Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Davita Watkins Wins 2018 ACS Young Investigator Award

Posted on: February 12th, 2018 by nhammer

UM assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Davita L. Watkins has been named a 2018 Young Investigator by the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division, a branch of the American Chemical Society. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Davita L. Watkins, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been named a 2018 Young Investigator by the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division, a branch of the American Chemical Society.

PMSE Young Investigators are researchers in the first seven years of their independent career in academia, industry or national laboratories who have made significant contributions to their fields within polymer science and engineering. These scientists and engineers are emerging as leaders in the fields of materials and polymer chemistry through the synthesis, processing, characterization and physics of soft materials and their applications.

“It’s very much of a surprise,” said Watkins of the honor. “As a young scientist, I am often narrowly focused on the task that is at hand – be it research, grants, manuscripts, outreach, etc.

“The experience tends to be a very personal one that I genuinely love. In turn, having others in your field acknowledge your hard work, ambition and drive is both humbling and satisfying.”

Watkins and the quality of her science are well deserving of the highly selective recognition, said Greg S. Tschumper, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry.

“The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is extremely proud of Dr. Watkins,” he said. “This type of accolade is a tremendous boon for the research mission of the department and the university. They provide a national stage that highlights some of the outstanding research and researchers at the University of Mississippi.”

Watkins’ research interests include organic and materials chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and other areas, such as exploring the operational efficiency of functional materials. A member of the Ole Miss faculty since 2014, she runs the Watkins Research Group based at UM that addresses challenging problems in materials science and engineering with innovative approaches to molecular design and fabrication.

The group focuses on improving the operational efficiency of functional materials by examining two factors: the nature of the constituting components, and the arrangement of those molecules to yield a useful overall composition, she said.

The goals of the group are to identify the unique building blocks of functional materials and examine how those building blocks behave on a molecular and macromolecular level.

“The new knowledge gained from our research leads to the development of more efficient organic-based materials and devices, thereby advancing the pursuit of technological applications” such as in electronic devices and biomedical implants, Watkins said.

Being named a 2018 Young Investigator is not the first time Watkins has earned acclaim for her research and work during her short tenure at the university.

In 2017, Watkins won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her research in advanced functional materials that she develops in her laboratory. Among the most prestigious awards made by the NSF, these honors are extremely competitive. The five-year award is for approximately $500,000.

In 2015, Watkins was awarded the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award by Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The competitive research award recognizes science and technology faculty members. Watkins received the award to examine noncovalent interactions between organic semiconducting molecules to increase their efficiency in devices used as alternative forms of energy.

“UM is very proud to have Dr. Watkins as a member of our faculty,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. “She has quickly proven herself to be a talented researcher and teacher, which has already resulted in a number of significant and competitive grant awards and recognitions. I’m excited to watch the evolution of her career.”

The 21 Young Investigator recipients will be honored during a symposium at the fall 2018 American Chemical Society National Meeting, set for Aug. 19-23 in Boston. Each honoree will give a 25-minute lecture on his or her recent research advances. The symposium includes special lectures from established leaders in the field of polymer materials science and engineering.

Watkins’ research – understanding how to build better devices from the molecular level – is an overarching theme in modern organic materials research, said Emily Pentzer, assistant professor of chemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a co-organizer of the symposium.

Watkins was chosen as a Young Investigator both for her current research and her future work.

“The awardees have also established that they will continue to significantly contribute to the field over the rest of their career,” Pentzer said.

Watkins said her symposium lecture will discuss the development of noninvasive functional materials for rapid diagnosis and treatment of acute trauma. After almost four years in development, Watkins said she’s excited to share her research with the scientific community at the symposium.

“I aim to be a teacher-scholar – an exemplary researcher and role model,” she said. “In turn, I am always conscious of the fact that my accomplishments are not my own. Being at UM, I am surrounded by intelligent, supportive people, including mentors, colleagues and students.

“My colleagues and collaborators, as well as amazingly hard-working students, are the ones who make these achievements possible.”

Click Here for the original article by Shea Stewart.

Charles Hussey Receives Lift Every Voice Award

Posted on: February 2nd, 2018 by nhammer

Charles Hussey Professor and ChairCongratulations to Prof. Charles Hussey for receiving the Lift Every Voice Award, which recognizes those who actively contribute to the betterment of relationships at the University of Mississippi.
Donald Cole, assistant provost and an associate professor of mathematics, presented the award to Hussey at the opening ceremony of the University’s Black History Month Celebrations in Fulton Chapel on February 1st. Prof. Hussey is the College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Chemistry.

Ole Miss Chemistry Now Accepting REU Applications

Posted on: November 7th, 2017 by nhammer

2018 Ole Miss Chemistry Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Program: The Ole Miss Chemistry Department seeks applicants for an NSF-funded summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in 2018. Non-UM students who have completed their freshman year of college and who have not yet graduated can participate fully in “Ole Miss Physical Chemistry Summer Research Program” activities and work on a research project under the direction of a faculty mentor. Student participants will receive a $5,000 stipend, a housing and meal plan for ten weeks, and travel assistance. 

Eligibility: Undergraduate student participants must have completed their freshmen year of college but not yet graduated at a school other than Ole Miss, and must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. Underrepresented groups in science are strongly encouraged to apply, including minorities, women, and first-generation college students. 

Key Dates and Deadlines: 
02/26/2018: applications due 
05/31/2018: experience begins
08/9/2018: experience ends

For more information, including research projects and how to apply, see http://reu.chem.olemiss.edu or contact program director Dr. Nathan I. Hammer at nhammer@olemiss.edu. 

The Ole Miss PCHEM Summer Research Program REU is supported by The National Science Foundation (CHE-1460568).

Click Here for REU Application

Registration and Abstract Submission Now Open for 50th Annual Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC 2018)

Posted on: November 6th, 2017 by nhammer
 

Registration and abstract submission are now open for the 50th Annual Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC 2018) at http://surc2018.com. The 50th Annual SURC will be held on the campus of the University of Mississippi February 2nd and 3rd, 2018.  Undergraduate students are invited to deliver oral presentations.  CLICK HERE or on the logo for more information.

Dass Group Featured on Cover of JACS

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017 by nhammer

Congratulations to Prof. Amal Dass and his research group for being featured on the cover of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The title of the paper is “Crystal Structure of Faradaurate-279: Au279(SPh-tBu)84 Plasmonic Nanocrystal Molecules.” This unprecedentedly large, 2.2 nm diameter, thiolate protected gold nanocrystal was named Faradaurate-279 (F-279) in honor of Michael Faraday’s (1857) pioneering work on nanoparticles. It is the smallest gold nanocrystal to exhibit metallic behavior, with a surface plasmon resonance band around 510 nm.

Jonah Jurss Receives ACS PRF Award

Posted on: October 31st, 2017 by nhammer

Congratulations to Prof. Jonah Jurss for being awarded a grant from the AmericaJonah Jurssn Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund!  The title of the award is “Developing Durable and Highly Reactive Iron-Oxo Catalysts for Hydrocarbon Functionalization”

Kerri Scott Receives Teaching Award

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by nhammer

Congratulations to Dr. Kerri Scott for Receiving an Excellence in Teaching Award in the Personalized Learning & Adaptive Teaching Opportunities Program!

Former Chemistry Department Summer Program Participant Becomes Professor

Posted on: September 18th, 2017 by nhammer

Dr. Sharifa Love-Rutledge is a new faculty member in the UAH College of Science.

Sharifa Love-Rutledge was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar working under Prof. Randy Wadkins and just became a biochemistry professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). When Love-Rutledge entered college, she started out as a biology major, but after completing general chemistry and organic chemistry courses, she made the “switch” to chemistry. “I was drawn to chemistry because of my love for creative problem-solving. Biochemistry was the subject that allowed me to utilize my analytical thought processes to pursue biological questions. It didn’t dawn on me that chemistry was a male dominated field until graduate school. By then, it was too late because I was already hooked.”

A native of Moss Point, MS, Love-Rutledge attended Moss Point High School. Love-Rutledge developed a keen interest in science when she and her younger brother shared a lab kit for Christmas one year. “We made borax (super bouncy) balls first, and went on to complete all the experiments in the kit, and I wanted to do more,” said Love-Rutledge. She is also the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from The University of Alabama Department of Chemistry. An Advanced Placement student in English and Mathematics, she went on to graduate from Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Love-Rutledge earned a Master’s degree and PhD from The University of Alabama (UA) in Chemistry and Biochemistry, respectively.

Love-Rutledge said she “felt hopeful,” when she realized she would be the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry from UA. “It was bittersweet because the reality of it all is that I wasn’t the first African American female capable of the accomplishment but opportunities weren’t afforded in the past. It allowed me to view myself as part of the culmination of the sacrifices made by those like Vivian Malone and James Hood,” she added.

The student in lockstep with Love-Rutledge in the Department of Chemistry at UA was Dr. Melody Kelley, now Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Georgia State University. Love-Rutledge said she continues to find “inspiration in seeing other African American women who are persevering and making progress toward the completion of advanced degrees.”

Early mentors for Love-Rutledge were her older siblings. “They poured their knowledge into me to ensure that I made wise decisions. If it wasn’t for my older brother, I don’t think I would’ve survived some of my math courses,” she said. “Once I left home, I started to rely on advice from my uncle Dr. Claude McGowan, who was Director of Toxicology at Johnson & Johnson, along with professors like Dr. Candice Love-Jackson, Acting Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kentucky State University.”

Additionally, Love-Rutledge was encouraged through the graduate school application process by dedicated Ronald McNair Scholars Coordinator, Demetria Hereford. And, as a graduate student, she was able to enlist the tutelage of several professors at UA. “It was also in graduate school that I was reminded of how important my parents’ guidance is. Their constant support and dedication was important in forming my personal and professional abilities.”

Love-Rutledge learned about UAH from Dr. Emanuel Waddell, Associate Dean of the College of Science while attending graduate school at UA. “The deciding factors for me to further my teaching and research career at UAH included the size of the student population and access to resources that I would need to be successful. I have always wanted to work at a university where students are viewed as more than numbers.”

“We are excited to have Dr. Love-Rutledge join us in the chemistry department. Her research will be attractive to students and we look forward to her establishing her research laboratory in the coming months,” said Dr. Emanuel Waddell, Associate Dean of the UAH College of Science.

At UAH Love-Rutledge will teach biochemistry classes. “I have a lab and I am currently working on research projects related to identifying biomarkers for Type 1 Diabetes, and studying the changes cells producing insulin undergo before disease onset.” As a teacher, Love-Rutledge said she loves students’ light bulb moments the best. At UA she served as a graduate teaching assistant for the majority of her graduate career. “I love reaffirming students’ passion for their chosen field of study. There is no greater joy for me than to see my students go on to be successful in their fields of choice. I have taught students who wanted to be nurses and are nurses now, and students who wanted to be doctors who are now in residency programs. I love seeing students reach their goals.”

As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Love-Rutledge’s first bona fide research project studied the enzymes that activate colon cancer drugs. The project’s Principal Investigator was Dr. Randy Wadkins, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Mississippi. “In my graduate research, I worked on projects that helped show Chromium, (hard, brittle metal) is not an essential element for mammalian nutrition. The research findings were published in a paper that led The European Food and Safety Authority to remove Chromium from the list of elements that ‘require daily intake’.”

Love-Rutledge freely offers words of wisdom for young women interested in entering academic fields of specialization. “Recently I’ve been exposed to the slogan, ‘You can’t do UAH alone’. I think it’s awesome advice for young women to adapt who are interested in chemistry — ‘You can’t do Chemistry alone’,” she said. “Even when you seem alone, you never are. Find mentors to give you advice, utilize your peers on and off campus to get through the tough times. Some of my best academic advice came from taking a risk and emailing a professor who I thought was out of reach. You will be surprised at how much help you could receive if you just ask for it.”

The McNair Scholars Program is a federal program funded at 51 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was the second African American to fly in space. Two years later he was selected to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed on Jan. 28, 1986, instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, 13 seconds after it was launched.

Original story by Joyce Anderson-Maples can be found at http://www.uah.edu/news/people/uah-welcomes-dr-sharifa-love-rutledge-to-the-college-of-science.

BS Forensic Major Making News as Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program Graduate

Posted on: August 25th, 2017 by nhammer

Dr. Anna Marie Hailey-Sharp and her staff, medical assistant Robyn King and nurse Shelly Goforth

PRESTON — When Dr. Anna Marie Hailey-Sharp was growing up in rural Preston, there was no such thing as a quick trip to the doctor. Her pediatrician worked in Meridian, one hour away. So she didn’t see a doctor unless she really needed to.

Unfortunately, Haley-Sharp, who had asthma as a child, needed to see her doctor a lot. So on Fridays after school, she and her mom would pile into the Ford Explorer and drive to Meridian for her weekly allergy shots — two hours, round trip. Sometimes, if her asthma started acting up, her whole family would make the trip in the middle of the night.

“We were back and forth to Meridian for years,” Hailey-Sharp said. “I don’t think we really thought that much about it at the time. It’s just the way things were. You got so used to going to Meridian for stuff that it just became a way of life.”

But for Preston’s residents, this way of life may be on its way out. In late 2015, not long after she had finished her medical residency, Hailey-Sharp opened a family medicine clinic in Preston, making her the first doctor to practice in this one-stop-sign town.

But if Hailey-Sharp’s decision to set up shop in one of Mississippi’s most rural corners was unusual, it was far from a surprise. As one of the first graduates of Mississippi’s Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, she had committed to returning to Preston before she even committed to a specialty at the University of Mississippi’s medical school.

At a time when rural hospitals around the state are struggling to stay open amid financial and regulatory burdens, Mississippi’s rural physicians scholarship program is trying to put more doctors to work in underserved parts of the state by targeting students from rural communities willing to return home to practice.

 

“Really our program is about continuity of care, people being able to make a difference in the overall health care of a community because they’re building these consistent relationships with their patients,” said Wahnee Sherman, executive director of the Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

There’s little question Mississippi needs more doctors. The state averages just 184 physicians for every 100,000 residents, fewer than any other state in the country. The problem is particularly stark in the rural parts of the state. In 2013, 21 of Mississippi’s 82 counties had four or fewer primary care physicians, according to the Department of Health. Two of those counties, Carroll and Issaquena, had zero. 

“The difficult places are the rural and impoverished parts of the state,” said Dr. Randy Easterling of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure.

Over the course of the next decade, Mississippi’s Rural Scholars Program has the potential to put nearly 200 young doctors to work in small towns across the state. This year, 19 first-year medical students joined the program.

But needing something doesn’t always translate to using it once it arrives. Old habits die hard, and like Hailey-Sharp, many Preston residents don’t think twice about driving an hour to go to the doctor.

Ryan Kelly, executive director, of the

Mississippi Rural Health Association

The survival of these rural health clinics depends on strong community support, far more than clinics in urban settings,  according to Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association.

“Their census is always a challenge,” Kelly said. “They are in places with a low population and in order to make money to survive, they have to have that certain number of patients.

“There’s still the mentality in places that it is a lesser quality of health care, but that’s the furthest you can get from the truth,” Kelly said. “It’s really high quality health care. They have the same requirements as everyone else. They simply operate in an area where there’s not health care.”

Preston, an unincorporated community in Kemper County, is small, even by small-town Mississippi standards. Its few businesses sit within sight of each other, the lone exception being Hailey-Sharp’s clinic, tucked into two double-wide trailers behind the volunteer fire department.

Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

Rush Medical Clinic in Preston

On a recent afternoon, Hailey-Sharp is on the phone at her desk. Her voice, light but authoritative, fills every corner of the small office.

“I wanted to let you know your CT scan didn’t show anything other than a hernia. But I’m going to make you an appointment with a surgeon. Your daughter was telling me you used Dr. Ward for your colonoscopy …”

She trails off, listening to the patient. “Okay, alright. You tell me when’s good for you.”

Since Hailey-Sharp began her practice, she has acquired a reputation for one thing in particular: She makes her own calls, a task usually left to nurses and medical assistants.

“It’s just quicker for them to ask me questions than it is for them to ask someone else who then has to ask me,” Hailey-Sharp said.

Hearing this explanation, however, Hailey-Sharp’s staff laughs. Her nurse, Shelly Goforth, has more than a decade of experience. Doctors, she said, don’t call their patients.

“Even if their labs are normal, she’s going to call them. And that’s something that even myself, with my years in health care, I haven’t experienced that.” Goforth said. “It’s like normally you call the doctor’s office, you call them and call them. And they’re saying, ‘Well, if there’s anything wrong we’ll let you know.’ And you’re like, ‘No – I still want to know!’”

The Rural Physicians Scholarship Program began slowly, with its first student entering practice in 2012. Hailey-Sharp, who finished her residency in 2015, had only three other rural scholars in her class.

Potential scholars don’t have to be from a rural part of the state, but they do have to be from Mississippi and attend one of its two medical schools, the University of Mississippi and William Carey University in Hattiesburg, which has a doctor of osteopathy program. And they need to know what they’re getting into.

“They have to understand what rural Mississippi means,” Sherman said. “They need to have a substantial experience from a rural area, whether it’s grandparents or other family.”

The rural physicians program requires its students to commit to one year of practice in their chosen community for each year they received the scholarship. But Sherman admitted the goal is for doctors to stay permanently. This is why community ties are so important, since rural areas don’t have much in the way of shops or restaurants to attract out-of-towners.

“The fact is you don’t always recruit physicians, you recruit their wives or husbands, and a lot of wives want to live in Northeast Jackson and they want to send their kids to the best schools. And I can sympathize with that,” Easterling said.

Preston doesn’t even have a school — kids in town take the bus to DeKalb, the county seat.

Still, the Rural Physicians Program made a smart bet with Hailey-Sharp. She joined the program as a second-year medical student, meaning she’s obligated to practice three years in Preston. And more than halfway through, she doesn’t have plans to leave.

Her husband is from the area, too. Many of her patients know her mom and knew her dad, who passed away this summer. And, she admits, some even use this to their advantage.

“If they can’t reach me they’ll call my mom,” Hailey-Sharp said. “But it’s not really an issue. No one abuses it. If they legitimately need something I would want them to tell me.”

Much as Preston itself differs from cities like Meridian or Jackson, the kind of medicine doctors here practice also differs from the kind practiced in bigger areas. And perhaps another reason these doctors need to know their communities is that not everyone is cut out for it.

Office assistant Heather Kenney

“There’s not a lot of doctors you can find anymore who actually care about what their patients need and what’s going on with them and try to find out why things are going on. And these patients really like that. They want someone who knows their lives and is going to take that time,” said Heather Kenney, Hailey-Sharp’s office assistant.

“I think that’s what’s bringing people here.”

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, David Barefield was planting watermelons in a field off of Route 397 with his son, Bobo. He has been using the Preston clinic since shortly after it opened, and, as he wiped the sweat from his brow, he grinned talking about his relationship with his new doctor.

“I like having the clinic here in Preston,” Barefield said. “The only trouble I have down there is calling her ‘doctor,’ because I’ve called her Anna Marie since she was a little girl. But it is super nice to be able to go down there and be done in the time it takes you to drive to another doctor.”

Not everyone in town has been as quick to convert, however. Les Henderson runs the Preston General Store, at the intersection of Highway 21 and Route 397. He is thrilled that Preston finally has a clinic. “It’s already boosted the economy by 25 percent,” he said and laughs. But he doesn’t have plans to use it anytime soon.

“I don’t hardly go to the doctor if I can avoid it,” Henderson said.

Of the one dozen Preston residents who spoke with Mississippi Today, almost all were excited about the clinic’s arrival.  But fewer than half had actually used the clinic in the year and half since it opened.

This could pose a problem for the clinic. Preston is a small town, and survival is tough for any business without the full backing of the community.

Lance Brent is a vice president at Rush Health Systems, which operates the Preston clinic. Of the towns where Rush has its 19 rural health clinics, Preston is by far the smallest, he said. And he acknowledged that this carries a certain level of risk.

“And I don’t know that there is anything that alleviates that risk. I think we just took a chance and put it out there,” Brent said.

Brent said that Rush doesn’t set a target number of patients for its clinics but “20 a day would be great.” And he thinks the clinic, which currently sees about 14 patients a day, can eventually get there.

“She’s liked by the community, and with that I think that it’ll continue to grow,” Brent said.

And this points to what might be the biggest draw for the clinic — Hailey-Sharp, herself. She arrived in town with something few big city doctors can claim right out of residency: a great reputation.

Maebelena Smith has made several trips to the clinic in recent months. Even so, to her the new physician in town isn’t “doctor” or “Anna Marie,” but “Cecil Hailey’s granddaughter.”

“That’s what makes a lot of people come to her. They know her family and background. Her grandfather was a good man, he helped people when he could, and she’s got to be cut from the same mold,” Smith said. “She’s a very kind girl. And she’s a good doctor, too.”

 

About Larrison Campbell

Larrison Campbell writes about healthcare and some social issues for Mississippi Today. Email Larrison at larrison@mississippitoday.org.

Original Story:  https://mississippitoday.org/2017/08/24/preston-miss-has-its-first-doctor-rural-patients-have-a-lifeline/

Summer 2017 REU Program

Posted on: June 15th, 2017 by nhammer

The Ole Miss Chemistry Summer Research Program REU is supported by an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site (CHE-1156713 & CHE-1460568), the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), including EPSCoR Track 2 (OIA-1539035) and Track 1 (EPS-0132618 & EPS-0903787) awards, and single investigator awards, including NSF CHE-0955550, CHE-0957317, and CHE-1455167. For more information, see http://reu.chem.olemiss.edu.