

The University’s Biological Field Station Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – Researchers from a variety of disciplines will share insights about their work and the environment of northeast Mississippi this weekend during Science Day at the University of Mississippi Field Station.

The event, set for from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 7), is designed for visitors ages 5 and up.  A $5 contribution per person will help to cover the cost of supplies for the day’s activities, including a beverage and snack for Science Day visitors.

“Science Day at the University of Mississippi Field Station has always been a fun and educational experience for all those who are curious about the natural world,” said Marjorie Holland, UM professor of biology and one of the coordinators of this year’s event.

Holland started Science Day in the 1990s and is leading this year’s revival of the educational afternoon after a hiatus of more than a decade.

“This year, presenters and demonstrations provide insights into current research underway throughout Oxford and give visitors a chance to chat one-on-one with investigators,” Holland said. “We look forward to welcoming numerous visitors to the station.”

The afternoon will include activities such as nature walks, demonstrations, exhibits and tours, offering a variety of options for participants.

Ole Miss faculty, staff and graduate students from the College of Liberal Arts, University Museum and School of Engineering, and well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Sedimentation Laboratory, are scheduled to speak about their respective fields.

“Science Day provides a wonderful opportunity for the college to share ‘nature’s lab’ with the community,” said Jan Murray, associate dean of College of Liberal Arts, which hosts the event.

“Our (presenters) and others have eagerly volunteered to share what they do with the families and community groups who visit on Science Day,” she said. “We hope you will join us for a day of exploration, observation and fun.”

The UM Field Station is a research facility that support studies in aquatic and terrestrial ecology. To reach the Field Station, go east on Highway 30 to Littlejohn’s store, turn north onto County Road 215 for 2 miles, then east for 6 miles on County Road 202 to 15 Road 2078.

For more information and pre-registration, contact Lele Gillespie at or call 662-915-1514. To learn about the Field Station, visit

UM Physicists Celebrate Nobel Prize-Winning Discovery

Historic gravitational wave observation made in 2015 recognized as breakthrough in modern physics

UM physics professor Marco Cavaglia, right, shares a T-shirt with Kip Thorne, one of three recipients of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. Submitted photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – Physics researchers at the University of Mississippi are elated over news that colleagues involved in the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves in 2015 were awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday (Oct. 3).

Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, both of the California Institute of Technology, were awarded the prestigious honor for the discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago but had never been directly seen.

In announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy called it “a discovery that shook the world.”

“Kip and Rai are two of the most clever and kind people I ever had the honor of working with,” said Marco Cavaglia, UM professor of physics and astronomy and head of the Ole Miss Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory team. “Kip and Rai are always easy to talk with, and humble although they are among the best scientific minds of our time.

“They both remain very active, especially Rai, who, at 85, is still one of the driving forces behind LIGO.”

Cavaglia met Weiss and Thorne more than a decade ago and credits the former for his LIGO connection.

“Over 10 years ago, I was invited to LSU to give a colloquium at the physics department by Jorge Pullin, a professor at LSU working on quantum gravity,” he said. “At that time, I was working on quantum gravity, particle colliders and cosmic rays.

“Gaby Gonzalez, LSU professor and later spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, arranged for me a guided visit to the LIGO Observatory in Livingston, Louisiana, on my way back to Oxford.”

Much to Cavaglia’s surprise, it was Weiss who gave him the tour.

“He spent several hours with me, showing the detector and the lab to me,” Cavaglia recalled. “I was so amazed with the LIGO project and researchers that I started planning to join the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and work on gravitational wave astrophysics. I’ve been working within the LSC ever since then.”

Other UM officials shared their reflections about the prize recipients.

“Rai wrote the first detailed document for the design of the LIGO interferometers in 1983,” said Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “We call it the ‘Bluebook’ because of how accurately he predicted all of the noise sources for the detector.

“Rai, himself, is also remarkable for his energy and ability to continue playing an integral role in the detector commissioning to this date.”

Dooley worked at the LIGO Livingston site for four years, installing hardware and commissioning the full interferometer. Weiss was a regular, long-term visitor.

“He always had his pet projects, from tirelessly tracking down leaks in the vacuum system – the largest-volume vacuum system in the world and the most valuable part of the entire detector – to tackling head-on the ‘mystery noise’ that most impeded our progress in commissioning,” she said. “He suspected Barkhausen noise – magnetic domain-flipping – was a culprit and set up experiments to measure it.”

Weiss also played a special role in Dooley’s path to earning her doctorate, she said

“He was the first person to sit me down and make me write an outline for my thesis,” Dooley said. “Rai was always an advocate for us students, and we appreciated that greatly. He wouldn’t hesitate to step in to protect our interests.”

Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs, congratulated the LIGO team on their honor.

“As a physicist, the most exciting moment in my professional career was being on hand in Livingston, Louisiana, for the announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves,” Gladden said. “We are so proud of the contribution that our physics colleagues have made to the LIGO effort and that the Nobel committee has honored this discovery with the highest prize in physics.

“As subsequent discoveries have shown, gravitational waves are going to be an entirely new tool for humans to observe our universe.”

Weiss, in a live phone call with the Nobel Committee minutes after the announcement, said, “I view this more as a thing that recognizes the work of about 1,000 people,” referring to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

“We are so pleased that our physics department and research faculty have been an integral part of LIGO since 2007,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “It is quite an honor for the University of Mississippi to play a role in this international collaboration of talented scientists and engineers, which is producing such astounding breakthroughs and now the Nobel Prize in Physics.

“Our participation in this collaboration is a stellar example of UM’s transformative impact upon our understanding of the world.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but works to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines. Nobel Prize is a registered trademark of the Nobel Foundation.

Southern Photography Exhibits on Display at UM in October

Selections from the Do Good Fund collection explore the region and its culture

This photo, titled ‘Dollar Tree, Abbeville, MS, 2013’ by Brooke White is one of the photos featured in the Do Good exhibit. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Department of Art and Art History are collaborating to host a variety of photography exhibitions and events on campus during October.

“NOW: Contemporary Southern Photography” is on display in Gallery 130, in Meek Hall. The photo selections are from the Do Good Fund, a public charity in Columbus, Georgia, that focuses on building a quality collection of photographs taken in the South after World War II.

The selection of 25 pieces created over the past decade by 13 photographers describes the South through portraiture, landscape, narrative and architecture. The exhibit explores the varied photographic approaches that Southern photographers use to challenge preconceived notion about the South.

“The mission of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture is to study the American South in all its various essentials,” said David Wharton, director of documentary studies at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “We’re very pleased that photographs from the Do Good Collection are helping us do that.”

The exhibit’s opening reception is set for 5-6 p.m. Oct. 5, preceded from 3 to 4 p.m. by a panel discussion featuring artists Jill Frank, a member of the photography faculty at Georgia State University; Jerry Seigel, a renowned photographer whose work is in many public and private collections; Brooke White, UM associate professor of art and art history; and Wharton. Alan Rothschild, founder of the Do Good Fund, will moderate the panel.

The exhibit will remain on display through Oct. 27.

A second exhibit, “Southern People, Southern Places,” runs through Dec. 8. in the Gammill Gallery of Barnard Observatory, with an opening reception 4:30-5:30 p.m. Oct. 5.  The 24 photos by 20 Southern artists include images of residents and the areas they inhabit.

The photographs encourage viewers to consider the bonds that exist between Southerners, their culture and the place they call home.

A brown bag lecture will be hosted about both Do Good exhibits from noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Gammill Gallery with Wharton and White.

The collaboration to bring Southern photography to Mississippi began about four years ago.

“As a photographer working in the deep Southern United States, it has been critical to both my teaching and artistic practice to find connections between the local and connect it to the global,” White said.

The Do Good Fund also has six other exhibits in Mississippi.

“Each of the eight exhibitions throughout the state will be varied in their curatorial approach, but each calls into question what it means to be Southern and the important role the South plays in developing identity and place,” White said. “Photography will take center stage and the images will reflect the familiar alongside unfamiliar images of the South and will create a discussion about history, place and the culture of the state.”

For more information about the Do Good Fund, visit