Dr. Douglas MacTaggart, the Mississippi EPSCoR program director from the National Science Foundation (NSF) spent a week in Mississippi recently, traveling the state and visiting with the Mississippi Research Consortium (MRC) - a coalition of Mississippi's four research universities: Jackson State University (JSU), Mississippi State University (MSU), the University of Mississippi (UM), and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), which was formed in 1986. The mission of the MRC is to develop a research infrastructure to support education and extend technology development in Mississippi and to enhance economic opportunities for the state of Mississippi. The goals of the MRC include:
- Developing, supporting, and sustaining basic and applied research that is nationally competitive;
- Increasing public awareness of science, engineering, and mathematics at every educational level in order to develop a scientifically literate citizenry who will fuel the science and engineering pipeline with the state's own human resources which will attract external scientific expertise;
- Establishing and maintaining a solid scientific infrastructure, to include equipment, collaboration, facilities, private sector linkages, and federal laboratory partnerships;
- Expanding the economic opportunities of the state through technology/knowledge transfer activities that include commercialization, technical assistance, and education of a workforce that can support technology-based industries.
EPSCoR is an acronym for Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research - a program to strengthen scientific research in states like Mississippi that have traditionally not received their fair share of federal research funds. NSF's EPSCoR program has played a major role in supporting the mission of MRC through the building of infrastructure and supporting collaborative research. The NSF EPSCoR program began in Mississippi in 1988, when the governor named the MRC as the State EPSCoR Committee and the state was awarded an NSF EPSCoR grant in 1989, a joint effort of the MRC with MSU serving as the fiscal agent. Since that time, the program has had an enormous impact within the state and at the four research institutions and their affiliates. Utilizing the multi-institutional framework for the EPSCoR project and based on the commitment of the EPSCoR Committee to creating a critical mass of scientists and engineers, the Mississippi EPSCoR is producing a stronger and more competitive research community in the state.
During the three day visit, MacTaggart spoke with faculty from various disciplines in small and large group meetings and toured laboratory facilities. "Being his first visit to Mississippi was an exciting time for the MRC," said Dr. Sandra Harpole, associate vice president for research and economic development at MSU. "This was a great opportunity for all four institutions to showcase their campus, their facilities, and their excellent faculty, while providing true southern hospitality," she concluded.
A chemist who received his doctorate degree from the University of Idaho in 1990, Dr. MacTaggart now lives in Washington, D.C. and has been with the National Science Foundation for 1 1/2 years. Subsequent work experience was obtained at a commercial environmental laboratory and at academic institutions performing atmospheric chemistry research. His most recent experience was with a commercial clinical and environmental laboratory as a senior chemist specializing in instrumentation and data analysis.
He spends his free time touring all the beautiful sites in Washington. MacTaggart said "there's so much to see and so little time to do it, I try to go site-seeing every chance I get because it's so beautiful there."