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Lance Yarbrough Rejoins UM Geological Engineering Faculty

Lance Yabrough (far right) assists students in Geology and Geological Engineering laboratory. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications
Lance Yabrough (far right) assists students in Geology and Geological Engineering laboratory. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Lance David Yabrough helped build a successful business before he joined the University of Mississippi School of Engineering faculty earlier this year. Still, the newest assistant professor of geology and geological engineering was eager to come aboard.

“I had been an adjunct associate professor with the department for more than a year while I was part of a small business technology startup in Vicksburg,” said Yarbrough, who earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees from UM. “I was already familiar with the faculty and their research areas.

“The thought of full-time effort at an R-1 university was a new challenge I could not ignore. The excitement of working with new colleagues in the department and school was also a draw.”

Before returning to his alma mater to teach, Yabrough was technical director of geospatial solutions for Crosstek Solutions LLC in Vicksburg. As a member of the leadership team, he helped the company deliver global solutions for agriculture, engineering and defense sectors. Yabrough also provided customized software solutions, conducted applied research for a variety of projects and developed sales prospects.

He was also principal engineer for Delta Engineering Solutions LLC in Vicksburg.

“The leadership team I was a part of in Vicksburg was phenomenal, and the work that we were doing with our clients, including private, defense and Army Corps of Engineers was important,” he said. “The laboratory was one of the few U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-validated materials laboratories in the state of Mississippi.”

Though Yarbrough has been back on campus only a few months, he already has set both short- and long-term goals.

“I have two main focuses for both my teaching and research interests,” Yabrough said. “For teaching, this would include the course ‘Engineering Geology’ and future drilling, mining and petroleum-related advance courses.”

The second focus is geospatial and remote sensing, with a special interest in big data and sensor integration.

“In the research area, both tend to complement each other well,” Yarbrough said. “For proper studies in geohazards, a high-fidelity data set is needed to characterize the study site environment. Sensors and geospatial tools are very effective in achieving this goal.”

The Ole Miss program in geology and geological engineering is among the nation’s largest, and Yabrough’s expertise will help maintain the department’s leadership standing, said Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering.

“Lance was one of our own graduates who went on to a faculty position and tenure at the University of North Dakota before leaving to work in industry for a few years,” he said. “He now comes back to us with a wealth of experience in the areas of drilling, remote sensing and commercial geology applications. We are thrilled to have him back on our team as a colleague.”

Yarbrough said his long-term goals are to develop an advanced laboratory, develop his work with terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, a surveying method that uses laser light to measure distances; synthetic aperture radar; and UAS platform integration.

“Maintaining high-quality graduates and researchers is a goal that must be achieved,” he said. “To accomplish this and to keep things fresh, I draw from my research and industry experiences.

“This imbues an excitement about the profession in students, while creating opportunities for them to use my research laboratories to further their knowledge and understanding of complex Earth processes.”

An Arizona native, Yarbrough earned his bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla. After that, he began his career working at the U.S. Geological Survey, Sverdrup Environmental, Environmental Monitor Systems Corp., the U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the Hess Corp. and the University of North Dakota.

“My most fulfilling early personal achievements were obtaining my professional registrations,” he said. “A more recent achievement was when I was one of the founding members of the B.S. Petroleum Engineering degree program at the University of North Dakota.

“By positioning the established geological engineering program to help support the new petroleum program, we were able to support growth from four initial students to nearly 300 in only three short years.”

During this period, the geological engineering program nearly quadrupled in size, Yarbrough said.

“Building the curriculum from the ground up, we worked with industry and other established programs from around the country,” he said. “Within five yearsof its creation, the program was accredited by ABET Inc.

“For my contributions with transitions and program building, I received the North Dakota Spirit Faculty Achievement Award.”

Yarbrough and his wife, Buffie, also a UM graduate with degrees in psychology and social work, live in Oxford with their son, David “Zeke,” who is a freshman at Oxford High School.

In his spare time, Yabrough enjoys residential construction and remodeling.

“I have had a hammer in my hand most of my life,” he said. “Helping people with landscaping or construction projects is fun and satisfying.”

By Edwin Smith

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