"I've made my living and my livelihood studying what is in, on, and underneath the Earth's surface," said Easson, who became director of the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute at the University of Mississippi in January. Less than two months in the position, he appeared before the Mississippi Legislature to appeal for leniency as severe state budget cuts are proposed and finalized.
"MMRI operations have been vital to the state's economic growth," Easson said. "We need funding to remain as close to current levels as possible in order to continue progress."
Before assuming his new role, Easson was department chair and associate professor of geology and geological engineering at UM. His research at Ole Miss has focused on the various aspects of remote sensing and geographic information system development. Before joining the UM faculty, he was a staff geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
"Dr. Easson is the ideal person to lead the institute," said Alice Clark, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. "His broad experience and expertise coupled with his visionary leadership will advance the institute's role as a vital resource for Mississippi, continuing the tradition of excellence that the late Dr. Bob Woolsey established for MMRI."
Easson, who is also founder of the UM Geoinformatics Center and executive director of the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions, said his combined duties are both clearly defined and being developed.
"As director, I lead research in the energy, marine, mineral, environmental and geospatial information areas," he said. "I am also to enhance the cooperative relationships between MMRI staff, academic departments, faculty and students."
Easson is "uniquely qualified to lead" MMRI research that, hopefully, stimulates the economy, said Alexander H.D. Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. "He has established the strong foundation of skills necessary to lead this diverse group of scientists and engineers," Cheng added.
Easson earned his doctorate from the University of Missouri at Rolla. He also has a master's degree from the University of Missouri and a bachelor's degree from Southwest Missouri State University.
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning created MMRI in 1972 to coordinate mineral-related research in the state. The mission remains to provide both public and private sectors with expertise to help make responsible decisions regarding Mississippi's and the nation's resources and environmental well-being.
The institute pursues research projects that address contemporary issues, provide educational and practical training to college students who work on these projects, provide results to interested parties in industry, government and academia, and engage in community service activities.
"Since its creation almost 38 years ago, MMRI has served the state of Mississippi by leading the effort to better understand the challenges and opportunities related to our natural resources," Clark said. "The institute's work related to Mississippi's energy resources is more important than ever."
While MMRI faces huge challenges, Easson said he is not intimidated by his new role.
"Everything I've done in my career so far has led me to my current position," Easson said. "I'm always ready to dig a little deeper into the endless possibilities and opportunities presented daily."
For more information about MMRI, visit mmri.olemiss.edu/Home.aspx or call 662-915-7320.