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College of Arts and Sciences

Caylor White Walters updates small

$18 million renovations near completion at Delta State science and math facilities

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With just a few finishing touches remaining, Delta State University’s mathematics and science facility, Caylor-White-Walters Hall, now represents one of the most state-of-the-art higher education facilities in the state.

Thanks to $18 million in capital improvement over the past few years, the building now houses top-notch equipment and laboratories for the Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Physics, and the Department of Mathematics within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Funding for the project came from the State of Mississippi Bureau of Buildings.

The building features laboratories for all areas of sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, DNA technology and anatomy, as well as computer labs and classrooms for mathematics curriculum. It also features a planetarium, making Delta State the only university in the state to host such a facility, and a herbarium, which is home to over 17,000 plant specimens and serves as a scientific and educational resource for researchers around the world.

Other highlights include new SMART Podium interactive displays and projectors, renovated auditoriums, a new Scanning Electron Microscope that can magnify objects 300,000 times their actual size, specialized temperature and humidity controlled rooms for animal care, new instrumentation like the 300MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrophotometer, and much more.

Overall, the changes allow for additional teaching and research space. Additionally, new classroom furniture and faculty offices have drastically improved the overall learning environment.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge is thrilled with the endless opportunities the new facilities will provide.

“This is a top quality feature of Delta Sate, and it represents part of what we do best,” said LaForge. “I am so pleased that we are finally nearing completion on this massive long-term renovation project. And we now, very clearly, have a state-of-the-art set of facilities, labs and equipment to serve our students and faculty. With these tools in place, our faculty will now have an enhanced ability to provide top-tier math and science education for our students — which will prepare them for graduate and professional schools, as well as exciting careers.”

Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, echoed LaForge’s excitement.

“We look forward to having this important building renovated and updated. It is especially important in the sciences to have a facility that offers the latest laboratory facilities and equipment,” said McAdams. “Our graduates will leave here to go on to medical school, veterinary school, or dental school, or become a science teacher. To be successful in those professions, we owe it to them to provide the most robust and relevant academic experience possible. The renovation and upgrades to the facility will help us make significant strides in achieving this unending goal. I believe it is essential for a university to provide a physical learning environment that is supportive and conducive for teaching and for learning. Caylor-White-Walters is now a place where faculty and students look forward to come and discover the wonders of math and science.”

According to Dr. David Breaux, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, everyone is relieved to see work wrapping up in a building where students and teachers have had to adapt to the construction going on around them.

“With the end of the renovation process clearly in sight, faculty and students are overwhelmed with joy,” said Breaux. “And, as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I am proud that we are able to offer our students courses in state-of-the-art classrooms and labs. No longer do students have to worry about dealing with broken or outdated furnishings and equipment, but can instead concentrate fully on mastering the material they are being taught.”

Katie Penton, a graduate student majoring in chemistry, appreciates the opportunity to work and study within the updated facility.

“I’ve been here since undergrad, so I’ve been around to see how far everything has come along,” said Penton. “It’s been really neat to see all the new labs, classrooms and equipment. The computer lab will be great with all the new software, and I really like the lab spaces. As a master’s student, I’ll be doing a lot of lab work and using a lot of equipment. Going into my thesis, it’s really good to know I’ll have access to these features and make my project the best it can be.”

One feature that is receiving extra attention is the planetarium, which will provide the perfect setting for astronomy courses, but will also set the stage for learning opportunities across campus and the community.

In addition to the new seats, carpet and other amenities, the renovation also included the installation of the dual projector Digistar 5 planetarium system from Evans and Sutherland, and the professional quality 5.1 surround-sound system from Bowen Technovation. The system not only allows users to move their view of the stars back and forth through time, but it also lets users fly through the solar system to the other planets. As a bonus, it also turns the planetarium into a 3-D digital theater.

“The astronomy classes will of course use the planetarium, but one long-term goal is to use the planetarium as an instructional tool for other subjects,” said Dr. James Gerald, assistant professor of physics. “Dr. Adam Johanson helped a student with a project this summer to build 3-D models of molecules and display them on the dome. The priority of the planetarium will be teaching astronomy, but we will also have public outreach through shows. We look forward to collaborating with other departments across campus to create new content, and watch for us to start having shows for the public this fall. This will help us broaden the educational mission of the planetarium.”

In April of 2016, the COAS established a two-year campaign to build a program called Integral Funding for Science Education, or InFuSE. The goal of InFuSE is to raise funds to support science education and research for Delta State students of all ages, and to increase the involvement of alumni and the community in science education.

“Science education, especially hands-on, is quite costly. In order to keep up with industry standards, we need to have current equipment to prepare our students to go into the workforce or to continue their educational careers through graduate education,” said Darlene Breux, Academic Affairs development officer. “Funding will also help the departments in their outreach efforts to support the community. It is necessary to be able to support summer STEM camps for K-12 students. In increasing STEM students, especially here in the Delta, it will help our community grow.”

Dr. Rose Strahan, who served as a mathematics faculty member at Delta State for over 40 years, has also kick started an effort to support mathematics students. She initiated the Rose Strahan Scholarship for Mathematics, which is used to support one deserving student in mathematics. She is also a donor to the Mathematics Fund, which provides funding to assist the department in its teaching, research and faculty development needs.

For more information on giving to InFuSE or one of the mathematics funds, visit the Delta State Foundation website at http://www.deltastategiving.org, and search for Instrumental Funding in Science Education, the Rose Strahan Scholarship for Mathematics, or the Mathematics Fund. You may also contact Darlene Breaux for assistance at dhbreaux@deltastate.edu or 662-846-4013.

Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science, recently represented Delta State at the annual Botanical Society of America Conference held in Savannah, Georgia.

Delta State presents at Botanical Society of America Conference

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Delta State University students recently presented at the annual Botanical Society of America Conference held in Savannah, Georgia from July 30 to Aug. 3.

The Botanical Society of America is one of the world’s largest scientific societies dedicated to the study of plants and serves as an umbrella organization that covers all plant specialties including conservation and ecology, historical botany, microbiological interactions, paleobotany, physiology, teaching plant science and more.

This year, more than 1,100 scientists and educators attended the event. Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science at Delta State, represented the university by  presenting three posters that were given at different sections. Two of the posters emphasized research accomplished by students majoring in environmental science at Delta State.

One poster, given at the paleobotany section, was titled “Paleoclimate and Taphonomic Implications of a Palynological Sample from the Bucatunna Formation.” The poster focused on palynomorphs (fossil pollen, spores and algae) from a geological unit that extends from southeastern Mississippi into Florida. The presentation was co-authored by Dr. Brian Axsmith at the University of Southern Alabama in Mobile, Alabama and Kendal Davis, a 2015 Delta State graduate in environmental science.

The second poster, given at the teaching section, was titled “Comparing tree diversity of the main campus to the golf course at Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi.” Seven environmental and biology students were involved in the research, including Emily Bodin, Steven Moreton, Rebekah Napier-Jameson, Megan Clark, Michael Manley, Joseph Cummins and Amanda Bishop. Most of the project was completed in Baghai-Riding’s 2014 conservation biology course.

The third poster was entitled “Digitization of Mississippi herbarium specimens aids in understanding plant diversity in the Southeast and improves K-12 education.” The poster explained how herbarium curators in the state of Mississippi are photographing and inventorying all of the plant specimens in their collections. Delta State is one of six Mississippi herbaria involved in the project and has contributed over 14,500 specimens that are available through the SERNEC Symbiota project (www.sernecportal.org).

Abstract submission for all three posters can be viewed at to the Botanical Society of America website: http://2016.botanyconference.org/engine/search/index.php?func=summary.

Baghai-Riding also served as a PLANTS Grant mentor at this year’s conference. She was recognized as the longest serving mentor, having participated in the role for the past seven years. The PLANTS Grant program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Botanical Society of America and brings talented and diverse undergraduates and recently admitted graduate students to the conference.

Women in the Round 2

DMI fundraiser features award-winning singer-songwriters

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Award-winning singer-songwriters Ashley Cleveland, Pam Tillis, Karen Staley and Tricia Walker will be joining forces in downtown Cleveland for a unique evening of songs and stories to benefit the Delta Music Institute entertainment industry program at Delta State University.

The original Women in the Round will be performing two shows “Bluebird Café style” on August 23 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Both performances will take place at the Delta Meat Market in Cleveland.

This talented foursome was the first female “in the round” group at the Bluebird Café, one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms, located in Nashville. Their first show together was in 1988, and they have continued to perform together for selected dates over the years. This “in the round” performance will consist of the songwriters seated in the center of the room, taking turns playing their songs and accompanying each other instrumentally and with harmony vocals.

Ashley Cleveland is a three-time GRAMMY® and two-time Dove Award winner who has released eight critically-acclaimed albums. “God Don’t Never Change” features songs rooted firmly in a host of traditions — black spirituals, folks songs, 18th century hymns, gospel blues and jubilee. The disc was nominated for a 2010 GRAMMY Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album. Cleveland resides in Nashville with her husband, Kenny Greenberg, and their three children, Rebecca, Henry and Lily.

As the child of country music royalty, Pam Tillis was determined from a young age to find her own way in music as a singer and songwriter. Her album “Put Yourself In My Place” yielded two number one singles and two top five singles in its first year when the album was certified gold. Tillis followed with three platinum albums on Arista Records. Tillis achieved six number one songs during this time, including “Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Mi Vida Loca,” “When You Walk In The Room,” “In Between Dances,” “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” and “Maybe It Was Memphis.” She is a two-time GRAMMY award winner, six-time GRAMMY nominee, and a three-time CMA award winner, including Female Vocalist Of The Year in 1994. She is also a proud member of The Grand Ole Opry.

Karen Staley was born in Weirton, West Virginia, and was raised in nearby rural Hookstown, Pennsylvania, in the tri-state area of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. She is a 30-year veteran of the Nashville music industry and has been involved in every facet of the business from songwriting and performing, to touring, recording and producing. Staley’s songs have been nominated for GRAMMY, Dove and International Bluegrass Awards, and her song, “Keeper Of The Stars,” won the ACM Song of The Year award and was featured on CMT’s 100 Greatest Country Love Songs of All Time TV special.

Tricia Walker is a singer and songwriter whose songs are steeped in the passion, pain and grace of the American South. Born and raised in Mississippi, Walker has become one of the clearest voices of her own time and place. Her music has been recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless and Alison Krauss, whose performance of Tricia’s “Looking in the Eyes of Love” earned a GRAMMY award. A recording artist herself, her CD, “The Heart of Dixie,” thoughtfully captures the songwriter’s view of the South with well-placed lyrics and music reflecting her folk, R&B and storytelling influences.

Only 100 tickets will be available for purchase for each of the two shows. Tickets are $100 and may be purchased by calling the DMI office at 662-846-4579 between 8:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.

The DMI is an independent center of study under the College of Arts and Sciences at Delta State University, offering a bachelor’s degree in entertainment industry studies. 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, visit http://dmi.deltastate.edu.

Dr. Sharon K. Hamilton (right), assistant professor of chemistry, works with Sarah Tierce of the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science.

Hamilton host MSMS student for summer research

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Dr. Sharon K. Hamilton, assistant professor of chemistry, recently coordinated a two-week research experience at Delta State University for Sarah Tierce, a rising senior at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.

Tierce, a Cleveland native, also worked with Katie Penton, a graduate student in Hamilton’s lab, as they explored the creation of a new degradable nanofiber that can be used in biomedical applications such as drug delivery and wound healing.

Tierce’s experience is part of a renewed effort to reestablish connections between the Delta State University Chemistry and Physics Department and the science faculty at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

“Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, a chemistry teacher at MSMS, and I worked together to make this high school research experience possible,” said Hamilton. “Dr. Morgan helped identify interested and motivated students that would benefit from working in a research lab over the summer. I believe Sarah, a rising senior at MSMS, gained great insight into what research means and how a research lab functions.”

From left: Dr. Sharon Hamilton, Sarah Tierce and Katie Penton.

From left: Dr. Sharon Hamilton, Sarah Tierce and Katie Penton.

Hamilton added that this experience provides a great opportunity for high caliber students to learn about Delta State and its great learning atmosphere on campus and in the department.

“Moreover, this provided a chance for one of my graduate students, Katie Penton, to provide mentorship to a younger student — an invaluable skill in the workforce,” said Hamilton. “I would love to host more high school students in my lab. I believe it gives students a cutting edge when it comes to college applications, and it puts Delta State at the forefront of their mind when applying for colleges their senior year.”

The research is a collaborative effort between Hamilton and Dr. Gisela Buschle-Diller in the Department of Biosystems Engineering at Auburn University. The work is supported by the Mississippi INBRE, funded by an Institutional Development Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103476.

Dr. Joseph Bentley, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State, was also thrilled to rekindle the relationship with MSMS.

“Our department is very pleased to have a student from MSMS doing research with Dr. Sharon Hamilton this summer,” said Bentley. “Dr. Hamilton is our new organic chemist and is doing exciting polymer research. This collaboration is just one of several efforts reestablishing a connection with MSMS that our department enjoyed previously, in large part thanks to Dr. Henry Outlaw, who was instrumental in maintaining the DSU/MSMS relationship. In the past, faculty from MSMS helped DSU host education workshops for local Delta teachers and this is a tradition the Department of Chemistry and Physics and MSMS look forward to renewing. In the future, we hope to host more MSMS students in research experiences at Delta State.”

Learn more about the department at http://www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/chemistry-and-physics.

crinoids slab- UW Geology Museum, July 2016

Baghai-Riding represents Delta State University at the Earth Educators Rendezvous

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Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding was one of 20 participants selected nationally to attend the Earth Educators Rendezvous (EER) that met from July 18-22, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

She received a travel stipend by applying through a Geo-Needs Project funded by an NSF in early March 2016.

Baghai-Riding was selected because she advises undergraduate DSU Environmental Science majors, teaches two regularly scheduled geology courses that many minority students complete as part of their environmental science/biology degree requirement, incorporates geological concepts into other environmental science classes. In addition, Delta State University serves many minority students that major in the sciences.

As part of the stipend requirement, Baghai-Riding was expected to complete an action plan on her Physical Geology for Life Sciences course. As part of the action plan, she provided strategies and methods that will ensure success for all students, plans for outreach to recruit students to the course, and curriculum plans. In addition, the action plan included plans for evaluation and assessment. Her action plan received favorable comments and will be published by the end of the fall 2016 semester.

Overall, more than 310 attended the Earth Educators Rendezvous, and Baghai-Riding attended numerous workshops throughout the week. One titled Designing Effective Assignments and Activities focused on new ways of teaching including gallery walks, jigsaw, and concept mapping. Other workshops emphasized the components of writing a successful NSF grant proposal, teaching demonstrations of various geological and environmental science concepts, incorporating thinking about the Earth across disciplines, and broadening participation in the geosciences workforce.

Handouts and Power Points of all the various workshops and activities are free to download and can be found under the program header of the Earth Educators Rendezvous website: http://serc.carleton.edu/earth_rendezvous/2016/program/index.html.

Baghai-Riding said she intends to utilize many of the concepts she learned this coming academic year.

“The Rendezvous was exceptionally well done,” she added.

Contact Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding (nbaghai@deltastate.edu) for more information about the environmental science program at Delta State University.