UM Faculty Travel across Southeast for Collaborations

Ten faculty members participate in SEC Faculty Travel Program

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi faculty members are taking part in the SEC Faculty Travel Program this academic year, joining more than 100 fellow faculty members from other Southeastern Conference institutions.

Established in 2012 by the SEC provosts, the program provides financial assistance from the SEC office that bolters intra-SEC collaboration. Participants travel to other SEC universities to exchange ideas, develop grant proposals, conduct research and deliver lectures or performances. Areas of interest for this year’s Ole Miss class include music, engineering, anthropology and African American studies.

Travel of the UM faculty is made possible partly through a $10,000 award from the SEC.

“Being a member of the SEC means more than being in an athletic conference,” UM Provost Noel Wilkin said. “This faculty travel program brings together faculty from across the SEC to explore collaborative projects that might otherwise be difficult to initiate or fund.

“We value our SEC partners and our collaborations with other SEC universities.”

Participants from UM for the 2018-19 academic year are:

  • Graham Bodie, professor of integrated marketing communication, visiting Auburn University
  • Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Micah Everett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of South Carolina
  • Selim Giray, assistant professor of music and orchestra director, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Samuel Lisi, assistant professor of mathematics, visiting the University of Arkansas
  • Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Adrienne Park, instructor in music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Charles Ross, director of African American studies and professor of history, visiting the University of Alabama
  • Michael Rowlett, associate professor of music, visiting the University of Tennessee
  • Hakan Yasarer, assistant professor of civil engineering, visiting Auburn University

The SEC Faculty Travel Program is one of several academic endeavors designed to support the teaching, research, service and economic development focus of the SEC’s 14 member universities. Past program participants have been invited to present their research at conferences, been awarded competitive grants and secured publications in leading journals.

“The SEC Faculty Travel Program provides faculty at all SEC universities the opportunity to broaden their network of scholars and professionals,” UM Associate Provost Donna Strum said. “This opportunity often leads to collaboration on intercollegiate teaching and research projects, which advance our mission. We appreciate the SECs support and look forward to the 2018-19 program.”

Several additional Ole Miss faculty members also completed trips to SEC institutions earlier this year:

  • Shennette Monique Garrett-Scott, assistant professor of history and African American studies, visited the University of Tennessee
  • Robert Cummings, executive director of academic innovation and associate professor of writing and rhetoric, visited the University of Georgia
  • Dinorah Sapp, lecturer in intensive English, visited the University of Kentucky.

Biomedical Engineering Program Soaring

Three new professors join faculty as student enrollment steadily climbs

A group of chemical engineering majors compare data collections from an experiment in their chemical engineering lab. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – With the addition of three faculty members and growing student enrollment, the new biomedical engineering program at the University of Mississippi continues its impressive rise.

In its second year, the program has 105 students and three new full-time faculty positions. David Puleo, who became dean of the School of Engineering in August, is also a biomedical engineer.

“The rapid growth of our biomedical engineering program demonstrates the desire for this discipline in Mississippi,” Puleo said. “With a greying population and increasing life expectancy in the U.S., the application of engineering principles to drive discovery of new knowledge in the life sciences and development of advanced biomedical technologies is increasingly important.”

The Bachelor of Science program offers students a choice of three tracks: bioinformatics, biomedical systems and biomolecular.

The program capitalizes on the school’s existing strengths to prepare engineering students to meet the expected demand in biomedical industries in Mississippi and across the nation. It also provides additional human resources for the practice of medicine and to address public health issues.

The goal is to enhance the state’s biomedical workforce with top-notch students, Puleo said. Graduates will be able to pursue employment in biomedical or related industries, graduate studies in biomedical engineering or related disciplines, and professional careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or patent law.

“The collaborative nature of the disciple will also promote interaction between departments within the school, across the Oxford campus and with the Medical Center in Jackson,” he said. “We have great expectations for the new Ole Miss biomedical engineering program.”

Catherine Klaire (center) and Lauren Hale work together on a chemical engineering lab project. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Dana Nicole “Nikki” Reinemann-Goss, Thomas Werfel and Glenn Walker joined the university’s faculty this fall to bolster the program. Reinemann-Goss is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering. Werfel is an assistant professor of chemical engineering and biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy. Walker is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.

All three bring years of research experience and teaching to their positions.

Werfel earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Murray State University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering, both from Vanderbilt University. Werfel, who teaches Biomaterials, Immunoengineering and Drug and Gene Delivery, said he hopes to develop more electives for upperclassmen and graduate students over the next few years.

Before joining the Ole Miss faculty in July 2018, Walker helped establish the biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University, when he began his academic tenure in 2004.

Reinemann-Goss earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from UM in 2013 and her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Vanderbilt University in May.

Other administrators in the School of Engineering applauded the hires.

“Dr. Werfel brings some exciting research, which dovetails nicely with that done by Dr. Adam Smith,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “Their collaborations should prove very productive and raise their national visibility.”

The university is particularly fortunate to have a senior-level researcher such as Walker for the biomedical engineering program, said Dwight Waddell, program director.

“Dr. Walker brings years of experience as both a veteran researcher and a highly skilled educator. A new program like biomedical engineering strongly benefits from the addition of such a senior-level faculty member.”

Hiring Reinemann-Goss was also a “rare opportunity,” Waddell said.

“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,” he 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.”

For more information about the UM biomedical engineering program, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/biomedical/.

Past Meets Future with UM Research into Greek Plaques

Classics, engineering professors team up to explore ancient history

Brad Cook, UM associate professor of classics, balances an ancient Greek inscription over an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer as Lance Yarbrough, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, collections manager for the University Museum, watch. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – It is a delicate balancing act Brad Cook performs as he places a more-than-2,000-year-old golden Greek artifact atop a high-energy X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. In position, the wafer-thin ancient article soon will be beamed with billions of photons, all to unlock its age.

Cook, an associate professor of classics at the University of Mississippi, is working in a back room of the University Museum on an October morning alongside Lance Yarbrough, UM assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, the museum’s collections manager.

Today meets a yesterday of centuries ago as the trio is using the spectrometer to peer into a gold, and then a bronze, inscription to discover the elemental compositions of the Greek relics. The results will offer a clue whether the inscriptions – both part of the museum’s David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities – are ancient or modern.

Because it is undetermined where the inscriptions were originally found and because the survival of metal inscriptions is so rare – they were commonly melted down, even in antiquity, and “recycled” – there is doubt as to whether the inscriptions are ancient or more modern. While the scans cannot prove the plaques are ancient beyond a doubt, they can reveal the absence of anything that would signal modern manufacturing.

After scanning, the gold inscription is found to contain 99.8 percent gold, with the remaining 0.2 percent being below the detection limit of the device. The bronze inscription’s makeup is 82.2 percent copper and 17.8 percent tin. The percentages are definitive.

“The results of the scans for the two metal inscriptions show that there is nothing modern about the composition of the metals,” Cook said. “These scans, then, provide an answer that is one of many answers that collectively build a case that argues for the antiquity of both inscriptions.

“Without these scans, there would always be a ‘what if?’ hanging around the room. In the broadest terms, every artifact has a story to tell, and these artifacts in the museum have, I suspect, a unique story to tell.”

The research into the composition of the inscriptions continues Cook’s work from earlier this year, when he received a $21,000 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the two inscriptions, including five months of work based at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece.

While other parts of the roughly 2,000-piece Robinson collection have been the subject of published works, these inscriptions – both about the size of an index card – have not been.

A gold Greek inscription, an artifact at the University Museum, records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The gold inscription records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia, a strategic town on the Dardanelles between the Aegean and Black seas. The bronze inscription records the freeing of a slave woman named Philista in northwestern Greece about the same time.

“A ‘mini’ version of a treaty on gold is, however, unparalleled, so much of my research is trying to finding comparanda for such things so I can answer … what is the purpose of a gold epitome of a treaty,” Cook said.

Classics and engineering might seem like strange research partners, but Cook has a friend, Scott Pike, an archaeological geologist at Willamette University in Oregon, who uses a spectrometer. Witnessing the usefulness of the instrument in that line of work and how it might aid him, Cook asked Pike where to find such an instrument. He told Cook: Ask your geology department.

“Brad sought us out,” Yarbrough said. “He emailed my chair, Dr. Gregg Davidson, hoping we had an XRF device. I only recently purchased the device in the spring of 2017, so it was good timing.

“One of the most useful aspects of (X-ray fluorescence) is that it is nondestructive. Many other methods of elemental analysis require you to destroy or consume a portion of the item.”

The spectrometer, a Bruker Tracer housed at the UM School of Engineering, is an apparatus that knocks electrons loose from their atomic orbital positions via an X-ray beam. The resulting burst of energy yields an elemental fingerprint that the instrument categorizes by element.

During the course of all this knocking, yielding and categorizing, the instrument ejects a minimal dose of radiation right above its “eye.” It is a “really safe” level, Yarbrough said. Still, he wears a radiation badge dosimeter just as a precaution.

His advice? Don’t stand over the spectrometer while it is beaming.

While handling the relics, Antonelli and Cook have their own safety precautions, wearing either white cotton gloves or blue industrial nitrile gloves when carefully positioning the articles over the “eye” of the spectrometer. Once the instrument starts lighting up yellow to red, everyone stands back and awaits the elemental composition percentages to calculate on Yarbrough’s laptop.

A scan takes a minute or two from positioning to final percentages.

Having answered the questions about the elemental composition of the two inscriptions, Antonelli, Cook and Yarbrough soon get curious about the composition of other museum artifacts, including ancient arrowheads, a jug and a ladle, which is found to be a surprising 67 percent silver.

The trio is having fun with its work, letting scientific inquisitiveness run wild for a while, but what they are uncovering is also valuable information to be used by future researchers.

“Understanding the composition of the artifacts helps us determine whether it may be modern or ancient since it is harder to visually date metal artifacts,” Antonelli said. “As the University of Mississippi Museum, we strive to be accessible for all scholarly research and to educate the public about our collection with the most accurate information possible. Any new information aids in this mission.

“So much of the antiquities collection could benefit from further scientific study. In the past, doing this kind of testing would have necessitated sending the artifact to another university. It’s wonderful that we have this technology on campus, and that Lance has been such a collegial partner readily willing to help Brad with his research.”

Alumni Couple Hosts Prospective Students in Houston

John Cleveland is a civil engineering alumnus and ExxonMobil employee

John and Beth Cleveland (center) welcome UM staff and Houston, Texas, area high school students into their home for conversation and treats. Submitted photo

A University of Mississippi alumni couple recently welcomed a group of high school students and their families into their home to provide information about the university. 

John and Beth Cleveland hosted the group in Houston, Texas, with a team of Ole Miss representatives. John Cleveland (BSCE 87) is the central region and national oil & gas manager for ExxonMobil’s U.S. lubricants business unit and is an annual guest lecturer in ENGR 400: Leadership & Professionalism in Engineering. He is also a member of the UM Engineering Advisory Board.

He and Beth Cleveland (BAEd 87) both hail from Fulton, and with three Ole Miss Rebel daughters, they have been tremendous supporters of the schools of Engineering and Education, and the university as a whole.

“Ole Miss provided a foundation of opportunity for our family, and we believe it our duty to help others as they seek their path in life, knowing that Ole Miss can be their launching pad too,” John Cleveland said.

“The recruiting event, complete with Grove-style food and atmosphere, was delightful for us and very beneficial for the high school prospects, having a great opportunity for casual conversations with Ole Miss representatives,” said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for academics in the School of Engineering. “We are most appreciative to the Clevelands for hosting such a wonderful event.”