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Our Team

Jessica Collier, PhD

Assistant Professor

Anna Gjika, PhD

Assistant Professor

Clay Hardwick

Program Manager

Chris Lightsey

Research Engineer

Sierra Nelson, M.S.

Research Associate I and Sociology Doctoral Candidate

Lauren E. Brown

Research Associate I

Megan Stubbs-Richardson, PhD

Director of DS3 Laboratory, Assistant Research Professor

Ben Porter, PhD

Assistant Professor

Sujan Ranjan Anreddy, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Karissa Bergene

Assistant Director of Research Operations

Arthur G. Cosby, PhD

William L. Giles Distinguished Professor

Cindy L. Bethel, PhD

Professor

Ed Swan, PhD

Professor

Charlie Schloemer

Systems Administrator

MacKenzie Paul

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Terri Hernandez, PhD

Assistant Professor

Maxwell Perkins

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Gina Rico Mendez, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

John F. Edwards, PhD

Research Professor

Jessica Collier, PhD

Assistant Professor

Jessica R. Collier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University. Her research investigates how digital technologies, partisan biases, and (mis)information influence political attitudes and behaviors. Her work has been published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, International Journal of Communication, Digital Journalism, among others.

Prior to joining the faculty at Mississippi State, Dr. Collier completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. At UT-Austin, she also received her Ph.D. in Communication Studies, with a focus on political communication. She holds an M.A. in Mass Communication from UNC-Chapel Hill and B.A. degrees in Psychology and Government from the University of Virginia.

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6711-7922

Anna Gjika, PhD

Assistant Professor

Anna Gjika, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Sociology at SUNY New Paltz, where she teaches courses in criminology and also serves as Interim Director of the Criminology Concentration. Her research interests include exploring the relationships between gender, crime, youth, and technology, particularly as they pertain to gendered violence, and institutional responses to this issue. Her work has been published in Crime, Media, Culture and the International Journal for Crime, Justice, and Social Democracy, among others. Her book, When Rape Goes Viral: Youth and Sexual Assault in the Digital Age with the University of California Press is forthcoming in 2023.

Clay Hardwick

Program Manager

Clay Hardwick is program manager of the Center for Cyber Innovation (CCI) Open-Source Intelligence Lab (OSIL) at Mississippi State University (MSU), where he researches the application of open-source intelligence to our country’s most pressing national security challenges. Clay is a retired Army officer who spent his career working in intelligence and as a foreign area officer (FAO), primarily in the Middle East.Clay holds a Masters in Middle East Studies from University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in International Security Studies from the University of Arizona. After retiring from the Army but before working in the OSIL, Clay worked as the Senior Research Security Analyst in MSU’s Office of Research Compliance and Security (ORC&S), where he worked on implementation of National Security Presidential Memorandum-33, the federal government’s directive to strengthen protections of U.S. Government-sponsored research against foreign government interference and exploitation.

Chris Lightsey

Research Engineer

Chris Lightsey joined CCI in 2016 as a Research Engineer. He holds a B.S. degree in computer science from Mississippi State University. Chris has been involved in projects focusing on the areas of data visualization, machine learning, supercomputing, natural language processing, open-source intelligence, and computer security. He is currently working on machine learning applications in the analysis of publicly available data with a focus on social media and news analytics. He has worked on projects funded by the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

Sierra Nelson, M.S.

Research Associate I and Sociology Doctoral Candidate

Sierra Nelson is a Research Associate at the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center and MSU's High Performance Computing Center (HPC2). She is also a criminology doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her current projects and publications utilize open source intelligence and open source data to examine online extremism, online radicalization, and the spread of online propaganda. She is also engaged in research examining social media sentiments surrounding highly publicized events—including those pertaining to mass violence. Sierra's other research interests include school safety research, school bullying, spatial variations in suicide, and policy analysis. Sierra strives to create scalable research that can result in both impactful and sustainable social change.

Sierra Nelson received a B.S. in Social Justice and Criminology from Delta State University and an M.S. in Sociology from Mississippi State University. She expects to complete her Ph.D. in Sociology at Mississippi State University by the Spring of 2024.

Lauren E. Brown

Research Associate I

Lauren Brown is a Research Associate at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. She received her B.A. in Sociology and her B.S. in Psychology from Mississippi State in December of 2023. Her primary research interests include social determinants of physical and mental health, LGBT+ health and life outcomes, racial disparities in health and life outcomes, ADHD and Autism assessment, and impacts of AI and social media use. Her undergraduate honors thesis examined barriers to mental healthcare among college students using an intersectional approach.

Megan Stubbs-Richardson, PhD

Director of DS3 Laboratory, Assistant Research Professor

Dr. Megan Stubbs-Richardson is an Assistant Research Professor at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) of Mississippi State University. She directs the Data Science for Social Sciences (DS3) Laboratory at the SSRC and is leading one of the missions of the laboratory to identify victimization patterns via social media analytics. Megan has been a PI or Co-PI on projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the Department of Defense (DoD). She has been conducting social media data analyses at the SSRC since 2012. In her research, she uses novel digital data (e.g., Social Media, Google Correlate, Ngram, Google Street View) to examine societal trends, crime patterns, and changes in the use of various crime prevention techniques.  She has additionally led a team to identify emotions expressed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic using 10 social media and forum platforms for an NSF funded project. Megan is also interested in school safety research regarding bullying victimization, perpetration, and responses to bullying in both online and offline settings. 

Ben Porter, PhD

Assistant Professor

Dr. Ben Porter is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology at Mississippi State University (formerly an Assistant Research Professor at the SSRC). He holds a PhD from University of Houston in Social Psychology with a minor in Psychological Statistics and Data Analysis. He has extensive experience in advanced data analytics including structural equation modeling, latent class analysis, missing data theory, and using data with complex structures.Ben’s recent research has focused on various health outcomes of military service members and veterans, particularly using social media as a data source. Additionally, he has several projects using large archival datasets to answer health questions in this domain.  

Sujan Ranjan Anreddy, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Dr. Sujan Anreddy joined SSRC in January 2018 as a computer specialist, and after completion of his Ph.D., he was named an assistant research professor. He worked on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant as Co-PI alongside computer science graduate and undergraduate students in building a comprehensive database that collects, stores, and analyzes content related to fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger associated with COVID-19 from social media and web-based forums. He is involved in developing data visualization products for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded project, “Child Health and Development Project”. He is currently managing the TRAPS portal(Tobacco Reporting and Progressive System) that helps Tobacco Control program evaluators and grantees manage their activities.
Additionally, given his expertise in data visualization, he provides the SSRC with the capacity to develop data dashboards and interactive visualizations. He holds a doctorate degree in Computer Science from Mississippi State University with a specialization in data visualization. His expertise and research interests include applying and evaluating machine learning algorithms used for linking administrative records and building visual patterns using interactive visualization techniques to help analysts explore, identify, and comprehend big data features at multiple levels.

 

Karissa Bergene

Assistant Director of Research Operations

Karissa Bergene is the Assistant Director of Research Operations at George Mason University’s (Mason) Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities (C-RASC) and a doctoral student in the Public Policy and Administration Program at Mississippi State University (MSU). Karissa’s current projects investigate pandemic planning policies in the U.S.; the interplay of crime patterns with internet technology; estimation of the acceleration of global coastal population settlements; and mortality patterns in the U.S. population. Her intellectual interests focus on the intersection between public administration and research and development management, international management, emergency management, public policy, technology policy, and community resilience. 

Karissa holds a Master of Public Administration degree and Bachelor of Science-Criminal Justice degree from Appalachian State University. Before starting at Mason, she worked as a Research Associate II at the Social Science Research Center at MSU, as a public administrator in local government, and as an intellectual property administrator in the private sector.

Arthur G. Cosby, PhD

William L. Giles Distinguished Professor

Dr. Cosby is a team member of the Data Science for Social Sciences Laboratory (DS3).  His current research is following a number of substantive pathways that benefit from data science innovations.  With a group of colleagues, he is investigating the acceleration of human population along the coast of the earth based on the capabilities inherent in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s LandScan data.  With another group, he is researching the place-based social determinants of human mortality in the United States using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Compressed Mortality File.  He is also collaborating with projects that are informed by such data sources as Twitter, Google Trends and Google N-grams.

 

Cindy L. Bethel, PhD

Professor

Cindy L. Bethel, Ph.D. (IEEE and ACM Senior Member) is a professor in the computer science and engineering department and holds the Billie J. Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering at Mississippi State University (MSU). She was the 2019 U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar sponsored by the University of Technology Sydney. She is the Director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) lab and a Research Fellow with the MSU Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Human Performance Group, and the MSU Social Science Research Center. She is a lifetime member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in the Bagley College of Engineering at MSU. She also was awarded the 2014-2015 ASEE New Faculty Research Award for Teaching. Cindy was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the Computing Research Association. She was also named by Analytics Insight as one of the "Worlds 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics." She has been active in her professional research community serving on the Steering Committee for the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). She will serve as the upcoming General Co-Chair for the HRI Conference in 2021 in Boulder, CO. She was an NSF/CRA/CCC Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Social Robotics Laboratory at Yale University. From 2005 - 2008, she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and was the recipient of the 2008 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Graduate Fellowship. She graduated in August 2009 with her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of South Florida. Her research interests include human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Her research focuses on applications associated with robotic therapeutic support, information gathering from children, and the use of robots for law enforcement, search and rescue, and the military.

  

Ed Swan, PhD

Professor

Dr. J. Edward Swan II is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Mississippi State University.  He holds a B.S. (1989) degree in computer science from Auburn University and M.S. (1992) and Ph.D. (1997) degrees in computer science from Ohio State University, where he studied computer graphics and human-computer interaction.  Before joining Mississippi State University in 2004, he spent seven years as a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Swan's research has centered on the topics of augmented and virtual reality, perception, human-computer interaction, human factors, empirical methods, computer graphics, and visualization.  Currently, he is studying the perception and technology required to give virtual objects definite spatial locations, including depth and layout perception and depth presentation methods, as well as empirical techniques for evaluating and validating visualizations.  His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Office of Naval Research.  Dr. Swan is a member of ACM, IEEE, the IEEE Computer Society, and ASEE.  In 2017 and 2018, he served as Interim Department Head of Computer Science and Engineering at Mississippi State University.



 

Charlie Schloemer

Systems Administrator

Charlie Schloemer is the Systems Administrator at SSRC, helping to guide the design and implementation of DS3's computers, networks, and data security.  He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi. 

MacKenzie Paul

Undergraduate Research Assistant

MacKenzie Paul is an Undergraduate Research Assistant working for the Social Science Research Center. In addition to her work in the DS3 lab, MacKenzie is leading projects examining religion and counseling efficacy in Mississippi and the social network effect on young adult romantic relationships. She will graduate as a double major in psychology and philosophy, with a concentration in religion, in Spring 2023.

Terri Hernandez, PhD

Assistant Professor

Terri N. Hernandez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, teaches public relations courses in the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University. Her research examines inter/intragroup relations, consumer behavior, and social and digital media as an intersection to organization-public relationships and branding. Her work has been published in the Journal of Consumer MarketingSocial Media and Society, and Computers & Human Behavior, among others.

Maxwell Perkins

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Maxwell Perkins is an Undergraduate Research Assistant and a Senior Information Systems Student at Mississippi State University. His professional interests seek to utilize computer software to analyze and facilitate business operations. Maxwell strives to be on the frontlines of understanding the overflow of company data as a data scientist.

Gina Rico Mendez, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Dr. Gina Rico Mendez is a Research Assistant Professor and Research Fellow at the Mississippi State University-Social Science Research Center. Prior to her current appointment, she was the Developmental Evaluator of the USAID-funded Complexity-Aware Monitoring and Evaluation (C-AME) of the Reconciliation Activity in Colombia. Her research focuses on the analysis of food systems, rural development, and gender and social inclusion. She has more than ten years of experience working with communities, public organizations, and academic institutions in Latin America, North America, and Africa in areas such as evidence-based Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL), policy, and institutional/systems analysis.

Dr. Rico Mendez received a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Habitat (Human Settlement Studies) from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. She completed her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration at Mississippi State University under a Fulbright scholarship.

   

John F. Edwards, PhD

Research Professor

Dr. John F. Edwards directs the Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) at the Social Science Research Center. The SRL conducts telephone, web, mail, and mixed mode surveys with respondent pools ranging from small targeted groups to large scale, probability-based, national samples of the general population. The survey projects cover a broad range of research topics such as healthcare, education, behavioral risk factors, children’s wellbeing, quality of life, consumer satisfaction, disaster response, and the state of the economy. For telephone-based surveys, Dr. Edwards manages a state-of-the-art call center with 30 interviewer stations and 70 employees. The laboratory utilizes a robust CATI (computer-assisted-telephone-interviewing) system and the data collection process is based on rigorous sampling methodology. The SRL’s client base includes: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, in addition to numerous NGOs, state level agencies, and private sector businesses. During his tenure as director of the SRL, Dr. Edwards has led the data collection efforts for over 300 research projects. 

Dr. Edwards regularly collaborates with other scientists to continuously explore emerging datasets. Most recently, he has been involved in a number of interdisciplinary efforts to provide researchers with access to social media data as a source of public communications related to specific events or research topics. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Edwards has taught courses in Measurement and Evaluation, Behavioral Science Writing, and Personality Theory for the Educational Psychology Department at Mississippi State University. 

Dr. Edwards received a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Loyola University in New Orleans, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of New Orleans, a Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from Mississippi State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Psychology from Mississippi State University.

 

Phone

(662) 325-2689

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