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Biophysicist-Alumna to Deliver Keynote Address at USM’s Rayborn Lecture

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 04:38pm | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Michelle Wang

Renowned biophysicist and DNA scientist Dr. Michelle Wang will be the featured speaker for the Fourth Annual Rayborn Lecture Series in Physics and Astronomy, set for Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Thad Cochran Center on the Hattiesburg campus.

Dr. Wang is a professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Cornell University. She is a 1988 alumna of USM. Her address, titled “Untangling Molecules of Life,” will highlight the importance of physical principles in fundamental biological processes.

“Dr. Wang and the researchers in her group work directly with DNA molecules; the molecules that determine the characteristics of all living organisms. They are seeking to understand how these molecules work from a physics perspective. This is a very high level integration of physics and biological research,” said Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of USM’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Winstead points out that having a USM alum deliver the keynote address creates an even higher level of anticipation for this year’s lecture.

“This is the first time we’ve had one of our alums to serve as a speaker, and we are excited to show the community the incredible work of one of our former students. In addition, she worked with Dr. Rayborn as a graduate student,” said Winstead.

Winstead emphasizes that the Rayborn Lecture enables USM to bring leading physicists to Hattiesburg for enlightening interaction with students, faculty, staff, and the entire community.

“It’s a chance for everyone to meet and hear from some of the best minds in physics,” he said. “My personal hope is that we inspire both our Southern Miss students and other students in the community to learn more about science. This year’s lecture is a fascinating combination of physics, biology and chemistry. Today’s frontier research tends to be like this – highly interdisciplinary in nature and of interest to a wide variety of people.”

About the Series

In 2015, through a generous donation to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Grayson H. Rayborn established the Grayson H. and Jane Dishong Rayborn Lecture Series in Physics and Astronomy. In 1970, Dr. Rayborn joined the USM faculty and served until his retirement in a distinguished career in teaching, research, service, and administration. During his career, Dr. Rayborn served as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, associate dean of the College of Science and Technology, and director of the School of Mathematical Sciences, as well as professor of physics and astronomy. Upon retirement, in recognition of his distinguished service to the University, Dr. Rayborn was awarded the title of professor emeritus of physics and astronomy.