Scientifically speaking, The University of Southern Mississippi's
Dr. Joe Whitehead is a jack-of-all trades. Of course, as the new
associate dean for the College of Science and Technology (COST),
Whitehead can count that as a plus.
than 3,000 students in a college with about 170 faculty, COST runs
the gamut of disciplines, from biology, chemistry and math to marine
science, engineering and criminal justice.
a challenge to get my arms around all the different departments,
but it's one that I enjoy," said Whitehead, 43, who recently
completed a four-year stint as chair of the Department of Physics
is Dr. Chris Winstead, who currently serves as the interim chair.
Early on, Whitehead
showed aptitude and eagerness in several scientific branches. But
after working at Stennis Space Center the summer after his first
year in college, he decided physics moved him most.
I like about physics and science in general, is that the more you
learn, the more you understand you don't know. And the more you
study, the more you have to develop knowledge in other disciplines,"
said Whitehead, who also has experience in computers and electronics.
It should come
as no surprise, then, that the intellectual patchwork of COST's
disciplines is part of the job's appeal. While his current administrative
role requires him to oversee various academic issues in the college,
such as accreditation and program development, Whitehead does a
lot more than just push papers. He can also be found in the classroom
and the lab, his shirtsleeves rolled up, calibrating instruments
and running experiments with his advanced physics students.
is extremely fortunate to have a scientist and professor as qualified
as Dr. Joe Whitehead to serve as associate dean," COST Dean
Dr. Rex Gandy said. "Over the past few years he has successfully
led the Department of Physics
as it substantially increased in research productivity. Dr. Whitehead's
past experience as chair will be very valuable as he assumes his
new duties with the college."
a senior physics major from Tanzania, said he likes the idea of
having a seasoned researcher and administrator teaching undergraduate
courses. "He brings a lot of experience into the lab,"
from Picayune, where he played basketball and tight end on the Maroon
Tide football team, Whitehead walked on at Delta State and earned
a football scholarship. After winding up in physics, quite by accident,
he spent the better part of the 1980s pursuing advanced physics
degrees outside his home state.
by a friend why so many people of fame and consequence seemed to
hail from Mississippi, Whitehead had the right answer - as usual.
because we export the bulk of our talent, our best and brightest,"
he replied. Of course, he should know: He was once one of them.
the early part of his career at Kent State, where he earned master's
and doctoral degrees in physics. There he researched liquid crystal
materials, used today in many computer monitors and wristwatches.
He also spent a year as a researcher at the Georgia Tech Research
Institute before coming home in 1990 to join the staff at Southern
As an African-American
associate dean at Southern Miss, Whitehead wants to help others
interested in science have high-paying job opportunities here in
Mississippi, opportunities that were not available to him 20 years
future, I see this university as a leader in Mississippi in science
and technology," Whitehead said. "COST was formed in the
'70s, and we're seeing the first generation of those faculty starting
to retire. Right now, we're trying to identify about 25 new faculty,
that second generation, who can really take us to the next level."
One of those
- Winstead - has already been identified and tapped to replace Whitehead
as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. "Dr. Chris
Winstead has an outstanding track record in physics teaching and
research excellence," Gandy said.
to Southern Miss, Winstead has done an outstanding job in leading
the Eagle Eyes research project, funded by the U.S. Army Space and
Missile Defense Command, Gandy said. "He is well prepared to
assume his new role as acting chair of the Department of Physics
and Astronomy," he said.
A 1983 graduate
of Hattiesburg High, Winstead got bachelor's degrees in physics
and mathematics in 1988 from Southern Miss. He received his doctorate
in physics from Georgia Tech in 1995.
that as the Department of Physics and Astronomy currently recruits
new faculty, the focus is "to attract people who are skilled
researchers with a strong interest in involving students in their
to evaluating a candidate's potential for excellence in teaching,
we also ask each applicant if they are willing to help grow our
departmental outreach to schools in south Mississippi," Winstead
For more information
about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, contact (601) 266-4883.