UM Scientists Further NASA’s Mission to Mars

ME professor Shan Jiang leads faculty-student research team in advancing space exploration

Shan Jiang (third from right) discusses his interdisciplinary NASA research project with (from left) Ronald Smith, Abigail Hughes, Makena Tisor, Jungmin Jeon and Katelyn Franklin. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

As NASA continues preparations for missions to Mars and beyond, a team of University of Mississippi scientists is conducting research that may advance deep-space exploration for decades to come.

Shan Jiang, UM assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator for “An Integrated Computational Framework for Atomic-level Investigation of the Sintering Mechanisms during In-Space Additive Manufacturing of Metals and Alloys,” a project funded by the Mississippi NASA EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development, or RID, Program (No. NNX15AK39A) and directed by Nathan Murray, UM research assistant professor of chemical engineering.

The project is composed of synergistic, integrated, high-performance computing activities, including modeling, simulation, prediction and optimization of pure metal and alloy nanoparticle sintering, which is a process to make a powdered material coalesce into a solid or porous mass by heating it (and usually also compressing it) without liquefaction.

“One of the key areas of NASA mission-supportive research is ‘in-space additive manufacturing’ (known as AM) during Earth-independent missions on Mars,” Jiang said. “In the next two decades, NASA will push three fronts in realizing the ‘Journey to Mars’ mission: Earth-reliant exploration aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and in low Earth orbit; proving-ground exploration with planned missions near the moon and on a redirected asteroid; and Earth-independent exploration with missions planned for low Mars orbit to explore the entry, descent, landing and in situ resource utilization on Mars.”

Currently, a major area of focus on the ISS is to develop integrated AM facilities to rapidly manufacture items such as consumables and equipment replacement parts using materials such as metals, plastics, composites and ceramics.

“AM plays a key role in the NASA In-Space Manufacturing Vision for Extraterrestrial Environments, especially for 3D printing in zero gravity and for in-space additive repair,” Jiang said. “Powder metal sintering and the relevant atomic-level mechanisms associated with this process govern the AM of various types of metals and alloys.”

However, many fundamental aspects concerning the sintering phenomena (as well as associated melting and solidification behaviors) of various metal powders, especially at the atomic level, nanoscale and microscale, still remain largely unknown.

“In this project, we are aiming to develop an integrated modeling-computation-optimization framework for gaining fundamental insights into the atomic-level sintering behavior of various types of metals and alloys, with the ultimate purpose of predicting and optimizing the final additively manufactured parts and in part supporting the NASA In-Space Manufacturing and Repair Platform,” he said.

Using the research expertise of fellow junior faculty members within the School of Engineering, as well as the research groups at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the program aims to build the necessary research infrastructure for NASA-related modeling and computational research in a top-notch national field, i.e., additive manufacturing for metal printing and additive repair.

“The research will provide theoretical and technical support to both ground & ISS demos of the additive manufacturing of metals and alloys,” Jiang said. “In addition, fundamental computational studies to understand the sintering mechanisms of metal/alloy powders under extreme extraterrestrial environments will fill one of the knowledge gaps in the current state of the art of the in-space AM, as contained in the NASA In-space Manufacturing Exploration Technology Development Roadmap.”

Other UM faculty members collaborating with Jiang are Hunain Alkhateb, associate professor of civil engineering; and Alex Lopez and Sasan Nouranian, both assistant professors of chemical engineering. The four have been working successfully together for more than two years.

“As we realized the importance and stipulation for the outreach and the research-activities integration, we have established an Additive Manufacturing for Research and Education Cluster, or AMREC, with one of the major goals being to foster research and educational collaboration between four faculty members within the said departments,” Jiang said. “So far, we as an interdisciplinary team have obtained three seed grants (one from NASA Mississippi Space Grant and two from Mississippi NASA EPSCoR) related to additive manufacturing.”

A membrane scientist by training, Lopez’s work is focused on the treatment of wastewaters through electrodialysis and electrodeionization using material modification of ion exchange membranes.

“The majority of my work is centered around ionic liquid-based composites materials,” he said. “The AMREC, an interdepartmental collaboration aimed at the pursuit of novel materials with application in additive manufacturing, seeks to develop new insights into the possibilities of additive manufacturing and grow the field in a transdisciplinary way.”

The team also has involved some of its students in the research. Students include Jungmin Jeon of Korea, a master’s degree candidate in mechanical engineering; Katelyn Franklin of Ocean Springs, Abigail Hughes of Elgin, Illinois, and Makena Tisor of Madison, junior mechanical engineering majors; and Ronald Smith, a junior civil engineering major from Meridian.

“Jungmin is performing the modeling of nanopowders and nanoparticles, as well as the molecular dynamics (or MD) simulations of (the) laser sintering process,” Jiang said. “She is also assisting me in training other undergraduates to learn how to use MD package and submit parallel computational jobs on supercomputers at the Mississippi Center for Supercomputing Research.”

Franklin runs bimetallic nanoparticles simulations to mimic the heating and cooling process of nanoparticles considering different heating rates, as well as performing data analysis for the simulation data. Smith is running simulations on Ti/Al core-shell particles to understand the melting behavior during the formation process of nanorods, as well as performing data analysis for the simulation data. He also helps Jeon do data analysis of single-crystal titanium nanoparticle simulations.

Hughes is learning how to use an open-source code (LAMMPS) to realize parallel MD simulations and is expected to complete some large-scale parallel MD simulations of alloy particles soon. New to learning numerical techniques in molecular dynamics, Tisor is also performing a comparative study on how the mixture of simulated Martian (as well as lunar) regolith and resin will 3D print compared to the standard photopolymer resin under Lopez’s supervision.

For more about the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Mississippi, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/mechanical/. For more about NASA’s “Journey to Mars” program, go to https://www.nasa.gov/content/nasas-journey-to-mars. The NASA Mississippi Space Grant program, http://msspacegrant.org/, and Mississippi NASA EPSCoR program, http://msnasaepscor.org/, are funded by training grants from the NASA Office of STEM Engagement.

 

 

 

Alireza Asiaee Joins Chemical Engineering Department

Newest instructor brings professional experience, research expertise to UM students

Alireza Asiaee has joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

As an undergraduate chemical engineering major at Shiraz University in Iran, Alireza Asiaee dreamed of one day earning his terminal degree and joining the faculty of a prestigious university. Since then, both dreams have come true.

Asiaee is the newest instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Mississippi. He was hired Aug. 1, after receiving both his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and his Master of Science degree in chemical engineering from Shiraz University.

“I always had a passion for teaching and transferring chemical engineering knowledge to (the) next generation,” said Asiaee, who previously worked as a process engineer at ideaCHEM Inc. in Rapid City, South Dakota, and as a lecturer at Rajaee Higher Education Institute in Shiraz, Iran. “During my graduate studies, I volunteered to be a teaching assistant for courses in computer programming, thermodynamics and advanced chemical engineering mathematics.”

Asiaee is teaching Programming for Chemical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Lab this fall. Next semester, he will be teaching Programming, Chemical Engineering Lab II and web-based Thermodynamics.

“In addition to teaching the assigned courses, my short-term goals are developing new elective courses in the department, updating the current chemical engineering laboratory, providing support and help to update the existing curriculum, as well as helping and advising students with their research,” Asiaee said.

“My long-term goals include developing new courses and labs related to my research background in computational chemistry and bioprocesses and collaborating with other faculty members to establish research centers in computational and/or supercritical fluid areas.”

In addition to joining the UM chemical engineering department, Asiaee said his most satisfying achievement has been the outcomes of his Ph.D. research, which have established some new methods and procedures in studying and computational modeling of solid-fluid interfaces and heterogeneous catalysis.

“One of my articles was published as an ‘Editor’s Choice Paper,’ where we addressed some of the challenges and discussions between the theoretical results and experimental observations in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process,” he said. “Due to the outstanding methods we developed in the mentioned paper, the company who owns the applied software (Accelrys) has reached out to my previous research group requesting our calculations and procedure in order to update their software packages and develop new procedures for estimation of first-degree reaction rates and parameters.”

Asiaee provides the enthusiasm and energy of a newly graduated Ph.D. to the department, said John O’Haver, chair and professor.

“He is providing the attention and creativity needed for our laboratory classes, as well as providing our freshmen with the fundamentals of using and programming in Excel,” O’Haver said. “He brings research skills that will enable him to collaborate at times with faculty. We are excited to have him in the department.”

Asiaee has a fiancée, who is working in Salt Lake City as an energy engineer. His family includes his parents and sisters.

“My extracurricular activities are mainly sports,” he said. “I am a member of Ole Miss Badminton Club. My other favorite sports are mountain biking, racquetball and playing pool.”

 

 

Engineering Research Group Developing Coatings for Sturdier Packaging

10 undergraduate chemical engineering majors part of group also investigating antibacterial coatings, oil-spreading behavior over soils

Chemical engineering majors Anas Al-Abri (left), Brandon Knight and Shaylin Williams conduct lab experiments in Brenda Prager’s Coatings, Surfaces and Interfaces Research Group. Submitted photo

Three years ago, Brenda Prager received a parcel of medications from her Australian pharmacist. As it was winter in Australia, the parcel was badly damaged because of wet weather, and the box containing the medications fell apart upon opening.

“It struck me at the time that a cheap but strong, hydrophobic-coated surface over this paper-based package would have gone a long way in protecting my medications,” said Prager, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Mississippi.

About the same time, a friend sent her some much-wanted “Aussie chocolate.” The Mississippi heat, however, melted the tasty treats.

“Thermal barrier coatings, in this case, would have enabled my beloved Cadbury’s to have arrived safely during transportation,” she said.

Fed up with ineffective package wrappings, Prager created the Coatings, Surfaces and Interfaces Group (CSIG), a research team dealing primarily with the development of intelligent and functional coatings onto paper substrates for packaging applications and investigating their surface behavior, functionality, interactions with the paper substrate and mechanical strength properties.

“Three types of coatings are currently being investigated: hydrophobic, or water repellent, coating; thermal barrier coatings; and antibacterial coatings,” Prager said. “Using the same fundamental science of surfaces and interfaces, I’ve also expanded my research into a fourth project area, investigating oil-spreading behavior over soils, a phenomenon occurring during an oil spill. Understanding this fundamental behavior may lead to modified incident responses following an oil spill.”

The CSIG group includes three graduate researchers (one of whom is a former undergraduate research student of Prager’s): Kola Adenekan of Nigeria, who is working toward his Ph.D. in engineering science; Anas Khalaf Al-Abri of Oman, who has begun his master’s degree in engineering science; and Mustafees Khan of India, who recently completed his master’s in engineering science.

The graduate students help supervise 10 undergraduate students, all chemical engineering majors. They are Claire Cozadd of O’Fallon, Illinois; Osas Imafidon of Lagos, Nigeria; Jared Foster of Horn Lake; Shaylin Williams of Natchez (a McNair Scholar); Aransa Gonzalez of Caracas, Venezuela; Brandon Knight of Collinsville; Ebrima Komma of the Gambia in West Africa; Adam Luckett of Jackson; Jordan Ryan of Gulfport; and Mitch Sypniewski of Vero Beach, Florida.

“Many of my students begin in my research group as volunteers to get a taste of research,” Prager said. “While not all stay in the group, those who do are typically drawn into the excitement that research brings and genuinely enjoy the challenges and higher-order thinking required to successfully conduct the research.”

Komma entered the research group after having taken Prager’s mass and energy balance course last summer.

“I wanted to put into practice the theories that I learned, so I talked to Dr. Prager about research, and she told me about the CSIG research group,” Komma said. “The work they do there interested me, so I gladly joined when she offered me a position.”

The most rewarding part for Komma has been the hands-on experience.

“Making a hydrophobic coating on a filter paper sounds fancy, and being able to be a part of that will help me grow my knowledge in chemical engineering,” he said. “I haven’t particularly gone deep into what (I) am supposed to do, but I do have the gist of it.”

Ryan said being able to work with such an incredible team is what he finds most rewarding.

“Though I’ve been on this research team for a short time, Dr. Prager’s involvement and leadership is such a critical part of our work,” he said. “Also, knowing that our research might solve real-world problems is very gratifying.”

Other students are introduced to research by teaming up with Prager to complete their honors project or by taking credit hours in ChE 330, a class specifically designed for students to conduct research in chemical engineering.

While most of these projects were initially funded by Prager’s startup money, the hard work by her team has enabled two successful research grants to be received: a NASA seed grant (Award NNX 15AH78H) investigating thermal barrier coatings (October 2017 to September 2018) and a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative seed grant (Award No. 2018-67022-27972) investigating thermal barrier and hydrophobic coatings for food packaging applications (June 2018 to May 2020).

“These grants have allowed some of the undergraduate researchers to undertake paid research work and employ a new master’s student on the thermal barrier project,” Prager said. “Brandon was also able to attend the 2018 American Coatings Conference in Indianapolis, finding it an enriching experience.”

Prager is searching for another master’s student to lead the soil remediation work using departmental funds awarded to her for this project. She is also preparing a small grant for the antibacterial coatings project.

“I actively recruit students into my research group, encouraging women and other minorities to consider these opportunities,” Prager said. “There is a dual benefit: The students learn the nuts and bolts of how to do research and cultivate higher-order thinking skills in areas related to their class work. Their hard work then enables research grants to be written and publication of results in journal articles.”

Prager said necessity usually dictates the focus of her research projects.

“I’ve spent most of my working life in industry and academia dealing with all sorts of coatings – photographic coatings, paperboard coatings and biomedical coatings on point-of-care sensors, investigating in-depth their respective functionalities, surface and interfacial properties,” she said.

“It was my damaged medications and melted chocolates which inspired me to create this particular research group. The end must justify the means.”

 

 

 

School of Engineering Welcomes New Dean David A. Puleo

Former Kentucky associate dean brings years of leadership experience, vision to position

David Puleo

OXFORD, Miss. – David A. Puleo, an administrator nationally respected for his activities in both academics and research, has been named the new dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

“Thanks to its leaders over the past 120 years, the (UM) school has a strong foundation, educating generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists,” said Puleo, who assumes his duties at UM on Aug. 27. “The School of Engineering will play a key role in the university’s inspiring Flagship Forward strategic plan, and I believe my experiences at a large, public flagship university in the Southeast enable me to lead the school forward to ‘ever-increasing excellence.’”

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, he was the associate dean for research and graduate studies at the University of Kentucky. Puleo, who was a professor in the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering at UK, also founded Regenera Materials LLC, in Lexington, Kentucky.

As graduate studies director, Puleo supervised academic policy development and implementation, new course and program development, graduate student recruitment in partnership with UK’s Graduate Studies Team, selection and awarding of College of Engineering graduate student fellowships, and graduate program assessment.

“Our School of Engineering remains an integral component of academic excellence and scholarship at the University of Mississippi,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “David Puleo’s direction will enhance our already strong and competitive position among institutions of higher learning around the country and beyond its borders.”

Puleo said he plans to immerse himself in the culture of Ole Miss and the engineering school, which will set the stage for drafting a strategic plan for the school using a “collaborative visioning” approach that involves stakeholders from all constituencies.

“We will create a roadmap, with objectives, strategies and metrics for maintaining and growing strong, hands-on undergraduate programs with high-impact components; growing and selectively adding graduate programs; expanding our research portfolio, addressing 21st-century challenges best served by interdisciplinary, team-based approaches; ensuring a diverse and inclusive environment; and acquiring resources needed to achieve these objectives,” he said.

This roadmap should lead to the longer-term goal of the UM School of Engineering being recognized regionally, and then nationally, for exceptional education, cutting-edge research and outstanding service to the state and the engineering profession.

“A key strength of the school is the broad-based and ‘high touch’ approach to undergraduate education,” Puleo said. “We must maintain that quality of educating the next generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists while also expanding our graduate programs and the highly related research enterprise. The close proximity of multiple other schools, as well as the not-too-distant UM Medical Center, provide outstanding transdisciplinary educational and research opportunities.”

The new dean’s track record includes being a fellow in the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. A member of the advisory board for Viking Scientific Inc. and Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, Puleo received UK’s Excellence in Teaching in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2013.

Yet these and other awards pale is comparison to the fulfillment Puleo said he derives from seeing others who worked with him become successful.

“This is the satisfaction of seeing ‘my’ students and faculty succeed,” he said. “Being able to facilitate these types of success led me to continue down an administrative path in my career.”

Previous positions Puleo held during his 27-year employment at the University of Kentucky include assistant professor of biomedical engineering, associate professor of biomedical engineering, adjunct associate professor in the College of Dentistry and professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, both in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He also served as director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering before becoming chair after conversion to a department.

A prolific author, Puleo has written numerous refereed journal articles, papers and been published in several other publications. He has also been an invited presenter at numerous webinars, conference workshops and annual meetings.

As a researcher, the new dean has served as principal investigator and investigator of both internally and externally funded grants totaling millions. Heavily involved in service at all levels, he has chaired or served on national and state organizations and University of Kentucky committees.

Puleo and his wife, Sue, have two adult children, Nick and Angie.

While confident in his ability to continue building upon the UM engineering school’s legacy, he said he is still humbled by the challenge.

“The previous heads of the School of Engineering set a high standard and accomplished great things,” he said. “The call is also quite exciting, causing me to ponder the great opportunities to work with the students, staff, faculty and administrators to elevate the School of Engineering.”

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

Jacob Najjar Is Just Getting Started

Civil engineering chair and professor notes achievements, sets sights on new goals

Yacoub ‘Jacob’ Najjar has been chair and professor of civil engineering at UM since July 2012. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Six years ago, Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar was one of two new department chairs in the University of Mississippi School of Engineering. With vision and dedication, the chair and professor of civil engineering accepted the challenge to build upon the solid foundation established by his predecessors and reach even higher levels of achievement.

Najjar reflected on the department’s growth over the past few years.

“Our graduate program has been nationally ranked for most of the period,” he said. “We have been ranked in the top 70s among similar programs within public universities. Our faculty has been active in research, teaching and service at local, national and international levels.”

As examples, Najjar noted his civil engineering colleagues’ achievements: Cristiane Surbeck serves as president of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Waheed Uddin has been recognized multiple times at international, national and state levels; Ahmed Al-Ostaz has been named director of the newly established Center for Graphene Research and Innovation and as the leader of the UM constellation on disaster resilience.

Also, Elizabeth Ervin and Hakan Yasarer have been picked to attend selective teaching workshops; Hunain Alkhateb is nationally known for her work on additive manufacturing and 3-D printing; and Christopher Mullen is an active member of the ASCE Engineering Mechanics Institute Objective Resilience Committee.

“Even though we have achieved a good amount, I believe the department will realize more recognitions in the future,” Najjar said.

One of Najjar’s goals was to create and maintain a happy civil engineering family by encouraging a collegial work environment. He said he believes that, too, is being achieved.

“I see good interactions among CE faculty and staff,” he said. “To reinforce this even further, a few years ago I started the pre-faculty meeting social time. I dedicate at least 30 minutes before our faculty meetings for social interactions. I am a firm believer that for the family members to nicely work together, they have to first like each other. I think we are on the right track.”

Finally, Najjar wanted to align the departmental strategic goals with those of the School of Engineering and the university to efficiently serve the community, state and nation. The work of the CE faculty on this front has been “outstanding,” he said.

“Ms. (Grace) Rushing and Dr. Alkhateb (current and former faculty advisers, respectively, of UM’s ASCE student chapter) have been doing a wonderful job on outreach activities, such as the annual catapult competition, Science Olympiad water tower and UM STEM/engineering summer camps for students from various Mississippi schools,” Najjar said. “Dr. Ervin has organized various activities, via the Society of Women Engineers, by engaging many girls from Mississippi high schools. Most of the CE faculty are effectively engaged in technical and service activities through state and the national level committees.”

Najjar said that securing ABET accreditation in 2016 for the maximum allowance of six years and passing the evaluation with a “clean sheet” has been the most rewarding experience for all in the CE department.

“It was a collective effort of everyone in the department,” he said. “Furthermore, the successful efforts of the department’s administration, faculty and staff were recognized with the 2015 Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education Award from the UM Graduate School. In addition, a number of CE faculty and staff received the School of Engineering research and service awards.”

Najjar received the 2017 CE Department Award for Excellence in Teaching from the ASCE student chapter, which he said was especially rewarding because his teaching contributions have been reduced since he became department chair.

A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Najjar served as interim chair and professor of civil engineering at Kansas State University prior to joining UM. His teaching awards and honors include the 2006 Midwest Section Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Society for Engineering Education and the 2012 Kansas State Commerce Bank Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Najjar’s research focuses on the application of artificial neural networks and computational mechanics to advance the civil infrastructure. His research on the interaction of soil and civil structures, transportation, geomechanics, geosynthetics and geoenvironmental systems has yielded more than 90 peer-refereed articles.

Najjar and his wife, Oana, have three sons: Danny, 25, Adam, 12, and Noah, 10.

 

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.

 

 

Undergraduate Students Conduct Summer Data Science Research

Students use data science to combat sexual harassment and make complex data easier to consume

Undergraduate students involved in the Mississippi Experimental Research Laboratory have been using the summer to hone their research skills. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Thanks to an internal grant to the University of Mississippi’s Department of Computer and Information Science, five computer science majors are conducting paid, faculty-mentored projects as part of the new Ole Miss Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

Each student is spending 10 weeks conducting a data science-themed research project. By the end of the summer, all of the students should be able to describe the fundamental concepts and techniques of data science, analyze real-world problems and model them for application of data science techniques, and document and effectively communicate methodology, results and observations of the project.

Naeemul Hassan, UM assistant professor of computer and information science, wrote the grant proposal that led to the funding, and is serving as the mentor for one of the student projects. Hassan and Amrit Poudel, a junior from Nepal, are developing tools to identify online cries for help from those who may have experienced sexual harassment or mistreatment.

The duo has collected more than a million sexual harassment-related tweets from Twitter. Using natural language processing techniques, they have identified 15,000 of the tweets as sexual harassment outcries.

“The problem is the current design of the social network systems does not have any mechanism to bring these harassment reports to the attention of authorities or support service providers,” Hassan said. “We are working on developing tools to make social media a more supportive place for victims to talk about what they have experienced.”

Four other students are conducting separate mentored research projects under the summer data science program. Under the mentorship of professor Conrad Cunningham, Hao Zhou, a junior from China, is developing a tool that can take a common input format and create documents in multiple output formats that are accessible to a wide range of readers – including those with disabilities.

Under the guidance of professor and chair Dawn Wilkins and professor Yixin Chen, seniors Garrett McClure of Madison, Mississippi, and Abigail Garrett, of Birmingham, Alabama, are evaluating and developing tools to reduce the size of large unwieldy datasets to just the most essential features needed for the task at hand. And senior Khoa Anh Tran of Vietnam is doing research toward the development of virtual reality visualization tools for three-dimensional data; this project is being mentored by assistant professor Adam Jones.

Naeemul Hassan, assistant professor of computer and information science, is directing student Amrit Poudel as part of an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant he received for his Data Exploration and Research Laboratory. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The mentors have a diverse set of data science expertise including machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, software architecture, data mining and virtual reality,” Hassan said.

“As artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality are being incorporated in an increasing number of knowledge domains and practical applications, we can only imagine the demand of data science increasing in the foreseeable future.”

Indeed, for the third year in a row, data scientist has been named the best job in America, based on earning potential, job satisfaction and the number of job openings. according to Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America for 2018 list.

The funding for this summer’s program was in the form of a competitive internal seed grant, with initial monies coming from the Provost’s Office and matching funds provided by the School of Engineering and the CIS department.

“We believe that the sooner we can expose students to the research and applications in their chosen fields, the more likely they are to continue research in graduate school,” said Greg Easson, UM professor of geology and geological engineering and associate dean for research and graduate programs for the School of Engineering.

“The Department of Computer and Information Science was early into undergraduate research, having already developed the C-REX (Computer science Research Experience) program last year. With this support from the Provost’s Office, they have been able to do even more with students.”

To extend the data science program for future summers and students, Hassan and his collaborators in the department have their eyes on several external funding opportunities, including the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Meanwhile, the next steps will be guiding this summer’s students in writing and disseminating their discoveries and prototypes through poster presentations, conference presentations or peer-reviewed journal articles. Look for more on these students and their project outcomes in future editions of this newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.”