Knowles Associate Professor Chris Easley, from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is the winner of the 2016 COSAM Young Faculty Scholar Award. This award is in recognition of his outstanding scholarly work to date and his promise for the future.
JACS Article for Merner Group
Crayfish, crawfish, crawdad, mudbug – for most people, these names refer to a delectable crustacean commonly served boiled. For two Auburn University scientists, a crayfish is an enigmatic creature with a genetic heritage that is as much mysterious as it is fascinating.
A team of researchers, led by Chris Hamilton, former doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula and named it after legendary singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.
A rise in global terrorism in past decades has led to increased preparedness by first responders, especially with respect to the threat of radiologic terrorism. A terrorist attack involving radioactive materials, or any radiation accident for that matter, requires first responders to quickly and efficiently detect and identify harmful agents. Experts are consistently inventing new and better methods of detection, and on the front line of this effort is Anne Gorden, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
With a National Science Foundation grant secured by Auburn University faculty, undergraduate students at Auburn will design, build and test two CubeSat satellites that will launch into space in 2018.
Assistant Professor Wendy Hood of the Department of Biological Sciences received a five-year, $1,032,465 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for her proposal, “Effects of mitohormesis on reproduction and longevity.” The Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Ami DuBois, a Ph.D. graduate of the Department of Physics, has been highlighted by the American Geophysical Union journals for her research on laboratory simulations of boundary layers in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Jonathan Armbruster, biological sciences professor and curator of fishes for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has named a previously unknown species of catfish in honor of the enigmatic Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo. The suckermouth armored catfish, Peckoltia greedoi, was found along the Gurupi River in Brazil and is known physically for its large, dark eyes, sucker mouth and protruding bristles. Armbruster, along with David Werneke, Milton Tan and Chris Hamilton, all of the Department of Biological Sciences, were examining the specimen for characteristics when they made the connection.
Assistant Research Professor Joonyul Kim, working with Associate Professor Christopher Easley, will present his work at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS 2015). Their presentation was selected as a finalist for the SLAS Innovation Award, a $10,000 cash award given to recognize highly innovative techniques developed in academic or industrial laboratories. Dr. Kim's presentation, entitled "Zero Background in Homogeneous Proximity Assays Using Thermofluorimetric Analysis (TFA) for Quantitation of Attomole Protein Levels in Serum," has been highlighted in the SLAS conference program and website. http://slas2015.org/awards/innovationAward.cfm
In 2009, Overtoun Jenda, associate provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, attended a conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, held by the Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA). As the only representative from the United States, Jenda made a promise that he would increase the presence of American mathematical research in Africa, and capitalize on an opportunity to create U.S.-Africa collaboration through Auburn University and SAMSA. When he returned to Auburn, Jenda, along with Ash Abebe, A.J. Meir and Peter Johnson of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, together with southern Africa mathematicians, began to brainstorm and developed what would become the Masamu Program, meaning mathematics in the southern African region.
Jonathan Armbruster, of the Department of Biological Sciences, received a grant from the Coypu Foundation Trust to study the fish fauna of the upper Ireng River in Guyana, a country in Northern South America formerly known as British Guiana. Armbruster is currently studying when fishes moved into or became isolated within the high Pakaraima Mountains and the diversity of fishes there.
A recent manuscript from Prof. Christopher Easley’s research group (group page)—in collaboration with Prof. Robert Judd’s group at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine—was featured on the front cover (link) in the latest issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analyst. The article is entitled “A microfluidic interface for the culture and sampling of adiponectin from primary adipocytes,” and the work was supported by a research grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/an/c4an01725k
A recent manuscript from Prof. Christopher Easley’s research group—in collaboration with Prof. Robert Judd’s group at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine—was selected as a “Hot Article” by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analyst. The article is entitled “A microfluidic interface for the culture and sampling of adiponectin from primary adipocytes” and is currently featured on the journal’s blog (http://blogs.rsc.org/an/). Free access will be provided to readers for the next several weeks. http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2015/AN/C4AN01725K
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The results are in on Deepwater Horizon oil spill research conducted by an Auburn University postdoctoral researcher, and her study indicates microscopic animals at the base of the food web that were harmed during the 2010 oil spill have recovered. The researcher, Pamela Brannock of the Department of Biological Sciences in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, together with a team from Auburn Professor Kenneth Halanych’s lab and the University of Texas San Antonio, gathered and analyzed sediment samples taken before and after the oil reached Dauphin Island. The samples provided a basis for comparison to assess how the microscopic communities of marine invertebrates that live between the sand grains, or meiofauna, fared the oil spill.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Alabama could potentially be the new home of the Argentine Black and White Tegu, a large predatory lizard reaching 4 feet in length and more than 10 pounds. The tegus, native to South America, have made their way to southern Florida where they are rapidly flourishing. The lizards are known to eat small mammals, birds and most importantly, other reptile eggs, which presents a threat to alligators and the rare gopher tortoise, both native to the Southeast.
Professors James Saunders, Ming-Kuo Lee, and Ashraf Uddin, all of the Department of Geology and Geography, recently received a $345,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled, “Metal(loid) Sequestration by Natural Bacterial Sulfate Reduction and Field-Scale Biostimulation.” The researchers will evaluate if indigenous sulfate-reducing bacteria can be stimulated to make nanoparticle biominerals of iron sulfides that have the capacity to remove arsenic from contaminated groundwater. Two sites will be evaluated: an industrial site in Florida that is routinely doused with arsenic-rich pesticides; and an alluvial aquifer in Macon County, Ala., where arsenic contaminates groundwater by a natural biogeochemical process. The project was funded jointly by the Environmental Engineering and Low-Temperature Geochemistry and Geobiology programs at NSF.
If Natasha Narayanan’s performance at the 2014 Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society is any indication of what lies ahead in her academic and professional career, she is headed toward a consummate future. Narayanan, a COSAM sophomore and Honors College student majoring in biochemistry, gave an oral presentation titled, “Streamlined Chemical Synthesis of Tricyclic Nucleic Acid Analogues for Antisense Technology” during the undergraduate symposium portion of the conference. In recognition of both her research and eloquence, Narayanan’s talk was selected as the best oral presentation in the organic chemistry division out of 60 total presenters.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – A group of Auburn researchers has published a study that could overturn some long-held paradigms regarding spider web evolution. Because of similarities in behaviors associated with web construction and the complicated nature of the webs, it has long been thought that all orb-weaving spiders shared a common ancestor. The study shows that spiders that weave orb-shaped webs are not all closely related and that the orb web was likely not the pinnacle of web evolution.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY—An Auburn University research team has produced a new drug candidate that could one day slow or even stop the deadly Ebola virus. The discovery will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. The group, led by professor of chemistry and biochemistry Stewart Schneller, has designed a compound aimed at reversing the immune-blocking abilities of certain viruses, including Ebola. “In simple terms, the Ebola virus has the ability to turn off the body’s natural immune response,” Schneller said. “We have made a small tweak in compound structure that will turn that response back on.”
An Auburn graduate student and former "Gator Boy" who wrestled with alligators in Eufaula continues his research in Costa Rica; this time, with crocodiles. "In terms of behavior, crocodiles seem to be a lot gnarlier than alligators," said Chris Murray, a member of the Craig Guyer lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, who is investigating the physiological and ecological factors that affect crocodilians within that country. "They're larger, and don't tire out nearly as fast, if ever, in some instances. They have a lot of fight and they're more nimble and flexible than your average alligator." He is seeking solutions for crocodile population issues identified by a Costa Rican commission that studies the animals.
Dr. Wendy Hood’s research on the milk composition in the naked-rat and Hood and Dr. Amy Skibiel’s research on evolution of milk composition were recently featured in Science News, Smithsonian Magazine, SPLASH! Milk Science Update, and the blog Mammals Suck…Milk!
For more than a century, researchers have believed that sponges represented the earliest living lineages of the animal tree. Thanks to modern genomic sequencing techniques, scientists in Auburn's College of Sciences and Mathematics discovered that ctenophores, or comb jellies, are actually at the base of the animal kingdom. The research results have been published in the journal Nature and can be read at this link. "The placement of comb jellies at the base of the animal tree rewrites some of our very basic understanding of how animals first evolved on this planet," said Kenneth Halanych, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn. "The new genomic data overturns 150 years of scientific theories about the early evolution of animals." Halanych and the team of scientists, including Kevin Kocot, postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn, along with an international team of scientists led by Leonid Moroz, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida, have studied the complete genome of a comb jelly, Pleurobrachia bachei, known as the "Pacific sea gooseberry." They were able to show that the species is remarkably distinct from other animals in that the genetic mechanisms used in ctenophore nerves and muscles are different from those seen in other animals.
From May 19-23 Auburn will host 31 researchers representing nine institutions in the U.S., Canada and Germany participating in a genomic analysis workshop or “Bioinformatics Bootcamp”. Initiated by the NSF-funded WormNet2 grant, the workshop will train participants in various aspects of next-generation DNA sequencing data manipulation including genome mapping, assembly, annotation and phylogenomic analyses.
“Warning!” reads the course description, “Mega-mammals, crocodiles, snakes, thorns, baboons, etc. may be abundant at many of the sites. Please be very careful!” The course, Field Biology and Ecology, provides one of the latest study abroad opportunities offered at Auburn University. Last summer during the inaugural course, 10 Auburn students ventured to Swaziland and South Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime, hands-on, research experience, guided by Biological Sciences professors Troy Best and Michael Wooten.
Two Auburn University professors have developed a disease-detection technology that could be the beginning of handheld, point-of-care devices – a breakthrough that would let health care professionals, first responders and even individuals quickly do blood tests for a variety of illnesses and conditions. Associate Professor Christopher J. Easley and Professor Curtis Shannon, both in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, led the research team that published its results in the March 27 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Edward Thomas, Jr. (pictured left), the Lawrence C. Wit Professor, and associate professor Uwe Konopka (pictured below), both of the Plasma Sciences Laboratory in the Department of Physics, were awarded two new grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation totaling $765,000 for the project titled, “The Physics of Magnetized Dusty Plasmas.”
Kaijun Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, received a three-year, $240,444 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. The project, “An Integrated Study of Fast Magnetosconic Waves in the Radiation Belts,” aims to comprehensively understand the excitation of fast magnetosonic waves, or “equatorial noise,” and their interactions with relativistic electrons in radiation belts. Liu and his team will use satellite data analysis, linear kinetic dispersion theory, kinetic plasma simulations, and test-particle computations to carry out an integrated study.
Physics professor Michael Bozack received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for research addressing the reliability of Sn-Ag-Cu (SAC) lead-free solder alloys under harsh environmental conditions. The work follows a successful world-wide effort to develop alternative, environmentally friendly materials for electronics packaging. Currently, SAC alloys have replaced conventional lead-bearing solder alloys in most consumer electronics.
Sarit Dhar, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, was awarded a $598,777 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation program. The grant will support collaborative research between Auburn University and industry partners CoolCAD Electronics, LLC, in College Park Md., and United Silicon Carbide, Inc., in Monmouoth Junction, N.J. CoolCAD Electronics performs design, analysis and prototyping for cryogenic SiC and IR electronics, and United Silicon Carbide works on the design, fabrication and commercialization of SiC technologies.
Professor Mike Fogle received a one-year grant in the amount of $21,511 from the National Science Foundation's Catalyzing New International Collaborations program, which is funded through the Office of International Science and Engineering. The grant, titled, "U.S.-Sweden Planning Visit: Research on the Dynamics of Complex Systems with Ion Storage Rings," will cover travel costs for Fogle and a graduate student to travel to Stockholm, Sweden, to develop a collaboration with Richard Thomas, a research associate at Stockholm University. Thomas' research group in Stockholm recently completed construction of a new, state-of-the-art ion storage ring facility, the Double Electrostatic Ion Ring Experiment, which will be used to investigate the detailed structure and dynamics of molecular systems under precisely controlled interaction conditions. No devices of this type exist in the U.S.
Justin C. Havird and Scott R. Santos, both of the Department of Biological Sciences, are the recipients of a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology. The research proposal is titled, "Assessing evolution of euryhalinity in anchialine shrimps," and the funding will allow Havird and Santos to further investigate the evolution of the molecular mechanisms of osmoregulation in shrimp species from coastal ponds and pools. According to Havird, the molecular mechanisms of ionic and salt regulation in crustaceans have only been characterized for a narrow range of species, mainly crabs with a marine ancestry.
Jason Bond, professor of biological sciences and director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, received a three-year, $548,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology for his research proposal titled, "Millipede Systematics: Developing phylogenomic, classification, and taxonomic resources for the future." The grant funding will allow Bond to conduct research on millipedes which are in the arthropod class Diplopoda, comprising some 12,000 described species distributed worldwide in nearly every biome. According to Bond, the group has a deep evolutionary history that includes some of the first terrestrial animals, dating from the mid-Silurian over 400 million years ago. Despite their ecological importance as decomposers in forests, wealth of diversity with an estimated 20,000 to 80,000 species, and prominence as chemical warriors owing to their vast array of defense secretions, the group is woefully understudied. Bond and his team will revise the current ordinal and family-level classification systems using a modern phylogenomic framework based on next-generation sequence data and then employ these data to explore the evolution of chemical defense secretions and their precursors.
Narendra Singh, professor of biological sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in India from August to December 2013 at SRM University. Singh's research and teaching involves the molecular biology of stress tolerance in plants, genetic manipulation of higher fungi, and edible vaccines that can be mixed with feed to ward off diseases that cause massive damage to the poultry industry. In India, he will teach and co-teach graduate courses in plant molecular biology and biotechnology, and offer a senior seminar course for undergraduate students. He plans to focus his research on the elucidation of mechanism of action of a plant protein he discovered in 1985 and named osmotin.
James Saunders, professor in the Department of Geology and Geography, received a three-year National Science Foundation grant for his research project titled, "Transport and Deposition of Metallic Nanoparticles as a Hydrothermal Ore-forming Process." The grant is supported by the Petrology and Geochemistry program and will allow Saunders to expand his research in the realm of metallic nanoparticle transport, particularly those involved in the formation of shallow deposits of gold and silver, which were the type of precious-metal ores commonly mined in the western U.S. in the 1800s.
Has there ever been life on Mars? Shawn Wright, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geology and Geography suggests we can only answer that question by looking in the right places, including deep craters on Mars.
Professor Douglas Goodwin and Professor Angela Calderon of Pharmacal Sciences have received funding for their Internal Grant Proposal, “Toward new antitubercular drugs: Uncovering mechanistically appropriate inhibitors of Mycobacterium tuberculosis shikimate kinase from natural products”.
On Jan. 15, a dinner was held in recognition of Chris Rodger, the inaugural recipient of the Logan Chair, established by Don and Sandy Logan. Rodger is the associate dean for research and graduate studies for COSAM. The Logan Chair is designed to support superior faculty of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics who possess academic leadership in the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and university and professional service, including outreach activities, within the department, with each category weighted equally. Additionally, the recipient of the Logan Chair is expected to work to strengthen and enhance mathematics, and serve as a positive role model for students and colleagues.
Prof. Francis Robicheaux is co-author of a study published in the Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics that describes a method for cooling trapped antihydrogen which they believe could provide ‘a major experimental advantage’ and help to map the mysterious properties of antimatter that have to date remained elusive.
On Jan. 1, a team of scientists from Auburn University's College of Sciences and Mathematics will embark on a research cruise to one of the world's most secluded and mysterious places, Antarctica. The voyage will last approximately six weeks, during which time the team will explore the genetic diversity of marine organisms found in the waters surrounding Earth's southernmost continent.
Luke Marzen, professor in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, and Art Chappelka, professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, spurred collaboration between Auburn University and the U.S. Geological Survey Alabama Water Science Center to produce an exact, three-dimensional model of the Toomer’s oaks. The model provided both a means of measuring the overall health of the trees, as well as documentation of the historic oaks. It was produced using a tripod-mounted laser scanner, also known as terrestrial light detection and ranging, or T-LiDAR. The T-LiDAR sends out a laser that scans anything within range and produces a three-dimensional replica.
Two researchers in Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics have delivered preliminary results of ongoing research into the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and results indicate potentially serious consequences for the environment. The researchers, Ming-Kuo Lee, Robert B. Cook professor of geology, and Ken Halanych, alumni professor of biological sciences, carried out two separate projects surveying different regions in the gulf, and in each location, effects of the oil spill are persistent. The research suggests the oil spill may have caused massive harm to the environment at a microscopic level, which in turn could have serious repercussions on the food chain in the long term.
Dr. Christopher Easley has received an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled “Interrogating Dynamics of Acute Secretion of Adiponectin Multimers from Adipose Tissue” in collaboration with Dr. Robert Judd, Associate Professor of Pharmacology.