Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station

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MSU professors lead state's science academy

Friday, July 12, 2019
By: Vanessa Beeson

Two Mississippi State faculty members have been elected to leadership roles in the Mississippi Academy of Sciences.

Photo By: Logan Kirkland/Beth Wynn

MAS has elected LaShan Simpson and Raja Reddy in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as president and president-elect, respectively. Simpson is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Reddy is a research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, who also serves as director of the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere-Research, or SPAR unit. Both are researchers in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, or MAFES.

George Hopper, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and MAFES director, said the commitment of both Simpson and Reddy serves as another example of MSU scientists taking the reins to lead important organizations in their respective communities and beyond.

"In addition to helping find ways to fight disease and feed and clothe the world, our research faculty serve in critical positions in international, national and statewide organizations," Hopper said. "By taking the time to invest in the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, both Dr. Simpson and Dr. Reddy provide vital support to the broader scientific community throughout the state, helping to grow Mississippi’s research leaders of tomorrow."

As MAS president, Simpson is focused on diversity and K-12 STEM education.

"It's important for us to recruit a diverse STEM workforce because students need to see examples of successful STEM professionals who look like them," said Simpson, adding that another goal is to create more opportunities for K-12 students to participate in the MAS annual meeting.

Simpson, who has been involved in the society since first being elected to the Board of Directors in 2014, served as president-elect in 2018. She has brought students to present at MAS events, including four undergraduate research scholars with the Mississippi Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

Simpson has been at MSU for seven years. In 2019, she received the Faculty Award from the President's Commission on the Status of Women and was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers by the Bagley College of Engineering. She received the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award-Upper Division and 2018 Teacher of the Year from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Currently, she is developing a patent-pending, three-dimensional model to better study cardiovascular disease. She considers her impact on students as her greatest accomplishment thus far.

"Inspiring the next generation is my passion. I am most proud that my work with students has been acknowledged by my college and university," she said.

Reddy has been actively involved with MAS for the past five years. During that time, he has mentored 25 students who have participated in the academy's annual meetings and symposiums, with 15 of those students winning awards during that span of time. As president-elect, he hopes to further the state's conversation on agriculture science.

"My goal in this role and later on as president is to encourage all science and engineering students and scientists to be more involved in annual meetings and science education programs across Mississippi," Reddy said. "As part of that, I am planning a special issue for the peer-reviewed Journal of Mississippi Academy of Sciences focusing on agriculture this year. Also, as we continue to meet with institutions and colleges to bring opportunities to all students, we plan to institute a junior academy platform, so K-12 students can become a part of the organization."

In his 30-plus years at MSU, Reddy has mentored 10 master's students and 14 doctoral students, along with 15 post-doctorates and more than 30 visiting scientists. His research focuses on crop stress physiology.

The Mississippi Academy of Sciences, founded in 1930, fosters the collaboration of scientists throughout the state and across various fields to further scientific research in the promotion of human welfare. The organization also focuses on increasing public awareness of the importance of science and works to enhance science education throughout the state. For more information, visit www.msacad.org.

MSU's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering offers undergraduate degrees in agricultural engineering technology and business, biological engineering and biomedical engineering. Master's and doctoral degrees are offered in engineering technology, biological engineering and biomedical engineering. For more information, visit www.abe.msstate.edu.

MSU's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in agronomy, horticulture, and environmental science in agricultural systems. Master's and doctoral degrees are offered in agronomy, horticulture and weed science. For more information, visit www.pss.msstate.edu.


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