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Academics

MS School for Math and Science students complete summer research

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Pictured (left to right): Student John Tierce, Dr. Sharon K. Hamilton, Dr. Adam Johanson and student Stormy Gale.

Two visiting students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science recently wrapped up a two-week research experience at Delta State under the direction of the Department of Chemistry and Physics.

Rising seniors participating in the program were Stormy Gale (Columbus, Mississippi) and John Tierce (Cleveland, Mississippi).

“The Department of Chemistry and Physics is been proud to once again host summer research students from the Mississippi School for Math and Science,” said Dr. Joe Bentley, chair of the department. “When students come to Delta State for a summer research experience like this, it’s great all the way around. The MSMS students get a taste for doing research in an academic lab, it will help them with their applications to college, and the professor gets to work with highly qualified high school students.”2017 math science interns-1

Tierce worked closely with Dr. Sharon K. Hamilton, assistant professor of chemistry.

“John has been working with other students in my lab determining the optimal formulations for drug-loaded natural polymer fibers,” said Hamilton. “These fibers can be used for drug delivery and wound healing purposes. John is gaining valuable research experience that will help him as he pursues his college degree next year. It is my hope that our high school chemistry and physics research program can continue to grow in the years to come, especially with such great student recommendations from Dr. Elizabeth Morgan at MSMS.”

Tierce also partnered on research with current Delta State students Katie Penton (Southaven, Mississippi), a graduate student in chemistry, and Zachary Kinler (Pascagoula, Mississippi), an undergraduate student.

Gale worked with Dr. Adam Johanson, planetarium director and assistant professor of physics.

“Stormy Gale spent two weeks developing an original planetarium presentation entitled ‘History of Astronomy,’” said Johanson. “She not only outlined the show, but wrote over 1,000 lines of computer code to program the planetarium to display videos, pictures and animations to complement the narration.”

The presentation of Gale’s hard work was given to the public on July 21 in the Wiley Planetarium.

Hamilton’s research is supported by the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, and funded by an Institutional Development Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103476.

Learn more about Delta State’s Department of Chemistry and Physics at http://www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/chemistry-and-physics.

Delta State’s herbarium collection to be used by Smithsonian

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It’s a common saying that food brings people together, and one bean once linked an entire region of the United States.

Phaseolus polystachios, more commonly known as the Native American wild kidney bean, or thicket bean, is the only native bean species that was once widespread across the eastern United States, according to research by Ashley Egan, a research botanist and assistant curator at the U.S. National Herbarium, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. It is a member of the legume family and typically grows perennially. But despite its once widespread growth, Egan reported that few seed collections of Phaseolus polystachios are located in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System.

Egan is studying the genes of the thicket bean in relation to crop improvement and is trying to collect as many samples of the bean as possible from across the county. She contacted Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science at Delta State, about locations of the thicket bean in Mississippi —one of the native states of the Phaseolus polystachios.

Thanks to Delta State’s collection of five specimens, Egan will be able to more closely study the genes of the wild kidney bean.

“The Delta State University Herbarium has over 17,000 specimens,” Riding said. “More than 10,300 are documented in the database, which Dr. John Tiftickjian and I have worked on for the past 10 years.”

Delta State’s Herbarium, located in Caylor Hall room 242, contains specimens from 37 states, but its main focus is centered on plants in the Mississippi Delta. It houses four specimens classified as Phaseolus polystachios that were collected by Ronald Weiland, John MacDonald, Randy Warren, Charles Bryson, Paige Goodlett and Wanda Ingersoll. These specimens were collected in Hinds, Lee, Leflore and Grenada counties.

“The Delta State University herbarium is used extensively in teaching and research projects at DSU and around the local region as well,” Riding said. “The Department of Biological Sciences is excited for the Smithsonian to utilize the herbarium as well.”

Riding said several other institutions have utilized the herbarium in the recent past, including Wayne Morris from Troy University, Lisa Wallace from Mississippi State University, and several doctoral students from North Carolina State University.

“Teressa Oakes from NRCS also showed off the herbarium last summer during a workshop, and Dr. Tiftickjian plans to incorporate it into the Master Gardeners conference program in 2019,” Riding added.

For more information about the Smithsonian’s project, contact Egan at egana@si.edu or 202-633-0902. For more information about Delta State’s environmental science program, contact Baghai-Riding at 662-846-4797 or nbaghai@deltastate.edu.

 

Taylor charting the course for habitat conservation

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Combining habitant conservation with geospatial information technologies is Hannah Taylor’s mission this summer.

Taylor, a wildlife habitat management major at Delta State, is a data management/field technician intern under the Rice Stewardship Partnership at Ducks Unlimited, partnered with USA Rice, at the Southern Regional Office located in Ridgeland.

She assists in day-to-day operations, creating and updating project tracking databases, mapping in GIS software, and generating facts and figures for reporting to partners.

“I hope to gain the knowledge and experience of how a conservation organization operates,” said Taylor. “Being a part of this organization has been a great opportunity for me as a wildlife habitat management major, and I hope to pass my knowledge on to other students who may be interested in seeking a career in wildlife habitat management.”

The internship was a dream come true for Taylor, who grew up attending youth camps at Ducks Unlimited.

“My family and I are members of the Ducks Unlimited Bolivar County Chapter and have been for as long as I can remember,” she said. “Growing up, my brother and I were involved in the youth camps that DU had every year and were made ‘Greenwings’ at the age of five. We attend every DU banquet we can to show our support.”

Founded in 1937, DU is the world’s leading conservation agency for wetlands and waterfowl. Its mission is to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and habitats for North America’s waterfowl. The organization has projects in all 50 states and has conserved over 13 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America, according to its website.

When the time came for Taylor to apply for her internship, Dr. Ellen Green, chair of the department of biological sciences and associate professor of biology, knew of Taylor’s interest in studying waterfowl and GIS and suggested she apply to DU.

“Hannah expressed to me last spring that she wanted to find an internship that would combine her interests in studying waterfowl and GIS,” said Green. “This internship appears to be the perfect match for her. After talking with her recently and hearing more about her summer experience, I am confident that the knowledge and skills she is learning through Ducks Unlimited and through her environmental science degree will make her a very competitive candidate for a wide range of positions.”

For more information about Ducks Unlimited, visit www.ducks.org. For more information about the wildlife habitat management program at Delta State, contact Green at 662-846-4240 or esgreen@deltastate.edu.

Zoeller to intern with Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

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Having just wrapped up her senior season playing Delta State softball, Madison Zoeller knows the importance of teamwork in the circle of life.

On a team, every player has a role. Whether it’s behind the plate, on the field or from the sidelines, individuals mesh together like cogs in a machine to achieve a desired goal. They depend on one another for success and survival amongst the toughest competition in their environment. Zoeller may be hanging up her softball cleats, but she will be taking on a bigger role by helping organisms find their place in the ecosystem.

Beginning July 17, Zoeller, an environmental science major at Delta State, will join a new team — the staff at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Hubert, North Carolina, where she will be interning. Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates injured animals with the intent of releasing each animal back into the wild. The organization also provides educational programs and presentations to teach the public about the native local wildlife, ecology, environment, natural resources and backyard habitat creation.

During her internship, Zoeller will learn to rehabilitate and care for wildlife by performing functions such as feeding, weighing, bandaging, and administering medications to animals. She will assist in wildlife presentations and programs and help conduct tours of the sanctuary. She will also learn to work with the non-releasable animals and birds used in programs/presentations and assist in the recovery program for raptors.

“I am thrilled about starting this internship,” Zoeller said. “To me, this is the beginning of a long career in environmental science and wildlife biology, and it’s my way of making the world a better place. It starts with the little things, and the little things may be something as simple as caring for an abandoned animal. My long term goal is to make my community understand the importance of every living thing.”

Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science at Delta State, explained more about the opportunity Zoeller will have to care for wildlife and educate others during her internship.

“Back in March, Madison mentioned that she was taking an internship at the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in North Carolina,” Riding said. “During the internship, she will learn how to take care of and rehabilitate shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, small mammals, and reptiles. Some of her training will include resilience with animal care, choosing appropriate medication for the animals, and maintaining the raptor facility. She also will be able to train volunteers, assist with future planning, work with large groups, and run the sanctuary in absence of staff.”

While Zoeller’s internship will come to an end August 26, she hopes to continue her passion for wildlife by pursuing graduate studies in wildlife biology in the future. For now, she has accepted a position in waste management in the Nashville area and will start work after her internship ends.

For more information about the environmental science program at Delta State, contact Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding at 662-846-4797 or nbaghai@deltastate.edu. For more information about Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, visit www.possumwoodacres.org.

Follow Your Heart Arts Program partners with DMI

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The Follow Your Heart Arts Program, launched by Warner Brothers recording artist Charlie Worsham and funded by a grant from the Country Music Association Foundation, recently completed the first season of partnership with the DMI Entertainment Industry program at Delta State University.

The mission of the Follow Your Heart program is to enrich and empower the lives of young people living in Grenada County through music education, music business career exploration, and the study of the rich history of Mississippi music.

The DMI works with the Follow Your Heart Arts Program by connecting entertainment industry majors who provide instruction and mentoring to students in the program.

In addition to the Follow Your Heart Arts Program, Worsham, a native of Grenada, also founded the Follow Your Heart Scholarship Fund to provide financial support to Grenada youth who dream of a career in the arts. In late 2016 he hosted the inaugural Follow Your Heart Scholarship Fund Gala, which benefited the fund. Since starting the campaign, Worsham has raised approximately $60,000.

“I realize this is the most important work I’ll ever get to do,” Worsham said.

The idea for the fund was sparked in Worsham during a conversation with a class of teenagers at a high school in Grenada when one girl was too embarrassed to verbalize her dream of acting on Broadway. Worsham said it broke his heart.

“The kids in my hometown need to have hope. And if the kids in my hometown see me doing it, they need to know they can do it, too,” he said.

Worsham most recent CD, “Beginning of Things,” was released on Warner Brothers Records in April.

For more information on Worsham’s Follow Your Heart Scholarship Fund, visit www.FollowYourHeartArts.org. To learn more about the Follow Your Heart Arts program, visit https://www.facebook.com/FollowYourHeartArts/

The DMI offers a B.S. in Entertainment Industry Studies degree in the College of Arts & Sciences at Delta State. The focus of the DMI is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative, and business areas of the music and entertainment industry. For information, contact (662) 846-4579 or visit http://dmi.deltastate.edu.