Engineering Students Enjoy Summer Internships

Prospective employers provide employment, training to four from UM

Professional development is vital to the preparation of future engineers. Students who graduate with some type of internship experience are more likely to gain employment upon graduation than those who do not, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Many students receive employment offers directly from their internship employers.

This past summer, several University of Mississippi engineering students completed internships, gaining skills and experience that will be beneficial as they complete their degrees and seek future employment.

Ben Maples at International Paper. Submitted photo

Benjamin Maples of Lucedale completed an internship with International Paper in Vicksburg. The junior mechanical engineering major learned about this

opportunity by attending the biannual Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology Career Fair, co-sponsored by the School of Engineering and the UM Career Center. As part of Maples’ internship, he worked on a variety of projects in the powerhouse area of the mill and worked closely with a reliability engineer on tracking shipments.

“This experience has been invaluable because I have learned to apply topics that I learn in class to real-world problems and situations,” he said. “I’m also getting exposed to topics that I will soon learn about in class like heat transfer.”

Maples also said that communication is important when working with a team on complex projects. While he considers himself a good communicator, he said the internship helped him develop more effective communication skills.

William Peaster at BASF. Submitted photo

Yazoo City native William Peaster also found that communication was important through his internship with BASF in Mobile, Alabama. The company produces chemical products for customers across the country. Peaster helped with creating new diagrams for all of the process lines in the plant.

He also had the chance to create a mass balance that helped identify some yield issues within the plant, and was exposed to the business side through working with the supply chain management team.

During his time at BASF, the senior chemical engineering student was able to see firsthand the inner workings of a chemical plant, and like Maples, see things that he could not glean from a textbook. It also helped him define his future role as an engineer.

“Part of being an engineer is being able to come up with an answer and a solution when things are gray,” he said. “My internship experience allowed me to see the constant communication between engineers, managers, accountants, operators and other team members.”

Jake Azbell at Dynetics. Submitted photo

Electrical engineering senior Jake Azbell spent his summer interning with Dynetics in Huntsville, Alabama. The Riddleton, Tennessee, native learned of the internship opportunity from Ole Miss graduates who were recruiting on campus. Since working in Huntsville, Azbell has worked on data simulation and real-time processing for a radar prototype and has implemented the simulation using GPU programming.

Like Peaster, he said his experience as an intern has helped him see what the professional world will look like after he graduates this upcoming year.

“Being an intern has given me the chance to see how a postgraduate career will look and how to better prepare for life after school,” Azbell said. “I have had the opportunity to explore different aspects of engineering at the company and develop needed skills for my future career.”

While he found it challenging to learn the software for his projects in such a short time, he said that his course work had provided some basic experience in the area. He would also consider working for Dynetics as a result of his positive experience working with the company.

Catherine Teh (left) at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Submitted photo

Like Maples, Catherine Teh secured her internship with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality after interviewing with representatives at the on-campus career fair. However, she initially received notice from MDEQ that she had not been selected for a spot. Nevertheless, she received a phone call in mid-May, informing her that the department was interested in offering her a position, and she gladly accepted.

Although the process did not begin how she wanted, Teh, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Brandon found the internship experience to be eye-opening. According to Teh, MDEQ interns spend five days in each of the seven divisions of the Pollution Control office and are given small projects in each division. This way, they are exposed to all areas of the organization. She was also able to shadow an MDEQ mentor and go out into the field as well as take part in some sample collection.

“Even though I learned a great deal of technical skills, I took from the experience that it’s OK to make mistakes and how important interpersonal skills are in the workplace,” she said. “It’s important to seek out challenges and opportunities to grow. I received that from my internship with MDEQ.”

Teh said one of her biggest challenges was rotating between all the different divisions and getting to know so many people. As a rising sophomore, she found it difficult since she didn’t have an opportunity to settle into a routine. She does hope, however, to secure future internship opportunities to continue to develop her skills.



Catherine Grace Norris: Muzungu from Mississippi

UM geology and geological engineering graduate joins Peace Corps, works in Zambia

Catherine Norris (center) embraces twin sisters Jane (left) and Joy Mulambila. ‘We are triplets, and they taught me how to scream when you see vermin as well as how to cook.’ Submitted photo.

It’s a long way from the Grove, but Zambia is going to be home now for Catherine Grace Norris (BSGE 16).

Norris took her “still warm” diploma around the world to find relevance and reward in her major. She is working with strangers who have become her closest friends overnight, literally. The night is a good time to have close friends when living in a mud hut, draped in mosquito netting, listening to the small and large sounds that waft through the walls and settle silently in the corners.

So, the truth is, Norris is no ordinary young woman.

With a good education and job prospects to contemplate, she jumped off the edge of the cliff and joined the Peace Corps, a decision born of spirit, spunk and gargantuan optimism. Norris embraced the certainty that there would be hardships and languages to learn, she opened her future to the world and gave up her apartment. Little did she know that the three-month training and the mountain of “Google-ese” were only the caption on a full-color, 3-D, action-packed movie of her future.

Norris calls herself stubborn, but committed may be a better word. At 23, she is both respectful and impulsive, and she touts being adaptable as well. She served for two years as the Girl Friday in the dean’s office in the School of Engineering and did some awesome work, all the while under appreciating the indoor plumbing and Wi-Fi. She has neither now, but she is effusive in her praise of the Peace Corps’ grassroots development model and “mandatory” orientation.

Norris references her upbringing in the Bible Belt and acknowledges the culture shock of Luapula Province in the district of Mwense bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has picked up some Bemba with a just sprinkle of Lunda. Norris has fought the good fight with malaria mosquitoes and rumored black mamba snakes (lethally venomous), and she still insists “this is the most amazing thing I have ever done.”

One of the early highlights of her Peace Corps assignment was discovering an elephant orphanage near her town. Although it is a tourist destination, it has a commendable mission to rehabilitate elephants orphaned by the poaching in Zambia. While the entrance fee of 50 kwacha (about $5) was beyond her Peace Corps salary … “it’s free on Mondays!”

Norris’ 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. At the end of the day, Norris cooks her dinner on her brazier, fends off mosquitoes, plays with her cat and dog, and watches the corners of the room for signs of life.

A true sign of contentment is that Catherine signs her blog “Your African Queen.” Not a bad job, and who wouldn’t want to be Katharine Hepburn?



Valuable Lessons from a Candy Bar

Assistant professor demonstrates practical applications of chemical engineering to freshmen

Madeleine Mixon (left) and Cole Bofrek prepare caramel for their chocolate bar. Photo by Brenda Prager

Chemical engineering students enrolled in Ch E 101: Introduction to Chemical Engineering were required midway through the semester to use their cooking expertise to prepare a Snickers bar. Why, you might ask?

After observing the strengths and pitfalls of carefully preparing caramel dispersed with roasted peanuts, and mixing nougat to the correct consistency with a scrumptious peanut butter flavor, the freshmen investigated in depth a chocolate bar manufacturing process.

Many were surprised to learn that everyday items often taken for granted were part of an intricate chemical process. They learned that food manufacturing requires careful planning of unit operations and their order within the overall process, as well as accurate control of many variables (particularly temperature) within each step.

Students worked in groups of four, learning valuable teamwork skills, which included the inevitable compromise and dealing with conflict and, of course, an overall enriching experience and greater depth of learning through collaboration.

Writing up a practical report was a first-time experience for many students. Not only were they required to describe the chocolate bar preparation, but they also had to consider likely equipment items, draw process flow sheets, and conduct basic chemical engineering calculations such as flow rate and average molecular weight of the nougat stream.

“This project was a very fun endeavor, as it allowed me and my group to indulge some delicious treats while also applying scientific methods and analytics to our process,” said Walker Abel, one of the students.

After working in both industry and academia as a chemical engineer, I first learned about Differentiated Teaching and Learning when I completed an M. Teach (secondary) from the University of Melbourne, and subsequently taught high school chemistry, physics and mathematics for five years. Coming back into academia and chemical engineering, I decided to implement these techniques into my freshman classes in order to present students with a more targeted education that best matched their learning needs. This method of teaching is common in many K-12 settings but underutilized at the university level.

Freshmen often come from varied backgrounds and different high school experiences, and it is important that their first year adapts to their needs and assists in progression of both learning and retention. Differentiation is characterized by a) understanding student need; b) presenting concepts in multiple ways; c) providing challenging learning experiences; d) promoting collaborative tasks; and e) progressing students into independent learners.

By successfully preparing students with these skills in their freshman year, they are more likely to thrive in later years and proceed to completion of their course.

Through the Snickers bar project, students learned new chemical engineering skills and reviewed most of the engineering calculations covered previously within the course as well. Throughout the project, students were required to make decisions and judgments about various sections of their written reports, providing real-life experiences of working in teams and becoming independent learners.

“As a team, we achieved our goal of making the bar, as well as applying the techniques that we used in the preparation of the candy bar in a large-scale setting,” Abel said.

The semesterlong course contained targeted instruction covering the five points described above. Formal feedback from students upon completion of the course showed important progress in the implementation of differentiated learning at a college level. For example, 83 percent of the class found active reading and problem-solving study skills sessions extremely or very useful; and 87 percent used the differentiated homework sheets to challenge themselves or choose questions matching their current ability level.

With respect to the chocolate bar project, 70 percent learned a lot about cooperation and compromise within a group setting; almost 60 percent were more confident with engineering calculations encountered earlier in the semester; and 87 percent learned – as a team – the key points in writing a technical report.

Research in this area is important to pursue. It is vital that students receive a targeted education to meet their needs and successfully graduate. STEM education is important for the nation, and although improvements have been made, a 2016 report showed that attracting high school students to STEM education in college remains a challenge. The students in STEM courses must be cultivated and encouraged from day one, so teaching and learning strategies that are targeted to students’ needs is an important step in attracting more students into these areas.

Brenda Prager is an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the UM School of Engineering.


UM Engineering Science Ph.D. Continues Research at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Mamun Miah studying earthquake hazard simulations, risk assessments

Mamun Miah, a UM chemical engineering graduate, is a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Submitted photo

From the suburbs of his native Dhaka, Bangladesh, to the Energy Geosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, Mamun Miah has been on an incredible journey. And the faculty, courses and programs of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering have played an important role in his career path.

“During my undergraduate study, I felt the need to further my technical as well as communicative skills, which made me think of coming to the USA,” Miah said. “Following that dream, I applied and got accepted into the civil engineering programs at several U.S. universities. Ole Miss has a good engineering program and offered me financial assistance, which helped me decide to attend Ole Miss eventually.”

After earning his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2009, Miah entered UM.

“Ole Miss is a great school, not only for its academic curriculum but also for its sincere engagement in students’ overall well-being,” he said. “Some courses that shaped my career include Finite Element Analysis for Structures provided by Dr. Christopher Mullen, Continuum Mechanics by Dr. Ahmed Al-Ostaz, Shear Strength of Soil by Dr. Chung Song, Groundwater Modeling by Dr. Robert Holt and Engineering Analysis by Dr. Wei-Yen Chen. Ole Miss Engineering also has some career fair and diversity inclusion programs, which helped me further my career by building connections and communications beyond the school.”

Miah’s former UM engineering professors have fond memories of him.

“A hardworking student, Mamun showed great interest to learn new technologies and accept challenging research topics,” said Waheed Uddin, a professor of civil engineering who directed Miah’s thesis. “His M.S. thesis research involved traditional two-dimensional and innovative three-dimensional geospatial analysis for floodplain mapping and aviation infrastructure visualization. I am glad that he successfully pursued and completed his doctoral degree.”

“In academic and technical matters, he transitioned almost seamlessly from a transportation-oriented master thesis to a structural engineering-related research project to a geophysics-based dissertation,” said Christopher Mullen, professor of civil engineering and Miah’s dissertation director. “Mamun has demonstrated both self-motivation and talent in applying programming-based computer modeling to numerical simulations of some very complex problems in engineering science. It has been a pleasure to see him develop from a graduate student unsure of his direction in life to a highly skilled, self-assured postdoctoral researcher at one of the world’s most respected government research laboratories.”

Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering, said Miah was an outstanding graduate student during his time at Ole Miss.

“Besides working on his research, he was also nicely engaged in teaching and helping CE faculty in a number of courses,” he said. “Above all, Mamun is one of those exceptional doctoral students who was able to choose his Ph.D. research topic and get it funded by an external sponsor. We are very proud of him and his achievements. I wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.”

It was at a UM career fair where Miah connected with the Berkeley Lab.

“I attended a National Lab day in 2012, which was held at The Inn at Ole Miss,” Miah said. “By talking and engaging in discussions with the scientists from across the nation, I eventually availed an internship at the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2013. After a successful internship, I wrote a grant proposal to LBNL for my Ph.D. thesis, which they approved.”

At Berkeley, Miah found a very sound research resource on his thesis topic. He also kept attending science and engineering seminars provided by some of the world’s most renowned scientists and professors.

“I think this internship opportunity had a tremendous effect on my career success,” he said.

Miah received his master’s in engineering science in 2010 and Ph.D. in the same field in 2016, both from Ole Miss. He then became a postdoctoral fellow at the Energy Geosciences Division at LBNL.

“I am working on exascale-level computing for regional-scale earthquake hazard simulations and risk assessments in the San Francisco Bay Area,” he said. “I am also working on earthquake soil-structure interaction for safety of nuclear power plants managed by (the) U.S. Department of Energy.”

Miah said he also appreciated the instruction he received at Bangladesh University.

“Almost all the faculty members have a very solid understanding as well as teaching capability for the comprehensive civil engineering program,” he said. “Their teaching style along with relevant learning materials and homework problems made the courses really interesting to learn and apply for the practical engineering purpose. I owe them a lot for my today’s career.”

For more about Mamun Miah and his work at LBNL, visit

By Edwin Smith




UM Engineering Students Take Top Honors at Regional Design Competitions

Chemical and mechanical engineering teams defeat opponents from rival universities

Mechanical engineering seniors explain their award-winning Capstone Design projects to judges during the annual exhibition. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three teams of University of Mississippi engineering students took top honors at two separate regional competitions recently.

At Tennessee Technical University, two teams of UM mechanical engineering students placed first and second in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition April 21-23. The UM teams won over teams from 47 other colleges and universities from across the country.

Five graduating chemical engineering majors competed in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Mid-South Meeting and Design Competition held on the Oxford campus April 11. UM defeated teams from Christian Brothers University and Mississippi State University.

“Our team was (composed) of a diverse group of students with various interests moving forward,” said Alexis Arnold, a senior chemical engineering major from Benton, Arkansas. Other team members are Olivia Cooper of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee; Sherman Jones of Laplace, Louisiana; John Hornor of Helena, Arkansas; and Cary Roy of Moss Point. “Two of our members are pursuing medical degrees in the future, while the rest of us are pursuing more traditional chemical engineering positions.”

After a brief explanation of rules and procedures, the teams were presented a troubleshooting problem in a mock meeting.

“The problem involved an increase in reactant lost to wastewater, which resulted in the altered feed to a distillation column,” Arnold said. “We were provided with a process description, block diagram, column diagram and component data.”

Chemical engineering design team members are (standing, from left) Sherman Jones, Alexis Arnold, Cary Roy, John Hornor and Olivia Cooper. Submitted photo

For 10 minutes, the teams alternated asking clarifying questions before moving into the workroom. Each team worked 15 minutes to produce a solution to the problem before presenting to their “bosses” (judges).

“Our team determined that in order to maintain proper water separation, the temperature of the column needed to be decreased,” Arnold said. “Because this was the simplest and most cost-efficient solution of the three teams, we were chosen as the winners of the competition.”

Members of the team were delighted both to win the competition (including the $400 prize) and to have gained practical experience.

“Dan Hayes revealed that this problem was based off one presented to him when he was new to industry,” Arnold said. “It was truly fun to apply concepts we have studied in college to this real-life problem.”

The ASME Student Design Competition provides a platform for ASME student members to present their solutions to a range of design problems – from everyday household tasks to groundbreaking space exploration. Each team is required to design, construct and operate a prototype that meets the requirements of an annually determined problem statement.

“The 2017 Student Design Competition challenges your technical design skills to create a robot that is fast, strong and agile,” said Matt Lowe, Machine Shop supervisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Your team must build a remotely controlled device to compete against others in five different events – a robot pentathlon consisting of climbing stairs, lifting weights, throwing a tennis ball, hitting a golf ball and sprint in a 1 meterwide lane.”

The robots and all necessary hardware to support them, including the weight to be lifted, must fit into a 50 by 50 by 50 centimeter box. Scores from each of the events were combined to determine the overall champion.

“Our students accepted this challenge head-on and invested many hours in engineering solutions to each of the tasks at hand,” Lowe said. “Starting out, four teams were selected to compete against each other with the top two being selected to represent the University of Mississippi at the Student Design Competition in Cookeville, Tennessee.”

First Place Overall UM team members included Joseph Jones of Walls, Jordan Hilderbrand of Yazoo City and Melissa Wright of Gulfport. Second Place Overall team members were Alex McGee of Brandon, Caleb Davidson of Atlanta, and Kenton Wong of Germantown, Tennessee.


A ‘Dilley’ of an Honor

Civil engineering alumna named Mississippi Engineering Society's Young Engineer of the Year

Jeff Elly, MDOT state planning engineer, presents Jessica Dilley with the Mississippi Engineering Society’s ‘Young Engineer of the Year’ award during the organization’s 2017 winter meeting in Jackson. (Submitted photo by Marni Kendricks)

Jessica Headrick Dilley, a planning engineer at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, was honored as the Mississippi Engineering Society’s “Young Engineer of the Year” during the organization’s annual winter meeting in Jackson.

“I felt very humbled to win this award,” said Dilley (BSCE 08, MS 10), a native of Sugarland, Texas. “There is a lot of young, talented engineers in the field right now, many of which I look to for guidance and direction.”

Winning awards for her outstanding work is nothing new for Dilley.

As a UM civil engineering undergraduate, she won first place at the 2010 Institute of Transportation Engineers Deep South District 5 Student Chapter Paper competition, first runner-up in the 2008 American Society of Civil Engineers Deep South Section Professional Paper Competition and third place in that same organization’s 2008 Canoe Competition.

While earning her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the university, research from Dilley’s thesis, titled “Geospatial Analysis of Roadway Traffic Volume, Flow Simulation and Air Pollution Impacts on the Built Environment,” was included in MDOT’s State Study 213, “Performance Evaluation of Roundabouts for Traffic Delay and Crash Reductions in Oxford.” MDOT was awarded the 2014 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ “Sweet Sixteen” High Value Research Award for this study, and it was presented as a poster session at the 2015 Transportation Research Board.

Requirements for the Mississippi Engineering Society recognition include being a resident of the state of Mississippi, a registered engineer, a member in good standing in the society and under the age of 35. The award is weighted on professional integrity, professional reputation that extends beyond the engineering field, and promotion of the welfare of the engineer and the engineering profession.

“I must give special recognition to the staff and professors in the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi,” Dilley said. “I especially thank Dr. (Waheed) Uddin for supporting me throughout my undergraduate and graduate school, Marni (Kendricks), who served as my counselor and role model, and Dr. (Alex) Cheng, for always being there for all his students.”

Uddin, a UM professor of civil engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, said he found Dilley’s achievement rewarding.

“Her award is a testimony to her professional achievements and makes her a great role model for UM engineering students,” Uddin said. “Jessica helped me develop instruction materials for my Geospatial course, which I am currently offering as CE 495. She is a dependable, loyal Ole Miss alum and a great asset to MDOT’s Planning Division.”

Uddin began mentoring Dilley in her junior year at the university. Dilley and her classmate Katherine Osborne recruited, trained and managed a geographic information system staff of more than 12 students from 2007 to 2009.

“This was an essential task of CAIT’s Karachi transportation study for the successful completion of this National Academy of Sciences-USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) project,” Uddin said. “Her thesis produced two peer-reviewed papers and several conference presentations. Jessica coordinated the extensive field traffic data collection by 12 undergraduate and four graduate students. Her outstanding M.S. research involved capacity analysis, congestion costs, traffic micro-simulation, vehicle emissions and traffic safety analysis.”

Uddin said Dilley has returned to campus, with her MDOT colleague Colby Willis, and presented a lecture to his class on highway planning and design. Since receiving the news of Dilley’s MES honor, several other UM civil engineering faculty members have invited her to come speak to their students as well.

“It would be my pleasure to schedule her for my senior design and the introductory freshmen classes,” said assistant professor Hunain Alkhateb. “The students are always inspired by successful alums.”

The civil engineering department is “extremely delighted” about Dilley’s notable achievement, said Jacob Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering. “She represents a superb role model for our CE students and recent graduates.”

Dilley said she will always feel a debt of gratitude to Ole Miss engineering faculty and staff.

“They did an amazing job working with us individually throughout our time at the university and keep in touch with us once we have graduated,” she said. “They truly become our lifelong mentors, and I cannot say enough good things about the engineering program at Ole Miss.”

Dilley and her husband, Adam, have two children, Gracyn and Hayes.



CE Senior Wins David Arnold Service Award

Frances Miramon has given back to community while maintaining excellence in academics

Frances Miramon is a senior civil engineering major from Louisiana. Submitted photo

Established in 2002, the David Arnold Service Award has allowed the University of Mississippi School of Engineering to recognize students who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve in the community and lead within the university. Engineering departments are given the chance to submit nominations of outstanding students for this award, and a selection committee designates the final recipient. The selection criteria for the award include service, intellect, leadership and character. Only one student receives the award each year.

The 2017 recipient of the David Arnold Award is Frances Miramon of Shreveport, Louisiana. Miramon is a senior pursuing a degree in civil engineering. She is set to earn her degree as a magna cum laude graduate in May. She was nominated for the honor by Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor of civil engineering.

“I recognized early on that she is more than a high-GPA student who gets the correct answers on class assignments, projects and exams,” Najjar said. “Her outstanding service activities and effective leadership roles during the past few years have greatly elevated the reputation of the civil engineering department. With this recognition, I am confident that Frances will continue to excel in a manner that is very consistent with the expectations of the Arnold award.”

While Miramon initially enrolled as a pharmacy student, she quickly found her niche as an engineer. She was more than excited when she was notified of her selection to receive this top honor.

“I was thrilled to receive the David Arnold Service Award,” she said. “Ole Miss engineering has given me so much over the years, and it has been an honor to give back to the program.”

Miramon’s service work includes volunteering with the Leap Frog tutoring program and working with the Oxford High School engineering club to promote STEM education to high school students. One of her most memorable roles has been serving as a School of Engineering ambassador since 2015.

“It has been rewarding to assist in recruiting prospective students as an ambassador,” she said. “I feel like it is my duty to let prospective students know about the wonderful opportunities available to them here in engineering.”

As an ambassador, Miramon has volunteered her time to attend campus recruiting events and write letters to high school students who are considering majoring in engineering. Many of the recruiting events take place on early Saturday mornings.

In addition to her service to the community, Miramon has held a number of leadership roles in engineering student organizations. She is serving as president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and secretary of Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society. She participated in the Deep South Conference for the American Society of Civil Engineers and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and Engineers Without Borders.

A Provost scholar, she was named to Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies as well as to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She received the 2016 Civil Engineering Junior Leadership Award and was nominated for the Outstanding Senior Leadership Award for the School of Engineering. Additionally, Miramon has served as an undergraduate research assistant in both the Nano Infrastructure Research Group and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology on campus.

During spring semester 2015, Miramon studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, which sparked her interest in transportation and planning. In summer 2016, she spent time in The Woodlands, Texas, interning with Jones/Carter, a multicity engineering firm, in its community development area. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue graduate school to continue her education in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation systems. She is considering Southern Methodist University, New York University or Penn State.




Rocket Rebels Aim High

Students to compete in NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville

Members of the Rocket Rebels include (from left) Olivia Lanum, Kyle Parton, Peter Dowling, DJ Johnson, Blake Horner, Barrett Freeman, Dillon Hall (team leader), Ryoma Thomas, Garrett Reed, David Biggs and David Thomas.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rocket Rebels, a team of students from the University of Mississippi’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence, are preparing to compete in the NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville, Alabama.

During the competition, the team, made up of 15 Ole Miss students, hopes to launch its rocket, named “Presidium,” a mile into the sky. The crew has been preparing for participation in the competition since last semester.

The Rocket Rebels team includes mechanical engineering majors Dillon Hall of Saltillo, Ryoma Thomas of Canton, Branden Livingston of Madison, David Biggs of Norman, Oklahoma, Olivia Lanum of Branden, David Thomas of Brooklyn, New York, Blake Horner of Frankfort, Illinois, Peter Dowling of Lexington, Virginia, DJ Johnson of Fairhope, Alabama, and Matt Whitfield of Madison; chemical engineering major Kyle Parton of Ocean Springs; business major Will Thomas of Somerville, Tennessee; and accountancy majors Garrett Reed of Abbeville, Caroline Rose of Bluffton, South Carolina, and Barrett Freeman of New Albany.

“Many long hours had to be put into this project, and we had our fair share of obstacles that pushed our deadlines,” said team leader Dillon Hall. “However, the team was dedicated to finishing what we started. We are representing the CME and Ole Miss on a national stage of scientific experts, and we are determined to prove that we can compete.”

CME has played a large role in the success of the Rocket Rebels. In addition to financial and material support, the center’s cutting edge facility and manufacturing tools have provided the team a great advantage over the competition. Additionally, industry sponsors have been helpful throughout the rocket-building process.

“The Center for Manufacturing Excellence is an absolutely incredible resource for the Rocket Rebels,” said team mentor Cody Hardin, a manufacturing engineer from Orbital ATK. “The resources and capabilities available to manufacture Presidium in the CME are equivalent to what’s found in industry.

“The Rocket Rebels also have the benefit of GE Aviation next door in Batesville that has provided engineering support and autoclave time and Orbital ATK in Iuka that has provided carbon fiber and aerospace adhesive material that is used on actual NASA rockets along with engineering support. The growing aerospace industry in Mississippi has been hugely beneficial for the team.”

While the space provided by CME is second to none, so, too, is the opportunity to participate in the nationwide contest.

“The obvious opportunities are the contacts within the aeronautics communities that are being made through this competition,” said the team’s faculty adviser Jack McClurg. “The students have gone out to the community and have acquired corporate sponsors that have provided material, expertise and services in order to ensure the success of this project. Hopefully, contacts with these types of people will lead to employment opportunities in the near future.”

McClurg said he admires the team members for their hard work and determination.

“There is a fundamental pride that you sense in the students when all of the hard work pays off. As a faculty member, that’s what excites me the most,” McClurg said.

While it may be the team’s inaugural year to compete in the Student Launch Competition, McClurg and Hardin both believe the team has a good chance at bringing home the trophy.

“The main goal in my opinion is to get some real-world, practical experience in working as a team to successfully accomplish the mission at hand,” McClurg said. “It is the chance to get out of the classroom and apply the principles of teamwork across the majors to successfully complete something as exciting as launching a rocket. Even if the team doesn’t bring home a trophy, the excitement of watching the fruits of their labor shoot into the sky are reward enough.”

To find out more about the Student Launch Competition, visit To learn more about the Rocket Rebels, visit To watch a video from the test launch, visit

UM Offers New Minor in Digital Media Studies

Program will include four emphases with common areas of technology and problem-solving

The new minor in digital studies is designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new minor in digital studies is designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will offer a new interdisciplinary minor in digital studies designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills to complement their main academic focus.

The new minor, offered beginning in fall 2016, will be housed and administered in the College of Liberal ArtsDepartment of Writing and Rhetoric. Robert Cummings, chair and associate professor of writing and rhetoric, will serve as director of the minor.

Faculty members affiliated with the program will meet periodically to consider changes to the curriculum and assist in the advising process.

“Students can now prepare for exciting and contemporary technology applications by combining their current major with the DMS minor, which offers a choice of emphases in computing, digital arts and/or digital communications,” Cummings said. “The digital media studies minor offers a novel pathway for students to extend their knowledge in to the creative economy of the information age.”

The College of Liberal Arts, School of Engineering and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media jointly proposed the undergraduate minor. Faculty from across academic programs, UM Libraries and Information Technology met to formulate the proposal and flesh out the courses to be included.

The DMS minor aims to teach students basic web authoring and programming skills, how to critically evaluate digital information and also how to apply digital skills and expertise in multiple fields.

Students will take 18 credit hours, which includes six hours of core classes. They choose the remaining 12 hours from an approved list of options.

The minor includes four emphases from which to choose: computing, digital communications, digital arts or a generalist track. The emphases have different, but connected paths of digital technology and problem-solving, according to the developers of the course.

Richard Forgette, senior associate dean of liberal arts and professor of political science, played a major role in the development of the program. He said there was wide interest from the student body.

“Thanks to all the faculty from across the university who made this happen,” Forgette said. “The new minor will allow students to develop skills needed for emerging career paths in web development, data analytics, computational art, graphic design, data visualization and digital media marketing.”

UM Engineering Computes for Tuan Ta

Senior CIS major becomes academic and research success

Tuan Ta at 2015 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research program, Boulder, Colorado

Tuan Ta at 2015 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research program, Boulder, Colorado

As a secondary school student, Tuan Ta sought admission to a research university and financial support to pursue an education in the United States. He found both opportunities through the University of Mississippi School of Engineering.

A graduate of Hanoi-Amsterdam High School, the Vietnamese native first learned of the university through the U.S. News and World Report website, which annually ranks higher education institutions. He found that Ole Miss matched his interests and enrolled in fall 2012.

“Computers and programming have been my favorite interests since secondary school,” Ta said. “I enjoy writing code to solve real problems, and I have always been curious about how computers work, which is what led me to study computer science here.”

Since 2013, he has been involved with the Heterogenous Systems Research Lab, led by Byunghyun Jang, assistant professor of computer and information science. His work in the lab has included designing more efficient coherence protocol for heterogenous CPU-GPU processors and parallelizing and accelerating d-ary heap construction on GPU using OpenCL.

Jang has been Ta’s academic and research advisor during his four years at the university.

“He has taught me how to conduct scientific research, how to think critically and gave valuable advice in my studies,” Ta said. “Without his support, I would not have achieved such success at Ole Miss.”

Jang said that Ta has been one of the best students that he has encountered during his time at UM.

“What impressed me more than his grades was his intellectual capability, thorough understanding of subjects and extraordinary desire for knowledge,” Jang said. “He possesses all the best qualities that college students, engineers and researchers should have to succeed. He is a role model of my research group.”

Jang also noted that Ta is assisting him in writing a National Scientific Foundation proposal and that he has maintained a perfect GPA among all of his research and academic activities.

Ta said his most rewarding experience since enrolling at the university was having his first scientific paper accepted for publication in 2015. The paper, “Accelerating DynEarthSol3D on Tightly Coupled CPU-GPU Heterogeneous Processors,” was published in the Computers & Geosciences Journal last June. Ta also presented a poster at the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium in 2015.

Last summer, Ta interned with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, where he worked in the Computational and Informational Systems Lab. His main responsibilities were optimizing scientific modeling programs and analyzing the efficiency of new processors in their supercomputer.

“I acquired a lot of technical skills in programming, code optimization and computer architecture, among others,” he said. “I had a special opportunity to master teamwork skills through daily collaboration with my mentors and other interns.”

Having maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout his UM enrollment, Ta has received numerous academic awards, including the Outstanding Computer Science Student Award (during his sophomore and junior years) and the Computer and Information Science SAP Scholarship Award.

Ta was the recipient of a Taylor Medal, the university’s highest academic honor, and an Adler Engineering Scholarship. He has also served as vice president of the Upsilon Pi Epsilon computer science honorary society, treasurer and vice president of the Ole Miss Badminton Club. He has volunteered with the Vietnam Book Drive Initiative.