Momentum Fall 2013

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A P u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e M i s s i s s i pp i S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y Ba g l e y C o l l e g e o f E n g i n e e r i n g

F a l l 2 013

Engineers IN THE WILD A look at students in their natural habitat Pg. 28




AROUND ENGINEERING ROW NASA engineers share 04 ‘Curiosity’

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Semi-Important Questions

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Bats at Bagley

Places & Spaces

AIChE marks 13th consecutive Outstanding Student Chapter Award



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Music, math work in concert for engineers’ academic success Aces all the way: Mechanical major masters the mound On the Clock Favorite Things



It’s only logical: 16 Loci code helps



36 40

Mind your beeswax

Cardiologist pumps new knowledge into understand- ing of heart science

spacecraft prepare for launch

International steelmaker partners with MSU

Under the Sea: 18 Researchers decode

Alumna’s work, home balance inspires uncommon company

coastal ecosystems to support a healthier Gulf


Industrial alumna makes the pieces fit


Lab Reports


Space Cowboys help Magnolia State explore the final frontier





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Gray Matters: Biological engineers help change understanding of traumatic injury


Not so Powerless


Engineers in the Wild

NEWS & NOTES Editor & Writer

Susan Lassetter

Art Direction Heather M. Rowe Illustrator

Eric Abbott


Megan Bean Russ Houston Susan Lassetter Heather M. Rowe Beth Wynn


Todd Dickey

Copy Editor

Sammy McDavid

Subscriptions, Inquiries & Address Changes: Momentum P.O. Box 9544 Miss. State, MS 39762 or visit us online at


from the


Do you know why Mississippi’s roads have a red tint? I didn’t, but I do now. It’s one of the dozens of bits of information I’ve picked up by working with Bulldog Engineers for the past six years. As a non-engineer writing about the Bagley College, I always learn something when I set out to cover a story. In particular, working on an issue of Momentum magazine always leaves my head buzzing with new information. This issue was no exception. With the coverage on page 10, I learned that there’s a lot of science involved in baseball. A video clip discussed on page 22 opened my eyes to the vulnerability of brain tissue. For the story on page 24, alumni and researchers taught me about the capabilities of “smart” technology. As usual, I also picked up fun bits of trivia that don’t fit into the text of the articles. For instance: • Bobak Ferdowsi commemorated big moments for the Curiosity rover with special hairstyles. The now-famous look he sported during the landing was selected through an email poll by his coworkers. Page 04 • Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. Page 08 • The home of a hibernating animal is called a hibernaculum. For bats, this site must not only provide shelter from weather and predators, but also provide protection from light and noise. Page 08 • The tree shown on page 30 was cut down not long after that photo was taken. A campus favorite, the sycamore received damage during a storm and was removed before it became hazardous. Oh, and as for those red roads, the color comes from the aggregate used in the asphalt—a river-run gravel common in the state. Similarly, limestone aggregate used in Alabama gives roads a gray color and granite in Georgia leaves its roads with a black and white-speckled look. Though most of you reading this possess an engineering background, I hope you find something in our publication to educate and entertain you. As always, if you have any thoughts, comments or ideas, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We love to hear from you. Happy reading,

Susan Lassetter Publications Editor

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P.O. Box 9544 Miss. State, MS 39762 or publications@

Going the


BC o E-L earning Convenience, Quality, Affordability online engineering The Bagley College of Engineering allows working professionals to enroll in flexible graduate engineering courses and programs in order to enhance career opportunities, realize educational goals, and acquire advanced degrees from a well-recognized EAC-ABET accredited institution via BCoELearning. All programs meet institution-wide standards, providing consistent quality and academic excellence in faculty instruction.

Degrees are offered in the following programs: Aerospace Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Civil Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Computer Science & Engineering (M.S.) Electrical & Computer Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Industrial Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Master of Engineering

An online education provides: Professional advancement Flexible schedule Degree from an EAC ABET program Equivalent to on-campus degree





“I think the important thing is that kids are in touch with their curiosity; that they are fired-up about something, find what their passion is and follow it,” Steltzner said.

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“People weren’t expecting to see someone with a mohawk,” Ferdowsi explained. “But, (at NASA) we have a history of showing off our personalities.”

NASA engineers share Curiosity By Susan Lassetter Photograph by Beth Wynn Two NASA engineers gave insight into the Mars rover Curiosity and the future of space exploration to a capacity-crowd at the Colvard Student Union ballroom. Bobak “Mohawk” Ferdowsi and Adam “Elvis” Steltzner explained the significance of NASA projects, saying that exploring other worlds will ultimately increase the understanding of Earth. “To me, what makes exploring Mars interesting is that it’s so much like Earth and yet it obviously didn’t turn out the same way,” Ferdowsi said. “What makes Earth so special? To understand that you can’t just look at Earth.” Ferdowsi and Steltzner are part of the team that developed, launched and operates Curiosity, serving as flight director and systems engineer, and leader of the entry, descent and landing science laboratory, respectively. However, most recognize them not by their titles, but rather their unique hairstyles. Ferdowsi, sporting a red, white and blue mohawk, and Steltzner, with a rock ‘n’ roll look, became two of the space agency’s most recognizable faces during the live broadcast of the rover’s August 2012 landing—simultaneously intriguing the world through their work and proving that engineers can have spunk. “People weren’t expecting to see someone with a mohawk,” Ferdowsi explained. “But, (at NASA) we have a history of showing off our personalities.” Although the two never expected to become Internet sensations, the engineers have been able to use their newfound status to help feed the widespread national interest in space. Visiting with audiences across the country, they share information about the rover’s findings on Mars. “We’ve discovered some pretty cool stuff,” Steltzner said. “We found bubbles in rocks that look like the bubbles that are put off by bacteria. Now, we don’t know that it is that, but it’s pretty cool. Water is down there and there may have been life in the past.” Being part of the Curiosity team has both engineers excited about future space projects, including the 2020 exploratory mission to Mars. Announced earlier this year, the project likely will feature more

intense sampling of the red planet and, possibly, prepare a sample that could be returned to Earth. “I’m excited because it’s another clean slate and just thinking, what are we going to do this time,” Ferdowsi said. For the next rover, Ferdowsi said he would like to see a variety of landing sites considered and an improvement in the vehicle’s driving capabilities. In a future mission he said he would like to explore Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, that scientists suspect has water under its frozen surface. “On Earth, where there’s water, there’s life,” Ferdowsi said. “So, it begs the question, is there something under the ice of Europa?” While there’s no mission to Europa in the works, yet, Ferdowsi is optimistic that it will happen one day—possibly helmed by some of the youngest student engineers Ferdowsi and Steltzner met during their Starkville visit. Prior to the evening’s main event, the Bagley College’s Distinguished Lecture Series also sponsored a morning session for middle and high school teams from Mississippi’s Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (MS BEST) Robotics Program. Ferdowsi and Steltzner watched demonstrations of the teams’ handmade space elevators that were built as part of the sixweek competition. Afterward, the two helped the students see how what they learned during BEST relates to what NASA engineers do in real-life. Steltzner said he was impressed by the creativity and precision of what he saw in the students’ projects. However, he never had the benefit of such competitions while in school. “If programs like that existed, I wasn’t doing them,” Steltzner said. “I was too busy chasing girls and getting in trouble.” The rock ‘n’ roll engineer explained that he started out as a musician. It was curiosity about changes in the night sky that led him to take a college course in astronomy. And it was that class’s physics prerequisite that ultimately led him to attend college and eventually earn a doctorate. Steltzner said he believes that if the students never lose touch with their creativity, they are destined to be the next generation of great thinkers and doers. “I think the important thing is that kids are in touch with their curiosity; that they are fired-up about something, find what their passion is and follow it,” Steltzner said. n


Semi-Important Questions with:

Aerospace Engineering Seniors

Star Trek, Star Wars or Stargate? Philip Edward Johnson Homewood, Ala. Star Wars. The X-Wing is really, really cool.

Austin Powell Ocean Spring, Miss. Star Trek. Captain Kirk is the man. That is all.

Matt Rutland Byram, Miss. Star Wars. Epic battles, Jedis, Yoda, X-Wings, Princess Leia in her minimal attire from Return of the Jedi.

Blair Schumacher Starkville, Miss. Yes, please. Andy Brayer Fairhope, Ala. Star Wars. It’s a better story and I don’t like watching TV series anyway.

Eric Robertson New Orleans, La. Star Trek. The original series only.

Pramodh Palihena Colombo, Sri Lanka Star Trek. 1. Transporter technology (time travel) 2. Why use swords when you’ve got guns? 3. Multicultural diversity 4. Better storyline and seems to be last? The series. 5. Geekier 6. Technology is much more advanced compared to other two.

Uplinks For additional articles, media and the latest news, visit Uplinks in between issues of Momentum. Additional online content in this issue will be noted with a video icon.

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Austin Brown Alexandria, La. Star Wars. Nobody can mess with Lando.

Tony Favaloro - Memphis, Tenn. Stargate. My answer is an average of total quality. Both Star Trek and Star Wars worlds expand way too quickly. In a sci-fi story, it’s nice to be able to gain understanding of the hypothetical universe while the characters are learning as well. Stargate allows the viewer to develop thought on what technology is fantasy, possible, understandable, or inspiring.

Jacob Thomas Starkville, Miss. None. I haven’t watched any.

Nathan Byrd - Soso, Miss. Star Wars-original three, no CGI. Seriously? Who hasn’t tried to “force choke” someone? Han shot first.

Jared Gates - Caledonia, Miss. Battlestar Galatica. Star Wars if I must choose from the provided. Because I have never really liked Stargate and Star Trek is too much talking and not enough action. It is basically the least of the three evils provided.

Roger King earns IEEE’s top membership honor Civil students win it all at regional conference Li Zhang named to national research board task force James Newman earns lifetime achievement, Fellow recognition from national organizations MSU team wins IT FLIES competition Mark Horstemeyer honored by two national organizations Robert Green to lead professional engineers Bammann adds new Fellow honor to career achievements




Places & Spaces A look at the high tech, low tech and just plain interesting areas that compose the Bagley College of Engineering’s facilities. Neat rows of asphalt cores fill the shelves of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Construction Materials Laboratory. Stacks of sealed black buckets filled with various construction materials splits the room in half. Of all the textures and tools lying around to pique visitors’ interests, the machine in the back corner commands the most attention.

Photograph by Russ Houston

Called the PURWheel, this box-like tracking device is one of only two of its kind in the country. It allows researchers to test samples of different kinds of pavement to see how it responds to extreme conditions. “The worst situation for pavement is when it’s hot. It makes it more flexible and can lead to problems with rutting,” explained Ben Cox, a doctoral student who works in the lab. The enclosed structure of the machine allows researchers to control temperature, which can exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as test moisture conditions from dry to completely

submerged. A built-in tracking wheel simulates the pressure of a large truck driving down the highway, rolling over the pavement sample thousands of times. The result is a piece of pavement with a clearly defined tire rut that can be analyzed to determine the stability of the pavement mix. Under the supervision of Isaac L. Howard, an associate professor and Materials and Construction Industries Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering, the lab studies a wide variety of construction materials including asphalt, emulsions, concrete and stabilized soils.


AIChE marks 13th consecutive Outstanding Student Chapter Award Thirteen proved just as lucky as one through 12 for Mississippi State’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Bats at Bagley: Winged mammals seek higher education While we all know that life’s better as a Bulldog Engineer, the college still had a shock when a few bats found their way into McCain Hall this spring, apparently wanting to test that statement themselves. They attempted to audit industrial and systems engineering classes, but failed to complete the necessary paperwork and could not be allowed to stay. Mississippi is home to more than 40 species of bat, including Mexican free-tails like the ones found in McCain. Patricia Cox, Mississippi State’s biosafety officer, said these winged mammals find buildings attractive places to hide especially in the colder months when they enter a hibernation-like state. “It’s not uncommon for a few bats to be in buildings, but they usually stay in the walls where they roost,” Cox explained. “It becomes an issue when they find their way into the building’s occupied spaces.” After identifying the animals’ entry points, Cox and her team installed exclusion devices to help the bats safely escape the building and prevent further attempts to join classes. These devices, which typically feature some kind of screen or netting, allow the bats to exit the building but not re-enter.

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Illustration by Eric Abbott

Having received special training and rabies vaccinations, Cox and a colleague captured and released any bats that did not exit the building on their own. Cox stresses that other individuals should not attempt to touch bats as they can carry disease. She offers the following tips for people who encounter bats in their homes or offices: • If a bat is found in your home, call the health department so it can be tested for rabies • Even small wounds caused by bats need prompt medical care. Wash all wounds with warm water and soap, and seek medical attention immediately. • To identify where bats may be entering a building, watch for activity around the exterior at dusk. Any openings that provide access to the building’s interior should initially be blocked with an exclusion device. Once all bats are out, the entry points should be sealed. However, use caution if sealing in the summer when young bats, called pups, may be present. Unable to fly, they could become trapped. They generally become independent in late August.

This fall, the group earned its 13th consecutive national Outstanding Student Chapter Award. Only 16 of the more than 180 eligible chapters earned the award this year. The MSU chapter is unique because of an endowment it received from Hunter Henry, a 1950 chemical engineering graduate. Chapter adviser Bill Elmore said the funds help the chapter support its outreach activities and experiences for members such as attending the national conference each year.

“We’re able to invest in experiences for the students so they have something to look back on and think, ‘Man, it was cool being in chemical engineering,’” Elmore said. Boasting 172 members, the chapter completed more than 34 community and campus service activities during the 2012-13 school year. They included mentoring local robotics teams, providing research experiences for high school students and volunteering for area charities. However, Elmore said one of the most impressive chapter accomplishments was earning and saving more than $20,000 to add to the endowment. “Hunter Henry supported this chapter because he recognized the import role it plays for students,” Elmore said. “Our students recognize that too, and they want to pay it forward for the students who come next.”



With the title of concertmaster in Mississippi State’s Philharmonia, one would expect Benjamin Shudak to have eagerly dedicated years to studying Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Instead, he admits to finding classical music a little boring. For the senior mechanical engineering major, music was a means to an end until he arrived at Mississippi State University.

Music, math work in concert for engineers’ academic success By Susan Lassetter

They say practice makes perfect, but it’s more than that, said Shudak.

“I never really wanted to study music. It was more that if I wanted to do stuff like play sports, my parents said I had to play music,” Shudak said. “That’s the reason I kept playing in high school. Then I came to Mississippi State and I guess I finally realized how beneficial it is to be able to play an instrument.” While his parents encouraged musical studies to ensure that their five children led well-rounded lives, Shudak’s lessons have reaped unexpected benefits. He said being first chair violin as a freshman, and the responsibilities that come with the position, helped him adjust to college life by making him focus on what’s important. “They say practice makes perfect, but it’s more than that,” the Chicago native explained. “It’s really perfect practice makes perfect. That’s true for orchestra and engineering because whether you are working on a piece of music or a class problem, you have to make sure you’re working it the right way. It really teaches you discipline.” Fellow Philharmonia member and principal flute Emily Smith agreed, saying that music forces instrumentalist to think logically and learn to be persistent. The added benefit, according to the May biological engineering graduate, is that music and the math required for engineering are complementary.


“I feel like to excel in music, it helps to have a strong math background. And to me, that ties music and engineering together,” said Smith, a Little Rock, Ark., native. “Music is a language in itself built off of measures with certain values. You have to visualize each note and if you are good at logical math it helps a lot with the rhythms.” The success of these engineering majors in the Philharmonia doesn’t surprise director Richard Human. He explained the reason musicians seem to grasp mathematics and those who are good at math seem to get music is that they are essentially the same processes expressed through different products. “Math and science are tools to understand the composition, action and interactions of the world around us, while music is the composition of sounds to express how the world acts upon us,” the associate professor of music explained. “I think that people engaged in both realms are not only building higher functions of both the analytical and artistic sides of their brains but also deepening the interaction between the two.” For proof of how knowledge of one field can make one appreciate the other, just look at Shudak, the Philharmonia’s own reluctant musician. He might not have picked up the violin thinking he would one day lead an orchestra, but now it’s a part of who he is. “I don’t know if it’s college maturing me or what, but I guess I finally realized the beauty of making music. Practice is enjoyable now,” Shudak said. “It’s fun to sit down and work out the different parts of the music and it’s fun to perform for an audience that appreciates the music.” n





Aces all the way

Mechanical major masters the mound By Susan Lassetter Photographs by Beth Wynn

From his spot during warm-ups, Kendall Graveman soaks in the atmosphere of Dudy Noble Field–-the smoke drifting over the outfield from the grills in Left Field Lounge, the music pumping over the PA system, the crack of the bat as it makes contact with the ball. From his spot in the dugout, Graveman thinks like an engineer–-contemplating trajectory, velocity and effects of the wind as the ball flies into the outfield. From his spot on the mound, Graveman focuses. When it’s his turn on the diamond, all of the noise, all of the ambiance and all of the calculations melt away. “It comes naturally once you get out on the field,” the right-handed pitcher explained. “It’s like being on autopilot. You have to trust that your years of training have prepared you well enough to get the job done.” This past season, getting the job done meant 19 starts for Graveman in the Diamond Dawgs’ run

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to the title game in the College World Series. The historic year marked the Mississippi State program’s first national championship appearance and its most wins in a season. It was also a record-setting year for Graveman, who pitched 113 innings, a season high for the team. But it was three complete games pitched on consecutive Saturdays mid-season that made No. 49’s year unique. “Complete games are kind of a goal for a starter and it’s something you can take pride in,” Graveman said of the feat he first achieved in 2012. Starters are typically sidelined once they’ve thrown around 100 pitches to avoid overtaxing their arms. Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson said Graveman’s particular throwing style helps keep the count low making complete games possible. “Kendall is a sinker ball artist, which extends his lifespan as a pitcher,” Thompson said. “He goes out and really tries to produce ground balls, which can lead to quick outs and double plays.” During his streak of complete games, Graveman threw only 99 pitches against Arkansas, 107

against Florida, and 110 against Texas A&M. The team produced 18, 14 and eight ground outs in those games, respectively. At the conclusion of the season, Mississippi State was tied with Alabama at 80 double plays on the year, one off from leading the NCAA. “I don’t strike out as many people as some starters, but the sinker is kind of my signature,” Graveman said. “I know if I can create sink on the pitch we can get that ground ball and make a play.” A sinker is a type of fastball that has significant downward motion as it approaches the plate. The pitch will fall below the barrel of the bat so it only makes contact with the top of the ball. This results in a weaker hit, or ground ball, which can be quickly fielded by the defense. “If I’m going to go out and create those ground balls, I have to know that I can trust the defense to make the play,” Graveman said. “And I have a lot of trust in my teammates.” It was faith in the team that brought the Alexander City, Ala., native back for the 2013 season, his last year of collegiate eligibility. He turned down an offer from the Miami Marlins at the end of his junior season, betting that in a year’s time the

Diamond Dawgs would be on their way to Omaha, home of the College World Series. “There were several factors that helped me make my decision to come back,” Graveman explained. “I wanted to get closer to finishing my degree, I love the atmosphere at Dudy Noble, and I really wanted to take this team to Omaha. And, I felt in my heart that we had a chance.” Selected as a captain by his teammates, Graveman made it his goal to lead by example and set a tone of hard work and diligence from the start of fall practice to the last out of the season. “It was humbling to be made a leader of the team,” Graveman said. “I didn’t want to let any of my teammates down so I knew I had to do my best and work the hardest.” Graveman said that the need to work hard for the team is something he learned as a freshman when he realized finding a balance between baseball and school was the only way to be successful. A senior in mechanical engineering, he credits undergraduate coordinators Chris Emplaincourt, now retired, and Tammy Coleman with helping encourage him to stick with the major. And he said seeing upperclassmen succeed on the field and in the classroom over the years helped prove that it was possible. “It’s been a lot of late nights and early mornings,” Graveman said. “But it hasn’t killed me yet.” Graveman concluded his senior season as an eight round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays. He saw action in 10 games this summer as part of the pro club’s farm team the Lansing Lugnuts. Being only one semester shy of his engineering degree, he returned to Starkville this fall to finish the curriculum. “I knew if I was fortunate enough to be drafted this year, I would probably go,” Graveman explained. “ I would hate to look back years from now and think I had missed that opportunity. But at the same time, I knew it was important to finish my degree before it’s too late in the game.” So in December, from his spot at graduation, Graveman could relax, knowing that whether his future lies in professional baseball or an engineering career, he had done the hard work and laid a foundation for success. n

Preparing for the Pitch One does not simply “throw out a pearl,” Graveman said. Several things have to happen between the time a bright white baseball is removed from its packaging and the moment it rolls off a pitcher’s fingertips. The process starts by getting a little dirty. Whether a team uses soil from just beyond the outfield wall or a name brand substance like Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, every baseball must be dirtied-up to knock off its factory-fresh sheen. “You don’t want a baseball straight from the box,” coach Thompson explained. “Hitters can see it too much. You want to get some mud rubbed into it to fill those seams and give you a firm grip.” How a pitcher grips a baseball is important to a properly executed throw. This is why they often keep their hand behind their back and rotate the ball in their palm prior to winding up for the pitch. Thompson explained there are two primary fastball grips. A four-seam grip means the pitcher holds the ball so his index and middle fingers cross the seams. This type of pitch gives the ball a red appearance as it approaches the plate. For a two-seam grip, a pitcher places his index and middle fingers on the narrow section of leather between the seams. This type of grip, which is used by sinker-ball pitchers like Graveman, gives the ball a white appearance when thrown. It also produces more movement on the ball’s flight. Once a grip is established, a pitcher must then decide how to move his wrist for the release. Rotating it so that the palm faces inward towards the midline of the body is called supination and produces a reverse spin on the ball. The opposite motion, pronation, results in a more downward motion. Thompson said Graveman’s two-seam grip and heavy pronation are what give him an edge in throwing sinkers, which lead to ground balls that can help the starter throw a complete game. Following nine innings of pitching, Graveman said it can feel like he’s been hit by a train. That’s when the recuperation protocol kicks in. A day of rest and a week of slow and steady workouts gets him ready to start the pitching process over again when he’s next tapped as a starter.




High prices at the pump have American drivers opening their minds and wallets to alternativepowered vehicles. But, as new options become available, conflicting reports of their safety and practicality leave many consumers with more questions than answers. Matthew Doude, a research associate at Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, explains what consumers should understand to get the most vroom for their bucks.

answer your questions about engineering,

Q: What is the difference between



ON THE Bagley College of Engineering exper ts technology and life.

hybrid and electric vehicles?


A hybrid uses two sources of power for propulsion, such as gasoline and the electricity it generates on board. Advanced systems, like regenerative braking or idle-off, let it use gasoline more efficiently than a standard car. An electric vehicle uses only one power source, electricity. There is an in between category called plug-in hybrids, which can either take gasoline or plug into the wall to receive electricity. These cars operate like an electric car at first and like a hybrid once the electric charge wears down.


Of the different types commercially available, which do you think is most practical?


That answer depends on the driver’s situation. For drivers who know they drive a set distance everyday, like 40 or 50 miles, an electric vehicle is probably the best choice because it only uses electricity. But to me, the most practical is the one that gives the most fuel options and that is a plug-in hybrid.


Why do you consider more fuel choices to be more practical?

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Photograph by Megan Bean


Because it gives the driver flexibility. If you have a standard car, but you can’t get gasoline, you’re stuck. And in an electric, you can only drive as far as the electric charge will take you. With a plug-in hybrid you can drive all-electric for short trips, which is very efficient, or you can use gasoline for longer drives.


How does the performance of these vehicles compare to standard automobiles?

A: These cars are designed to match

the performance of most other cars on the road. There is a little bit of a tradeoff in cargo capacity but it’s not as big a difference as most people expect. The biggest tradeoff consumers will see is the price. Plug-in hybrids, for instance, cost $7,500 to $10,000 more than standard vehicles, which is substantial for most people.


Are these vehicles more expensive to maintain than a standard car?


If you buy a car with advanced technology, you will be limited to getting it serviced at the dealership because its technicians will be trained for those systems. The cost will probably be a little higher, but all the different hybrid and electric cars have pretty good maintenance warranties.


What about maintaining or replacing the battery?


The batteries in hybrid and electric cars are expensive, but they are designed to last the life of the car. They will lose a little bit of their capacity overtime, however hybrids have software that monitors the battery so people don’t have to worry about over-or undercharging it.


Are hybrid and electric car batteries dangerous?


If, 100 years ago, the electric car had taken off in popularity instead of the gas-powered car, and today someone designed a car with 15 gallons of gas

under the driver’s seat, people would think that was absurdly dangerous. That’s what we are all used to so we don’t think about it. It all depends on what people are accustomed to. Actually, the energy in the battery is more stable than gasoline and the battery itself is safer than a gas tank.

Q: Are there any unique dangers

A few of our FAVORITE THINGS The Bagley College’s best and brightest don’t spend all of their time engrossed in engineering texts or calculating complex equations—just most of it. This year’s inductees into the Student Hall of Fame share what they like to do when they aren’t hitting the books.

associated with hybrid or electric cars?

A: The cars do have high voltage systems that could be dangerous, but the cars are monitored by onboard safety systems that will shut the power off if there are any problems.


How are plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles charged?

A: Most can be charged from a standard

wall outlet, but it will take most of the day. Another option, which will recharge it more quickly, is to use a charging station. You can have one of these stations installed at your home for around $1,500, and in some areas there are grants or initiatives that will help cover the cost.


If people start using electricity to power their cars, won’t that put a strain on the power grid and cause brownouts?

A: That’s a common misconception.

Brownouts almost always occur during the day when air conditioners are running on high and businesses have their lights on. But these cars are almost always charged at night when the electric power demand is less, which causes power plants to be less efficient. Ultimately, if there are millions of these vehicles in use, it will make power generation more consistent and efficient.

A six-year participant in the General Motors and the Department of Energy series of advanced vehicle design competitions, Doude led a Mississippi State team in the development of a plug-in hybrid SUV that earns 118 mpg and has a 60-mile all electric range. He currently serves as the team’s staff adviser. Want to suggest a topic for On the Clock? Submit your ideas to publications@bagley.

Angela Brooke Cannon Ocean Springs, Miss. Industrial Engineering Favorite books: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and, of course, the Harry Potter series. Favorite movies: I absolutely love movies. Each year, I try to watch as many Academy-nominated films as possible before the awards. My family and I love watching Turner Classic Movies.

René Alexander Camacho-Rincón Colombia Civil Engineering On my playlist: Salas music; I really enjoy Joe Arroyo. Rock; different bands like the Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smiths, The Beatles, and The Doors. Favorite book: “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Kaitlin Britt Haynes

Jenna Owen Sanders

Blue Mountain, Miss. Software Engineering

Wiggins, Miss. Industrial Engineering

Favorite movies: “Mulan” and “How to Train Your Dragon”

On my playlist: I’m a Pandora user: Glee Cast Radio, for when I want to sing along, ’80s Pop Radio, for when I feel like dancing, and Last of the Mohicans Radio, for when I need to get some serious studying done.

Favorite games: Assassins Creed series, League of Legends and Settlers of Catan

Kelsey LeSaicherre Ponchatoula, La. Chemical Engineering Favorite websites: Hailstate. com, The Krazy Coupon Lady blog and Pintrest. Currently reading: “Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity” by Drew Brees, Mark Brunell and Chris Fabry, “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” by Andrew Tobias and “The Castaways” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Favorite TV shows: “How I met Your Mother,” “Big Bang Theory” and “Bones.”

Jutima Simsiriwong Thailand and Houston, Miss. Aerospace Engineering Favorite websites: Yelp, PhDComics, Scopus, and Youtube, where I can get my Thai television fix. Favorite movies: “50 First Dates,” “Idiocracy,” “Deliverance,” and “Mars Attacks.”

Andrew Odenthal

Daniel Snyder

Stayton, Ore. Civil Engineering

Crystal Spring, Miss. Industrial Engineering

Favorite games: FIFA Soccer, NCAA Football and Risk.

Favorite games: For board games, it’s Risk and Catan. In realtime strategy, it’s “Age of Empires” and “Roller Coaster Tycoon.”

On my playlist: Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Rush, Band of Horses, The Killers, Neon Trees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Two Door Cinema Club.

Favorite websites: Any social media, Netflix and anything MSU sports related.



Senior electrical engineering major David Patterson and Eevee, his 12 week old corgi, took full advantage of a rare snowfall that briefly transformed MSU’s campus into a wonderland last year. The Kosciusko, Miss., native said he didn’t want the pup to miss her first snow day, so they loaded up, headed to the Drill Field and spent the next three hours enjoying the winter weather. This is one of many candid campus photos posted on MSU’s social media. Be sure to like Mississippi State University and the Bagley College of Engineering on Facebook for a look at what’s happening on campus throughout the year.

Photograph by Megan Bean 14 MOMENTUM Fall 2013


EU R E K A MOMENTS It’s only logical: Loci code helps spacecraft prepare for launch By Susan Lassetter Loci

When future generations boldly go where no man has gone before, they will likely receive a boost from Ed Luke. An associate professor in computer science, Luke has spent nearly 15 years developing and expanding Loci, a high performance computing framework that helps engineers build predictive models. Most recently, he has been awarded part of a $2.2 million grant to help NASA design a spacecraft capable of carrying humans deeper into space. Announced in January, the new project will use Loci-CHEM, a fluid modeling expansion of the basic framework, to study the turbulent mixing of chemicals that occurs when a space-bound vehicle is launched. “Launches involve a violent mixing of materials, which can be very hard to accurately model,” Luke said.

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“Our work will focus on developing algorithms to make that modeling possible.” Luke developed Loci while at Mississippi State earning a doctoral degree in a program that combines engineering, applied mathematics and computer science. He said it was this multidisciplinary training that helped him develop the tool. “Sometimes, if you have an engineer, a computer scientist and a mathematician in the same room, they can be talking about the same thing and not realize it because they aren’t speaking the same language,” Luke said. “Each of these areas is rich with computational problems and solutions and, by combining knowledge from each, you can get tools like Loci.” Deriving its name from locus, the mathematical concept on which it’s based, the Loci framework provides a way to input data so that the computer can assemble it to create a model and provide proof that the result is logically consistent. “It’s a logic-based system. You give it a lot of different information—sort of mathematical relations—and it

finds the model that satisfies them all,” Luke said. “Basically, it’s a code for building codes, so that the user doesn’t have to worry about the high performance computing issues or complex computational problems.” Loci uses principles from artificial intelligence, which allow it to assemble models using logical inferences from two things. First, it maintains a rule database that describes how to make inferences about model variables. Second, it maintains a database of facts known by the user. The system can inspect those facts and rules to assemble the model or simulation that satisfies a goal requested by the user. The system is designed in such a way to not accept ambiguity. Luke explained that, sometimes unknown to the user, similar programs can produce results that should not be trusted. Loci, however, will simply not run if it detects logical inconsistencies. “It wants every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed and if that doesn’t happen, it tells the user it cannot provide a meaningful answer,” Luke said. “That makes it much harder to make an accidental mistake.”

While initial funding for Loci came from the National Science Foundation, the project has received millions of dollars in grants over the years. The additional funding helps ensure continued advancement that includes expansions like Loci-CHEM and Loci-Blast, a system currently in development to model explosions such as those from roadside bombs. “As time has gone by the range of uses has expanded,” Luke said. “A lot of NASA contractors have started using it, as has the Air Force and other government units.” He continued, “Boeing actually used one of our Loci systems to evaluate the re-entry risks associated with a damaged tile on the space shuttle. They actually took pictures of the damage while it was in orbit and used Loci to construct a model of the damaged tile to simulate the effects of the damage on re-entry heating. This result was used to assess other models and help in the process of deciding if the shuttle would be able to return to Earth safely.” As the list of companies, organizations and projects that have benefited from Loci keeps growing, Luke said he is confident more and more engineers will explore the potential uses of the program. He explained that it is distributed under an open source license to make it widely available and encourage application of the system to a more diverse range of problems. “Having a tool like Loci is only part of the solution,” Luke said. “Like any computer simulation program, engineers have to know how to apply it and trust that its results are accurate. And as people continue to use it, it could become as ubiquitous as the older engineering methods we rely on today.” n

2003 The Loci-CHEM tools were used extensively in analysis of the bipod ramp region of the external fuel tank to prepare the space shuttle for safely returning to space. 2008 Loci-CHEM models were used to understand the effects of the sky crane rocket motor plumes used to safely carry the Mars Curiosity rover to the planet’s surface. 2010 Boeing used Loci-CHEM in the in-flight analysis of heat shield performance after damage to orbiter tiles on space shuttle flight STS-134.

2012 Aerospace Corp. began using Loci-CHEM in the analysis of the Delta IV Heavy Rocket to understand anomalous plume deflagration on West Coast launches

International steelmaker partners with MSU By: Jim Laird, MSU Office of Research and Economic Development A research partnership between Mississippi State and one of the world’s leading steelmakers is expected to help grow the region’s high-tech manufacturing economy and foster national and international participation in ferrous alloy education and development. The land-grant institution’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and Severstal North America (SNA) recently launched the Steel Research Center (SRC) to establish and operate a worldclass steelmaking technology hub, according to a senior MSU researcher.

“We plan to deploy enhanced capabilities in multi-scale modeling and characterization developed at Mississippi State, and utilize steelmaking expertise from industrial partners, like SNA, to guide current and future R&D activities at the new center,” said Roger King, CAVS director and Giles Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The 4,000-square-foot SRC is located in the Edwards Reactor Building on Herbert Street on the university’s main campus. According to King, the SRC, with the support of Severstal technical advisers, will help drive advanced predictive capabilities focusing on steel manufacturing processes and the design of new alloys for key flat-rolled products to support the steel consuming industries.

“We envision the SRC as a completely functional laboratory that will simulate critical processing steps used in the steel manufacturing industry, using both labscale processing equipment and robust numerical tools,” he said. SRC will design and implement experimental apparatus that represent the processing paths of steel-related material manufacturing. Once the experimental framework is established, simulation tools will be proposed and design ideas validated with the experimental equipment, he explained. Severstal North America has contributed funding to support the SRC in purchasing a state-of-the-art melting furnace with vacuum capability. The commissioning of the lab-scale furnace is set for later this year. “We are thrilled to be partnering with such a prestigious university to further educate young people on the advanced technologies in the steelmaking process. Through this association, Severstal hopes to participate in the development of metallurgical and material engineers at MSU and receive the benefit of laboratory-scale product and process improvement trials,” said Chris Kristock, vice president for quality and product development for Severstal North America. The university’s partnership with SNA includes plans to acquire additional equipment, including a rolling mill and a heat-treat furnace. “In the near future, we will form an advisory committee comprised of industry and academic members to help us develop action plans for the center’s mission,” King said. n



Under the Sea

Researchers decode coastal ecosystems to support a healthier Gulf

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Under—around, above and beside— the sea live thousands of species with lives so intertwined that to change one would cause a ripple across the entire coastal ecosystem. From the plants and plankton to crustaceans, fish and humans, these ecosystems exist in a delicate balance that for many years has not been fully understood. But a team of researchers from the Mississippi State-led Northern Gulf Institute hopes to change that for the region by employing a strategy called ecosystem-based management. “The idea is to manage individual resources in a holistic, system-wide approach,” said William McAnally, co-director of the institute. “We try to look at all of the effects decisions have on every piece of the ecosystem, rather than focusing on one species or one problem, to find what’s best to support a healthy, productive, resilient ecosystem.”

By Susan Lassetter Photograph by Beth Wynn

the Gulf ecosystem team, that includes researchers from Mississippi State, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State, Florida State, Texas A&M, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Gulf ecosystem team’s task is to map how different species, actions or events impact the environment. Team members then hope to create a numerical model to interpret the data, letting those involved in the social and economic sectors see what effects their decisions will have on the ecosystem. The models and collected data then will be used to form Sulis Information Services, a suite of easy-to-use tools that can perform risk analysis or provide decision support.

Traditionally, coastal issues have been dealt with on an individual basis. That often had unintended consequences for the rest of the ecosystem. For example, blue crabs are a popular menu item and fetch a nice price for the fishermen, but their overharvesting can take away a food source for larger Gulf predators and allow some prey-species’ numbers to grow out of control.

“For years, people have said we need to look at the environment in a very holistic way, but with so many factors involved, it was very difficult to do,” explained Cristina Carollo of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M UniversityCorpus Christi. “We are developing the capabilities and instrumentation to make a holistic understanding possible. Our tool kit will give decision-makers a broader look at the Gulf.”

Gulf-ecosystem team member Just Cebrian of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab explained, “We have to find that line where fishermen can earn a living, but the environmental quality is protected. It’s all about compromising. We have to understand exactly how everything in the ecosystem works together so we can find that solution.”

The initial stage of the project has focused on four ecosystems in the northern region of the Gulf of Mexico: Galveston Bay (Texas), Barataria Basin (Louisiana), the Mississippi Sound, and Perdido Bay (Florida). These areas were selected because they fall along the same latitude and have similar climates, but support different human activities.

McAnally, a coastal engineer, said understanding an ecosystem is a matter of having the right people in place to interpret the physical environment— the biotic, or living, environment; the social sector, that includes consumers and conservationists; and the economic sector, that includes the fishing and oil industries and all of those who depend on them—so that society can understand the issues and reach a compromise. This means engineers, marine scientists, environmental scientists and social scientists all working together to fully understand the coastal ecosystem.

McAnally said eventually the researchers would like to do the whole Gulf. Since deep-water ecosystems are vastly different from shallow estuaries, the initial focus will be on coastal waters. “This project is fun and challenging,” McAnally said. “Even though I know the chances of complete success during my career are slim, I nonetheless think it is a worthwhile effort that could be very important to the future of the Gulf.” n

“It’s challenging work because it’s interdisciplinary, but it’s fun. And some days we feel like we are going to take over the world,” McAnally said of





A glimpse into the Bagley College of Engineering’s current projects and engineering advances Energy While smart phones have been the bane of many professors’ existence–with students surreptitiously texting and checking Facebook during class– the director of the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering has found a way to incorporate them into a core class. Jason Keith, working with computer engineering majors John Gazzini and Reed Spraybery, has created “Heat Transfer for Students,” a free iPhone app that will help students better understand how thermal energy is transferred. “If I’m writing equations on the board during class, students can get really bored,” Keith explained. “They punch numbers into the calculator to get the answer but they don’t actually understand heat transfer.

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“You have to take a step back and do some analysis to figure that part out and the app gives you the functionality to do that.” Through its simple interface, the app allows users to input variables and create a simulation of heat conduction in a solid material. Keith said this virtual experiment helps students understand how heat transfer really works. The app has been downloaded more than 2,000 times and inspired an academic paper and presentation. Keith said he hopes this is just the first of many apps to help bring chemical engineering education into the 21st century. “I think there are a lot of opportunities in many of the core chemical engineering classes for applications like this,” Keith said.

Human Health Enhancement R.E.M. sang, “Stand in the place where you work.” Now, 25 years after the song’s release, BCoE industrial engineers agree. Stand where you work. It’s good for you. Standing workstations may have positive effects on overall health, according to Kari Babski-Reeves and Lesley Strawderman, associate professors and human factors and ergonomics researchers. “When a person maintains a static posture for an extended period of time, they experience a great amount of muscle fatigue and discomfort,” Strawderman said. “The body was made to move, which is one of the greatest advantages of standing workstations. They force you to adjust your posture and not sit in the same position for an entire workday. This type of dynamic movement encourages blood flow and decreases fatigue.”

Strawderman stressed that changing office furniture isn’t enough to create an effective standing station. In addition to purchasing or building a standing desk, the user needs to make certain it is set-up to compliment his or her physiology. For maximum comfort and efficiency, the researchers suggest users position the computer monitor slightly below eye level, place the keyboard slightly below elbow height and stand on an anti-fatigue mat with their feet under the table. “It’s all about customizing your work space for you,” Strawderman said. “After all, no two people are exactly alike.” Information and Decision Systems Random projection for dimensionality reduction—this long phrase summarizes research that will lead to the development of tiny sensors that are energy efficient and cheap to produce. The idea is to create an imaging process employing a single sensor to capture millions of measurements that represent an image. Jim Fowler, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is developing the tools that will allow those numbers to become scientifically relevant representations. “If a sensor acquires measurements that each span the entire spectral range, you no longer have an understandable representation of the image, just a bunch of numbers,” Fowler said. “I’m working on the ground systems that will reconstruct those images to access the valuable data they contain.” The research is funded by a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant meant to spur the development of fundamental algorithms. Fowler said the data recovered from this program will benefit a variety of fields including defense and agriculture. “We’re dealing with the theoretical, which is how a lot of engineering goes,” Fowler said. “You have to put the theory into place and years later it will show up in practice. You have to have solid theory—an understanding of what is possible—to generate practical applications.” Materials Science and Engineering Oliver Myers is working to make composite structures last longer. Using the natural properties of embedded magnetostrictive materials, he is

identifying ways to sense damage that occurs within the structure during its lifetime. “We’re looking at how these materials, and the products they are used in, can be in service for longer periods of time,” Myers said. “The data we are collecting will lead to better designed composites to save time and money, which is always the bottom line.” Myers explained that this kind of information could be very helpful to the aerospace and automotive industries by allowing them to determine when damage will occur and how it will affect the system and life of the structure. “We have data to show that it is functional. Now we need to show that it is consistent and determine how this embedded sensor material affects the strength of the structure,” the assistant professor in mechanical engineering said. Other areas of Myers’ work include NASAfunded research with professor Judy Schneider to characterize friction stir welding and an Armyrelated project to develop piezoelectric morphing structures. These structures use electric currents to change the shape of a structure without the added weight and maintenance of additional mechanisms on an unmanned aerial vehicle. Transportation and Vehicular Systems Sandra Eksioglu is helping engineer transportation systems that make possible the mass production of biofuels. Using mathematical models, she optimizes the design and management of the biomass supply chain to reduce the economic and environmental costs of biofuels. “The first step in designing biofuel supply chains is to understand the physical characteristics of the products that flow through this system,” Eksioglu said. “We collaborate with other groups on campus, such as chemical and agricultural engineers, to understand the different types of biomass and biofuels.” The models Eksioglu develops integrate into the supply-chain planning and operational decisions, including facility location, mode of transportation, inventory management, and production scheduling. The results help developers identify assets, understand the trade-off between choices and make informed decisions.

The associate professor of industrial and systems engineering began this research in 2006. Her work has since expanded and will continue through 2016 with funding from a National Science Foundation CAREER award. “Biofuels are not the only source of renewable energy,” Eksioglu said. “New products will continue to be developed to meet our needs. Each new product has unique characteristics that should be considered when designing the necessary supply chains. We are ready for the challenges of the work in front of us.” Water and the Environment Assistant civil engineering professor Veera Gnaneswar Gude has a solution to some of the world’s environmental woes. It’s there in the lab, a slimy green ooze. Algae that is. Green gold. Renewable energy. Working with undergraduate and graduate students, Gude is overseeing three projects involving algae. Doctoral student Edith MartinezGuerra and graduate student Sara Fast are working to produce biodiesel from oil extracted from the plant. Doctoral student Bahareh Kokabian and junior Jing Liao are developing a process that uses the green stuff to generate electricity. But, it’s the work of senior Matthew Blair that will make large-scale use of those projects possible. Blair is working to identify a mix of nutrients that will allow for cost-effective algae farming that will enable widespread use of the plant’s byproducts. “The concentration of nutrients and growth medium needed to produce algae cost a lot of money,” Gude explained. “If we can develop growing and processing techniques that use fewer resources, we can make the process economical so that algae can be a viable option for energy production.” Gude said that, in addition to producing high-value bio-products, algae also is a natural environment scrubber because it can remove carbon dioxide and waste products from its surroundings. Each of the projects has received funding from Mississippi State. The Environmental Protection Agency recently has funded a microwave/ ultrasonic reactor project that will facilitate the removal of oil from algae.


Gray Matters Biological engineers help change understanding of traumatic injury By Susan Lassetter Photograph by Megan Bean

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A brain sits on a pedestal, exploding into parts and particles as a polymer rod slams into it. Gray and white matter crumple against the wall. Splat. The mist that hangs in the air is very distinct since the video is shown in slow motion on a large projection screen. “So that’s an actual experiment to show how traumatic impact affects the brain,” Raj Prabhu explained,

chuckling at the horrified look on my face. He says it’s not an uncommon reaction and I believe him. He and the other two researchers I am meeting with have shown this video to many people while explaining the Human Body Simulation Group’s finding that will redefine how traumatic brain injury is studied and understood.

The group has developed a virtual model of the human brain and surrounding structures that shows how shockwaves travel through the hard skull, as well as the soft tissue. This challenges the accepted model of brain injury that has been in place for more than 20 years. “Current thinking is that the vibrations from a head injury go through the skull at the point of impact then reverberate through the soft tissue until they dissipate,” Prabhu said. “Our model has been able to capture a level of detail that shows these waves actually travel around the skull then through the brain, which changes our understanding of where, when and how injuries occur.” Associate professor Jun Liao added, “This changes the paradigm around brain injury.”

developing high-fidelity human models. Because it is so new to the field, biological researchers are required to learn a whole new language and approach to their studies. Prabhu pulls up the model on the screen to help me understand exactly what I’m hearing. It looks like a head that has been constructed using tiny versions of a kid’s toy building blocks. Known as a mesh, it is an illustration of layers and layers of the “tiny blocks,” that are correctly known as elements.

going against the grain “andWe’re some people won’t see the need for these complex models since there are other models in existence,

Williams, Prabhu and Liao serve as co-leaders of the human body simulation team, each providing different biological engineering expertise, which helps ensure that their findings are thorough and fully validated. In the case of the virtual brain, the team members combined their research specialties and laboratories at Mississippi State’s agricultural and biological engineering department and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems to prepare the development for publication. Prabhu, now an assistant research professor, began the multiscale modeling process as a doctoral student under the guidance of Mark F. Horstemeyer, a professor in mechanical engineering. Liao, who specializes in tissue engineering, then helped ensure the accuracy of the biological properties assigned to the model in simulations. The virtual model was validated through physical experiments conducted by Williams, who researches tissue and organ mechanics.

Experiments like the one in the video typically use animal models or synthetic materials to approximate the reaction that would occur in human tissue. These results are good for showing an overview of the damage—this is your brain; this is your brain in a helmetless collision—but they don’t capture the more subtle injuries that occur within the cranium.

said Lakiesha ” Williams, an assistant professor.

“These alternative models lack the geometrical and biochemical processes that are present in human bodies,” Prabhu explained. “We wanted to study what happens to actual human tissue at each scale, from the individual atoms to the tissue as a whole, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Each layer of the mesh represents a biological structural level—from the molecules that form the cells that form the nerves, veins, neurons, fat, and cartilage that form the brain, skull and surrounding tissue. The mesh contains 10 of these levels and is composed of one million elements.

The team’s work has been supported by approximately $2 million from various agencies and organizations, including the Department of Defense, which also is supporting their work to develop similar models of the lower extremities: legs, ankles and feet. Williams serves as principal investigator on that project.

The Bagley College team’s model depicts the structures of the human brain, from the smallest atom at the microscale to the tissue that can be seen with the naked eye. By applying the physical properties of human tissue to its digital double, the researchers can then run simulations of different types of trauma to see exactly how it affects the brain at all levels.

At that rate, a whole human body constructed using the team’s method would contain close to 10 million elements. By comparison, a similar body model used by a car company contains 100,000.

The group’s goal is to eventually complete a multiscale-model of the whole human body.

“Our virtual brain is the most accurate solution to show what happens to all of the tissue when a trauma occurs,” Prabhu said. “By using multiscale modeling, we’ve been able to capture the physics and biomechanics that occur across the board, which will allow us to see what kinds of impacts cause injury and where those injuries occur.” Multiscale modeling is a common practice in studies of composite materials and automotive structures, but has not been widely applied to

but those are very simplistic. Our models will help us understand so much more,

Simulations using the current BCoE-developed model take approximately 10 hours to run and have to be processed through parallel computing—a process that requires the processors of multiple computers to analyze complex computational problems. “We’re going against the grain and some people won’t see the need for these complex models since there are other models in existence, but those are very simplistic. Our models will help us understand so much more,” said Lakiesha Williams, an assistant professor.

“We’ve been validating the model at every step along the way so that we can be confident in our model by the time we get to the full-scale,” Williams said.

“We’ve developed the science and engineering framework that will allow us to develop a virtual human that can be used in simulating any traumatic situation,” Williams said. “And ultimately, these high fidelity models will help us develop more effective safety counter-measures.” She continued, “Crash-test dummies are made of plastic and steel. Those materials don’t react like the human would. Our models will allow for bio-inspired design that takes into account actual human properties from the beginning of the product design process, and that will lead to safer conditions for all of us.” n


Natasha Johnson likes to look on the bright side of things, even when recalling the three days in 2003 when she was left in the dark. “Our saving grace was that it happened in the summer so we didn’t have to battle the cold as well,” she said, remembering the power outage that affected 50 million people in eight states. Living in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the time, the Jamaica native considers herself lucky; she was at home when the power went out. Her family members working in Manhattan didn’t have the same fortune. With the subways and traffic lights out of commission, they spent more than three hours walking home with their fellow outer-borough commuters. “Thank God everyone was patient and cautious so there were no serious road accidents,” Johnson said.

Not so powerless

On the 10th anniversary of the largest blackout in North American history, the power grid is more resilient and “smarter” than before.

By Susan Lassetter

The blackout hit New York about one hour before the close of business Aug. 14, but the trouble started earlier that afternoon in Ohio. Around 2 p.m., a high-voltage power line brushed against overgrown trees, causing a fault, or shutdown, on the line. FirstEnergy, which owned the system, should have been alerted to the problem, but its monitoring program failed to sound the alarm. Soon, the system overloaded, knocking out power to part of Ohio. And as the surge spread through the lines, the dominoes began to fall. Michigan went dark. New York, dark. New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and part of Ontario, Canada, all left without power in what became the largest outage in North American history. “If they’d had better visibility into what the grid was doing in Ohio, the utility could have simply opened circuits to disconnect affected regions of Ohio from the rest of the interconnect and prevent the blackout from rippling out,” explained Tommy Morris. “Because they couldn’t see the problem, they couldn’t react and the result costs billions of dollars.” The Department of Energy estimates the blackout cost $6 billion. This includes approximately $4 billion in lost income, more than $1 billion in repairs to affected utilities, and between $380 and $940 million in lost or spoiled commodities. An assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Morris said the fallout from the 2003 blackout resulted in increased regulations, investment in new technology and a change in philosophy for the power industry.

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A Decade of D e v e l o pm e n t Reports of the incident focused largely on the three Ts— trees, tools and training. Lack of maintenance on trees surrounding the lines, faulty equipment and inadequate training for personnel were cited as the primary causes for the blackout. This led to new standards being developed by the North American Electricity Reliability Council. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission enforces these regulations, sometimes through million-dollar fines for noncompliance. The agency’s oversight helps ensure proper maintenance for the power systems and training for their operators. Tighter regulations and a push to be more reliable also have spurred the development of tools to help utilities better monitor and control their systems. In the 10 years since the record-setting blackout, power providers have invested millions in these advancements to make America’s electric grid “smarter”–a word that is widely applied, but not uniformly defined. The term “smart grid” is often mistakenly used as if it is a thing, a tangible piece of technology installed to make things better. However, it actually refers to a wide range of software, devices and ideas that make utilities more efficient and reliable; a way of doing things, rather than on specific technological development. “Basically, a smart grid is a collection of bestpracticed technologies that help improve reliability and maintain high efficiency, which helps lower operating costs and make managing electricity demand more effective,” explained Brock Parker, an engineer with the Southern Co. A 2004 computer engineering graduate, Parker works with grid-management software as part of Southern Co.’s distribution management system group. He said the software works with smart devices deployed throughout the company’s infrastructure to provide real-time information about its status. “One of the biggest aspects of smart grids is the communication network that provides fast, twoway communication between field devices and management tools,” Parker said. “It functions similarly to a complex computer network,

giving us information about power demand and pricing so we can make informed decisions about generation.” The information a smart grid provides about real-time power use allows utility companies to operate more efficiently by helping decide how much power to produce or purchase at any given moment. It also helps companies ensure they use the most efficient generation processes to meet demand, which leads to lower cost, more environmentally friendly electricity. Parker said that up-to-the-minute updates on the status of the grid also helps companies lessen downtime by alerting operators to outages or problems, such as the surge that caused the 2003 blackout, so they can take preventative or corrective actions. “Having an accurate idea about the status of the electrical network helps us better control voltage and make better-informed decisions during storm situations so that we can prevent outages or restore power faster and more safely,” Parker explained. Atlanta-based Southern Co.’s 99 percent reliability is due, in part, to smart grid investments, including a $165 million Department of Energy grant. New Orleansbased Entergy estimates that it now avoids more that 100,000 service interruptions annually because of smart-grid-based technology. John Scott, with Entergy’s transmission and distribution asset management area, said investments in new technology prove their worth by helping to keep the power grid running smoothly. “It’s like an insurance policy,” the 1986 electrical engineering graduate said. “When you buy it, you never know if you will use it. But when you need it, you’re glad it’s there.” Entergy has received two smart-grid investment grants. One was used to install smart meters throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area. The second is being used to install 49 synchrophasor units across four states. These units provide real-time and GPS-synchronized data about voltage stability. That information can be shared with other service providers to

thoroughly monitor the grid and prevent a widespread outage. Scott said Entergy also is developing and installing distribution-automated load transfer schemes, that are a type of “self-healing” technology used industry-wide to automatically isolate and correct problems to limit their effect on customers.

Basically, a smart grid is “a collection of best-practiced technologies that help improve reliability and maintain high efficiency, which helps lower operating costs and make managing electricity demand more effective, explained Brock Parker, an engineer with the Southern Co.

Load transfer schemes are activated when an outside force causes a fault in the distribution system. When a fault occurs in a traditional system, power company employees have to patrol the line to find and correct the problem, leaving many people without electricity during the timeconsuming process. The new automated systems isolate the fault and automatically restore power to all but a few customers directly affected by the faulty line, Scott said. Most of the changes to grid infrastructure go unnoticed by consumers. However, the results of their use can be seen through lower bills, fewer power outages and, ultimately, more insight into exactly what is happening with the power coming into their homes, including the expected duration of an outage or how much the electricity costs at that moment. “Our jobs are changing because our customers’ expectations are changing,” Scott said. “This is not your grandfather’s utility anymore.”


Ensuring Bright Days Ahead The shift to “smarter” systems has made America’s power supply more reliable and less susceptible to widespread outages like the 2003 incident, but the grid is still under pressure. In terms of security, the new interconnected technology of smart grids could open the systems to cyber-based attacks. “In more traditional systems, you had to worry only about physical security. Now, with the system being connected through communication networks there’s the potential for a hacker or malware to get in virtually,” Morris explained. As a grid security researcher at Mississippi State, Morris is helping prevent these breaches by vetting new technology for possible vulnerabilities and finding ways to make it more secure. One of his current projects provides intrusion detection solutions for Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the nation’s largest gas and electric companies, by monitoring its device and network traffic for signs of an attacker. “Power is a critical infrastructure, one of the most critical because the economy doesn’t work without it,” Morris emphasized. “That’s why the government and different companies are Renewable energy is how we improve efficiency, investing in smart but information collection and decision-making is grids and their security.”

how we improve reliability,” Fu explained. “We need to focus on using the computing technology and the data it collects to benefit the grid.

On the supply side, the power grid faces pressure from increased demand caused, in part, by extreme weather conditions. Yong Fu, an electrical and computer engineering assistant professor at Mississippi State, is using a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to develop ways for the power system to meet this demand more efficiently.

Fu’s primary research focuses on the decisionmaking capabilities of smart grids. The goal is to increase communication between utilities and consumers so that the systems can automatically make decisions that save energy, save money and improve grid reliability.

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“We want to coordinate information sharing so the utility can get information about energy usage and customers, can get information about the real-time price of energy,” Fu said. “That will allow utilities to make decisions about generation and customers can adjust their energy-use habits to reduce costs.” Ultimately, smart grids also will make it easier to incorporate renewable energy into the existing grid. However, Fu said right now it is important to make sure the system is able to collect, analyze and act on information to increase its reliability before adding additional elements into the mix. “Renewable energy is how we improve efficiency, but information collection and decision-making is how we improve reliability,” Fu explained. “We need to focus on using the computing technology and the data it collects to benefit the grid.” Fu has received a Department of Energy grant to help train current utility employees to use the new technology. Workforce training held on Mississippi State’s campus explains the devices and software and how each is used to make the process of power generation and distribution run more smoothly. The classes also expose trainees, as well as current MSU students, to the future of power generation through an energy farm. Located on the roof of Simrall Hall, the building that houses the department of electrical and computer engineering, the farm consists of two wind turbines and 24 solar panels, that are integrated into the building’s power system so students can see how the renewable energy sources function in real-life situations. “Smart grids could go a long way to bringing us energy independence,” Morris said. “It’s taking time, but it will come.” Morris said the development of smart grids is often compared to the rise of the Internet. “At first, no one really knew what websites were going to be, but they built the infrastructure and then came innovation,” he explained. “There are a lot of big ideas associated with smart grids, and once entrepreneurs get involved, who knows where the technology could be in 10 or 20 years.” n

Giving power to consumers When it comes to saving money on their power bills, many consumers feel powerless. With no options for comparison shopping to find the best rate, customers, instead, must try to reduce consumption or use energy-efficient appliances to save money. While these options are effective, they soon will not be the only recourses for savvy consumers. Smart grids and other evolving technology have the potential to give consumers the power to control their utility bills. “Smart” Tools – While the smart grid makes power generation and distribution systems more intelligent, “smart” tools, like meters and thermostats, make power consumption a more informed process. Smart meters are replacing their traditional counterparts at customers’ homes or businesses. Instead of simply measuring energy usage at a location, these devices are connected to the utility to communicate when there are changes in voltage and give the customer feedback about energy prices or current usage. This increased capability helps lower costs, reduce energy consumption and speed response time when there are problems on the line. Similarly, smart thermostats are devices that are capable of “learning” the habits of customers. Instead of being manually set to a temperature, these devices automatically respond to what it perceives as the users’ preference— raising or lowering the temperature when no one is home or when energy prices cross a certain threshold.

Price Signaling and Demand Response – Two means to the same end, price signaling and demand response are relatively new methods to help increase grid efficiency by reducing demand during peak times. Price signaling occurs when smart tools respond to price information received from the power company by

automatically taking steps to reduce energy consumption when prices are higher. These actions could include shutting down non-essential electric devices or adjusting air conditioning settings to use less energy at the time. Demand response, which is used primarily in the commercial sector, occurs when there is an agreement between consumers and power providers to shut down equipment that uses a lot of energy during periods of high demand.

Sell Back – As renewable forms of energy are integrated into the power supply, consumers will have the opportunity to become producers. Homeowners or businesses that generate their own solar or wind energy can sell any excess to the larger power grid for a profit or to help offset the cost of any supplemental, traditional power they consume. In the future, this could be expanded to include allowing electric-car owners to sell excess power from their batteries, which are charged at night when demand traditionally is lower, to the grid during the day, as demand for electricity spikes.


Engineers in the


Photographs by Beth Wynn Written by Susan Lassetter

All across Mississippi State University’s campus, people speak in hushed tones about ever-elusive engineering students. Where do they come from? What do they do? These questions have given rise to legends and myths of students with intense course-loads and little social interaction. In the following pages, take an inside look into the life of this lesser understood group on Mississippi State’s campus—the students of the Bagley College of Engineering.

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Surveying at Sunset: Seniors Travis Mauthe, Austin

Byrd and juniors Matthew Roddy and Rob Garner get in some late afternoon practice for the civil engineering surveying team.


View from the Top: To get a true

sense of their territory, some engineers seek an aerial view. This also provides a respite from

30 MOMENTUM Fall 2013

the hustle of the daily college grind. Enjoying a relaxing afternoon in the Junction are (from left) sophomore Ben Riser, industrial; junior

Ashlynn Tubbs, chemical; junior Hagan Walker, electrical; junior Robby Chalmers, biological; and junior Emily Dance, electrical.

A Feeding Frenzy: The smell of

fresh pizza works to draw the engineering student out of its natural habitat and into the open. At this point they are exposed

and become vulnerable for those seeking study assistance, technical support or help moving. Here the engineers have shed the safety of their dens for a slice of hand-tossed pepperoni, including clockwise: sophomore

Reid Haygood, civil; junior Derius Galvez, aerospace; junior Justin Johnson, industrial; sophomore Aloryn Davis, industrial; and senior Matthew Wong, mechanical.

Afternoons in the Sun: When

not engaged in schoolwork, engineers often seek out sunshine to help them strengthen their bodies and refresh their nutrients, like vitamin D, in preparation for long hours indoors during times of peak engineering activity. Playing Frisbee on the Drill Field are, from left, senior George Brent Ashmore, civil; sophomore Rebeca Velazquez, civil; senior William Prater, mechanical; senior Andy Odenthal, civil; senior Gregory Michener, civil; and senior Daniel Vaughan, civil.


Hiding in Plain Sight: Often engineering

majors may be found in typical college situations. Their ability to merge seamlessly with the rest of the Bulldog population works as a natural camouflage.

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In this colorful display, aerospace majors Adam Grant, left, and Franklin “D.J.� Hogue, right, join secondary education major Aaron Lockett in a show of force to help defend the Bulldog territory in Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.

The Hunters and the Hunted:

When faced with perceived obstacles to a desired schedule or graduation date, the normally docile engineering student can become a fierce predator. Here, mechanical engineering undergraduate coordinator Tammy Coleman works to calm and satisfy the needs of her pursuers, a defense mechanism developed by many in her position for their continued survival. They include from left, sophomore Lorenzo Jordan, senior Alex Yucatonis, sophomore Stephen Hayden, junior Tausif Jamal, graduate student Palara Grant and senior Taylor Bohach, behind the door.

A Battle for Dominance:

While it usually functions as a cohesive group, there can be struggles within the engineering pack for the right to be considered top in the college. In this battle for dominance, senior computer engineering major Justin Taylor (left) spars with sophomore aerospace major Alexander

Mecom (right) for bragging rights as members of the crowd show their support. Watching and cheering are, from left, Lisa Gooden-Hunley, cooperative education program; senior Amber Henry, mechanical; senior Melanie Shumock, computer science; and sophomore Daron Chandler, mechanical.



“I’m finding that this flexible work environment is best for people, so I’ve been a messenger of that,” Pritchett said.

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Alumna’s work, home balance inspires uncommon company By Susan Lassetter After spending the day with her dad as he surveyed timber for his job as a Weyerhaeuser forester, teenager Jocelyn Pritchett asked him a weighted question: What kind of engineering is closest to what you do? “He said, ‘Well, I guess civil,’ and I remember thinking that I’d scared him to death because he knew whatever he said could influence the rest of my life,” Pritchett recalled. “He was afraid being a woman in engineering would be a hard choice. But, I think it’s all worked out OK.” It’s hard to disagree with that assessment of her 23-year career, sitting in the lobby at Pritchett Engineering and Planning. There are no phones ringing in the background, and the floor of offices isn’t exactly bustling with activity, but that’s the point of her family-friendly business—the work happens whenever and wherever the employees are.

“My original thought was to create a company where parents would feel like they were in charge of their own time, but it’s turned out that a lot of people, not just parents, want that flexibility,” Pritchett explained. “I reached the same goal, it just ended up affecting more people than I thought.” A 1990 graduate of Mississippi State, Pritchett decided to start her own firm after the birth of her daughter, when putting in 50-hours a week at the office was no longer a practical option. At the time, she had nearly two decades of experience designing roads, navigating the permit process and planning engineering projects, so she knew what kind of company she wanted to create. She admitted, however, that taking that first step was a little scary. “I just walked in here, put a chair in this room and thought ‘Oh God, how am I going to do this,’”

Pritchett said. “I had to take it step-by-step. I built a website, made a logo and for $50 filed the LLC paperwork with the state. From there, I just started letting people know I was here.” She added, “That first year I only had one client, but he had a lot of work.” Now in its fifth year, Pritchett Engineering and Planning has 11 employees, including other Mississippi State graduates and even one Ole Miss alumna—“bless her heart,” Pritchett said with a laugh. “I’m finding that this flexible work environment is best for people, so I’ve been a messenger of that,” Pritchett said. “You have to have a lot of trust in your employees and good people, but we have that covered.” The company doesn’t have a receptionist or even an office phone system. Instead, all paperwork is completed through a cloud network and employees conduct business using cell phones, whether they’re at home with kids, by the nearest fishing hole or in the company’s Flowood offices. Still, despite its unconventional setup, the company averages annual billings of around $1 million from a variety of clients, including the Mississippi Department of Transportation and various municipalities. The company offers design and planning services for all types of transportation projects, but specializes in National Environmental Policy Act studies and permits that help engineers determine where projects—like new roads— should go in order to avoid, minimize or mitigate any negative effects to the environment. Pritchett said the studies have to consider both the human environment, such as communities and private property, and the natural environment, such as wetlands and animal habitats. “Permitting can be complicated,” Pritchett observed. “It can take a long time because there are so many impacts or so many people pulling for one

action or another. Planning and permitting these projects takes patience and communication skills.” She continued, “I remember one time, I had an elderly woman cry on me at a public meeting because we were taking her barn in a proposed road plan. We had moved the road away from her house thinking it would be better to take the barn instead, but as it turned out, her late husband had built that barn. We had no way of knowing until she told us.” Pritchett said that because the woman spoke up, the plan was changed in a way to avoid the barn, which goes to show the power of people’s voices and the importance of attending public meetings. “The state of Mississippi does a good job of encouraging the public to let their voices be heard, and Mississippians realize what progress means for their well-being and their communities,” Pritchett said. Among the most rewarding projects she’s worked on, Pritchett lists assisting with Hurricane Katrina recovery and helping bring highways to the Delta for an economic boost. However, she said some of her favorite projects are those that further develop what many engineers with the department of transportation refer to as the “Highway to God’s Country” —state Highway 25 that connects Bulldog alumni working in the state capital to their alma mater’s campus in Starkville. She said whether they were born in Mississippi or simply adopted it as their home, all of her employees share a common mission of wanting to help the Magnolia State in every way they can. “People complain that nobody comes to Mississippi and stays; that all of our talent gets exported. But I don’t think that’s true, and the people who are here want to take care of the state,” she said. “We all need to work together for what’s best for Mississippi.” n


BULLDOG ENGINEER They came in a 3-pound box. Ten thousand honeybees shipped from a Georgia apiary to Ray Sweeney’s Hernando, Miss., doorstep. With that, the admitted “tinkerer” had a new hobby—beekeeping. Those first honeybees established two hives,

Mind your

beeswax Computer science grad finds honey of a hobby By Susan Lassetter

which soon became four, then eight, then 16. By year’s end, Sweeney expects to have 20 honey-producing hives at the edge of his backyard. “Not everyone was happy when I first got the bees,” Sweeney said. “They thought they wouldn’t be able to go outside anymore. Now, they realize it’s not killer bees out there, just honeybees doing bee things.” Composed of brightly colored, stacked boxes called supers, the hives are hard to miss along the fence. They’re lined up about 50 yards behind the chicken coop, to the right of a garage holding a rebuilt 1969 Dodge Dart GTS, and a homemade powdercoating oven used to paint refurbished, vintage Coca-Cola machines—-all paraphernalia of just three of Sweeney’s other pastimes. When it comes to choosing a hobby, his only requirements are that it be interesting and fit into the family’s life. But Sweeney tries to have variety, with something that appeals to each of his children: 11-year-old Collin, 13-year-old Cameron and Ryan, a sophomore chemistry major at Mississippi State. “I do a lot of stuff and have a lot of weird hobbies,” Sweeney said. “But you have to try a lot of things to find what you really like. These are experiences my kids will take with them because the things you experience when you are young are a big factor in the decisions you make about what you do with your life.” Sweeney said the variety of of experiences he had as a student worker at the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., influenced his decision to study computer

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Like any specialized hobby, beekeeping comes with its own set of tools and terms. Below are a few basics that buzz around in bee-based conversation. Apiculture – the science of raising honeybees Beebread – pollen and nectar mixed and stored to feed the colony Beeswax – a compound secreted by worker bees that is used to construct comb Cell – a hexagon-shaped compartment in the comb built by honeybees Comb – a collection of cells, or compartments, in which bees are reared and honey and pollen are stored Drone – a male honeybee Extractor – a device that uses centrifugal force to remove honey from comb science. And it’s been the variety of tasks at his job with FedEx that has kept the “tinkerer” with the same company for nearly 20 years.

it, but, after 17 years, it was time to try my hand at management,” Sweeney explained. “Now my challenge is empowering others to do what I enjoy doing.”

“A lot of people move around to different companies and do a lot of different things,” Sweeney said. “It just so happens that I didn’t have to switch companies to work on different projects.”

Letting go of projects is the biggest adjustment for someone like Sweeney who enjoys getting his hands dirty. He said there is always the urge to micromanage, but he realizes his team knows what it’s doing, even if it’s not the exact steps he would have taken to reach the goal.

His projects have included integrating the company’s ground and air tracking systems—which process 6 million packages a day, 12.5 million during peak seasons. The 1995 graduate also helped with the successful deployment of the handheld device used by FedEx couriers to register pick-ups and deliveries and receive instructions from a dispatcher. Now, as an information technology manager, Sweeney said he helps others navigate the technical issues that arise for the shipping company. “I like doing the technical work so much that it was hard for me to contemplate not doing

“I have to step back and let them do the job, just like my managers did for me earlier in my career,” Sweeney said. It’s a similar to the problem he faced when he first got his honeybees, when he was so intrigued by his new hobby that he tended to over-manage the hives. “I was out there every day, ready to jump in at the first sign of one little problem,” Sweeney confessed. “You tend to forget that they’ve been around for millions of years, so they know what to do.”

Frame – a wooden or plastic structure designed to hold honeycomb Foundation strip – a piece of prestamped beeswax placed in a frame to help the bees create neater rows of comb Hive – the home of a colony of honeybees Queen bee – the only egg-laying female in the hive, larger and longer than worker bees Scouts – worker bees that search for new sources of nectar, pollen or water Smoker – any device used to produce and release cool smoke that can subdue bees Super – a hive body used by bees to store extra honey Swarm – a larger number of workers and drones that leave the hive with the queen, and often occurs when an old queen leaves her original colony to establish a new one Worker bee – the majority of bees in the hive, a female bee that does not lay eggs


He said watching bees in action is fascinating. From his back porch, he can sit and watch them fly to and from the hives, collecting nectar to produce their honey. Because of the variety of plants they use as sources, each hive’s honey has a slightly different flavor. But as long as they aren’t foraging among the bright yellow flowers of the bitterweed plant, the quality is the same, Sweeney said. “Bitterweed honey just doesn’t taste good,” he added. “That’s something I learned this year when I accidentally collected and bottled some.” Sweeney collects the honey as the colonies fill their supers. The process starts with removal of the frames–-wooden structures that hang like file folders in a super–-that contain honey-filled comb. He then carefully scrapes off the wax caps and places the comb in an extractor, which uses centrifugal force to separate and strain the honey. At the end of the season, he leaves each colony with a full supply of honey—around 40 pounds–-to live on during the winter. Sweeney collects and bottles about 750 pounds of honey each year, most of which he gives away or sells for a small price–after all, he’s in it for the experience, not to make money. “Each year as a beekeeper you learn a little more and encounter something new,” Sweeney said. “That keeps it really interesting.” n

38 MOMENTUM Fall 2013

Back to Basics How well would you do in today’s introductory engineering classes?


Test your knowledge in our Back to Basics Quiz. EM 2413 – Engineering Mechanics I What are the three things you learned in statics?

CE 1001- Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Why should any person, practicing engineering in a public or private capacity, or offering to practice engineering, be licensed to provide engineering services?

ABE 4523 – Biomedical Materials When an implant device causes a strong immunological response and is rejected by the host in which it is implanted, the implant is known to not be _____ with the host: a) Bioreductant b) Bio Lymphatic c) Biocompatible d) Bio Retardant e) Happy

CHE 3023- Fluids Bernoulli’s Equation Water is siphoned from a large tank through a constant diameter hose as shown in the figure. Determine the maximum height of the hill, Hhill, over which the water can be siphoned without cavitation occurring. Assume that the vapor pressure of the water is Pv, the height of the water free surface in the tank is Htank, and the vertical distance from the end of the hose to the base of the tank is Hend.

CSE 1284- Introduction to Programming This type of variable is defined inside a function and is not accessible outside the function. a) local b) global c) counter d) reference

ECE 3413- Introduction to Electronic Circuits Kirchoff’s Current Law (KCL) If I1 = 10A and I2 = 3 A, what is I3? ME 2133—Modeling and Manufacturing The least accurate casting method is: a) Lost wax casting b) die casting c) green sand casting

IE 3123- Industrial Ergonomics Bilbo Baggins is conducting a time study on Frodo. Complete his data collection sheet by reporting the correct values for the items that are missing (A, B, C, D, E, and F). See chart below. Answers can be found online at



Cardiologist pumps new knowledge into understanding of heart science By Susan Lassetter Photograph by Megan Bean Pulse racing, palms sweating, breath quickening—telltale signs of cardiac distress or excitement over meeting the leader of the free world? Ask Dr. Ervin Fox. He has experience with both. A cardiologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Fox is a leading researcher in the function and responses of the cardiovascular system. So, last year, when his heart started racing as he walked to shake the hand of President Barack Obama, he knew it was from excitement and not something more alarming. “I never would have thought I’d have the chance to shake the president’s hand,” the Clarksdale, Miss., native said. “I was thinking ‘Wow, do I really deserve this?’ I was humbled and excited at the same time.” This once-in-a-lifetime moment came during the 16th annual Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. Fox was one of 96 honored at the event for contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A 1989 biomedical engineering graduate, Fox was selected based on his work in understanding vascular function in African-Americans and how it relates to risk factors for heart disease and other cardiac ailments. “This is a unique assessment to build a comprehensive characterization of vascular function in African-Americans,” Fox explained. “We want to find a baseline of this function, see if early assessment can reduce risk factors for cardiac diseases, and understand if there are genetic determinants involved.”

40 MOMENTUM Fall 2013

Vascular function refers to how small-, medium- and large-caliber vessels carry blood throughout the body. Fox’s particular interest lies with the endothelium, a thin layer of cells that lines the vessels and helps control the cardiovascular system. This lining also plays a role in inflammation; coagulopathy, a clotting disorder; and arteriosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of arteries—conditions that put a person at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.

“It allows us to be a little more investigative. We can look at biological markers and whether or not certain pathways are playing roles in heart disease,” Fox explained.

Studies suggest that endothelium cells respond differently in African-Americans than they do in persons of European descent. This difference could explain why black populations record higher rates of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.

“We have a large cohort to work with and a wealth of information to process,” Fox said. “This means we are uniquely qualified to address the racial disparity in these diseases.”

“It’s unclear why these physiological differences exist, that’s why research into the biological markers is important,” Fox said. “By understanding why certain groups are predisposed to cardiovascular problems, we can, hopefully, find more effective ways to prevent and treat them.” A report from the American Heart Association shows that among non-Hispanic blacks 20 years old and older, 44.4 percent of men and 48.9 percent of women have cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in those groups. Rates of heart attack and stroke are particularly high among middle-aged individuals. “This is very detrimental to families and communities because those middle aged individuals are potentially at the peak of their productivity in terms of income generation and other support,” Fox said. Insurance status, nutrition and other environmental factors are known to have an impact on a person’s predisposition to disease, but, by performing long-term studies of community-based groups, Fox also will be able to show what biological markers are involved. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, his research is part of the Jackson Heart Study that focuses on African-American residents of Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties. By partnering with the study that began in 2001, he and his team can build on previously collected echocardiogram data to understand the cardiac structure and function of the group.

Since opening the newly renovated Vascular Function Lab in April 2012, Fox has collected data on approximately 1,500 participants. With more than 3,000 left to go, the research is expected to run through 2016.

Fox said it was an interest in robots, sparked by the new-at-the-time “Star Wars” movies, that first drew him to biomedical engineering. He admits it’s not the most logical leap, but it’s one that ultimately led him to the career he loves.

“I would tell people I wanted to be a doctor, just so they would leave me alone about choosing biological engineering, but, lo and behold, that’s what I did,” he said, with a chuckle. “My older brother especially gave me a hard time because he was in civil engineering and thought that was the best major around.” The son of educators, Fox said he enjoys learning, so much so he was still taking classes in 2010. In addition to a bachelor’s, he holds a medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a master’s in public health from Harvard University. Add two fellowships, a residency and a thriving career as an academic clinical-research cardiologist, and no one teases him anymore about the path he chose. In fact, his brother and the rest of the family traveled to Washington, D.C., to celebrate when Fox received his career achievement award. “It was a fantastic experience and we really made the most of it as a family,” Fox said. “It meant a lot to share it with them because without their support, and the help and mentorship of many colleagues throughout my career, it wouldn’t have been possible.” n

To call or not to call When to take action in the face of possible heart attack or stroke Heart attacks and strokes come in many sizes, from those that aren’t diagnosed until discovered by a doctor, to those that immediately and visibly affect the patient. Fox said no matter the size, these cardiac problems should always be taken seriously. Knowing the warning signs and acting quickly could save someone’s life. Heart Attack Symptoms n Pressure or pain in the center of your chest n Too rapid or irregular pulse n Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing n Undue fatigue n Pain in neck, jaw, or one or both arms n Nausea, a cold sweat, or lightheadedness If you or someone you are with may be having a heart attack: n Call 911 immediately n Chew and swallow an aspirin n Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed n Be prepared to administer CPR, if necessary Stroke If a stroke is suspected, remember F.A.S.T:

Face drooping Arm weakness Speech difficulty Time to call 911! Simple tests like asking the victims to smile, raise their arms or repeat simple sentences may help confirm these symptoms.


Industrial alumna makes the pieces fit By Susan Lassetter

When asked what makes a good engineer, Cathy Dunn has a simple answer.

maintenance for the organization, including its 28 million square feet of cargo-handling and storage areas and four movable bridges. She also helps find funding sources for the port.

“I always tell potential engineering students that, to me, an engineer needs to like to work puzzles because they are going to be doing them a lot,” Dunn said.

“A lot of industrial engineers end up working in management because we like working with people and because we understand the big picture,” Dunn said. “It ends up being kind of a catchall for a company’s needs.”

It makes sense that she would use that example. Her resume looks a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. The individual pieces alone show many jobs but together they build a complete picture of a career filled with twist and turns. It started while Dunn was a student at Mississippi State. During the school year, she worked with the university’s Student Activity Council to arrange ski trips and bring professional wrestling matches to campus. In the summer, she scooped ice cream at her mother’s Baskin-Robbins franchise—the first on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Following graduation in 1975, she began working towards a master’s in civil engineering and held jobs in the clothing, chemical, marine construction and metal refining industries before landing at the Port of New Orleans. There she established the country’s first industrial engineering department at a port. “You don’t find a lot of industrial engineers working at ports but it’s a good fit,” Dunn explained. Named deputy director of port development in 1998, Dunn oversees engineering, construction management, contract management and

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In her time at the port, Dunn has headed the IT department, special projects and even spent time in marketing—tasks that are a little different from what industrial engineers traditionally do. But the variety, she said, is what makes the job fun. Much of what Dunn oversees are issues specific to the New Orleans-based port. On a weekly basis, she helps develop and maintain port facilities that service cargo ships and cruise liners bringing thousands of tourists to The Big Easy. She also has had to learn to manage the problems that come with the port’s location, such as taking care of employees in the wake of severe storms and flooding such as occurred after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. “I was in Houston when Katrina hit and, within two days, I was working. My job was to track all of our employees who were spread around the country. We had to find people to be able to send their paychecks,” Dunn recalled. “My first project at the port was to set up a way to track costs,” she continued. “That played heavily into how we moved forward after Katrina. In addition to tracking employees, we had to track leave balances and setup a leave sharing system, and

also setup a system for assigning temporary housing for port employees.” She since has helped the port develop a comprehensive disaster-response system to prevent payday delays and help keep track of employees in the event of future evacuations. Dunn said it was the people-based nature of industrial engineering that first attracted her to the profession. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., she moved to New Orleans with her family while in high school. She said she had considered majoring in archeology, but, when Tulane offered a scholarship, her engineering roots won out. “My father was an engineer and I can remember being in second grade, sitting beside him while he showed me how to use a slide rule to work problems,” Dunn said. “I guess I was destined to be an engineer whether I knew it or not.” After starting the general engineering curriculum at the New Orleans-based school, Dunn knew she was on the right path. But it wasn’t until she visited her then boyfriend—now husband–at Mississippi State and saw what the Starkville-based university had to offer that all of the pieces began falling into place. “Mississippi State had a lot more for students and the atmosphere was more accepting of women,” Dunn said. “It also offered industrial engineering as a major. I liked that industrial engineering majors took psychology and work with people and machines.” She added, “We like to say industrial engineers are engineers with personality and that was the right fit for me.” n

how to BUILD YOUR OWN ROCKET You don’t have to be a Space Cowboy to try your hand at rocket science. Follow these instructions or visit and work alongside Subscale and Goddard to build a paper rocket.

You will need: Paper Scissors Tape Straws

1. Download the paper rocket template from 2. Cut out the “body tube” template, or a rectangle.


3. Wrap the rectangle loosely around a straw and the edge to create a cylinder

7. Use tape to secure the cone to the body tube

4. Cut out the “nose cone” template, or a circle.

8. Cut out fin templates, then fold along the dotted lines and tape to the body tube approximately 120 degrees apart.

5. Fold the circle in half, twice to create a triangle.

9. Place completed rocket on top of the straw and blow into the other end to watch your rocket fly.

6. Roll the triangle to create a cone and tape the outer edge in place, making sure there are no gaps.

Now that you know the basics, you can make rockets of all shapes and sizes. Use different colored paper or add designs to make your rocket unique.

Space Cowboys help Magnolia State explore the final frontier Across the Magnolia State, some K-12 students have their eyes on the stars after taking part in Mississippi Space Week. Created by Mississippi State’s Space Cowboys Rocketry team, the event gave classes the tools and advice needed to build and launch rockets at their schools. “It gave me chills to see all of these kids so excited about rocketry,” said Deanna Brown, co-outreach coordinator for the team. “When we asked one class what they learned, one little boy yelled ‘I learned that space is awesome!’ It’s been a great experience.” Team members took turns visiting the more than 20 classes across Mississippi that participated in the event. And to help in-between visits, they have “Goddard”––a purple Muppet-like character with a love for rockets. “We wanted to make rocketry fun for the younger kids, and Goddard helps make it interesting for them. And don’t underestimate the younger kids,” Brown, a freshman, said. “They are really intelligent and want to learn the concepts.”

The videos co-star senior James Kelly as “Dr. Rocket” and, later, freshman Laurel Marsh as his niece “Subscale.” Goddard was created by team captain Mary Kate Smith and is brought to life by aerospace senior Nathan Byrd.

“I had a lot of fun coming up with Goddard’s personality and working out mannerisms that would be fun to watch but could also pull kids into the topic,” Byrd said. Brown said producing the videos and overseeing Mississippi Space Week helped energize the Space Cowboys and was a great introduction to the team for new members like her.

also won the competition’s Design Review Award for the best writtenreviews and formal presentation during competition. Additionally, Mississippi Space Week and the Goddard video series helped the team earn the community outreach award at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region II Student Conference––its third consecutive win in that competition.

academic year. The Cowboys already are busy building their next USLI entry—titled “Major Tom”—and planning space week 2014—coming in the spring. “Our team is pretty much a big quirky family,” Brown said. “We have a lot of fun working together and are always looking forward to the next challenge coming our way.”

Brown said the team hopes to continue its success during this

“I knew nothing about rockets when I joined the team,” Brown said. “I just thought they were cool. Leading the outreach team was a great way to get started and build my confidence for helping with Apollona.” Named after the sun god in Greek mythology, Apollona was the team’s entry that finished fifth out of 25 rockets in the 2013 NASA University Student Launch Initiative. The Cowboys


NEWS & NOTES Alumni Bartley Durst (CE, B.S. ‘86, M.S. ’02) and Toney Cummins (CE, M.S. ‘96) of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory were named two of the top 20 inventors in the Army for 20092011. The award recognizes their contributions to the Army’s selection as a 2012 Top 100 Global Innovators Award. Carl Ray Furr (CE, B.S. ‘64 ) earned the 2013 Teddy Roosevelt Award from Mississippi’s branch of the American Council of Engineering Companies. Damir Novosel (EE, Ph.D. ‘91 ) named presidentelect for IEEE’s Power and Energy Society. PES is the third largest IEEE society with over 30,000 members worldwide, 200+ local chapters, and over 90 student branch chapters. Ray Sweeney (CS, B.S. ‘93, M.S. ‘95); Catherine Dunn (IE, B.S. ‘75); Gary Warren (AE M.S. ‘89); Charles Holder II (ME, B.S. ‘61); Kermit Earl Reynolds Jr. (PE, B.S. ‘82 ); W. Kenneth Hughey (CHE, B.S. ‘78); Farley Owens III (CPE, B.S. ‘87); John Davis IV (BE, B.S. ‘88); Melinda McGrath (CE, B.S. ‘85); and Gerald “Jerry” Thames (NE, B.S. ‘70, MBA ‘71) named the 2013 Distinguished Fellows for the Bagley College of Engineering. (H) momentum/distinguishedfellows

Faculty & Staff Douglas Bammann was named a Fellow in the Society of Engineering Science during the organization’s 50th annual technical meeting. National Academy of Engineering member Michael I. Baskes joined the Bagley College of Engineering as a professor of aerospace engineering and special assistant to the dean. (B) Undergraduate coordinator Robert Green was installed as president of the National Society of Professional Engineers during its annual conference in Washington, D.C. Elected to the position by his fellow society members, he has served as vice president for the past year in preparation for his new role.

44 MOMENTUM Fall 2013

Mark F. Horstemeyer, professor and CAVS chair in computational solid mechanics, earned the grade of Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International. He already held this title in ASM International and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). (D)

Donohoe, Paul B. Jacob chair; Jenny Du, Bobby Shackouls Endowed Professorship; Isaac L. Howard, materials and construction industries endowed chair; Jonathan W. Pote, William and Sherry Berry chair; Robert “Bob” Reese, Robert D. Guyton Chair for Teaching Excellence; David S. Thompson, American Eurocopter Professorship; and Hossein Toghiani, Tommy M. Nusz Endowed Professorship.

Jason Keith, a professor and director of the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, received the David Himmelblau Award from the Computing and Systems Technology division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). He also was named education division chair of the organization and has been selected to serve on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s first Regional Energy Resource Council.

Amy Barton, Isaac Howard, Pedro Mago, and James Martin have been inducted into the college’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

The Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, known as KITECH, has appointed Roger King to its international advisory board, which has a focus on the industrialization of advanced technologies. Board members include eminent scientists and engineers from around the world. King wasl also named Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the total IEEE membership earns the honor each year.

Rani Sullivan, an associate professor of aerospace engineering, and Angela C. Verdell, director of diversity programs and student development, were presented the 2013 faculty and staff awards, respectively. (F)

The American Association for the Advancement of Science named James C. Newman Jr. a Fellow. The professor and Richard H. Johnson chair of aerospace engineering also received the Fatigue Damage of Structural Materials Lifetime Achievement Award. He also recieved Mississippi State’s 2013 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award. Masoud Rais-Rohani, a professor of aerospace engineering, joins the college leadership team as the associate dean for research and graduate studies. Lesley Strawderman received the college’s first Excellence in Online Teaching award. Rebecca Toghiani received this year’s Bagley College of Engineering Faculty Career Award. She passed away a few months after being awarded the honor. James Warnock, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the agricultural and biological engineering department, was appointed to the position of interim associate dean for undergraduate studies. Li Zhang, an associate professor in civil engineering, will serve a nearly three-year term on the task force for emergency evacuations of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council. In the past year, the BCoE has awarded seven endowed chair and professorships positions: Patrick

Pedro Mago, Mohsen Eshraghi and Ankit Singh Arya earned the BCoE’s research awards for faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, respectively.

Islam El-adaway, Bryan Jones, Lesley Strawderman and Rani Sullivan attended the National Academy of Engineering’s fourth Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium in Irvine, Calif. Momentum magazine, Dimensions annual report and the 2012 Dean’s Report–received Awards of Excellence at the Southern Public Relations Federation Lantern Awards ceremony. These publications, with the addition of the homecoming t-shirt, also earned Awards of Excellence at the Public Relations Association of Mississippi PRism competition. The publications were the work of Susan Lassetter, Heather Rowe and Todd Dickey of the BCoE publications office. They include the photography of Megan Bean, Beth Wynn, and Russ Houston of MSU Public Affairs.

Students Kristopher McKenzie of Tylertown, Miss., is one of 40 from across the country to earn the 2014 Chateaubriand Fellowship from the French Embassy. The only recipient from Mississippi and one of only 18 engineering students in the program, he will have the opportunity to work at a research lab in France. Aerospace senior Mary Kate Smith of Madison, Miss., will appear on the second season “King of the Nerds” on TBS. Premiering Thursday, Jan. 23, the show features 11 contestants who will test their intellect, ingenuity, skills and pop-culture prowess as teams and individuals to see who will be crowned king (or queen) at the end of the season. (E)

Jennifer Sloan Ziegler of Sturgis, Miss., has earned a 2014 National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. She is one of 10 in the group of 50 that will serve as a legislative fellow, advising members on Congress on marine policy. Senior aerospace engineering majors Anthony Favaloro, Wesley Melton, Neal Rivenbark, Austin Powell, and John Nott, won the international 2013 IT FLIES Annual Aircraft and Handling USA Flight Simulation Competition. The team received a $1,000 prize and a year’s free membership in the Royal Aeronautical Society. Four teams of BCoE students were awarded startup money for proposed research as part of the college’s Think Big program. The teams are: mechanical majors Tausif Jamal, Matthew Wong and Varun Chitta, aerospace major Eric Robertson, and industrial major Krystal Kimble advised by professor Keith Walters; sociology graduate students Megan Stubbs; Jennifer Carruth and Jeannice Louine, software major Kaleb Stuart, and computer science major Kayla Huddleston advised by assistant professor Cindy Bethel; mechanical majors Clay Varner and Sylvester Stafford, and electrical major Ryan Crownover advised by professor Judy Schneider; and mechanical majors Charles McCullough, Zachary Brown, and Jamal civil major Tessa Hall, electrical major Oliver Norris, and aerospace major Shiraz Mujahid advised by assistant professors Scott Thompson and Heejin Cho. A Bagley College of Engineering team of civil engineers won the 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers National Timber Bridge Competition, with support from the College of Forest Resources. L-R: Brian Bullock (captain), Hunter Hudson, John Dodds, Patrick Kuykendall, Mark Barry, John Mullens, and Lando Shepherd. (A)








Mississippi State’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers brought home top honors overall and several individual competition awards from a recent regional conference. L-R: Andy Odenthal, Sarah Grace Smith and Andrew Sensing. (G) The Mississippi State University Space Cowboys rocket team impressed judges at NASA’s 2013 University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition. Placing fifth out of 25 teams from across the nation. The team also won the Design Review Award for the best combination of written reviews and formal presentations during competition. (C)



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