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


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 assistant 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. Twenty-six 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. “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


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

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 Information on the Women’s Council can also be found at

UM Engineers Without Borders Adopting Village in Ecuador

Launching crowdfunding campaign, team advances infrastructure project

Engineers Without Borders-Ole Miss members, from left, Dillon Hall, Vera Gardener, Cris Surbeck, Paul Scovazzo, Paige Lohman, Robert Holt, Timothy Steenwyk and Zach Lepchitz take a break from working with Togo, West Africa, residents. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Entering its seventh year of helping people in developing nations build sound infrastructures, members of the University of Mississippi chapter of Engineers Without Borders are adopting a small village in South America.

After working on two primary projects in Togo, West Africa, as well as several minor projects, the UM chapter has begun the process of adopting 25 de Diciembre in Ecuador. The community is named after a battle fought on the day commonly known as Christmas.

“We decided in May of 2017 that we would be able to take on a new project for the upcoming school year,” said David Thomas, EWB-Ole Miss chapter president. “During the fall semester, we filtered through all of the unassigned projects on the EWB-USA database and found several projects that could benefit from our previous experience that we’ve gained during our Togo projects. These final project prospects were put up to a chapter vote, and the Ecuador project was chosen.”

As with their Togo project, the group will use EWB-USA’s quality project process, which includes project initiation, project adoption, assessment, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and closeout. EWB-USA makes a special point to mandate the use of locally sourced materials and labor. It also requires that the community contributes 10 percent of the project cost. These two criteria result in longer staying power of installed projects due to the community’s established hands-on role, which carries over to infrastructure maintenance.

“We have just wrapped up the project-adoption phase, having been given the official go-ahead from EWB-USA,” Thomas said. “Now we begin the exciting work of organizing an assessment trip.”

The people of 25 de Diciembre are in dire need of a clean water source as well as a sufficient irrigation system. In the assessment phase of the project, EWB will send members of the chapter to the community to speak with governing officials about their specific needs and how best to execute the endeavor.

The total cost for this project will be around $50,000 spent over the five-year duration. These funds will cover travel and food for the members and advisers, local labor and project material expenses. Engineers in Action will be EWB’s contact in Ecuador once the project is approved.

EWB launched a crowdfunding campaign through Ignite Ole Miss in December. With help from donors, the goal is to raise $20,000. Money received will enable members of EWB and School of Engineering faculty members to spend seven days there, planning how to provide clean water to the village.

“We are planning on sending our first team over for an assessment trip this May,” Thomas said. “The travel team will be selected based on specific skill sets needed including Spanish speakers, civil or geological engineers and those who have committed effort to the chapter and to fundraise for the project and advance it forward.

“We also consider class year and graduation dates. We want to incorporate a mix of ages so the project does not get stranded when upperclassmen graduate. Certain faculty advisers with prior experience drilling wells and working on international projects will also be a part of the travel team.”

While the population of 25 de Diciembre is concerned about clean drinking water, it also depends heavily on clean water for a variety of other crucial reasons, said Paul Scovazzo, professor of civil engineering and faculty adviser of EWB-Ole Miss.

“The community is very driven by agriculture, meaning that without clean water and a proper irrigation system, men and women struggle to feed themselves and their children,” Scovazzo said. “In addition to this, a lack of clean water creates troubling sanitation hazards for citizens who struggle to remain healthy and uncontaminated as they bathe.”

For more information about EWB-Ole Miss, visit To make donations through the Ignite Ole Miss website, go to .

UM Researchers Working on Acoustic Detection for Undersea Oil Leaks

Grant totaling $591,000 awarded to Zhiqu Lu, Likun Zhang and Lei Cao

Zhiqu Lu, senior research scientist at the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics, is leading a team working to develop technology to detect leaks in offshore deep-water oil and gas lines and production equipment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

(The following Ole Miss News article also appeared in USA Today and the Clarion-Ledger on Dec. 27.)

OXFORD, Miss. – Snaking beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are thousands of miles of pipelines carrying oil and natural gas from offshore wells. They carry the fuel that keeps the American economy rolling, with Gulf production accounting for 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and 5 percent of total U.S. … Continue reading



Jeff Rish’s 4 Degrees from UM Result in Long Research Career with Military

Alumnus now teaches engineering course at Florida State

Jeff W. Rish III and his wife, Patti, attend an Ole Miss vs. Florida State University pregame activity in Orlando, Florida. Submitted photo

Jeff W. Rish III’s successful career in technological research for the military began with four engineering degrees from the University of Mississippi.

When Rish (BSCE 77, BSME 78, MS 83, PhD 85) entered UM is 1973, the Pontotoc native dreamed of receiving a bachelor’s degree in either civil or mechanical engineering. He ended up earning degrees in both. A few years later, Rish also earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in engineering science from the university.

“During the years that I attended Ole Miss, the engineering programs had an engineering science focus,” said Rish, who also completed a one-year nonresident Air War College program from the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, while working for the Wright Laboratory Detachment at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. “I received a broad education that provided a strong background in mathematics and a heavy emphasis on the scientific foundations of engineering subject matter.”

The breadth of Rish’s education enabled him to quickly adapt to working on research topics involving technologies that were well outside the scope of his formal training, and to become a leader in developing concepts and technologies to enhance the capabilities of U.S. war fighters.

Rish said his success at Ole Miss and beyond was heavily influenced by a number of faculty members.

“I have fond memories of Drs. Ken Stead, Mustafa Abdulrahman, Sam DeLeeuw and Sam Prasad from the CE department,” he said. “The engineering mechanics courses I took from Dr. Stead were quite memorable, and Ken was a mentor to me throughout my entire career as a student.”

John Fox, mechanical engineering chair and professor emeritus, had a huge influence on Rish while he was in graduate school.

“His career brought him in contact with a number of pioneers in the area of aerospace engineering, and his mind was a virtual library on a number of engineering topics. I spent many hours in his office,” Rish said. “Drs. (Thomas) Horton and (Jeffrey) Roux were key influences in my graduate school years. Dr. Roux was my dissertation adviser and friend, and his mentorship impacted my life well beyond graduate school. Dr. Sam Wang was another of my mentors, as was Dean Allie Smith.”

Rish began his professional career in 1986 at the Naval Coastal Systems Center (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division) as a research engineer in the materials science branch. His early project responsibilities included leading an experimental investigation using lasers as underwater acoustic sources and modeling heat transfer through experimental liquid crystal diver thermal protection devices.

In 1992, he accepted a position as a research engineer with the Air Force where he spent four years working on advanced materials topics. Rish returned to NSWC Panama City in 1996, and served as principal investigator on several projects to develop and experimentally validate sensor systems for special operations and mine warfare applications. Rish also became actively involved in the development of autonomous unmanned systems for underwater mine countermeasures applications.

“I served 10 years as a branch head for what is now the Intelligent Sensing Branch at NSWC PCD, where I continued to be actively engaged in developing advanced electro-optic and electromagnetic sensors for Navy MCM, MARCORPS and unmanned systems,” Rish said. “This experience gave me insight into a broad range of technologies and enabled me to work with some of the nation’s leading experts on sensor technologies. As a result, I was able to influence the development of sensor systems and unmanned systems for a number of undersea and land-based applications.”

Rish retired from federal service and his position as technical program manager, U.S. Marine Corps Force Protection Countermeasures Science and Technology, in December 2017.

Presently, he is a member of the adjunct faculty at Florida State University’s Panama City campus, where he teaches an undergraduate course in Engineering Thermodynamics. He has been teaching this course there since 2005.

Rish and his wife, Patricia (or “Patti”), reside in Lynn Haven, Florida, but maintain strong ties to his alma mater and Mississippi roots. He was a member of the UM Engineering Advisory Board from 2004 to 2014.

“The wife and I enjoy antiquing together and traveling,” he said. “We both enjoy attending sporting events and tailgating in the Grove with the brothers and sisters when we get the chance.”




In Memoriam: Engineering Alumnus Jon D. Wilson

Professors fondly remember graduate as gifted student

Jon David Wilson (BSGE 00) was an environmental engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Alabama. Submitted photo

University of Mississippi faculty, staff and students are mourning the passing of alumnus Jon David Wilson (BSGE 03) of Huntsville, Alabama. The 39-year-old environmental engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers died last December.

Services for Wilson were held at Berryhill Funeral Home in Huntsville. He is survived by his wife, Kimberly Fortenberry Wilson, of Huntsville, Alabama; four children: Kane, Bryce, Brielle and Aiden; his parents, Mitchell Wilson and Connie Hamby; and a brother, Greg Wilson.

“Jon Wilson brightened any room he walked into,” said Gregg Davidson, UM chair and professor of geology and geological engineering. “His positive attitude was contagious. He loved his field of study and the people he worked with. He will be greatly missed.”

Former UM civil engineering professor Joel Kuszmaul expressed similar remembrances of Wilson.

“[He] was the most energetic person I have ever known, but it was his endlessly upbeat attitude and generosity for everyone around him (even strangers) that created the most lasting impression,” said Kuszmaul, associate dean, associate professor and chair of geological engineering at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. “He had the highest ethical standards. He was always a gentleman. [Jon] took on the most difficult courses that anyone was offering and not only achieved a great grade, he formed study groups with his colleagues to help ensure that they succeeded as well and that they enjoyed the challenges they faced together.

“He was the first Mississippi graduate who asked to work with me as a graduate student, and I learned so much about the best of human nature from him.”


Honors Students Find New Worldviews during Freshman Ventures

Groups of engineering majors discover cultural differences and experiences define 'truth'

UM students Nathan Lancaster (far left), Ariel Williams (center), Kelly Bates and Noah McKone share a moment during their Freshman Ventures trip to New York City. Submitted photo

“How do we know what is true?”

This question was posed by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College to its freshman class. Groups of students traveled across the country to find the answer to this very important question and learn more about themselves than they ever thought possible.

Ariel Williams, a biomedical engineering major from Waynesboro, was one of the many students looking for the truth. Her group members traveled to Connecticut where they interviewed the chief mother of the Connecticut Navajo Tribe. Their travels also took them to New York City.

In an effort to gather a different perspective on their questions, they also interviewed members of local tribes in Itawamba County here in Mississippi. This allowed them to learn more about the Native American influence in their own communities, as most of the group members are from Mississippi. Williams traveled with civil engineering major Nathan Lancaster of Madison, and fellow biomedical engineering majors Kelly Bates of Collinsville and Noah McKone of McComb.

“Our group’s goal was to​ ​uncover​ ​how​ ​our​ ​society​ ​might​ ​discern​ ​what​ ​is​ ​true​ ​when​ ​the​ ​truth​ ​has​ ​been​ ​distorted​ ​throughout history, ​​specifically​ ​applying​ ​to​ ​the​ ​history​ ​and​ ​culture​ ​of​ ​Native​ ​Americans,” Williams said.

Williams was the videographer for her group and assisted in the coordination of the interviews and travel. She indicated that the greatest challenge was identifying a way to answer such a difficult question. However, she also reflected that she and her group were able to “learn so much more about ourselves and our roles in society.”

They also learned about the overt harm of cultural appropriation and its potential to deconstruct the truth as well as perpetuate misinformation and ignorance.

Chemical engineering major Jake Noll also traveled over the break to learn the answer to the Freshman Ventures question. He and his group focused on a legal approach and traveled to Miami, Florida, to find truth within the justice system. Noll served as the group leader and helped organize much of the group’s activities including travel and interviews.

“There are so many conflicting opinions, ideals and emotions surrounding the justice system,” Noll said. “We wanted to figure out (if) one can know whether their justice system is ‘correct’ and how to know whether it is too harsh or too lenient.

Jacob Noll (far right) enjoys new friends he made while on his Freshman Ventures trip. Submitted photo

“Additionally, we wanted to compare the U.S. legal system to other countries and figure out which country had the best legal system. Finally, we wanted to figure out how the lawyers separated fact from fiction and emotion from logic in their cases.”

With this in mind, the group decided to interview two lawyers: one a criminal defense lawyer and the other an immigration rights lawyer. According to Noll, the group learned that “truth” is extremely subjective and that everybody has a different definition of it.

Given the climate of the world today, it seemed evident to the group that people may need to spend more time listening to and learning from one another.

“My Freshman Ventures experience showed me that the solution to these seemingly endless conflicts is for individuals to experience the other side for themselves,” he said. “They must understand the opposing side’s definition of truth in order to see the other side’s reasoning and perhaps change their own definition of truth.”

Beyond the challenge of finding answers to a difficult question, another challenge for the group members was organizing many moving pieces months in advance. From purchasing plane tickets and hotel rooms to developing a budget for travel in the city, food and other incidentals, they needed to do a lot of planning and paperwork for the trip that they had not dealt with before.

Once all the groups have traveled, they will come together to present their findings to honors staff, faculty and peers in February during the Freshman Ventures Retreat. The winning group will be rewarded with a trip to New York City.