College of Arts and Sciences promotes strategic research initiatives

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

More than two dozen Mississippi State faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences are taking advantage of strategic research initiatives, which provide seed funds for new and innovative research. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Radioactive waste, marine ecosystems and plants’ potential to protect against disease all are part of innovative research projects awarded by a new Mississippi State College of Arts and Sciences initiative.

More than two dozen MSU faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences this semester took advantage of strategic research initiatives (SRI) offered by the college, which  provide seed funds for new and innovative research.  The competitive SRI grant program was designed to increase capacity for research success in obtaining external competitive funding, expand peer-reviewed publications and increase doctoral degrees awarded.

Dean Rick Travis said the SRI demonstrates the emphasis on increasing the research profile of the college and helps faculty gain access to additional resources to launch new or high-risk research endeavors.

Travis said he plans to see the SRI program grow because he believes it is “vital to the desired trajectory of the college.”

Associate Dean for Research Giselle Thibaudeau said she began thinking about a program of this magnitude when she began working in the dean’s office as an interim, more than three years ago.

“It took some time and serious vetting to develop a program that is equitable, in both reality and perception, across such a diverse college as Arts and Sciences,” Thibaudeau said.

Travis said launching the SRI program is a “testament to the diligence of Dr. Thibaudeau, who was the designer, advocate and the lead implementer of the program.”

When she was named to the permanent post of associate dean of research in fall 2016, Thibaudeau set SRI as a priority. In addition to the Office of the Dean, she credits the College Advisory Board, department heads and faculty for “enthusiastically supporting the effort, goals, processes and desired outcomes” of the program. 

The College of Arts and Sciences was the primary source of funds for the inaugural 2018 SRI program.

“As we move forward,” Thibaudeau said, “the hope is to continue to leverage and grow funds through returned overhead from competitive awards, as well as through additional donor funds." 

Thibaudeau continued, “SRI is one way the College of Arts and Sciences will continue to improve in scholarly rankings while strategically contributing to MSU’s research success portfolio.”

Faculty receiving 2018 SRI awards include:

Vincent Klink, biological sciences: “Identification of novel plant genetic elements that are protective against disease.” 

Ying Wang, biological sciences: “Inter-organellar communication regulating plant gene expression during viroid infection.”  Co-PI: Donna Gordon, biological sciences.

Deb Mlsna, chemistry: “Eye Tracking to Support Student Learning with Chemistry Word Problems.” Co-PI: Andrew Jarosz, psychology.

Wendy Herd, English: “Identifying implosives in Mississippi English.”

Bonnie O’Neill, English: “The Good News from Plymouth Pulpit: The Faith, Politics, and Celebrity of Henry Ward Beecher.”

Rinat Gabitov, geosciences: “Incorporation of uranium and europium into calcite at hydrothermal conditions: Natural attenuation of radioactive waste.”

Davide Orsini, history: “Below the Surface: A new wave of Mediterranean Studies and Marine Ecosystems.”

Lynn Holt, philosophy and religion: “Machine Gaze: Expertise and Objectivity Re-thought.”  Co-PI: Jonathan Barlow, nSPARC.

Margaret Hagerman, sociology: “Kids on Racism, Politics, and Inequality: From Massachusetts to Mississippi.”

Rachel Allison, sociology: “First Comes Marriage: Gender, Class, and Family in the American South.”

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,200 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 25 academic majors offered in 14 departments. Complete details about the College of Arts and Sciences are online at

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