Professors named recipients of endowed positions
Four professors in COSAM were named the recipients of endowed positions, with appointments beginning Oct. 1.
Edward Thomas, physics professor and director of the Plasma Sciences Lab, is the inaugural recipient of the Lawrence C. Wit Professorship. Thomas received his bachelor of science in physics from Florida Institute of Technology in 1989 and his master’s in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993. In 1996, he received his Ph.D. in physics from Auburn University. Thomas left Auburn but was soon recruited back, this time to serve as a physics faculty member in COSAM. He is the recent recipient of a $2.1 million National Science Foundation grant that is enabling him to build a Magnetized Dusty Plasma device used for studying the complex interactions between neutral atoms, ions, electrons and charged microparticles in a fully magnetized plasma environment in which the magnetic force is comparable to other forces acting on the particles. This new experiment allows laboratory investigations of phenomena relevant to plasma physics, astrophysics, fusion and fluid systems under conditions that were previously inaccessible in earlier experiments.
Ken Halanych, alumni professor and former coordinator of the Marine Biology program in the Department of Biological Sciences, is the inaugural recipient of the Stewart W. Schneller Chair. Halanych received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Wake Forest University in 1988, followed by a doctorate in biology from the University of Texas in 1994. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Southern Methodist University, University of Pretoria (South Africa), and Rutgers University. His research focuses on the molecular systematics, phylogeography and evolution of marine invertebrates. He is also active in research pertaining to the environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. To date, he has authored close to 80 articles in publications, and his work has garnered more than $4.5 million in grant funding. He is the co-director of the Molette Biology Laboratory for Environmental and Climate Change Studies, the 2010 Dean’s Faculty Research Award winner, and a recipient of the 2006 Auburn University Alumni Professor Award. He is also a Program Committee member for Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
Andras Bezdek, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was named the C. Harry Knowles Professor for Research Leadership in Mathematics Instruction. Bezdek received a Ph.D. in 1986 from Ohio State University; a Kandidatus in 1989 from Alfréd Renyi Institute of Mathematics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; a Doctor Habilitation in 1999 from Eotvos University in Budapest; and a Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2006 in Budapest. He also received the COSAM Outstanding Teacher Award and, in the last five years, Bezdek has extended his research in discrete geometry to math education, promoting teaching geometry with the use of 3-D models. Together with Professor Bret Smith of the Department of Industrial and Graphic Design, they introduced and organized an interdisciplinary studio modeling course and created a permanent mathematics exhibit placed in Parker Hall.
In addition to being named department chair, Tin-Yau Tam, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was named the Lloyd and Sandra Nix Endowed Professor. Tam received both his bachelor of science and his Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong. He joined the Auburn University faculty in 1988 and since that time, has accumulated numerous honors and awards including being named SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellow for 2009-2010 and Outstanding Graduate Mentor in 2011. He has consistently secured grant funding, collaborated on numerous international projects, organized conferences and overseen five master’s students and six Ph.D. students. Tam teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses at Auburn and his research interests are in algebraic structures and classification, problem solving involving analytical and algebraic techniques, and representation theory and their applications. He is on the editorial board of several mathematical journals including the Journal of Linear and Multilinear Algebra and the Electronic Journal of Linear Algebra. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Linear Algebra Society and a member of the Mathematical Association of America, has about 80 published works, and has served COSAM as the director of assessment and planning and the university as a whole as special assistant to the provost. He also serves as the chair of the University Scholarship Committee and the Administrator Evaluation Committee.
COSAM congratulates these four exceptional individuals who have earned their respective recognition, and the college looks forward to their continued outstanding leadership in research, instruction and outreach.
Biological Sciences News:
Student group hosts guest speaker, visits Gulf Coast
The Society for Conservation Biology, or SCB, had a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25 where Michael Wooten, professor of Biological Sciences, spoke to the group about a conservation project he has worked on for many years involving the Alabama beach mouse and its relatives. He discussed the life history of the five subspecies of beach mice found along the Gulf Coast, as well as the conservation actions that were taken to protect the mice. Wooten then joined the group on a field trip to the Gulf Coast, which included a visit to the Gulf Coast Zoo, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and Splinter Hill Bog. Ten members of SCB participated. The group left Auburn in the afternoon of Sept. 28 and drove to the Nature Conservancy’s Splinter Hill Bog where they spent the night in the house located on the preserve. The next morning, they drove to Gulf Shores and visited the Gulf Coast Zoo, where Auburn alumna and former SCB member Jessica Larson, zoology ’12, now works. Larson, who also received a minor in conservation biology, was able to visit with her former classmates and discuss with them her work at the zoo.
After lunch, the group met Wooten at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge to tour the beach and dunes, which provide habitat for the federally endangered Alabama Beach Mouse. The group then returned to the Splinter Hill house to spend the night, and then spent Sunday morning touring the pitcher plant bogs of the preserve.
Liles and Hill awarded USDA Multistate Awards
Two faculty members in the Department of Biological Sciences received USDA Multistate Awards from the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Associate Professor Mark Liles (left) received $90,000 for his research project titled, "Detection and prophylaxis of the catfish pathogen Aeromonas hydrophila." Professor Geoff Hill (below) received $40,000 for his research on "The genetic basis for attenuation of virulence of Mycoplasma gallisepticum in chickens following host shift."
A Multistate Project, also called a “Regional Project,” involves cooperative, jointly planned research employing multidisciplinary approaches to solve problems of concern to multiple states or across a region. Multistate Projects are officially approved by a regional association of agricultural experiment station directors and by USDA. Multistate Projects also include National Projects involving multiple regions. A Multistate Project must also provide a plan of research for five years, and can serve as an Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station project.
Tigers for Tigers to host a booth on Auburn vs. Arkansas game day
Football fans can visit the Tigers for Tigers booth that will be set up in front of Parker Hall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. Tigers for Tigers is a program sponsored by the Society for Conservation Biology, a student organization, with the goal of raising funds and awareness of the devastation and severe peril facing some wildlife today. Auburn University joined forces in this effort with other institutions that share a tiger mascot, namely University of Missouri and Clemson University, to specifically highlight the destruction facing tigers in the wild in the form of farming and the illegal trade of tiger parts. The tiger is currently on the brink of extinction. Today, there are not enough tigers in the wild to even fill one section of seats in Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. Learn more at the booth on Saturday.
Representatives from Auburn attend conference in D.C.
The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, or NOBCChE, held the 39th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. from Sept. 25 to 28. In attendance at this year’s conference were representatives from COSAM, including Vincent Ortiz, Ruth W. Molette Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate students Charmaine Tutson, president of the Auburn chapter of NOBCChE, PaviElle Lockhart, vice president of the Auburn chapter of NOBECChE, Dana Lashley, Cheryl Dejournette, Catherine Njeri and Elizabeth Ndontsa; and Bianca Evans, minority programs coordinator for the COSAM Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Also at the conference from Auburn was Zenda Davis, graduate student from the Department of Chemical Engineering.
The theme of the conference was, “STEMulating Innovation and Economic Growth Through Diversity.” At the conference, the team from Auburn University had an opportunity to hear guest lectures pertaining to cutting-edge topics in the fields of health, science and technology, including the keynote address given by Larry Robinson, Ph.D. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate confirmed Robinson by unanimous consent to serve as assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Robinson helps guide policy and program direction for NOAA’s conservation, protection and resource management priorities. The conference also included technical sessions that were meant to foster new ideas, as well as poster presentations.
Also at the conference were more than 60 universities, businesses and industry leaders in the fields of chemistry and chemical engineering that set up information booths. The booths allowed participants the opportunity to interact with representatives from these leading institutions, learn about career options and explore educational opportunities. Included among the leaders in chemistry and chemical engineering education were the representatives from Auburn, who hosted an exhibit, providing information on both COSAM and the College of Engineering, and the diverse opportunities and fields of study both colleges offer.
Additionally, Ortiz and Roberts were recognized with the 2012 NOBCChE President’s Award (pictured is Ortiz). Victor McCrary, president of NOBCChE, presented the awards. Ortiz and Roberts were recognized for initiating and supporting the Technology Education Partnership between Auburn University and NOBCChE, and for providing increased opportunities and a more receptive environment for under-represented students to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Mathematics and Statistics News:
Swan wins thesis award
Brandon Swan won the 2012-13 Auburn University Graduate School Master’s Thesis Award. His thesis is titled, “Competition Graphs." Winners are selected on the basis of clarity of style and presentation, scholarship, research methodology and contributions to the field or discipline. The award carries with it an honorarium of $250 and a certificate of citation that are presented at the Graduate School’s annual awards ceremony. Swan’s advisor is Chris Rodger, mathematics professor and COSAM’s associate dean for research.
Gruenhage gives Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lecture
Mathematics Professor Gary Gruenhage gave this year's Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lecture, "Undecidable Propositions." In the lecture, Gruenhage explained why one should expect "undecidable" statements and how to deal with them. He also gave examples of natural questions in topology that have turned out to be undecidable.
The lecture, sponsored jointly by the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Graduate School, took place on Wednesday, Oct. 3. For more information, click here.
Auburn University to host the second U.S.-Africa Masamu Research Workshop in Africa
The Second Annual Masamu U.S.-Africa Research Workshop will be held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, immediately following the Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association, or SAMSA, 2012 Conference in Lilongwe, Malawi. The aim of the workshop is to present and work on new mathematical biology problems and plan the 2012-2013 research activities. In addition to working on the themes from the 2011 Masamu Research Workshop, which took place in Livingstone, Zambia, that included dynamical systems, numerical methods and mathematical modeling of contagious diseases, participants of the 2012 research workshop will work on modeling biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity conservation is an emerging research area of importance that is vital to conservation managers and policymakers. A team of 10 Americans and 10 Africans, comprised of advanced graduate students, early career faculty and senior research faculty, will participate in the workshop.
Institute and workshop organizers include Overtoun Jenda, mathematics professor and associate provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and Mathematics Professors Peter Johnson and Michel Smith. Additionally, Mathematics Professor Ash Abebe, as well as Jenda and Smith are on the Masamu program steering committee. Funding for the Masamu U.S.-Africa Research Workshop is provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation. For more information about the Masamu program and its various activities, visit the website.
We want to hear from you! Please email news on promotions, research, graduations, honors and awards, new jobs, marriage, children and anything else that's new in your life to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo.
Alumnus defends dissertation, is post-doctoral fellow
Michael Wall, physics ’06, recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation titled “Quantum Many-Body Physics of Ultracold Molecules in Optical Lattices: Models and Simulation Methods” at the Colorado School of Mines. As an undergraduate at Auburn, Wall performed research in atomic physics with Physics Professors Francis Robicheaux and Allen Landers. He is presently a postdoctoral fellow supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in the Ultracold Molecules program. He will spend nine weeks, beginning Jan. 2013, at the Kavli institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara as an invited participant in the Fundamental Science and Applications of Ultra-cold Polar Molecules program.
Dr. T. Lee Baumann a medical consultant in Birmingham, Ala., has been a member of the COSAM Dean’s Leadership Council since 2008. He holds medical certifications in internal medicine, geriatrics and medical management, and practiced medicine for about 20 years. For the past 12 years, he has worked as a “quantum spirituality” writer. His first book, "God at the Speed of Light," helped to inspire a CBS television series, "Joan of Arcadia." His ninth book, "Medusa of Time: How Technology Redefines Copenhagen," was published in September, and according to the press release, the book, “reconciles the age-old question of why human observation appears to cause the collapse of the enigmatic wave function of quantum mechanics." The book is further described as transforming complex scientific concepts to understandable terms, even for the non-scientist.
Baumann has been featured for his writing and theories in television documentaries by Grizzly Adams productions ("The Evidence for Heaven" and "The Search for Heaven"), Alabama Public Television, and has appeared on the popular radio programs "Coast-to-Coast" and CBC's "Tapestry.”
Despite the success of his books, Baumann maintains that when it comes to his career, he is most proud of achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a practicing physician. Learn more about Baumann by clicking here.
War Eagle BEST to take place in October
The Departments of Outreach in COSAM and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering will host 25 middle and high school teams from east Alabama and west Georgia for the 2012 War Eagle BEST, or Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, robotics competition on Oct. 13. The event will be held from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. EDT at Smiths Station High School in Smiths, Ala. BEST robotics engages, excites and inspires students to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology through participation in a sports-like, science- and engineering-based robotics competition. Headquartered at Auburn University, it is the nation’s third largest K-12 robotics competition with more than 18,000 students from 900 schools, with over 6,000 volunteers involved. The War Eagle BEST hub is one of 47 located in 18 states. Nano-technology is at the center of this year's game, titled “Warp XX,” which challenges teams to build a robot capable of going up a space elevator to deliver and retrieve goods from space. To learn more, check out the BEST Robotics website, or visit the War Eagle BEST website.
Registration now open for special Halloween GUTS program
COSAM’s Department of Outreach is accepting registration for the special Halloween edition of the Getting Under the Surface, or GUTS, program. GUTS is an event for first- through sixth-grade students and parents. Participants take part in a 90-minute, hands-on science activity themed around an engaging science concept or topic in order to develop deeper meaning and understanding. The Halloween program will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. and will include four course choices: Batty for Bats (1st - 3rd graders), Pumpkin Mania (1st – 3rd graders), The GUTS of Blood (4th - 6th graders), and Bones: Connecting the Living to the Dead (4th - 6th graders). Pre-registration is required and seating is limited. The program costs $20 per parent/child pair. Descriptions of each course and registration forms can be found HERE. For more information contact Erin Percival by email at email@example.com or call 844-7449.
Diversity and Multicultural Affairs News:
Scholarships awarded to students with disabilities in STEM disciplines
The Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or AASD-STEM, awarded 113 students with disabilities from five institutions a $2,000 scholarship. The goal of AASD-STEM is to increase the quantity and quality of students receiving associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. This collaborative research project by Auburn University, Auburn University Montgomery, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University and Southern Union State Community College is funded by the National Sciences Foundation and offers scholarships, fellowships and summer internships to students in STEM disciplines with a qualifying disability. Auburn University is the lead institution. Fifty-nine of the 113 students are from the Auburn University main campus. For more information, visit the AASD-STEM website.
Dr. Amjad Hussain to present lectures on medical ethics
Dr. Amjad Hussain, emeritus professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, will be on the Auburn University campus on Oct. 18. Hussain will share his experiences in practicing medicine around the world and the life lessons he has learned throughout his world travels. There will be two opportunities to hear Hussain speak. He will present a lecture titled “Cultural and Religious Minefields in the Practice of Medicine” at 11:45 a.m. as part of the Auburn Connects! lecture series in Foy Hall 258. Later that evening, Hussain will give a lecture titled “Medical Ethics in the U.S. and Abroad” in the auditorium of The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Both events are free to the public. These lectures are sponsored by Auburn Connects!, the Office of Undergraduate Studies , the Common Book Program and the Multicultural Center, a unit of the Auburn University Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
Students trained to serve as mentors for freshmen
The Promoting Academic Success for Students, or PASS, Mentoring Program training was held on Sept. 16. The mission of program is to promote academic success by providing a healthy learning and social environment. The goal is to increase the success and retention rates of first-year minority freshmen. The program connects first-year minority and other underrepresented students with upper-class peer mentors. Peer mentors coordinate opportunities for students to become acclimated to the campus and Auburn area, as well as develop their personal, academic, social and cultural experiences through programming and guidance.
Mentors learned about best practices in mentoring during training, including: the role of a mentor, building positive relationships with mentees, and the importance of communication. Mentors were taught the protocol for handling red-flag issues and the boundaries that should exist within a mentoring relationship. The primary goal of the training is to prepare mentors from diverse backgrounds to work effectively with mentees. All mentors are provided a thorough understanding of their volunteer commitment, along with the rules and regulations of participating in the PASS Mentoring Program.
Total attendance included 34 students, one counseling intern and one staff member. For more information on the PASS Mentoring Program, visit the website.
Arboretum co-sponsors the 13th annual Adventures in Art program
Elementary students from Auburn City Schools discovered new worlds through nature, puppets and performance at the Adventures in Art program titled, “Nature on a String.” Each day during the weeklong program, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Auburn City Schools learned about art, nature and performance. This year’s program focused on the art of performance through puppetry, in which students explored nature and conservation. The program began at the Auburn High School performing Art Center, The Julie and Hal Moore Center for Excellence, with a theatrical performance by the Center for Puppetry Arts, or CPA. Students then split into groups and attended three workshops where they: worked on a visual arts project where students created a frottage inspired by the work of naturalist artist John James Audubon; took an educational tour of the arboretum where they discussed plants growing in the special habitats that exist in the state of Alabama, such as rocky hillsides, stream bottoms, pond edges, salt spray influenced sand dunes, pitcher plant bogs and the alkaline soil of the Black Belt Prairie; and attended a performance workshop on puppet manipulation with CPA.
Adventures in Art was hosted by Auburn Parks and Recreation and was sponsored by the Auburn Arts Association, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Auburn University professor Chichi Lovett and her ARTS 3010 & 4010 students, Golden Flake, a Community Assistance Grant from the Junior League of Lee County, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Geology and Geography News:
Internal grant triggers interdisciplinary work and multiple projects
Luke Marzen, professor in the department of Geology and Geography, Art Chappelka, professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and Paul Holley, Aderholdt Professor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, applied for a grant through Auburn’s Office of the Vice President for Research to purchase high-tech equipment that will prove useful in a variety of ways in their various disciplines. The request was approved, and now Auburn University owns a T-LiDAR scanner, an instrument that can produce three-dimensional models of most anything. Marzen, Chappelka and Holley will use the equipment for a variety of projects, many of which include student involvement. Read the full story, including video, here.
Robicheaux receives NSF grant for anti-matter research
Physics Professor Francis Robicheaux received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $120,000. The grant is titled, “Experimental and Theoretical Study of the Plasma Physics of Antihydrogen Generation and Trapping,” and will assist Robicheaux in his continued ground-breaking research. Last year, Robicheaux, along with an international team of scientists, made a scientific breakthrough by trapping and holding the anti-matter version of the hydrogen atom. When the discovery was initially announced, the team, known as ALPHA, had captured 38 atoms of antihydrogen, storing each for a mere sixth of a second. Since then, ALPHA has made significant progress by trapping hundreds of antihydrogen atoms, with some held for as long as 15 minutes. As a result of the longer holding times, the scientists are now able to work toward improved production of trappable anti-atoms as well as study their dynamics. However, challenges remain. The team hopes to rebuild the ALPHA apparatus for better configuration for most measurements of the properties of antihydrogen, as well as to allow laser and better microwave access. They also hope to succeed in creating longer trapping rates. The long-term goal of this antihydrogen research is to search for differences between the properties of hydrogen and antihydrogen. The research addresses the very basis of understanding of the world and potentially has deep implications on the nature of particle interactions, matter, antimatter symmetry and cosmology.