November 08, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: MSU

Mississippi may be last in some categories, but as a state we are pushing forward and upwards through our Universities.  I had the privilege of spending time on the campus of Mississippi State last Friday and Saturday and getting to see a few of the many ways that they are serving our state, nation and world.

Our first stop was the cheese processing plant.  All Mississippians know and love Edam Cheese, but did you know that every step necessary to manufacture the cheese takes place on campus?  The cows are milked...and the shipping labels are placed on the boxes--all under the direction of MSU.

Like my hair net?  I'm ready to tour the plant!

The famous cheese cures for THREE MONTHS once it is put in the wax.  Each batch is tested to make sure it is delicious.  Did you know that if a cow eats wild onions the cheese can have an oniony flavor?  If this happens (and it's rare) the batch is usually disposed of.

After the cheese plant, we went out to a barn on the outskirts of campus and learned about animal imaging/biophotonics.  I don't have any photos of this, but one of the benefits of this technology is that a farmer or cattle owner can use a special camera and point it onto an area of an animal.  The camera can read the temperature of that area and if it is higher than normal, the farmer knows that that animal is probably sick.  They can remove that animal from the herd and treat it quickly before it infects the rest of the herd--saving valuable time and money.

They can also use this technology to trace bacteria in the intestines of animals...and many other fascinating studies that I don't fully understand.  Much of the material they learn can also be applied to helping to heal humans.  MSU is a world leader in this field and very highly respected.

We toured CAVS (Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems).  To borrow some info from their website: 

"The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University is an interdisciplinary center comprised of research, engineering design & development, and technology transfer teams for industry and government partners. Our overall effort is focused on developing superior computational, engineering, manufacturing, design, and information technologies relevant to Mississippi and regional industries. This is accomplished by bringing to bear world-class technologist and technologies to solve complex problems.
The research output provides sustainable regional competitive advantages. To be successful, CAVS maintains a portfolio of short-term and long-term projects to create a succession of increasingly more vital outputs, ranging from students with enhanced project management skills to commercialization of the intellectual products."

CAVS has helped Nissan innovate and won numerous awards for their excellent leadership in this area.  We were allowed to drive one of the car simulators.  Out of all the guys (yes, I was the only female) I was the only one who didn't wreck the car--probably because I didn't go over 100 mph.  I've become cautious in my old age...

The course led us through a desert!

In the afternoon we toured the biofuels plants and saw how they are turning grass and wastewater into OIL.  Yes...oil.  It was an intense chemistry lesson for me...alllllmost made me wish I had paid more attention in 11th grade chemistry class.  Almost.

Following the biofuels plant, we toured the Raspet Flight Research Lab.  No, I didn't get to fly a plane.  Maybe next year....

We met with Dr. Mark Keenum, the University's president for a discussion and coffee in the afternoon.  Dr. Keenum presented us each with our own cow bells--signed by him!  He wrote "Ring Responsibly" on each one.  I plan to put it on my desk at work.

Perhaps you are wondering how an Ole Miss alum can stand to own a cow bell and spend a lot of time on the campus of our rival school.  Throughout the weekend, I was so full of pride for MISSISSIPPI that I could not help but smile as we drove through campus.  I saw a group of administrators, educators and students passionately dedicated to what they love and it was energizing to see the amazing advancements being made right in my home state.  It makes it easy to move pass the seemingly meaningless sports rivalry that divides us when I see how each school really loves and wants what is best for MISSISSIPPI.

When we were talking with Dr. Keenum, he told us some stories of his time working for Senator Cochran and how he spent hundreds of hours on the campus of Ole Miss (even though he was an MSU alum).  He looked at me and said, "Emily, I spent so much time on the campus, I was given the title 'Honorary Rebel.'"

Who knows, maybe one day I will be considered an "Honorary Bulldog."  Especially if the "Black Bears" never get their act together on the athletic field...

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