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.”

UM Professor’s Research Highlighted in Ship Technology Publication

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

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

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

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

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

 

UM Professor Leads Dinosaur Track Preservation Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UM Researchers Working on Acoustic Detection for Undersea Oil Leaks

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

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

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

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

 

 

Taiho Yeom Joins Mechanical Engineering Faculty

Assistant professor specializes in thermal-fluid sciences

Assistant professor Taiho Yeom brings his professional experience to the mechanical engineering department. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Taiho Yeom, the newest faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said the University of Mississippi is the right fit for him.

“Like most of others applying for jobs, I found the position from job searching online websites and immediately realized that I would nicely fit into the position based on my career and research backgrounds,” said Yeom, who began his employment this past fall. “The position at Ole Miss came out looking for exactly what I had been looking for. Then I applied, and, thankfully, Dr. (Arunachalam) Rajendran (chair and professor of mechanical engineering) contacted and offered me the position.”

UM’s academic reputation, long history and tradition as the flagship university of Mississippi all played a part in Yeom’s decision to accept the offer.

“I thought that this is the great place where I can start my academic career,” he said.

Rajendran said Yeom is a welcome addition to the department.

“Our students will benefit through Dr. Yeom’s teaching of a very important subject such as thermal management as applied to electronic devices and other applications,” he said. “A mechanical engineer with some thermal management background and training will be able to work in a wide variety of industries; I am indeed excited about this opportunity.”

Originally from Gwangju, South Korea, Yeom said Oxford’s climate is similar to that of his homeland. Having earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Ajou University in South Korea, he migrated to the United States to seek master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Yeom received the former from Oklahoma State University and the latter from the University of Minnesota. Both degrees are also in mechanical engineering.

“After my Ph.D., I joined Seagate Technology, one of the largest data storage companies, in Minnesota as a senior mechanical engineer,” Yeom said. “I worked on developing (a) next-generation recording head assembly that consists of elaborate micro-scale actuators and sensors focusing on improving structural and dynamic characteristics of the system.”

While Yeom enjoyed his experience at Seagate, he said he missed the research in thermal and fluid sciences he’d conducted in graduate school.

“I always wanted to go back to my original specialty area because I did not want to waste my skills and knowledge that I achieved during almost the entirety of my graduate school years,” Yeom said. “Since I had been struggling a lot in the very cold Minnesota weather for many years, the weather was another reason I wanted a change.”

When his wife, Sohye Lee, became an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Memphis right after he received the offer from “Dr. Raj,” Yeom knew he had to accept the position.

“That was the final stamp on our decision process,” he said. “Now, I am commuting from Collierville (Tennessee) for about an hour, twice per day, enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery.”

As a tenure-track assistant professor, Yeom is teaching Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer this spring semester. He expects to teach other courses in thermal-fluid areas such as Compressible Flow and Thermodynamics.

“My research interest lies in the area of thermal-fluid sciences with a special emphasis on developing novel methods of thermal management and energy conversion systems,” Yeom said.

“The research in thermal management will try to answer the question of how to effectively remove heat from various scales engineering systems employing a variety of cooling techniques, such as piezoelectric active air cooling, microstructured surfaces and multiphase interchip cooling. The research in energy conversion will focus on improving conversion efficiency of pyroelectric devices by employing nano-engineered novel structures.”

Yeom’s short-term career goals at Ole Miss are to initiate teaching activities, look for external funding opportunities and set up his research lab.

“I will try to publish (in) high-impact journals and expose my research to the relevant academic communities,” he said. “Seeking good collaborations will be essential in developing early stages of my research programs. I will put efforts in developing teaching materials and formats to provide improved quality of education to students.”

His long-term goal is to become a recognized researcher and educator in his field so he can contribute to elevating the reputation of the mechanical engineering department, School of Engineering and Ole Miss.

Of Yeom’s professional achievements, he said becoming a faculty member at Ole Miss is the most gratifying.

“It became a turning point in my life, which otherwise would have gone for a completely different direction,” Yeom said. “It will give me a variety of opportunities to achieve what I have been trying to do. I hope to get more great achievements, honors and awards as I walk through my career.”

Yeom and Lee have two sons, Jihoon and Jio. The family enjoys traveling, reading books, swimming, fishing and exercising.

 

Matt O’Keefe to Lead Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Expanded undergraduate program, new graduate program among goals for new executive director

Matthew J. O’Keefe has been hired as the executive director of UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Submitted photo by Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T.

OXFORD, Miss. — With decades of professional and research experience, Matthew J. O’Keefe was named the new executive director of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi.

A Rolla, Missouri, native, O’Keefe will start at CME Jan. 1. In addition to administrative oversight of personnel, facilities and operations, he is responsible for leading the academic unit of the CME (including curriculum development), providing leadership and strategic guidance for the center, and developing strong relationships within the university and with industry to enhance opportunities for students and faculty.

“I was very honored and grateful for the opportunity to be associated with such an outstanding program and university,” said O’Keefe, who earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees (both in metallurgical engineering) from Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Illinois, respectively.

William Nicholas, UM assistant director of Insight Park, who chaired the search committee, shared how important it was to find someone of O’Keefe’s caliber to lead the CME, which is a recognized asset for the future growth of advanced manufacturing in Mississippi.

“Matt O’Keefe brings exceptional experience and skills to ensure that the CME continues developing synergies with the business community resulting in long-term economic impact,” Nicholas said.

O’Keefe began his career as a manufacturing engineer at AT&T Microelectronics. He transferred to AT&T Bell Laboratories, where he conducted applied research and development for manufacturing locations. O’Keefe earned his Ph.D. while working for the Air Force Research Laboratory and continued in-house research and program management before taking a faculty position at his undergraduate alma mater.

Before joining UM, O’Keefe was an academic department chair, a research center director and assistant vice chancellor supervising the campus distance education program at Missouri S&T.

“In many ways, each of these positions have prepared me to lead CME,” O’Keefe said. “I applied for the position for many reasons, but the main one was that it is a unique program that provides an opportunity for students in accountancy, business and engineering to learn and work together in an area of national need: manufacturing. The curriculum that CME students experience provides a breadth to their major degree program that prepares them to have successful careers and enhance the manufacturing industry.”

O’Keefe’s goals include augmenting the existing program by increasing undergraduate student participation and developing a graduate program focused on helping to develop the local, state and national manufacturing professional workforce.

“People are the most important asset of any organization, and for educational institutions it is the success of students that is paramount,” he said. “To achieve student success and grow the undergraduate program, as well as initiate a graduate program, will take additional staff and faculty along with keeping the facilities state of the art.”

UM administrators are pleased to welcome O’Keefe to the university.

“Dr. O’Keefe is an accomplished engineering faculty member and administrator who brings valuable perspectives to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We are fortunate to have him as the leader of this center, which has outstanding faculty and staff. We look forward to the CME reaching the next level of success under his leadership.”

“Over the years, the unique CME program has attracted and graduated many outstanding engineering students who are equipped with not only the traditional technical skills, but also the practical manufacturing experiences and business and management knowledge,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “It has been one of the most important resources that raised the quality of engineering education at the university. I am pleased that Dr. O’Keefe, a highly experienced educator and administrator, will take the helm of this important organization to further raise its level of success.”

CME was established in June 2008 to provide unique opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The opportunities developed are considered distinctive to the CME and are not available to undergraduate students at other universities in the United States. The CME is developing interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that provides students with the practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative skill sets needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.

Though he has received many professional honors and awards, O’Keefe said he is most pleased to have received those that were student nominated or selected.

“It is great to be recognized by your peers, professional societies and institution, but student recognition is the most enjoyable and rewarding,” he said.

O’Keefe and his wife, Laura, have two married sons: Patrick (Megan) of Kansas City, Missouri, and Sam (Shelby) of Rolla, Missouri, and two grandchildren: Kennedy and Will. O’Keefe’s hobbies include golf and following sports. He is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals’ fan.

 

Matthew Morrison Wins Excellence in Academic Advising Award

Assistant professor of electrical engineering recognized for support of students

Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, received the 2017 Excellence in Academic Advising Award during the fall faculty meeting in August. Submitted photo

Over the past three years, Matthew Morrison has advised, encouraged and lent a compassionate ear to hundreds of students at the University of Mississippi. Now they’re putting him up for awards – and he’s winning.

Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been honored with one of UM’s 2017 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising awards. The awards are presented each year to one staff academic adviser and one faculty academic adviser. Sovent Taylor, instructor and assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office, is the staff recipient.

Advisers are nominated by students, peers and administrators. The award is coordinated through the Academic Advising Network steering committee. The network comprises faculty and staff who have an active role in academic advising on campus.

“I was surprised,” said Morrison, an award-winning teacher and researcher who oversees the department’s emphasis in computer engineering science. “I wasn’t even aware I was nominated. I’m grateful that my efforts were acknowledged by the students and my fellow faculty members.”

Winners of the award were recognized at the fall faculty meeting. They received a stipend from the Office of the Provost, had their names placed on a plaque in Martindale Student Services Center and will represent the University of Mississippi for the National Academic Advising Association regional and national awards. The Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience assists them with the completion of their NACADA nomination packet in late fall.

Morrison said that building on students’ capability and potential goes beyond improving their proficiency in the classroom.

“I work with my students on professionalism, communication skills and developing life plans,” he said.

A University of South Florida alumnus, Morrison started with the Department of Electrical Engineering in 2014. He won the Junior Faculty Research Award from the School of Engineering this year. Advising became a natural career path as he worked with students.

“I made serving as an adviser a priority when I started here at Ole Miss,” he said. “Everything I do in terms of teaching and research – whether it’s how I give homework and exams to how I instruct the Senior Design course – also has a component of developing the student(s) into outstanding engineers beyond just the classroom and their grades.”

In the engineering school, Morrison is known for guiding aspiring engineers through degree paths and toward obtaining a professional engineer license. He’s also known for giving students either the compassion or motivational push needed when the pressures of college become overwhelming.

“From helping you with job applications and giving advice on how to navigate through life’s problems from his experience, he is the definition of an all-complete adviser for any student,” said Demba Komma, the student who nominated Morrison for the award. “He cares about his students and is a very relatable person. He has earned the trust of his students by being readily available to offer help when needed.”

This award marks the second time Morrison has been honored for his work with students. At USF, he won the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant. There he implemented many of the teaching methods developed at the Naval Nuclear Power School, which he found engendered greater creativity in students.

Morrison won the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award in U.S. Navy Recruit Training. The award is presented to the graduating recruit who best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military appearance and behavior, self-discipline and teamwork.

“I am proud of this award because I realized during boot camp that I have the potential to lead, give to my community and achieve excellence through hard work and dedication,” Morrison said. “Receiving this award marked a significant milestone in my life, and every achievement since has been the result of the same enthusiasm and discipline that I developed in boot camp.”

 

UM Engineering Faculty Collaborates on Deep-Space Communications

Team includes researchers at Jackson State University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Caption for photo 1: UM researchers, from left, Kenneth S. Andrews, Ramananarayanan Viswanathan, John N. Daigle, Jon Hamkins, Dariush Divsalar and Lei Cao meet in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in July 2015. Submitted photo

Three University of Mississippi engineering professors are collaborating with colleagues at Jackson State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to improve communications with deep-space probes and, perhaps even, manned missions.

Lei Cao, Ramanarayanan Viswanathan and John Daigle, all professors of electrical engineering, are working with researchers at Jackson State University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a project funded by NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR.

The project, “A New Paradigm for Efficient Space Communications: Rateless Coding with Unequal Error Control and Data Fusion,” has achieved good results in theory and simulations. The team has proposed a new protocol for deep-space communications that may both improve the reliability and increase the reception rate of images or data received from spacecraft.

The results may provide a basis for improving data transfer rates over wireless systems, such as cellular phones. The project also may help enable the co-existence of different wireless communication systems for sharing the same frequency spectrum.

“Our simulation results demonstrated that the new protocol could improve the telemetry channel throughput by 46 percent over a fixed-rate communication method,” Cao said. “It could also achieve 92 percent of the theoretic upper-bound, while eliminating the need of retransmission.”

The primary challenge in deep-space communications is that as spacecraft travel farther from Earth, the vast distances cause substantial round-trip delays in the signal and high bit error rates in wireless communications.

“For instance, the round-trip time for (a) radio signal is from 8 to 40 minutes between the Earth and Mars,” Cao said. “This feature makes the protocols based on the receiver acknowledgment and transmitter retransmission of lost data packets that are currently deployed in our daily-used, land-based wireless communications networks no longer appropriate for deep-space communications.”

Also, the long distances cause large attenuation (loss in the signal’s strength along the path), various noise and distortion due to the Earth’s atmosphere and the sun’s corona.

“The water vapor, in particular, affects higher-frequency microwave signals, such as 32 gigahertz Ka-band,” said Kenneth Andrews, of the JPL. “If a spacecraft is on the far side of the sun, and the sun-Earth-probe angle is less than about 3 degrees, then the received signal that passes close enough to the sun will also be distorted by the tenuous plasma of the sun’s corona.

“Therefore, the signal-to-noise power ratio at a receiver is often extremely low, which easily raises the bit error rate to higher than 1 percent in many deep-space communication scenarios.”

Solving these difficult problems is critical because the need for higher data-rate communications for various exploration missions continues to grow, said Viswanathan, who also is chair of the UM Department of Electrical Engineering.

“Through this cooperative agreement, the research team at UM has made significant contributions to improve both the quantity and quality of information obtained through deep-space exploration,” he said.

Participants at the NSF I/UCRC Broadband Wireless Access & Application Center workshop, held at UM in 2015. Photo by Kevin Bain Ole Miss Communications

Data in communications are in the form of binary bit sequences. One bit sequence is often segmented into a number of packets, or basic data units. For example, a few thousand bits could be grouped into one packet. Bits in the packet can be coded together to increase their resilience to signal distortion.

To deal with the effects of long round-trip time, instead of transmitting the original data packets, the researchers encode the packets into a large number of new packets for transmission. At the receiver, the original packets are recovered by using sophisticated algorithms to decode a number of new packets.

“The success of recovery will not depend on which new packets are received but on the number of packets received, which is slightly more than the number of original packets,” Daigle said. “As a result, the new protocol eliminates the need of requesting the transmitter to resend any unsuccessfully delivered packets.”

Together with this new protocol, a number of advancements, including effective coding and decoding algorithms, dynamic selection of the code rate of error control codes and channel prediction algorithms, have been made so that substantial improvements in data transmission over space-to-earth channels can be achieved.

In addition, efficient methods of fusing data to improve the quality of information derived from the collected data have also been developed. New strategies have been proposed to determine what kind of information should be sent to the fusion center from different observers and what optimal fusion rule should be used to maximize the detection probability while minimizing the false-alarm probability.

“The theoretic advancements and practical implementation methods made through this project have been documented in more than 20 peer-referred publications and invited talks and conference presentations,” Viswanathan said.

Besides the technical achievement, a research team, which includes three professors and several graduate students in the Department of Electrical Engineering, has been formed to focus on areas of fountain codes, signal detection and wireless communications. This team, working with other faculty within School of Engineering, has been pursuing collaboration and research opportunities with other agencies and companies.

A stand-alone mobile communication network, built by UM undergraduate students using OpenBTS and USRP, was tested in the field last March 2017. Submitted photo

One prominent success is the establishment of the UM site of the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center in 2016. BWAC is a multi-university National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, led by the University of Arizona in partnership with UM, Virginia Tech, University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America.

With NSF support, the center works to advance wireless technologies and provide cost-effective and practical solutions for next-generation – 5G and beyond – wireless systems, millimeter-wave communications, wireless cybersecurity, shared-spectrum access systems, full-duplex transmissions, massive multiple input, multiple output techniques, and more.

“The mission of BWAC is to collaborate with industry research partners to create flexible, efficient and secure wireless networks that satisfy broadband communication needs in businesses, in the home and in the lives of individuals,” Daigle said.

“Through this UM site, the research team has been collaborating with companies including Intel, Qualcomm, Raytheon and C Spire in various projects in wireless communications, particularly in antenna design, 3-D printing and cognitive radio in 5G wireless systems.”

Some of the work directly links to the technologies and expertise developed through this NASA project.

“To contribute to the higher education in the state of Mississippi, the research team has also actively involved undergraduate U.S. citizen students into the project to gain them hands-on research experience,” Cao said. “Using Universal Software Radio Peripheral and GNU radio, the undergraduate students at UM have built up some interesting projects in wireless communications.”

For example, they have built a small network that can perform the same basic functions as a commercial Global System for Mobile network, including voice, Short Message Service, Multimedia Messaging Service and General Packet Radio Service.

“The advantage of this implementation is that a self-contained cellular network can be created with a single computer,” Viswanathan said. “This simple network can be extended with multiple nodes to ideally use for situations where mobile communications infrastructure is absent or compromised, such as in disaster-struck areas.”

The students presented their work at the 31st National Conference on Undergraduate Research and published a paper in the UM Undergraduate Research Journal.

This project is funded by NASA cooperative agreement No. NNX14AN38A. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

University Community Mourns Paul Tobin Maginnis

Retired professor, chair helped build Department of Computer and Information Science

P. Tobin Maginnis

OXFORD, Miss. – Paul Tobin Maginnis, a professor emeritus who served as interim chair and helped build the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Mississippi, died June 14 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi in Oxford. He was 70.

A private graveside service was held June 16 at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Former colleagues and students reflected upon their relationships with Maginnis.

“Tobin will be missed by all of us, including the thousands of students he taught during his 36 years as an Ole Miss faculty member,” said Conrad Cunningham, former chair and professor of computer and information science and longtime friend of Maginnis. “Tobin’s dedication to the students and to computer science education and research – and his pro-student attitude – helped attract me to the faculty.”

Harley Garrett Jr. of Oxford, a retired Air Force officer with a second career in industry and a third with Global Technical Systems, recalled meeting Maginnis through work between 2003 and 2004. Though Garrett was 65 at the time, he credited Maginnis with having taught him “a lot – about a lot.”

“I have been blessed with three careers and have known many people in my life,” he said. “Out of that population, there are a few whose personality, professionalism and enjoyment of helping others can match Tobin’s.

“We shared moments of discussion on a myriad of topics, even though our professional focus was on the application of computer science in the hands of skilled students.”

Garrett said Maginnis’ love of life, passion for understanding things he was interested in, and kindness and generosity toward others are what he remembers most.

“He was also a gifted teacher whose gift transcended all of his endeavors, not just computer science,” he said.

Yi Liu, another former student of Maginnis’ and associate professor of computer science at South Dakota State University, remembered him as “a nice person.”

“I took two classes from him and he was my mentor in teaching the computer organization class,” she said. “I learned from him and I respected him.

“The last time I saw him was at the ACMSE conference at Ole Miss back in 2010. He gave me a hug. I wish I had spent more time talking to him.”

Bill Taylor, vice president of information technology at FNB Oxford, credited Maginnis with jump-starting his professional career.

“During my first meeting with him, he encouraged me to ask Dr. Cook for a job in the CS department,” Taylor said. “He said, ‘We have never hired a freshman before, but I think you are going to be the first.’ He was right.

“Then, right before Christmas break, he told me that when I came back in January, he wanted to talk to me about an opportunity to help get the first Linux certification program going. My professional career started when Dr. Maginnis recommended me for a local IT position.”

Born in Baltimore to the late Paul Tobin “PT” Maginnis and Emily Maginnis Robishaw, Maginnis began working at the university in 1979. He created and taught an extensive array of undergraduate and graduate courses on operating systems, networks and computer architecture. His hard work, long hours and innovative ideas helped shape the identity of computer science education at Ole Miss.

“He taught, advised and supervised many graduate and undergraduate students,” Cunningham said. “The students recognized and appreciated the passion that he brought to his position.”

Maginnis believed in academic integrity and would go to great lengths to preserve it, said Pam Lawhead, professor emeritus of computer and information science.

“He was fair to a flaw but would not stand for or support any breach of academic integrity,” Lawhead said. “His ability to create assignments that absolutely taught the student the concept in question were unparalleled in our department.

“His respect for the individuality of the many and different employees and students created an interesting environment in which to work.”

Maginnis’ roles evolved over the years, said Jimmy Palmer, information technology coordinator at UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

“Early on, I thought of him as a mentor and teacher,” Palmer said. “A little later, I thought of him as an employer and leader. In more recent years, I thought of him as a colleague and friend.”

Palmer said Maginnis saw something in him that he did not see in himself.

“He trusted me and gave me responsibilities that made me grow as a person and an engineer,” Palmer said. “He asked me to work for him and gave me my first real job in my IT career. I will always be grateful for my relationship with Tobin.”

Maginnis took on the additional responsibility to maintain and support the department’s computer systems for many years. He and his students installed the department’s first network and connected it to the fledgling campus and national networks.

He advocated the use and development of open-source software, computer software that is freely available for anyone to use and modify without the proprietary restrictions imposed by companies. Maginnis used open-source operating systems such as MINIX, Free BSD and Linux in his teaching and research.

Sair Technologies, the company he founded in the 1990s, was at the forefront of open-source technology training and accreditation.

His interest in the “systems” aspect of computing continued until his retirement in 2015, but he adapted to the changing technologies and needs of Ole Miss students.

In the 1990s, Maginnis taught computer graphics and developed interactive “electronic brochures” using the personal computing technologies of that era. In recent years, he expanded his teaching to include web development, microcontroller programming and 3-D printing.

“The building of our 3-D printer lab in 2013 illustrates Tobin’s approach to being a faculty member,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to introduce 3-D printing into one of his courses. As chair at the time, I authorized department funds for that purpose.

“When the kit arrived, Tobin spent a couple of unpaid summer days assembling the kit. I still have the image of Tobin, with all the parts spread out across the conference room table, tools in hand, assembling the printer. I remember the pleasure he had at getting the first 3-D prints off the device. Students have made the resulting Digital Design and 3-D Printing course one of our more popular electives in recent years.”

A member of the Catholic Church in Menominee, Michigan, Maginnis was a sailing enthusiast and enjoyed riding motorcycles. An avid fan of all movies, he particularly loved action flicks and cartoons, and was a devotee of musical theater.

Besides Sair Technologies, he was the founder Gunsmanship Inc., owner of Tobix, an associate member at Wave Technologies and an associate staff member at Global Technology Systems. He also was a member of the Oxford Amateur Radio Club, National Rifle Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a certified home inspector.

Maginnis worked briefly at the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences before moving to the Department of Computer Science, where he was employed for 36 years.

Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by a daughter, Erin Elizabeth Dillon-Maginnis.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth Anneal Dillon of Oxford; daughters Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford and Meredith Dillon-Maginnis of Augusta, Georgia; a son, Jordan Dillon-Maginnis of Oxford; sisters Michael Leonard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Moira Dean of Milwaukee and Katie Winlinski of Green Bay, Wisconsin; and brothers Jack Maginnis of Washington, D.C., and Kevin Maginnis of Chicago.

Memorial designations in Maginnis’ memory can be made to the American Cancer Society, 1380 Livingston Lane, Jackson, MS 39213.

‘Dr. Vish’ Named Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year

Electrical engineering chair and professor admired by students and colleagues

Ramanarayanan “Dr. Vish” Visanathan (left), chair and professor of Electrical Engineering, received the 2017 Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year Award from Dean Alex Cheng. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Every year, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering and the UM Alumni Association select an “Outstanding Engineering Faculty” member, based on his or her teaching, research and service. The highest honor the engineering school presents to its faculty, the award includes a $2,000 cash prize.

And the award this year goes to Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, otherwise known as “Dr. Vish.”

Viswanathan joined Ole Miss in 2012 as chair and professor of electrical engineering. Since that time, he has accomplished much in teaching, research and service.

“It was a surprise, although the dean had mentioned earlier that he will include department chairs in the pool for considerations of this award,” Viswanathan said. “I had received a similar outstanding faculty award from my previous institution, which, however, was given to me after my many years of service. I have received this award from Ole Miss in a relatively short time period. This is special because whatever I could achieve would not have been possible without the strong support I have received from EE faculty.”

Since 2014, Viswanathan published two academic articles in prestigious research journals, including IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Transactions on Signal Processing. He also authored three book chapters, wrote five conference proceedings papers and has been the principal investigator or co-PI of five contracts and grants. Of these, the most important one is the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center, which is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

“He recognized and organized the strength of (the) department and gathered industry support to form this center that receives $325,000 over five years from NSF plus $160,000 per year from industry members,” said School of Engineering Dean Alex Cheng. The industry members include Intel, Raytheon and C Spire. “Dr. Vish’s service to the profession includes serving (on) the NSF reviewer panel, as technical program committee member for conferences and reviewer for several IEEE journals and conferences. He is an IEEE fellow, which is conferred by IEEE upon a person with an extraordinary record of accomplishments.”

Viswanathan suggested that the engineering school should start a biomedical engineering program. He led the initial organizational effort, which resulted in the B.S. in biomedical engineering degree program that starts this fall.

Considered an excellent professor, students commented about his performance on their teacher evaluations:

“Dr. Vish is very accommodating to students. He will make time to meet if you have questions, and he rewards your hard work.”

“His lectures were helpful and his office hours are even more helpful. He can answer your questions quickly and efficiently, and even on test day he will always be in his office available to answer questions, and even though he must be busy as head of the electrical engineering department he always makes time for us. You can tell he really cares about his students.”

Though Viswanathan said he hasn’t thought of a specific plan for his stipend, he will “use it for a good cause.”

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Viswanathan was professor of electrical and computer engineering at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He also served as interim dean of SIU’s College of Engineering.

A fellow in the IEEE, his research areas include signal detection, wireless sensor networks and wireless communication. Viswanathan received an Outstanding Teacher Award from the electrical and computer engineering department in 2007 and the College of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Award in 2008, both at SIU.

Viswanathan’s wife, Rama, is a registered cardiac sonographer who enjoys working part time. The couple’s older daughter, Priya, works for a bioengineering company in Chicago. Their younger daughter, Jaya, studied chemical engineering at the University of Illinois before completing her degree at Ole Miss. She now works for a medical devices company in Atlanta.