COSAM endowed positions announced
COSAM announced the recipients of several endowed positions: Professor Andras Bezdek of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was named the C. Harry Knowles Professor for Research Leadership in Mathematics Instruction; Professor Ed Thomas of the Department of Physics, will be the inaugural recipient of the Lawrence C. Wit Professorship; and Professor Ken Halanych of the Department of Biological Sciences, will be the inaugural recipient of the Stewart W. Schneller Chair. Congratulations to these three fine individuals, all of whom will begin their terms Oct. 1, 2012. They have earned their respective recognition, and COSAM looks forward to their continued outstanding leadership in research, instruction and outreach/service.
Biological Sciences News:
Oil spill causes massive harm to microscopic creatures
Oiled seabirds and turtles may have been the dominant images of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but new research indicates there was also massive harm to microscopic creatures in coastal sands, lasting months after beaches appeared superficially clean.
Small organisms that live in the sediment and between sand grains underwent dramatic shifts after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, research by Auburn University’s Molette Biology Laboratory for Environmental and Climate Change Studies has shown. Analysis of five sites along the Alabama Coast before, and several months after oiling is reported in the June 6, 2012 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
Ken Halanych, professor of biological sciences and co-author of the study, explained that these communities are particularly important at the base of the food chain and serve to couple energy flow and nutrients between the water column and sediment. Typically these communities are filled with a diversity of small organisms including various bacteria, nematodes, copepods and protists. However, samples collected in September 2010, after the oil spill, were dominated by fungi, which are often associated with decomposition, and showed reduced overall organismal diversity. In particular, the fungal species found have previously been associated with hydrocarbons, suggesting that oiling may have been more significant than was noticeable to the eye.
“Because these environments looked relatively normal after the spill, the data suggests that many impacts of the spill were potentially hidden from plain view," Halanych said. "Small perturbations to the environment or food web can often have unexpected effects a long time after the initial event.”
Research for the multi-institutional project was funded through the National Science Foundation’s RAPID program for quick-response research. Collaborators included: postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis Genome Center and co-author of the study, Holly Bik; Professor Kelly Thomas of the University of New Hampshire; and Jyotsna Sharma of the University of Texas at San Antonio. The collaborative effort employed cutting-edge environmental sequencing approaches and morphological taxonomy to assess changes in diversity.
The team is continuing research on these sites to assess potential ecological impacts of hydrocarbons over longer time scales. For more information, contact Halanych via email at email@example.com.
Students secure competitive internships
Three Auburn University undergraduate students, two of which are COSAM students, are gaining hands-on experience in the field of biotechnology this summer. Through the BioTrain Internship program, COSAM biomedical sciences students Christopher Smith and William Teachy, along with engineering student Christina Pickering, are spending eight weeks at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology gaining valuable experience in their areas of interest. The competitive internship began June 4, and places students in real-world environments.
“BioTrain provides tremendous opportunities to students interested in a career in the biotechnology industry,” said HudsonAlpha’s coordinator of educational outreach, Adam Hott, Ed.D. “Each internship opportunity is crafted with specific skill sets in mind and will benefit students based on their area of interest and concentration. BioTrain is designed to support future leaders in the biotechnology field.”
Internships include science, biology and genomic areas, as well as communications, education and marketing positions. Some students will work alongside HudsonAlpha researchers, faculty investigators or staff, while others will work with employees of companies located with HudsonAlpha on the CRP Biotechnology Campus. All interns gain important knowledge about collaboration and networking.
Smith is interning in the lab of Sara Cooper, Ph.D., HudsonAlpha faculty investigator, in metabolomics, and Teachey is completing a laboratory internship with Conversant Bio.
Since the inception of BioTrain in 2009, more than 1,300 students have applied with 88 students being accepted into the program. More than 300 students from across the state applied this year. These students are part of an elite group selected for the program as less than 10 percent of the 2012 applicants successfully secured a BioTrain internship. Congratulations to Smith and Teachy!
Chemistry and Biochemistry News:
Easley awarded R01 grant from National Institutes of Health
Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population is considered overweight or obese by current criteria, and with diabetes incidence on the rise, lipid-lowering drugs are now widely used to treat hyperlipidemia and related effects. Emerging evidence shows that many of these drugs regulate the synthesis and secretion of adipose-tissue secreted proteins, or adipokines, which can have significant effects on insulin resistance. Yet, there is limited understanding of adipokine secretion dynamics and how insulin resistance is affected by these pharmacological treatments.
Christopher Easley, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, recently received a Research Project Grant, or R01 grant, in the amount of $961,358 from the National Institutes of Health. Easley’s R01 grant will support his continuing diabetes research into the development of microanalytical methods to study rapid secretion of adipokines from small samples of tissue. These tools will permit him and his collaborator, Robert Judd, associate professor of pharmacology, to investigate the timing of rapid adipokine secretion. In the future, these results could help to better inform the timing of drug administration to patients taking lipid-lowering drugs or help uncover molecular and physiological mechanisms of acute adipokine secretion. The title of the grant is “Interrogating Dynamics of Acute Secretion of Adiponectin Multimers from Adipose Tissue.”
The R01 grant is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH, and it specifically provides support for health-related research and development. For more information on Easley, see the archived story, which includes video, here.
For further information, visit his website.
Mathematics and Statistics News:
Bezdek featured for collaborative work
For the past three years, Mathematics Professor András Bezdek has been collaborating with students in industrial design, specifically with professor and program chair Bret Smith's third-year product design studios, to create hands-on mathematical equations. The goal is to show how students will learn mathematical facts more easily and at a deeper level through informal hands-on experiments. Pictured is Bezdek (left) watching a student demonstrate one of the hands-on equation concepts. A story about the work is featured on the Auburn homepage. To read the story, which includes video, click here.
Undergraduate invited to speak at national conference
Senior Patrick Donnan was invited to give a talk at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in Orange County, Calif., that was held June 4 - 8. Donnan, who is double majoring in physics and music, gave a presentation during the undergraduate session of the national meeting titled, “Calculations of Hyperfine Antihydrogen Spectroscopy.”
His research faculty mentor is Physics Professor Francis Robicheaux, who co-authored the abstract that was presented for the meeting. Robicheaux is a member of an international team of scientists that made a scientific breakthrough by trapping and holding the anti-matter version of the hydrogen atom. In 2011, the team, known as ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus), reported trapped antihydrogen atoms in the ground state, placing spectroscopic measurements of antihydrogen within experimental reach. Donnan discussed the research he conducts with Robicheaux’s group, where they perform simulations for hyperfine spectroscopy of antihydrogen contained in a Penning-Malmberg trap. To learn more, click here.
Auburn scientist demonstrates new imaging technique
An international team of researchers, led by COSAM Physics Professor Allen Landers and William McCurdy of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis, used a technique called cold-target recoil-ion momentum spectroscopy to image methane molecules. The technique demonstrates a new way to obtain three-dimensional images of molecules with precise measurements of electrons influenced by the geometry of the molecule's chemical bonds. The finding opens the prospect of being able to capture changes in bond geometry during a chemical reaction. Results of the research were published in Physical Review Letters and highlighted in Chemistry World, a British publication for the Royal Society. The summary article can be read here.
For more information on Landers, visit his website.
Team conducts large-scale calculations in computational atomic and molecular collision physics
A group of scientists from Auburn University led an international team on various research projects involving large-scale computational atomic and molecular collision calculations. Representing Auburn from the Department of Physics are Professor Michael S. Pindzola, Professor Francis J. Robicheaux, Associate Professor Stuart D. Loch, and Assistant Research Professor Connor P. Ballance. The collision calculations support: synchrotron light source experiments at SLAC in California and PETRA in Germany; free electron laser experiments at FLASH in Germany; low energy antiproton collision experiments at CERN in Switzerland; controlled fusion experiments at ITER in France; and astrophysical observations using the HUBBLE and XMM-Newton telescopes. The various research projects are made possible through the awards of time on some of the largest supercomputers in the world. In January 2012, they received a U.S. Department of Energy award of 12,400,000 core-hours on the Cray XE6 at NERSC in California, ranked 16th in the world. In July 2012, they received a National Science Foundation award of 8,000,000 core-hours on the Cray XT5 at NICS in Tennessee, ranked 21st in the world. In April 2012, they submitted an EU proposal for 30,000,000 core-hours on the Cray XE6 at HWW in Germany, ranked 24th in the world. In June 2012, they submitted a U.S. Department of Energy proposal for 30,000,000 core-hours on the Cray XK6 at NCCS in Tennessee, ranked sixth in the world. The estimated monetary value of the two annual awards, based on operations and computer hardware, is $1.02 million, while the value of the two proposals is $3 million.
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Diversity and Multicultural Affairs News:
16th annual Summer Bridge Program a success
COSAM’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosted the 16th annual Summer Bridge Program during the month of June. Summer Bridge is a four-week, residential program that engages highly motivated incoming freshmen from groups traditionally underrepresented in sciences, mathematics and engineering in activities that facilitate a successful transition from high school to the Auburn University campus. The program emphasizes academic enrichment, enhancement of study and time-management skills, community and network building, and career awareness. The major goal of the program is to provide pre-freshmen with the academic enrichment and social support needed to excel in their chosen career paths.
The 2012 Summer Bridge Program culminated in an awards luncheon on June 28, held at The Lexington Hotel University Convention Center. Dr. TaShawna Stokes was the keynote speaker for the luncheon (pictured middle). Stokes, a pediatrician at Madison Valley Pediatrics in Madison, Ala., was a member of the first Summer Bridge class.
Present at the luncheon were Summer Bridge participants and their families, COSAM faculty and staff, and supporters of the program, like the Alabama chapter of the AT&T Pioneers (pictured bottom). For more information about the Summer Bridge Program, contact the COSAM Office of Diversity at 844-4247 or send an email to email@example.com.
Outreach hosts first ever Summer Science Institute
The COSAM Department of Outreach hosted the first ever Summer Science Institute from June 11 to 15. The Summer Science institute began with an academically competitive search of rising 11th- and 12th-grade high school students throughout Alabama and Georgia. The search yielded 26 outstanding students who demonstrated a high interest in and aptitude for science and math. The students then attended the week long Summer Science Institute, which was funded by COSAM and the Office of the Vice President for Outreach. At the institute, students were partnered with experienced Auburn University science and math research faculty to explore topics more advanced than what is typically taught in a public or private high school environment. This year’s chosen participants were: Amber Akbar, East Coweta High School, Newnan, Ga.; Blaire Bosely, Northeast Independent Preparatory Academy, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Robert Campbell, Briarwood Christian High School, Birmingham, Ala.; Robert Clemons, Oak Mountain High School, Birmingham, Ala.; Casie Connolly, W.P. Davidson High School, Mobile, Ala.; Camden Cutright, Spain Park High School, Hoover, Ala.; Allen Davis, McGill Toolen Catholic High School, Spanish Fort, Ala.; Regan Gaskin, Talladega High School, Talladega, Ala.; Nidhi Goel, Virgil I. Grissom High School, Huntsville, Ala.; Pierre Guillermo, Forsyth Central High School, Cumming, Ga.; Christian Johnson, South Forsyth High School, Cumming, Ga.; Catherine Johnson, Forsyth Central High School, Cumming, Ga.; Trevan Jones, Benjamin E. Mays High School, Lithonia, Ga.; John Kavula, St. Paul’s Episcopal School, Mobile, Ala.; Jessica Kennedy, East Coweta High School, Sharpsburg, Ga.; Carson May, Virgil I. Grissom High School, Huntsville, Ala.; Jacqueline Morris, Trinity Presbyterian School, Montgomery, Ala.; Natasha Narayanan, Auburn High School, Auburn, Ala.; Madeleine O’Mara, Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School, Montgomery, Ala.; Jeremy Oyler, Stanhope Elmore High School, Millbrook, Ala.; Justin Oyler, Stanhope Elmore High School, Millbrook, Ala.; Kaitlin Russell, Prattville High School, Prattville, Ala.; Jonothon Segars, Wetumpka High School, Wetumpka, Ala.; Richard Trieu, Virgil I. Grissom High School, Huntsville, Ala.; Michael Volz, Virgil I. Grissom High School, Huntsville, Ala.; and Luci Willis, Springwood School, Pine Mountain, Ala.
AP teachers gain professional development
From June 18 to 21, the Department of Outreach hosted the Advanced Placement Summer Institute, which is designed for the professional development of ninth- through 12th-grade teachers involved in Advanced Placement courses. The workshops were held on campus and sponsored by COSAM, the Office of Professional and Continuing Education at Auburn University, and the College Board. Workshops were offered in biology, chemistry, physics and calculus. For more information click here.
Limited space available for July Science Matters sessions
Throughout the summer, the Department of Outreach is hosting Science Matters, a summer enrichment academy for rising first- through sixth-grade students. The program offers youngsters a supercharged experience as they explore the world of science through real experiments, technology, language arts, art projects and hands-on, make-n-take activities. During this action-packed program, kids can design and build, dabble in the art of chemistry, see amazing critters and more. Science Matters offers six different science-themed weeks for rising first- through fourth-grade students to choose from and four weeks for rising fifth- and sixth-grade students. Parents can choose between a Regular Day option from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or the Extended Day option from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Prices range from $170 to $235 per week/child, and multiple-week discounts are available. Courses fill on a first-come, first-served basis, and remaining seats are filling quickly. For more information or to register, click here.
Faculty Staff Campaign a success
The fifth annual, university-wide Faculty Staff Campaign took place from June 1, 2011 to May 30, 2012. The campaign ended with a COSAM faculty and staff giving percentage of 72.45 percent, up 10.46 percent from the previous campaign. The COSAM Office of Development hosted a luncheon on Monday, June 25, to thank the campaign team captains and announce the results. Each year, the area in COSAM with the highest participation is “crowned” by the dean. Last year, the department with the highest participation rate was Physics. This year, COSAM’s Administrative Office won with 88.89 percent participation. Interim Dean Chuck Savrda is pictured crowning the team captain of the Administrative Office, Beth Yarbrough, Ph.D., director of Student Services. For more information, click here.
Geology and Geography News:
Geology Professor David King is working with faculty members in the College of Engineering on a project focused on developing environmentally friendly fluids for use in fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas-containing shale formations. Over the past few years, discoveries of huge quantities of natural gas embedded in shale formations have changed the global energy picture. Not only have vast, previously unknown quantities of natural gas been found in shale formations, but these natural gas deposits have been found in areas not known for any significant previous energy resource production. These gas-bearing shale formations are drilled in an unusual way - horizontally. The horizontal drilling fractures the shale formation and allows natural gas that is trapped inside to escape into the drilled well. For now, there seems a nearly unlimited supply of this gas, but fracking has downsides. Some areas have experienced earthquake tremors that are linked to this process. Also, drilling companies have used toxic and/or possibly toxic fluids in recent fracking operations in many areas. King, along with Chemical Engineering Professor Ram Gupta and Mechanical Engineering Professor Dave Dyer, are working to create new, environmentally friendly fluids that are almost entirely natural in origin and readily degradable. Testing of the fluids is ongoing and involves exposure of shale samples to these newly developed fluids at high pressure and temperature. The work is supported by a level 3 interdisciplinary grant from Auburn’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The team currently has a proposal in review with the U.S. Department of Energy's Research Partnership for a Secure Energy America to extend and continue this work, and the team plans additional research proposal submissions in the near future as laboratory work continues.