Auburn unveils new five-year Strategic Plan
On June 21, the Auburn University Board of Trustees approved a new, five-year Strategic Plan to guide the university’s direction by focusing on five priorities through 2018, including an emphasis on preparing students for success, increasing graduation rates and supporting faculty excellence.
The plan calls for Auburn to enhance student success by increasing workforce readiness, diversifying enrollment, increasing accessibility and increasing eLearning programs; supporting faculty excellence and strengthening Auburn’s reputation; enhancing research, scholarship and creative work; becoming a national model for public engagement; and focusing resources on institutional priorities.
For more information, including a link to the complete Strategic Plan document, click here.
Two from COSAM receive Distinguished Dissertation Award
Recent COSAM doctoral graduates Kevin Kocot (left) and Elizabeth Ndontsa (below) received two of the three 2013 Auburn University Graduate School Distinguished Dissertation Awards in Biological/Life Sciences. Kocot was a doctoral student in the lab of Kenneth Halanych, Stewart W. Schneller Endowed Chair in biological sciences, and the title of his dissertation is, “A combined approach toward resolving molluscan phylogeny.” Ndontsa was a graduate student in the laboratory of Douglas Goodwin, associate professor of biochemistry, and the title of her dissertation is, “Synergy not Antagonism in Antioxidant Defenses: The Unanticipated Effect of Electron Donors on Catalase-peroxidase Function.”
Biological Sciences News:
Halanych and Kocot receive grant from NASA
Professor Kenneth Halanych, Stewart W. Schneller Endowed Chair, and postdoctoral scholar Kevin Kocot, both of the Department of Biological Sciences, received a four-year, $810,829 grant from NASA for research into the evolution of multicellular organisms. The grant is titled, “Elucidating the early evolution of metazoans,” and with the funding, Halanych and Kocot hope to utilize a genomic approach to better understand the origins and early history of animals.
“Understanding the evolution of multicellular organisms is paramount in elucidating how advanced life can come to exist on a planet. In the case of Earth, several multicellular groups arose independently, but only animals have evolved tissues that allow active, rapid movement and fast intercellular communication,” explained Halanych. “In order to discern how these features arose, we must first unravel the evolutionary relationships among the earliest animal groups and identify genetic mechanisms responsible for creating advanced systems, such as nervous and muscle tissue.”
The team will focus on extant animal lineages that branched off near the base of the animal tree, including sponges, cnidarians (anemones and jellies), ctenophores (comb jellies), and placozoans (microscopic, sponge-like animals). The researchers will sequence at least 12 genomes and 30 transcriptomes of basal animal groups. By collecting and analyzing such data from strategically chosen taxa, they will be able to explore: the evolutionary relationships among the major groups; the evolution of genetic mechanisms of nervous and muscle systems; and whether the basal animal lineages have unique gene systems unknown or absent in bilaterians.
Joining the scientists from Auburn is a team of researchers from the lab of Leonid Moroz, professor of neuroscience, biology and chemistry at the University of Florida. For more information on the project, visit the Halanych Lab website.
Bradley publishes book about new technology in the life sciences
Professor emeritus of biological sciences, James T. Bradley, recently published a book titled, “Brutes or Angels: Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology.” The book is meant to serve as a guide to the rapidly progressing Age of Biotechnology, providing basic information on a wide array of new technologies in the life sciences, along with the ethical issues raised by each. The book also works to facilitate informed choice making about the personal use of biotechnologies and the formulation of public policies governing their development and use. Ten biotechnologies that impact humans are considered: stem cell research, embryo selection, human genomics, gene therapies, human reproductive cloning, age retardation, cognition enhancement, the engineering of nonhuman organisms, nanobiology, and synthetic biology. Personal reflection and group dialogue are encouraged by questions at the end of each chapter, making the book not only a general guide to better informed and nuanced thinking on the complex and challenging topics, but also an appropriate text for bioethics courses in university science departments and adult education classes.
Bradley was a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences for 33 years before he retired. His research interests include: cell biology of insect and fish oogenesis and early embryogenesis, especially vitellogenesis and metabolic fate of yolk protein during embryogenesis; bioethics and 21st century biotechnologies including stem cells, cloning, genetic enhancement, age retardation and neuropharmacology; and criteria defining personhood at the beginning of life.
“Brutes or Angels: Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology,” is available at all major book retailers.
COSAM student among 10 entrepreneur team finalists in 2013 Alabama Launchpad Competition
Robert Koski, a senior in microbiology and intern in the Office of Technology Transfer, is the leader of an entrepreneur team, Respriva, that is among 10 team finalists in the 2013 Alabama Launchpad Start-Up Competition’s proof of commercial competition, announced recently by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation.
Respriva is competing for a share of $100,000 in award money, and was chosen from a field of 27 applicants by a five-judge panel made up of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate stakeholders. Another team from Auburn is also a finalist in the competition, Heartlife Technology LLC, and the contest is meant to promote, reward and increase high-growth, innovative ventures that have the potential to cultivate jobs in Alabama. Respriva is developing a business plan for Respriva vaccine, a low-cost and effective vaccine that will minimize the swine industry’s losses due to bacterial pneumonia, a problem that currently costs the industry more than $300 million per year. Bernhard Kaltenboeck, professor of pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and lead inventor in the technology, is also a member of the team, which is working closely with Auburn’s Office of Technology Transfer to develop materials for the competition.
As the team leader, Koski is in charge of writing the business plan for Respriva, as well as giving a pitch presentation in front of the judges to obtain proof of concept funding.
“This competition is a terrific opportunity to learn more about the way research and ideas get to market,” Koski said. “I have learned a tremendous amount about the business aspects of research and the importance research has in our community and to businesses.”
Koski, who is currently applying for dental school, began working with Auburn University's Office of Technology Transfer as a summer intern in 2012, and at the same time, he began work on marketing strategies for the Respriva vaccine platform through the office. This summer, in addition to his work for the Alabama Launchpad Competition, he earned a spot in the Cellular and Molecular Biosciences Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars program and has been working with Kaltenboeck to learn more about the vaccine platform. He is also a licensed scuba diver and volunteer with Project Uplift, an Auburn University volunteer cooperative effort with the Lee County Youth Development Center to mentor disadvantaged children in the local community. For more information on the competition, click here.
Research efforts by Easley and Shannon highlighted by NSF
Research performed in the laboratories of Christopher Easley (left), assistant professor of chemistry, and Curtis Shannon (below), Andrew T. Hunt Professor of Chemistry, on innovative techniques for measuring hormones and other proteins in complex fluids, such as blood, was featured on a website published by the National Science Foundation. To read the highlight, click here.
Pindzola invited to give talk at University of St. Andrews
To help celebrate the 600th anniversary of the founding of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, the Royal Astronomical Society held their annual National Astronomy Meeting on the campus from July 1-5. Professor Michael Pindzola of the Department of Physics was invited to give a conference talk titled, “Electron-Input Ionization of Fe-peak Elements,” during a session on astronomical spectroscopy. Other public lectures included “The Adventures of Curiosity on Mars,” and “Meteors and Fireballs on Earth.”
“The town and university of Saint Andrews is about one-third the size of Auburn, but with three-times the number of golf courses,” Pindzola said.
For more information on the Royal Astronomical Society, click here.
Owens awarded NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship
Kyle Owens, biomedical sciences ’13, a former Auburn swimmer from Johnson City, Tenn., was awarded the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, considered one of the highest academic honors a student-athlete can receive.
The award measures success beyond the playing field, encompassing academic accomplishments, campus involvement, community service, volunteer activities and demonstrated leadership. One hundred seventy-four NCAA senior athletes across all sports and divisions are chosen each year and receive a $7,500 grant to pursue post-graduate education.
Owens, a 2013 Auburn University President’s Award winner in COSAM who graduated summa cum laude, will attend the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Fellow Auburn swimmer Stuart Ferguson, a 2013 graduate from the College of Liberal Arts, was also awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. To read the full story, click here.
Three from COSAM selected for HudsonAlpha internship program
Five Auburn University undergraduate students, three of which are COSAM students, are gaining hands-on experience in the field of biotechnology this summer. Through the BioTrain Internship program, sponsored by HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, COSAM students Laura Abell, microbial, cellular and molecular biology, Daniel Haddock, chemistry, and Matthew Wall, undeclared/pre-med, along with engineering students Natalie Farmer and Christina Pickering, are spending eight weeks at the Cummings Research Park Biotechnology Campus gaining valuable real-world experience in their areas of interest. HudsonAlpha is the cornerstone of the campus, which hosts a synergistic cluster of life sciences talent — science, education and business professionals — that promises collaborative innovation to turn knowledge and ideas into commercial products and services for improving human health and strengthening Alabama’s progressively diverse economy.
“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.
Abell is interning as a research assistant in HudsonAlpha’s Absher Lab, which is directed by Devin Absher, Ph.D. The lab has been involved in multiple genome-wide association studies and other studies of global genetic variation in the human population, including the Human Genome Diversity Project. Haddock is interning as a research associate with EGEN, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing nucleic acid-based therapeutics for cancer and other difficult-to-treat diseases using proprietary nanoparticle delivery systems. Wall is interning as a laboratory assistant with iCubate, an automated system for research that was developed by HudsonAlpha Institute to streamline the process of disease detection.
Since the inception of BioTrain in 2009, more than 1,500 students have applied with 115 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 2013 applicants successfully secured a BioTrain internship. Congratulations to Abell, Haddock and Wall!
Student Services News:
Childress named winner of national student advising award
COSAM student advisor and director of the Pre-Health Professions Programs, Beverley Childress, was named the recipient of a national advising award, the CIG Service Award - Advising in Academic Programs II, by the National Academic Advising Association. The award was created to recognize an individual who has provided outstanding service, leadership and commitment to a specific commission, interest group or cluster, of the NACADA Commissions and Interest Groups, or CIG, which provide members an opportunity to join others with similar academic or specific student population interests in advising. Childress was chairman of the NACADA Health Professions Advising Interest Group for five years, has given numerous presentations at conferences, and has been published in two journals.
She grew up in Mobile, Ala., and she and her husband, Boyd, moved to Auburn in 1981. She has a bachelor's degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in counseling, and after serving as a middle school and high school teacher, counselor and administrator over a period of 22 years, she accepted a position as an academic advisor with COSAM in 1996. She was hired as the director of the Pre-Health Professions Programs for Auburn in 2000. Childress, who works diligently to help Auburn students reach their personal and vocational goals, said she loves her job and her amazing students.
Childress will receive the award at a ceremony held during the National Academic Advising Association Annual Conference this fall. For more information on the National Academic Advising Association, click here.
Faculty Staff Campaign a success
The sixth annual, university-wide Faculty Staff Campaign took place from June 1, 2012 to May 30, 2013. The campaign ended with a COSAM faculty and staff giving percentage of 67.26. The COSAM Office of Development hosted a luncheon on Wednesday, June 26, to thank the campaign team captains and announce the results. Each year, the area in COSAM with the highest participation percentage is “crowned” by the dean. This year, COSAM’s Administrative Office won with 89.66 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.
Diversity and Multicultural Affairs News:
17th annual Summer Bridge Program a success
COSAM’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosted the 17th 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 2013 Summer Bridge Program culminated in an awards luncheon held at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Dr. John A. Jernigan, chemistry ’75, was the keynote speaker for the luncheon (pictured middle with Bianca Evans, minority programs coordinator for COSAM). Jernigan is a board certified internist and partner with Mulberry Medical Associates in Montgomery. In addition, he serves as clinical instructor in the Nurse Practitioner program for both the University of Alabama and Troy University, and as a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine through its internal medicine residency program in Montgomery, a title he has held since 1984. Jernigan also serves as a mentor and role model to tomorrow’s health professionals and recently established a scholarship in COSAM.
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 and the American Business Women's Association, Heart of Birmingham chapter (pictured bottom). For more information about the Summer Bridge Program, visit the website by clicking here.
Thompson's feature article voted best of 2012
Patrick Thompson, arboretum specialist, was recently published in The Azalean, the official journal of the Azalea Society of America. The cover feature, “Auburn University’s Davis Arboretum: Accomplishing its mission through plant collections and collaboration,” was voted the Azalea Society of America’s Article of the Year for 2012 at the national convention, which took place in Athens, Ga., in April. Click here to read the article.