David A. Puleo Named New Engineering Dean

Former Kentucky associate dean brings years of leadership experience, vision to position

David Puleo

OXFORD, Miss. – David A. Puleo, an administrator nationally respected for his activities in both academics and research, has been named the new dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

“Thanks to its leaders over the past 120 years, the (UM) school has a strong foundation, educating generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists,” said Puleo, who assumes his duties at Ole Miss on Aug. 27. “The School of Engineering will play a key role in the university’s inspiring Flagship Forward strategic plan, and I believe my experiences at a large, public flagship university in the Southeast enable me to lead the school forward to ‘ever-increasing excellence.'”

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, he was the associate dean for research and graduate studies at the University of Kentucky. Puleo, who was a professor in the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering at UK, also founded Regenera Materials LLC, in Lexington, Kentucky.

In providing leadership for research activities, Puleo’s responsibilities included approval of all proposal submissions, oversight of College of Engineering centers and institutes, management of facilities and cultivation of research partnerships with academic and nonacademic units. Related to graduate programs, Puleo supervised academic policy development and implementation, new course and program development, graduate student recruitment in partnership with UK’s Graduate Studies Team, selection and awarding of College of Engineering graduate student fellowships and graduate program assessment.

“Our School of Engineering remains an integral component of academic excellence and scholarship at the University of Mississippi,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “David Puleo’s direction will enhance our already strong and competitive position among institutions of higher learning around the country and beyond its borders.”

Puleo’s plans are to immerse himself in the culture of Ole Miss and the engineering school. This exercise will set the stage for drafting a strategic plan for the school using a “collaborative visioning” approach that involves stakeholders from all constituencies.

“A key strength of the school is the broad-based and ‘high-touch’ approach to undergraduate education,” Puleo said. “We must maintain that quality of educating the next generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists while also expanding our graduate programs and the highly-related research enterprise.

“The close proximity of multiple other schools, as well as the not-too-distant UM Medical Center, provide outstanding transdisciplinary educational and research opportunities.”

The new dean’s track record includes being a fellow in the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. A member of the Advisory Board for Viking Scientific Inc., Puleo received UK’s Excellence in Teaching in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2013.

During his 20-year tenure at UK, Puleo also served as assistant and associate professor of biomedical engineering, adjunct associate professor in the College of Dentistry and professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery for Content Management, both in the College of Medicine at the UK Medical Center. He also served as director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering before becoming chair after its conversion to a department.

Puleo and his wife, Sue, have two adult children, Nick and Angie, who are in medical school and college, respectively.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/.

Reinemann-Goss Returns to Alma Mater as Faculty Member

Accomplished alumna is newest assistant professor in burgeoning biomedical engineering program

Nikki Reinemann-Goss, a 2012 UM alumna, returns to her alma mater as assistant professor of chemical engineering in the new biomedical engineering program. Submitted photo

Even before Dana Nicole “Nikki” Reinemann-Goss graduated from the University of Mississippi, she sensed that one day she would return to her alma mater – not as a student but as a faculty member.

Starting Aug. 17, the university’s 13th Barry M. Goldwater Scholar will be an assistant professor of chemical engineering in conjunction with the university’s new biomedical engineering program.

“I applied for this position for a number of reasons,” said Reinemann-Goss, who earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from UM in 2013 and her Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Vanderbilt University last May. “The prospect of building the new biomedical engineering program at Ole Miss from the ground up was an exciting opportunity I could not pass up. In addition, I would be able to return to my home state and alma mater to pursue exciting scientific areas.”

Reinemann-Goss’ research interests include probing the intersection of biology, physics and engineering by investigating higher-level cytoskeletal architecture and its constituent motor proteins.

“These are important for vital life processes such as cell division and motility,” the Batesville native said. “We can start probing how cell environmental factors or potential cancer drugs alter a certain cellular system and thus potentially make more effective therapies in the future.”

Starting this fall, Reinemann-Goss will teach a course, Biological Transport, for juniors. Her short-term goals include being effective in the classroom, establishing a biomolecular engineering lab and being a mentor to the BME students. Her long-term goals are helping the BME department develop its final curriculum, involving students more heavily in research across campus and publishing results (from both undergraduate and graduate students) in high-impact journals.

“I plan on achieving these goals by really getting to know my students and recruiting them early to work in the lab,” Reinemann-Goss said. “By obtaining and retaining students starting in their sophomore (or even freshman) year, they have time to develop really substantial experimental results that are publication worthy by their junior or senior year.”

Reinemann-Goss said to be an author on a journal article as an undergraduate is quite an accomplishment and could help foster love for continuing down the research track.

“Even if they ultimately don’t chose that path, this experience would be invaluable in applying for national scholarships, graduate school or medical school,” she said. “At the end of the day, I want to help my students be as successful for their chosen career path as they can be.”

Hiring Reinemann-Goss was a ‘rare opportunity,’ said Dwight Waddell, associate professor of electrical engineering and the BME program’s director.

“Not only is she incredibly qualified having graduated with her Ph.D. from a prestigious biomedical engineering program at Vanderbilt, she comes to us already attuned to life at Ole Miss and Oxford,” Waddell said. “Dr. Reinemann-Goss has expertise in biomolecular engineering, which will be immediately put to use through a shared research agenda with multiple departments on campus including biochemistry, biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy as well as chemical engineering. We are thrilled to have her back, and we hope it still feels like home.”

Reinemann-Goss’ former professors recalled her academic achievements and dedication.

“I had the privilege to mentor Nikki from her first day in college,” said Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry. “Because of her dedication and unique aptitude in chemistry, I recruited her to work in my research group.

“From day one in the lab, her natural abilities to perform high-level science were evident. She developed her research project on her own without any assistance and has operated on the level of a graduate student for the past few years. She’s a brilliant young scientist who has a bright future ahead of her. Her success is due not only to her intelligence and aptitude for science but also her unparalleled work ethic.”

Charles L. “Chuck” Hussey, chair emeritus and professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry, echoed those sentiments.

“Nikki is a multidimensional, exceptionally talented student,” said Hussey, now associate dean for research and graduate education in UM’s College of Liberal Arts. “She sees and understands concepts that most of her peers may never understand. We are very lucky that she chose to seek a degree in chemistry with us. She is destined for a great career in science or engineering.”

A Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College alumna, Reinemann-Goss also held memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and American Chemical Society. Conducting research under the supervision of Hammer, she presented at the 242nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society and the 41st International Conference on Environmental Systems of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Her extracurricular activities included serving in the Society of Women Engineers and the university’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and playing trumpet in the Pride of the South marching band.

In addition to having been a Goldwater Scholar, Reinemann-Goss’ said her most gratifying personal achievement was to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

“Receiving this funding allowed me to pursue the research path I wanted throughout graduate school and thus helped shape and build my scientific toolbox that I plan to use at Ole Miss,” she said.

She was also involved in the Engineering Ambassadors Network at Vanderbilt.

“Through this organization, I co-coordinated an Engineering Day at Vanderbilt for local eighth-grade students who come from low-income, high-risk environments to expose them to a variety of engineering disciplines,” Reinemann-Goss said. “They chose three disciplines and then performed related hands-on activities led by graduate students. Seeing their confidence in themselves and in STEM work grow throughout the day was an outstanding experience.”

Reinemann-Goss is married to Timothy Goss, a band director for the South Panola School District in Batesville. The couple has a son, Will, who starts first grade this fall. Her hobbies include spending time with her family and playing trumpet in local ensembles and at church.

 

 

Mechanical Engineering Student Completes Co-Op in Germany

Matthew Wirt spent the summer working at Fraunhofer ICT

Matthew Wirt, a senior mechanical engineering major in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, spent a summer as a co-op intern at Fraunhofer ICT in Germany. Submitted photo

Many engineering students seek cooperative education opportunities to gain real-world experience. Matthew Wirt, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Mississippi, decided to obtain his real-world experience in another country.

The Madisonville, Louisiana, native recently completed a co-op experience with Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Germany. According to its website, the company is Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. Its research is geared to people’s needs: health, security, communication, energy and the environment.

Wirt sought this opportunity after learning that a previous UM mechanical engineering student earned a Fulbright scholarship to Germany. He also received guidance from Ellen Lackey, UM professor of mechanical engineering.

A student in the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Wirt spent a year completing the co-op experience under Lackey’s supervision. He worked with the polymer engineering department and collaborated closely with Ph.D. students and project leaders to complete experimental trials for manufacturing fiber-reinforced plastic parts. Many of these parts were being made for automobile manufacturers.

Wirt said his experiences at CME prepared him for the work with Fraunhofer. Although he enjoyed his experience, it also presented challenges.

“The language barrier was probably the most apparent difference to working abroad compared to being in the United States,” Wirt said. “It affects everything from how you interact with your co-workers to how you are able to present ideas and how you live outside of work.”

Wirt also identified many cultural differences that required him to adjust to life and work in a foreign country. He learned that bikes are generally used to go everywhere with many people traveling cross-country by bike due to the supporting infrastructure. He also found that public transportation is more abundant and reliance on cars is less prevalent than in the U.S.

Overall, Wirt found the experience as a co-op student abroad helpful as he has recently graduated and considers his opportunities.

“I have learned what direction I want to go with my career,” he said. “I enjoyed gaining research experience as well as valuable skills related to my field that you just cannot get in the classroom.”

Wirt encourages other engineering students to pursue the co-op experience because it allows them to try out different functional areas where they may be thinking they would like to pursue full-time work.

“The co-op experience provides a way to connect what you do in the classroom to what you will be doing as a full-time engineer,” Wirt said. “It is worth putting off graduation for a semester or two to gain this experience.”

Wirt enjoyed his time abroad so much that he is planning to travel abroad again. He would like to go to Madrid to teach English for a year and then apply to graduate school as well as pursue a full-time position in engineering, using the skills he gained from his undergraduate education and his co-op experience.

 

 

Undergraduate Students Conduct Summer Data Science Research

Students use data science to combat sexual harassment and make complex data easier to consume

Undergraduate students involved in the Mississippi Experimental Research Laboratory have been using the summer to hone their research skills. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Thanks to an internal grant to the University of Mississippi’s Department of Computer and Information Science, five computer science majors are conducting paid, faculty-mentored projects as part of the new Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

Each student is spending 10 weeks conducting a data science-themed research project. By the end of the summer, all of the students should be able to describe the fundamental concepts and techniques of data science, analyze real-world problems and model them for application of data science techniques, and document and effectively communicate methodology, results and observations of the project.

Naeemul Hassan, UM assistant professor of computer and information science, wrote the grant proposal that led to the funding, and is serving as the mentor for one of the student projects. Hassan and Amrit Poudel, a junior from Nepal, are developing tools to identify online cries for help from those who may have experienced sexual harassment or mistreatment.

The duo has collected more than a million sexual harassment-related tweets from Twitter. Using natural language processing techniques, they have identified 15,000 of the tweets as sexual harassment outcries.

“The problem is the current design of the social network systems does not have any mechanism to bring these harassment reports to the attention of authorities or support service providers,” Hassan said. “We are working on developing tools to make social media a more supportive place for victims to talk about what they have experienced.”

Four other students are conducting separate mentored research projects under the summer data science program. Under the mentorship of professor Conrad Cunningham, Hao Zhou, a junior from China, is developing a tool that can take a common input format and create documents in multiple output formats that are accessible to a wide range of readers – including those with disabilities.

Under the guidance of professor and chair Dawn Wilkins and professor Yixin Chen, seniors Garrett McClure of Madison, Mississippi, and Abigail Garrett, of Birmingham, Alabama, are evaluating and developing tools to reduce the size of large unwieldy datasets to just the most essential features needed for the task at hand. And senior Khoa Anh Tran of Vietnam is doing research toward the development of virtual reality visualization tools for three-dimensional data; this project is being mentored by assistant professor Adam Jones.

Naeemul Hassan, assistant professor of computer and information science, is directing student Amrit Poudel as part of an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant he received for his Data Exploration and Research Laboratory. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The mentors have a diverse set of data science expertise including machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, software architecture, data mining and virtual reality,” Hassan said.

“As artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality are being incorporated in an increasing number of knowledge domains and practical applications, we can only imagine the demand of data science increasing in the foreseeable future.”

Indeed, for the third year in a row, data scientist has been named the best job in America, based on earning potential, job satisfaction and the number of job openings. according to Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America for 2018 list.

The funding for this summer’s program was in the form of a competitive internal seed grant, with initial monies coming from the Provost’s Office and matching funds provided by the School of Engineering and the CIS department.

“We believe that the sooner we can expose students to the research and applications in their chosen fields, the more likely they are to continue research in graduate school,” said Greg Easson, UM professor of geology and geological engineering and associate dean for research and graduate programs for the School of Engineering.

“The Department of Computer and Information Science was early into undergraduate research, having already developed the C-REX (Computer science Research Experience) program last year. With this support from the Provost’s Office, they have been able to do even more with students.”

To extend the data science program for future summers and students, Hassan and his collaborators in the department have their eyes on several external funding opportunities, including the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Meanwhile, the next steps will be guiding this summer’s students in writing and disseminating their discoveries and prototypes through poster presentations, conference presentations or peer-reviewed journal articles. Look for more on these students and their project outcomes in future editions of this newsletter.