LSAMP Students Participate in Summer Research Bridge Camp

Submitted by Dr. Linda De La Garza, Professor of Chemistry

The Southwestern Georgia STEM Pathways Alliance (SWGA-SPA) sponsored a Summer Research Bridge Camp for scholars and associate scholars of participating institutions. Students from Georgia Southwestern, ABAC, Columbus Tech and Columbus State University, attended the camp along Valdosta State University students during May 30 to June 3, 2023.

The SWGA-SPA is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, created to provide support to underrepresented minority (URM) students (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders). 

The Summer Bridge Camp was hosted by Columbus State University and Columbus Tech, and included sessions on robotics, electrofishing, cybersecurity, chemistry, and environmental science. The program also included activities related to career and professional development, students participated in a session on bioethics, and workshops on possible selves and establishing confidence to be successful in STEM fields.

The student participants David Vasquez (CHEM), Caidyn Carr (CHEM), Alma Diaz (GEOS), Vanessa Brignolle (BIOL), Opeyemi Oladejo (ENGR), and Hector Prieto (PHYS), were accompanied by Dr. Jason Allard (GEOS), LSAMP mentor coordinator, and Dr. Sandra Trowell (MATH), LSAMP assistant coordinator.

The interdisciplinary aspect of the camp helped students to experience applications of their majors and collaborate with students on other STEM fields in support of their objective of seeking advanced degrees after graduation from VSU. LSAMP at VSU hosted a similar camp on June 2021.

“We are very proud of the work of the LSAMP Scholars at VSU” – said Dr. Linda de la Garza (CHEM), co-PI and VSU LSAMP activities coordinator. “We invite interested students from the College of Science and Mathematics to join our activities, we will have sessions with speakers and workshops during the fall and spring semesters.”

The goal of this LSAMP program is to transform the STEM learning environment by significantly increasing the number of URM majors graduating with baccalaureate degrees and applying to graduate programs in the STEM disciplines.

To learn more about the LSAMP program:

To follow LSAMP at VSU on social media:


Instagram: lsamp_at_vsu

“The More Rocks You See, The Better You Are.”

Since 2003, Dr. Mark Groszos, Associate Professor of Geosciences, has coordinated the logistics for GEOL 3120, spending over 100 hours planning each year for the trip.  From the driving route to overnight accommodations, there are many details that have to be finalized prior to embarking on the trip.  Groszos believes the hands-on experience students gain in the field makes it worth the effort because when the students “see things firsthand, up close, things click into place.”.

Geosciences Faculty and Staff posing for a group photograph before hiking in to a slot canyon.
Faculty and Students before hiking into a slot canyon.

Previous years have taken them to locations as far as North Dakota and Yellowstone National Park, and overall, they are able to avoid most of the crowds since the trip is held in May before the summer tourist season. 

They also avoid the more popular areas and instead select lesser-visited locations.  Over 150 students have participated in this course since it was first offered, experiencing geologic areas that aren’t found in southern Georgia, such as volcanics and caves.  This year’s destinations included some of the most well-known national and state parks in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona including Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, among many others.

Students standing on an overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Students stand in a slot canyon

Prior to leaving their classroom in Nevins Hall and heading west, students research the areas they will be visiting and then once on-site at their destination, students give oral presentations on-site about that particular location.  And as for living in the field?  Dr. Groszos said some students have never set up a tent before, much less slept in one.  After a long day of travel across Texas and arriving at the campsite after dark, one of his favorite things to see is the look of wonder the students have that first morning waking up in Van Horn, Texas surrounded by mountains, a favorite memory shared by 2021 VState graduate Ben Singletary.  Ben works as a GIS specialist at the South Georgia Regional Commission and says his favorite memory of the 2019 trip was “driving through the western portion of Texas, reason being that it is the first time I had ever seen mountains before.”.

Michael Williams, an environmental geosciences major, participated in this year’s field trip and decided to take the course because he had never traveled to the western United States and was interested to see the geology of the area.  He was able to apply what he learned in the classroom at VState by identifying minerals, volcanoes, and landforms in the field.  Regarding the program, Williams says “I like the Environmental Geosciences program because it is interesting to learn about the earth and its processes, then we get to see them in real life.”. 

A student is presenting a lesson on the rim of the Grand Canyon with the scenic landscape in the background.
The Grand Canyon served as an outside classroom, photo courtesy Dr. Mark Groszos.

The value of classroom knowledge and being able to apply it in the field is echoed by Dr. Groszos who says the bottom line is that “the more rocks you see, the better you are.”

For more information regarding the Geosciences program, check out

Tents set up at the Wahweap Campground on Lake Powell in Page, Utah
Wahweap Campground on Lake Powell in Page, Utah – photo courtesy Mark Groszos.
A student delivers a presentation to other students within a slot canyon at Zion National Park
Student gives a presentation in the field to the class at Zion National Park, photo courtesy Dr. Mark Groszos.
Students standing in front of El Capitan in Texas.
Students standing in front of El Capitan in Texas, photo courtesy Dr. Mark Groszos
Students and Dr. Mark Groszos stand in front of a van outside of Nevins Hall on the campus of VState after returning from their trip.
Geosciences students and Dr. Mark Groszos after the 6400 mile trip.

LSAMP Scholar Airionna Fordham Wins Best Poster in STEM Overall Award at VSU Symposium

Airionna Fordham’s “Effect of the Mobile Phase in the Analysis of Anti-Arrhythmic Drugs Using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography” won the Best Poster in STEM Overall Award at the 2023 Undergraduate Research Symposium, hosted by Valdosta State University in April.

Fordham said “My research is about finding ways to optimize the HPLC. I chose this topic because I want to work in the chemical industry and find ways improve the field. I found that for the samples we studied in reverse phase chromatography, the more acidic the mobile phase the quicker the samples will elute.”

Fordham’s research was guided by Dr. Linda de la Garza, Associate Professor of Chemistry and VSU Campus Coordinator for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program.

All undergraduate students at VSU were invited to submit proposals for the annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research. Individual academic departments and colleges then selected the University’s best paper, posters, and video research presentations and prize winners. This year’s poster session included more than 100 posters from all areas.

Fordham, 20, is a regular on the Dean’s List and an LSAMP Scholar at VSU. She attended the LSAMP Summit in February and presented her initial results at their poster session. She is also a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and is an ACS Scholar.

The LSAMP program was created to provide support to underrepresented minority (URM) students (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders). The goal of this program is to transform the STEM learning environment by significantly increasing the number of URM majors graduating with baccalaureate degrees and applying to graduate programs in the STEM disciplines.

“Since joining the LSAMP Program I have been able to do research that has prepared me for my career in the chemical industry. I have been able to connect with other people in the field of science, and gain research and public speaking experience”. – Airionna Fordham

This summer, Airionna is participating as a Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Scholar in an internship at Trinseo, a sustainable materials industry in Dalton, GA. Airionna anticipates graduating from VSU in May 2025 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree. Her future plans include attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry and to work in the chemical industry.

To learn more about the Undergraduate Research Council at VSU, click here.

To learn more about VSU’s Chemistry Department, click here.

To learn more about the LSAMP program, click here.

To follow LSAMP at VSU on social media, click here.

VSU AFROTC Detachment 172 Gets Visit from Moody AFB

This article was written by Charles S Moye, C/1LT, AFROTC (Fall 2021 Public Affairs Officer)

Detachment 172 hosted an HH-60W helicopter and crew from Moody AFB. The goal of this visit was to expose Air Force ROTC cadets to the career of an HH-60W pilot.

Above: Cadets look on as Moody AFB personnel speak. Photo taken by Ethan Lowe.

Major Moore, Valdosta State University alumnus and pilot, shared his experiences and provided advice to cadets. Joining Major Moore were six additional military officers consisting of an A-10 Pilot, C-130 Pilot, C-130 Combat Systems Officer, two Intelligence Officers, a Maintenance Officer, and two HH-60 Special Mission Aviators who also provided advice and answered questions regarding their respective career fields.

Underclassmen were given the opportunity to gain more insight into various career options and Upperclassmen were given the opportunity to gain insight into the life of a commissioned officer. This visit to Detachment 172 is another great example of the partnership among Moody Air Force Base, Detachment 172, and Valdosta State University. Photos from the event can be viewed here: (all photographs taken by Ethan Lowe).

Check out Detachment 172 on Instagram at and read more about VState’s AFROTC program by clicking here.

City of Valdosta Receives Grant from Georgia Tech’s Georgia Smart Communities Challenge – VSU Professor Serves as Research Partner

In 2020, the City of Valdosta was awarded a Georgia Smart Communities Challenge 2020 grant for their proposal “Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating a Traffic Monitoring and Communication System for the City of Valdosta and Its Communities to Improve Safety, Connectivity, and Efficiency”.  Dr. Hojjatie, Professor of Engineering Studies and Coordinator of the VSU Engineering Studies program, has been serving as Research Partner as part of the collaborative team led by the city. With the City of Valdosta and Project Manager Patrick Collins (City Engineer and Director) leading the efforts, other project partners include Valdosta State University, Lowndes County, Temple, Inc., Applied Information, Inc., and Research Partner Dr. Baabak Ashuri with Georgia Tech.

According to the proposal, the focus of the project is to “create new capabilities for the City of Valdosta’s Traffic Management Center”.  Through this project, the City of Valdosta is working toward the vision of a smart traffic management system in which the 128 major traffic signals found within the city communicate with one another, resulting in improvements in traffic flow, increased road safety, and a reduction in the number of traffic accidents.

At left: student David Yoo presents at the Connected Vehicles Roundtable Discussion held at Valdosta State University on June 23, 2021.

Dr. Hojjatie summarized the importance of the work by highlighting the impact it has had on the community as well as the collaborative efforts that went in to the project.  “I think that the project was very special because it resulted in improvement of traffic signals and safety in Valdosta, was a collaborative work with GA Tech, city of Valdosta and two High-Tech industries, and more importantly, a total of 8 of Valdosta State University engineering students including females and underrepresented as well as international engineering students were actively involved in the project. Furthermore, based on external feedback received from many including GA Tech, the work of VSU Engineering was a success.”

At right: Dr. Barry Hojjatie presents at the Connected Vehicles Roundtable Discussion held at Valdosta State University on June 23, 2021.

Click here to read the project’s proposal in its entirety.

To view a webinar about the project which took place on September 23rd, 2021, please visit

To read more about the Georgia Smart program, click here.

The College of Science and Mathematics congratulates Dr. Hojjatie and other participating VSU faculty members and students on their contributions to this project. We are excited to see the continuing impact the effort by students and faculty of the engineering program will have on the Valdosta community through this collaborative effort.

Meet Dr. Hojjatie:

Dr. Hojjatie received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida and also holds a PE licensure (Professional Engineer).  He is the coordinator of the VSU Engineering Studies program, highlighting the Regents’ Engineering Pathway Program (REPP) connection to Georgia Tech. His research interests include computer aided design/engineering (CAD/CAE), computational/experimental mechanics and heat transfer analyses related to dental materials and other biomaterials, pulp and paper manufacturing, and paper physics.

PAGET’s Dr. Quarles’s Research May Lead to Finding Other Systems Like Ours

Dr. Billy Quarles, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Physics, recently co-authored a paper titled “Exomoons in Systems with a Strong Perturber: Applications to α Cen AB” that was published in The Astronomical Journal in July 2021. Dr. Quarles and his associates propose that if moons orbiting a planet exist within Alpha Centauri (believed to be the nearest star system to our sun), then they should be detectable utilizing current technology.

According to Dr. Quarles, the Alpha Centauri system is used as a prototype because it is the closest stellar binary to us and is suspected to harbor some exoplanets, though that has yet to be confirmed. He and his colleagues propose that if exomoons (exosolar moons) exist within the Alpha Centauri system or any other stellar binary, they should be detectable using the current technological technique of transit timing variations, or TTVs. TTVs allow for the accurate transit timing information from modern observations and from there, researchers can determine whether a transit is occurring sooner or later than it should.

How could this research possibly lead to the discovery of other planets and systems similar to our own? Click here to read more:

The full abstract can be found here:

Meet Dr. Billy Quarles:

Dr. Billy Quarles is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Physics in the PAGET Department at Valdosta State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington.

“My research involves the observation and theoretical study of planets with multiple suns.  Like Tatooine, such exoplanets orbit a pair of stars and these exotic worlds are no longer science fiction or theoretical curiosities.  The Kepler Space Telescope has discovered around a dozen binary stars that host at least one circumbinary planet (CBP), where the stellar binary orbit lies completely within the planetary orbit.  Additionally, I am interested in planets that orbit only one star out of the stellar binary.  The nearest star to the Solar System is Proxima Centauri, which orbits the binary star system Alpha Centauri AB.  My work explores how an Earth-like planet would orbit either star in the binary and the consequences for life as we know such a world.”

“I became interested in science from an early age and grew to appreciate astronomy greatly throughout my childhood.  My interest in planets evolved from watching science fiction dramas like Star Trek: TNG and Contact due to their exploratory nature of alien worlds.  As a graduate student, I discovered that it was possible to have a career exploring alien worlds, no starship required.  From there, I became interested in the dynamics of planetary orbits and the possible origins of planets.”

VState Chemistry Student Recognized by the American Chemical Society

The College of Science and Mathematics is proud to share the accomplishments of Chemistry student Danielle McKay.  In December 2020, Danielle was awarded the American Chemical Society’s Student Leadership Award and was subsequently invited to attend their nine-month Leadership Institute Experience.

She is nearing the end of her time in the ACS’s Leadership Institute Experience and, according to the news release written by Jessica Pope, VSU Communications and Media Relations Coordinator, McKay said she is “truly honored to have been chosen for this life-changing opportunity.”

Danielle anticipates graduating in December 2021 and during her time at VSU, she has served as president of SMACS, is a member of the National Council of Negro Women, helps manage the Chemistry Department’s stockroom, and has served as a lead student peer mentor with the GUIDES peer mentoring program.  After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career as a cosmetic formulation chemist.

For more information about Danielle McKay and her participation in the Leadership Institute Experience, click here:

PAGET Professor and Students Have Paper Accepted by Peer-Reviewed Journal

PAGET’s Professor of Geography Dr. Jia Lu and her students, Anthony Oliveira and Marcus Ben Singletary, recently co-authored a paper titled “Pharmacy Disparities in Rural Georgia” that was just accepted by the peer-reviewed Journal of Rural and Community Development. (To find out more about the Journal of Rural and Community Development, click here:

The study analyzed geographical patterns of spatial equity of pharmacy using GIS technology. Results suggest that many pharmacy deserts exist in Georgia, and large urban areas have more access to pharmacies than rural areas and small cities. Rural areas could experience the adverse effects of pharmacy deserts more than non-rural areas. There is a clear, positive relationship between rural counties and a lower number of pharmacies. Relationships between pharmacy locations and various racial and demographic variables were also explored. Policy suggestions were proposed to increase access in pharmacy deserts.

Want to know more about the authors? Their biographies can be found below.

Dr. Jia Lu holds a Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from Ohio State University with minors in Geography, GIS, Quantitative Analysis & Urban Economics.  She teaches courses in Regional Planning and Environmental Management, Urban Community Planning, World Regional Geography, Introduction to Land Forms, and GIS Applications in Planning and her research interests include population and employment analyses, urban modeling, spatial analyses, GIS applications in planning and transportation, geography of China, city planning and urban development, and environmental analyses.

Anthony Oliveira received a B.S. in Psychology in May 2021 from Valdosta State University and intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.  He works as a Registered Behavior Technician for The Conner Group for Pediatric Therapies, conducting ABA therapy for children diagnosed with autism.  His interests include learning languages (having familiarity with nine), reading books, learning about psychological principles, spending time with his family and girlfriend, teaching his dog new tricks, and studying Christology and the historicity of religion.

Ben Singletary received a B.S. in Environmental Geosciences from Valdosta State University in August 2021.  He is currently working at the Southern Georgia Regional Commission as a GIS analyst where he carries out mapping and data services for Valdosta, Lowndes, and surrounding communities.  His hobbies include rock collecting, mainly variants of quartz such as amethyst, and astrophotography.

The College of Science and Mathematics congratulates Dr. Lu, Mr. Oliveira, and Mr. Singletary on their accomplishments!

VSU Confers Title of Professor Emeritus to Dr. Kenneth Rumstay

The College of Science and Mathematics wants to congratulate Dr. Kenneth Rumstay on his recent designation of Professor Emeritus.  This title recognizes Dr. Rumstay’s honorable and distinguished service to the University. He has served as both Professor of Astronomy and Physics and as the Director of the Valdosta State University’s Planetarium and Observatory.

To review VState’s process and recommendation for Emeritus status, please visit

Dr. Rumstay holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy from The Ohio State University and his research interests include star formation, the interstellar medium, and active galaxies.  He joined Valdosta State University as a faculty member in 1984, and in 2017, he received the VSU Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching.  Dr. Rumstay holds memberships in numerous professional organizations to include the American Astronomical Society, Royal Astronomical Society, Georgia Academy of Science, and The Planetary Society.  In addition, he has an extensive list of professional publications and presentations.

To read more about Dr. Rumstay’s accomplishments, please visit his merit page at

Congratulations Dr. Rumstay, on your well-deserved appointment to Professor Emeritus.

Chemistry Students Participate in the NSF’s I-Corps™ Program

Above: Khyati Patel, Teighlor Livingston and Taylor Macera are in the lab preparing some materials for experimental work.

Four current and recent VSU students are involved in an experiential learning and research project through the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps™ program.  The NSF describes their program as follows:

“The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program uses experiential education to help researchers gain valuable insight into entrepreneurship, starting a business or industry requirements and challenges. I-Corps enables the transformation of invention to impact. The curriculum integrates scientific inquiry and industrial discovery in an inclusive, data-driven culture driven by rigor, relevance, and evidence. Through I-Corps training, researchers can reduce the time to translate a promising idea from the laboratory to the marketplace.  NSF is developing and nurturing a national innovation network to guide scientific research toward the development of solutions to benefit society.”

(Read more about the NSF’s I-Corps™ program here:

Two of the students have co-authored a paper that is submitted to a peer reviewed international journal.  It describes the new compound that was tested by the National Cancer Institute.  While the NCI tested it against nine types of cancer, the student group is focusing on lung cancer, which has an 80% mortality rate.

Former VSU student, Teighlor Livingston, says, “The NSF’s I-CORPS program allows students to move out of the lab and into the industry. I enjoy the program because it provides the opportunity to discover and face potential challenges in innovation development, while advancing interpersonal skills.”

Photo above: Teighlor Livingston and Taylor Macera are making their weekly presentation to the National Science Foundation related to their efforts to commercialize a cancer drug developed at VSU.