Mississippi College

2010 Distinguished Physics Alumnus of the Year

Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Hamilton, the 2010 Distinguished Physics Alumnus of the Year. Dr. Hamilton is the Landon C. Garland Distinguished Professor of Physics at Vanderbilt University and just recently took part in the discovery of Element 117. Dr. Hamilton has published more than 950 papers and articles on nuclear physics worldwide, as well as additional articles on general scientific topics and teaching physics. He is the co-author of 14 research books, an undergraduate physics textbook, and How Things Work, a book for middle and high school students released by National Geographic. Dr. Hamilton has delivered nearly 500 lectures and talks and has been featured at research seminars at universities and international research conferences worldwide. He has served as a visiting professor or adjunct professor at universities in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, China, and France. Dr. Hamilton has directed the postdoctoral training of more than 100 Ph.D. candidates, and for more than 20 years has given lecutres at K-12 schools designed to interest young people in science. Shown below is Dr. Hamilton (center) speaking with MC President Dr. Lee Royce (left) and School of Law Dean Dr. Jim Rosenblatt (right) after a recent lecture given by Dr. Hamilton at the Clinton campus.

2009 Distinguished Physics Alumnus of the Year

In 2009, our distinguished physics alumnus was Mr. Greg Tackett. Greg is Director of System Simulation and Development with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center. He has worked for the Department of Defense since 1982 in the field of modeling and simulation (M&S) and is an international leader in the field both academically and professionally. His additional current positions include service as the U.S. national representative to the NATO Modeling and Simulation Group Panel on Conceptual Modeling for Military M&S; the U.S. Army representative to the International Technical Coordination Panel on network enabled weapon systems; and associate editor for the industry journals Transactions of the Society of Modeling and Simulation International and Journal for Defense Modeling and Simulation. In addition to his B.S. in Physics from MC, Greg completed graduate studies in Computer Science at the University of Alabama. Shown at left below is Greg receiving the award from longtime friend and MC Chemistry professor Dr. David Magers during the 2009 Homecoming Weekend festivities.

Below you will find information about several of our alumni and what they have to say about our program. If you are a Mississippi College graduate and would like to become a part of our Alumni page, please email maggio@mc.edu.

Joseph H. Hamilton

Joseph H. Hamilton, a physics graduate of 1954, has taught physics for over 40 years at Vanderbilt University, as well as having appointments at universities in Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, France, and China. He has written/edited eleven physics books and twenty-one publications for non-scientists. He has been recognized often for both his teaching and his research efforts; most recently he received the honorary doctorate from St. Petersburg State University in Russia. Click here to read about Dr. Hamilton's discovery of Element 117.

Larry Hudson

Larry Hudson, a physics graduate of 1983, earned his Ph. D. in surface physics from Vanderbilt University. Since 1990, he has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) as a Physicist. He initially worked in the Surface Science Division and then in the Quantum Metrology (laser calibration and instrumentation) Group of the Atomic Physics Division. Because of Dr. Hudson’s expertise in x-ray interactions, in January 2002 he joined the Ionizing Radiation Division’s activities related to recovery from the anthrax terrorist attacks via the US mail, namely, the design and implementation of a protocol to sanitize parcel mail. Dr. Hudson took up this challenge and led the effort to design and validate the x-ray decontamination process for the 70,000 packages and parcels that were potentially contaminated and quarantined. The resulting protocol is still being used on all packages destined for government zip codes in Washington DC. In recognition of his outstanding response, Dr. Hudson was awarded the 2003 U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal in the category of leadership. Here is what he has to say about his physics education at MC:

“The Mississippi College physics curriculum trained me to solve problems and manipulate abstract concepts (the latter skill helps me in arguments with my Sunday School teacher!). These skills can be applied to a wide variety of technical careers today. While some disciplines require memorization of large swaths of information, physics teaches the critical thinking and research skills that lead to solutions to novel problems. The Mississippi College faculty encouraged me to stretch; this has led to many adventures in creativity and pioneering. In my work at a national laboratory, every day's work is different. New and stimulating projects, both applied and fundamental, are always presenting themselves. My colleagues are the smartest people in the world. What’s not to like?!”

Crystal Coghlan Massey

Crystal Coghlan Massey is a 2005 physics graduate with a dual major in Mathematics with High Honors. She completed 2.5 years of undergraduate research under Dr. David H. Magers in computational chemistry on “Sigma Delocalization in Hetero-cycles of Carbon and Silicon.” She is currently a Lieutenant in the U. S. Navy and stationed at the Naval Nuclear Training Command in Charleston, South Carolina where she is an instructor for both the physics and reactor principles divisions. She currently serves as the Enlisted Physics Division Director. A 2009 graduate from the College of Charleston, she received a M.S. in mathematics and a certificate in statistics. In July 2010, she reported to the USS Eisenhower ported in Norfolk, Virginia to serve as the Radiation Health Officer. Her future plans include having children with her husband Chance Massey and earning a Ph.D. through the Navy at Vanderbilt University.

“I truly enjoyed being a student at Mississippi College. My professors always seemed to enjoy what they did and were excited about the material they taught. I constantly brag to my coworkers, graduates of some of the top schools in the nation, about the incredible environment in which I was educated. While MC’s physics program is small, my professors cared about their students’ success, all possessed a Ph.D., and were committed to their faith in Jesus Christ. At MC, I never felt like I was just a number. Because Dr. Bill Nettles knew my goals and personality, he recommended the Navy’s Nuclear Program to me as a possible career option which turned out to be the perfect job for me. Both Dr. Nettles and Dr. Magers helped me prepare for and get selected as a Nuclear Power School Instructor. The professors at MC are directly responsible for and continue to encourage my success in academics, my career, and life even after graduating.”

Hugh E. Montgomery, Jr.

Hugh E. Montgomery, Jr., a physics graduate of 1966, is Director, Science and Technology, Requirements Division, Office of Naval Operations. He has had extraordinary success in both research and research management. He does not have his doctorate because dissertations must be published; his work was classified Top Secret, and publication was not allowed. He has received the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Navy's highest civilian award.

Kyle Butler-Moore

Kyle Butler-Moore, a physics graduate of 1986, earned his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Vanderbilt University. Here is what he says about his physics studies:

“I graduated with honors in physics from Mississippi College in 1986. The educational experience I remember most is when Dr. Bill Nettles accompanied me to Vanderbilt University over a Christmas break so that we could perform research for my honors paper in nuclear physics. That research experience was not at all like the well-choreographed laboratory experiments that accompany a first-year physics course.Real research is messy, and by no means is the answer known from the start! Principally because of the challenging and rewarding experience in the physics honors program did I choose to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt. After obtaining my Ph.D. degree from Vanderbilt, I held several short-term postdoctoral positions in universities and at a national laboratory. Upon the birth of my daughter, I decided to break with the academic career path and pursue a career in industry. Raytheon made me an offer, although it required moving my family to California. We have recently relocated to Huntsville, AL where I hold the position of Senior Research Analyst with an aerospace and military subcontractor company, Dynetics Inc. Many of the skills I utilize almost daily had their genesis at Mississippi College. Graduate school exposes you to more difficult problems and thereby you gain valuable, marketable experience. However, the completion of a rigorous undergraduate program is sufficient evidence for many recruiters that you can succeed at a technically demanding job. Dynetics, for instance, recruits primarily electrical engineering and physics baccalaureates. Whether your choice is academia or industry, the core physics courses taught at MC should be good preparation for future challenges. Having taken both routes for a little while, I'd say that the most valuable courses are those which demand a computational component, preferably at least one course that requires demonstrable knowledge of a structured language (e.g., C/C++) and another that uses a 'meta' language (e.g., Matlab or Mathematica). Of course, I'd highly recommend making an open-ended research project an integral part of your undergraduate physics education.”

Bill Nettles

Bill Nettles, a physics graduate of 1975, is Chair of the Department of Physics at Union University. After earning his M. S. and Ph. D. in nuclear physics at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Nettles joined the U. S. Navy as a Naval officer and worked on the staff of ADM H. G. Rickover as a nuclear engineer. He returned to MC to teach in 1983.

Terry Reeves

Terry Reeves, a physics graduate of 1982 from Pearl, MS, earned his Ph.D. in particle physics from Vanderbilt University. He is currently a Senior Software Developer at Aspect Communications in Brentwood, TN, supporting a workforce management product which is used by call centers to forecast call volumes, call handle times, required staff, creation of schedules, assign employees to schedules. He also collaborates with his graduate researcher advisor, Dr. Robert Panvini, to run Monte Carlo simulations for the BaBar collaboration on a small cluster of Linux machines at Carlo simulations for the BaBar collaboration on a small cluster of Linux machines at Vanderbilt. Here is what Terry has to say about his physics education:

“My physics background has helped me in a number of ways. First, it helped sharpen my problem solving skills. Second, as a student and as a postdoc, I spent a lot of time in front of computers. I naturally gravitated to the software side of things. Third, as an elementary particle physicist and a member of one of the larger collaborations, I was exposed to working on software as a part of a larger team. Finally, my current projects at work require some knowledge of probability and statistics, numerical methods, and Monte Carlo simulations which I was exposed to as a physicist.”

Greg Tackett

Greg Tackett, a physics graduate of 1982, is the Senior Engineer for Distributed Simulation with the US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development, and Engineering Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He has worked for the Department of Defense since 1982 in the field of Modeling and Simulation (M&S) and is a leader in academic and professional initiatives to establish M&S as a recognized profession with a defined body of knowledge and standardized curricula. He has gone back to school to work on a Masters degree in Computer Science with specialty in M&S from the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) and teaches a continuing education class at UAH on Interactive and Interoperable M&S.

His current and past memberships include various Army M&S senior advisory groups, the Military Applications Society (MAS), Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization (SISO), Military Operations Research Society (MORS), Defense M&S Office (DMSO) Architecture Management Group, charter membership in the Tennessee Valley High Level Architecture Users Group, and co-chair of the Alabama M&S Council Technology Committee. He is an associate editor of the Transactions of the Society of Modeling and Simulation International, and the Journal for Defense Modeling and Simulation. Greg has received the 2002 DMSO Award, the 2003 SMART Award, and a 2003 Civilian Service award for his work in distributed simulation. Of his physics degree from MC, Greg writes:

“Understanding the fundamentals of system performance at a physics level has always been of great value for me in my work assessing and predicting the performance of weapon systems and advanced technologies. The ‘physics level model’ is always the holy grail of system simulation, and drives the derivative statistical models that we use extensively in real-time and battlefield simulations. Likewise, the rigors of experimental process that were integral to our physics labs and reporting have allowed me to design and execute highly complex experiments involving thousands of simulated and live entities to produce system-of-systems analysis of future combat.”

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