13 UM students named inaugural Stamps Impact Prize winners

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The inaugural Stamps Impact Prize recipients at the University of Mississippi are (front row, from left) Autumn Payne, Phoebe Johnson, Dylan Barker and Christina Nguyen; (second row) Anna Owens, Emma Cochran, Lindsay Ashton, Ella Jordan and Joey Pham; and (third row) Isabella Arthurs, Rod’Kendrick Harrison, Logan Baggett and Angel Morgan. The new competitive award program, which supports undergraduate-initiated, faculty-mentored research and creative achievement, was funded by E. Roe Stamps and his family and the university. (Photo by Amy Howell/University Development)

By Tina H. Hahn
University of Mississippi Communications

Administrators of the Stamps Impact Prize, a new competitive award program at the University of Mississippi to support undergraduate-initiated, faculty-mentored research and creative achievement projects, have announced its 13 inaugural recipients.

The program is the first of its kind in the nation to receive a renewable $100,000 gift from E. Roe Stamps and his family, which is being matched by an investment from the university. Ole Miss students were invited to apply for the awards, which provide financial resources for their research projects.

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The program’s leader, Ken Sufka, said he is “thrilled to see many high-quality projects (submitted for consideration) from extraordinary students across a diversity of disciplines” from across campus.

“The university’s ability to support, in a significant way, these student-initiated, faculty-mentored research and creative achievement projects makes for an exceptional undergraduate experience, which we hope will launch students into high-impact careers and/or entry into highly competitive graduate programs,” said Sufka, distinguished professor of psychology and pharmacology and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“It is exciting to see through the lenses of our students’ bright young minds the important issues needing to be addressed in science, culture and society. To have these creative minds explore their great ideas as UM undergraduates certainly makes you wonder what larger impactful issues they will tackle in the years to come.”

In 2012, significant gifts from Stamps established the Stamps Scholars program at Ole Miss. The Stamps Scholarship continues to be the most comprehensive, full scholarship package for UM students.

The highly competitive scholarship is unique, featuring a generous enrichment fund for exceptional educational pursuits, including travel, research, internships and academic conferences. The 2023-24 class of freshman Stamps Scholars rounds the total number at Ole Miss to 60, making UM the third-largest program in the nation.

Now, any Ole Miss undergraduate student is eligible to apply for exceptional educational pursuits through the Stamps Impact Prize.

Christina Nguyen (Photo by Amy Howell/University Development)

Christina Nguyen of D’Iberville, a junior biomedical engineering major, was selected for her project that uses computer modeling to simulate intraocular pressure-induced eye deformation to better understand biomechanics of the eye and its implications for diseases such as glaucoma, keratoconus and myopia. Her faculty mentor is Yi “Jason” Hua, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

“Receiving the award allows me to attend my first-ever summer conference, where I aim to deliver my first podium-style presentation on my research project,” Nguyen said.

“This marks a significant milestone in my research journey, as it holds the potential to make a tangible impact in the field of medicine. The computer eye model I am developing will open up new possibilities for fellow researchers, offering broader opportunities within the research community.

“My main goal in all of this is to see what kind of an impact I am capable of, and from there, I will follow any opportunity to improve myself and the lives of people who will ultimately be affected by the research conducted based on my eye model. I feel as though I have a refreshed purpose for my undergraduate studies, and I am very excited to see where this goes.”

The other 12 students and their faculty mentors selected to participate in the Stamps Impact Prize program during the fall 2023 cycle are:

  • Isabella Arthurs of Jackson, Tenn., a junior English major, to put her original poetry to music and create her first studio album with the intention of signing with a major label. Her faculty mentor is Bruce Levingston, the Chancellor’s Honors College artist-in-residence and holder of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair.
  • Lindsay Ashton of Franklin, Tenn., a junior biology major, to study the role of microRNA in helping plants orient their shoots and roots in the proper directions in a simulated zero-gravity environment with an aim to cultivate fresh foods for space exploration or on other planets. Her faculty mentor is Yongjian Qiu, assistant professor of biology.
  • William Baggett of Petal, a senior international studies and Spanish major, to study drag performance culture across three locations: Brazil, Mexico and the United States. These sites provide different points of entry into understanding how local drag markets have changed to the globalization of drag media and the popularization of drag performance. His faculty mentor is Marcos Mendoza, associate professor of anthropology.

    Dylan Barker (Photo by Amy Howell/University Development)

  • Dylan Barker of Oxford, a senior political science, public health and anthropology major, to construct 55 Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes, a DIY air purifier that is inexpensive and easy to assemble. They will be distributed to local schools to help improve indoor air quality and foster better health. His faculty mentor is Allyson Ford-Wade, associate dean of community engagement and professor of health, exercise science and recreation management.
  • Emma Cochran of Sumrall, a junior exercise science major, to study a neglected area of upper extremity injury risk across the menstrual cycle in college athletes with the aim of reducing such injuries in competitive sports. Her faculty mentor is Chip Wade, research assistant professor of biomedical engineering and co-director of the Center for Diagnostics, Design, Devices and Biomechanics.
  • Rod`Kendrick Harrison of Batesville, a junior public health major, for a study the effectiveness mental health training programs on well-being among college students who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups. He plans to present his research at a national conference. His faculty mentor is Hannah Allen, assistant professor of public health and health sciences.

    Rod`Kendrick Harrison (Photo by Amy Howell/University Development)

  • Phoebe Johnson of Little Rock, Ark., a sophomore mechanical engineering major, to create a simulated lunar concrete with materials known to exist on the moon and examine its ability to withstand ballistic impacts to help improve design elements of potential lunar outposts. Her faculty mentor is Damian Stoddard, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
  • Ella Jordan of Roseville, Calif., a junior political science major, to examine the role of perceived politicization of female bodies by courts and legislatures, and the influence such perceptions have on political participation, attitudes regarding the rule of law and career aspirations. Her faculty mentor is Miles Armaly, associate professor of political science.
  • Angeline Morgan of Olive Branch, a senior art major, for creation of an art exhibition that focuses on issues related to gender, personal histories, identity and the history of the photographic medium as it correlates to power. Her faculty mentor is Brooke White, professor of imaging arts.
  • Anna Owens of Madison, a junior biomedical engineering and general business major, to develop a promotional strategy for a technology she has repurposed as a delivery device for in vitro fertilization, an area ripe for innovation and new methods. Her faculty mentor is Thomas Werfel, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, affiliate assistant professor of chemical engineering and joint assistant professor of biomolecular sciences.
  • Autumn Payne of Union, a junior film production major, to write, produce, direct and edit a feature-length documentary about the experiences of autistic women and their representation – or lack thereof – in popular media. Her faculty mentor is Sarah Hennigan, associate chair of theatre and film and assistant professor of film production.
  • Joey Pham of Greenville, a junior computer science major, for development of automated software and its documentation for neuroscience experiments designed to study neural circuitry and behavior. His faculty mentor is Brenton Laing, assistant professor of pharmacology and research assistant professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The application portal for the spring 2024 Stamps Impact Prize (https://provost.olemiss.edu/stamps-impact-prize/) opens March 1, with the next recipients announced on April 15.