Jeff Rish’s 4 Degrees from UM Result in Long Research Career with Military

Alumnus now teaches engineering course at Florida State

Jeff W. Rish III and his wife, Patti, attend an Ole Miss vs. Florida State University pregame activity in Orlando, Florida. Submitted photo

Jeff W. Rish III’s successful career in technological research for the military began with four engineering degrees from the University of Mississippi.

When Rish (BSCE 77, BSME 78, MS 83, PhD 85) entered UM is 1973, the Pontotoc native dreamed of receiving a bachelor’s degree in either civil or mechanical engineering. He ended up earning degrees in both. A few years later, Rish also earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in engineering science from the university.

“During the years that I attended Ole Miss, the engineering programs had an engineering science focus,” said Rish, who also completed a one-year nonresident Air War College program from the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, while working for the Wright Laboratory Detachment at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. “I received a broad education that provided a strong background in mathematics and a heavy emphasis on the scientific foundations of engineering subject matter.”

The breadth of Rish’s education enabled him to quickly adapt to working on research topics involving technologies that were well outside the scope of his formal training, and to become a leader in developing concepts and technologies to enhance the capabilities of U.S. war fighters.

Rish said his success at Ole Miss and beyond was heavily influenced by a number of faculty members.

“I have fond memories of Drs. Ken Stead, Mustafa Abdulrahman, Sam DeLeeuw and Sam Prasad from the CE department,” he said. “The engineering mechanics courses I took from Dr. Stead were quite memorable, and Ken was a mentor to me throughout my entire career as a student.”

John Fox, mechanical engineering chair and professor emeritus, had a huge influence on Rish while he was in graduate school.

“His career brought him in contact with a number of pioneers in the area of aerospace engineering, and his mind was a virtual library on a number of engineering topics. I spent many hours in his office,” Rish said. “Drs. (Thomas) Horton and (Jeffrey) Roux were key influences in my graduate school years. Dr. Roux was my dissertation adviser and friend, and his mentorship impacted my life well beyond graduate school. Dr. Sam Wang was another of my mentors, as was Dean Allie Smith.”

Rish began his professional career in 1986 at the Naval Coastal Systems Center (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division) as a research engineer in the materials science branch. His early project responsibilities included leading an experimental investigation using lasers as underwater acoustic sources and modeling heat transfer through experimental liquid crystal diver thermal protection devices.

In 1992, he accepted a position as a research engineer with the Air Force where he spent four years working on advanced materials topics. Rish returned to NSWC Panama City in 1996, and served as principal investigator on several projects to develop and experimentally validate sensor systems for special operations and mine warfare applications. Rish also became actively involved in the development of autonomous unmanned systems for underwater mine countermeasures applications.

“I served 10 years as a branch head for what is now the Intelligent Sensing Branch at NSWC PCD, where I continued to be actively engaged in developing advanced electro-optic and electromagnetic sensors for Navy MCM, MARCORPS and unmanned systems,” Rish said. “This experience gave me insight into a broad range of technologies and enabled me to work with some of the nation’s leading experts on sensor technologies. As a result, I was able to influence the development of sensor systems and unmanned systems for a number of undersea and land-based applications.”

Rish retired from federal service and his position as technical program manager, U.S. Marine Corps Force Protection Countermeasures Science and Technology, in December 2017.

Presently, he is a member of the adjunct faculty at Florida State University’s Panama City campus, where he teaches an undergraduate course in Engineering Thermodynamics. He has been teaching this course there since 2005.

Rish and his wife, Patricia (or “Patti”), reside in Lynn Haven, Florida, but maintain strong ties to his alma mater and Mississippi roots. He was a member of the UM Engineering Advisory Board from 2004 to 2014.

“The wife and I enjoy antiquing together and traveling,” he said. “We both enjoy attending sporting events and tailgating in the Grove with the brothers and sisters when we get the chance.”