Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Alumni Profile: Stephen Emerson

Posted on: May 8th, 2019 by nhammer

Alumni Profile: Stephen Emerson

By Bethany Fitts

Stephen Emerson (BA 05), an environmental inspection and biological monitoring expert, has worked as an environmental scientist for over 10 years, providing environmental inspection for companies working on linear or renewable energy projects. Over the course of each project, he gives training courses to help construction teams safely follow environmental protocol such as noxious weed prevention and removal and hazardous waste disposal.

Despite this extensive experience, Emerson didn’t really know what to expect when he was first asked to work on the Dakota Access Pipeline–an underground oil pipeline that runs through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

“They told me right before I came that there might be some minor protests but nothing to be concerned about,” Emerson said.

However, it didn’t take long before Emerson realized that “minor” was a significant understatement.

“I was hiking solo with all of my tools, and I saw 200 cars on the road,” he said. “And, soon enough, 200 became 2,000.”

Thousands of people from across the country and the world had gathered to protest construction of the pipeline with concerns about environmental threats and damage to sacred Native American sites.

“I get it,” Emerson said of the protestors. “There are some very strong opinions on both sides. My job is to make sure construction is completed according to protocol and that regulations are abided by. Our goal is to leave the smallest footprint on the environment. When I’m flying over in a helicopter, I want to be able to look down and not see where that pipeline went in.”

Emerson believes he and his team succeeded in minimizing the pipeline’s environmental footprint and is proud of his work on the project.

“A lot of projects don’t involve that level of protest,” he said. “But to know that I’ve done my best and getting to be a part of American history are the reasons I love this job.”

The history Emerson referred to actually began, he said, in 1973 when President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act.

“At the time these laws were written, it was needed because you had a lot of corporations shooting for the almighty dollar,” Emerson said. “You know… you don’t want your water contaminated just because this big corporation makes profits.”

Even though Emerson loves his job, he did not initially want to specialize in environmental inspection. In fact, he earned his degree in biochemistry from Ole Miss with the intention of going to medical school. After graduating, though, Emerson began working in Oman’s Wahiba Sands desert as an environmental scientist, and his path began to change.

“I fell in love with the environmental component of biochemistry,” he said. “I’d always loved nature as a child.”

Emerson’s work requires a thorough knowledge of acts like the National Environmental Policy Act, California Environmental Quality Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. His past clients range from Google and the Department of Homeland Security to Pacific Gas and Electric and Genesis Solar, LLC.

Of his work with the Genesis Solar Energy Project, a new solar power plant located in the Colorado Desert, Emerson said, “It was amazing to have been there before anybody else was. And now you have one of the largest solar facilities in the world.”

As we move further into the 21st century, Emerson believes environmental inspection and biological monitoring will only become increasingly vital.

“There’s more people on the planet and less natural resources,” he said. “The protection of these natural resources is going to be a critical component as we move forward.”


Stephen Emerson is an active member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association.
Stephen, Ole Miss thanks you.

Ready for Takeoff: Navy ROTC graduate Garrett Booth spends spring semester on staff

Posted on: May 7th, 2019 by nhammer

The Austin, Texas, native graduated from Ole Miss in December with a degree in biochemistry and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy in January through the university’s Naval ROTC program.

He was assigned to flight training and ordered to report to Pensacola, Florida, in late May. While many recently commissioned midshipmen use the break between commissioning and reporting to relax or establish themselves in the town to which they will be moving, Booth decided to remain at his alma mater as a staff member, assisting midshipmen in their journey toward becoming officers themselves.

Click the image below to read Booth’s story, which is part of the “Journey to Commencement” series that highlights University of Mississippi students and their academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.


Professor Cizdziel publishes Book on Forensic Chemistry

Posted on: December 10th, 2018 by nhammer

OXFORD, Miss. – Congratulations to Dr. Cizdziel and graduate student Oscar Black on their new book titled “Forensic Analysis of Gunshot Residue, 3D-Printed Firearms, and Gunshot Injuries: Current Research and Future Perspective”. As technology continues to march forward it is crucial that the forensic disciplines maintain their lead over the criminal element. The field of firearm analysis is one such area that has experienced rapid developments, spurred on by recent technological advancements. With the invention of high resolution 3D-printing and new improvements in instrumental techniques such as Raman Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry, entirely new fields of study have evolved. This book takes an in-depth look at the current state of gunshot residue analysis and wound ballistics, and showcases groundbreaking research in these crucial areas. The ramifications of the availability of 3D-printed firearms are also discussed, with evaluations of new and existing forensic methods on trace analysis of GSR and fingerprinting, as well as potential protocol adaptations to better address the unique challenges of 3D-printed firearms.

Congratulations Chemistry Majors for Inductions into Phi Kappa Phi!

Posted on: October 30th, 2018 by nhammer

Undergraduates Click Here for Research Opportunities

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by nhammer

Undergraduate students should click here for available undergraduate research opportunities in chemistry and biochemistry.

Chemistry Majors Named Stamps and McDonnell-Barksdale Scholars

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by nhammer

Seven members of the 2018 freshman class at the University of Mississippi have the distinction of being Stamps Foundation Scholarship recipients.  The Stamps Scholarships at Ole Miss are the most comprehensive, full scholarship packages for in-state and out-of-state students.  This year’s cohort is: Shahbaz W. Gul and Qihang “Jeffrey” Wang, of Oxford; Gregory Vance, of Jackson; Melvin “Richard” Springer IV, of Biloxi; Grace Louise Dragna, of Mandeville, Louisiana; Grace Elizabeth Marion, of Levittown, Pennsylvania; and Valerie Quach, of Austin, Texas.  “This gifted class of UM Stamps Scholars contributes to our exceptional track record of attracting and retaining the best students from around the state and the nation,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We’re very grateful for the generosity of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. Our partnership with them provides nationally competitive scholarships and enables extraordinary enrichment opportunities for high-achieving students.”  Wang said he sees the Stamps Scholarship at Ole Miss as the perfect balance between a fantastic, focused education and a big public school experience.  “The Stamps Scholarship Program provides big opportunities for networking with other student scholars,” said the biochemistry major and a member of the Honors College, Global Ambassadors and the American Chemical Society. “The Stamps family is very kind, courteous and professional, and I am very appreciative for all they’ve done.”  Wang’s goals include doing research in both analytical chemistry and environmental sciences.  Launched in 2006 by Georgia native Roe Stamps and his wife, Penny, the program has grown to include nearly 40 partner schools throughout the country.

The 2018 cohort of Stamps Scholars at UM is: (front row, from left) Grace Dragna, Grace Marion and Valerie Quach, and (back row) Shahbaz Gul, Jeffrey Wang, Gregory Vance and Richard Springer. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

Two chemistry majors received the prestigious McDonnell-Barksdale Scholarships this year.  These are Qing Yun Li of Oxford and Kayci Bearden Kimmons of Batesville.  Li is a graduate of Oxford High School, where she was concert master of the OHS Orchestra, which she played in for four years, and received awards in AP chemistry, geography, and anatomy and physiology while being named to the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Anchor Club and LOU Orchestra. She also made the Principal’s List Honor Roll all four years and was a volunteer with the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, Oxford-Lafayette County Library and Memory Makers.  A graduate of Mississippi School for Math and Science, Kimmons was a Regional Science Fair finalist; member of the marching band, Student Council, National Honor Society, Student Government Association and Technology Student Association (regional/state winner); and earned awards in Spanish, regional spelling bee, Honor Roll-All A’s, Beta Club (regional/state winner) and second-highest average. She also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club and the Convoy of Hope and was a chemistry tutor. 

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez (right), dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, meets with Honors scholars (from left) Autumn Fortenberry, Brithney Ngo, Ella Endorf, Ivy Li, deYampert Brame Garner II, Kayci Kimmons, Ajah Singleton, Emily Wright, Samuel Starr, Arabella Hamm, Kaden Spellmann, Hayden Williamson and Andrew Gardner.
Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez (right), dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, meets with Honors scholars (from left) Autumn Fortenberry, Brithney Ngo, Ella Endorf, Ivy Li, deYampert Brame Garner II, Kayci Kimmons, Ajah Singleton, Emily Wright, Samuel Starr, Arabella Hamm, Kaden Spellmann, Hayden Williamson and Andrew Gardner.


State of Mississippi Awarded $20 Million to Establish Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOS)

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by nhammer

State of Mississippi Awarded $20 Million to Establish Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOS)

A $20 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation will spur creative discovery and economic opportunities through Mississippi’s research universities.  The University of Mississippi will receive about $5.5 Million in funding.  Profs. Tschumper, Hammer, Delcamp, Watkins, and Jurss in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

With the grant funding, the state of Mississippi will establish the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics, an inter-disciplinary, multi-institution materials research program. Mississippi State University (MSU) will serve as the project’s administrative lead, and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will serve as the science lead. Along with MSU and USM, Jackson State University (JSU) and the University of Mississippi (UM) will be a part of the new center, which will facilitate the development of research capabilities and educational opportunities in the growing optoelectronic, energy and biotechnology research fields.

Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOs)

 Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOs)

The NSF grant comes through the organization’s EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program, which enhances the research competitiveness of states and jurisdictions by strengthening STEM capacity and capability.

“This initiative will be a tremendous benefit to the people of Mississippi and to our research universities,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “Increasing our university research capabilities makes our state and our institutions more competitive, increases educational opportunities and keeps us at the forefront of emerging technologies. This new center and its focus on organic semiconductors will make existing Mississippi industries more competitive and help the state attract new companies. I am proud that MSU is playing a lead role in this endeavor.”

MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw is the principal investigator and project director for the grant. Sarah Morgan of USM is the science director. Co-principal investigators include Jason Azoulay from USM, Jared Delcamp from UM and Glake Hill from JSU.

“I am so pleased that the National Science Foundation selected our faculty as the science lead for this important project,” said University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney D. Bennett. “With USM’s Center for Optoelectronic Materials and Devices serving as the mission center for this grant, our internationally-renowned polymer science and engineering experts look forward to partnering with Mississippi’s other research institutions as they examine far more complicated processes than ever before. I am confident their work will impact our communities positively for many years to come.”

Prof. Jared Delcamp is co-PI on the $20 Million NSF grant to create the new Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOS)

The Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics will develop new, unified research methodologies on organic semiconductors, an area that is vital to the advancement of diverse areas such as technology, electronics and biomedicine. To facilitate the research, the center will establish state-of-the-art research instrumentation for common use across the state and support collaborative research among institutions. The new scientific infrastructure will fill a void for the state and facilitate advanced basic and applied research.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to be a member of this dynamic, multi-institutional team for the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics and help develop pivotal research capabilities that will be benefit Mississippi, our nation and the world,” said UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter. “This initiative will bolster collaborative research efforts and continue pioneering STEM workforce development, which is critical for attracting high tech industry to the state.”

New optoelectronic functionality developed by center research will support the basic knowledge necessary to bring new technologies to reality, resulting in new intellectual property and potential job creation.

Profs. Nathan Hammer and Davita Watkins Receive Research Awards

Profs. Nathan Hammer and Davita Watkins are participants in the new Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics (CEMOS)

“Jackson State University is elated to be a partner of this groundbreaking venture for the state of Mississippi and Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said Dr. William B. Bynum Jr., president of Jackson State. “It is my hope that we continue to expand on these opportunities to spur economic growth for Mississippi and enhance educational opportunities for our students.”

The new center will benefit from connections to national laboratories, NSF Top 100 research universities, state development officials and representatives from industry. The grant will also fund K-14 outreach efforts aimed at creating a stronger, more diverse pipeline of STEM students.

“The grant from the National Science Foundation demonstrates the incredible capabilities housed within our research universities,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. “Working together, these capabilities are amplified. The research conducted through this grant will put Mississippi on the forefront of emerging technologies.”

See also:

Advice from a Recent Successful Pre-Med Chemistry Major

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by nhammer

Advice from a Recent Successful Pre-Med Chemistry Major

Austin Carroll graduated from the University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the Spring of 2018 with a B.A. in Biochemistry degree. He was fortunate to receive interviews and acceptances from a number of medical schools including Georgetown, Tulane, the University of Mississippi, and the Mayo Clinic. He started as a first year medical student in the fall of 2018 at Georgetown University.   According to the US World News, the average acceptance rate of US medical schools was a staggering 7% in the 2017-2018 school year. This number drops even lower at prestigious, private medical schools like the Mayo Clinic, Georgetown, Emory, or Harvard where the average rate hovers between 1.4% to 2%. It thus comes as no surprise that applicants must set themselves apart and build a resume with extraordinary characteristics. As generally science-minded, type A individuals who like to accomplish specific goals, gaining these “extraordinary” experiences is no easy feat. Many students simply say “well, just tell me what I need to do, and I’ll do it.”  The problem with this logic is that this set path just doesn’t exist. There is no exact major, GPA, MCAT score, or collection of extracurricular activities that are guaranteed to gain one acceptance into medical school. Austin learned this over the course of his four years in college and he spent a lot of undirected and anxious energy looking for the nonexistent picture-perfect opportunities that would guarantee him an acceptance.  Below are Austin’s recommendations on how to best approach being pre-med  at the University of Mississippi.

Austin Carroll Graduated from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry in 2018 and went to Medical School at Georgetown University

Austin Carroll Graduated from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry in 2018 and went to Medical School at Georgetown University

“Through the process, I learned that the key lies in finding what you are passionate about and participating in opportunities that reflect this passion to your fullest ability. With regards to medical school, it is specifically important that this passion is reflected in service to other people. I’ve detailed my path here in hopes that you will use it as an example as you create your own.  I looked around anxiously my freshman year but found little to nothing until I came across a summer medical mission trip to Lima, Peru with an organization called MedLife on campus. To be honest, I had no idea what the trip would be like, but I thought it would be a good chance to see another part of the world and to participate in medicine. Once there, I immediately recognized that I had a passion for serving those in communities that faced poverty and health inequalities. When I returned to Mississippi, I saw a vast need for this type of service all around me, and I began searching for opportunities. I soon began volunteering at Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic, a free clinic for those in poverty, and spent my summers and winter breaks working as a patient transportation technician at Baptist in Jackson. I also applied for a two-year program on campus called the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) program with the McLean Institute but felt almost sure that I would not be accepted. With so little previous service experience compared to others applying, why would they want me in the first place I thought? To my surprise, however, I received a call a few weeks after my interview and had been placed in the program. This is where things really began to move. With this program, I was able to learn about the effects that health care (or the lack thereof) has on the Mississippi economy and how we can use education and entrepreneurship to combat poverty.  As part of completing my CEED requirements, I was able to take the knowledge I had learned and to create a four-week summer program for 5th-8th graders based on chronic disease prevention, general health and wellness, financial literacy, and career readiness. I then reached out to and worked with numerous organizations across Mississippi as I taught the CEED program to fifteen students in the Mississippi Delta.

While I can only speculate, I believe it was this [CEED] opportunity that really solidified my “extraordinary” path and gave me the ability to tell my unique story of discovering and carrying out my passion for serving others. Overall, I was able to demonstrate leadership, a passion for service to those in need, and the capacity to work well with others in my personal statement and secondary essays and how those things translate into becoming a great physician. Sure, I also had the standard things that any pre-med advisor worth their salt will tell you to have like research, volunteering at the local kid’s club, a significant amount of shadowing, a study abroad experience, TAing experience, and a great GPA and MCAT. All these things on their own simply aren’t good enough anymore, though. You must have something that differentiates you and allows you to craft powerful essays because those are the things that get you an interview at Harvard or Georgetown (or insert name of “prestigious” private school).

I would also like to encourage you by saying that each of my opportunities came after being turned down numerous times by other clinics, hospitals, and volunteer organizations. The supply of willing and gifted students is greater than the demand, but I promise you the opportunities are out there. You just have to be passionate and persistent, and you will be given sufficient chances over your time in college. So don’t worry so much about choosing the major that will give you an advantage or copying the exact route of extracurriculars that your friend “X” completed to get into “Y” school. Find what you’re passionate about and then pursue opportunities that allow you to translate that passion into service to others, so when application time rolls around you will have a unique story backed up by concrete experiences to tell the admissions committee.”


Ole Miss Chemistry Now Accepting REU Applications

Posted on: September 10th, 2018 by nhammer

2019 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 2019. 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: 
02/25/2019: Applications Due
05/30/2019: Experience Begins (Move-In)
08/8/2019: Experience Ends (Move-Out)

For more information, including research projects and how to apply, see or contact program director Dr. Nathan I. Hammer at 

The Ole Miss PCHEM Summer Research Program REU is supported by The National Science Foundation (CHE-1156713, CHE-1460568 and CHE-1757888).

Click Here for REU Application

Department Searching for Instructional Faculty – Apply Today

Posted on: August 27th, 2018 by nhammer

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi located in Oxford, Mississippi, invites applications for a permanent non-tenure track faculty position at the INSTRUCTIONAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR level, to begin in August 2020.   The Department has 17 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 7 teaching faculty, and 60 graduate students. 

Primary responsibilities will include instruction of lower-division chemistry courses and may include participation in the management, supervision and instruction of the undergraduate teaching laboratories. Opportunities to supervise undergraduate research students are available. Additional duties include advising students and student organizations as well as participation in recruiting and orientation events. Candidates are required to have earned a doctorate in chemistry before beginning this position. In addition, competitive candidates will have demonstrated teaching
ability, strong interpersonal and communication skills, and an energetic commitment to undergraduate education. The opportunity for advancement to the rank of Instructional Professor is available. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until an adequate applicant pool is established. Applications must be submitted online at and shall include a cover letter, a current CV, and a teaching philosophy statement. Because the University is committed to diversity and inclusion in higher education, applicants should specify within their application how their teaching, scholarship, and service will contribute to a diverse and inclusive community. During the online application process, applicants will be prompted to provide the names and email addresses of three professional references that will provide letters of recommendation.

The University of Mississippi has a Carnegie classification of R1 and is rated a “Great Colleges to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The University of Mississippi is an EOE/AA/Minority/Female/Vet/Disability/Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity/Title VI/Title VII/Title IX/504/ADA/ADEA employer.