Page 1








S m a l l

S tat e , Big

R e ac h

The university’s slogan—“Opening Doors. Opening Minds.”— embraces Ole Miss’s commitment to an educational and cultural center for people of all backgrounds, all disciplines, and all viewpoints.

“The growth of The

Clark says that process is akin to the chemistry of

University of Mississippi

using seed crystals to jump-start crystal growth. In a solu-

as a research institution

tion, the seed crystal provides an existing lattice on which

parallels its growth as an

other crystals form.

open, diverse institution,”

At Ole Miss, those seed crystals take human

said Dr. Alice Clark, vice

form—such as Dr. Sam Wang, who built the National

chancellor for research.

Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineer-

Clark, a former Ole Miss

ing from the ground up; or the late Dr. Hank Bass, who

graduate student who has

built the National Center for Physical Acoustics into

been studying or working here for nearly 30 years, states,

a global force that now has a number of prominent re-

“At Ole Miss, we confront society’s problems head on.”

searchers taking the lead.

Ole Miss researchers attract about $5.5 million in

There are countless other examples of the global

new grants every month, an impressive figure given the

impact this small community has, whether it’s addressing

size of the university. Ole Miss is the flagship university

climate change or searching for a cure for the millions

of a small state, with enrollment of a little more than

infected with malaria.

17,000 students. In a cash-poor state, university leaders

“Historically, this university has been called on re-

have worked hard to build the institution’s external fund-

peatedly to illustrate how higher education can meet so-

ing for research projects.

cietal needs,” Clark said. “At Ole Miss, we know we don’t

To be effective, Clark said, Ole Miss had to focus its energy. At Ole Miss, major research centers have typically

have to be big,” Clark said. “We just have to be visionary and bold.”

begun with one dedicated, magnetic person, who developed a creative approach to a tough problem. “For a relatively small public institution, we foster research that is highly competitive and nationally prominent,” Clark said. “That’s because we strategically focus on certain problems where one researcher or one big idea can have a huge impact. From there, we build until we are national leaders in addressing that problem.”

R e s e a r c h at T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i


Acoustic Sensors Air Quality

A lt e r n at i v e

F u e l s B i o d i e s e l B i o s u r fa c ta n t C a r b o n C l e a n e r E a r t h C l i m a t e Ch a ng e C o n s e r v a t i o n Em i s s i o n R e d u c t i o n En e r g y Env i r o nm e n t a l S t e w a r d s h i p F o s s i l F u e l s G l o b a l W a r m i ng

N at u r a l G a s H y d r at e s Nitrogen Oxide Reduction P o l l u ta n t- C o n t r o l Power Sea Floor Maps S e q u e s t e r i ng M e t h a n e S u b - b o t t o m P r o f i l i ng S u s t a i n a b l e

Un d e r s e a V e h i c l e R e s e a r c h T H E Un i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i pp i



Acoustic Sensors Air Quality

A lt e r n at i v e

F u e l s B i o d i e s e l B i o s u r fa c ta n t C a r b o n C l e a n e r E a r t h C l i m a t e Ch a ng e C o n s e r v a t i o n Em i s s i o n R e d u c t i o n En e r g y Env i r o nm e n t a l S t e w a r d s h i p F o s s i l F u e l s G l o b a l W a r m i ng

N at u r a l G a s H y d r at e s Nitrogen Oxide Reduction P o l l u ta n t- C o n t r o l Power Sea Floor Maps S e q u e s t e r i ng M e t h a n e S u b - b o t t o m P r o f i l i ng S u s t a i n a b l e

Un d e r s e a V e h i c l e R e s e a r c h T H E Un i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i pp i



B u i l din g a gr e e n e r

p l an e t

(top) Dr. Wei-Yin Chen teaches students about coal chemistry. (bottom) UM offers courses on climate change.


or Ole Miss researchers, environmentalism is not a trend, not a fashion to follow, not an excuse to buy new bamboo sheets or carbon credits from a dubious Web site. The engineers, chemists and biologists who have dedicated their careers to searching for alternative fuels, reducing emissions or mitigating water pollution are just glad the rest of us are finally catching on.

CONTRADICTION In 2007 and 2008, Dr. Wei-Yin Chen taught the firstever Ole Miss course on climate change, stood with the university chancellor as he signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, suggested that the governor join the Governors’ Declaration on Climate Change, requested that faculty members incorporate climate change into many academic disciplines and asked that faculty members who tackle climate change receive incentives. Not bad for a guy who’s been doing fossil fuel research since the 1970s.

“The first thing I told my students in the Climate

Change course is that I’m actually a polluter,” Chen said, laughing. Actually, what seems like a contradiction really isn’t. Chen, a chemical engineering professor, has spent the last three decades finding ways to make coal burn cleaner.


Change Agents

“In the ’70s, we were worried about sulfur dioxide,

so I worked on that. In the ’80s, nitrogen oxide (NO) was a big issue, so that’s when I began to work on NO reduction,” Chen said. While other researchers tackled mercury oxide and methyl mercury from coal in the 1990s, Chen perfected his work on nitrogen oxide reduction, starting at the very beginning by better understanding coal’s reaction chemistry. He then was able to devise more effective reburning techniques that reduce nitrogen oxide—the

the nation’s energy needs, but also important to China, an emerging world power that depends on coal—and whose air quality has deteriorated exponentially in the last 10 years.

Chen recently visited a major power plant in Beijing

to consult on emission reduction. With energy demands rising around the globe, Chen’s work is more important than ever.

“In 2007, it cost $6 to produce 1 million BTU of en-

ergy using petroleum fuels. To produce the same amount using coal, it cost $1,” Chen said. “Coal is a wonderful source of energy—but only if we use it right and find a major contributor to smog—by a much larger percentage

way to handle the emission problems.”

than before.

So Chen’s dedication to mitigating climate change

isn’t such a contradiction after all. It makes perfect sense,

“During that four-year project, we generated new

improvements every year,” Chen said.

then, that an editor at Scribner has asked Chen to edit

The next step, Chen said, is to develop multifunc-

a book, Mitigating Climate Change. Co-edited by Dr.

tional pollutant-control technologies that can effectively

John Seiner, associate director at the National Center for

reduce sulfur, mercury, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide

Physical Acoustics and mechanical engineering profes-

from coal-fired power plants. That’s important for the

sor on campus, the book will feature chapters from Ole

United States, where coal fuels more than 50 percent of

Miss mechanical engineers, civil engineers, chemists and

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s ippi


biologists, as well as some outside and multidisciplinary experts. For an unapologetic coal burner, that’s pretty impressive.

H A RV E S T I N G A LT E R N A T I V E F UEL S From collecting old cooking oil for powering his truck to harvesting natural gas hydrates from the ocean floor for powering the world, geology professor Dr. Robert Woolsey

dedicated his career to finding viable, safe alternatives to petroleum and to leaving behind a cleaner earth. Tragically, Woolsey’s incredible life was cut short by a July 2008 car accident. Friends mourned the passing of the 72-year-old father of seven. Carol Lutken, a longtime colleague, re(top) A schematic diagram of the Seafloor Observatory, devoted to the study of gas hydrates beneath the ocean's floor (bottom) The late Dr. Robert Woolsey, UM geologist

membered Woolsey was truly “gifted with people. He fueled your enthusiasm,” she added. “He could inspire you to explore new directions, to take your work where you never thought you’d go.”


Change Agents

B u i l din g


gr e e n e r

p l an e t

At the Seafloor Observatory, scientists research gas hydrates.

Woolsey led three research groups at Ole Miss that

sustainable—so we’re actually looking at ways to produce

will carry on his legacy: the Mississippi Mineral Resourc-

biodiesel with algae.” Brad Crafton, a UM student and

es Institute (MMRI), the Center for Marine Resources

research technician at CMRET, worked on this project

and Environmental Technology (CMRET) and the Sea-

with Woolsey and continues to work on it now.

bed Technology Research Center, part of the National

Institute for Undersea Technology (NIUST), also based

ternative fuels and conservation, Woolsey laughed. “We’re

at Ole Miss and funded by the National Oceanic and

not proud,” he said. “Anything that works. If we’re going

Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

to survive, we’ve got to bring a lot of different solutions

in. There isn’t just one answer.”

Research and curiosity took Woolsey in a lot of

When asked about his wide-ranging approach to al-

different directions—from designing and building a

naturally safe and ecologically friendly wastewater treat-

ary enthusiasm and the inspiration of working with

ment for friends at his favorite vacation resort in Belize

Crafton, an ardent environmentalist, Lutken said. Chiefly,

to making his own biodiesel on campus after fuel prices

his life’s work—work that continues through his research

took a major chunk of his research budget.

groups and colleagues—focused on simple solutions to

big problems.

“We took care of ourselves, and now we’re also mak-

Woolsey’s biodiesel project grew out of his legend-

ing biodiesel for the landscape service on campus,” Wool-

As a geologist and marine mining engineer, Wool-

sey said in an interview just two weeks before his death.

sey’s career spanned the globe and included the recovery

“But spent vegetable oil isn’t viable for everyone—it’s not

and research of a wide range of mineral resources. Gas

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s ippi


hydrates, a solid form of natural gas and water formed under high-pressure/low-temperature conditions in deep water, were one of the greater passions in his later years. Geologists estimate the ocean floor contains twice as much natural gas hydrates as all the earth’s coal, oil, gas and other forms of natural gas combined.

Woolsey directed efforts to form a consortium of

scientists with interests and expertise in gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. The group has representatives from several countries in the fields of academia, industry and government, and is now in the process of deploying a Seafloor Observatory, the first in the world devoted to the study of gas hydrates.

Until recently, gas hydrates were more of a nuisance

than anything else, causing seafloor instability that cost

Dr. Ray Highsmith at The University of Mississippi Field Station

Shell Oil $200 million in a matter of minutes when hydrates shifted and liquefied, bringing a drilling platform down to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Interior funded Woolsey’s first study of hydrates as a potential hazard.

Lutken, CMRET’s acting director, is a geologist

who aids gas hydrates research along with Dr. Tom McGee, a geophysicist in the group.

“I study the geological framework where gas hy-

drates are known to occur in order to predict where else they might be,” Lutken said. McGee developed a data-

gathering system that CMRET researchers are using to develop a method for identifying gas hydrates on seismic records and thereby predicting their exact location on the ocean floor.

Working together, Lutken, McGee and others can

save lives and prevent the destruction of expensive equipment. Once a hydrate-prone area is identified, seismic surveying and monitoring systems will be used to pinpoint exactly where the hydrates are.

“Rather than risk millions of dollars of equipment

and put people in harm’s way, we hope to supply the capability to decide whether a platform location is safe or whether moving it a few thousand feet to a safer location is necessary,” Lutken said.

But the Department of Energy also became interest-

ed in CMRET’s hydrates work as a potential homegrown energy resource.

We can’t mine hydrates, which “are like the caulk in a

leaky ship,” Woolsey said. “Release them, and methane is vented into the ocean and atmosphere, which defeats the whole purpose, really.” The Eagle Ray, an autonomous underwater vehicle, uses sensors to provide high-resolution seafloor maps.


Change Agents

Instead, Woolsey’s team has been figuring out how

to trap them.

More than six years ago, consortium researchers be-

B u i l din g


gr e e n e r

p l an e t

Dr. Jack Seiner conducts wind tunnel experiments to research aeroacoustics.

gan studying how and why natural gas forms solids with sediments on the ocean floor. They found the vented gas needed some kind of biosurfactant to stick to as a frame-

THE Y E L L O W S U B M A R I NE All those deep-water seafloor studies require getting close

work for its structure. They also studied the seafloor, pin-

enough to the seafloor to do meaningful work. Woolsey’s

pointing where gas is vented. If tanks with biosurfactants

team has help on that front from Ray Highsmith, the

are placed near the vent, hydrates form inside the tank.

director of NIUST and the university’s Field Station.

One cubic foot of hydrates expands to 170 cubic feet of

Through NIUST and its Undersea Vehicles Technology

quality methane gas.

Center at the University of Southern Mississippi, High-

smith coordinated the procurement of the Eagle Ray, a

Woolsey, ever the engineer, was already thinking

about how this research could be scaled up to help man-

16-foot-long, bright yellow unmanned undersea vehicle


that uses acoustic sensors to provide high-resolution

seafloor maps and sub-bottom profiling.

“He was always looking into the future,” Lutken said.

“Always asking, ‘How could this be done one day?’”

Highsmith, a marine scientist, helped study and

mitigate the impact of oil spills in Alaska, where he lived

Woolsey speculated that a barge could be used to

capture huge amounts of methane on the ocean floor,

and worked prior to moving south to manage the UM

then keep the contents chilled and under pressure for

Field Station and its affiliates, the Center for Water and


Wetland Resources and NIUST. The UM Field Station,

just a few miles from the Ole Miss campus, is a 740-acre

“You’d be sequestering methane that would normally

be vented into the atmosphere, providing a considerable

wildlife research and education facility. Research being

amount of clean natural gas for use and employing people

conducted at the Field Station includes using rice plants

in this country instead of sending money and jobs else-

to clean pesticides from streams and looking for new,

where,” he said.

health-related chemicals in plants that grow naturally,

It’s a great idea, Lutken said, one Woolsey left in

furthering the vision of promoting environmental stew-

the very capable hands of fellow scientists inspired by his

ardship with innovative community outreach programs.

work and his vision.

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s ippi



A i r p o r t L i c e n s i n g A v i at i o n L a w s

C o m p u t a t i o n al H y d r o s c i e n c e Developing World

D i s a s t e r P r e pa r e d n e s s

Emergency Response

Da m s


E m e r g i n g R e s i s ta n c e


F i e l d Ma p p i n g

G e o g r a p h i c I n f o r m at i o n S y s t e m


Mala r i a N e w D r u g s Relief Supplies Distribution R e m o t e S e n s i n g S p a c e L a w Wa t e r Q u al i t y THE University of Mississippi I n t e r n a t i o n al Saf e t y S t a n d a r d s



A i r p o r t L i c e n s i n g A v i at i o n L a w s

C o m p u t a t i o n al H y d r o s c i e n c e Developing World

D i s a s t e r P r e pa r e d n e s s

Emergency Response

Da m s


E m e r g i n g R e s i s ta n c e


F i e l d Ma p p i n g

G e o g r a p h i c I n f o r m at i o n S y s t e m


Mala r i a N e w D r u g s Relief Supplies Distribution R e m o t e S e n s i n g S p a c e L a w Wa t e r Q u al i t y THE University of Mississippi I n t e r n a t i o n al Saf e t y S t a n d a r d s


rea c h ing o u t aro u n d t h e glo b e

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Walker said. “We’re just

getting started.”

Just getting started—except that The University

of Mississippi group has been pursuing anti-malarial compounds for two decades now.

“For the most standard anti-malarial drugs, the

problem is emerging resistance,” Walker said. “That means we always need new drugs to fight the disease.


niversity of Mississippi researchers are affecting the lives of people thousands of miles from Oxford, Mississippi, with their research on drugs, remote sensing, space law and computational hydroscience.

STOPPING A KILLER More than 2,000 people die every day from malaria. Most of those deaths—about 90 percent—are children. Many millions more are infected every year with the disease, which ravages the body, making it impossible to work or take care of a family.

If this debilitating killer ravaged Ohio or Ontario or

Great Britain, malaria would be the focus of every drug company research and development lab in the country. But most of these cases affect people in Africa or Southeast Asia—impoverished people who can’t buy medicine. That meant that, until recently, drug researchers such as Dr. Larry Walker and his colleagues couldn’t get the research funding they needed to fight the disease. That began to change for Walker, the director of The University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research, in 2003. Swiss-based Medicines for Malaria Venture, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to developing affordable new anti-malarial drugs, solicited proposals from international researchers and chose to fund several—including two from UM’s School of Pharmacy, one of the premier natural products research programs in the country.


Change Agents

“The other major problem with anti-malarial drugs

is that many of them have safety problems,” Walker said. “A small but significant number of people can become very sick or even die from them.” The most promising new drug, an 8-aminoquinoline called NPC1161B, was prepared by Dr. Dhammika Nanayakkara, a chemist at the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research. It was advanced

tests and animal studies. The next step is human testing, which is anticipated to begin next year, Walker said. If that goes well, the drug could be on the market About 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in children.

in three years. Still, “the failure rate is pretty high,” Walker said, but the team is

during the 1990s by a team of researchers, including


Dr. Alice Clark, current vice chancellor for research and

sponsored programs, who were searching for cures for

That wasn’t the point,” Walker said. “We want to contrib-

infections in AIDS patients. When Walker joined this

ute to the effort to eradicate this disease for good.”

“We’re not looking to realize monetary gains on this.

project, his main focus was on how the drug might work in animals. NPC1161B appeared much less toxic and much more effective than products on the market in lab

MAPPING FOR THE WORST After a hurricane, it’s hard enough for emergency responders in the United States to locate the people who need help and provide them with adequate shelter. And we have a distinct advantage over the developing world: maps, street maps and grids, the trappings of a highly organized structure that helps us find where we’re going, locate resources and get them to those in need.

Put those emergency responders in a remote village

in El Salvador, which has no street names and no record of who lives where. In a disaster, what do you do? How do you begin to help? Geology and geological engineering associate professor Dr. Greg Easson and his group, LumiMap-UM, are partnering with World Vision, an international aid organization and development agency, to develop and demonstrate technological solutions for field mapping to aid in disaster-preparedness projects. The team first visited El Salvador because of its exceptionally high risk for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tropical storms, mudslides and earthquakes, Easson said. World Vision in El Salvador was the lead partner for World Vision, and their goal is to have up-todate information about the population, especially those Dr. Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research

people living at the margins of villages, often in small shacks on land they do not own. These data will help R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n iv e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


World Vision in El Salvador develop more effective plans

plan for effective distribution of relief supplies.

for shelters during a disaster and determine what supplies

are needed to speed the recovery.

and gathered the data amongst the community,” said Jus-

tin Janaskie, one of the graduate students who accompa-

“By predetermining how many people are in what

regions and what resources they have, post-disaster relief

nied Easson. “When dirt roads allowed us to travel only

efforts should become much more effective,” Easson said.

so far by vehicle, then we would get out and walk.”

Here’s how it works: After being trained by

Easson said after the initial surveys in El Salvador,

LumiMap-UM staff, World Vision staff and community

data were available via LumiMap-UM server in 12 hours.

workers set out to every corner of El Salvador carrying

Since then, Easson has taken the same project to Brazil,

hand-held computers with global positioning systems

back to El Salvador and to Mexico in the summer of

(GPS). The workers use the mobile geographic informa-

2008. He hopes to continue to work with World Vision

tion system (GIS) to enter the survey information into

International to more fully incorporate the use of mobile

the hand-held device, which instantly records their loca-

GIS into their development and disaster-response efforts.

tion with the GPS.

Easson and his staff have presented their work on

The system funnels the field data to GIS database,

the use of technology in humanitarian emergency-

which manages the data for an Internet mapping site at

response efforts at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, at

UM. The LumiMap-UM-hosted Web site makes the

local civic groups and in a special session of the ESRI

maps available for display and analysis by World Vision

user conference in San Diego, California.

personnel around the world. These maps can be used to


“In El Salvador, we actually went out into the field

Change Agents

rea c h ing o u t aro u n d t h e glo b e

World Vision in El Salvador worker surveys information.

T R ANS F E R R I NG K N O W L E D GE The National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE) has been invited by the United Nations, the InterAmerican Development Bank and by foreign governments, supported by USAID, to transfer its technology in order to help developing countries. NCCHE is led by Sam Wang, a fixture of UM engineering for 40 years. Wang is recognized worldwide for his work building computational models that not merely estimate but actually simulate water flows, sediment and pollutant transport, soil erosion and flood damage.

Wang has won the world’s highest honors in erosion

and sedimentation research: the Hans Albert Einstein Award in 2003 and the WASER Qian Lin Award in 2007. Although most any graduate student with a grant can build a computational model, NCCHE’s model has benefited from years of adjustments made by dozens of expert researchers.

“The quickly executed model can solve one or two

problems in the proposal, but once the student graduates, there is nobody to improve it,” Wang said. “As a (top) Dr. Greg Easson directs information collection in El Salvador. (bottom) Workers gathering information in El Salvador walked to their destinations when vehicles could get no farther on dirt roads.

result it becomes obsolete. Our institution is different. We develop the model collectively, and we continuously improve by updating with the latest technology, even in theory or mathematical methodology. If something new is happening, we immediately try to put that in our model. Therefore our model always stays at the forefront.”

Wang has given keynote speeches, special lectures

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n iv e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


and instructional courses in more than 30 countries on six continents. At the center of Wang’s globetrotting: sharing his groundbreaking computational models with the developing world so that better dams can be built, water quality can be controlled and erosion can be mitigated—basically, so that life can become better for millions of people. This kind of technology transfer operates on the “teach a man to fish” philosophy.

“The most effective assistance given to a developing

country is transferring the technology to them so that they can solve their own problems, ” Wang said, “instead of outsiders’ building something for them.”

F LY M O Z A M B I Q U E ? I T STA R TS I N M I SS I SS I P P I Whether they want to regulate their airports or observe Earth from outer space, many nations invite the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law to help them. Without the work of the center, international airports could not operate. Satellites could not be deployed. Chaos would reign in aerospace and outer space. The center, with its worldwide and otherworldly focus, is based here at Ole Miss.

“If you’re a nation that’s just starting to get involved

in space law, and you are looking for expertise, you talk to people like us,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, the director


of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and

turn to the center.

Space Law. “The United Nations Office on Outer Space

Affairs conducts space law capacity-building workshops

for civil aviation regulations in Mongolia, the center’s

in a different country every year. The U.N. office brings

associate director, Jacqueline Serrao, has taken on a chal-

together scholars from around the world—often, that’s

lenging project in the African nation of Mozambique.

us—and sends us to each of these countries in order for

Serrao is developing a complete set of aviation laws for

the decision makers in those countries to talk to us about

the nation, including regulations for airport licensing and

what they need to do.”


Some of the nations that consult with Gabrynowicz

Through a World Bank grant, Serrao also is de-

and her staff do want to build space programs. But some

veloping the organizational structure and staffing for a

of them want something simpler—like an international

Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority division respon-

airport to jump-start trade and tourism. To do that, a

sible for aerodrome (small airport) standards and safety.

nation needs a complete set of aviation laws—so they

Change Agents

Barely two years after helping develop a framework

“This is quite a challenging and exciting project,”

rea c h ing o u t aro u n d t h e glo b e Attorneys Jacqueline Serrao (left) and Joanne Gabrynowicz of the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law

Serrao said. “It involves creating a set of airport laws and regulations suited to the aviation market of Mozambique while maintaining international U.N. standards. I’ve had to quickly grasp Mozambique’s legal, social, political and economic structure, and fit that into a comprehensive body of aviation law.”

Located in southern Africa, Mozambique is one of

the world’s poorest countries. Embroiled in a 16-year civil war until 1992, the country has since worked to restore order and grow the economy with the help of some foreign aid. Serrao’s work could help bring the country into compliance with international safety standards for airports—the first step in opening up airspace to more international air traffic.

“A country’s aviation system is only as safe as its

government’s ability to oversee that system,” Serrao says. “In this case, airport legislation is necessary to ensure that the Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority can effectively carry out its aviation safety oversight responsibilities. Without such a commitment to aviation safety, investors will be reluctant to enter the Mozambique market. A country that does not have a legal infrastructure in place tends to get left out.”

A round-table forum on "Space Law in the Era of Globalization."

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n iv e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


C o m p u tat i o n a l H y d r o s c i e n ce a n d E n g i n ee r i n g C i v i l E n g i n ee r i n g

e a r t h q u a k e s e f f i c i e n t e v a c u at i o n Faster Re s p o n s e

flood damage

Floor Warning Systems he l p i n g r e s p o n d e r s


improved dam designs

I m p r o v e d l e v ee s

i n f r a s o n i c l i s t e n i n g s tat i o n s

N at u r a l

D i s a s t e r s Soil erosion Sound waves W at e r s i m u l at i o n T H E U n i v e r s i t y o f Mississippi



C o m p u tat i o n a l H y d r o s c i e n ce a n d E n g i n ee r i n g C i v i l E n g i n ee r i n g

e a r t h q u a k e s e f f i c i e n t e v a c u at i o n Faster Re s p o n s e

flood damage

Floor Warning Systems he l p i n g r e s p o n d e r s


improved dam designs

I m p r o v e d l e v ee s

i n f r a s o n i c l i s t e n i n g s tat i o n s

N at u r a l

D i s a s t e r s Soil erosion Sound waves W at e r s i m u l at i o n T H E U n i v e r s i t y o f Mississippi





n recent years, the worst has happened. A tsunami devastated Southeast Asia. Hurricanes and cyclones have swept over the Gulf Coast of the United States and the river deltas of Myanmar, with terrible losses of life and infrastructure. Major earthquakes have rocked China and Pakistan. About the only thing predictable about natural disasters is that they will happen. The best humans can do is prepare for them. For that, the world has help from University of Mississippi researchers.



Dr. Sam Wang, a Barnard Distinguished Professor,

has won distinguished honors (Hans Albert Einstein

Though Hurricane Katrina’s surge was powerful, the

Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers,

majority of people killed in the terrible storm died a day

2003; Qian Lin Award from the World Association

later, after levees broke around the city and water poured

for Sedimentation and Erosion Research, 2007) for his

through the breach, flooding entire neighborhoods.

achievements modeling free surface flow, erosion and

At the National Center for Computational Hydro-

sedimentation processes. He founded NCCHE in 1983

science and Engineering (NCCHE), the research team

and has been its director ever since.

is known worldwide for its ability to not merely estimate

but actually simulate water flows, sediment and pollutant

water inundates the terrain, causing disastrous impact,”

transport, soil erosion and flood damage with a highly

Wang said. “Our models can predict the flood arrival

complex, constantly improving computational model.

time, the water depths, how long the water will stay and

The Department of Homeland Security trusts

when it will recede. This information has been used by

NCCHE to help them predict how, where and why dams

emergency management and Homeland Security officials.”

or levees break—and then, crucially, what happens next.

NCCHE’s models can also be applied to improve dam

Change Agents

“When there is a dam break or a levee breach, the

and levee designs as well as flood warning systems during dam or levee failures. “We want to do more to enhance the security of water infrastructures by modifying the design of dam and levee systems,” Wang said. “When the water reaches a critical stage, the discharge rates of reservoirs will be controlled to release water to unpopulated areas, so the damage to populated urban areas can be minimized.” Yafei Jia, associate director for basic research at NCCHE, is the principal investigator of another Homeland Security project aimed at predicting the effect of flooding due to levee breach and developing better technologies for the closure of breached levees. The research will also assess the environmental impact of these floods by simulating what may be transported during movement and its effect on the quality of water and ecology.

FINDING THE WEAK SPOTS In addition to NCCHE’s research on dam breaks and levee breaches, researchers at the National Center for (top) Dr. Sam Wang utilizes computational modeling to simulate water flow. These predictors allow for planned reactions in the event of flooding emergencies. (bottom) Diagram of coastal water flow around a delta

Physical Acoustics (NCPA) aim to prevent the breaks before they happen. In the last 50 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) constructed nearly 11,000 flood-control dams in 2,000 watersheds nationwide. These watershed projects represent a $14 billion infrastructure providing flood control, municipal water supply, recreation and

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i pp i


wildlife-habitat enhancement. But because many are aging, they also represent a perilous risk.

Often, a visual inspection of a dam is all that’s need-

AC T I V E LY L I S T E N I N G NCPA’s technology also fuels a worldwide project that can be used to speed the response to a volcanic eruption

ed to identify a potential failure and repair the problem.

or more accurately predict the path of a hurricane.

However, others are not so easily detected. That’s where

NCPA’s former director, the late Dr. Hank Bass,

NCPA scientists come in to help.

helped establish a global system of 60 infrasonic listening

In a project sponsored by the USDA, Drs. Jim

stations to monitor compliance with the nuclear test ban

Sabatier and Craig Hickey are using sound waves to

several years ago. The extra-sensitive stations pick up

detect invisible soft spots within the dams. The process is

low-frequency waves called infrasound and can detect

similar to using an ultrasound to diagnose a patient—but

explosions around the globe—even underground or in

this time, the patient is the dam or levee. Sound waves

bad weather.

traveling through the dam create images of its interior.

These images provide unique and valuable precursory

Field Station and as far away as Antarctica and Palau—

information about the onset of piping, seepage and

found many new uses, from helping determine what hap-

anomalous pore pressures—all symptoms of an eventual

pened to the Columbia space shuttle to detecting volcanic


eruptions and hurricanes.

Sabatier and Hickey’s work can help determine if

internal erosion of the embankment has weakened the

air can’t absorb, and can be picked up by our devices

structures beyond repair, if repairs should commence

hundreds of miles away,” said Claus Hetzer, the NCPA

immediately, or if the dams or levees are in fine condition.

scientist gathering data on hurricane infrasounds. “By

Rather than responding to a disaster, NCPA research

comparing changes in the infrasound with changes in

can prevent dam and levee breaks before they occur.

the storm’s path and intensity, we hope to use our data to

But the stations—which are as close by as UM's

“Hurricanes produce infrasonic traces that the

provide better forecasting in the future.”

To reduce the risk of damage to buildings during a natural disaster, UM researchers are looking for ways to incorporate fortifying elements.


Change Agents



worst - case

scenario S

structure in earthquakes of varying intensity. The model animates buildings and bridges, showing them jump, twist and sometimes fail from the strain of the shaking. Based partly on his model’s demonstration, retrofitting of several key UM

Dr. Chris Mullen

campus buildings has incorporated earthquake-resistant UM researchers established a comprehensive hazardassesment methodology for the state.

elements, including the recent structural renovation of the 150-year-old Lyceum and the installation of seismic gas shut-off valves at high-occupancy dormitories.

That means more efficient evacuation, better logisti-

cal pre-planning by emergency responders and, most

sissippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and

importantly of all, saved lives.

the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Beyond campus, the simulations attracted the Mis-

“The models were also useful to plan for other

disasters common here, such as hurricanes or tornadoes,”

Remember this for Trivial Pursuit: The biggest American

Mullen said. Based on his initial work with the earth-

earthquake we know of occurred in Alaska in 1964. But

quake model, FEMA and MEMA worked with Mullen

the most powerful earthquake in the continental U.S. did

and CCEP on an ambitious project to establish a com-

not happen in San Francisco. Or even California.

prehensive hazard-assessment methodology for the state.

In fact, it wasn’t out west at all. In 1811, a magnitude

eight quake in New Madrid, Missouri, rang church bells

area and estimate the local intensity of hazards within

in Boston and damaged buildings in Charleston, South

that area, inventory key infrastructure such as buildings,

Carolina. Historical accounts say the Mississippi River

bridges, utility networks, roads, etc., and quantify their

ran backward. The New Madrid seismic zone is still one

fragility,” Mullen said. “Our study was significant, but it

of the nation’s most active, according to the U.S. Geologi-

was only one of several statewide and regional studies

cal Survey. The zone touches northern Mississippi, but

sponsored by FEMA nationally.”

building codes do not require any special considerations

That work has been followed by yet another mitiga-

for earthquakes, and most communities are not prepared

tion project for Mullen through the Department of

to deal with the damage another “big one” would cause.

Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate,

That’s why civil engineering professor Dr. Chris

this one using his model to predict damages to buildings

Mullen and his colleagues at the Center for Community

in an explosion. But that’s another story.

“Using geospatial data, we can identify the affected

Earthquake Preparedness (CCEP) have spent nearly a decade educating state emergency-management officials about earthquake risks and helping responders plan for the inevitable.

Mullen developed a computational model that can

literally show what will happen to key buildings or infra-

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i pp i



A ID S Ca n c e r

c a r d i o v as c u l a r a n d R e n a l

P h y s i o l o gy C o m p u tat i o n a l C h e m i s t r y

discovery D i s e as e

D i s e as e d r u g

D r u g - R e s i s ta n t Pat h o g e n s Hypertension


Immune Disorders Ma r i j u a n a

medicinal chemistry

O b e s i t y Opp o r t u n i s t i c

Infections Potential Medicinal Compounds Safer Drugs

T r e at m e n t

THE U n i v e r s i t y o f

M i ss i ss i pp i



A ID S Ca n c e r

c a r d i o v as c u l a r a n d R e n a l

P h y s i o l o gy C o m p u tat i o n a l C h e m i s t r y

discovery D i s e as e

D i s e as e d r u g

D r u g - R e s i s ta n t Pat h o g e n s Hypertension


Immune Disorders Ma r i j u a n a

medicinal chemistry

O b e s i t y Opp o r t u n i s t i c

Infections Potential Medicinal Compounds Safer Drugs

T r e at m e n t

THE U n i v e r s i t y o f

M i ss i ss i pp i


FINDING CURES FOR KILLERS diversity of nature for the benefit of mankind, specifically to treat opportunistic infections, which occur when pathogens take advantage of an impaired immune system,” Clark said. People with immune disorders include AIDS patients, cancer patients and organ recipients.

“There’s a real role for the public sector—institu-

tions and research at universities—to drive the science and discover how to fight these infections,” Clark said.


t the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) and The University of Mississippi Medical Center, UM researchers bring a strong dedication to advancing medicine to their searches for cures to the world’s top killers: cancer, heart disease, AIDS and malaria.

Clark and her research team in the National Center

for Natural Products Research have been funded by the National Institutes of Health for almost 25 years. In that time, the fight against infection has evolved. For one, the global spread of AIDS, increased cancer rates and more successful organ transplants have increased the number of people susceptible to opportunistic infections. But because of the nature of opportunistic infections, Clark knows there will always be new battles to fight.

“When I first started in the late ’70s and early ’80s,

there was a mind-set that you would discover an antibiotic and it would be useful forever. But the antibiotic


era had only been in place for about 25 years,” Clark said.

Dr. Alice Clark, the vice chancellor for research and

“We were just beginning to understand the magnitude

sponsored programs and F.A.P. Barnard Professor of

of the resistance problem. Now we realize that drug-

Pharmacognosy, has dedicated her professional career to

resistant pathogens are always evolving, and we have to

searching for the drug pathways that aren’t likely to make

anticipate that and devise a way to defeat them.

millions of dollars. They will, however, vastly improve

quality of life for millions of people worldwide.

always trying to stay ahead of them a little bit.”

“Our work is about trying to harness the chemical Dr. Marc Slattery dives in search of undersea samples.


Change Agents

“It’s a constant struggle—us vs. them—and we’re

Dr. Alice Clark, UM pharmacognocist and vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs

undersea samples back to Mississippi for chemical compound analysis. So far, about 10 percent of the thousands of samples


the team has gathered have shown promising biomedical

Clark and the Natural Products team aren’t looking to

this: Of the land-based plants that NCNPR scientists

invent one drug to fight infection; they’re searching for

have analyzed, only one-half of 1 percent are considered

many different chemical pathways to fight infection.


To find promising chemical compounds, the NCNPR

scientists might partner with agriculturists from the

the marine environment just aren’t found in the ter-

USDA, they might gather local woodland products at

restrial environment,” Slattery said. “We’re getting really

the university’s Field Station, or they might dive the coral

significant differences in terms of chemical structure than

reefs off Hawaii.

anything you find in land-based plants.”

Searching marine organisms for potential medici-

Dr. Marc Slattery chose his career well. When he’s

activity. While that might not sound like much, consider

“Unusual chemical compounds that are a part of

not at NCNPR researching chemical pathways, he’s

nal compounds makes sense. In order to survive a more

scuba diving in a remote, exotic tropical location to bring

hostile, bacteria-laden environment, marine creatures

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


have evolved with their own defense systems.

“If you’re attached to

the bottom of the ocean, you can’t run away from predators, and you can’t migrate away from disease,” Slattery said. “Marine organisms have to develop chemical defense mechanisms.” A mollusk’s or sponge’s chemical defense mechanism may provide a defense mechanism for humans, as well, in the form of new antibiotics or anti-cancer drugs. The type of research Slattery and his team are conducting has existed only for the past 20 years or so. Coincidentally, that’s about the same amount of time it generally takes for a chemical compound to go from a field sample to a drug on pharmacists’ shelves. Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the university's Marijuana Project

P L A N T C H E M I S T RY Since 1968, The University of Mississippi has main-

focused on analyzing marijuana samples seized by the

tained the nation’s only legal marijuana farm through a

DEA to develop a marijuana “fingerprinting” system that

grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH)

is still being used to trace crops to their sources globally.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In that time,

The responsibility of analyzing the material for the DEA

the project has provided marijuana and its compounds

also provided UM researchers the opportunity to study

to researchers around the country conducting HHS-

a wide variety of plants leading to a better understanding

approved studies of the plant, its chemical components,

of the many chemicals found in Cannabis.

and their potential beneficial and harmful effects.

ElSohly joined the project when he came to Ole

Sohly and other UM researchers have studied Cannabis

Miss in 1976 and has been Marijuana Project director

to develop new medicines and new ways of delivering

since 1980. In the ’80s and early ’90s, ElSohly’s work

the chemical compounds in marijuana, particularly



Change Agents

In recent years, with some support from NIH, El-


cure S



conditions—from nausea due to chemotherapy for


cancer patients to neuropathic pain for multiple sclerosis

At first glance, the research conducted in Dr. Greg


Tschumper’s lab doesn’t appear to have much to do with

drug design or discovery.

tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), to treat a range of chronic

UM has patented and licensed to a pharmaceuti-

cal company a THC suppository to deliver to cancer

Tschumper is a computational chemist who uses

patients the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana

supercomputers to study the interactions between mol-

without the undesirable side effects.

ecules in order to better understand how drugs interact

with molecules in our bodies. But while that doesn’t

“Developing new drugs and delivery systems, as

well as a better understanding of the pharmacology and

sound as appealing as scuba diving for a cancer cure with

toxicology of marijuana, is dependent upon a reliable

Slattery, Tschumper—and other researchers like him

and consistent source of high-quality, research-grade

on campus—understand how the molecules interact,

Cannabis, ” ElSohly said. “And that’s where we come in—

which can help reduce the time it takes to get the latest

we have a strong program that provides plant material to

wonder drug onto the shelf at your local pharmacy in

the research community.”

two important ways. First, by understanding how the drug molecule interacts with molecules in our bodies,


For studies involving human participants, marijuana is provided only for approved NIH-supported research, or clinical research that has been reviewed by an HHS committee comprising representatives from appropriate NIH Institutes and the FDA. Investigators must also have a current Investigational New Drug (IND) application on file with the FDA and be registered with the DEA.

medicinal chemists can design more effective, safer drugs. Second, by understanding the molecular interactions of chemical compounds, new pathways for synthesizing new drugs can be devised.

Dr. Greg Tschumper uses supercomputers to study how molecules interact.

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


Here’s how it might work.

McCurdy said. “Currently, the only treatment for meth

addicts is behavior modification. With a drug as powerful

“Let’s say a drug company has someone in the

Amazon rain forest, and they find a plant that produces

as meth, that’s often not enough. This chemical blocks

a molecule that’s the cure for some form of cancer,” said

meth’s stimulant and neurotoxic effect, and protects

Tschumper. “At some point, the company needs to make

against neural damage.”

a lot of the chemical compound in the plant that is the

magic cure. The problem is, if you ask 10 different chem-

might be able to break the cycle and then potentially

ists how to make the drug, you get up to 10 different

heal. McCurdy said that, in the course of his research,


he’s also discovered that some of the same chemicals he’s

synthesized may have potential to treat depression and

Rather than spending a tremendous amount of

money trying all 10 schemes, each of which could take

Without the brain-damaging high, the addict


anywhere from six months to a couple of years, a comweeks and identify the most promising synthetic routes,


Tschumper said. By picking the top two or three, the

In 2008, for the third consecutive year, Mississippi has

company can potentially save millions of dollars and

had the highest obesity rate in the nation. As of 2008,

more quickly move the process to its ultimate goal—

it also has the highest rate of cardiovascular disease, as


well as skyrocketing rates of diabetes, kidney disease and


putational chemist can analyze all of them in a matter of

Dr. Chris McCurdy, associate professor of medicinal

chemistry, uses similar methods to develop new treat-

ments for crippling addictions to methamphetamines,

At The University of Mississippi Medical Center

cocaine, heroin, and other stimulants and opiates.

(UMMC), Hall is Arthur C. Guyton Professor and chair

of physiology and biophysics, director of the Center of

McCurdy uses his research on chemical interactions

to design and synthesize chemicals from natural products

Excellence in Cardiovascular-Renal Research and associ-

known to affect the brain

ate vice chancellor for research.

and central nervous system.

Backed by part of a $12

is one of the country’s foremost experts on cardiovascular

million grant from NIH

and renal physiology, mechanisms of hypertension and

to the School of Pharmacy,

obesity-related cardiovascular disease.

McCurdy has already

achieved preliminary suc-

in cardiovascular disease, dating back to Dr. Arthur

cess using the chemicals in kratom, a natural product


Mississippi needs Dr. John Hall.

Dr. Chris McCurdy

Most importantly for the state of Mississippi, Hall

UMMC actually has a storied research history

Guyton’s work in the 1950s. All medical students know Guyton as the man who wrote the Textbook of Medical

from Thailand, to develop treatments for heroin addicts.

Physiology. Hall co-authored the textbook, the world’s

Another $1.25 million grant from the NIH

leading physiology book, for the last three editions with

(NIDA) goes directly to McCurdy’s work in the Depart-

Guyton. The Medical Center also has one of the coun-

ment of Medicinal Chemistry to fund his revolutionary

try’s longest-running program project grants from the

discovery of a new chemical treatment for methamphet-

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute—more than

amine addiction. The chemical treatment is in pre-testing

40 years. The work at UMMC has had a major impact

phase on animal subjects at NIDA.

on understanding the treatment of cardiovascular disease,

including hypertension and heart failure.

“NIDA is really excited about the possibilities,”

Change Agents


Dr. John Hall's breakthrough discovery linking hypertension to abnormal kidney function has altered how high blood pressure is managed.

Hall has studied most, if not all, of the renal control mechanisms that maintain normal arterial pressure or that cause high blood pressure. His groundbreaking quantitative study changed the way doctors approach high blood pressure by establishing that hypertension is caused by abnormal kidney function. To help Mississippians combat this deadly relationship and other illnesses, UMMC has established the Delta Health Alliance to provide obesity and diabetes management and maintain electronic health records for people who don’t have regular access to a doctor and live

cure S



diabetes, which are the most important risk factors for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Mississippi, unfortunately, leads the nation in obesity and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, what better place is there to establish a world-class research center for obesity, nutrition and related diseases that will translate results from basic research to the prevention and treatment of these disorders?�

Because UMMC is a teaching hospital, its reach

extends far beyond Mississippi. Since the 1960s, more than 30 cardiovascular scientists trained at UMMC have gone on to become department chairs and leading minds in universities and research centers around the world.

in one of the poorest regions in the country. The next step, Hall said, is to develop an Obesity and Diabetes Research Center at the Medical Center. “Obesity is the leading cause of hypertension and

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi



Childhood Obesity

Children community e d u c at i o n

D e lta H e a lt h A l l i a n c e

financial management


h e a lt h f u l

N at i o n a l F o o d S e r v i c e

Management Institute

M o d e r at i o n

nutrition overweight schools Shared responsibility underweight

THE U n i v e r s i t y

of Mississippi



Childhood Obesity

Children community e d u c at i o n

D e lta H e a lt h A l l i a n c e

financial management


h e a lt h f u l

N at i o n a l F o o d S e r v i c e

Management Institute

M o d e r at i o n

nutrition overweight schools Shared responsibility underweight

THE U n i v e r s i t y

of Mississippi


RETHINKING SCHOOL LUNCH Schools are making new choices to make sure every child has a healthful, nutrient-dense meal. “School nutrition programs have access to the leanest ground beef available, use whole-grain flour and incorporate vegetables in more kid-friendly fare like pizza,” Oakley said.

“Feeding children wholesome meals at school is not

for the faint of heart,” Oakley said. “It takes a lot to get kids to eat vegetables if they’ve never seen them before.” NFSMI produces a video training series that is


he front line of the fight against childhood obesity is at the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI) at The University of Mississippi.

available to schools around the country to promote healthy food choices. Called “Cooks for Kids,” the show is shot in a Food Network style—a host travels to restaurants and school cafeterias to talk about good food. One episode, “Pizza with Pizzazz,” won a Telly Award.

“We made a large investment in ‘Cooks for Kids’ be-

cause we felt it was critical to address childhood obesity

Founded by Congress in 1989 as part of the

as a shared responsibility among the home, school and

National School Lunch Act, the institute trains and educates school nutrition providers around the country via seminars and workshops, satellite presentations, teleconferences, participation at professional meetings and conferences, and the NFSMI Web site.

“From nutrition to financial management to

procurement—you name it, we help provide it,” said Dr. Charlotte Oakley, the institute’s executive director. “We take our research and use it to train competent professionals at all levels of food service, from the head of the state agency to the people who wash the dishes.”

More than 100,000 schools and child-care facilities

can rely on NFSMI to provide training and research results that can help them manage their school nutrition programs. Lately, that means developing training that looks at how school nutrition programs can work with their communities to address childhood obesity.

Oakley said NFSMI began addressing the problem

in the mid-’90s, creating training based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for planning school meals based on variety, balance and moderation.

“The obesity problem is not just due to what children

eat, and it’s certainly not all due to what they eat at school,” Oakley said. “But we can play a part in the solution.”


Change Agents

Dr. Charlotte Oakley, director of the National Food Service Management Institute (right) NFSMI encourages a lifelong relationship with good food.

community,” Oakley said. “The show encourages a lifelong relationship with good food.”

It’s ironic, then, that

an organization dedicated to the operation of child nutrition programs finds itself in the fattest state in the nation. To address obesity here at home in Mississippi, NFSMI is going beyond its federal mandate and working with the Delta Health Childhood obesity is a shared responsability among the home, school and community.

Alliance. NFSMI and Delta Health Alliance provide special training to school nutrition programs that must provide healthful meals for groups of youngsters in the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta that may include diabetic, overweight or even underweight children.

“In our state and others around the country, we have

communities without grocery stores. The healthiest food available may be what children get at school,” Oakley said. “That’s why a healthy, thriving, professional school nutrition program is so important for our children.”

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


Anti-Sniper Detection

Better Structures

B l as t - R e s i s t a n t M a t e r i a l C o m p u t e r S i m u l at i o n s E n g i n e e r i n g

Id e n t i f i c a t i o n

Im p r o v i s e d E x p l o s i v e D e v i c e

Im p a c t

La n d m i n e s

Las e r D o p p l e r V i b r o m e t e r

Las e r s M i r r o r s

Na n o t e c h n o l o g y P h y s i c a l A c o u s t i c s Pinpointing Technology R e t r o f i t t i n g R o b u s t D e s i g n s S o u n d W a v e s THE U n i v e r s i t y o f M i ss i ss i p p i



Change Agents

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i


Anti-Sniper Detection

Better Structures

B l as t - R e s i s t a n t M a t e r i a l C o m p u t e r S i m u l at i o n s E n g i n e e r i n g

Id e n t i f i c a t i o n

Im p r o v i s e d E x p l o s i v e D e v i c e

Im p a c t

La n d m i n e s

Las e r D o p p l e r V i b r o m e t e r

Las e r s M i r r o r s

Na n o t e c h n o l o g y P h y s i c a l A c o u s t i c s Pinpointing Technology R e t r o f i t t i n g R o b u s t D e s i g n s S o u n d W a v e s THE U n i v e r s i t y o f M i ss i ss i p p i



Change Agents

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i




niversity of Mississippi researchers work to make this violent world a little safer with technologies that detect land mines more efficiently than before, can tell the difference between a nuclear test or a little dynamite in North Korea, pinpoint a sniper or an improvised explosive device, or retrofit buildings into armored fortresses.

PROTECTING THE INNOCENT In the throes of battle, fields are seeded with land mines aimed at picking off soldiers. But many are never triggered, lying underground for years until they are set


off by an innocent person—a child playing or a farmer

work in wet soil or other adverse conditions.

plowing a field.

The first version of the laser Doppler vibrometer

An estimated 80 million land mines are buried in 88

sprawls across a table in a lab at NCPA, a chain of lasers

countries around the world, from Mozambique to France

and mirrors that look like lines of dominoes. The next

(where bombs from both World Wars are occasionally

version fits into a big, bulky, heavy metal box. The latest,

triggered). Thousands are killed or maimed every month.

more accurate than the first, is contained in a heavy—but

Some of the top physicists in the world work for

much, much smaller—box.

Ole Miss, many at the groundbreaking National Center

The device is much more accurate than any land

for Physical Acoustics (NCPA). One of them, Dr. Jim

mine detection tactic used before, clearing fields with a

Sabatier, developed the multibeam laser Doppler vibro-

99.7 percent accuracy, called "unmatched" by the U.S.

meter, which allows scientists to see through dirt using

Army. The success of the device led to the establishment

sound waves. On the screen, land mines appear as hot

of the Institute for Humanitarian Demining, which aims

red blobs, much easier to detect and remove than with

to constantly improve the detection system, look for new

traditional techniques like metal detectors, which can’t

solutions and use a multidisciplinary approach to address

see plastic, or ground-penetrating radar, which doesn’t

all the problems associated with the use of land mines.

Change Agents

Dr. Jim Sabatier with the prototype of the multibeam laser Doppler vibrometer he developed


some distance and beside the device presents a number of

NCPA is a designated Army Center of Excellence in

challenges that will take more research to overcome,”

Acoustics, providing the Army with a continuous source

Sabatier said. “There’s more distortion beaming to the

of expertise and innovation.

side rather than straight down. At the same time, the

scan has to be done much more quickly. So we have a lot

One such innovation is applying NCPA’s land mine

detection technology to locate improvised explosive de-

of work to do.”

vices before they explode. This adaptation of the proven

An anti-sniper detection system is already being

system is more complex than it sounds. To find a land

used on the ground in Iraq.

mine, the detection device points straight down through

soil in a static environment. But an IED is not buried, it

and GPS has the potential to instantly pinpoint a sniper’s

is just hidden. Identification must be instantaneous for

location,” said Dr. Kenneth Gilbert, the lead researcher

the soldiers in the field.

on the project. “The NCPA atmospheric research group

is actively working on making such a system a reality.”

“Using the same technology to scan for explosives at

“The combination of rugged wireless microphones

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi


ARMOR FOR BRICKS A N D M O RTA R Advances in body armor save the lives of soldiers every day. A research team in the School of Engineering aims to do the same for buildings using nanotechnology.

Dr. Chris Mullen, a civil engineering professor who

is also the director of the Center for Community Earthquake Preparedness, developed a computer model that simulated the effects earthquakes of different magnitudes would have on buildings—first for a campus project, and then for the federal and state emergency management agencies.

Using that model as a jumping-off point, Mullen and his civil and mechanical engineering colleagues are trying to mitigate the effects of a terrorist blast on buildings in a project funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

(top) Using geospatial date, UM researchers can identify and estimate the local intensity of hazards within an area; inventory key infrastructure such as buldings, bridges, utility networks and roads; and quantify their fragility. (bottom) Dr. Chris Mullen, director of the Center for Community Earthquake Preparedness

Mullen’s model simulates the impact of a blast on a build-


ing that is not protected first. Then the team calculates the

Al-Ostaz and Dr. P.R. Mantena are working to design

impact after the building is retrofitted with a cost effective,

the blast-resistant material at the nano level. The materi-

blast-resistant nanoparticle-reinforced material.

als team then must work out how best to apply it, Mullen

said. Should they make it a spray paint? Adhesive strips?

Mechanical engineering professors Dr. Ahmed

Change Agents


a violent tide

A large-scale flexible wallpaper? After choosing how best to apply the protectant, the team will use computer simulations to decide how to retrofit an entire building.

“The blast simulation indicates which part of the

building will fail—the distribution of the damage,” Mullen said. Based on those results, the team can develop retrofitting strategies for Homeland Security. Although the Homeland Security project doesn’t have anything to do with earthquakes, the work Mullen is known for, he says this new direction really isn’t that different.

“Earthquakes do pretty wicked stuff to buildings

in a different way,” Mullen said. “With better structures and more robust designs, buildings can be multihazardproof—whether it’s a terrorist blast, an earthquake or a hurricane. It’s all related.”

(top) Dr. Ahmed Al-Ostaz (with plaque) and (middle) Dr. P.R. Mantena, professors of mechanical engineering (bottom) Dr. Sam Wang, director of the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y of M i s s i s s ippi




C ER N ’ s L a r g e H a d r o n

C o m pa c t M u o n S o l e n o i d pa r t i c l e d e t e c t o r

En e r g y C o l l i s i o n s


Higgs Boson


N u c l e a r R e s e a r ch

P a r t i c l e Acc e l e r a t o r Ph a r m a c e u t i c a l In d u s t r y

P a r t i c l e Ph y s i c s

P i x e l D e t e c t o r T e chn o l o g y

R e d u c i n g R a d i at i o n Silicon

T H E Un i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i





C ER N ’ s L a r g e H a d r o n

C o m pa c t M u o n S o l e n o i d pa r t i c l e d e t e c t o r

En e r g y C o l l i s i o n s


Higgs Boson


N u c l e a r R e s e a r ch

P a r t i c l e Acc e l e r a t o r Ph a r m a c e u t i c a l In d u s t r y

P a r t i c l e Ph y s i c s

P i x e l D e t e c t o r T e chn o l o g y

R e d u c i n g R a d i at i o n Silicon

T H E Un i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i





fter years of delays, waiting, setbacks and lawsuits about the possible destruction of the universe, the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, went online this summer.

In January, seven Ole Miss

physicists held their breath as the final piece of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) particle detector was lowered into the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) experimental cavern 328 feet underground. The seven Ole Miss physicists—Drs. Lucien Cremaldi, Jim Reidy, Rob Kroeger, Don Summers, Breese Quinn, Romulus Godang and David Sanders—helped design and build hardware for the CMS Hadron Calorimeter, which sits within a large 40,000-gauss superconducting magnet. The group also helped design the CMS inner particle tracker. Since 1991, Ole Miss physicists have received grants from the Department of Energy to work on the CMS


Change Agents

(top) Construction of the CERN Large Hadron Collider draws international attention. (bottom) UM physics professors are among some 1,500 scientists from 155 institutions in 36 countries working on experiments in CERN's Large Hadron Collider.


R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i


for the collider, a project some call the world’s largest

Assembling the Large Hadron Collider

scientific instrument. So, what is a Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector? It contains fragile detectors to help identify and measure the energy of particles created in collisions within the large machine.

STILL LOST? W H AT ’ S T H E P O I N T ? “As we move to the new experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, we have the possibility of discovering the particle or particles that gave rise to the mass of all particles in the universe,” Cremaldi said. “This particle, the Higgs boson, has remained hidden ever since it was predicted to exist over 40 years ago by Peter Higgs and others. The Large Hadron Collider has the opportunity form.”


to discover the Higgs boson in a simple or more complex

Dr. Lucien Cremaldi, UM particle physicist, holds one of the first models of a mechanical and cooling frame fabricated at UM for the Forward Pixel detector. The detector is currently installed in the CMS experiment at the LHC. The experiment is designed to search for new forms of matter existing in the early universe.


Change Agents




in designing a silicon pixel detector [related to CCD cameras] in which over a million pictures can be taken each second,” he said. “These superfast cameras are being used by the pharmaceutical industry to image new drugs at X-ray and synchrotron radiation facilities.

“These devices may also play a role in national secu-

rity or in medicine. The high rate at which images can be attained could mean taking a patient’s X-ray would take a fraction of the time that is now needed, thereby significantly reducing radiation exposure,” he added. The UM physics professors are among some 1,500 scientists from 155 institutes in 36 countries working to build CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. For Cremaldi, the Large Hadron Collider is the culmination of 20 years of work with Fermilab and CERN. Once the collisions start producing data, however, his work begins anew.

“The potential is enormous,” Cremaldi said. “We are

beginning a new era of enlightenment in particle physics.”

The science involved in building the collider is complex. Although Cremaldi and his Ole Miss colleagues are working at the forefront of the world’s greatest scientific experiment, very few everyday people know anything about the CERN Large Hadron Collider. It’s easier to get our attention with a new headache medicine or new electronics than highminded subjects like the origin of the universe.

Dr. Robert Kroeger

But the CERN

experiment and others like it tend to have surprising practical research applications to everyday

Dr. Breese Quinn

life. During the process of building cutting-edge esoteric technology, revolutionary techniques are discovered that can be used in other disciplines.

Cremaldi provided an example of one such applica-

tion. “At the Large Hadron Collider, we were involved

R e s e a rc h a t T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f M i s s i s s i p p i



























For additional information on research being conducted at The University of Mississippi or if you would like to become involved by helping support a particular research effort, please contact the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at 662-915-7583 or

Change Agents 2008  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you