‘Dr. Vish’ Named Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year

Electrical engineering chair and professor admired by students and colleagues

Ramanarayanan “Dr. Vish” Visanathan (left), chair and professor of Electrical Engineering, received the 2017 Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year Award from Dean Alex Cheng. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Every year, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering and the UM Alumni Association select an “Outstanding Engineering Faculty” member, based on his or her teaching, research and service. The highest honor the engineering school presents to its faculty, the award includes a $2,000 cash prize.

And the award this year goes to Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, otherwise known as “Dr. Vish.”

Viswanathan joined Ole Miss in 2012 as chair and professor of electrical engineering. Since that time, he has accomplished much in teaching, research and service.

“It was a surprise, although the dean had mentioned earlier that he will include department chairs in the pool for considerations of this award,” Viswanathan said. “I had received a similar outstanding faculty award from my previous institution, which, however, was given to me after my many years of service. I have received this award from Ole Miss in a relatively short time period. This is special because whatever I could achieve would not have been possible without the strong support I have received from EE faculty.”

Since 2014, Viswanathan published two academic articles in prestigious research journals, including IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Transactions on Signal Processing. He also authored three book chapters, wrote five conference proceedings papers and has been the principal investigator or co-PI of five contracts and grants. Of these, the most important one is the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center, which is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

“He recognized and organized the strength of (the) department and gathered industry support to form this center that receives $325,000 over five years from NSF plus $160,000 per year from industry members,” said School of Engineering Dean Alex Cheng. The industry members include Intel, Raytheon and C Spire. “Dr. Vish’s service to the profession includes serving (on) the NSF reviewer panel, as technical program committee member for conferences and reviewer for several IEEE journals and conferences. He is an IEEE fellow, which is conferred by IEEE upon a person with an extraordinary record of accomplishments.”

Viswanathan suggested that the engineering school should start a biomedical engineering program. He led the initial organizational effort, which resulted in the B.S. in biomedical engineering degree program that starts this fall.

Considered an excellent professor, students commented about his performance on their teacher evaluations:

“Dr. Vish is very accommodating to students. He will make time to meet if you have questions, and he rewards your hard work.”

“His lectures were helpful and his office hours are even more helpful. He can answer your questions quickly and efficiently, and even on test day he will always be in his office available to answer questions, and even though he must be busy as head of the electrical engineering department he always makes time for us. You can tell he really cares about his students.”

Though Viswanathan said he hasn’t thought of a specific plan for his stipend, he will “use it for a good cause.”

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Viswanathan was professor of electrical and computer engineering at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He also served as interim dean of SIU’s College of Engineering.

A fellow in the IEEE, his research areas include signal detection, wireless sensor networks and wireless communication. Viswanathan received an Outstanding Teacher Award from the electrical and computer engineering department in 2007 and the College of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Award in 2008, both at SIU.

Viswanathan’s wife, Rama, is a registered cardiac sonographer who enjoys working part time. The couple’s older daughter, Priya, works for a bioengineering company in Chicago. Their younger daughter, Jaya, studied chemical engineering at the University of Illinois before completing her degree at Ole Miss. She now works for a medical devices company in Atlanta.



Edward Woo Wows at Work

Alumnus acts as pharmacy-information technology liaison at Vanderbilt Medical Center

Edward Woo

Edward Woo specializes in the practice of creating, storing, finding, manipulating and sharing information, otherwise known as informatics, within the field of pharmacy.

The University of Mississippi electrical engineering and pharmacy alumnus (BSEE 03, BSPh 05, PharmD 07) began his informatics and pharmacy career shortly after earning his electrical engineering degree. He started as a floater pharmacist at Walgreens, became staff pharmacist, then quickly was promoted to pharmacy manager of numerous 24-hour locations throughout South Carolina and Tennessee.

After moving to Nashville, Woo took a job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a principal domain specialist and now serves as manager of pharmacy informatics. The Sumner native also co-created Medalogix, a Nashville-based health care technology company that analyzes home health care companies’ clinical data to identify patient risk and then helps them act to improve outcomes.

“These have been two of my more notable recent achievements,” Woo said. “Being associated with these two organizations has allowed me to provide patient care from an informatics or technology standpoint. Instead of helping one person at a time, by using informatics or IT, I am able to make decisions that could affect an entire population at a single time.”

Woo said that Ole Miss is in his blood. Both his parents and most of his family also graduated from the university.

“All my professors were my favorite,” he said. “I think that Dr. (Atef) Elsherbeni stood out because I worked with him closely on the electrical engineering website and various other projects. My favorite course was Digital Systems because it taught me to think logically or in binary terms about all possible outcomes to a problem.”

In his present position, Woo oversees outpatient pharmacy applications in terms of upgrades, implementation and sometimes development. He works with the clinical pharmacist to help develop workflows and informatics solutions that can be incorporated into various applications.

“I see myself as a liaison between the pharmacy field and the IT side,” Woo said. “I am able to translate both IT talk and pharmacy talk between the two parties.”

Woo said that being able to look at issues or problems from a technical perspective, a skill he developed while at UM, is needed in his profession.

“Engineering taught me how to solve problems rationally and sometimes using different perspectives,” he said. “With my current position, I have to anticipate the needs of pharmacy applications from a pharmacist and technician perspective. I also have to look at it from a perspective of ‘does it make sense?’ and ‘does it make sense financially?’ Electrical engineering also gave me the background IT knowledge in computers and development along with rationale thinking to be successful in my current position.”

Kevin Gardner, development officer for the UM School of Engineering, said Woo is an example of what graduates of the school can accomplish.

“Edward follows a long line of family members who are Rebel entrepreneurs,” he said. “Combining electrical engineering with pharmacy degrees has created a unique approach for bridging the gap of medicinal science and technology at Vanderbilt Medical Center. It is evident that Edward is playing a significant role in improving the health and lives for those who come in and out of Tennessee.”

Woo and his wife, Susan, have a son, Nolan, and a daughter, Merritt. In his leisure, he enjoys playing with anything electronic.

“My favorite electronic toy is probably my Raspberry Pi,” Woo said. “I also like to play golf and tennis, watch sports and hang out with the family.”







UM Engineering Students Take Top Honors at Regional Design Competitions

Chemical and mechanical engineering teams defeat opponents from rival universities

Mechanical engineering seniors explain their award-winning Capstone Design projects to judges during the annual exhibition. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three teams of University of Mississippi engineering students took top honors at two separate regional competitions recently.

At Tennessee Technical University, two teams of UM mechanical engineering students placed first and second in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition April 21-23. The UM teams won over teams from 47 other colleges and universities from across the country.

Five graduating chemical engineering majors competed in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Mid-South Meeting and Design Competition held on the Oxford campus April 11. UM defeated teams from Christian Brothers University and Mississippi State University.

“Our team was (composed) of a diverse group of students with various interests moving forward,” said Alexis Arnold, a senior chemical engineering major from Benton, Arkansas. Other team members are Olivia Cooper of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee; Sherman Jones of Laplace, Louisiana; John Hornor of Helena, Arkansas; and Cary Roy of Moss Point. “Two of our members are pursuing medical degrees in the future, while the rest of us are pursuing more traditional chemical engineering positions.”

After a brief explanation of rules and procedures, the teams were presented a troubleshooting problem in a mock meeting.

“The problem involved an increase in reactant lost to wastewater, which resulted in the altered feed to a distillation column,” Arnold said. “We were provided with a process description, block diagram, column diagram and component data.”

Chemical engineering design team members are (standing, from left) Sherman Jones, Alexis Arnold, Cary Roy, John Hornor and Olivia Cooper. Submitted photo

For 10 minutes, the teams alternated asking clarifying questions before moving into the workroom. Each team worked 15 minutes to produce a solution to the problem before presenting to their “bosses” (judges).

“Our team determined that in order to maintain proper water separation, the temperature of the column needed to be decreased,” Arnold said. “Because this was the simplest and most cost-efficient solution of the three teams, we were chosen as the winners of the competition.”

Members of the team were delighted both to win the competition (including the $400 prize) and to have gained practical experience.

“Dan Hayes revealed that this problem was based off one presented to him when he was new to industry,” Arnold said. “It was truly fun to apply concepts we have studied in college to this real-life problem.”

The ASME Student Design Competition provides a platform for ASME student members to present their solutions to a range of design problems – from everyday household tasks to groundbreaking space exploration. Each team is required to design, construct and operate a prototype that meets the requirements of an annually determined problem statement.

“The 2017 Student Design Competition challenges your technical design skills to create a robot that is fast, strong and agile,” said Matt Lowe, Machine Shop supervisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Your team must build a remotely controlled device to compete against others in five different events – a robot pentathlon consisting of climbing stairs, lifting weights, throwing a tennis ball, hitting a golf ball and sprint in a 1 meterwide lane.”

The robots and all necessary hardware to support them, including the weight to be lifted, must fit into a 50 by 50 by 50 centimeter box. Scores from each of the events were combined to determine the overall champion.

“Our students accepted this challenge head-on and invested many hours in engineering solutions to each of the tasks at hand,” Lowe said. “Starting out, four teams were selected to compete against each other with the top two being selected to represent the University of Mississippi at the Student Design Competition in Cookeville, Tennessee.”

First Place Overall UM team members included Joseph Jones of Walls, Jordan Hilderbrand of Yazoo City and Melissa Wright of Gulfport. Second Place Overall team members were Alex McGee of Brandon, Caleb Davidson of Atlanta, and Kenton Wong of Germantown, Tennessee.


Shan Jiang Joins Mechanical Engineering Faculty

Postdoctoral fellow brings research expertise to department, students

Assistant professor Shan Jiang is a new addition to the UM Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty. Submitted photo

When it comes to athletics, the University of Mississippi and the University of Missouri are rivals. But when Shan Jiang decided it was time to begin his professional teaching and research career at an R1 institution, he didn’t find it too difficult to forsake the Tigers for the Rebels.

“I was a ‘Mizzou Tiger,’ but Ole Miss also had a long history and great reputation,” said the newest assistant professor in UM’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “I learned of this position from my previous Ph.D. adviser, who is also actively conducting research in the area of computational solid mechanics. I accepted because I believe that I fit this position very well based on my background and research interests.”

Jiang teaches courses in statics, engineering graphics fundamentals, and numerical engineering design and analysis. His research interests include mechanics of materials and structures; multiscale modeling and simulations, and strength of advanced materials; atomic/molecular-level simulations; thermo-mechanical response of nano-/mesoscale structures to extreme loading conditions; blast-resistant structures and materials, energetic materials, shock simulations; and high-performance computation for simulation-based engineering science.

“My short-term career goals are publishing high-quality research papers (in) international, top-ranked, peer-review journals, successfully securing some external research grants, developing my own special style of teaching to realize effectively and efficiently learning for both undergraduate and graduate courses,” Jiang said.

“Long-term, I want to form a well-known research group focused on simulation-based engineering science at Ole Miss and to develop more advanced courses to meet the requirements of the fast-increasing student enrollments in the ME department.”

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of the mechanical engineering department, said Jiang is an asset to the program and its students.

“Dr. Jiang brings exceptional talents in multidisciplinary research areas, including chemistry,” he said. “I am positive that Shan’s outgoing and easily approachable personality would lead to effective student interactions and synergism in the department. I am sure our students would love his teaching and perhaps performing undergraduate research under (him).”

Jiang said that receiving the Outstanding Ph.D. Student Award in the College of Engineering at Mizzou is his most fulfilling achievement to date.

“I’ve been working so hard during my time there, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and writing 12 journal publications,” he said. “I think this award is a good reflection of my hard work.”

Formerly a postdoctoral research fellow in the Sewell and Thompson Theoretical Chemistry Research groups at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Jiang holds Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from there and in computational mechanics from Dalian University of Technology. He also earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Dalian. His research involves multiscale modeling and simulation of advanced materials, engineering structures under extreme conditions and shock simulations of energetic materials and blast-resistant structures.

“I have participated in several research projects that have been funded by several agencies, such as the U.S. Defense (Threat) Reduction Agency, the U.S. Army Research Office and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research,” he said. “Under these projects, I have co-authored 20 peer-reviewed papers and two book chapters.”

Jiang and his wife, Cindy, have two sons: Aiden and Ethan. The couple enjoys playing games and watching funny kids’ movies with their boys.

“Sometimes, we go hiking and fishing outside to enjoy the nice weather,” he said.

And as for his SEC university loyalty?

“Joining the ME department is my honor,” Jiang said, “and Ole Miss is a great place for me to start my academic career. Hotty Toddy!”

For more about UM’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/mechanical/