Reinemann-Goss Returns to Alma Mater as Faculty Member

Accomplished alumna is newest assistant professor in burgeoning biomedical engineering program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Mechanical Engineering Student Completes Co-Op in Germany

Matthew Wirt spent the summer working at Fraunhofer ICT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Wade Stinson’s Unwavering Support Helps Engineering Students

Civil engineering alumnus's most recent donation funds student scholarship

Wade Stinson (BSCE 78) has been a faithful donor to the UM School of Engineering since his graduation. Submitted photo

By the time Wade Stinson (BSCE 78) received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, he had already decided he would be a lifelong supporter of the University of Mississippi. Forty years later, the Memphis, Tennessee, native is still generously giving financial assistance to his beloved alma mater.

“I’ve always felt it was important for me to give back to Ole Miss engineering,” Stinson said. “In the early years, my contributions were fairly meager as I was just beginning my career. As soon as I was in a position to give more, I joined the Woods Order. After fulfilling my initial Woods Order pledge, I have continued to give at a similar level.”

Most recently, Stinson donated $25,000 to fund a scholarship for a deserving undergraduate civil engineering student in need of financial assistance. Stinson said he realizes that not everyone is as fortunate as he was.

“I earned several scholarships and my parents paid for my college education, so I only worked during the summers to earn spending money,” he said. “I had a roommate and good friend who was not as fortunate and worked several jobs while taking a full course load in civil engineering. I observed firsthand how difficult it could be to work your way through college.

“By establishing this scholarship, I hope to ease the burden for a deserving student like my former roommate.”

Stinson’s ongoing generosity is greatly appreciated, said Denson Hollis, UM Foundation development officer for the School of Engineering.

“For four decades, Wade Stinson has proven a faithful and generous benefactor of Ole Miss engineering,” Hollis said. “The School of Engineering in general and the Department of Civil Engineering in particular are deeply grateful to him for his gifts and his valuable counsel as a member of the Engineering Alumni Advisory Board.”

Stinson’s journey to the university began as a teenager following his family to Oxford to attend college basketball games.

“My dad received his engineering degree from the University of Tennessee,” Stinson said. “Since we lived in Memphis, he would frequently take me to Oxford to see his Vols play basketball. As we all know, once you’ve seen the Ole Miss campus, nothing else quite compares.”

When he was a senior in high school, Stinson went to Oxford and met with School of Engineering Dean Karl Brenkert and Department of Civil Engineering chair and professor Sam DeLeeuw.

“I was always pretty good in math and science, so CE was somewhat of a natural choice for me,” Stinson said. “Meeting with these two extraordinary gentlemen and educators sealed the deal for me, and I made the decision to attend Ole Miss. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.”

After graduation, Stinson spent a nearly 40-year career in the electric, natural gas and water utility industry. The first 27 years, he worked for Memphis Light, Gas & Water eventually becoming its vice president of construction and maintenance. After retiring from MLGW in 2005, Stinson joined City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, where he worked over 12 years as operations executive. He retired in September 2017 and now works part time as a consultant in the energy industry.

“Ole Miss provided me with an excellent technical engineering education, without a doubt,” Stinson said. “My time at Ole Miss also helped prepare me for future leadership roles, which proved invaluable in my career. We learned teamwork from working in groups on various projects.”

As an undergraduate, Stinson served in leadership roles through organizations such as Tau Beta Pi, Chi Epsilon and the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter. He considers being selected to serve as chairman of the board for the American Public Gas Association as his most significant professional accomplishment.

“APGA is the nationwide association for municipal and community-owned natural gas utilities and has over 700 members in 37 states,” Stinson said. “After serving on the APGA board for several years, I was elected chairman in 2012. This was a very busy yet rewarding year as my duties included meeting with members of Congress, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy.”

Stinson and his wife, Christy, live in Olive Branch. The couple has two adult children and four grandchildren. In addition to keeping up with the grandkids, he enjoys golf, traveling and attending Ole Miss sporting events.

“Some of our favorite travel destinations are the California wine country, Hilton Head and the Gulf Coast beaches,” Stinson said. “I recently rejoined the Engineers’ Club of Memphis, which has allowed me to reconnect with many friends and former colleagues. I also have more time to spend on physical fitness and try to work out frequently at the DeSoto Athletic Club.”

 

UM Geologists Study Impact of Bonnet Carré Spillway on Mississippi Sound

Research findings offer insights into new water levels' effects on oyster production along Gulf Coast

Jarett Barnett, a UM geology and geological engineering graduate assistant, retrieves sensory landers from the Mississippi Sound as part of a study being conducted. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi scientists who are studying the Mississippi River’s ebbs and flows are trying to find out how changing water levels in the river can affect fishing and seafood industries in Mississippi.

With the rising water levels in the lower Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway west of Lake Pontchartrain in early March. As the flooding continued, more bays of the spillway were opened and remained open through the month. The spillway is designed to channel water into Lake Pontchartrain and through the Rigolets Pass into Lake Borgne and ultimately into the Mississippi Sound.

“The opening of the spillway lowers the water levels flowing through the New Orleans area and lessens the pressure on the levees, pumps and other flood control structures,” said Greg Easson, UM director of the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute, professor of geology and geological engineering, and a co-principal investigator on the study. “As part of the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence, we are supporting the redevelopment and restoration of the Mississippi oyster resources as a key action in the restoration of the Gulf Coast.

“Understanding the impact of the opening of the spillway on the water properties in the Mississippi Sound is an important component.”

Easson and Jarett Bell, a UM geological engineering graduate student from Bay St. Louis, have been collaborating on the project since before the student graduated from the university with his undergraduate degree last spring. Sensors are used to gather data about dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature and light from the water. Bell’s responsibilities include preparing, launching and recovering the sensor programs, offloading and interpreting the data.

“Another preparation is that we use hidden buoys so that our platforms stay out of sight for at least a week,” Bell said. “Once the buoys sit for the allotted time, we retrieve the landers, offload the data, return them back to Oxford and clean all the components.”

Preliminary graphs of dissolved oxygen and conductivity show the influence of a large freshwater influx and subsequent recovery.

“This information generated will have significant implications for oyster reef restoration and resilience on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Easson said. “It will provide critical knowledge related to acceptable sites for future oyster reefs that will support sustainable and productive oyster fisheries.”

The results of the study will be shared with MBRACE partners from Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University. It will also be the subject of Bell’s master’s thesis in 2019, and an eventual journal article.

This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding provided through the University of Southern Mississippi under the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality by the Department of the Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality or the Department of the Treasury.

 

Dan Gailey Is Wired for the Future

Electrical engineering alumnus is founder and CEO of Synapse AI

Dan Gailey, founder and CEO of Synapse AI, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

Like an electrical circuit that makes connections and produces and transfers power, Dan Gailey (BSEE 10) has found a way to do something similar with data.

As founder and CEO of Synapse AI, a decentralized network and marketplace for programmatic access to data and machine learning models, the University of Mississippi alumnus has formed lucrative and powerful partnerships with clients around the globe.

“I’ve had opportunities to work in various startups, venture capital and at Make: magazine,” said the Houston, Texas, native who migrated with his family to Tupelo. “I’m most proud of all the teams I’ve had a chance to know and work with, and the products we’ve launched together. Each venture is a new baby that takes significant love, support and care to grow through good times and bad.”

Through his profession, Gailey has met many makers from all over the world. Based in San Francisco, California, since he graduated, he spends most of his time in Europe and Asia traveling and working.

“My responsibilities are helping to move everyone forward through uncertainty to discovery as fast as possible to build something that has never existed before and making sense of everything while maintaining vision,” Gailey said.

The AI expert’s journey to worldwide success began when he decided to attend the university.

“My family suggested I check out Ole Miss, which I did,” he said. “I really enjoyed the culture, food and environment in and around the campus. I also met some smart and fun people that I really enjoyed spending my time with.”

Among Gailey’s favorite electrical engineering courses were Circuits, taught by associate professor Elliott Hutchcraft, labs taught by adjunct instructor Matt Inman and any class taught by associate professor Richard Gordon.

“Elliott really worked to make complicated topics more approachable,” Gailey said. “Richard was great because he is basically a super genius that knew all the answers to any questions we had. Matt’s labs were always wonderful because he really knew how to inspire everyone to work together and converge on solutions as a team.”

Inman recalled that Gailey was an excellent and innovative student.

“Dan showed a mix of maturity, excitement and inquisitiveness that helped bring others along to interacting in class. From the first day, he exuded that sort of entrepreneurial creativity and was never going to be content without leaving his mark on the world, finding his niche and making his name be known.”

During his junior year in electrical engineering, Gailey learned how to balance challenging workloads under significant time constraints. He also became fearless in leading, planning, prioritizing and delivering results-driven outcomes. The most significant lesson for Gailey was learning how to do all of that as part of a team.

“Ole Miss brought together some of the best and brightest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, working and growing with,” he said. “For that, I’m grateful.”

Gailey’s family includes his mother, Angie Gailey, and brother Patrick Lee Gailey, both of Tupelo.

His spare moments are spent creating art, visiting museums, hanging out at hacker/maker spaces, experiencing new cultures and people, prototyping with electronics, reading science fiction and thinking about artificial general intelligence, or AGI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UM Partners with Vietnamese University for Teaching and Research

Agreement facilitates student, faculty exchange and collaborations between institutions

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (right) and Pham Duy Hoa, rector at the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam, sign a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has entered into a new international partnership with the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam for student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

A formal memorandum of agreement between the two institutions was signed Thursday (May 10) in the chancellor’s office in the Lyceum. This partnership is NUCE’s first with an institution of higher learning in the United States.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to collaborate with other universities and external partners to foster academic opportunities and enhance excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We expect outstanding outcomes from this agreement with NUCE, including new curriculum, faculty exchanges and research synergies.

“This partnership also contributes to our universitywide strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.”

The university’s global reputation for rigorous academics, innovative research and increasing diversity all influenced NUCE officials’ decision to partner with UM.

“I understood that the University of Mississippi is widely respected and very well known in the United States and beyond,” said NUCE Rector Pham Duy Hoa. “As we seek to expand our global collaborations, we found that the goals and activities of this institution were very compatible with ours.”

Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Blair McElroy, senior international officer; and Kurt Smith, global engagement project coordinator, also were on hand for the signing.

Other NUCE delegates included Pham Quang Dung, vice rector; Nguyen Binh Ha, dean of the graduate school; Nguyen Hoang Giang, director of the International Cooperation Department; Ta Quynh Hoa, dean of faculty of international education; Cao Tuan Anh, director of the Office of Investment Management; and Tran Hong Hai, lecturer of building and industrial engineering.

Following the memorandum signing, NUCE officials interacted with Ole Miss faculty, discussed programming and toured various facilities.

NUCE proposes to establish a 2+2 transfer agreement in which students in an engineering bachelor’s degree program complete two years at one institution and transfer to finish it at the other. Other points of the agreement allow for faculty exchange, research collaborations, English as a Second Language instruction and continued development of the partnership.

“I am pleased with the interest that international institutions have in our outstanding academic programs,” Wilkin said. “Our School of Engineering faculty have worked hard to ensure that students who spend their first two years at fine international universities can have a seamless transition to our programs.

“Further, this will open the door for research collaborations that have international significance.”

The agreement will further enhance goals in the Department of Civil Engineering to increase internationalization, diversity and inclusion, said Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, professor and chair of the department.

“We are happy to see that our curriculum will be emulated by similar program in Vietnam,” he said. “We are looking forward to such collaborations.”

Joining with NUCE provides opportunities for Ole Miss computer and information science majors to gain experience interacting with international students, said Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of the department. “It will expose them to new working relationships and potentially lifelong friendships.”

Negotiations leading to the agreement began unofficially in January 2017. Smith and Tracy Koslowski, associate director of the UM Intensive English Program, traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to establish new international partnerships for academic exchange and collaborations.

Through the university’s Vietnamese Student Association, a connection was made with Pham Quan, second son of Pham Duy Hoa. Pham received his Bachelor of Business Administration in banking and finance from UM during Saturday’s (May 12) Commencement ceremonies.

“My son told me that he has had a wonderful educational experience at the University of Mississippi,” Hoa said. “It is certainly my desire that many more Vietnamese students have the opportunity to come to the University of Mississippi and have experiences similar to his.”

Established in 1966 as Ha Noi University of Civil Engineering, NUCE is one of Vietnam’s leading universities. With the main campus in Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi, the institution is accredited by the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam. NUCE admits more than 3,000 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students annually.

Graduates work in research institutions, engineering firms, construction companies and management agencies across Southeast Asia and worldwide.

For more information about NUCE, visit http://nuce.edu.vn/.

Army ROTC Cadet, Engineering Senior Receives National Recognition

UM student Donald Lorbecke selected for Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit

Army ROTC Cadet Donald Lorbecke (right), receives the Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit presented by Lt. Com. Joshua Taylor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Most military personnel are honored after having engaged in active combat, but one University of Mississippi Army ROTC cadet is being nationally recognized before even being commissioned.

CDT Donald Lorbecke, a fifth-year senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in military science from Madison, Alabama, has been selected to receive the Society of American Military Engineers ROTC Award of Merit.

Awardees must be in the top 25 percent of their engineering class and in the top 25 percent of their Reserve Officers’ Training Corps class. Recipients are selected through a central military service board for the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs.

“It is a fairly select award that is competitive among all service branches commissioning programs,” said Lt. Commander Joshua Taylor, chair of the university’s Army ROTC and professor of military science. “With over 5,000 cadets per cohort nationwide in Army ROTC alone, it is quite an honor for him.”

Lorbecke, who receives his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering Saturday at Commencement, will be commissioned in the Mississippi Army National Guard as a 2nd Lieutenant Engineer Officer. He said he is humbled by his recognition.

“I was very honored to learn the selection process for this award,” he said. “Sometimes, I forget that I am doing more than people expect. I think it is because I am doing what I love: military and engineering.”

Taylor said Lorbecke is “unmatched by his peers in terms of his character, competence and commitment to duty.”

“I have watched Cadet Lorbecke grow as a leader and embrace a sense of stewardship for the profession,” he said. “He is completely selfless in all actions and commits more time toward giving back to our program.

“He is a genuine leader and will excel in all that he does. It was a privilege to have him in our program.”

Lorbecke and his sister, Margo Lorbecke, were raised by their aunt and uncle, Jean and Jeff Downs of Madison. The Downs, both Ole Miss alumni, influenced Lorbecke’s decision to attend the university.

“My aunt did 20 years in the Army and my uncle is a mechanical engineer,” he said. “One cousin is also a mechanical engineer. Another one is a geological engineer and served in the Army as well.”

Lorbecke said he is grateful for professors in both the mechanical engineering department and Army ROTC program.

Donald Lorbecke speaks during the recent Cadet ‘Change of Command’ ceremony. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“Dr. (Erik) Hurlen (instructional assistant professor of mechanical engineering) and Dr. Raj (Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering) are very smart and supportive professors,” he said. “Both these men should never leave this university because of the impact they make here.”

As for his ROTC instructors, Lorbecke lists Capt. Joseph Gooch, operations officer and MS III instructor, and Maj. Ronald Rogers, MSARNG recruiting BN, Program XO and MS I instructor, as having been his most influential.

“They showed you how a great leader should act and take care of soldiers,” he said. “Capt. Gooch prepared us for our advanced camp summer evaluations last year. Without him, I would not have received the Distinguished Military Graduate Award.

“Maj. Rogers was the assistant professor of military science and the National Guard Simultaneous Membership Program instructor. His presence would give you this feeling that he truly did care for the development in others and the program.”

Rajendran commended Lorbecke upon his recognition.

“I’ve always admired Don’s attitude and demeanor towards all activities during throughout his undergraduate education here at the Ole Miss,” he said.

Army ROTC Lt. Com. Joshua Taylor (left) and Marni Kendricks, assistant dean of engineering, congratulate Donald Lorbecke for winning the Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit. Submitted photo

Rajendran interacted with Lorbecke during the 2018 American Society of Mechanical Engineers robot design competition. Lorbecke was a member on one of the two teams that participated in the competitions at Pennsylvania State University at State College, Pennsylvania.

“Don and his team designed the robot with enormous passion and hard work,” Rajendran said. “He has been a rising star as an ROTC cadet. Winning the SAME award further confirms Dons’ well-rounded accomplishments.”

Engineering school Dean Alex Cheng agreed.

“Donald is a remarkable young man with excellent leadership, strong determination and true integrity,” Cheng said. “He is well-deserving of this award and I believe he will soon distinguish himself in his very promising military and engineering career. We are proud to claim him as an Ole Miss engineering alum.”

The SAME Award of Merit, a bronze medal with bronze key replica, was authorized in 1948 to be awarded annually to outstanding junior and senior engineering students in the ROTC program. A central military service board selects outstanding students for the awards from nominations submitted by the professors of military science and technology, naval science and aerospace studies.

Infrastructure Experts Talk Resilience during UM Workshop

Meeting brings together state, national infrastructure leaders

David Pittman, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, addresses the audience at the Infrastructure Objective Resilience Workshop held at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Experts from around the country recently gathered at the University of Mississippi for a two-day conference on infrastructure resilience.

Hosted by UM and the UM School of Engineering, the Infrastructure Objective Resilience Workshop included university and federal experts in engineering, materials science, physical acoustics, geology, journalism, computer science, construction, psychology and hydroscience.

More than 80 stakeholders of the nation’s infrastructure sectors discussed the latest progress in objective resilience and talked about the need for transformative research that could lead to improving the nation’s infrastructure resilience against natural and man-made disasters.

The meeting included such federal agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“The workshop gathered the nation’s leaders in infrastructure resilience and was aimed at fostering collaboration between the University of Mississippi, government agencies, government labs, industries and other academic institutions in an area of national importance,” said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, UM civil engineering professor and workshop coordinator.

“It was our hope that the workshop would be an important step towards unlocking the combined disaster resilience potentials and emphasize the role of the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi as the leader in addressing an issue of regional and national concern,” he said.

In his welcoming address, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said the importance of the workshop and the work of its attendees could not be overstated.

He also noted how the workshop tied into the university’s Flagship Constellations initiative, which includes multidisciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students creating solutions to challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community well-being and disaster resilience.

“The University of Mississippi places tremendous value and importance on the work that you are addressing today,” he told attendees. “We have a strong foundation in this area, and our disaster resilience constellation marries insight and research from environmental and legal disciplines with materials science, information technology … along with a variety of disciplines.

“We’re focused on developing technologies, tools and policies to mitigate disasters and increase the resilience, security and sustainability of our communities.”

The workshop started March 27 with a keynote session by Eric Letvin, deputy associate administrator, mitigation directorate, Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration, which is part of FEMA.

Letvin said during his address that FEMA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan includes building a culture of preparedness, readying the nation for catastrophic disasters and reducing the complexity of FEMA.

Mississippi’s geographical location makes it prone to disasters, including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, heat waves and earthquakes. Reducing the impact of these disasters on local communities through increasing the resilience and sustainability of communities is one of the aims of the Disaster Resilience Flagship Constellation.

“Striving toward infrastructure resilience is of keen interest to the state of Mississippi, and as the state’s flagship university, the University of Mississippi is committed to advancing that goal,” Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, told attendees. “The constellations bring together a diverse set of faculty from diverse disciplines that help address very large and complex problems.

“With engineers, scientists, legal and policy experts, medical professionals, communications specialists and social scientists all under one roof, I believe that universities are uniquely suited to build the kinds of teams that are needed to address such multidimensional problems and are obligated to do so.”

Other speakers were Jason Averill, chief of the Materials and Structural Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Amar Chaker, director of the Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Ryan Colker, vice president of the National Institute of Building Sciences; Norma Jean Mattei, 2017 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers; David Pittman, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center; and David Wulf, deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure protection (acting), U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Alumnus Paul Whitfield Murrill Dies

Chemical engineering graduate was chancellor at Louisiana State University

Paul W. Murrill, a University of Mississippi engineering alumnus who served as chancellor at Louisiana State University for several years, passed recently. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Paul Whitfield Murrill, a University of Mississippi alumnus who served many years as chancellor at Louisiana State University, died April 2 at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 83.

Murrill was fondly remembered by a UM alumnus who knew him.

“Dr. Murrill received numerous accolades for his academic and business proficiency, all of which are certainly well deserved,” said Norman Jones, a 1970 civil engineering graduate who met the deceased through the church both attended. “His sincere and genuine people skills, however, are more difficult to describe. Regardless of the occasion or who was present, he was able to put his audience at ease and explain things in a manner that not only showed his expertise of the subject matter, but which also demonstrated his innate ability to connect with people on a personal level.”

Murrill’s humility, generosity of time and resources, and his kindness and compassion for others are qualities that Jones said he will always cherish.

“He was truly a remarkable gentleman, and I am honored to have known him,” he said.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Murrill grew up in Hinds County, Mississippi, after his family moved there. A lifelong learner, his early education began in a one-room school in Pocahontas, then continued in the public schools of Clinton, from which he graduated in 1952. Receiving a Navy ROTC scholarship, he began his college education at UM, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering in 1956.

While at the university, Murrill met his wife, Nancy Hoover Williams, of Lexington. Upon graduation, he received his commission as an ensign in the U.S. Navy and spent the next three years as a naval officer aboard USS Valley Forge. Thus began a lifelong love for the Navy and the sea. He was initially machine division officer in charge of Valley Forge’s engine rooms, but always in search of a challenge, he requested and received permission from the captain to train for officer of the deck – underway, a position that was conferred upon him in 1958. He was later promoted from ensign to lieutenant (junior grade).

After discharge from the Navy, Murrill and Williams married in May 1959, and were married for 59 years. Murrill had a brief career as a chemical engineer at Columbia-Southern (PPG) in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but soon pursued higher education in chemical engineering. Encouraged by a mentor at UM, he attended LSU where he completed his master’s degree and then his Ph.D in 1963. Murrill was hired initially by LSU as an interim professor, but his natural leadership ability and intellect led to his being hired for a full-time position as professor in the chemical engineering department. He was named head of that department, then dean of academic affairs and provost of the university soon thereafter.

In 1974, at only age 39, Murrill was named chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus and served in that capacity until 1981. During that time, he was the 21st living American to be named a distinguished member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and in 1978, Change magazine named him one of the top 100 educators in the country. Under his leadership, LSU applied for and was granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and became the 13th university to be named a Sea Grant institution.

Murrill oversaw the implementation of Title IX for women’s athletics at LSU and during the country’s bicentennial (1976) he launched a special project, “The Native Flora of Louisiana,” with botanical artist Margaret Stones executing the watercolor drawings. He was a member of 13 honorary and professional societies, including the LSU and Ole Miss alumni halls of fame. He wrote and edited many books, including seminal texts on process theory, which are still in use today.

In 2003, the Instrument Society of America named him one of the 50 most influential people in history in the fields of automation, instrumentation and control technologies. Murrill retired from LSU in 1981 and began an accomplished career in the corporate world. As a testament to his abilities, he was asked to and served on the boards of 27 publicly traded corporations regulated by the SEC. He was chief executive officer of Gulf States Utilities and continued on that board after it was acquired by Entergy Corp. He served as lead director of the board of Tidewater Inc., which named an offshore supply ship the Paul W. Murrill in his honor.

His corporate career also included serving on the boards of Piccadilly Inc, Foxboro Corp. (Massachusetts), Zygo Corp. (Connecticut) and the Baton Rouge Water Co. From 1979 to 1997, he was an adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Laboratory at Oak Ridge. He served on numerous nonprofit boards and foundations, including the Baton Rouge Food Bank and two years as chairman of the board of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady.

Murrill was an ordained deacon at University Baptist Church, which he and his wife joined in 1960, and over the years he taught various ages in Sunday school. He had many and varying interests: early lighting, fishing and gardening, to name a few, but none so important to him as his family and religion. Of his many accomplishments, the most important was that he was humble, kind, ever-loving and compassionate. During his later years, he taught a Sunday school class of his peers (some older, some younger), and this was a most meaningful experience for him.

For six years, until January of this year, he wrote a newsletter he called “The Peep,” which began with his class and expanded to include a wide range of devoted friends in various parts of the country, who he greeted weekly as “my fellow pilgrims.”

Murrill was preceded in death by his parents, Horace and Grace Murrill, and a son Paul Whitfield Murrill Jr. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; son John (Elizabeth) of Baton Rouge; son Britt (Kasey) of Baton Rouge; daughter-in-law, Andrea, of Baton Rouge, and grandchildren, Parham, Baker, Paul, James Henry, Alexander, Boyd, Anna Grace, Gray and Mary Elizabeth Murrill, all of Baton Rouge, as well as two step-grandchildren, Ben Shea of Los Angeles and Ava Vasquez of Baton Rouge.

Information for this article came from Murrill’s obituary published in The Advocate in Baton Rouge.

 

3 Alumni Honored with Engineering Awards

Albert Hilliard, Jeff Rish III and Catherine Grace Norris received recognition at awards banquet

Albert L. Hilliard (left) accepts the 2018 Engineer of Distinction award from UM School of Engineering Dean Alex Cheng. Photo by Clay Cavett/UM Alumni Affairs

Three University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni were honored for their hard work, service and humanitarianism during the annual engineering awards banquet in April.

Albert L. Hilliard, IT/OT services program manager at ExxonMobil, was presented the Engineer of Distinction Award. Jeff W. Rish III, retired from federal service as technical program manager at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, received the Engineer of Service Award. The Gregory Gomez IV Humanitarian Service Award went to Catherine Grace Norris, a 2017 graduate who works as a Peace Corps volunteer.

“Once a year, we have this warm gathering to celebrate the accomplishment of our students, alumni and faculty,” said Dean Alex Cheng. “I am pleased that over and over again we see the highest level of creativity and service demonstrated by this group. This is a wonderful and proud Ole Miss family.”

The recipients reflected upon their honor.

“I was surprised since I didn’t know I was even being considered,” said Hilliard, who is responsible for digitally transforming ExxonMobil’s industrial IT environments around the world. “I felt so honored to be included in such a distinguished group of University of Mississippi alumni engineers. This is a dream come true.”

The Hernando native, who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the university 35 years ago, said it is very gratifying to be recognized by the school that launched him on his successful path as a computer scientist/engineer.

Jeff Rish III (center) receives the 2018 Engineer of Service award from Dean Cheng (right) and is congratulated by David Carroll, 2016 Engineer of Service recipient. Photo by Clay Cavett/UM Alumni Affair

“I grew up poor in rural Mississippi and was a first-generation college student,” Hilliard said. “I entered the University of Mississippi with raw talents/skills, strong family support and dreams of making a difference. The University of Mississippi helped mold me into a computer scientist, helped me to focus and challenged me to make a difference as a computer scientist and responsible citizen.”

Hilliard also has a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Dayton and an Executive MBA from Baylor University. His wife, Harriet, earned her bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss and her medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The couple has two sons.

Rish said he was gratified to learn that he had been selected to receive the Engineer of Service Award. He was a member of the UM Engineering Advisory Board from 2004 to 2014, and interacted with the school on a number of topics and issues during that time.

“This award is personally meaningful to me because it says I impacted leadership within the School of Engineering, and the EAB believes that my involvement impacted the school in a positive way,” Rish said.

Rish earned bachelor’s degrees in both civil and mechanical engineering, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in engineering science from the university. A Pontotoc native, Rish is a member of the adjunct faculty at Florida State University’s Panama City campus, where he teaches Engineering Thermodynamics. He has been teaching this undergraduate course there since 2005.

He and his wife, Patricia (or “Patti”), reside in Lynn Haven, Florida, but maintain strong ties to his alma mater and Mississippi roots.

A 2017 general engineering graduate, Norris joined the Peace Corps and works in Zambia. Her work has involved meeting with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a rice nongovernmental organization, to discuss hosting a workshop in Luapula Province. She frequently hosts demonstrations on how to make compost fertilizer and smaller projects involving animal husbandry, women’s empowerment and hydrogeology.

Like Hilliard, Norris said she was surprised by the award.

“I have been living very disconnected from the U.S. and didn’t know I was eligible for such an award,” she said. “I am both humbled and elated to accept this reward. Peace Corps has been an idea of mine for almost 10 years, and thanks to the engineering school and especially Ms. Hank (Ducey), I’ve gotten to achieve something I feel is truly great. 

Catherine Grace Norris, a Peace Corps volunteer in Zimbabwe, was presented the 2018 Greg Gomez IV Humanitarian Award in absentia. Hank Ducey, administrative assistant in the engineering school, accepted the award on Norris’ behalf. Photo by Clay Cavett/UM Alumni Affairs

“I have always been heavily involved in volunteer work, and being a Peace Corps volunteer, riding on buses, in the backs of cars, down dangerous roads, has become a way of life. Hearing about Gomez and how his story and passions are being honored is beautiful. … He has set a great example, and I hope fellow Ole Miss students and alumni can follow it.”

 Also honored at the awards banquet were Lei Cao, Outstanding Faculty of the Year; Alex Yakovlev, Senior Faculty Research Award; Esteban Urena-Benavides, Junior Faculty Research Award; Adam Smith, Faculty Teaching Award; Hunain Alkhateb, Faculty Service Award; and Aubrey Bolen, Staff Award. The school also honored Harleigh Huggins with the Mississippi Engineering Society Outstanding Senior Award.

Five students received the Engineering Outstanding Senior Award. They are Huggins (mechanical engineering), David Rozier (chemical engineering), Colbert Lehr (electrical engineering), Zach Mitchell (general engineering) and William Garrett (mechanical engineering). The David Arnold Engineering Award was presented to Colbert Lehr. Farzin Rahmani (chemical engineering) and Amrit Kharel (electrical engineering) received Graduate Achievement awards, and 15 engineering students received the Taylor Medal, the university’s most coveted honor.