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MSU alumni, ERDC researchers receive national Women of Color Awards



Vickey Moore, Reena Patel, Lulu Edwards and Barbara Pilate (Photos courtesy MSU)

From studying how fish can protect soldiers to supporting tactical military planning, four researchers at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center  have been honored with Women of Color STEM awards — an annual, national-level recognition of significant contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Vickey Moore, Dr. Reena Patel and Lulu Edwards were selected as WOC Technology All-Star Award winners, while Barbara Pilate was awarded the New Media Leadership Award in Government. The awards are presented by the Career Communications Group.

For Moore, a research computer scientist in the Information Technology Laboratory, news of the award came with a mix of emotions.

“I was surprised, grateful, yet humbled to be recognized with such an honor of this magnitude,” Moore said. “The WOC Technology All-Star award doesn’t only signify my service, but is a testament of the excellent opportunities being afforded, as well as the positive team support I’ve encountered throughout my career at ERDC.”

The Port Gibson, Mississippi, native earned her bachelor’s from Alcorn State University and her master’s from Mississippi State University. At the ERDC, she has led a $5 million per year effort to research military ground vehicle performance and analysis, as well as led a team to develop explosive threat representations.

Patel, a research mathematician in ITL, is originally from India, where she received a master’s in mathematics and a bachelor’s in science from Bangalore University, before earning a doctorate from Mississippi State University.

“I am humbled to be considered among this amazing group of women,” Patel said. “I find the opportunity of working with a diverse range of scientists and engineers very rewarding, and I’m excited to be a part of teams that deal with solving challenging problems.”

Patel’s research was inspired by the paddlefish, a freshwater fish with a long, paddle-like cartilage snout that can withstand tough stresses and dissipate energy. She leads a team of researchers who use mathematical models to develop strong, yet lightweight structural systems — much like the snout of the paddlefish — to protect American soldiers.

Lulu Edwards, a research engineer in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, grew up in Starkville, Mississippi, and earned a bachelor’s from Mississippi State University and a master’s from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“It was such an honor to be considered for the award,” Edwards said. “It’s always nice to have your work recognized by others, and I’m just as thankful for the recognition as I am to be able to work with a great group of people on projects that I think are important and useful to our country.”

A project that led to her recognition happens to be one of Edwards’ favorites — rapidly repairing damaged airfield pavements.

“It’s been so interesting to be able to investigate and create different solutions for improved methods to recover airfield pavements in the event of an attack,” Edwards said. “I hope our research continues to improve the warfighter’s mission and leads to their success.”

In addition to the three Technology All-Stars, Barbara Pilate, a computer scientist in ITL, was honored with the New Media Leadership Award in Government.

“I was excited and thankful to be receiving this award,” said the Columbus, Mississippi, native, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Mississippi State University. “It was an honor to be nominated for this award by my organization.”

Pilate currently leads a program that supports military planners by offering a portfolio of tools that assist with strategic planning and tactical operations. The New Media Leadership Award recognizes her skills as a leader and a scientist who handles the challenging demands of her work with determination and a positive attitude.

“These women are on the forefront of important research of value to our nation and are very deserving of recognition,” said Dr. David Pittman, ERDC director.

The awards will be presented at the annual Women of Color – STEM Awards Gala Oct. 10 in Detroit, Michigan.



Vicksburg among MS communities to see boost in wireless connectivity



Vicksburg is among many communities in Mississippi that will be seeing a big boost in wireless connectivity, AT&T announced Tuesday.

AT&T said in a statement that it has added dozens of new sites already this year to enhance coverage and help give residents and first responders faster, more reliable wireless service. These investments will help customers get the most out of their mobile devices.

“As we all continue to recognize the growing importance of connectivity in our daily lives, these type investments help us stay connected to the world around us, and they also help us remain competitive and make us more attractive to outside investment and job creation,” said Gov. Tate Reeves in the statement. “While we all recognize that there is more work to be done to connect Mississippians, we applaud AT&T for doing that work.”

Without question, it is essential that our customers stay connected in today’s environment, the company said. That’s why we’re boosting network reliability and capacity as we expand our network. This helps residents in communities across Mississippi to get the best possible experience over the AT&T network wherever they live, work and play, including the following areas:

  • Ashland
  • Braxton
  • Canton
  • Carthage
  • Coila
  • Collinsville
  • DeKalb
  • Ethel
  • Gloster
  • Grace
  • Grenada
  • Hazlehurst
  • Iuka
  • Leakesville
  • Magee
  • Morton
  • Mount Olive
  • New Albany
  • Ovett
  • Parchman
  • Perkinston
  • Pontotoc
  • Poplarville
  • Port Gibson
  • Sandy Hook
  • Shaw
  • Silver Creek
  • St. Louis
  • State Line
  • Starkville
  • Swiftown
  • Union
  • Utica
  • Vicksburg

“We are committed to enhancing connectivity for businesses, residents and first responders in communities across Mississippi, and these network expansions are good examples of the work we’re accomplishing as a result of the hundreds of millions of dollars we’ve invested in Mississippi,” said Mayo Flynt, president, AT&T Mississippi.

The upgrades will also benefit public safety and first responders on FirstNet – public safety’s dedicated communications platform — and giving Mississippi’s first responders access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience. FirstNet is bringing public safety communications into the 21st century with new, innovative capabilities to help those users stay safe and save lives.

At many of these new locations, our enhancements also bring Band 14 spectrum to the areas. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity.

From 2017 to 2019, AT&T invested nearly $750 million in wireless and wired networks in Mississippi. These investments boost reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for residents and their businesses, the company said.

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Chris Wells to serve as permanent director of MDEQ



Chris Wells MDEQ director
Chris Wells (photo courtesy MS Governor's office)

Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that Chris Wells will serve as the permanent executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Wells served as the chief of staff at MDEQ for six years, and the senior attorney for the department before that. He has served as interim executive director since the governor’s inauguration in January. Wells is a graduate of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi College School of Law.

“Chris is a dedicated public servant who has spent the bulk of his career working for the people of Mississippi,” Reeves said. “He knows what it means to put their priorities first, and he has been a steady hand in this vital role since I took office. I have the utmost confidence in him, and I know that he will continue to serve the people well.”

“I look forward to continuing our efforts to protect Mississippi’s air, land and water,” Wells said. “Our mission is to look out for the people of this state and ensure that we can always be proud of our incredible God-given resources. I’m grateful for the governor’s trust in me as we serve this state as a team.”

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Wicker, Hyde-Smith encourage students to apply for U.S. Senate Youth Program



Mississippi’s U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith are encouraging Mississippi high school juniors and seniors involved in student leadership to apply for the 2021 U.S. Senate Youth Program, an educational program that will provide $10,000 college scholarships to two delegates from the Magnolia State.

A Dec. 1, 2020, application deadline has been set for the program’s 59th annual Washington Week, March 14-18, 2021. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the USSYP 2021 Washington Week ONLINE will be virtual.

“The 2021 U.S. Senate Youth Program is adapting to our current environment and going virtual. This year’s program will provide a unique opportunity for our state’s young leaders to engage with our nation’s highest levels of government,” said Sen. Wicker, who serves on the USSYP Senate Advisory Committee. “I encourage every eligible student to apply for this special opportunity.”

“Even as a virtual experience, the Senate Youth Program offers student leaders a chance to get firsthand exposure to our nation’s leaders and the workings of the government. I encourage Mississippi’s talented students to look at this valuable program and apply for the 2021 Washington Week,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith.

Applicants must be juniors or seniors and elected or appointed student officers for the 2019-2020 or the 2020-2021 academic year. Because of COVID-19, students unable to serve in qualifying leadership positions for the 2020-2021 academic year may use positions held in the previous year.

The selected Mississippi delegates will be among 104 student delegates overall. The Hearst Foundation fully funds this program, which provides a $10,000 college scholarship to each delegate.

The 2021 Washington Week ONLINE, like previous in person programs, will connect USSYP delegates with the highest-level officials from each branch of government, including their senators, the president, cabinet secretaries, a justice of the Supreme Court, senior members of the national media and other key policymakers.

Interested students can visit for more information. The USSYP 2021 Washington Week ONLINE brochure is available here. To apply, students should also contact their high school principal or Mississippi’s state selection administrator:

Mrs. Sandra Hilliard
Education Specialist, Sr.
Mississippi Department of Education
[email protected] –601-359-2213

For more information on the program, visit

Mississippi’s 2020 USSYP delegates were Bobby Current of Olive Branch and Alex Stradinger of Ridgeland.

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