MSU celebrates research success with annual awards

Contact: James Carskadon

Mark Keenum, Todd Mlsna and Julie Jordan pose for an award after Mlsna is presented with the Powe Award
MSU President Mark E. Keenum, left, and Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan, right, congratulate Chemistry Professor Todd Mlsna on the receiving the 2021 Ralph E. Powe Research Excellence Award, the university’s top award for research. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State recognized outstanding research accomplishments from across the university during its annual research awards ceremony on Friday [April 23].

The ceremony marked the culmination of an academic year that saw continued growth in research funding and impact despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic. MSU President Mark E. Keenum, along with Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan, and Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Keith Coble, applauded the hard work of the university’s researchers and support staff, which has helped place MSU as a top 100 research university nationally and the leading research university in Mississippi. Keenum noted that MSU’s research efforts continue to make a positive impact in Mississippi and attract new students.

“The work that you do in research helps make us the most comprehensive university in the state,” Keenum said. “You bring that knowledge into your classrooms, you inspire young people who want to be involved in your research, and you are great mentors. This is a great day to celebrate your achievements.”

The awards are co-sponsored by the offices of the MSU vice presidents for Research and Economic Development and the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.

Chemistry Professor Todd Mlsna was presented with the program’s top honor, the 2021 Ralph E. Powe Research Excellence Award. The Powe Award is a memorial to the MSU alumnus and longtime research vice president who died in 1996. It is selected at the university level from nominations received from the MSU community.

An MSU faculty member since 2009, Mlsna’s research focuses on miniature chemical sensor systems, water remediation and soil amendment using byproducts from the biofuel generation industry. In addition to generating $2.7 million in external funding to support his research at MSU, Mlsna has mentored 20 doctoral students. In 2020, he was named the Mississippi Chemist of the Year.

During the ceremony, MSU recognized outstanding research contributions from individuals in every academic college, as well as MSU-Meridian, university research centers and institutes, and the Office of Research and Economic Development.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and MAFES

Faculty: Sam Chang                                      

Research Support: Beverly Catchot

Graduate Student: Charles Hunt Walne

College of Forest Resources and Forest and Wildlife Research Center

Faculty: Dana Morin

Research Support: Mack Fondren

Graduate Student: Gabrielly dos Santos Bobadihla

College of Veterinary Medicine

Faculty: Todd Pharr                                                               

Research Support: Michael “Mike” Dewberry

Graduate Student: Isaac Jumper

Undergraduate Student: Claire E. Cross and Anne-Marie Ross

College of Architecture, Art and Design

Faculty: Joe Morzuch                                    

Undergraduate Student: McKenzie Johnson

College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty: Lamiaa El Fassi                                                       

Research Support: Ashley Miller

Graduate Student: Chanaka Navarathna

Undergraduate Student: Nathan Frey

College of Business

Faculty: Nathan Berglund                             

Graduate Student: Haoyang Xiong

Undergraduate: Dawn Jackson

College of Education

Faculty: Kenneth V. Anthony                                                           

Research Support: Veronica Murray 

Graduate Student: Sachini Kodithuwakku Arachchige

Undergraduate Student: Stephen Ramsey

Bagley College of Engineering

Faculty: Farshid Vahedifard

Graduate Student: Dylan Ray Boyd

Undergraduate Student: Erin Parker

Meridian Campus

Faculty: Ksenia Zhbanova


Faculty: Joy DuBose

University Centers and Institutes

Faculty: Just Cebrian

Research Support: Gray Turnage

Graduate Student: Wondimagegn “Wondim” Beshah

Undergraduate Student: Anna Sibley

Office of Research and Economic Development

Research Support: Gretchen Crawford

Graduate Student: Caroline Edmonson

MSU also recognized researchers that developed new intellectual property and licensed new technology. The Office of Technology Management presented awards to FY 2019 and 2020 patent recipients:


Mark White – Catalysts and Process for Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuel Production

Brian Baldwin and Brett Rushing – Switchgrass ‘Cultivar Panir’

Brian Baldwin – Switchgrass ‘Espresso’

Mark McConnell and Wes Burger – Precision Conservation Decision Support Tool


John Riggins – System Methods for Pest Reduction

Shien Lu, Stephen Pruett and Frank Austin – Occidiofungin, Formations and Uses Thereof

Shien Lu and Frank Austin – Occidiofungin, A Unique Antifungal Glycopeptide

The Office of Technology Management also presented the inaugural Innovation Award to Ryden Smith, a mechanical engineering graduate student, for developing the “Improved Portable UV Sanitation Method,” which was used to sanitize face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the Office of Research and Economic Development at or the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine at

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