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2022 GEMS Mini-Grant Recipients

In Spring 2022, GEMS (previously known as STEM Equity and Mentoring for Women or SMEW) awarded four Southern Miss faculty members with $5,000 to further DEI on our campus and within our STEM programs. Please take the time to check out their information and how they plan on utilizing this grant award below!

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Assistant Professor

Phone:

601.266.4729

Email:

Campus Location:

Walker Science Building (WSB) 115

Hattiesburg

Area of Expertise:

Vertebrate Paleontology, Late Cretaceous Mammals, Paleogeography

A Bit About Me

Dr. Brink is an assistant professor in the School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. With this funding, she plans on beginning “Recruit, Retain, Train,” a DEI initiative geared towards women and BIPOC within/interested in the geology program at USM.


Why this opportunity matters?

“I want to be part of the change that needs to happen. I know that I can help by mentoring, advising, monetarily supporting, and helping to prepare and train women not only in the field of paleontology, but geology in general… I know I am making a difference. As these women go into the workforce or to graduate school, I am proud that I had a small part in helping them be successful. That can only shine a positive light on USM as they succeed in the world.”

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Dr. Julie Pigza

Associate Professor

Phone:

601.266.4701

Email:

Campus Location:

Chain Technology Center (TEC) 433

Hattiesburg

Area of Expertise:

Organic Synthesis and New Reaction Development, Organocatalysis, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Spectroscopy, Community College Transfer Student Success

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A Bit About Me

Dr. Julie Pigza is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences for the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Her proposal seeks to acquire WebMO, a cloud-based program that will interface with the existing NSF-supported high-performance computing cluster at USM. This interface will be available to any USM student, staff, or faculty and implementation will augment learning beyond the traditional approach to provide students with an authentic research-type experience and the chance to develop critical thinking skills.

Why This Opportunity Matters?

“This project directly impacts a diverse student population at USM who are majors within a STEM field. By introducing WebMO and computational chemistry at the freshmen level, the largest number of students can be reached (>1000 students over a variety of disciplines). The visualizations can serve to improve learning of abstract concepts in chemistry. Students will be exposed to interdisciplinary training in the STEM fields early in their undergraduate careers. Finally, utilizing WebMO through the high-performance cluster will increase the number of students using NSF-funded facilities at USM. The supercomputing facility has an institutional repository in place for archiving data sets and to increase scientific literacy.”

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Dr. Sarah Lee

Full Professor

Email:

Campus Location:

Chain Technology Center (TEC) 214A

Hattiesburg

Area of Expertise:

Software Engineering, Broadening Participation in Computer Science, Computer Science and Cybersecurity Education

A Bit About Me

Dr. Lee is a Computer Sciences and Computer Engineering professor in College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Miss. Using this award, she plans on funding a three-day program for 20 cis- and transgender women who are incoming computing major freshmen through the Payne Women in Computing Science Bridge. Within this program, participants will hear from female industry leaders and on-campus employees while receiving a near-peer mentor for their first year of college. 

Why this opportunity matters?

“This will support our aforementioned goal to establish the School of CSCE as the computing program in the state of Mississippi known for providing a safe, welcoming, and engaging environment for all persons. By continuing to amplify our work such as this summer bridge, we will be recognized as a leader in broadening participation in computing in the state.”

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Dr. Kristina Mojica

Assistant Professor

Email:

Campus Location:

Stennis Space Center 132

Stennis

Area of Expertise:

Marine Microbial Ecology, Marine Viral Ecology, Biological Oceanography

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A Bit About Me

Dr. Mojica is an assistant professor for the School of Ocean Science and Engineering within the College of Arts and Sciences at USM. Using funding through GEMS, Dr. Mojica aims to isolate host-virus systems from the marine environment to further understanding on how lytic virus infection of microbial hosts influence marine biogeochemical cycles. This project will also allow for two undergraduate students at Southern Miss to gain training in microbiology techniques and gain valuable research experience to help further their academic and employment success and opportunities.

 

Why this opportunity matters? 

“As the only female faculty member within the division of Marine Science with the School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE) at USM, I serve as an important role model and support for the ~42% of the USM Marine Science student body that identify as female. In addition, as an ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholar (Certificate in Effective College Instruction and microcredential in Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning), an active member of USM's department of Marine Science recruitment and outreach committees, ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, and co-chair of the SOSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, I am in a pivotal position to lead efforts to increase equity-driven educational initiatives within the SOSE at USM.”

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