Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Chemistry Majors Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Posted on: March 27th, 2020 by nhammer

The Office for National Scholarship Advisement is thrilled to announce that JAX DALLAS and WILLIAM MEADOR have been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship!

The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. It identifies and supports exceptional sophomores and juniors who show promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields! Last year, Goldwater received 1300 applications and awarded 250 scholarships. 

BS Chemistry Major Jax Dallas

Jax Dallas is a native of Columbus, MS and has been fascinated with NASA since childhood when he would launch model rockets with his father from the cotton fields. Last year he completed an REU at the University of Southern California. He aims to pursue a PhD in physical chemistry. His goal is to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

BS Chemistry Major William Meador

William Meador is junior from Carbondale, IL. He is a pursuing a BS in Chemistry and has multiple publications. Most recently, his first author research paper was published in The Journal of Organic Chemistry where he also received the journal issue cover for his artwork! William aims to pursue a PhD in Chemistry. He wants to become a teacher-scholar with a specialty in organic chemistry while mentoring graduate students to create novel molecules with innovative properties.

Both Jax and William presented an incredible commitment to a career in research, a display of intellectual curiosity and proven contributions in their fields. From all of us at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, we are so incredibly proud of you!

Congratulations to our 2020 Goldwater scholars Jax Dallas and William Meador!

Original story by .

Departmental Operations Modified (COVID-19 Update)

Posted on: March 23rd, 2020 by nhammer

The University of Mississippi and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry are open for business. However, our operations have been modified to keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is an urgent matter requiring immediate attention contact the Department’s main line at 662-915-7301.  For timely updates regarding ORSP COVID-19 Guidance the following web page has been created  

Congratulations Chemistry Majors for Receiving a Taylor Medal!

Posted on: March 18th, 2020 by nhammer

Level Up: Increasing the number of women in STEM careers through mentorship

Posted on: March 3rd, 2020 by nhammer



$26 Million Gift Makes STEM Building Reality

Posted on: February 5th, 2020 by nhammer

Business professionals Jim Duff (left) and Thomas Duff (right), of Hattiesburg, visit with UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce about their gift of $26 million toward construction of a new STEM facility on the Oxford campus. Ole Miss students, such as those pictured in this Coulter Hall chemistry lab, will benefit from state-of-the-art active learning spaces in the new 202,000-square-foot building. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation


OXFORD, Miss. – With eyes on increasing job opportunities and boosting the economy, business leaders and brothers Jim and Thomas Duff, of Hattiesburg, have committed $26 million to the construction of a state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility at the University of Mississippi.

Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce announced today (Feb. 5) the top gift for the 202,000-square-foot building, which will be the largest single construction project in Oxford campus history, with a $160 million total project budget. The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation is projected to be one of the nation’s leading student-centered learning environments for STEM education.

“There is a critical need to increase the number of graduates in STEM fields to support growth and innovation in our state, region and nation, and strengthen the pipeline for training engineers, tech entrepreneurs, and science and math teachers,” Boyce said. “We are deeply grateful to the Duff brothers for this significant investment in our vision to produce graduates who fulfill critical needs, improve STEM teaching in our education systems and contribute as scientifically aware citizens in our society.

“Jim and Thomas are dedicated to enriching educational opportunities in Mississippi, and we guarantee that their investment will have a significant return as its far-reaching impact is felt. In the coming years, STEM job creation will outpace non-STEM jobs, and STEM professionals earn higher salaries, yielding more attractive opportunities for our students in Mississippi and beyond.”

Thomas Duff, a member of the state Institutions of Higher Learning board – the governing body responsible for policy and financial oversight of the state’s eight public universities – shared the motivation behind their gift.

“Jim and I recognize the importance of educating Mississippi students in STEM fields,” he said. “It is absolutely crucial to our state’s future to have an educated STEM workforce. In addition, we want to see talented high school graduates in our state have exceptional opportunities to prepare for some of the most rewarding careers possible. It’s what they deserve, and it’s what Mississippi needs.”

The Duff brothers contributed $1 million previously to support UM’s Flagship Constellations in memory of their father, the late Ernest Duff, who was the first in his family to pursue higher education. He earned an undergraduate and law degree from Ole Miss, where he served as the Associated Student Body president, was inducted into the student Hall of Fame, served on the Mississippi Law Journal staff and graduated first in his law school class.

In addition, Jim Duff’s daughters, Margaret and Caroline, are law and liberal arts students, respectively, at Ole Miss.

Jim Duff said his family values educational opportunities and wants to expand them in Mississippi.

“Tommy and I are impressed that part of the STEM facility’s mission will involve outreach to our state’s kindergarten-through-high school teachers,” Duff said. “We need our teachers introducing the idea of STEM fields to their students, inspiring them to major in STEM fields in college.

“This outreach will also include STEM activities for the community, improving the overall science literacy of our state and region.”

According to the National Math and Science Initiative, 60 percent of jobs created in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20 percent of the current workforce. The United States may be short as many as 1 million skilled workers over the next decade. The nation ranks 17th worldwide for the number of science degrees awarded annually.

The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation will be an important tool to bolster science literacy in Mississippi by providing active learning classrooms and state-of-the-art labs to prepare STEM majors and K-12 teachers of those subjects. The 202,000-square-foot facility is poised to be the crown jewel of the university’s Science District along University Avenue.


The additional space and technological advances offered by the Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation are critical to serving the student enrollment.

The university’s ability to expand STEM courses, especially those that require laboratory work and other research, is stymied by a lack of classroom and laboratory space – and particularly by a lack of nontraditional teaching spaces that facilitate active learning. Some active learning classrooms have been set up ahead of the building and professors have seen positive responses from students.

With construction slated to begin in 2020, the Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation will be located in the Science District, with one side facing the Grove and another facing Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Thousands of people will pass this new campus landmark daily.

It will house lecture halls as well as chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and computer science labs. Lower student-instructor ratios will be in place, and various disciplines will be spread throughout the building to promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

Among other building highlights, students will enjoy technology-enabled active learning, or TEAL, labs and a visualization lab, similar to a small IMAX theater for 3D visualization. Engineering students will have access to dedicated lab spaces, including fabrication and testing equipment, for their senior design projects.

Several common areas will give students space to study both individually and in small groups, and a STEM tutoring center will provide additional support.

Such innovations appealed to the Duff brothers, who are widely known for their entrepreneurial spirit and for responding to opportunities with solutions, Thomas Duff said.

What began as a small-town enterprise quickly grew under the leadership of the Duff brothers, who saw unique opportunities for the development of solution-providing companies. That forward-thinking force became Duff Capital Investors, a privately-owned company headquartered in Columbia.

DCI comprises 20 companies, providing more than 13,000 employment opportunities across the nation and exceeding $3 billion in total revenues. The company includes Southern Tire Mart, KLLM Transport Services, Frozen Food Express, TL Wallace Construction, DeepWell Energy Services, Pine Belt Motors and many other companies that were founded as solution providers.

UM will seek other private, state and federal funding, use internally generated cash and borrow funds to cover the costs of the construction. Other private support for the building includes a $25 million gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in Jackson, a longtime donor to Ole Miss.

For more information on providing support for the STEM facility, contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor of development, at or 662-915-3120; or visit Other naming opportunities are available inside the STEM building.

February 5, 2020 by

Prof. Fortenberry Featured in Scientific American

Posted on: February 4th, 2020 by nhammer

Ryan Fortenberry explicates the chemistry of the cosmos—clearly.

Dr. Ryan Fortenberry

Ryan Fortenberry photo by UM Communications


“Science should be explained like campfire stories,” said Ryan Fortenberry, assistant professor of astrochemistry, a subspecialty that explores chemistry in outer space. “Any science concept can be talked about in everyday language.”

Fortenberry wants to reduce jargon in scientific prose, as evidenced in the February 2020 issue of Scientific American, “The First Molecule in the Universe.”

In it, he traces the discovery of a new molecule found in space, helium hydride (HeH+), which scientists believe is the first compound ever formed in the Universe.  The bonding of helium and hydrogen atoms was once thought impossible by chemists, but, in space, radically different temperatures and pressures create unpredictable reactions. The discovery of HeH+ calls into question accepted truths about chemistry overall.

Explaining the discovery, Fortenberry wrote: “By studying chemistry in environments so very alien compared with Earth . . . we can find molecules that challenge our usual notions of how atoms interact and bring us to a deeper chemical understanding. Ultimately we hope to learn how chemistry led to the ingredients that ended up in the planets in our solar system and eventually enabled life.”

Fortenberry entered the nascent field of astrochemistry through a back door. He’d known from a young age that he wanted to write about science, and to do that knowledgeably he felt he needed a graduate degree, so he entered the Ph.D. program in chemistry at Virginia Tech.

“The program was way outside my comfort zone, and I wanted to quit,” Fortenberry said. “Then I came across a research fellowship offered through the Virginia Space Grant Consortium that introduced me to astrochemistry.  Discovering this specialty changed my life and gave me a reason for sticking out graduate school.”

As a researcher, Fortenberry explores the interaction of light with molecules in space. He uses supercomputers to predict ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and microwave fingerprints of various chemical compounds.

To crunch the numbers for his research, Fortenberry counts on the high-end computers in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and at the Mississippi Center for Supercomputing Research. The center provides sophisticated technical resources to Mississippi’s public colleges and universities statewide.

He has published his findings in more than 100 peer-reviewed journals and stands as comfortably in the esoteric realm of Journal of Chemical Physics as he does in Scientific American, ground zero for unpacking new concepts in science and technology to laypeople.

“Dr. Fortenberry is not only an exceptional scientist but also a gifted communicator who can readily explain complex scientific concepts in ways that both students and the general public find easy to understand,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Fortenberry, who has published a book about science writing—Complete Science Communication: A Guide to Connecting with Students, Scientists, and Journalists (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019)—would like to teach a journalism class to UM students.

“We are entering an era when understanding complex topics, like the science behind climate change, will be important for everyone to grasp,” he said. “The only way to do that is through clear communication.”

Click here for the original story.

Chemistry Majors Represent at SURC 2020

Posted on: January 26th, 2020 by nhammer

Congratulations Ivy Li, William Meador, Genevieve Verville, and Michael Valencia for receiving awards at SURC 2020 on January 25th, 2020 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference is a unique opportunity for students in the SouthEastern region to present their undergraduate research work to other students and faculty members. Both oral and poster presentations are given. Students also network with graduate school recruiters and meet other students and faculty members engaged in chemistry research. Prizes are given for the best posters and oral presentations. The conference allows students to present their work in a friendly environment and obtain feedback and ideas related to their work.

3 Honors Freshman Scholars are Chemistry Majors

Posted on: September 11th, 2019 by nhammer

Douglass Sullivan-González (right), dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, welcomes the 2019 cohort of freshmen scholars, including (front row, from left) Tristan Tran, Jilkiah Bryant, Anastasia Jones-Burdick, Gracie Bush, Vivienne McCracken, Ethan Lambert and Addison Pratt and (back row) Julianna French, Maren McSparin, Eva Kiparizoska, Peter Nguyen and Luke Davis. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Seventeen freshmen in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi have been awarded a total of $130,750 from four of the university’s most distinguished scholarship programs.

Five of the freshmen earned McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships, six were recipients of Doris Raymond Honors Scholarships, three were awarded Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships and three were honored with Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships.

“Each year, a new group of high-performing students distinguish themselves to join the ranks of our SMBHC scholarship holders,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, Honors College dean.

“We are extremely proud of this year’s freshman group who already understand the demands of what it means to be ‘citizen’ and ‘scholar’ in a challenging environment. We anticipate four great years of their involvement in our university community.”

Those students receiving McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships are:

  • Jilkiah La’Destinee Bryant, of Macon
  • Gracie Bush, of Long Beach
  • Eva Kiparizoska, of Laurel
  • Indu Priya Nandula ,of Cleveland
  • Kaylee Nicole Sims, of Madison

Bryant is a graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, where she was a Golden Triangle Area Scholar, MSMS Ambassador, 4-H Ambassador and Northeast Mississippi Student Leadership Conference Scholar. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Kiparizoska is a graduate of West Jones Junior-Senior High School. She won the AP Biology Award, first place in advertising design at the State Beta Convention, Spanish III Award and Algebra III Certificate. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Those receiving Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships are:

  • Luke Alexander Davis, of Lakeside, California
  • Julianna Grace French, of Malden, Missouri
  • Addison Paige Pratt, of Corinth

French graduated from Malden Hills High School, where she was on the Principal’s Honor Roll, Who’s Who and Academic All-State in volleyball. French is majoring in chemistry.

Click here for the original story by .

Former PhD Graduate John Kelly Highlighted in C&E News

Posted on: September 11th, 2019 by nhammer

2016 physical chemistry PhD graduate John Kelly was highlighted for his postdoctoral work in the September 9, 2019 issue of C&E News.  Dr. Kelly commented on his successful European postdoctoral experience.  The article points out that US-based chemists can consider going abroad for their postdocs. John Kelly, a chemist at SRI International, moved from the US to Leipzig University for his postdoc, which he finished in 2018. He says he decided to make the move because it would be a completely different experience from studying anywhere in the US.

“It was the best experience I could ask for,” Kelly says. While he enjoyed his research project, he says the most rewarding part was simply living abroad. Of course, he says, he faced hurdles he wouldn’t have if he had stayed in the US, like changing banks and sorting out visas and work permits. But those shouldn’t deter anyone interested in doing a postdoc abroad, he says.

“You could spend a year in the US and learn less than you would in a week in another country,” Kelly says. Working abroad gives you diversity in approaching a way to solve a problem, he adds. “If everybody in the room speaks the same and writes the same and approaches the problem the same, then you’re only going to have one solution.”

Click here for the full C&E News article.


Forensic Chemistry Major Named Portz Scholar

Posted on: August 20th, 2019 by nhammer

Kennedy Dickson (SMBHC 19) has been named a 2019 National Collegiate Honors Council Portz Scholar. She is one of three recipients nationwide and will present her honors thesis, “Cannabinoid Conundrum: A Study of Anti-Epileptic Efficacy and Drug Policy,” at the NCHC conference in New Orleans this coming November as well as collect her certificate and award of $350.

This summer, California-native Kennedy is working as a Forensic Science Intern for the Orange Crime Laboratory in Southern California. She has begun the law school admissions process and hopes to study intellectual property, patent law, and bioethics. This fall, she will continue researching cannabinoids with Professor Kristie Willett, who also advised her honors thesis. Kennedy is grateful for Professor Willett along with Ms. Cammi Thornton and Professors Zach Pandelides, Erin Holmes, and Nicole Ashpole.

Congratulations, Kennedy!