NCCHE Software System Provides Real-Time Solutions during Floods

Cutting-edge technology used to predict flows and estimate consequences when dams, levees fail

Members of the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering research team collaborate on the latest user request on the DSS-WISE Lite software the team created for dam and levee failure projections. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A cutting-edge software program developed by scientists at the University of Mississippi is proving beneficial in dam- and levee-breach flood predictions and preparations across the country.

Researchers at UM’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering created DSS-WISE Lite, a web-based, automated and fully geographic information systems-integrated, two-dimensional dam- and levee-break flood modeling and mapping system.

With resolutions from 20 feet to 200 feet, the free system is being accessed by users from the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, 10 FEMA regional offices, stakeholder federal agencies and state dam safety offices.

“Since its startup 10 months ago, the system handled more than 1,800 simulations,” said Mustafa Altinakar, NCCHE director and research professor. “There are currently 200 users from all over the U.S., and the number of users is growing fast.”

By using the web-based system, vetted users can easily set up and run simulations of varying scenarios in the event of a dam or levee failure and obtain outcomes. The results, including fully GIS-compatible maps, are being returned to the user within a half-hour in 73 percent of the cases and within two hours in 90 percent of the cases.

“The challenge is to get these calculations in real time in order to best facilitate emergency action plans,” Altinakar said. “This is a truly unique system. There’s no system like this anywhere else in the world.”

An example of the system’s use is when a steady barrage of storms in early 2017 resulted in serious damage to the Lake Oroville spillways north of Sacramento, California, which included a concrete failure on the lower chute of the gated flood control spillway. The California Department of Water Resources used DSS-WISE Lite extensively during the incident to generate emergency flood mapping so it could prepare appropriate emergency response plans. 

NCCHE is partnering with Argonne National Laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy to add a new module to the DSS-WISE Lite system for estimating potential human consequences of dam- or levee-break floods. This new module provides population-at-risk and loss-of-life analyses – based on the USBR method – and flood-risk mapping.

“This system is so well designed that you don’t have to be an expert engineer in order to set it up and run it,” said Marcus McGrath, a research associate at NCCHE. “It literally won’t let you make a mistake.”

Computational models forecasting the effects of flooding on Texas should various categories of hurricanes strike played a major role in dealing with Hurricane Harvey and several earlier disaster forecasts.

“The system can compute many different dam- and levee-failures scenarios very quickly,” said Vijay Ramalingam, NCCHE research scientist. “It has proven to have the necessary computational speed to serve during actual emergencies.”

Because DSW-WISE Lite involves multiple web connections, the research scientists carry out frequent penetration tests to prevent cyber attacks. The system also is designed to suspend computations and then resume them in event of electrical power outages on campus.

“Our team conducts tabletop exercises and teaches short courses on how to use the system,” said Paul Smith, coordinator of computing facilities at NCCHE. “So far, we have four different locations scheduled for courses in 2018.”

During the 2017 hurricane season, Altinakar and his team were busy assisting various federal and state agencies by running emergency simulations and responding to technical questions.

“Our team is truly dedicated,” Altinakar said. “Whenever we receive a call for our help, we respond on the dot, knowing that accurate and timely information yielded by the system can literally save lives.”

Lawrence Anderson, Third African-American to Graduate from UM Engineering School, Reflects on Achievements

Electrical engineering alumnus has enjoyed long, successful career in paper, pulp industry

Lawrence (Larry) Anderson received his electrical engineering degree from the University of Mississippi in 1972. Submitted photo

Lawrence (Larry) Anderson (BSEE 72) has successfully navigated a career in manufacturing operations and both domestic and international sales with multinational companies. Retired since 2013, the Jackson native quickly credits much of his career accomplishments to his personal growth while earning an electrical engineering degree at the University of Mississippi.

Fifty years ago, Anderson was one of a handful of African-American students on campus following the integration of the institution by James Meredith six years earlier. Attending the university wasn’t a decision he immediately embraced, but he became the third African-American to graduate from the School of Engineering.

Why Ole Miss?

“During the civil rights era, I was encouraged to attend the university after a recruiter visited Brinkley High School,” he said. “I enrolled with five students from my segregated senior class. Dr. Donald Cole (UM assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics) was a classmate of mine.”

A friend since childhood, Cole said that he and Anderson were like ‘peas in a pod’ who would either excel together or fail together.

“We were not only classmates; we were friends who always enjoyed each other’s company,” Cole said. “Lawrence was always the ‘smart one’ in the group who set the pace for the rest. We complemented one another and helped each other in those difficult classes.”

Cole said Anderson was a hard worker who would never give up, and he was not surprised by his friend’s success.

“He learned from every mistake, every subtle error and every mishap,” he said. “He was excellent at studying and performing under pressure and meeting deadlines. … His calm demeanor always provided rational decisions even in heated situations. We have remained friends over the years and, to this day, I appreciate the excellent advice that he renders.”

Anderson said he remembers his Ole Miss professors liked to give homework but were supportive.

“The entire staff was supportive of minority students, including Dean (Frank) Anderson,” he said. “Considering what other minority students faced in other schools at the university, the engineering school stood out as very receptive.”

Anderson said he chose electrical engineering as his major because he had an uncle who was an engineer for Lockheed Martin in California. His math background and aptitude proved to be a good match. When he graduated, he was also commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army.

“Graduating with a degree from Ole Miss went far beyond giving me the technical skills to compete in the workplace,” Anderson said. “I developed the soft skills and EQ (emotional intelligence) needed to work in a changing and competitive social environment. Both sets of skills continue to serve me well.”

After graduating from college, Anderson spent two years on active duty at Fort Belvoir and Fort Hood. He was hired by Procter and Gamble Cellulose after leaving the military. At P&G’s Perry, Florida, facility, he held a series of operational and manufacturing roles. Each role was unique in that he was the first African-American supervisor for which the mill employees had ever worked.

He got a chance to move closer to home in Memphis, where he was responsible for the development of maintenance systems for four plant locations and also became superintendent of the cotton linter pulp mill operations.

He moved into sales as the first African-American sales manager for P&G and established a solid reputation as he became highly proficient in both domestic and international sales and marketing. He effectively marketed and launched Champion International Paper’s first wet lap product line and was recognized by executive leadership for strategic excellence in sales in the company’s annual report.

As an international sales manager for Buckeye Cellulose, Anderson developed the business case for Buckeye to purchase a cotton linter mill in Brazil. He also was the specialty fiber sales manager for South America and Asia. He later worked as a senior sales manager for Weyerhaeuser, where he was the global account manager for Procter and Gamble, the largest account for the company.

Anderson retired as the director of technical services for the pulp business at Weyerhaeuser Co. in Federal Way, Washington. In this role, he was responsible for leading a global team of technical representatives that represented both customer and manufacturing interests and supported research and development of new products.

He also retired from the Army Reserve Corps of Engineers as a lieutenant colonel.

“My military experience was invaluable in my leadership development and personal success,” he said.

Reflecting on his professional achievements, Anderson said two stand out in his mind as the most fulfilling.

“Being inducted into the Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honor society is definitely at the top of my list,” Anderson said. “Considering the bumpy journey and environment that was present at Ole Miss from 1968 through 1972, this recognition appeared to be an improbable achievement.”

“Second, was being hired as the first African-American pulp sales manager with national and international accounts,” he said. “Being in a position on private planes to facilitate discussions with senior executives from several companies was a ‘pinch myself’ moment. For sure, I was a long way from Kansas.”

Anderson is married to Dorothy Anderson, a Vanderbilt University alumna with an Ed.D. degree in human development counseling. She is a licensed certified mental health counselor and supervisor. Anderson has two sons: Lawrence, a University of Memphis graduate with a degree in computer science; and Kofi, a 2004 Ole Miss graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English who earned his Ed.D. from Seattle University. His daughter, Erica, is deceased.

Anderson named golfing, boating and Rotary as his leisure and volunteer activities. He has also served on the UM School of Engineering Alumni Advisory Board.

For more information about the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Mississippi, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/electrical/.

 

 

 

Two Mechanical Engineering Students Named Inaugural Hino Motors Scholars

David Biggs and Manny Dhaliwal benefit from financial and professional support

UM students David Biggs (left) and Manny Dhaliwal are the inaugural recipients of the Hino Motors Scholarship. Submitted photo by Kennedy Grazer

Two mechanical engineering students at the University of Mississippi are the inaugural recipients of the Hino Motors Scholarship.

Senior David Biggs of Norman, Oklahoma, and junior Manny Dhaliwal of Silver Creek, Mississippi, each received the awards last fall. The scholarships were created following a 2015 meeting in which representatives of Hino Motors Manufacturing Inc. contacted the UM School of Engineering in hopes of providing a combination of scholarship and professional development opportunities to students.

The intent of the award is to identify students with leadership potential and interest in the automotive manufacturing industry. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to complete an internship with the company, located in Marion, Arkansas.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with Hino Motors,” said Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services. Upshaw oversees the selection of the scholarship recipients and serves as a liaison with Hino Motors staff.

“This is a unique opportunity for students to benefit from financial and professional support while completing their undergraduate degree. Manny and David have been excellent representatives of the school, and we look forward to selecting a new scholarship recipient this spring,” Upshaw said.

Before receiving the award, Biggs had the opportunity to visit the Hino facility and learn more about the company’s operations. He said he appreciates Hino’s support.

“The Hino scholarship allowed me to focus fully on my studies,” Biggs said. “To pay for books and various other expenses, I often had to take on jobs and use up time that could go toward volunteer work, extracurricular activity or studying.

“With the scholarship, I was given the funds to put my full weight into school and truly work towards what I believe I can achieve. I will always be grateful to Hino for providing me that opportunity.”

A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Biggs is slated to graduate in May. His plans are to either work as a supplier engineer in Tucson, Arizona, or to work as a junior developer in his hometown.

Dhaliwal, who is a student in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, also said he appreciates the opportunities Hino provided.

“When I found out I received the Hino scholarship and summer internship, I was ecstatic beyond belief,” Dhaliwal said. “When I received the award, I felt blessed because Hino saw value in my diligent work ethic and personality.”

In addition to receiving the scholarship, Dhaliwal had the opportunity to intern with Hino last summer.

“My internship experience with Hino was great,” he said. “The employees at Hino are very friendly and helpful. I enjoyed working alongside the engineers and other interns there. There is strong influence of Japanese culture at Hino, which permeates into how they operate as a company. It was truly an experience I will not forget.”

Dhaliwal also credits his internship experience with helping him develop both soft and technical skills that will benefit him as he prepares for a career in engineering. He hopes to complete another summer internship before his senior year. After graduation, he plans to keep working in the industry for several years and eventually pursue a master’s degree.

 

Colby Kimmel Named Mississippi Engineering Society’s 2018 Young Engineer of the Year

UM civil engineering alumna works as project manager at Mississippi Department of Transportation

UM civil engineering alumna Colby Kimmel (right) receives the MES Young Engineer of the Year Award from her supervisor, Richard Pittman, MDOT roadway project engineer. Submitted photo

Much like the roads she helps design, Colby Willis Kimmel (BSCE 08) goes the extra mile.

The University of Mississippi civil engineering alumna’s efforts have been noticed. Most recently, the project manager in roadway design at the Mississippi Department of Transportation was recognized by the Mississippi Engineering Society of the National Society of  Professional Engineers as the 2018 Young Engineer of the Year.

The award recognizes an MES member, age 35 years or younger, who has advanced the profession; exhibited technical competence, high character and integrity; developed improved member attitudes toward the profession; and contributed to public service outside his or her professional career.

“It is one of the most rewarding events of my life,” Kimmel said. “I work with so many talented young engineers in both the public and private sectors. To be recognized among this group is truly an honor.”

Ole Miss engineering is a family tradition.

“My father received his B.S.C.E. from Ole Miss in 1980, and my mother earned her Juris Doctor from the UM law school in 2002,” she said. “Growing up in Grenada, I naturally visited Ole Miss a few times, especially with my mother being in law school while I was in high school. She loved to take us to Ajax Diner on the Square.”

Spending time on campus and on the Square made the university an obvious choice for Kimmel.

“And what better place to get an engineering degree than the place where my dad got his,” she said.

As an undergraduate, Kimmel took several classes related to transportation under Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology. Uddin’s classes allowed Kimmel the opportunity to visit a variety of places to get a glimpse of the “real world.”

“We took trips to the airport, an asphalt plant, a traffic management center and much more,” Kimmel said. “I also really enjoyed my senior design class with Dr. (Christopher) Mullen. We worked on creating a green hospital following the requirements in place for a hospital to be LEED certified.”

Uddin and Mullen said they remember Kimmel as one of their best students.

“Colby was one of a select group of junior and senior students who excelled in CE courses and were responsible and dependable students,” Uddin said. “After her graduation, Colby worked full time as CAIT research associate for an aviation research project funded by the National Academy of Sciences’ ACRP (Airport Cooperative Research Program) and Federal Aviation Administration. She contributed immensely to the successful completion of this national project, where we pioneered the accuracy evaluation and use of the airborne LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) remote-sensing survey for obstruction-free airspace in and around airports.”

Kimmel spent several semesters working at CAIT. Through these experiences, she learned about working for clients, meeting deadlines, managing time, budgets and reporting data. The senior design class permitted Kimmel and her classmates to work with civil engineers in the real world and apply their knowledge to an actual project. It also provided interview experience by requiring them to present their projects and then answer questions posed by a panel.

“I knew Colby as Catherine Willis during her stay here,” Mullen said. “I really came to know her abilities through group project activity she engaged in during the capstone design sequence I led at the time. She proved capable both individually and as a team player, receiving A’s in both semesters.”

While grateful for the Young Engineer Award, Kimmel said serving on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Design, Joint Technical Committee for Non-Motorized Transportation is her most fulfilling achievement.

“My interest in this began with a class on designing pedestrian facilities for the disabled community,” she said. “Since then, we have updated our standards in Mississippi as well as worked to educate other engineers, contractors, designers, inspectors, etc., on the importance of making sure our facilities are accessible to all.”

Being selected for this national committee has allowed Kimmel to expand her knowledge, work with representatives from other states and aid in the development of design criteria and guidelines.

“This issue impacts more people than most of us realize, and I have had the pleasure of meeting some of these people while teaching classes throughout the state,” Kimmel said. “It is truly fulfilling to be able to see the positive impact you are having within a community and for individuals.”

Uddin said that he is proud of Kimmel’s professional achievements, which culminated in her being honored as Young Engineer of the Year.

“Colby’s expertise in geospatial analysis and GeoMedia Pro software was instrumental, besides the world-class civil engineering education at Ole Miss in securing her a job for (an) EIT (engineer-in-training) position in the highway design division of the Mississippi DOT,” he said. “She has been a licensed PE for several years and recruited many Ole Miss CE alumni who work in the MDOT highway design division.”

Mullen agreed.

“I am especially glad to see that she has excelled in her work at MDOT, where leadership and teamwork are valued highly along with technical competence,” he said. “Her involvement in ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) is additional proof of both her leadership skills as well as her commitment to professional service.”

Kimmel and her husband, Chris, have two sons: Barrett and Jack. Her favorite leisure activities include reading and being active in the Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson.

For more about the Mississippi Engineering Society, go to http://www.msengsoc.org/. For more information about the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Mississippi, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/civil/. For additional information about the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/projects/cait/home/.

Development Officer for School of Engineering Sought

Job is posted on two websites

Electrical engineering students Bridget Roal (foreground, left), Eli Carson and Haithem Mahmoud discuss theory during a microprocessing lab. Development officers help raise funds for lab equipment and other needs of the engineering school. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi Foundation is seeking to fill an opening for a School of Engineering development officer.

For more information or to apply, visit:

 
 
 

 

Mechanical Engineering Alumnus Shows He’s a Team Player

Justin Carrillo works for US Army Corps of ERDC in Vicksburg

Mechanical engineering alumnus Justin Carrillo is part of an award-winning division at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Economic Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

Five years ago, Justin Carrillo (BSME 13) was only beginning his career as a professional engineer. Today, the University of Mississippi alumnus works as a research mechanical engineer and is one of the award-winning team members in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.

“The U.S. Army ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort is one of the most fulfilling achievements in my professional career,” Carrillo said. “Personally, the best measure of success of any organization is the ability of teams to work together to accomplish overall objectives and goals of an organization. I firmly believe a successful team is greater than the sum of its parts. This award highlights the most important goal of my career.”

A Raymond native, Carillo decided to attend UM for several reasons.

“First, I had family members that graduated from Ole Miss as well as family that was currently attending Ole Miss at the time,” he said. “Second, the trips that were taken to view the engineering program made a big difference in deciding to be involved in Ole Miss’ engineering program and thus lead me to attending Ole Miss.

“Lastly, the amount of opportunities that Ole Miss provided both in and outside of the classroom played a major role.”

As an undergraduate, Carrillo gained practical experience by participating in the Student Temporary Employment Program at ERDC and in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. He graduated magna cum laude.

“My favorite professors were Dr. Jeffrey Roux, Dr. Tyrus McCarty, Dr. Ellen Lackey, Dr. Alexander Yakovlev and Dr. James Chambers,” Carrillo said. “All of the professors listed were without a doubt passionate, although expressed in different ways, about teaching and devoted to the success of their students even beyond the classroom. They were the professors in my eyes that made the biggest difference in the future of their students.”

Carrillo’s favorite engineering courses typically required heavy use of mathematics or use of some form of programming.

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, said he knew Carrillo would have a successful career one day.

“Justin graduated in the top 5 percent of his class in terms of overall GPA, with a unique talent to excel in all academic studies, including undergraduate research,” Rajendran said. “As I always believed that Justin would pursue his graduate degree, he is obtaining his master’s degree from the Purdue University under ERDC sponsorship. I am indeed very proud of our graduates like Justin who always bring laurels to Ole Miss as alumni.”

While working for the Mobility Systems Branch, Carrillo specialized in the area of high-performance computing for computational modeling of sensors, vehicle-terrain interaction and vehicle dynamics, as well as vehicle and sensor field testing.

He is a principal investigator and work unit manager on various programs related to the off-road performance of manned/unmanned ground vehicles, manned-unmanned teaming, and development of high-performance computer-based simulations for testing and evaluation of autonomous systems through sensor-environment interactions.

Justin Carrillo stands beside two of the vehicles he drives when at work with the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

“My Ole Miss engineering education has given me the academic background that is needed to become successful in my career combined with additional broad-based skills that have played an even bigger role in the success of my career,” said Carrillo, who is working on receiving his master’s degree in computational engineering from Purdue University in 2019. “An Ole Miss engineering education comes with both academic and in-the-field knowledge, communication skills, leadership skills and, most importantly, teamwork skills that are critical for being successful in any career.”

A published author, Carrillo has written articles for numerous professional journals. He holds membership in the International Society for Terrain-Vehicle Systems and has received both the 2015 ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort and the 2014 Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

Carrillo lives in Raymond, with his wife, Carra, and children, Lillian and Walter. When not working, he likes to play baseball, basketball and golf.

 

UM Professor’s Research Highlighted in Ship Technology Publication

Waheed Uddin shares insights into how infrastructure improvements can protect ports during coastal disasters

Waheed Uddin is a civil engineering professor and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

A University of Mississippi civil engineering professor’s research about how infrastructure improvements can help protect ports from the effects of coastal disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis was featured in a technology publication recently.

Waheed Uddin, director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, was featured in a story appearing in the digital magazine Ship Technology on Nov. 9, 2017. Uddin conducted a study that uses computer modeling and geospatial analysis of natural disaster risks to identify the priority measures that ports can take to build a comprehensive resilience management strategy. Two of Uddin’s civil engineering graduate students assisted in his study: Quang Nguyen (PhD 17) and W. Tucker Stafford (MS 17). Uddin and Nguyen presented the results for Vietnam’s port city at an international infrastructure and disaster resilience conference in Seoul, Korea, in July 2017.

To read the Ship Technology article, visit http://www.ship-technology.com/features/protecting-ports-global-warming/

 

Dwight Waddell Directs Successful, New Biomedical Engineering Degree Program

With 51 students in the inaugural class, the number of applicants continues to increase

Electrical engineering associate professor Dwight Waddell continues teaching courses while leading UM’s new biomedical engineering degree program. Submitted photo

Years ago, a biomedical engineering degree program in the University of Mississippi School of Engineering was only a dream. But with 51 students accepted into the inaugural class last fall, the dream is now a wonderful reality.

“The word is apparently out,” said Dwight Waddell, BME program director and associate professor of electrical engineering. “Our current BME class has representatives from states across the country. Thirty-seven are new freshmen, and we had a fair number of transfers from other departments on campus after we got started last August.”

The idea and initial work for the new program were initiated by Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, with support from Alex Cheng, engineering dean. Waddell, who was a UM associate professor of health, exercise and recreation management, joined the engineering faculty in 2013 to facilitate program development.

“I was responsible for newly created courses, including Physiology for Biomedical Engineers, Biosignal Analysis, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and a lab-based course to teach bio-measurement techniques,” said Waddell, who worked with Paul Scovazzo, associate professor of chemical engineering, to launch the emphasis. “Prior to this, I taught courses in biomechanics, electromyography and neuromotor control.”

Waddell said the inaugural class is exceptional.

“In truth, it is a hard curriculum, but the inaugural class was notable in their academic preparation before university,” he said. “The average ACT score and high school GPA of the applicants were quite high, which was very exciting for everyone involved. The students are very proactive. They are hungry.”

Last semester, the charter for UM’s Biomedical Engineering Society student chapter was established.

“It was really two students who did the lion’s share of work getting national approval,” Waddell said. “A big shoutout to BME students Justin Reynolds and Juliana Davis for making it happen and recruiting over 20 inaugural student members. It is an exciting time around here.”

If preliminary fall 2018 enrollment figures are any indication of what’s to be expected, the BME program is just getting started.

“The number of admitted applicants for the upcoming fall term is impressive,” Waddell said. “As of Feb 12, we have already admitted 142 biomedical engineering first-year students. This is a substantial increase in admitted students over the same time last year.”

While Waddell said not all of these students will decide to attend the university, he is confident that the number of incoming students will match and exceed expectations.

“Our number of retained students (admitted versus actual attendees) last year was above 50 percent,” he said. “On our original submission to IHL for approval, we estimated 30 freshmen for the second year, and I am confident we will meet and exceed that number.”

Chairs in both the electrical and chemical engineering departments said Waddell’s leadership has exceeded their expectations.

“Dwight is extremely busy this academic year,” Viswanathan said. “In addition to advising all (biomedical engineering) students, he’s juggling teaching two courses each semester, advising students’ research, conducting a search for two tenure-track faculty positions and serving on several university committees.”

“Dwight has done an outstanding job of moving the BME program forward,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “His passion for the program, for the students, and his ability to work well with the departments that are involved in the program have caused it to progress rapidly and well.”

A former postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Waddell has a master’s and a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the biomedical engineering program in 2016. Biomedical engineering prepares students for rapidly growing opportunities in three primary job markets: biomolecular engineering, biomedical systems engineering and bioinformatics.

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

 

UM Professor Leads Dinosaur Track Preservation Project

Findings from discovery and digital reconstruction of trackway site result in journal article

The team preserved the tracks, created by dinosaurs that roamed near an ancient sea, at an Arkansas gypsum quarry. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi geologist’s collaboration with researchers at the University of Arkansas has yielded the discovery and digital preservation of the first tracks of carnivorous dinosaurs ever found in Arkansas.

Brian Platt, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at UM, was lead author of “LiDAR-based characterization and conservation of the first theropod dinosaur trackways from Arkansas, USA,” an article in the Jan. 2 edition of the journal Public Library of Science ONE. He was contacted by colleagues at UA after miners discovered the large, three-toed prints in a gypsum quarry near Nashville in 2011.

The footprints were preserved in a layer of rock that the mine had been blasting through to reach deposits of gypsum, a widely distributed mineral frequently used as a soil amendment and in making wallboard and plaster of Paris.

“When I first saw the footprints, I could barely contain my excitement – the entire surface of the site was completely trampled by dinosaurs,” Platt said. “I remember trying to follow one of the trackways by stepping in each footprint and I just couldn’t do it because the tracks were too far apart. It is thrilling to me to be able to step in the exact spot that a dinosaur stepped over 100 million years ago.”

The miners generously agreed to delay blasting so the team could examine the site before it was destroyed.

Because time was of the essence, the team applied for a special grant through the National Science Foundation that is designed for time-sensitive projects, called a RAPID grant. The University of Arkansas received RAPID funding for $10,000, and the UA vice provost for research and economic development and the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences each provided matching grants, making the combined total funding $30,000.

To preserve the site, colleagues from the UA Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies used a method of laser scanning called LiDAR to create a digital replica of the site. LiDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, uses a pulsed laser to measure distances to the earth in tiny increments. Researchers used LiDAR because traditional methods would have taken too long.

“Once the site was preserved digitally, I could use the digital data to begin the time-intensive work of drafting a map of the site and taking measurements of the footprints,” Platt said. “I spent a lot of time working on the map during a 2012-13 post-doc, but there was so much LiDAR data to sort through that I needed to spend some time at the University of Arkansas to take precise measurements with the proper computer software.”

Platt’s 2014 travel was funded by a Southeastern Conference Traveling Faculty Grant, which the conference awards each year to enable SEC faculty members to collaborate with peers at other conference institutions. The award, which was supplemented with funds from the UM Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, allowed him to spend a week at UA over spring break to collect the measurements he needed.

Brian Platt, UM assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, displays models he uses in presentations about rare dinosaur tracks he and a University of Arkansas team uncovered and digitally preserved. Submitted photo

The tracks have since been destroyed, but the scans allowed the team of researchers to study the tracks and determine that they were made by Acrocanthosaurus, a large, carnivorous dinosaur. The findings extended the known range of the dinosaur 56 miles east, to what was the western shore of an ancient sea.

“It actually confirms that the main genus of large theropods in North America was Acrocanthosaurus,” said Celina Suarez, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at UA, who was part of the team that documented and studied the tracks. “It now has been found in Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Maryland – a huge range.”

The site had two different sized tracks, suggesting both adult and younger animals lived in the area about 113 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. It also contained tracks made by sauropods, long-necked plant-eating dinosaurs.

“Now we know more about the ancient ecosystem, e.g., both sauropods and theropods lived together in the same environment,” Platt said. “On a broader scale, the rocks that contain the footprints tell us that the environment was once a large tidal flat or evaporative coastal basin that experienced very dry conditions.

“Ancient climatic information like this can be used to help us better understand the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.”

Platt earned a bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and master’s and doctoral degrees in geology from the University of Kansas. Before coming to Ole Miss, he worked for an environmental consulting firm in New Jersey and as an instructor and lecturer for the geology department at the University of Kansas.

After completing his doctorate, he spent a year working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Kansas Geological Survey. His research integrates sedimentary geology and paleontology.

Researchers also created a detailed, publicly accessible online map of the site and the tracks. The digital reconstruction of the trackway site can be viewed at the website for the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies.

To read the PLOS ONE article, visit http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0190527.

Morgan Tapped as Emerging Philanthropist

Ole Miss Women's Council recognizes a 'legacy that matters'

UM engineering alumnus Markeeva Morgan is the inaugural recipient of the Emerging Philanthropist Award of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Every morning Markeeva Morgan and his wife, Shaquinta, send their two daughters off to school by emphasizing a message: “Be learners, be leaders and be lights.”

“We feel these attributes form a foundation of humble greatness infused with a central compulsion to give forward,” said Morgan, the inaugural recipient of the Emerging Philanthropist Award of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. He will be honored April 13 at the University of Mississippi.

The 2001 UM electrical engineering graduate, of Madison, Alabama, is leading a multidisciplinary engineering team to design and develop software for an aerospace vehicle. The 38-year-old avionics; guidance, navigation and control; and software manager for The Boeing Co. previously was NASA’s Space Launch System core stage avionics hardware subsystems manager.

The Emerging Philanthropist Award was founded to illustrate to OMWC scholars and others examples of philanthropic efforts accomplished by a person early in his or her life or career, said Liz Randall of Oxford, the OMWC member who proposed the award’s creation. It complements the OMWC’s Legacy Award, which honors individuals with lifetime resumes of philanthropy and accomplishments.

“Givers in the Ole Miss family are plentiful; many of them inspire me,” Morgan said. “That I would be selected from among them for this honor is quite surprising.

“I am humbled and honored that my family’s attempt to respond to the yearning in our hearts and the calling on our lives to help others would be recognized with such an accolade.”

Morgan said he is not yet able to write “big checks,” so he gives in other ways, such as devoting time to students.

“I consider encouraging the next generation of thought leaders and innovators to be part of my job as a member of the working citizenry in this country,” he said. “In essence, I don’t consider my giving to be something I have to find time to do. It is something that is a part of everything I do.”

The award recognizes Morgan’s significant service to students and organizations, coupled with his demanding, high-pressure career and his dedication to family, said Mary Haskell of Oxford, the OMWC chair. Besides working with Ole Miss students, Morgan, who earned a master’s degree in engineering management from Catholic University of America and who is pursuing a doctorate in systems engineering at George Washington University, teaches at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

“The Emerging Philanthropist Award gives us the opportunity to spotlight someone who, by their philanthropic spirit, is modeling what it means to give back to our community, alma mater and the next generation of leaders – someone well on his or her way to building a legacy that matters,” Haskell said.

Jan Farrington of Jackson, an OMWC founding member and former chair, was among those who nominated Morgan based on her shared experiences with him on the boards of the University of Mississippi Foundation and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. The Young Alumnus of the Year recipient also serves on the advisory boards of the School of Engineering and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and as an annual guest lecturer for the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

“Markeeva sets an incredible example for Ole Miss students,” Farrington said. “While continuing to build a very successful career, he manages to take on an array of leadership and service roles, participate in many Ole Miss activities and be a loving dad to his daughters, Mallory and Sydney.

“He finds time to mentor students, encouraging scholarship, leadership and giving back. He and Shaquinta, also an engineering alumna, are both effective and dynamic ambassadors for the University of Mississippi.”

In the Huntsville-area community, Morgan is president of the board of directors for the Christmas Charities Year Around, a nonprofit charitable organization that provides basic necessities to families all year and toys and food during the holiday season to more than 5,000 children and adults.

“My parents instilled in me a deep gratefulness; that is the genesis,” said Morgan, one of 10 children who grew up in Strayhorn. “Then, over the years, so many people have poured into me with no requirement to do so; so many have invested in me with no benefit to be had from the returns; so many have shared their experiences, wisdom and roadmaps; and I have no way to repay them. So, I am compelled to pay their efforts forward.”

Having the time to devote to philanthropic activities comes from combining family time and couple time with helping others, Morgan said.

“I am fortunate to be married to someone who also understands and underscores the importance of giving back,” he said. “Our home is an environment of giving, which not only facilitates a balance among the many demands; it actually integrates them.

“Some of our family time is used to give and serve. Some of my wife’s and my quality time together involves charitable and other giving activities. We teach our children to be grateful for and share blessings, using them to positively impact their world.”

Randall said she hopes by recognizing Morgan and other philanthropists, they can inspire other young people to act.

“Often, young people perceive philanthropy as an activity that occurs later in life as a capstone – that you need to be more seasoned to make meaningful contributions – but that is simply not the case,” Randall said. “There are incredible examples of significant contributions being made by young people, and our goal is to celebrate them.”

In its 18th year, the OMWC has attracted more than $13.1 million for scholarships. The $32,000 named scholarships – $8,000 annually for four years – are among the largest on campus. Thus far, 119 OMWC scholars have benefited from the program, which features mentoring, leadership development and cultural activities.

For more information on the OMWC and its awards, contact Nora Capwell, program coordinator, at 662-915-2384 or ncapwell@olemiss.edu. Information on the Women’s Council can also be found at http://www.omwc.olemiss.edu.