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Five Named SEC Emerging Scholars at UM

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

Adam Beam

Three University of Mississippi doctoral students and two postdoctoral researchers have been selected as SEC Emerging Scholars

The 2023-24 scholars are doctoral students Adam Beam, of Mira Loma, California; Miguel De Leon, of Houston, Texas; and Purnima Narayan, of Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra, India; and postdoctoral researchers Jenny Cocciardi, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Mike Xue, of Nanjing, China. 

“The students and researchers who will represent the University of Mississippi as SEC Emerging Scholars are outstanding,” said Annette Kluck, dean of the Graduate School. “They are reflective about teaching, have demonstrated a commitment to creating inclusive environments in their discipline and give of their time to serve our campus on a number of committees despite the demands of their studies and research.” 

Southeastern Conference provosts established the SEC Emerging Scholars program in 2021 to aid in preparing future faculty members. The program, which gives special attention to top scholars from historically underrepresented groups, provides professional development and networking opportunities for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers who are considering careers in higher education.  

“As participants in the SEC Emerging Scholars program, the University of Mississippi requires that the departments help the students make connections with another SEC institution with the goal that we will retain these talented individuals as faculty within the conference,” Kluck said. 

Beam is pursuing a doctorate in experimental psychology, De Leon is working toward a doctorate in pharmacology and Narayan is pursuing a doctorate in physics. 

“This award is a great way to forge collaborations from both within and outside my discipline that will not only help my research, but also my future career goals,” Beam said.  

Cocciardi is working as a postdoctoral research associate in biology. Her background is in ecology and evolutionary biology.  

Jenny Cocciardi

“Academia gives you a lot of freedom,” Cocciardi said. “You can research, discuss and teach what you’re passionate about. It engulfs you in a learning environment.  

“I’m really excited about constantly being surrounded by other scientists, students and peers which will lead to other collaborations and learning new skills.” 

Mike Xue

Xue, who is a postdoctoral research associate in chemistry and biochemistry, appreciates the opportunity to meet with and learn from other SEC Emerging Scholars.  

“That’s what makes the whole academic environment so great, because you get this diversity from people with different cultural and academic backgrounds,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed attending research symposiums and meetings so I can learn what others have been doing.  

“When I start my independent career, I can bring a well-balanced experience to my students.” 

Miguel De Leon

De Leon is conducting research in the UM Department of BioMolecular Sciences on the use of cannabinoids for the potential treatment of pain. He said being recognized as an emerging scholar “means the world” to him. 

“As a first-generation college student who experiences imposter syndrome daily, it can be easy to doubt my accomplishments and feel like I don’t belong in academia,” he said.  

“This recognition serves as a powerful reminder that I am capable and that my efforts have paid off. It’s also a reminder that as a minority, I am representing not only myself, but also other underrepresented minorities who may be facing similar challenges. Every victory for us is a victory for all.” 


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