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





Alumnus William H. Baker Jr. Presented McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award

Honor recognizes contributions to Association for Manufacturing Excellence

William H. ‘Bill’ Baker Jr. is the 2016 Mac McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Submitted photo

Adding to many accolades during his career, William H. “Bill” Baker Jr. (ME 63) received the 2016 Mac McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

Established in 2004, the McCulloch Award not only recognizes service to the association but also honors an individual’s character, integrity and leadership. Recipients are nominated and selected by the AME Awards Council and presented the prize at the annual AME International Conference, which took place in Dallas, Texas, last year.

“After being a volunteer for 27 years, I am humbled to be given this recognition for my service,” said Baker, a Jackson native. “I’ve had many career highs over the years, but this one definitely tops the list.”

Baker retired in 2004 from Raytheon Co. and Texas Instruments Defense Systems (which Raytheon acquired in 1997). He is president and CEO of Speed to Excellence, a consulting company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is also a prolific writer who has contributed articles to the National Productivity Review, Quality Progress and AME’s Target Magazine (of which he is now chairman of its editorial board).

He has co-authored best-sellers that include “Winning the Knowledge Transfer Race” with Michael English (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and “Lean for the Long Term” with Ken Rolfes (Productivity Press, 2015).

“Never dreamed I would be a writer and editor,” he said.

Baker’s other AME volunteer activities include serving as chairman of the 2005 international conference in Boston, where he had the opportunity to introduce the keynote speaker, Gov. Mitt Romney.

George Saiz, AME president and CEO, described Baker as “a tireless continuous improvement practitioner in his professional career (who) has brought that same spirit of improvement to his work at the organization.

“By adding his expertise to everything from AME publications all the way up to the most prestigious level of recognition through the AME Excellence Award, Bill has enabled thousands of continuous improvement practitioners to come together to share, learn and grow,” Saiz said.

Baker entered the University of Mississippi as a student-athlete and was on the freshman tennis team. He recalls Mechanics and Thermodynamics as a favorite engineering course.

“I liked the theories that I could visualize and enjoy,” Baker said.

As a mechanical engineering student, Baker also went through Air Force ROTC, where he was wing operations manager. He was also president of the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was selected for the Arnold Air Society and Scabbard and Blade honorary ROTC groups.

“This helped me be one of the first USAF rocket-propulsion engineers, who helped launch satellites from 1963 to 1967 and evaluating contractors’ performance,” Baker said.

Following graduation, Baker began a career in manufacturing engineering at Texas Instruments Defense Systems with responsibility for delivering missiles, night vision equipment and geophysical exploration equipment. He later spent two years as manufacturing manager at the University of Texas at Dallas, building mass spectrometers for Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

“The last one of moon exploration, Apollo 17, I physically helped build,” he said. “It is still on the moon.”

A frequent speaker on benchmarking, performance measurement, knowledge management, Raytheon Six Sigma and the Lean Enterprise, Baker has been instrumental in assisting several companies and organizations in pursuit of their strategic objectives. A senior Shingo Prize examiner and AME Excellence Award examiner, he was a key design contributor to the Lean Certification process developed by AME-Shingo-SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and launched in 2006.

Baker, who also earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University in 1973, was responsible for knowledge management and benchmarking at both Texas Instruments and Raytheon from 1990 to 2004. Earlier in his career, he was the manufacturing manager on several high-profile missile/electronic systems, including Shrike, Paveway, Harpoon seeker, TOW Night Sight, HARM and Tacit Rainbow. Baker was the U.S. Air Force engineering chief, responsible for evaluating satellite launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Baker and his wife, Martha Rea, who attended Ole Miss for three years, have three sons: William, Mark and David.

“I assist Martha, who is an accomplished artist,” Baker said. “And I love to spend time with our four grandchildren: Cas, Ruby, Bodhi and Charan.”

Baker also enjoys playing competitive tennis in Santa Fe.

For more about Speed to Excellence, visit For more about the UM Department of Mechanical Engineering, go to For additional information about the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, see



Colbert Lehr Reflects upon Time as Engineering Student Body President

With experience, planning, electrical engineering senior accomplishes a lot during his time in office

Colbert Lehr served as Engineering Student Body president in 2016-17. (Submitted photo)

Colbert Lehr, an electrical engineering major from Brandon, said that his time serving on the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council since his freshman year helped him decide to run for the position of ESB president. He was elected ESB president by his peers last spring and has spent the past 12 months working to better things for students in the School of Engineering.

“When I chose to run for ESB president, I had previously served on the ESB Leadership Council for two years,” he said. “I had experience planning, promoting and conducting different social events for engineering students.”

Lehr said he believes that it was his experience with events such as National Engineers Week (E-Week), the School of Engineering tailgate and Engineering Formal that helped make him the best candidate for the position.

“The ESB is not just an organization that hosts social events to help students engage and meet each other,” Lehr said. “The group is also responsible for helping to develop programs that promote career and professional development as well as representing the needs of engineering students to the engineering faculty and administration.”

Lehr organized the council into an academic committee and a social committee to help make sure all council members were involved and had a role in coordinating activities during the course of the year.

ESB Leadership Council member Jake Azbell said he appreciated Lehr’s leadership.

“Colbert is very professional when it comes to his work, which is needed to manage a group of people with varying perspectives and ideas,” he said. “He was also very detail oriented and helped make serving in the ESB an enjoyable experience.”

Since the ESB is the umbrella student organization for the School of Engineering, one of Lehr’s goals was to develop stronger relationships between the ESB and other engineering student organizations.

“Often, organizations operate independently since they are based within a specific engineering department,” Lehr said. “I attempted to remedy this by bringing leaders of student organizations together and addressing everything from collaboration on events to funding and support for schoolwide events.”

Lehr said he saw more communication between engineering organizations over the course of the year. Another goal for Lehr was to increase involvement among first-year students in the engineering school. He spoke to incoming freshmen at the annual Engineering Freshman Convocation about the opportunities to get involved in ESB and other organizations to help them acclimate to campus and meet people within the school.

Lehr also encouraged them to begin thinking about their professional career and to use resources such as visiting the School of Engineering’s career planning specialist Megan Miller.

As with many student government organizations, Lehr found it a challenge to make sure students understood the role of ESB.

“Our greatest challenge has been visibility and exposure,” he said. “Even though we host Bowling Nights, events for E-Week and the Engineering Formal, there are many students that do not readily recognize ESB or know what the group does for students.”

One success that Lehr noted was increased student attendance for events hosted by the organization. This year, the annual formal had over 300 students in attendance, surpassing previous events. He is also proud of the friendships formed within the Leadership Council since all of the students come from different engineering majors and are at different stages in their academic career from freshmen to seniors.

Lehr’s advice for future ESB presidential hopefuls is to make sure they truly want to work with a diverse group of people. He would also encourage them to listen to the quietest voice in the room when making decisions to ensure that all voices, thoughts and opinions are heard and taken into consideration. Lastly, he would advise future ESB presidents to lead by example and never require anything of anyone that they would not be willing to do themselves.

Lehr said he appreciates the generous support of Dean Alexander Cheng as well as the help and advice of ESB adviser Ryan Upshaw. He also thanks his fellow officers, Holly Pitts and Andrew Huff, for their work as well as the rest of the ESB Leadership Council.

In addition to his role as ESB president, Lehr has served on the executive committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was selected to attend the UM PULSE Leadership Conference in 2016. He has volunteered with the FIRST Robotics Competition, Engineers Without Borders and the Leap Frog program. Additionally, he has been selected for membership in Lambda Sigma, Golden Key, Tau Beta Pi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board honor societies.

Last summer, he interned with Raytheon in Forest and plans to return as an intern for summer 2017. He said he hopes to pursue further education in electrical engineering or in business administration.




In Memoriam: Mark David Harrison

Electrical engineering alumnus lent expertise to defense agencies, companies in Huntsville

One of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering’s electrical engineering alumni, Mark David Harrison (BBA 83, BSEE 85) of Huntsville, Alabama, died April 1, 2017 at age 57.

Harrison was born to Louie Vardaman Harrison Jr. and Mary Ann (Pegues) Harrison in Winona, Mississippi, on Oct. 12, 1959. He grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona High School, where he played both offensive and defensive positions on the football team. As a young boy he played baseball, which he continued through junior high, high school and Holmes Junior College in Goodman, Mississippi.

Besides graduating from Ole Miss, Harrison also attended classes at the University of California, Los Angeles. He started the publication of Ole Miss Engineer and was recognized for accomplishments within the Department of Engineering. His expertise in the field of electromagnetic propagation theory within zinc compounds led him to achieve his first of many positions at Nichols Research in 1985 and positions at Coleman Research, both in Huntsville.

Harrison was the seeker subject matter expert for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, which continues today to be a system within our nation’s defense for the Missile Defense Agency. He contributed to efforts within missile defense, which included engineering expertise support within the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, various Program Executive offices and throughout the Department of Defense.

He extended his career knowledge by joining Miltec Corp., and while contributing to many programs and proposals, helped to lead a team to form and support the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon program. Within the last decade, he was employed by two companies, including one in 2009, which was started in collaboration with a group of colleagues, Harrison Research Corp., a system engineering company; and OTG/OPS Inc. (Over-the-Garage Operations), a software security company to support enterprise technology advanced security and operations/maintenance.

Harrison also supported and was a member of many defense and commercial organizations within the Huntsville area, such as the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, National Defense Industrial Association and Information Systems Security Association.

He enjoyed many activities outside of work including playing golf and shooting pool in the American Poolplayers Association league, and composing and playing music. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Anne (Cooley) Harrison; his sisters and brothers, Pam Hoover and her husband, Steve, of Mississippi; Kitty Stallings and her husband, Neil, of California; Dr. Louie Vardaman Harrison III and his wife, Sonya, of Mississippi; and Lee Harrison and his wife, Patty, of Texas, and many nieces and nephews.

Harrison had many friends and colleagues who remember his passion for his work, compassion and love of animals, as well as his intellect, ability to tell a great joke and dedication to the Ole Miss Rebels.

The family extends thanks to the dedicated medical staff at Crestwood Medical Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville and to Harrison’s personal physicians. Harrison was memorialized April 3, 2017 with a visitation at Laughlin Service Funeral Home in Huntsville. In his honor and remembering his love for animals, donations can be made to A New Leash on Life at or Tender Loving Care at

Information for this article came from The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times.

UM Catapult Competition Draws Top Guns

Tishomingo County High School teams defeated 16 others to take home top honors

Members of the Hot-N-Spicy team from Desoto Central High School experience the joy of victory during the Siege the Castle event at UM’s annual Catapult Competition. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Normally, tennis balls volley back and forth on the tennis court, but Wednesday afternoon (April 12), the fluorescent yellow balls were being catapulted in the C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum at the University of Mississippi.

The School of Engineering, Center for Math and Science Education and Division of Outreach and Continuing Education hosted the 11th annual Catapult Competition. Middle and high school students from across Mississippi designed and constructed catapults and brought them to campus to test their engineering skills.

Catapults, which originated as ancient engines of war, hurl projectiles at targets. Among the most powerful medieval weapons, catapults known as trebuchets use a counterweight to propel their payload. Modern catapults use tension, such as a spring or elastic band, that is suddenly released to fling a projectile.

“This is the 11th annual Catapult Competition, formerly Trebuchet Competition,” said Tiffany Gray, research associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-coordinator of the event. “We changed the rules on what the students were building last year, so last year we changed the name to reflect this.”

In the UM competition, students designed and constructed catapults of metal, wood and PVC to hurl tennis balls across the field. Registering for the event were 17 teams representing eight schools: Central Hinds Academy, Desoto Central High School, Guntown Middle School, Lafayette Middle School, Oxford High School, Tishomingo County High School, Water Valley High School and West Jones High School.

UM engineering graduate students weighed and measured the catapults to make sure specifications were met. Catapults not meeting specs either had to be modified or were penalized points for not meeting the criteria.

Teams competed in Design, Pop-A-Shot, Humpty Dumpty and Siege the Castle categories. Catapults were scored on their design process, safety features, construction, creativity and originality, and team interviews.

First place overall went to America’s Mitochondria from Tishomingo County High School. Second and third places overall went to Sojourn, also from TCHS, and Memengineers from Oxford High School.

Students on the Enduring Frustration team from Tishomingo County High School are in the zone during the Siege the Castle event at the annual UM Catapult Competition.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Winners in Pop-A-Shot were America’s Mitochondria (first), Indeed from Lafayette Middle (second) and Ultimus from Guntown Middle (third). In Humpty Dumpty, winners were America’s Mitochondria (first), Shorts from Central Hinds Academy (second) and Enduring Frustration from Tishomingo County (third). Siege the Castle winners were America’s Mitochondra (first), Hot-N-Spicy from Desoto Central (second) and Memengineers (third). In Design, Sojourn placed first, America’s Mitochondria took second and B.L.A.G.H. from Desoto Central came in third.

The Pop-A-Shot required teams to launch four shots from three different locations at a regulation basketball hoop. The Humpty Dumpty event called for teams to launch tennis balls in attempts to knock three cardboard boxes off a wall of blocks without disturbing the wall. The Siege the Castle competition required teams to use catapults to knock down a cardboard brick wall.

The Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence created 3-D-printed desktop catapults for the overall winners. Plaques made in the Mechanical Engineering Machine Shop were presented for each category. The overall winner was the team with the highest total score.

Six Ole Miss graduate students judged the entries: mechanical engineering majors Damian Stoddard of St. Louis, Cody Berrey of Meridian and Zach Wallace of Batesville; civil engineering major Grace McMahen of Union; geology and geological engineering major Alex Weatherwax of Williamsburg, Virginia; and physics major Sunethra Dayavansha of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The Sojourn team intentionally went for a more creative design for its catapult, said Samuel Zafic, a senior at Tishomingo County High School.

“Most everyone goes for the traditional arm and bar design,” he said. “Going a different route allowed me to experience some of what it’s like to be in the engineering profession.”

Davis Powell, a junior also from TCHS, described the annual Division of Outreach program as “amazing.”

“I entered the competition last year because it looked like it would be fun,” said Powell, who hinted he might return to the university as a biochemical engineering major after he graduates in 2018. “It is fun, but it is also challenging. I definitely plan on coming back for next year’s competition.”

Middle and high school students from across the state of Mississippi participate in the 11th annual Catapult Competition at Tad Smith Coliseum. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Before the day’s final competitive event, participants faced off in preliminaries and made adjustments to their catapults. Sometimes, the machines broke during this process.

“It is impressive to see the tools come out and students making repairs to get their machine up and hurling again,” Gray said. “That is what the engineering experience is all about.”

The catapult project encourages students to think and use the engineering design process, engineering school staff members said.

“Each year, I see familiar faces from previous competitions,” said Matt Nelms of Oxford, a UM staff member who serves as the event’s co-coordinator. “It’s very meaningful to see these high school and middle school students mature and the extremely impressive engineering solutions they come up with at such young ages. Their intelligence always exceeds our expectations.”

In medieval times, trebuchets were more accurate than other catapults, which use tension or torsion to fire projectiles. In modern times, trebuchets have become popular devices for hurling pumpkins, frozen turkeys or even junk cars in light-spirited competitions.

For more information about the School of Engineering, visit

For more about the Center for Math and Science Education, go to For more about the Division of Outreach, visit

A ‘Dilley’ of an Honor

Civil engineering alumna named Mississippi Engineering Society's Young Engineer of the Year

Jeff Elly, MDOT state planning engineer, presents Jessica Dilley with the Mississippi Engineering Society’s ‘Young Engineer of the Year’ award during the organization’s 2017 winter meeting in Jackson. (Submitted photo by Marni Kendricks)

Jessica Headrick Dilley, a planning engineer at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, was honored as the Mississippi Engineering Society’s “Young Engineer of the Year” during the organization’s annual winter meeting in Jackson.

“I felt very humbled to win this award,” said Dilley (BSCE 08, MS 10), a native of Sugarland, Texas. “There is a lot of young, talented engineers in the field right now, many of which I look to for guidance and direction.”

Winning awards for her outstanding work is nothing new for Dilley.

As a UM civil engineering undergraduate, she won first place at the 2010 Institute of Transportation Engineers Deep South District 5 Student Chapter Paper competition, first runner-up in the 2008 American Society of Civil Engineers Deep South Section Professional Paper Competition and third place in that same organization’s 2008 Canoe Competition.

While earning her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the university, research from Dilley’s thesis, titled “Geospatial Analysis of Roadway Traffic Volume, Flow Simulation and Air Pollution Impacts on the Built Environment,” was included in MDOT’s State Study 213, “Performance Evaluation of Roundabouts for Traffic Delay and Crash Reductions in Oxford.” MDOT was awarded the 2014 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ “Sweet Sixteen” High Value Research Award for this study, and it was presented as a poster session at the 2015 Transportation Research Board.

Requirements for the Mississippi Engineering Society recognition include being a resident of the state of Mississippi, a registered engineer, a member in good standing in the society and under the age of 35. The award is weighted on professional integrity, professional reputation that extends beyond the engineering field, and promotion of the welfare of the engineer and the engineering profession.

“I must give special recognition to the staff and professors in the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi,” Dilley said. “I especially thank Dr. (Waheed) Uddin for supporting me throughout my undergraduate and graduate school, Marni (Kendricks), who served as my counselor and role model, and Dr. (Alex) Cheng, for always being there for all his students.”

Uddin, a UM professor of civil engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, said he found Dilley’s achievement rewarding.

“Her award is a testimony to her professional achievements and makes her a great role model for UM engineering students,” Uddin said. “Jessica helped me develop instruction materials for my Geospatial course, which I am currently offering as CE 495. She is a dependable, loyal Ole Miss alum and a great asset to MDOT’s Planning Division.”

Uddin began mentoring Dilley in her junior year at the university. Dilley and her classmate Katherine Osborne recruited, trained and managed a geographic information system staff of more than 12 students from 2007 to 2009.

“This was an essential task of CAIT’s Karachi transportation study for the successful completion of this National Academy of Sciences-USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) project,” Uddin said. “Her thesis produced two peer-reviewed papers and several conference presentations. Jessica coordinated the extensive field traffic data collection by 12 undergraduate and four graduate students. Her outstanding M.S. research involved capacity analysis, congestion costs, traffic micro-simulation, vehicle emissions and traffic safety analysis.”

Uddin said Dilley has returned to campus, with her MDOT colleague Colby Willis, and presented a lecture to his class on highway planning and design. Since receiving the news of Dilley’s MES honor, several other UM civil engineering faculty members have invited her to come speak to their students as well.

“It would be my pleasure to schedule her for my senior design and the introductory freshmen classes,” said assistant professor Hunain Alkhateb. “The students are always inspired by successful alums.”

The civil engineering department is “extremely delighted” about Dilley’s notable achievement, said Jacob Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering. “She represents a superb role model for our CE students and recent graduates.”

Dilley said she will always feel a debt of gratitude to Ole Miss engineering faculty and staff.

“They did an amazing job working with us individually throughout our time at the university and keep in touch with us once we have graduated,” she said. “They truly become our lifelong mentors, and I cannot say enough good things about the engineering program at Ole Miss.”

Dilley and her husband, Adam, have two children, Gracyn and Hayes.



CE Senior Wins David Arnold Service Award

Frances Miramon has given back to community while maintaining excellence in academics

Frances Miramon is a senior civil engineering major from Louisiana. Submitted photo

Established in 2002, the David Arnold Service Award has allowed the University of Mississippi School of Engineering to recognize students who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve in the community and lead within the university. Engineering departments are given the chance to submit nominations of outstanding students for this award, and a selection committee designates the final recipient. The selection criteria for the award include service, intellect, leadership and character. Only one student receives the award each year.

The 2017 recipient of the David Arnold Award is Frances Miramon of Shreveport, Louisiana. Miramon is a senior pursuing a degree in civil engineering. She is set to earn her degree as a magna cum laude graduate in May. She was nominated for the honor by Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering.

“I recognized early on that she is more than a high-GPA student who gets the correct answers on class assignments, projects and exams,” Najjar said. “Her outstanding service activities and effective leadership roles during the past few years have greatly elevated the reputation of the civil engineering department. With this recognition, I am confident that Frances will continue to excel in a manner that is very consistent with the expectations of the Arnold award.”

While Miramon initially enrolled as a pharmacy student, she quickly found her niche as an engineer. She was more than excited when she was notified of her selection to receive this top honor.

“I was thrilled to receive the David Arnold Service Award,” she said. “Ole Miss engineering has given me so much over the years, and it has been an honor to give back to the program.”

Miramon’s service work includes volunteering with the Leap Frog tutoring program and working with the Oxford High School engineering club to promote STEM education to high school students. One of her most memorable roles has been serving as a School of Engineering ambassador since 2015.

“It has been rewarding to assist in recruiting prospective students as an ambassador,” she said. “I feel like it is my duty to let prospective students know about the wonderful opportunities available to them here in engineering.”

As an ambassador, Miramon has volunteered her time to attend campus recruiting events and write letters to high school students who are considering majoring in engineering. Many of the recruiting events take place on early Saturday mornings.

In addition to her service to the community, Miramon has held a number of leadership roles in engineering student organizations. She is serving as president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and secretary of Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society. She participated in the Deep South Conference for the American Society of Civil Engineers and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and Engineers Without Borders.

A Provost scholar, she was named to Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies as well as to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She received the 2016 Civil Engineering Junior Leadership Award and was nominated for the Outstanding Senior Leadership Award for the School of Engineering. Additionally, Miramon has served as an undergraduate research assistant in both the Nano Infrastructure Research Group and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology on campus.

During spring semester 2015, Miramon studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, which sparked her interest in transportation and planning. In summer 2016, she spent time in The Woodlands, Texas, interning with Jones/Carter, a multicity engineering firm, in its community development area. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue graduate school to continue her education in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation systems. She is considering Southern Methodist University, New York University or Penn State.




Bennetts Benefit from Ole Miss Engineering

Alumni couple finds love, marriage and careers while earning degrees

Arledia Bennett likes spending time with her Chihuahua, Sadie.

David and Arledia Bennett, like many other couples before and after them, found love and happiness through their connections to Ole Miss engineering.

“They have an interesting story to tell,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the UM School of Engineering.

Their tale began when David Bennett (BA 74, BE 83) came from Ripley to the university on a football scholarship. Arledia Bush (BA 75, BSCS 83) came from Jackson to campus to study journalism. As fate would have it, the two met each other in their senior year through a mutual friend. Following graduation, Bennett married Bush, and they began pursuing careers in Oxford.

The rest, as they say, is history.

David Bennett initially earned his bachelor’s degree in general science with an emphasis in biology and chemistry. He later returned to the university after he was hired by the City of Oxford.

“I realized that I needed to further my studies in general engineering, so I went back to school for my engineering degree,” he said. “I served for 15 years until my retirement. My engineering degree enabled me to enjoy a professional career, serving the public in a work environment that I truly loved with the City of Oxford.”

Although Arledia Bennett earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, when her husband went back to engineering school, she decided to do so also.

“That is when I got a B.S. in Computer Science from the School of Engineering,” she said. “I have to admit that I have not used my computer science degree, as I did not change careers after I graduated. I loved what I was doing professionally as director of the Lafayette County Foster Grandparent Program, a volunteer program for seniors working with children with special or exceptional needs.”

The families of both Bennetts have strong ties to the university.

“My family had close ties as Rebels, as both my mom and dad graduated from here,” David Bennett said. “I had many offers for football scholarships, but I had always been a Rebel fan so coming to Ole Miss was an easy choice for me.”

Arledia Bennett’s father earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UM. And her mother was an R.N. and worked on campus at the University Hospital before it was moved to Jackson.

David Bennett enjoys duck hunting.

“My dad always jokingly told me I could go to school anywhere I wanted, but he was only going to pay for me to come to Ole Miss,” she said. “So Ole Miss has always been a special place for both of our families, and I never considered any other school.”

David Bennett said his favorite engineering course was hydraulics. His favorite professors were M.S. Abdulrahman, professor emeritus of civil engineering, and Sam Deleeuw, chair emeritus and professor emeritus of civil engineering. Arledia Bennett said she most enjoyed the classes of Tobin Maginnis, associate professor of computer science.

The Bennetts’ degrees have allowed both of them to pursue careers they have enjoyed and have kept them involved in the Oxford and Lafayette County community.

“Both of us were offered jobs in other places after we graduated from engineering school, but Oxford was home, and we chose to stay here,” he said. “We enjoyed the jobs we already had here.”

The alumni couple makes an annual donation to the School of Engineering, and David Bennett assisted engineering students with senior projects when he worked for the City of Oxford.

“We do it so that other students will have the opportunity to pursue their career in engineering as we did,” Arledia Bennett said. “Giving back has always been important to us and has been an important part of my professional career.”

David Bennett has a son, Bryan; a brother, Dan, who graduated from UM with a degree in mechanical engineering; and a sister, Betty. He enjoys hunting, fishing and working in the yard. 

Arledia Bennett has a brother, Sonny, and a sister, Denise. She enjoys sitting in the sunroom, reading a good book when not at work.



Rocket Rebels Aim High

Students to compete in NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville

Members of the Rocket Rebels include (from left) Olivia Lanum, Kyle Parton, Peter Dowling, DJ Johnson, Blake Horner, Barrett Freeman, Dillon Hall (team leader), Ryoma Thomas, Garrett Reed, David Biggs and David Thomas.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rocket Rebels, a team of students from the University of Mississippi’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence, are preparing to compete in the NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville, Alabama.

During the competition, the team, made up of 15 Ole Miss students, hopes to launch its rocket, named “Presidium,” a mile into the sky. The crew has been preparing for participation in the competition since last semester.

The Rocket Rebels team includes mechanical engineering majors Dillon Hall of Saltillo, Ryoma Thomas of Canton, Branden Livingston of Madison, David Biggs of Norman, Oklahoma, Olivia Lanum of Branden, David Thomas of Brooklyn, New York, Blake Horner of Frankfort, Illinois, Peter Dowling of Lexington, Virginia, DJ Johnson of Fairhope, Alabama, and Matt Whitfield of Madison; chemical engineering major Kyle Parton of Ocean Springs; business major Will Thomas of Somerville, Tennessee; and accountancy majors Garrett Reed of Abbeville, Caroline Rose of Bluffton, South Carolina, and Barrett Freeman of New Albany.

“Many long hours had to be put into this project, and we had our fair share of obstacles that pushed our deadlines,” said team leader Dillon Hall. “However, the team was dedicated to finishing what we started. We are representing the CME and Ole Miss on a national stage of scientific experts, and we are determined to prove that we can compete.”

CME has played a large role in the success of the Rocket Rebels. In addition to financial and material support, the center’s cutting edge facility and manufacturing tools have provided the team a great advantage over the competition. Additionally, industry sponsors have been helpful throughout the rocket-building process.

“The Center for Manufacturing Excellence is an absolutely incredible resource for the Rocket Rebels,” said team mentor Cody Hardin, a manufacturing engineer from Orbital ATK. “The resources and capabilities available to manufacture Presidium in the CME are equivalent to what’s found in industry.

“The Rocket Rebels also have the benefit of GE Aviation next door in Batesville that has provided engineering support and autoclave time and Orbital ATK in Iuka that has provided carbon fiber and aerospace adhesive material that is used on actual NASA rockets along with engineering support. The growing aerospace industry in Mississippi has been hugely beneficial for the team.”

While the space provided by CME is second to none, so, too, is the opportunity to participate in the nationwide contest.

“The obvious opportunities are the contacts within the aeronautics communities that are being made through this competition,” said the team’s faculty adviser Jack McClurg. “The students have gone out to the community and have acquired corporate sponsors that have provided material, expertise and services in order to ensure the success of this project. Hopefully, contacts with these types of people will lead to employment opportunities in the near future.”

McClurg said he admires the team members for their hard work and determination.

“There is a fundamental pride that you sense in the students when all of the hard work pays off. As a faculty member, that’s what excites me the most,” McClurg said.

While it may be the team’s inaugural year to compete in the Student Launch Competition, McClurg and Hardin both believe the team has a good chance at bringing home the trophy.

“The main goal in my opinion is to get some real-world, practical experience in working as a team to successfully accomplish the mission at hand,” McClurg said. “It is the chance to get out of the classroom and apply the principles of teamwork across the majors to successfully complete something as exciting as launching a rocket. Even if the team doesn’t bring home a trophy, the excitement of watching the fruits of their labor shoot into the sky are reward enough.”

To find out more about the Student Launch Competition, visit To learn more about the Rocket Rebels, visit To watch a video from the test launch, visit

Dallas Baker Lands a Top Post at Neel-Schaffer

Mechanical engineering alumnus is new director of environmental services

UM Mechanical Engineering alum Dallas Baker is now the Director of Environmental Quality for Neel-Schaffer Inc. in Jackson. (Submitted photo)

Dallas Baker (BSME 93, MS 97) has retired from a longtime job, but he isn’t finishing working yet.

After serving nearly 24 years with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in a variety of roles, the mechanical engineering alumnus has joined Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson as the firm’s director of environmental services.

“I lead a team of engineers, geologists and technicians in assessing properties and facilities owned by clients who seek help in complying with environmental regulations, then provide engineering solutions to meet their business goals,” Baker said. “The diversity of the work and its people is what makes this firm strong and what attracted me to remain in Mississippi as a practicing engineer.”

Baker plans to enhance the capabilities of Neel-Schaffer’s environmental services to enable the firm to better serve a wider variety of industrial clients across the region.

“We are excited about Dallas Baker joining our firm to lead our environmental services,” said Keith O’Keefe, PE, senior vice president for Neel-Schaffer’s central Mississippi operations. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental engineering to our firm that will shape our growth in that discipline. Dallas is widely respected across the environmental landscape, and we look forward to having his vision and leadership.”

A registered professional engineer in the state of Mississippi, Baker most recently served MDEQ as air director and chief of its Air Division. There he was responsible for maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards and policies affecting statewide programs that control air pollution. In previous roles, he managed air and water permit projects for several industrial facilities in the energy, chemical, manufacturing and wood products sectors.

“In addition to establishing the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, my Ole Miss degree exposed me to leadership, business, liberal arts and other disciplines that gave me the confidence to seek organizational management roles,” he said. “It has led me to be a more versatile leader in the workplace and in professional associations, and influence operations that affect environmental engineering practices well beyond what I had expected.”

A native of Oxford, Baker attended the university because his father, John Baker, was a professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, who encouraged him to attend and major in professional studies of some sort.

“Mechanical engineering was the best fit, and I knew then a degree from Ole Miss would open doors that build a rewarding career,” Baker said.

As an undergraduate, Baker said he was privileged to study under many great professors. His favorite was Karl Brenkert, a former dean of the School of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“He spent significant time encouraging us to use an engineering degree to benefit society, as well as to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards,” Baker said. “He encouraged us to seek the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which led me to be a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Brenkert made a lasting impression on me and hundreds of students.”

Baker serves as secretary of the Ole Miss School of Engineering Advisory Board and president of the Mississippi Energy Coordinators Association. He was recently elected by his peers as international president of the Air & Waste Management Association, an organization of environmental professionals with over 100 chapters located in 65 countries.

“In my role as president, I lead its board of directors and (uphold) its stated mission and core purpose through strategic planning, sound financial management and exercising leadership principles I’ve acquired throughout my career, going back to my days at the university.”

Baker said the position was particularly gratifying because he was able to be an ambassador from the state of Mississippi and its flagship university to cities across America and countries such as Canada and China.

He is board certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and is a certified public manager.

Besides his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in environmental engineering from Ole Miss, Baker also earned an MBA from Mississippi College.

He and his wife, Marla, are the parents of two teenagers: Paris, 15, and William, 13. One of the family’s favorite annual trips is its vacation in Fort Myers, Florida, in the week between Christmas and returning to school after the New Year.

“We avoid winter where we can, even the Mississippi variety,” Baker said.

Baker’s father; mother, Shelly Baker; and sister Diane (BA 93), live in Austin, Texas.

“It’s a privilege to give back to a university that has meant so much to me and my family,” Baker said. “We bleed red and blue!”