Navy Sec Ray Mabus meets with college officials in Mississippi - - Jackson, MS

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus meets with college officials in Mississippi

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By  Julie Straw - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was in Jackson Friday meeting with Mississippi university and community college officials.  President Barack Obama appointed him to oversee the Gulf Coast's recovery and restoration from the BP oil spill.

"How do we make sure the gulf is whole economically?  How do we make sure the gulf is whole environmentally?" asked Secretary Mabus.  Those are the questions he is working with Mississippi's universities and community colleges to find answers for.

"Research that our institutions of higher learning can do, the job skill training and retraining our community colleges can do will be absolutely crucial," said Mabus.

As BP monitors the containment cap over the well, research is cranking up at colleges all across the state. 

Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds said the schools see the work as a responsibility to the people of Mississippi and the country. "Research needs are going to be enormous over the next decade," said Dr. Bounds.  "The real work begins on research in terms of figuring out what the impact is now that we carefully understand the magnitude of the spill."

Institutions of higher learning are already making great strides researching the economic and environmental impact of the oil in the gulf.  The FDA just gave Mississippi State University's chemical lab approval for a new procedure to analyze collected oil and tissue samples.

"The process is going to allow a number of other labs to do this procedure and to do it in a much more cost effective and timely manner so that we can get answers back to people on whether the food products, the shellfish and other food products are in fact safe to eat," said Dr. David Shaw, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Mississippi State University.

The research spans many issues including mental health.  For example, Mississippi State is already working to help families deal with added stress due to the spill.  Students are also volunteering their time to help.

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