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April 2014 - A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends of COSAM

Welcome to the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) electronic newsletter, e-Journey.
COSAM has lots of news to share with you. Enjoy!

Featured News:

The Society of Women in Sciences and Mathematics to host symposium - Click HERE for more
Hill named SEC’s Auburn University Faculty Achievement Award Winner for 2013-2014 - Click HERE for more
AMSTI-AU serves students with special needs - Click HERE for more
Best and Dusi co-author new book, “Mammals of Alabama” - Click HERE for more


Two from COSAM receive NACADA Excellence in Advising Awards
YarbroughThe National Academic Advising Association selected Elizabeth Yarbrough, Ph.D., and Kathryn Milly West for 2014 Region 4: Excellence in Advising awards. The awards are presented to individuals who have demonstrated qualities associated with outstanding academic advising of students.
Yarbrough, who is the director of student services for COSAM, is the recipient of the NACADA Region 4 Excellence in Advising:  Advising Administration award. She also received the Certificate of Merit of the Outstanding Advising Award - Academic Advising Administrator, which is a national recognition.

WestWest, who has been the coordinator of the Laboratory Science and Medical Laboratory Science degree programs since 1996, is the recipient of both the 2014 Region 4 Excellence in Advising – Faculty Role Award, and the national Outstanding Advising Award - Faculty Academic Advising Winner. The Faculty Academic Advising category includes those individuals whose primary responsibility is teaching and who spend a portion of their time providing academic advising services to students. She will be honored and presented with the national award in Minneapolis during the NACADA Annual Conference this fall.
Established in 1983, the NACADA Annual Awards Program for Academic Advising honors individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising. NACADA is a representative and advocate of academic advising and those providing the service to higher education. The awards were announced at the NACADA regional conference in April in Savannah, Ga. COSAM congratulates these two outstanding advisors and thanks them for their dedication to Auburn students.

COSAM presents Dean’s Research Awards
lilesOn March 26, COSAM hosted the annual Dean’s Research Awards ceremony. This year, COSAM honored Associate Professor Mark Liles from the Department of Biological Sciences, who gave the Research Award Lecture titled, “The emergence of bacterial pathogens.” Research in the Liles laboratory focuses on the use of microbial community genomics, or “metagenomics,” for the discovery of natural products, and the use of microorganisms for the prevention of disease in aquaculture and agriculture.
Student recipients of a Dean’s Research Award include the following:
havirdDoctoral student Justin Havird from the Department of Biological Sciences: Havird is nearing completion of his doctorate under the direction of Scott Santos, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. His research centers on the interaction between organisms and their environments and spans fields such as ecology, physiology, genomics and evolution.
maynardDoctoral student Branson Maynard from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: Maynard is a graduate research assistant in the research group of Anne Gorden, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research is focused on the structure and bonding properties of uranium-containing compounds.
blumenthalUndergraduate student Adam Blumenthal from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics: Blumenthal was invited to participate in COSAM’s 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates in Algebra and Discrete Mathematics. During the program he co-authored a paper with Professor Peter Johnson of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and it was accepted for publication. Due to his success in the REU program, he was invited to go to South Africa to assist in creating an international community in mathematics, and while there he gave a conference talk on his published paper.
mccurdyUndergraduate student Ethan McCurdy from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: McCurdy is an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Douglas Goodwin, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, where he works on the catalase-peroxidase enzyme of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In fall 2014, he will begin graduate studies in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University.

COSAM recognizes academic achievement at Honors Convocation
wersingerCOSAM held the annual Honors Convocation on March 29. The convocation was held in honor of J. M. Wersinger (pictured left with Dean Nicholas Giordano), professor emeritus in the Department of Physics. Wersinger remains active on campus, particularly through his mentorship in the Auburn University Student Satellite Program.
During the ceremony, students were recognized for outstanding academic achievement for the 2013-2014 academic year. Dean Giordano also congratulated several COSAM students, faculty and staff for exceptional performance including the following:

2014 COSAM Dean's Medalists: Ashley Landuyt, Biological Sciences; Sarah Suciu, Biological Sciences; Austyn Grissom, Biomedical Sciences; Ashley Nutt, Biomedical Sciences; Alexis Pugh, Biomedical Sciences; Spencer Kerns, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Jessica Story, Geology and Geography; Alex Sadowski, Mathematics and Statistics; and Katherine Mott, Physics
Outstanding COSAM Graduate Teaching Assistant: John Asplund, Mathematics and Statistics; and John Hawkins, Geology and Geography
Outstanding COSAM Faculty Advisor: Ashley Brian Sockwell Curtiss, Ph.D., Chemistry and Biochemistry
Outstanding COSAM Teacher: Professor Michael Wooten, Biological Sciences
Comer Award winners: Mary-Catherine Anderson, Microbial Biology; and Kristin Zuromski, Biochemistry
President's Award: Patrick Donnan, Physics *For more information on the President's Award, see the release here.
Student Government Association Award: Zachary Mosher, Biomedical Sciences

Biological Sciences News:

Hill named SEC’s Auburn University Faculty Achievement Award Winner for 2013-2014
hillThe Southeastern Conference named Professor Geoffrey Hill the SEC’s Auburn University Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2013-2014. Hill, an Alumni Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of birds for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, will receive a $5,000 honorarium and represent Auburn as the university’s nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year. The SEC Professor of the Year will be selected from 14 nominees representing each of the SEC universities.
The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards, created to recognize faculty accomplishments, scholarly contributions and discoveries, were established by the SEC presidents and chancellors and are administered by the SEC provosts. The awards were first presented in 2012.
Hill’s research focuses on the function and evolution of ornamental traits in birds and on the co-evolution of hosts and pathogens. His research has garnered $8.8 million in external grant support, including grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
He was recently appointed director of the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems at the National Science Foundation, which is the largest of the four divisions within the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF. To read more about Hill and the award, click here.

Best and Dusi co-author new book, “Mammals of Alabama”
mammalsTroy Best, professor of biological sciences and curator of mammals for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, co-authored a book with Julian Dusi, former curator emeritus of mammals at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, titled, “Mammals of Alabama.” The book is the first and only exhaustive guidebook to Alabama’s diverse mammalian fauna. According to the description on Amazon.com, the book is ideal for backyards, hikes, libraries and classrooms, and includes hundreds of professional, close-up color specimen photographs of both living animals in their natural habitats and skull plates, making identification of animals easy.
Best also offers fascinating and fun facts about Alabama mammals that will delight nature lovers of all ages, such as the surprising and excellent tree-climbing skills of the gray fox, past use of mole skins to apply cosmetics, and the litters of identical quadruplets common to the nine-banded armadillo.
Dusi was a P-38 high-altitude reconnaissance pilot in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. After 45 years of teaching, he retired from Auburn University as professor of zoology in 1993, and continued his interests in bird banding, bird counts and scientific reading. He died in 2012 at the age of 92. For more information on the book or to order a copy, click here.

Mathematics & Statistics News:

Graduate students invited to participate in industry-centered workshop
industrySedar Ngoma and Brice Merlin Nguelifack, graduate students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, were invited to participate in the workshop on Careers and Opportunities in Industry for Mathematical Scientists at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota. The workshop is intended to bring together industrial mathematicians and faculty members, postdocs and graduate students who are interested in exploring careers in and opportunities for collaborating with industry. Ngoma is working under the direction of Professors Dmitry Glotov and A. J. Meir, and Nguelifack is working with Professor Ash Abebe. For more information on the workshop, click here.

Graduate student receives postdoc at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
oak ridge labGraduate student Feng Bao, who is co-advised by Professors Yanzhao Cao and A. J. Meir, accepted a two-year postdoctoral position at the Computer and Mathematics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the U.S. Department of Energy's largest multi-program science and energy laboratory, with scientific and technical capabilities spanning the continuum from basic to applied research. Congratulations Feng!

Tam named editor-in-chief of Alabama Journal of Mathematics
math journalTin-Yau Tam, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Lloyd and Sandra Nix Endowed Professor, was recently named editor-in-chief of the Alabama Journal of Mathematics. The Alabama Journal of Mathematics is an online and open access journal which is published under the auspices of the Alabama Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Alabama Association of College Teachers of Mathematics. The Alabama Journal of Mathematics is designed to meet a number of needs of the mathematics community in the state of Alabama. Specifically, the intent of the journal is to knit together the various components of the mathematical community. As such, the journal includes research articles in mathematics and mathematics education appropriate for a general audience, and activities and problems for K-16 mathematics teachers. The journal has multiple sections in each volume, including mathematics research, mathematics education research and classroom activities.

Smith receives grant from Common Core, Inc.
smithProfessor Michel Smith received a math education grant in the amount of $80,000 through Common Core, Inc. Common Core, Inc. leads a high-profile mathematics project to develop comprehensive PK-12 mathematics curriculum for the New York State Education Department. The goal is to bring substantial improvement to mathematics education through increased rigor, meaningful context and increased student engagement.

Kallenberg's manuscript to be published by Springer
kallenbergProfessor Olav Kallenberg's book manuscript titled, “General Theory of Random Measures,” was accepted for publication by Springer, the leading mathematics publisher in the world. The book is an advanced-level research monograph. Kallenberg is a distinguished probabilist whose earlier books, “Random Measures,” “Foundations of Modern Probability,” and “Probabilistic Symmetries and Invariance Principles,” have become classics. For more information, see the entry in Wikipedia.

Arboretum News:

Smith featured in Lee Magazine
SmithDee Smith, curator of the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, was featured in Lee Magazine for her advocacy for the use of native plants in landscapes. Since 2007, Smith has filled the Davis Arboretum with native Alabama plants and provides regular opportunities for the university and community to learn more about why native plants are important to creating a healthy ecosystem.
 “… By filling our landscapes with non-native plants, we have decimated our native plant diversity,” said Smith in the Lee Magazine feature. “That diversity is what supports our birds and mammals and, yes, our insects … It’s really radical to say ‘Insects are the creatures that run the world,’ but as the distinguished biologist, and Alabama native, E.O. Wilson said, 'Because so many animals depend on insect protein for food, a land without insects is a land without most forms of higher life.’ That makes them pretty important.”
To read the full story, click here.

Outreach News:

The Society of Women in Sciences and Mathematics to host symposium
SWSMThe Society of Women in Sciences and Mathematics, a philanthropic group in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, will host the eighth annual Leadership Symposium on Thursday, May 8. The purpose of the symposium is to bring together and showcase distinguished women in the fields of sciences and mathematics in order to serve as leaders and role models for the next generation of women. The one-day symposium begins with a panel discussion featuring accomplished women from various disciplines. Following the panel discussion, participants will have an opportunity to visit with COSAM alumni who hold careers in the sciences and mathematics. There will also be two breakout sessions where panelists will give short seminars on the benefits of pursuing a career in sciences or mathematics. The symposium will end with a luncheon featuring the Marie W. Wooten Distinguished Speaker, Sandra Rattray, Ph.D., vice president and head of Global Regulatory Affairs - Oncology & Companion Diagnostics for the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. The symposium is open to the public, and anyone interested in encouraging the next generation of women to pursue a career in the sciences or mathematics can sponsor a high school girl’s attendance. To register for the symposium or for more information about SWSM, visit the website.

AMSTI-AU serves students with special needs
amstiAuburn University serves more than 800 teachers and upwards of 25,000 K-12 students in an eight-county region through the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative. The AMSTI program is the Alabama Department of Education’s state-funded, K-12 education program, designed to initiate and sustain improved statewide mathematics and science teaching and learning.
Students in participating AMSTI schools are taught math and science using a hands-on, inquiry-based approach through the implementation of learning modules in the classroom. The modules contain all of the necessary equipment needed to carry out science experiments and mathematics activities.
In addition to reaching traditional K-12 students, the AMSTI site at Auburn University serves students with special needs.
“In particular we have a group of special needs students who have to earn service hours,” said Elizabeth Hickman, director of the AMSTI-Auburn University site, “so they come to the AMSTI site once per week for an hour or so and they help us by counting out items that go into kits, like straws or paperclips or rubber bands. Sometimes they are counting, other times they are weighing, and they package the items into Ziplock® bags that go into the kits that end up in the classroom.”
According to Cody Keene, special educator at Auburn High School, securing volunteer learning opportunities for students with special needs can be a challenge.
“It’s very significant that AMSTI offers us this opportunity because sometimes it can be difficult to find work environments where they welcome our students to come in,” said Keene. “This type of opportunity helps our students learn more independence and more autonomous behavior, so, hopefully, they can live as independently as possible in the future. On a personal level, I enjoy this aspect of the job because we are allowed to watch the kids grow as individuals and as a group – they are learning skills and independence, and that’s a positive all the way around for everyone.”
AMSTI-Auburn University assistant materials manager, Kermit Davis, echoed Keene’s opinion of the program. “This program is important to me, and I think for the state of Alabama, because we are not just educating the traditional K-12 student. We are taking education much further because we are giving students like these in the special needs program the ability to gain experience that will help them to be productive in the work force and good solid citizens.”
The AMSTI site at Auburn University recently moved to a new facility, and the added square footage in the new location is part of the reason the special needs students are able to volunteer on a weekly basis.
“In July we were given the opportunity to move into a 43,500 square-foot facility. It has 33,000 square-feet of warehouse space, so we now have plenty of room to store all of the kits after they are packed, as well as offer opportunities to the community, such as the special needs program,” said Hickman.
The AMSTI-Auburn University site will host an open house on Tuesday, April 29, so the community can have an opportunity to learn more about the advantages AMSTI offers all K-12 students. The event will feature tours of the new space, which includes three meeting rooms that are available for Auburn University and community use, as well as demonstrations of the mathematics and science learning modules.
The open house will take place on from 5 to 7 p.m. at the new AMSTI-Auburn University site located at 1900 Cunningham Drive in Opelika. Light refreshments will be served, and anyone with an interest in K-12 education is invited to attend. For more information, contact Elizabeth Hickman at 334.750.9525 or by email at hickmep@auburn.edu, or visit the website.

Chemistry & Biochemistry News:

American Chemical Society Award for Symon Gathiaka
gathiakaSymon Gathiaka, a member of the research group of Associate Professor Orlando Acevedo, has been awarded a Chemical Computing Group Excellence Award for Graduate Students from the Computers in Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society. A ceremony in honor of Gathiaka will take place in August during the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Francisco.

Geology & Geography News:

Mitra featured in AL.com for her views on global warming
mitraWe had an unusually cold and snowy winter in Alabama. But is one cold winter enough to disprove global warming? Assistant Professor Chandana Mitra of the Department of Geology and Geography weighed in on the question with a reporter from AL.com. Click here to read the story.

Graduate students participate in Imperial Barrel Award competition
imperialFive graduate students from the Department of Geology and Geography, Khaled Chowdhury, Jake Gunn, Eric Heider, Morgan Shuman and Peter Starnes, recently participated in the Imperial Barrel Award competition in Houston, organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies. For the competition, the students worked on an eight-week research project on petroleum prospectivity of the Cooper and Eromanga basins in Southern Australia. The students conducted industry analysis, provided geological and geophysical data, and presented their findings at the competition.

Physics News:

Department hosts distinguished colloquium speaker
levineThe Department of Physics will host a distinguished colloquium speaker, Herbert Levine, Hasselmann Professor of Bioengineering and director for the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at Rice University, on Friday, April 25. Levine is a member of the National Academy of Sciences who specializes in the physics of cancer and the physics of living systems. His talk is titled, “Using physics to decipher living systems; the case of directed cell motility,” and will be held at 3 p.m. in 115 Sciences Center Classrooms Building, with refreshments being served at 2:45 p.m. The public is invited to attend. For more information on Levine, visit his website.

Duncan lecture featured discussion of quasars and black holes
duncanThe annual Duncan Lecture was held on April 23, and featured Bradley M. Peterson, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University and a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee and chair of the Astrophysics Subcommittee. The title of his lecture was, “Solving the Quasar Mystery: A 50-Year Quest,” and featured discussion of quasars, which are among the most distant and intrinsically brightest objects in the universe, but also small and dense. Quasars are powered by spectacularly massive “black holes,” objects so dense that not even light can escape from them. Peterson related the story of how quasars and supermassive black holes and their role in the cosmos have come to be understood. To listen to the lecture online, click here.
The Dr. M. M. “Dunc” Duncan Memorial Lecture was established in 2012 by Dora Duncan in memory of her husband. He enrolled at Auburn University in aeronautical engineering. Following his freshman year, Duncan volunteered for service in World War II and served in the signal corps aboard the USS Cleburne. Upon his discharge, he returned to Auburn where he met and married fellow student Dora Tisdale, with whom he had two children. Duncan earned a bachelor of science in chemistry in 1949 and continued his education at Auburn as a graduate student in X-ray cryptallography. After completing his master’s in physics in 1953, he began a career as an aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft. However, he soon realized his true calling and began teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Duncan went on to earn a doctorate from Duke University in 1956, and taught there and at Texas A&M before joining the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1961, where he remained for nearly half a century. An active amateur astronomer, it is with respect to his enduring interest in the field, combined with his penchant for exploration, discovery and knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, that the lectureship is dedicated.
Pictured, from left: Bradley Peterson (speaker); Dora Duncan; Richard Duncan, son of Dora and Dr. Duncan; and David Ennis, assistant professor of physics at Auburn.

Loch named SGA Outstanding Faculty Member
lochStuart Loch, associate professor of physics, was selected as the recipient of the SGA Outstanding Faculty Member Award for the College of Sciences and Mathematics. The award is presented to one faculty member from each of the university's schools and colleges. Nominated by students, recipients are chosen for respect of their peers and students, excellence in teaching, and concern for and involvement with students.

Department hosts Nobel Prize winning physicist
wilczekThe Littleton-Franklin Lecture in Science and Humanities was held on April 15 and featured Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of Physics and the Office of the Provost. Wilczek’s talk was titled, “Expanding the Doors of Perception: The Physics of Color Vision,” and detailed his work in the area of particle physics. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004 for his discovery of the idea of Asymptotic Freedom, which is the notion that the behavior of subatomic particles extremely close to one another is the opposite of their behavior at great distance. His recent book, “The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces,” aims to make Asymptotic Freedom and other central ideas of contemporary physics understandable by a general audience. In addition to the Nobel Prize in physics, he has received numerous awards and honors, including UNESCO’s Paul Dirac Medal, and being named a MacArthur Fellow and a Sloan Foundation Fellow. For more information on Wilczek, click here.

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