April 25, 2019  

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College of Science and Technology Recognizes Outstanding Faculty, Staff, and Alumni

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The University of Southern Mississippi College of Science and Technology recently recognized faculty, staff, and alumni award winners at the Annual College of Science and Technology Awards Banquet.

The awards program began in 2003. For 12 years, the college has been recognizing the “best of the best.” Nominations are solicited from department chairs and directors, faculty and staff. Academic units can nominate one person in each category with awardees being determined by the College Awards Committee. The Faculty Research Award recipient is determined by the College Research Committee.

College of Science and Technology Dean Dr. David T. Hayhurst presented the following awards for 2015:

Outstanding Staff Service Award: Marks McWhorter, Department of Biological Sciences

Marks McWhorter is Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Biological Sciences. McWhorter’s job includes encouraging young children to become engaged in biology and representing his department at university/college recruitment events.

Dr. Mike Davis, associate professor, says McWhorter is passionate about STEM outreach and goes beyond his job description. “Since Marks joined us, outreach programs have blossomed, with at least two public outreach events a month. These include our Discover Nature series and Nights at Thoreau series. “Marks visits local schools and college fairs and sets up a biology tent at Live at Five events in downtown Hattiesburg. Since July 2015, we have interacted with over 5,000 Pine Belt residents.”

A few phrases that his nominators, Drs. Mike Davis, Carl Qualls, and Shiao Wang used to describe McWhorter include, “Outstanding, organized, motivated, engaging, eager and enthusiastic about all things science related.”

Faculty Awards: Three faculty members were honored for their contributions in the areas of teaching, service, and research. All faculty winners have extensive research, publications, and awards.

2015 Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award: Dr. Scott P. Milroy, Department of Marine Science

Dr. Scott Milroy is an associate professor of Marine Science and serves as coordinator or the Marine Science Baccalaureate Program. He has been at Southern Miss since 2007 and spends time both at Stennis Space Center and at the Long Beach campus. Milroy finds teaching fulfilling and engaging while also conducting meaningful laboratory and field work.  

Student Joseph Martinolich, considers himself lucky to be in Milroy’s classes. “Dr. Milroy can explain complex ideas and concepts in the simplest of terms when needed,” said Martinolich. “He is personable, approachable and pushes students to excel. He is always organized, despite his many other obligations such as publications and his projects for NASA.”

Student Megan Cromwell says Milroy had a profound impact on her career, life, and future. “Dr. Milroy has advised me, counseled me, and supported me through good times and bad. With his help, I received the NASA Space Grant and the most amazing internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

Cromwell summed it up saying, “Dr. Milroy is a wonderful person and teacher that goes above and beyond not only for his students, but for anyone.”

Outstanding Faculty Service Award: Dr. David C. Beckett, Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. David C. Beckett arrived at Southern Miss 30 years ago and has served the University in nearly every way including President of Faculty Senate, Chair of the University Advisory Committee, the University Shared Governance Committee, the University SACS Assessment Committee, and two terms on Academic Council, Grade Review Council, and many more. Beckett’s service also includes recognizing fellow faculty members having chaired numerous awards committees.

Dr. Shiao Wang, interim chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, says Beckett’s work often goes unnoticed, like his work on the faculty handbook, the guide for faculty policies on hiring, promotion, and tenure. “Eight of the past nine years he has chaired the Faculty Handbook Committee. It is critical the Handbook be revised continuously to keep up with the times and to ensure fair treatment of faculty.”

Dr. Frank Moore, Distinguished Professor in Biological Sciences, noted Beckett’s service while also continuing research and teaching, “Dave Beckett is one of the finest educators in the Department of Biological Sciences by virtue of his performance in the classroom and the laboratory, his involvement of undergraduates in his research program, his work with graduate students, and his willingness to accept responsibility for a variety of teaching preparations while also maintaining an active research program.”

Dr. Alan Thompson, associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice and one of Beckett’s nominators, says, “Dr. Beckett has worked tirelessly for the College of Science and Technology for 30 years without ever once slowing down, compromising principle, or sacrificing the welfare of others.”

Outstanding Research Award: Dr. Derek L. Patton, Polymers and High Performance Materials

The recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Research Award was Dr. Derek L. Patton from the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials. Patton has been at USM since 2008 and has many notable achievements.

A few honors and awards Dr. Patton has received include a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, receiving the Honors College Senior Thesis Advisement Award for College of Science and Technology in 2013, and having three articles featured on the cover or inside cover of journals. Patton’s research strengths are easily seen by the successes his students have achieved which include a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and multiple students receiving National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellowships.

Dr. Jeffrey Wiggins, director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, says Dr. Patton has built an impressive, balanced portfolio of funding sources to support the efforts his research group. “Derek has contributed to over $16.8 million dollars in successful research grants and contracts awarded to the University. He has served as PI or CoPI for four NSF grants and was among the inaugural awardees of the NSF Science at the Interface of Chemistry and Art program, which brought together polymer and conservation scientists to tackle challenges in the conservation of stone grave markers along the Gulf Coast.”

Dr. Robson Storey, professor in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, says Dr. Patton serves as a research mentor to his students. “Through research, his students learn how to be scientists. They learn how to apply the Scientific Method to 'real' problems. The achievements of his students speak to his effectiveness as a research mentor.”

Outstanding Alumni Award: Rachael Bergeron Elliott, School of Construction

Rachael Bergeron Elliott was named outstanding alumnus for 2015. Elliott is a 2001 honors graduate of the Construction Engineering Technology program and earned her master’s in Workforce Training and Development with an emphasis in environmental science and occupational safety and health.

She has numerous accomplishments since graduating from Southern Miss. At the age of 26, Elliott was the first female plant manager of a southern plywood facility. She has held numerous leadership roles in manufacturing and construction and is currently general manager for Boral Stone Products in South Carolina.

A few words Rachael’s nominators used to describe her include trailblazer, energetic, accomplished, worthy, remarkable, and loyal. School of Construction director Dr. Keith Sylvester says Elliott had a lasting impact on USM, “Her graduate capstone work facilitated the school’s accomplishment of dual accreditation from the ABET and American Council for Construction Education. Rachael makes us proud not only as a successful professional, but also as a loyal and supportive alumna. She has helped as a guest speaker and hosted several field trips for our students.”

Doris Kemp, Rachael’s faculty mentor says Rachael has not stopped giving to her alma mater, “Recently, Rachael established a $15,000 scholarship endowment for a student majoring in Construction Engineering Technology. The scholarship is the ultimate ‘pay it forward’ gift an alumnus can give. Rachael has shown our students how to get the most out of their education, thrive after graduation, and give back to the program.”

For more information about the College of Science and Technology visit www.usm.edu/cost.