February 20, 2018  

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Southern Miss HEADWAE Recipients to Be Honored in Jackson on Feb. 26

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Dr. Amal Mitra

A faculty member with an exemplary record of research and service in public health and an Honors College student heading to medical school are The University of Southern Mississippi’s recipients of the annual Higher Education Appreciation Day, Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) award.

Dr. Amal Mitra, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Southern Miss, and senior John Caleb Grenn of Hattiesburg are recipients of the HEADWAE Outstanding Faculty and Student Awards. They will be recognized by the Mississippi Legislature and at a luncheon Feb. 26 in Jackson.

HEADWAE was established by Mississippi Legislative Resolution to annually honor the academically talented students and faculty members of each of the state’s higher education institutions who have made outstanding contributions in promoting academic excellence.

A Presidential Scholar, Grenn is a biochemistry major with a 3.95 grade point average and plans to attend University of Mississippi Medical Center in the fall. He is also a former member of the Southern Miss men’s track and field team, earning two varsity letters in the sport, and is listed in Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities.

“I’m really am honored to have been nominated by the campus committee for this award,” said Grenn, a graduate of Presbyterian Christian High School. “I know a lot of the people from Southern Miss who have won the HEADWAE award before, and it’s pretty cool to follow in their footsteps.”

“I can't think of a more deserving student for the HEADWAE award than John Caleb Grenn,” said Honors College Dean David Davies. “He's simply an excellent student whose accomplishments represent the absolute best of both the Honors College and of Southern Miss.”

Dr. Faqing Huang, Grenn’s faculty mentor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said he combines “intelligence, a positive attitude, hard work and responsibility.”

Huang cited an example of Grenn’s commitment in his efforts on a recent cancer therapy project, noting how he “takes great care of cell culture and makes sure that cells are healthy and ready for experiments, even if that means he has to come to the lab during the weekend or break time.”

“He is serious and well-focused on assignments and projects and makes the best effort to achieve the highest results,” Huang said. “There is no doubt John will maintain this high-achieving trend and succeed in whatever goals he chooses to pursue.”  

Mitra’s work as a scientist and medical doctor includes initiatives benefiting the health and nutrition of children of vulnerable populations and other groups. Before joining the university, he worked at the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh for 16 years.

“I am blessed to be a Bangladeshi-born citizen of the United States. I cannot say how much this country has given me in return for my hard work,” Mitra said. “I am grateful to my fellow colleagues and my students at Southern Miss, and am proud to represent them at this auspicious event.

“This has been an amazing year for me. I received the HEADWAE award, and my daughter Paromita was crowned Miss Mississippi USA.”

Mitra has earned several other awards for his achievements, including the Health Care Hero award in 2011; Rotary Grants for University Teachers 2009; Fulbright Scholar grants 2008; and the Southern Miss Innovation Award for Applied Research in 2004, among others.

His recent projects have focused on lead poisoning prevention in children (funded by the Environmental Protection Agency), iron supplementation in postpartum women (funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and identification of public health problems after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mitra has published more than 90 research articles in the field of child health and nutrition in peer reviewed journals, and received more than $4.5 million extramural grants.

“Dr. Mitra is truly a leader in the field of public health research and service, and is most deserving of the HEADWAE award,” said Southern Miss Provost Denis Wiesenburg.