Civil engineering student selected to inaugural Kirk Scholars class

September 23, 2020

A Mississippi State civil engineering student is one of just five college students from across the country to be named to the first class of Kirk Scholars by the Asphalt Institute Foundation.

MSU civil engineering major Jessica Lewis

Jessica Lewis, a senior civil engineering major in Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering, is one of just five students selected as an inaugural Kirk Scholar.

Jessica Lewis, a senior in the Bagley College of Engineering, will receive a scholarship from the Asphalt Institute Foundation as part of her recognition. She was selected for her research in asphalt pavements and other transportation infrastructure projects. As an undergraduate research assistant, advised by Isaac L. Howard, Lewis has logged approximately 1,000 hours of research as part of MSU’s Construction Materials Research Center.

“I am so honored to receive this award,” Lewis said. “It is pleasing to know that working hard and putting forth your best effort can be recognized. I hope these awards, and other research efforts, will in time allow me to make personal connections with industry professionals that provide support for further research collaborations and projects.”

As part of her work with the CMRC, Lewis worked on asphalt research that was used to brief the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for possible consideration as a national standard test method.

“I first met Jessica at a user/producer group meeting with her advisor last November,” said Pete Grass, president of the Asphalt Institute. “She helped him with interactive parts of his presentation and was really poised for her age. In the months that have followed, her potential keeps rising. I know several people that have come through this program, and her hard work demonstrates her commitment not only to the rigors of the engineering profession but to her bright future in the paving industry.”

The Kirk Scholars program is part of the newly formed Bill and Shireen Kirk Scholarship Fund and is administered through the Asphalt Institute Foundation. The scholarship is awarded annually to third or fourth year undergraduate, masters or doctoral students studying business, chemistry, civil engineering, construction management, marketing or sales.

“Jessica’s resume and passion certainly stood out in a nationally competitive pool, which isn’t easy to do early on in a career,” said Bill Kirk, chief executive officer of Associated Asphalt. “She definitely represents the next generation workforce that the asphalt industry is looking for.”

A native of New Orleans, Lewis also recently received the Undergraduate Pavements Researcher Award from MSU’s civil and environmental engineering department. She has also been a member of IDEAL Woman, an all-female leadership and community service organization at Mississippi State that focuses on academic excellence, professional development, and community service.

The Bagley College of Engineering is online at and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube at @msuengineering.

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By Abbie Kate Hancock & Philip Allison