Dean recognizes Research Award winners at ceremony
COSAM held the Dean’s Research Awards ceremony on March 6. The awards provide the dean with an opportunity to acknowledge outstanding COSAM faculty and students for their research and scholarly accomplishments. This year’s award winners are: Faculty Research Award winner Edward Thomas, Lawrence C. Wit Professor in the Department of Physics; Graduate Research Award winner Sarika Gupta, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Graduate Research Award winner Zhongwei Shen, a doctoral student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Graduate Research Award winner Sarah Sheffield, a master’s student in the Department of Geology and Geography; and Undergraduate Research Award winner Patrick Donnan of the Department of Physics.
The faculty recipient presents an award lecture and receives a $1,000 honorarium and a plaque. The three graduate student awardees are recognized at the faculty award lecture and are provided a $250 honorarium and a plaque. The undergraduate student awardee is provided a $100 honorarium and a plaque at the award lecture.
COSAM congratulates this year’s recipients who have set an example as excellent researchers and scholars. The college also wishes to express appreciation to our alumni and friends who have provided the resources for the awards.
Dean serves as guest coach for women’s basketball
Interim Dean Charles Savrda was the guest coach at the women’s basketball game against Alabama on Feb. 17. As guest coach, Savrda was granted access to the locker room for pre-game festivities and was on the bench for the beginning of the game.
His guest coach appearance was part of the “Dean’s Challenge,” a program that began six seasons ago as a unique partnership between the women’s basketball team and the university deans. Each college on campus competes for a $1,500 donation to a student scholarship fund, which is given to the college with the highest percentage of tickets scanned at the gate. Tickets are provided through the athletics department.
“It was an exciting game. A victory over Alabama is always great to see,” said Savrda. “All of the women played an outstanding game right from the onset, and it was extra special to witness the outstanding play of COSAM student Blanche Alverson, a senior in biomedical sciences. With 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, I am guessing she might have had a bigger impact on the outcome of the game than I did as guest coach. Nonetheless, I hope Coach Flo continues the Dean’s Challenge and associated guest coach program.”
Register now for the Marie Wooten 5K
The 3rd Annual Marie W. Wooten Memorial 5K run and one-mile walk will take place on Saturday, April 6, at 7:45 a.m. The event will begin at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum and raise money for the Marie W. Wooten Memorial Scholarship in COSAM.
Wooten was widely recognized for her contributions as a mentor, scientist, scholar and academic administrator. She was committed to student training and outreach, was co-founder of the Institute for Women in Sciences and Engineering, and she provided leadership in developing numerous education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Wooten was also a member of the National Science Foundation ADVANCE program, which focuses on enhancing diversity in STEM fields. Prior to her passing, she had planned to combine her loves of running and the College of Sciences and Mathematics and host a 5k to raise money for COSAM scholarships. In honor of her memory, the 5k began in 2010 to see her vision fulfilled.
To register, click here.
Celebrating Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson
Join COSAM on Wednesday, April 10, for Celebrating Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson. The event commemorates the opening of the Biodiversity Learning Center with a dinner at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. The dinner will include a presentation by world-renowned biologist, E.O Wilson. Wilson was the Joseph Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. A native of Birmingham, Ala., Wilson comes home to share his thoughts on the current state and emerging trends of biodiversity.
After months of construction and years of planning, the Biodiversity Learning Center is the new home of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History and will house the museum’s hundreds of thousands of specimens. The museum represents the rich history of Alabama, the Southeast and beyond.
Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased for $100 per person or tables of 10 for $1,000. A reception will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. to allow participants an opportunity to meet Wilson one-on-one. The reception and dinner is $250 per person, and tickets are limited. Proceeds from ticket sales will support the Auburn University Museum of Natural History.
To order tickets or for more information, call 334.844.7780. For sponsorship information, call 334.844.8645.
Biological Sciences News:
Helms and Santos receive funding to study crayfish population
Brian Helms (pictured left), invertebrate collections manager for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, and Scott Santos (pictured below), associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received grant funding through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to study populations of the Slackwater crayfish, Cambarus halli, and the Tallapoosa crayfish, C. englishi, both of which are unique to the Tallapoosa River basin. The state of Alabama is home to more than 85 crayfish species, nearly half of which are of conservation concern. Helms and Santos will work to determine the level of genetic structuring of these two species across their range, as well as provide information on their respective life histories and population demographics.
“This work will shed light on an incredibly diverse and ecologically important component of our freshwater resources,” said Helms. “Crayfishes have been historically understudied, and most aquatic conservation efforts in the state have focused on vertebrates and mollusks. By obtaining data on the genetic structure and demographics of individual crayfish populations, we can help with the refinement of current management efforts. This work can also serve as a model to help explain the high level of crayfish diversity that has evolved in the Southeast.”
For more information on the research and crayfishes, click here.
Armbruster receives grant to research rare cavefishes
Jon Armbruster, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of fishes for Auburn’s Museum of Natural History, received a $10,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for his research work titled, “Documenting new undescribed species of the cavefish genus Typhlichthys (Percopsiformes: Amblyopsidae).” The one-year grant allows Armbruster to study the diversity of cavefishes in Alabama.
“Currently there are two species known, the Alabama Cavefish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, which is known only from one cave in northern Alabama, and the Southern Cavefish, Typhlichthys subterraneus,” said Armbruster. “There are as many as six undescribed species of Typhlichthys in Alabama and we have already discovered that two of them co-occur.”
Armbruster said cavefishes are difficult to tell apart as the traditional features used to separate species, namely color and eyes, are lacking.
“Coupled with the fact that there are not many in collections, this lack of features has caused ichthyologists to miss the diversity present in the group, but gene sequence data has aided us in defining groups, and from there re-examining the morphological diversity,” Armbruster said. Armbruster, who is the primary investigator on the project, is working with Matthew Niemiller, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, and Bernard Kuhajda from the Tennessee Aquarium on the project.
For more information on Armbruster, visit his website.
*Pictured are two different species of cavefishes from the same cave near Huntsville, Ala.
Geology and Geography News:
King featured for knowledge of Alabama meteor
Shortly after the meteor hit Russian soil in mid-February, local attention was turned to a site in Alabama that was once hit by a meteor: the Wetumpka Crater. The site in Elmore County, roughly 20 miles north of Montgomery, is the only confirmed impact crater in the state, and David King, a professor in the Department of Geology and Geography, is the man who proved the event happened. King was featured on AL.com for his discovery. Read the full story here.
On Feb. 21 and 23, King also gave an annual public lecture at the Wetumpka Civic Center for “Crater Days.” In his talk, King detailed his research findings and discovery of the Wetumpka crater. King’s graduate students also gave tours of the crater site.
Crater Days is an annual celebration sponsored by the Wetumpka Impact Crater Commission and City of Wetumpka, and the event educates the public on the five-mile-wide crater in Wetumpka left behind by the 1,100-foot meteor from millions of years ago. This year marked the 13th annual Crater Days, and King has been involved with the event since its inception. For more information, click here.
Department hosts screening of award-winning film
On Feb. 21, The Department of Geology and Geography, in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability, hosted a screening of the award-winning film, “Chasing Ice.” Chasing Ice is the visually stunning story of one man's mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change. Using time-lapse cameras, his videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. The film won the Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award U.S. Documentary 2012. Click here for more information.
Searching for evidence of life on the Red Planet
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. Read the story here.
Zinner receives Kraska Award
Associate professor Bertram Zinner is the recipient of the inaugural 2013 Marie Kraska Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Kraska Award was established to recognize a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics for outstanding teaching in statistics. Awardees must be innovative, challenging teachers who are respected by the faculty and students.
“I would like to thank Dr. Zinner for his excellent teaching and his contributions to the statistics programs,” said T.Y. Tam, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. “Congratulations! Job well done!”
Jenda and Johnson receive NSF award
The National Science Foundation has granted $202,758 to professors Overtoun Jenda (pictured left), associate provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and Peter Johnson (pictured below) of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, for the purpose of conducting the Research Experience for Undergraduates program in algebra and discrete mathematics during the summers of 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each program will last eight weeks, with eight participants selected from all over the U.S. In the past, Jenda and Johnson have co-directed nine such programs under three different NSF grants. Over 25 papers produced by participants in these programs, either alone, or with each other, or in collaboration with faculty, have appeared in refereed mathematics journals or books.
Cao receives grant for research
Professor Yanzhao Cao was recently awarded a research grant titled, "Efficient numerical methods for stochastic partial differential equations and uncertainty quantification." The grant represents a collaborative project with assistant professor Hongmei Chi of Florida A&M University and is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The total amount of the grant is $300,000 for three years, to be shared equally by Auburn and Florida A&M. The primary goal of the research is to construct high order and efficient numerical algorithms for stochastic partial differential equations. Plans also include constructing efficient Quasi Monte Carlo sequences in a variety of processing architectures such as GPU and multi-core, and various computing environments.
Lin selected for Changjiang Scholars Program
Professor Yu Lin was selected to be a Changjiang Chair Professor. Coordinated by the Chinese Ministry of Education and the Li Ka Shing Foundation, the Changjiang Scholars Program is one of the most prestigious higher education development programs in China. The program unites outstanding academics from various disciplines to conduct research and teaching at higher education institutions in China. Only 52 scholars from leading universities all over the world were selected as Changjiang Chair Professors. Lin’s appointment began in October 2012 and will last three years. She will spend her summers in China and collaborate with the University of Science and Technology of China to nurture professionals and conduct space plasmas research.
“I feel very honored to be selected as a Changjiang Chair Professor. The competition is intense because it is among nominations from all the universities in China and all fields in a university,” Yin said. “I would like to take this opportunity to strengthen the collaboration in graduate education between Auburn University and the University of Science and Technology of China.”
Thomas gives presentation for Black History Month
In combination with a trip he took to Massachusetts to do an inspection of the construction of magnetized dusty plasma hardware, Edward Thomas, Lawrence C. Wit Professor in the Department of Physics, was asked to give a presentation at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Lab in recognition of Black History Month. On Feb. 28, Thomas gave a talk titled, “So, you study charged, floating dirt? A curious journey through plasma physics.” The presentation was part of a series of events organized by the Woods Hole Black History Month Committee that happened throughout the month of February. For more information on the Woods Hole Black History Month, click here.
Atomic and Molecular Physics winter workshop
COSAM hosted a winter workshop on Atomic and Molecular Physics on Jan. 3-4. The workshop has been held annually for the past 25 years in either Auburn or Winter Park, Fla. Faculty and post-doctoral students from Auburn University, the University of Georgia and Western Michigan University gave talks on the photoionization of atoms and molecules, the interaction of two Rydberg wavepackets, ion-atom charge exchange collisions, and the electron-impact ionization of atomic ions. Plans were made to carry out future atomic and molecular collision calculations in support of needs in astrophysics, laser-atom experiments, antiproton-molecule experiments, and controlled nuclear fusion.
Baron awarded National Intelligence Medallion
Miles Baron of the Theoretical Design Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory was presented with the National Intelligence Medallion by James R. Clapper, director of National Intelligence. The prestigious award is given to recognize special and unique contributions to the successful accomplishment of an Intelligence Community's mission. Clapper presented Baron with the award during a formal ceremony in Washington, D.C. The ceremony included the National Anthem, played by the U.S. Army Band, and the presentation of the colors by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard. Baron’s wife, Erica, and his 14 year-old son, Rigel, accompanied him at the ceremony and reception.
Baron holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in physics from Auburn. He has been a full-time employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory since 1988 and has received multiple awards, including an individual Distinguished Performance Award. Baron is a nationally renowned expert in a highly classified national security area that has international ramifications. His unique skill set is utilized in advising stakeholders at the highest level. He has provided original and insightful analyses that affected judgments across the intelligence community. Baron was also commended for being available whenever he was needed, at no small cost to his personal and family life. Additionally, Baron coached and mentored numerous analysts so they could understand and correctly interpret critical information.
A nuclear weapons designer and intelligence analyst, Baron was the X-4 team leader for the Reliable Replacement Warhead design effort and the team leader for several nuclear weapon teams. He served as the special advisor to the deputy director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and he was on the Science Council for the assistant secretary for Defense Programs in the Department of Energy.
Parrish King receives Outstanding Young Alumnus Award
Parrish King (pictured right), biomedical sciences ’03, received the 2012 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the UAB School of Dentistry on Feb. 14. The award recognizes his accomplishments and contributions to the Dental School and is one of two awards given by the dean during alumni weekend each year. Parrish has a dental practice with his father, William G. King, Jr. (pictured center), pre-dentistry ’73, in Andalusia, Ala. Parrish, his father and his brother, William G. King, III (pictured left), zoology/entomology ’01, all graduated from the UAB School of Dentistry, and as Auburn alumni, the three are also supporters of COSAM. In 2011, they established the King Family Endowed Scholarship, an award that benefits COSAM students majoring in biomedical sciences with a focus in pre-dentistry. For more information on the Kings, see the story that ran in the Dec. 2011 edition of e-Journey by clicking here.
COSAM Alumni in the News
Two COSAM alumni were recently featured on their local television news programs. On Feb. 25, Dr. Marjorie O'Neil (pictured), biomedical sciences ’08, a dentist who works with children at the Mobile County Health Department's Eight Mile Clinic, discussed the importance of getting an early start with good oral hygiene. The full story, including video, can be seen here.
Dr. Kirk Jackson, pre-med/math ’89, an internist, was featured on a local news program with his wife, April, a registered nurse, for their work with diabetes. The couple discussed the importance of proper diabetes management and some of the risks associated with the disease. For the full video, click here.
COSAM alumnus awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Paul Bergen, a 2012 graduate of COSAM, was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a full-cost award for full-time graduate study and research at the University of Cambridge.
Bergen will pursue a doctorate in pathology at Cambridge with a focus on how Salmonella infects the host intestinal cell and overcomes the host immune response to cause disease.
“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as a Gates Cambridge Scholar,” said Bergen. “I hope my research will eventually improve the lives of those afflicted by this common bacterial pathogen.
“I am grateful for the outstanding preparation I received at Auburn. Without the work from all the members of my practice interview committee and the tireless efforts of my faculty letter writers, Anthony Moss, Mark Liles and Paul Harris, I would not have been given this great opportunity.”
Bergen graduated from Auburn with a 3.97 GPA and earned degrees in both microbiology and German. He is currently a Fulbright Scholar at the Technical University in Munich, Germany, where he is continuing research that he began in the Department of Biological Sciences.
“Paul was a stellar student in both the College of Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Liberal Arts,” said Charles Savrda, interim dean of COSAM. “It is no surprise that he has garnered this additional honor. All of us at Auburn are extremely proud of Paul and anticipate he will do great things at Cambridge and beyond.”
Auburn had two 2013 finalists among the nearly 1,000 applicants for the scholarship and was one of only four public universities with that distinction. Bergen is one of 40 scholars to receive the award.
“Despite his many scholarly and academic accomplishments, what makes Paul such a special person is his willingness to take intellectual risks and truly embrace an interdisciplinary approach to learning,” said Paul Harris, associate director for national prestigious scholarships at Auburn. “Paul has a range of interests and activities which go well beyond the study of life sciences and microbiology to a passionate interest in German language, culture and history. He will thrive at Cambridge.”
The scholarship program is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates through the Gates Cambridge Trust. Gates Cambridge Scholarships are awarded to college students and recent graduates based on four criteria: intellectual ability; leadership capacity; a desire to use their knowledge to contribute to society throughout the world by providing service to their communities and applying their talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others; and demonstrating a good fit between the applicants’ abilities and aspirations to the graduate program.
For video featuring Paul Bergen, click here. (Written by Mike Clardy.)
Brooks named Hospital Hero
Dr. Roland Brooks, pre-med/chemistry ’80, was one of 10 “Hospital Heroes” honored by the Alabama Hospital Association at a luncheon in Birmingham, Ala., on Feb. 1. The Hospital Heroes program is a contest that began 10 years ago with the goal of honoring hospital employees and spotlighting health careers.
Brooks, a cardiologist at Flowers Hospital in Dothan, Ala., has served as chief of medicine, vice chief of staff and chief of staff at the hospital. He has been a member of the hospital's board of trustees since 2008 and has been medical director of the Heart and Vascular Institute and Cardiac Rehab since 1996. His colleagues say his leadership is responsible for the many strides made at the hospital in recent years, including Flowers Hospital's number one ranking in 2008 for quality care in the areas of acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. Brooks is also dedicated to his community. He has coached Dixie Youth baseball, Boy's Club basketball and city league soccer. He also volunteers his time to the Southeast Alabama Dance Company and has been stage manager for many of its performances.
For more information including a complete list of winners, click here.
Williams to participate in Dancing Stars of East Alabama
COSAM alumna, Dr. Brooke Bondly Williams, biomedical sciences ’01, will compete in the upcoming “Dancing Stars of East Alabama.” The program benefits the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama and comprises 10 celebrity dancers paired with 10 professional dancers. In addition to a dance performance competition taking place on April 18, each dancing pair must raise money for the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama in order to gain votes. For more information, click here.
Leadership Council member spotlight: Dr. Brandon Johnson
Dr. Brandon Johnson, a hematology and oncology physician and member of the Dean’s Leadership Council, is growing his locks with the intention of donating them to "Beautiful Lengths," a program sponsored by Pantene that provides free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer. Read the story here.
COSAM student athlete named to the 2013 Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Community Service Team
For some college athletes, the sports they play are a way to pay for school. For others, college athletics is the stepping stone to a career at the professional level, but for Auburn senior and women’s basketball standout Blanche Alverson, her motivation to play stems from something much bigger than herself.
Last season, Alverson, a biomedical sciences major, was inspired to give back to the community that has supported her team for so many years. Although the Auburn women’s basketball team frequently visits and reads to children at local schools, Alverson wanted to do something greater, so she started the “Ballin’ for Books” campaign. The program provides a vehicle for the women’s basketball team to collect books that are then donated to the community. To read the full story, click here.
Alverson was recognized for her efforts as she was named to the 2013 Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Community Service Team. This is the third year in a row Alverson has received the honor.
In addition to the Ballin’ for Books program, she has also participated in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program and collected food as part of the Auburn United Methodist Church Food Pantry.
A native of Andalusia, Ala., Alverson is third on the team with 12.6 points per game and leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game. Earlier this season she became just the fourth Auburn player ever to tally 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 assists, 100 steals and 50 blocks in a collegiate career. She currently ranks 22nd all-time at Auburn in scoring with 1,182 points and is 23rd with 568 rebounds.
Alverson is also one of the most prolific outside shooters in Auburn history, ranking second all-time at Auburn with 202 career 3-pointers. She is just the second Auburn player ever to tally 200 career 3-pointers and is the 33rd SEC player ever to do so.
To see a video of Alverson talking about her Ballin’ For Books campaign, click here.
Student Council and AED lend a hand at the arboretum
Both the COSAM Student Council and Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health student organization, are regularly involved in community service projects. Recently the two groups joined forces and spent time at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, pulling weeds, planting and assisting in preparing the arboretum for spring. To see more photos from the event, join us on Facebook.
Parkerson Mill Creek Showdown
On Saturday, Feb. 23, nature lovers united for the “Parkerson Mill Creek Showdown,” an invasive-plant cleanup event that took place on campus along Parkerson Mill Creek behind the McWhorter Center. The event was designed for those who are concerned about the impact of invasive plants on local habitats and would like to learn more about how to manage invasive plants. Participants removed invasive plants that were growing along the creek and then enjoyed a free chili lunch. The event was sponsored by the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Facilities Management, Parkerson Mill Creek Project, Office of Sustainability, Athletics, Alabama Invasive Plant Council, Department of Horticulture and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Don’t forget about these upcoming events at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum:
April 4: Explore the benefits of and various methods for capturing and storing rainwater at a free-of-charge Rainwater Harvesting Workshop. The workshop will take place from 5:00 to 7 p.m. at the arboretum.
April 8-12: The arboretum will accept submissions for the 2013 Photo Contest in five categories, and all contestants must be amateur photographers. Visit the arboretum website for guidelines.
Auburn researchers receive grant to refocus STEM education
Allen Landers (pictured left), associate professor and Howard Carr Professor of Outreach and Experimental Atomic and Molecular Physics in COSAM, received a grant from the Alabama State Department of Education to provide professional development for teachers and engage students in project-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Mary Lou Ewald (pictured right), COSAM’s director for the Department of Outreach, and Christine Schnittka, assistant professor of science and engineering education with a joint appointment in the Colleges of Education and Engineering, are co-primary investigators on the project. The grant is in the amount of $230,500 and will support the RE2-FoCUS Initiative to offer professional development for 176 Alabama middle school science and math teachers. The researchers will also collaborate with BEST Robotics Inc., through BEST executive director George Blanks, George Blanks, director of K-12 outreach in the College of Engineering. For more information, send an email to Mary Lou Ewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Bridge Program Applications due March 15
The COSAM Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is currently accepting applications for the 2013 Summer Bridge Program. Twenty-five to thirty students will be chosen for this four week enrichment program. The COSAM Summer Bridge Program is an intensive four-week residential program for talented and highly motivated minority students from populations traditionally underrepresented in the sciences and mathematics who want to get a head start in their college career. This program, which takes place on the main campus of Auburn University, emphasizes academic preparedness, development and enhancement of study and time management skills, establishment of academic and social support and career awareness. Chemistry and Mathematics faculty, graduate teaching assistants, counselors and academic advisors will staff the program. Summer Bridge provides the framework to build upon to excel in the sciences, mathematics, and pre-professional courses of study. Summer Bridge students consistently perform better than other minority students that do not attend. The Summer Bridge Program is scheduled for June 2-June 27. The application deadline is March 15. For additional information, visit the Summer Bridge website.