Foundation News

IAVO Presents UM with $4.6 Million Software to Help Prepare Students, Enhance Research and Outreach

Dr. Matt Heric, IAVO’s CEO

OXFORD, Miss. – Professor Waheed Uddin’s civil engineering students at the University of Mississippi have placed sensors on emergency vehicles to study traffic flow on roads and walked major airport runways to examine construction materials as part of national and international research projects. Now, thanks to a $4.6 million software donation, Uddin’s students can enhance such real-world experiences right on their computers.

Recognizing Uddin’s commitment to innovative teaching, IAVO Research and Scientific of Durham, N.C., is contributing 150 licenses of its GeoGenesis® image-processing software, with 20 of the licenses designated for the UM School of Medicine. The gift will help prepare not only School of Engineering students but also students in an array of disciplines with cutting-edge technology through 3-D visualization and remote sensing – technologies the U.S. Department of Labor has identified as high-growth industries in the 21st century.

“Mastering these tools provides great marketability for all students,” said Matt Heric, CEO of IAVO. “In fact, understanding GIS – or geographic information systems – has become a tangent to what it means to be literate. The software applications of GeoGenesis are endless, and we have been impressed with Waheed Uddin’s ideas for involving disciplines across the Oxford and Medical Center campuses in what we consider to be a university-wide gift.”

The software will allow students, as well as the university’s research community, to fully realize the value and impact of 3-D visualization and remote sensing on earth sciences, environmental concerns, engineering, architecture, societal issues, business, education, archeology, history, geo-politics and more. Professors at the School of Medicine will explore the software’s applications with medical imaging analysis.

“Today’s Ole Miss students are so thoroughly immersed in technology, and we need to provide them with leading technological tools as part of their education,” said UM Provost Morris Stocks. “Our thanks go to IAVO Research and Scientific for this generous software gift, which will more completely prepare our students for careers in the 21st century. We also anticipate a great deal of collaborative research coming from the amazing applications of this software.”

Traditional geospatial analysis and geographic information systems provide only a 2-D view of the planet. The latest 3-D technology of GeoGenesis comes from the development and use of satellite imageries, laser terrain mapping, global positioning systems and GIS, said Uddin, director of the UM Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology Transportation Modeling and Visualization Laboratory. He will manage UM’s GeoGenesis gift and implement it in the CAIT laboratory. The gift arrives as CAIT celebrates its 10th anniversary.

“The implications of the GeoGenesis gift for our university are truly remarkable,” said Deborah Vaughn, UM assistant vice chancellor for development, who worked with Uddin to secure the gift. “We are grateful to Dr. Heric and IAVO for this generous commitment to our students and researchers, and to the state of Mississippi.”

In addition to preparation of students and collaborative research, the gift will be utilized in outreach to the state in planning effective emergency preparedness and responses. Three-dimensional visuals of buildings, critical life-line infrastructure assets, terrain, highways and vehicles provide those studying potential and actual disasters a more in-depth look at the impact of such crises.

The value of such tools was illustrated in 2005 when UM School of Engineering professors and graduate students worked alongside Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials around the clock during Hurricane Katrina’s approach, landfall and aftermath. The engineers’ GIS software was crucial to search, rescue and recovery efforts along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where most street signs and structures were destroyed.  

Potential applications in outreach assistance also include 3-D re-creation of transportation accidents and crimes scenes, Uddin said.

Heric said university communities respond to the GeoGenesis technology with a “refreshing vision” for applications. IAVO Research and Scientific – an engineering and software firm founded in 2000 – recently initiated gifts to higher education, when Heric said he and senior vice president Eric Lester recognized schools would have challenges purchasing expensive software during the economic downturn. In addition to Ole Miss, IAVO has made major gifts to the universities of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, and East Carolina University.

“The University of Mississippi in general and its School of Engineering in particular seem to be such positive forces of energy and innovation,” said Heric, who added that his view of education was affected by frustration he experienced as a college student (at another institution) due to the lack of resources for physics and computer programming. “If we are asking students to study, grow and succeed, they must have adequate resources. IAVO is pleased to provide the opportunities for Ole Miss students through this gift.”

Lester first began collaborative research projects with Uddin several years ago, and the professor invited Lester to visit campus and deliver a lecture to students.

“This software will give Ole Miss students a competitive edge when they enter the market. It also helps society when students graduate with a familiarity and knowledge of cutting-edge technology and they can immediately start pushing technology forward, making advances and contributions,” Lester said. “It’s really rewarding to help college students reach their full potential. IAVO hopes to foster a long-term relationship with the University of Mississippi.”

Uddin said 3-D visualization and remote sensing will be incorporated into geospatial analysis courses and other classes at Ole Miss, while he also works on curriculum for a class that focuses solely on the technology. Other private funding will be sought to provide hardware upgrades needed to enhance student and faculty utilization of the GeoGenesis software.

Tina hahn

For more information on contributing to initiatives at the University of Mississippi, go to www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.