James Robinson Discovers His Passion through UM Engineering

Senior demonstrates leadership in research and teaching, eyes medical school

James Robinson (right) and Matthew Morrison attended the annual IEEE Conference at Princeton University recently. (Submitted photo)

James Robinson (right) and Matthew Morrison attend the annual IEEE Conference at Princeton University. (Submitted photo)

Leadership and professional development have been the cornerstone of James Robinson’s experiences at the University of Mississippi. The Covington, Louisiana, native has taken full advantage of the numerous opportunities provided through the School of Engineering to develop skills pertinent to his future career both in and out of the classroom.

The senior general engineering major decided to pursue engineering because of his love for mathematics and science and his inquisitive and quizzical nature. After visiting a number of colleges and universities, Robinson found a home at Ole Miss.

“When I came to Ole Miss to tour, I felt that the professors truly cared about my success,” he said. “As walked around campus and met with faculty and admissions advisors, I quickly realized that this would be a unique place that would both nurture the values I had before college as well as challenge them in a way that would more wholly develop me as a person.”

Last summer, Robinson became involved in a new research initiative led by Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, called “Heads in the Game.” The interdisciplinary STEM education program partnered with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education to bring 16 high school students from around the country to campus.

These students got instruction and experience in research methods, health and nutrition, biomedical engineering and neurology. The program was a partnership with X2 Biosystems, a Seattle biotech firm.

Concussion awareness and education was underscored throughout the program, and X2’s hardware and software allowed the students access to the premier technology being used for concussion monitoring. Under Morrison’s guidance, Robinson served as instructor for the biomedical engineering and neurology course, and he learned a lot about himself in the process.

“I certainly gained a new respect for teachers, and while this was a very challenging job, it was also one of the most gratifying experiences I have had,” Robinson said. “Being able to teach young aspiring engineers and have a small impact on their academic and professional trajectory was an extremely rewarding experience.”

Robinson has continued to work with concussion monitoring, awareness and education by conducting research as an undergraduate. After discovering that the sport of women’s soccer has the second-highest incidences of concussions, he found a way to engage the Oxford community in his research.

Robinson conducted an Institutional Review Board-approved study with the Oxford High School women’s soccer team in which the objective was to qualitatively and quantitatively investigate the nature of force when players head a soccer ball. The goal is to help players alter their technique to reduce the short-term and cumulative damage of heading.

As a result of his research experiences with Heads in the Game, Robinson has presented his research at several national conferences, including the Sigma Xi Society Conference in Kansas City and at the IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference at Princeton University. At the IEEE Conference, Robinson won the Student Presentation Award. He credits faculty members Morrison and Dwight Waddell with being important to his success as a student.

“They have greatly impacted and shaped my career here at Ole Miss,” he said. “They have motivated and challenged me to become the best student, best professional and best person I can become. Their investment in me has only made me want to work that much harder, and I appreciate their guidance and support.”

Morrison praised Robinson’s work and his contributions to the Heads in the Game program.

“James has exceeded every expectation I had for the biomedical engineering instructor for the program in terms of effort, research accomplishment and professionalism,” Morrison said. “He has represented Ole Miss engineering with distinction, and I have no doubt he will be an excellent doctor once he completes medical school.”

During his time on campus, Robinson has been involved in activities within the engineering school. He has served on the Engineering Student Body’s Leadership Council and as an officer with Engineers Without Borders. He also served as a School of Engineering Ambassador, assisting with the school’s recruitment efforts.

He also has been an officer in his fraternity and was selected for membership in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. He has volunteered his time with the UM Big Event, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Special Olympics.

He is completing research for his thesis for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Robinson hopes to attend medical school after taking some time to immerse himself in the biomedical engineering industry.