Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Chemistry Senior Earns Entry Into UM’s 2017-2018 Hall of Fame, the University’s Highest Honor

Posted on: May 3rd, 2018 by nhammer

University of Mississippi BS Chemistry senior Jacob Thrasher has been inducted into the university’s 2017-18 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors afforded students at Ole Miss. 

 The 2018 University of Mississippi Hall of Fame. Photo by by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The 2018 University of Mississippi Hall of Fame. Photo by by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The inductees were honored Friday afternoon (April 6) in a ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. A campus committee chooses Hall of Fame members in accordance with policy developed by the Associated Student Body. Selections are based on outstanding contributions in all aspects of campus life.  This year’s Hall of Fame members are Allen Coon of Petal; Christopher Feazell of Mendenhall; Terrence Johnson of Shuqualak; Jiwon Lee of Oxford; Megan McLeod of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Savannah Smith of Corinth; Austin Spindler of Savannah, Tennessee; Elizabeth Taylor of Whitesboro, Texas; Jacob Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama; Ingrid Valbuena of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

“Each of the students selected for Hall of Fame has a record of scholarship and service to the university community and has impacted the Ole Miss campus in a positive way,” said Mindy Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “Hall of Fame is a fitting way to recognize the legacy that each of them leaves at the University of Mississippi.”  The 10 students were among 200 seniors recognized for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Students at the University of Mississippi. 

Jacob Thrasher

“The Hall of Fame is a time-honored process that has identified students who have gone on to make a true difference in the world,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This year’s inductees have made a mark on our institution and have developed abilities that will serve them well in their careers.”

Thrasher, a chemistry major in the biochemistry track, served as president of Omicron Delta Kappa, past president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault and a panelist for the Huffington Post’s Listen to America Tour. An editorial cartoonist for the Daily Mississippian and Oxford Eagle, he received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Region 12 Award for best political cartoonist. Thrasher has been accepted to graduate school at Yale University where he plans pursue a doctorate in biology and biological sciences.  His parents are Christy Branton Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama, and the late Michael Aaron Thrasher.


University Honors Prof. Kerri Scott with Frist Service Award for Assistance to Students

Posted on: May 1st, 2018 by nhammer

Following glowing letters of recommendation from students, parents and colleagues, University of Mississippi Chemistry Professor Kerri Scott has been chosen to receive a prestigious honor for her exceptional service.  The Thomas Frist Student Service Awards are presented annually to one faculty member and one staff member for going the extra mile in dedication and service to students. Examples of exemplary service include student guidance and mentorship above and beyond those expected of faculty and staff as part of their job responsibilities.  Kerri Scott, instructional associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate director of forensic chemistry, is the faculty honoree. 

“Our university is truly a special place because of our steadfast commitment to student engagement and success,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Across our campus, we have exceptional faculty and staff who go above and beyond to put our students first.

Dr. Kerri Scott

Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque. They will also be acknowledged May 12 during the university’s main Commencement ceremony.

“We had an outstanding group of nominees with many deserving nominees in each category,” said Brett Cantrell, assistant professor of accountancy. “For the faculty award, Dr. Scott stood out for the impact her advising had on students not just academically, but intra-personally.

Scott, who had multiple nomination letters written by both students and faculty, was commended by a colleague for “her commitment to students and their success.”

One student, who never took a course from Scott, wrote that, “There was one point she found me crying over a quantitative analysis exam, and Dr. Scott found time to calm me down and give me a chemistry beaker mug to encourage me to keep me moving forward. She helped me come up with an honors undergraduate research project and helped me with the data processing for my thesis.”

“I am incredibly lucky to have a job where I get to help others achieve their dreams,” Scott said. “The students keep me young, on my toes and challenged. They never let me forget that the world is full of amazing potential and greatness.”

The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate. Previous winners of the Frist Award include faculty members Luca Bombelli, Denis Goulet, Aileen Ajootian, Don Cole, Charles Eagles, Ellen Meacham, Terry Panhorst, Ken Sufka, Eric Weber, Donald Dyer and Robert Brown; and staff members Anne McCauley, Carol Forsythe, Thelma Curry, Dewey Knight, Valeria Ross, Marc Showalter, Linda Spargo and Whitman Smith.

See for the original story by .

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 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-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 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