2014 Research Fellows
Abdullah Dakhlalla – Biological Engineering

My Ph.D. research in Biological Engineering primarily focuses on using a watershed modeling approach to quantify the impacts of climate change and land cover change on water quality and quantity. I am currently building models for the Pearl River Watershed and the Big Sunflower River Watershed located in Mississippi. My research interests are hydrology, water quality, watershed modeling, climate change, land cover impacts, and environmental engineering. I hope that the INSPIRE GK-12 program will allow me to help students recognize the importance of mathematical models in protecting Earth's water resources.

   
Brittany Garner - Chemistry (Organic)

My Ph.D. research focuses on designing and developing organometallic ligands to be used in many applications. These applications include the improvement of energy-efficiency, direct conversion of solar energy to useful forms, and more cost-effective access to medicines.

   
John Spencer Hall – Physics

My master's research focuses on using quantum computers to solve NP-hard problems. Specifically, I am trying to determine whether quantum annealing computers manufactured by D-Wave Systems can solve certain optimization problems more efficiently than classical annealing algorithms implemented on a classical supercomputer. This involves expressing a problem as an Ising model and then measuring the time each type of computer takes to solve the same problem. Additionally, I am investigating the “quantum-ness” of D-Wave's computers by solving the same problems via simulated quantum annealing and comparing the results to those obtained from D-Wave's computers.

   
Kyle Hodges – Mechanical Engineering

My Ph.D. research focuses on using gasoline as the primary fuel to operate HCCI (diesel) engines. Various amounts of exhaust gas recirculation combined with boosted intake air, provided by the turbocharger, will be used in an effort to correctly phase the combustion. I am proposing that this combustion strategy, in conjunction with properly tuning the engine, and using cylinder deactivation can produce a more efficient cleaner burning engine. These engines will be used to further the advancement of hybrid vehicles, and conform to the ever-changing strict emission standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

   
Courtney Killian - Geosciences (Hydrology)

The topic of my Masters research is groundwater and surface-water interactions. I am studying the Pascagoula River Basin to determine the amount of available water in the stream using hydrograph data from the USGS and Mississippi State University. I am also looking at rock permeability and how it will affect the amount of time needed to fill a proposed reservoir in George County, Mississippi. The reservoir will increase surface water storage for industrial and recreational purposes.

   
Dora Lambert – Geosciences (Geoarchaeology)

My Master’s research studies are in geoarchaeology, focusing in recreation of the paleoscape in the environmental context and social context. By using Geographic Information Systems, GIS, I can tentatively piece together what life was like during the Early Bronze Age (3100-2100 B.C.) in Northern Albania, Shkodra Plain. The end all is to create practices incorporating Geosciences and Archaeology that can be used in broader inquiries into human geography of the prehistoric.

   
Benjamin Lewis - Physics and Astronomy

My Masters research involves working with Dr. Pierce on observations of comets obtain from VIRUS-P (Visible Integral-field Replicable Unit Spectrograph - Prototype). Currently I am working with data from 4P/Faye to study carbon bearing species. I have data for the column densities of C2, C3, and CN at various distances from the optocenter. From this data I am trying to determine morphological features and the parent molecules for C2, C3, and CN. Work on observations from other comets will also be included in my graduate thesis. Studying comets are important because they can help us learn about how solar systems form.

   
Michael Maguigan – Geosciences (Biogeography)

My PhD. research focuses on wetland vegetation production as an indicator of the environmental setting in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, I am looking at how elevation as a forcing on climate, hydrologic setting, soil, nutrients, water chemistry, and underlying lithology as mechanisms for wetland function. This research will bolster knowledge on Southern Appalachian wetlands, which is a rare area of research.

   
Maurice Testa - Geosciences (Geology)

My Masters research is to determine the influence microbial and other biological features have on the precipitation of aragonite crystals. Samples for this study are taken from three sources 1) a submerged Holocene stalactite found in the Lighthouse Reef Blue Hole, Belize; 2) aragonite botryoids filling pore space in the reef framework of the Permian Capitan Formation in the Guadalupe Mountains of west Texas and southeast New Mexico and 3) samples associated with large oncoids in the Lower Permian Laborcita Formation found in the Sacramento Mountains in south-central New Mexico. Samples collected are studied in thin section and SEM.