FIT Distinguished Guest Speaker Series

Distingished guests speakers with the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis will focus on diverse areas of research to include the energy, defense, and AgTech industries, as well as other emerging innovation topics. In 2022-23, this series will feature industry subject experts in these areas.

Trends and Needs in the Modernization of the Energy and AgriTech Sectors”  

The energy and agriculture sectors are increasingly complex and connected.  The need to reduce carbon emissions and provide resilience in response to changing conditions requires significant change to current practice. The FY22-23 seminar series presents overviews of the latest research and technology from national leaders and provides an opportunity to discuss the future implications for their work.


2022-23 Series Schedule and Speaker Profiles

  Oct. 5, 2022
Dr. Per Peterson
UC Berkeley & Kairos Power   Flouride High-Temperature Reactor Development for Near-Term Commercial Deployment
  Oct. 19, 2022   
Christopher Ramezanpour
Secure Foods Solutions   Rapid Detection of Bacteria Related to Agriculture
  Nov. 16, 2022
Dr. David Page Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  Geospatial Data Science Applications
  Dec. 14, 2022
Tim Theiss Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  Biomass for Transportation Fuels
  Feb. 15, 2023
Ben Carmichael Southern Research   Decarbonization of the Electricity Market
  Mar. 13, 2023 Dr. Kevin Heaslip University of Tennessee, Knoxville   Tennessee Technology-Enabled Advanced Mobility Engine (TEAM – Engine)
  Mar. 15, 2023
Dr. Avat Shekoofa University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture   Testing of Drought Resistant Crop Types for Changing Environmental Conditions
  Apr. 19, 2023
Dr. Johney Green National Renewable Energy Laboratory   Renewable and Carbon-reducing Energy Research
  Apr. 26, 2023 Peter Romness CISCO   Hottest Topics in Cybersecurity and How Cisco Addresses Them
  May 17, 2023
Dr. Doug Kothe Oak Ridge National Laboratory   Exascale Computing and Beyond


Series Contact

FedEx Institute of Technology
University of Memphis


Fall, 2022 - Spring, 2023 SPEAKER INTRODUCTION

*Each talk has a university host, who is a faculty member in a connected area of research.  The use of hosts is intended to foster collaborative connections for university departments and faculty.  Hosts will work with the presenter to ensure they have everything needed for the presentation and will moderate the presentation, including starting the meeting, introducing the speaker, and moderating the Q&A sessions after the presentation.

Per F. Peterson, Ph.D., PE | Wednesday, October 5, 2022 | Flouride High-Temperature Reactor Development for Near-Term Commercial Deployment | Watch the Replay.

An update on current progress at Kairos Power and the important roles that the national laboratories and universities played in developing the scientific and technical foundations for the next generation of nuclear reactors.

Per F. Peterson, PhD, PE
Chief Nuclear Officer
Kairos Power
707 West Tower Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501


University of Memphis Host: Dr. Louis Qualls, Director Energy, Defense and AgriTech Research, FedEx Institute of Technology

Chris Ramezanpour, President and Co-founder of Secure Food Solutions | Wednesday, October 19, 2022 | Rapid Detection of Bacteria Related to Agriculture | Watch the Replay.

Secure Food Solutions is a food safety diagnostics company based in Memphis, Tennessee that is currently developing rapid diagnostics to detect dangerous pathogens that threaten global food supply chains. SFS has two key biotech innovations: (1) Rapid microbial tests for fast, simple, low-cost detection of Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, etc.; and (2) Fast, simple, affordable imaging technologies for farm families in Sub Saharan Africa to detect and remove aflatoxin-contaminated foods, like peanuts, corn and cassava (aflatoxin is a dangerous fungal carcinogen responsible for critically high rates of child mortality and stunting in SSA). 

Mr. Ramezanpour is the Principal Investigator for NSF-funded R&D to develop the rapid Salmonellatest. Mr. Ramezanpour earned his Master's degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2008. For two decades, Mr. Ramezanpour has worked closely with farmers, researchers, government agencies, nonprofits, and international institutions on food and agriculture-related issues in the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. If you have any questions want to ask Chris, please contact him at chris.ramezanpour@secure-food-solutions.com

University of Memphis Host: Dr. Brian Evans, B.S.E., M.S., Ph.D., Manager | Strategic Research Initiatives

David L. Page, Ph.D. | Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Geospatial Data Science Applications | Watch the Replay.

David L. Page, Ph.D.
Section Head | Research Scientist
Geospatial Science and Human Security Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
pagedl@ornl.gov | 865.607.8192


University of Memphis Host: Dr. Brian Waldron, Director, Center for Applied Earth Sciences and Research (CAESAR)

Tim Theiss | Wednesday, December 14, 2022 | Biomass for Transportation Fuels | Watch the Replay.

Tim Theiss
Program Manager | Bioenergy Technologies 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)


Tim Theiss has been on the staff at ORNL since 1987, as a research development staff member, a group leader and a program manager.  He has over 20 years of experience in program development and program management at ORNL in various technical areas, primarily related to bioenergy and biofuels, distributed generation, power systems, and transportation.  Since 2011, Tim has been serving as the ORNL Laboratory Relationship Manager or Program Manager for the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Program.  The ORNL applied bioenergy program includes research on feedstock supply and logistics, biomass conversion technologies and the strategic analysis and sustainability of bioenergy.  Tim’s specific areas of interest include strategic analysis of the best allocation of biomass resources, additive manufacturing (aka, 3D printing) with bio-derived materials, low carbon fuels for maritime applications bioenergy for carbon capture and sequestration.  He has a BS degree in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Tennessee Tech and a Master’s degree in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech).

University of Memphis Host: Dr. Shawn Brown, Biological Sciences Department

Ben Carmichael | Wednesday, February 15, 2023 | Decarbonization of the Electricity Market | Watch the Reply.

Ben Carmichael is part of the Advanced Energy Systems team at Southern Company Research and Development, where he works as a Business Development Manager to establish the national and international collaborations that support Southern Company’s advanced energy systems development programs. Ben focuses much of that effort on Southern Company’s advanced nuclear and hydrogen programs. Ben joined Southern Company in 2006 and has had a variety of opportunities across Southern Company affiliates, including engineering roles in Southern Company’s Fleet Operations and Generation Planning and Development, managing the nuclear fuel procurement program for Southern Nuclear Operating Company, and managing new nuclear development opportunities for Southern Nuclear Development, LLC. Ben holds a Bachelor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Master of Science of Civil Engineering from Auburn University, a Masters of Engineering in sustainability from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Professional Engineer license in the State of Alabama.

Ben Carmichael
Research and Development
Southern Company Services


University of Memphis Host: Dr. Alex Headley, Mechanical Engineering Department

Kevin Heaslip, Ph.D. | 1:30 PM, Monday, March 13, 2023 | Tennessee Technology-Enabled Advanced Mobility Engine (TEAM – Engine) | MPT (FIT 103) | Watch the Replay.

Heaslip is the director of the Center for Transportation Research and a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He previously was a professor, CACI Faculty Fellow, and Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Fellow at Virginia Tech, and he was the interim director and associate director of the Information Systems Laboratory of the Hume Center for National Security and Technology. Heaslip was also an appointed member of the Resilient America Roundtable of the National Academy of Science from 2014-2020

Kevin Heaslip, Ph.D.
Director of the Center for Transportation Research
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Avat Shekoofa, Ph.D. | Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | Testing of Drought Resistant Crop Types for Changing Environmental Conditions | Watch the Replay.

Shekoofa's research was focused on kernel development of maize as affected by source/sink ratio. She was a visiting scientist at Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina from 2009-2010, and conducted postdoc research at North Carolina State University (NCSU) on water stress in turfgrass and crop species. Particular emphasis was given to identifying genetic traits that impart drought tolerance.

Shekoofa's current research in the Department of Plant Sciences centers on developing an active and nationally recognized program in crop physiology with a focus on plant water saving potential. Her true passion in research lies in discovering more about the action of the environment on plant water movement, leaves stomata conductance, transpiration response, plant resistance, and resilience to environmental changes such as water and/or heat stress.

Avat Shekoofa, Ph.D.
Crop Physiologist-Water Stress and Irrigation
Associate Professor
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Tennessee Institute of Technology


University of Memphis Host: Dr. Jennifer Mandell, Biological Sciences Department

Johney Green Jr., Ph.D. | Wednesday, April 19, 2023 | Renewable and Carbon-reducing Energy Research | Watch the Replay.

Johney Green Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Laboratory Director
Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences
National Renewable Energy Laboratory


University of Memphis Host: Dr. Hasan Ali, Mechanical Engineering Department

Peter Romness | Wednesday, April 26, 2023 | 2 PM CST |Hottest Topics in Cybersecurity and How Cisco Addresses Them | FedEx Institute of Technology | Fishbowl (203/205)

Join the FedEx Institute of Technology as we welcome notable scholar, Peter Romness, for his talk, “Hottest Topics in Cybersecurity and How Cisco Addresses Them” as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series. For over 30 years, Romness has been de­voted to helping government and education organizations securely accomplish their goals and to be able to help leaders understand and implement the latest cyber strategies to defend against threats, maintain individuals’ privacy, protect sensitive information, and secure government intellectual property.
Peter Romness
Cybersecurity Principal with CISO Advisors at Cisco Systems

Doug Kothe, Ph.D. | Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Exascale computing and beyond. | Watch the Replay

Dr. Doug Kothe
Associate Laboratory Director for Computational Sciences
Oak Ridge National Laboratory



University of Memphis Host: Mechanical Engineering Department

Past Distinguished Guest Speakers

Fellows and Academic Partners

Dr. M. Ramesh, National University of Singapore | FIT Distinguished Fellow
Dr. Josh Yates, University of Virginia | FIT Smart Cities Research Cluster Fellow
Dr. Reinhard Heckel, Rice University: DNA Data Storage | FIT Emerging Innovation Series Lecture
Dr. Louis Taborda, University of Sydney | Agile Release Management Course Instructor
Dr. Osama Khan, UC Berkley: Smart Dust Technology | FIT Emerging Innovation Series Lecture
Dr. Jacob Wheeler, Vanderbilt University: Sub-millimeter Spectroscopic Astronomy | FIT Emerging Innovation Series Lecture
Leon Sandler, Stanford University: Commercializing Research | (MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation)
Dr. TJ Wallin, Cornell University | Soft Robotics in Additive Manufacturing
Dr. Nathan Johnson, Arizona State University | FIT Energy Talk 
Nik Puri, Senior Vice President at FedEx Express | FIT Transformation Talk 
Dr. Robinson Pino, Advanced Scientific Computing Research | FIT Tech Talk
Dr. John Tooker, Penn State University | FIT Research Cluster Talk
Yorke Rhodes, Microsoft | FIT-Blockchain901 Kickoff Session
Kyle Veazey, City of Memphis | Economic Town Hall
Ernest Strickland, Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce | Economic Town Hall
Naveen Kumar, University of Washington | Analytics Talk
Michelle Epps, FedEx | 2020 AthenaTechne Keynote Speaker