High-producing researchers honored for contributions to university’s success

2017 High Producing Researchers rececption

Honorees applauded for success in obtaining external funding

Jackson State University interim President Rod Paige and interim First Lady Stephanie Nellons-Paige hosted the High Grant Award reception at their home, to honor 17 JSU researchers for achieving the top-funded projects during FY 2015-2016.

Dr. Paige commended the researchers for their hard work, calling them cream of the crop and noting that their work has had a positive impact on the university and beyond.  “I encourage you to share with others and teach them how to achieve the external funding success that you have achieved,” Paige urged.

Mrs. Paige noted that she knows all too well how difficult it is to receive grant funding and applauded the honorees for the dedication to Jackson State University. Collectively, the 17 principal investigators brought in approximately $20 million in external funds for FY 2015 – 2016. This represents about 58 percent of the total funding received during that fiscal year.

Honorees were selected based on the total funding received during FY 2015-2016. Each honoree has brought in between half a million dollars and $6 million in external funds during the fiscal year.  Major awards were received from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Research and Development.

Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, provost and senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, announced the winners and commended the awardees for their outstanding contributions to the research infrastructure at JSU.

Dr. Loretta A. Moore, vice president for Research and Federal Relations, who was also an honoree said, “I am honored to work with this group of brilliant researchers whose contribution to the research enterprise at JSU has a significant impact on our growing reputation as a center for innovative and impactful research. While this select group of researchers were recognized, they are part of a larger culture that values research at JSU and that includes many junior faculty members and first-time PIs (principal investigators) whose accomplishments hint at their future as high grant award winners.”

All honorees received a trophy and cash award funded by the Mississippi e-Center Foundation.


Antoine LevigneDonna A. Antoine-Lavigne, M.P.H., Ph.D. Principal Investigator, Jackson Heart Study Community Outreach Center School of Public Health

Dr. Antoine-Lavigne’s research interests include the impact of community engagement on African American engagement with biomedical research, cardiovascular disease, obesity and social determinants of health. She has served as principal investigator on community engagement grants with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, JSU Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities, JSU Institute of Epidemiology and Health Services Research, University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Michigan. She has extensive experience as an administrator in state and community health centers including with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center.

Deborah DentDeborah F. Dent, Ph.D. Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

Dr. Dent joined Jackson State University after a 37-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In that capacity she won several awards including induction into the Gallery of USACE Waterways Experiment Station Distinguished Employees (2014), U.S. Department of the Army Meritorious Award for Civilian Service (2008) and was also recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as one of Mississippi’s 50 leading business women (2007). Since joining Jackson State, her accomplishments and achievements include updating JSU’s wireless infrastructure, co-facilitating the iPad Scholars Program for first-time freshmen, revitalizing the campus enterprise resource program (Banner) and initiating a new IT strategic plan. Dent recently received funding from the U.S. Army Engineer Research Development Center.

High Research 2017 - FedaviMehri Fadavi, Ph.D. Chair and Professor, Department of Physics, Atmospheric Sciences and Geoscience College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Fadavi’s research interests include solar activities and their relation to climate change, searches for super nova and asteroids and observation technology. She has also devoted her attention to building instructional and research infrastructure in astronomy for Jackson State students and enhancing teaching effectiveness and integration of technology in the classroom of K-12 science teachers. Currently, she is the project director of two major grants: Project IC FAIM – Institutional Change through Faculty Advancement in Instruction and Mentoring (National NSF HBCU-UP) and Project MAT-PD – Mathematics Advancement in Teaching through Professional Development (MDE). Fadavi has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on grants funded by the National Science Foundation, Mississippi Department of Education, the United States Department of Education, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Ashton HammeAshton T. Hamme, II, Ph.D. Interim Chair and Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Hamme’s research focuses on the synthesis and derivatization of naturally occurring anti-cancer compounds and the detection and quantification of bacteria through functionalized nanoparticles. He has conducted industrial research using medicinal chemistry to co-invent more than ten patents. He has been a principal investigator on externally funded research grants from the Central Mississippi Steel Magnolias Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Science Foundation. He is the co-principal investigator of the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation (LSMAMP), an undergraduate student program funded by the National Science Foundation.  In 2012, Hamme received the One JSU Teacher of the Year Award (2012) and, in 2013, the JSU Outstanding Faculty of the Year HEADWAE Award from the State of Mississippi.

Fengxiang HanFengxiang Han, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Fengxiang Han is an associate professor in Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Jackson State University. He received the doctorate degree in biogeochemistry from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, in 1998. Han has established a graduate/undergraduate training and research program in environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry and a new radiochemistry program. He won the JSU 2016 HEADWAE Award from the Mississippi State Legislature and was named Outstanding Scientific Division Chair, Mississippi Academy of Science, 2016. Han has published one book, 90 refereed journal papers and holds a U.S. provisional patent (Google Scholar H 31). He serves on the editorial boards of Water, Air and Soil Pollution and Soil and Sediment Contamination. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bioremediation and Biodegradation.

Glake HillGlake Hill, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Hill’s research is focused within the areas of theoretical and computational chemistry, where he develops tools that will provide accurate information about relatively large systems.  Applications of his work include characterization of biosystems and nanomaterials and evaluation of metals as possible drugs to treat a variety of diseases. His work has been published widely including in Chemical Physics Letters, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Journal of Computational Chemistry, Journal of Molecular Modeling, Journal of Physical Chemistry, and Structural Chemistry. Hill is the principal investigator for a National Institutes of Health RISE grant that utilizes undergraduate-graduate student teams to train students as research scientists in chemistry and biology and encourage them to pursue doctorate degrees. He is also co-principal investigator of a Mississippi EPSCoR project.

Jerzy LeszczynskiJerzy Leszczynski, Ph.D. Professor and President’s Distinguished Fellow, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Leszczynski’s research and contributions to his field of computational quantum chemistry include: the discovery that amino groups in DNA base are nonplanar which facilitate various types of interactions vital for DNA stabilization, development and application of novel and efficient methods to study nanomaterials and detailed computational investigation of the interactions of nanospecies with biological species. The president of the Polish Republic awarded Leszczynski the honorific title of Professor in 2010.  He was also awarded the White House Millennium Award for Teaching and Research Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering (2001), the Maria Sklodowska-Curie’s Medal from the Polish Chemical Society (2007) and Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (2009). Recently, he was named to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Board of Scientific Counselors. Leszczynski also serves as the director of the National Science Foundation-funded Interdisciplinary Nanotoxicity CREST Center.

Lin LiLin Li, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Lin Li is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at JSU. As a professional engineer, he has taught at JSU since 2005 in the area of geotechnical engineering and engineering mechanics. He has been the principal investigator of more than 14 research grants with total funding amounts of $3.6 million, including National Science Foundation, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Transportation, and others. Li is the author of 110 peer-reviewed published articles. He received JSU Faculty Excellence Awards in 2014 and 2015, Richard S. Ladd Standards Development Award from ASTM. He is vice chair of TRB AFP40 committee, editorial board member of Journal of Geotechnical and Geological Engineering. He is advising five PhD students and 2 MS students in his research group.

Yadong LiYadong Li, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Yadong Li joined Jackson State University as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2002 and became a professor in 2015. He is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the state of Mississippi. His research interests are in diverse areas of environmental engineering. He has, as principal investigator, secured $4.65 million in research grants since joining JSU. An example is the prestigious 5-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award that he received in 2003. He serves as the faculty adviser of the JSU Student Chapter of National Society of Black Engineers. He recently became involved with But God Ministries projects helping to advance infrastructural improvements in Haiti and the Mississippi Delta.

William McHenryWilliam E. McHenry, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Executive Director, Mississippi eCenter Foundation

Dr. McHenry is the executive director of the Mississippi e-Center @ JSU. He previously served as vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. He also served as assistant commissioner for Academic Affairs for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) from 1997 to 2004. From 1990 to 1997, McHenry served as a program officer at the National Science Foundation and from 1977 to 1990, he was a chemistry professor at Mississippi State University. McHenry has published papers in scientific journals and has a chapter on Keteneimines, in Patai, Ed., The Chemistry of Ketenes, Allenes, and Related Compounds as well as a chapter on mentoring in Diversity in Higher Education: Mentoring and Diversity in Higher Education.

LLoretta Mooreoretta A. Moore, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Computer Science Vice President, Division for Research and Federal Relations

Dr. Moore’s research interests include cyber security, computational thinking, intelligent systems, visual analytics, open source software development, human computer interaction, computer science education and research experiences and broadening participation of the nation’s workforce. She is the principal investigator for JSU ADVANCE, a project with an overall purpose to transform the institution’s climate to promote equal opportunities for the advancement of all faculty. Recently, she served as principal investigator for Students Promoting Interest in Computing Supported by Educational Scholarships (SPICES) and Advancing Computational Thinking and Computing innovators in a Cyber-Enabled Community as well as co-principal investigator for the Computational Thinking as an Approach to Refining the Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning Skills of Undergraduates at an HBCU and Incorporating Systems Security projects. During her academic tenure, Moore has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator for a number of grants and contracts from  agencies including Jacobs Technology, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice and several foundations.


Marinelle Payton, M.D., Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H. Chair and Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics School of Public Health Principal Investigator and Director, Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities/Institute of Epidemiology and Health Services Research Principal Investigator and Director, Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center

Most of Dr. Payton’s research is focused on health disparities and epidemiology. As founding chair of the Public Health Program at Jackson State University, Payton led the design and implementation of the only accredited doctorate of public health program in Mississippi and facilitated the development of the research infrastructure that will undergird the first School of Public Health in Mississippi. She is director and principal investigator of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Services Research (Centers for Disease Control), Center of Excellence in Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIH-NIMHD) and the Mid-South Transdisciplinary Center on Health Disparities (NIH-NIMHD). As principal investigator she designed multiple junior faculty development programs: Health Disparities Research Training and Education Program (NIH-NIMHD), Pilot Research Grants Program (NIH-NIMHD), and Summer Career Development Institute in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh (NIH). Payton is also the director and principal investigator of the Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center and is principal investigator for the Daniel Hale Williams Scholar Program (NIH-NHLBI), Summer Obesity Research Training Program (NIH-NIMHD) and Scholarships for Health Professions’ Program (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Paresh RayParesh Chandra Ray, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Ray’s research is focused at the nexus of chemistry and biology exploring new chemical strategies for imaging and therapy of cancer cells, creating new nano-based sensors for chemical and biological toxins, designing multi-functional nanomaterials for multimodal imaging and enhancing our understanding of biomolecular interactions with nanosurfaces. He was the recipient of the 2014 Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman Award. He holds a U.S. pending patent and was recognized as an innovator by the State of Mississippi and Jackson State University. He currently serves as program director for the JSU Partnership of Research and Education on Material Science Program and the JSU Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program, both funded by the National Science Foundation. Over the last 10 years, Ray has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on projects cumulatively funded with more than $13 million. The National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Universal Technology Corporation, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Homeland Security are some of the agencies that have funded his research.

Paul Tchounwou 2Paul B. Tchounwou, Sc.D., F.A.B.I., I.O.M. Professor and Presidential Distinguished Professor, Department of Biology Associate Dean, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

A recipient of the White House Millennium Award for Teaching and Research Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering (2003), Dr. Tchounwou has also received other awards and honorifics: life membership in the scientific faculty of the International Biographical Institute (Cambridge, England, UK); National Role Model Award for Exemplary Achievements in Mentoring, Counseling and Guiding Others; AACR Faculty Scholar Award for Cancer Research; and International Order of Merit for Superb Contributions to Biomedical Sciences. The NCRR Reporter Magazine of the National Institutes of Health recently highlighted his work on arsenic trioxide pharmacology and toxicology. He has published 178 papers in refereed journals and books and serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and Environmental Toxicology: An International Journal. Tchounwou is the director of the Center for Environmental Health (NIH RCMI), director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education (U.S. Department of Defense) and director of the Environmental Science Doctoral Program.

Daniel WatkinsDaniel Watkins, Ph.D. Dean, College of Education and Human Development

Dr. Watkins has more than 12 years of real-world experience in nearly all facets of K-12 education. He has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and school district superintendent. He also brings to the position of dean extensive post-doctoral training in educational leadership praxis including leadership institutes at Harvard and Howard universities. Watkins is one of only 30 national members of Teachers for a New Era. He has served as project director of the Delta Teacher Development Initiative and principal investigator on several externally funded projects including the Beyond the Bricks Program, Improving Teacher Quality Program, Jackson Public School Leadership Grant, Leadership Development Academy Project and Teachers for a New Era Learning Network. Among the recent grants under his management are America Reads-Mississippi, Call Me Mister and Educational Achiever.   

Robert WahlinRobert W. Whalin, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Civil Engineering College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Whalin’s research interests focus on breakwaters, hurricane surges, tsunami inundation, near-shore wave transformations and engineering education. He brought to Jackson State University more than 30 years of experience and leadership in the Army Research Laboratory and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station. During this period, he received the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award in 1987 and 2002 and the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award in 1994. Currently, he serves as the director and principal investigator for the competitively awarded Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence, an education-focused Center of Excellence funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Whalin also serves as the director of Education for the UNC Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence with which Jackson State is the major partner for education.

YuanPao-Chiang Yuan, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Industrial Systems and Technology College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Dr. Yuan’s research interests include the reduction of electronic waste in the waste stream, GIS applications and groundwater modeling, emergency management and the promotion of public awareness of the need for recycling. Yuan is the project director and principal investigator of the JSU-Hinds County-MDEQ Computer Recycling Program, which has received multiple awards including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Waste-Wise Program designation. In 2009, the Association of Technology Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) named Yuan as its Outstanding Professor of the Year. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have funded his projects.