President's Report

The past six months were a dynamic period for the Mississippi Academy of Sciences (MAS). There is much to tell and many people to thank; however, emphasis will be placed on three goals set forth in October: a successful annual meeting, expanded interactions between MAS and the Mississippi Science Teachers Association (MSTA), and acquisition of corporate sponsors for Mississippi Junior Academy of Sciences (MJAS) activities.

The 61st Annual Meeting in Biloxi was highly successful in terms of attendance and number of presentations. Program Co-Chairs, Drs. Catherine Cotten and Sammy Culpepper, are to be commended for coordinating overall organization. Division Chairs conducted excellent sessions and there are indications of growth in this area. Math and Computer Sciences had their largest program on record, the new Social Sciences Division elected officers who will conduct their inaugural session at next year's annual MAS meeting and interest has emerged to create yet another new division. Exhibits Chair, Dr. James Heitz, charmed ever-faithful exhibitors to return and Local Arrangements Chair, Dr. Shelia Brown, and students from Gulf Coast Community College provided critical "hidden" assistance. Associate Executive Officer, Ms Cynthia Huff, displayed outstanding initiative and tenacity in pre-meeting communication with the Broadwater Beach Resort that significantly reduced the number of technical problems that had to be solved upon arrival. Mississippi State University was our host institution and represented by Dr. Roy A. Crochet, Director of the Science and Technology Research Center at the Stennis Space Center.

Dr. Patricia Biesiot chaired the Resolutions and Awards Committee that faced the difficult task of selecting MAS award recipients from among numerous outstanding nominees. The following presentations were made at the meeting: Dr. Hamed Benghuzzi (University Medical Center), Outstanding Contributions to Science; Dr. James B. Heitz (Mississippi State University), Outstanding Contributions to MAS; Dr. Joan McCoy-Messer (Jones County Junior College), Outstanding Junior College Science Teacher, and Ms Demethous M. Chambliss (St. Andrew's Episcopal School), Outstanding Secondary Science Teacher.

I am personally indebted to Dr. Sandra B. Garofolo who, in the midst of a personal crisis, delivered the 1997 Dodgen Lecture, "Biotechnology and Treatment of Chronic Renal Failure." She revealed how genetic engineering technology in California is used to produce therapeutics being used in Mississippi. Her presentation was lucid and educational, evoking questions from faculty and students alike. We are grateful that Amgen chose to honor their commitment to public awareness and education by sponsoring this lecture.

A strong partnership has been forged between MAS and MSTA. Drs. Carolyn Boyle (mathematics), John Boyle (molecular biology), and Jim Hutchins (neuroscience) represented MAS by providing update lectures for high school teachers at the annual MSTA convention in November. These were so well received that Dr. Malcolm McEwen, MSTA President, requested MAS to provide five speakers for the 1997 convention. The abstract deadline is July 31; contact me if interested.

MAS sponsors and supports MJAS which conducts an annual state-wide competition based on research papers submitted by high school students. Under the superb guidance of Youth Activities Chair/MJAS Director, Ms Susan Nodurft, and her "replacement-in-training," Dr. Joan McCoy-Messer, the 1997 competition was a huge success. Seventy-one papers were submitted in six disciplines, 41 of which were selected for oral presentation to an audience of 200 high school science students and teachers. The best from each discipline competed against each other for two honors: the Overall Award went to Adam Friedman and the Clyde Sheely Award went to Laura Eichhorn (both students attend St. Andrew's Episcopal School). These awards were presented to the students at the annual MAS meeting. Jones County Junior College enthusiastically hosted this event and made it memorable.

Each year MAS pays the expenses of the MJAS Overall winner to attend the American Junior Academy of Sciences (AJAS) national competition. Rachel Hutchins (Poplarville High School) won the 1996 Overall Award and attended the 1997 AJAS meeting in Seattle; however, she was not alone. Adam Friedman (St. Andrew's Episcopal School), winner of the 1996 Sheely award, was also able to attend due to partial funding provided by MAS, MJAS, his high school and parents. We hope this motivates other students to seek alternative sources of funding so they too can attend this meeting.

Dr. Rosalina Hairston, Corporate Coordinator, has been remarkably successful in getting First Chemical Corporation, Mississippi Chemical Corporation, Georgia Pacific Corporation, and Mississippi Power Company to donate funds earmarked for the MJAS. Top priority is payment of page charges that will, for the first time, enable publication of papers that won the 1996 and 1997 MJAS Overall and Sheely Awards in the Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences. Each publication will acknowledge a specific sponsor. Mr. Harold Holder, Manager of the Human Resources Division of First Chemical Corporation, graciously attended the MAS meeting and presented the 1997 Overall Award.

Last year, our President-Elect, Dr. Catherine Cotten, launched a campaign resulting in nine junior/community colleges offering full-tuition scholarships to the MJAS Overall and Sheely winners who elect to attend one of these institutions. Its my pleasure to announce that Delta State University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi now offer similar scholarships. Attempts will be made to recruit all remaining institutions of higher learning to this program.

Finally, Government and Science Liaison, Dr. Donald Cotten, arranged for special recognition of the 1997 MJAS winners at the State Capitol in Jackson on March 3rd. Adam Friedman (Overall Award), Laura Eichhorn (Sheely Award), their teacher, Ms Demethous Chambliss, and Dr. Joan McCoy-Messer (current MJAS Director) met Lt. Governor Ronnie Musgrove and were introduced to sessions of the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives.

As you might imagine, the activities cited above placed atypical demands on our Publicity Chair, Dr. Jim Hutchins. Often with little notice, he prepared articles for local and campus newspapers and MAS and MSTA publications, mailed Dodgen Lecture announcements to various professional organizations and photographed numerous activities during the annual meeting. Dr. Tim Lockley ensured that folks on the coast knew MAS was coming to town.

Under the earnest stewardship of Journal Editor, Dr. Kenneth Curry, the Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences has experienced its first growth in years. The format has been improved, the category of acceptable papers diversified (ranging from research data to laboratory exercises for students) and the number submissions have significantly increased.

Dr. Dudley Peeler has unselfishly served MAS for decades including long-standing terms as Executive Officer and, most recently, AAAS/NAAS Representative. His experience with and perspective of MAS were helpful to me. Those who have had the pleasure of working with him may wish to know he will retire in June.

The Nominations Committee, co-chaired by Drs. Al Chesnut and Dick Highfill, have assembled an excellent slate of candidates for President-Elect and Director and the Election Committee Chair, Dr. Gordon Cannon, has scheduled the preparation of ballots and election. That means my term is almost over!

It has been my pleasure to serve you and I am pleased to conclude by reporting that MAS is currently strong and vibrant; however, don't get complacent. Subsequent leadership will require new faces with fresh ideas. There are many venues in which you can participate in promoting science and science education at all levels throughout our State. Please, take an active role and contribute toward shaping the future of MAS.--Steven T. Case