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September 2013 - 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:

Journey magazine is now available online! - Click HERE for more
Davis Arboretum to host 50th anniversary celebration - Click HERE for more
Leadership Council Member Spotlight: Nathan Sills - Click HERE for more
Donnan conducts physics research in Germany and gives presentation at international conference in Scotland - Click HERE for more
Auburn to host 99th annual meeting of the Southeastern Branch of ASM - Click HERE for more
Physics Department to host International Conference of Atomic Processes in Plasmas - Click HERE for more
Other News:


Journey magazine available online
Journey MagazineThe 2013 edition of Journey magazine, COSAM’s yearly print publication, is now available to read online. This year’s cover story is about the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, and readers will receive a glimpse of the museum’s extensive collections. Be sure to register for a chance to win a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum by taking the Journey Magazine Online Quiz. The quiz features 10 questions about the magazine’s content and those who receive a perfect score will be entered to win.

Giordano featured Take 5
GiordanoCOSAM’s new dean, Nicholas Giordano, was the featured Take 5 on the Auburn University homepage during the week of Sept. 3. In the feature, Giordano answered five questions, where he revealed his first impressions of COSAM and what he believes will be the biggest challenge heading into the future. To read the Take 5 featuring Giordano, click here.

New website gives campus community, football fans ideas for weekend activities
Destination GuideA new website developed by the Office of Communications and Marketing provides a one-stop resource for the many places and events that are of interest to campus visitors. The Visitor’s Guide to Campus links readers to university-related destinations such as COSAM’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum, a 14-acre garden featuring a living collection of native plants from the southeastern U.S. Also included is the Southeastern Raptor Center, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art and more.

Biological Sciences News:

Hill appointed deputy division director at NSF
Geoff HillProfessor Geoffrey Hill has been appointed deputy division director of Integrative Organismal Systems at the National Science Foundation. He will spend the 2013-14 academic year at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va., assisting the division director in overseeing and carrying out the day-to-day operations and management of the division. Hill received a bachelor of science from Indiana University, a master’s from the University of New Mexico and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. His primary area of research is the study of sexual selection and the evolution of ornamental traits in animals.

Society for Conservation Biology to hold meeting and field trip
The Society for Conservation Biology will hold the second meeting of the semester on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. in 112 Rouse. The meeting will begin with a presentation by Sharon Hermann, assistant professor of ecology, on longleaf pine restoration efforts. Hermann’s talk is a precursor of an on-campus tour of longleaf pine restoration sites, scheduled for Sept. 21. Following Hermann’s presentation, the group will join Shawn Jacobsen, field lab coordinator, and assistant professor Debbie Folkerts, both of the Department of Biological Sciences, for a night excursion to wetlands in Tuskegee National Forest. Once in the wetlands, Jacobsen and Folkerts will educate the students on the night critters the group encounters. For more information, contact Pia Kulakowski at pmk0001@tigermail.auburn.edu. For more information on the Society for Conservation Biology, like the group on Facebook.

Auburn to host 99th annual meeting of the Southeastern Branch of ASM
This year, the 99th annual meeting of the Southeastern Branch of the American Society for Microbiology will take place at Auburn University. The meeting will take place from Nov. 7-9 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center and will include ASM members from Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Sang-Jin Suh, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is serving as the 2013-14 president of the Southeastern Branch of ASM. ASM is one of the largest discipline-specific science organizations with nearly 45,000 members worldwide, and the Southeastern Branch is one of the oldest branches. For more information, click here.

Bat Walk to take place in October
BatwalkOn Oct. 23, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Auburn University Museum of Natural History will host the 2013 Bat Walk at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum. The kid-friendly event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a brief presentation on bats given by Auburn University graduate students. Following the presentation, participants will be divided into groups to look for bats in the Davis Arboretum. A bat detector and night-vision scope will be on hand to assist in locating the animals. Bat Walk will also have live bats on location for observation, as well as door prizes. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Participants should bring a flashlight. For more information, contact Biological Sciences graduate student Sam Hirt at 801.717.0594 or by email at hirtsam@auburn.edu.

Schwartz receives NIH grant for myeloid dendritic cell development research
Elizabeth SchwartzAssistant professor Elizabeth Schwartz, microbiology ’89, received a three-year, $444,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for her research project titled, “Impact of bacterial infection on myeloid dendritic cell development.” Schwartz will research how infection of myeloid cells at distinct stages of development affects their function as antigen-presenting cells, and she will study how the developmental status of myeloid cells affects the fate of Listeria within the cell. Ultimately, she will test whether the infection of poorly developed myeloid cells (common myeloid progenitors and monocyte/dendritic cell progenitors) with Listeria will inhibit the overall immune response by imparting immunosuppressive function and enhancing the growth and spread of bacteria.
“Thanks to their ability to stimulate strong immune responses, dendritic cells hold great promise as potential vaccines for a variety of diseases and cancer,” Schwartz said. “This project is aimed at enhancing our understanding of the ontogeny of dendritic cell function and thus optimizing the design of such vaccines.”
Schwartz received her doctorate from Emory University and her research and teaching interests include: host/microbe interaction; antigen presenting cell biology, development and function; dynamics of dendritic cell gene expression during maturation; bacterial biofilm impact on food borne infection; immunology; and microbiology. For more information, visit her website.

Wada receives NSF grant to develop research symposium
Haruka WadaAssistant professor Haruka Wada received a $14,500 grant from the National Science Foundation to coordinate a symposium on developmental phenotypic plasticity for the 2014 Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting that will take place in January in Austin, Texas. During the symposium, Wada will bring together evolutionary biologists and physiologists who are conducting research in the field of phenotypic plasticity. Wada aims to spark future interdisciplinary collaborations between the two groups of scientists. The symposium will also be designed to encourage participation from early career scientists, particularly those from underrepresented groups, by providing them an opportunity to receive feedback from senior scientists and identify future mentors. For more information on the 2014 Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting, visit the website.

Rashotte receives Hatch grant for tomato research
RashotteAssistant professor Aaron Rashotte was awarded a $50,000 competitive USDA-Hatch grant for a research project titled, “The Role of SICRFs in regulating Tomato Abiotic Stress Response.” According to Rashotte, tomato production is highly dependent on healthy functioning and photosynthesizing plants that are resistant or tolerant to abiotic environmental stresses.
“As such, a greater understanding of the genes in the plant that regulate stress resistance is essential to vegetative development and critically important for healthy tomato plants and fruits,” Rashotte said. “Despite this importance, little is known about the genes that regulate stress response in tomatoes.”
In his research, Rashotte hopes to increase overall understanding of the role of cytokinin-regulated solanum-lycopersicum-cytokinin-response-factor genes in tomato plants exposed to a range of abiotic environmental stress. The research builds on prior work conducted by Rashotte, and the research will provide foundational knowledge to growers and breeders to potentially maximize growth of tomatoes in response to abiotic stresses normally encountered.

Mathematics & Statistics News:

Uhlig to retire, symposium held in his honor
Uhlig RetirementOn Aug. 23, The Department of Mathematics and Statistics hosted the Frank Uhlig Retirement Colloquium and Workshop. Mathematics professor Frank Uhlig has been a faculty member at Auburn since 1982. Colleagues gathered to celebrate Uhlig’s many contributions to mathematics and Auburn University with a series of guest speakers from universities across the region and mathematics presentations throughout the day. Uhlig will retire after a 31-year career at Auburn. Visit the COSAM Facebook page to see photos from the event.

Physics News:

Physics Department to host International Conference of Atomic Processes in Plasmas
PlasmasThe Department of Physics will host the 18th International Conference of Atomic Processes in Plasmas. The conference will take place at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center Oct. 7-10, and scientists with a variety of expertise will be present, from astrophysicists to nuclear physicists. The conference will consist of plenary lectures, invited talks and poster contributions. Topics explored will include low-temperature/atmospheric plasmas, astrophysical plasmas, small laser-produced plasmas, high-energy density plasmas, magnetic-fusion plasmas, next-generation light sources, measurements of atomic processes, fundamental data and modeling and free electron lasers. The topics covered will include: Low-temperature/atmospheric plasmas. For more information, visit the website.

Professors Thomas and Konopka receive funding for dusty plasma research
Edward ThomasEdward Thomas, Jr. (pictured left), the Lawrence C. Wit Professor, and associate professor Uwe Konopka (pictured below), both of the Plasma Sciences Laboratory in the Department of Physics, were awarded two new grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation totaling $765,000 for the project titled, “The Physics of Magnetized Dusty Plasmas.”  According to Thomas, dusty plasmas are a novel, four-component plasma state consisting of ions, electrons, neutral atoms and charged microparticles (i.e., “dust”). The awards Uwe Konopkaprovide continuing support for the Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment (MDPX), a multi-user, next-generation, superconducting, high magnetic field plasma physics research instrument. The awards will support Auburn University students and researchers, and will also bring a diverse team of national and international researchers to Auburn to perform experimental and theoretical studies using the MDPX device. When combined with funding provided to the project collaborators at the University of Iowa and the University of California – San Diego, a total of more than $1 million has been provided to the MDPX research team. For more information on the Plasma Sciences Laboratory, visit the website.

Pindzola receives NSF grant
Michael PindzolaProfessor Michael Pindzola received a three-year, $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for his atomic theory research.
“Understanding the breakup of atoms and molecules remains a formidable task. Complex experiments using free electron lasers at SLAC in California and at DESY in Germany, or low energy antiproton beams at CERN in Switzerland, are a challenge to explain for modern theoretical methods using massively parallel supercomputers,” Pindzola said.
Thus far, he has received $60,000 for his project which aims to provide new insights into the quantal dynamics found in the photon electron, and antiproton ionization of atoms like helium, lithium and magnesium, as well as molecules like H2 and Li2.
“Since atomic and molecular processes are present in most physical phenomena, ranging from astronomical observations of the early universe to laboratory production of microchips, a more complete understanding of the few body dynamics of atoms and molecules can lead to a wealth of new scientific discoveries,” Pindzola said.

Alumni Highlights:

Boronski joins Institute for Research and Applications of Fuzzy Modeling in Czech Republic

BoronskiCOSAM alumnus Jan Boronski began a fulltime research position at the Centre of Excellence IT4Innovations, Institute for Research and Applications of Fuzzy Modeling, in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Boronski, who received a doctorate in mathematics from Auburn in 2010 and a master’s in mathematics from the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, was selected for the position from an international pool of applicants. Prior to the appointment, Boronski was an instructor in COSAM’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The Institute for Research and Applications of Fuzzy Modeling is one of the few research institutes in the world working in the field of soft computing. The institute has made significant contributions to the field and has developed various software tools offering novel methods that can be applied in various areas such as control, decision-making, data analysis, analysis of signals, and solving differential equations.

Student Highlights:

Donnan conducts physics research in Germany and gives presentation at international conference in Scotland
Patrick DonnanPhysics senior Patrick Donnan made his mark as an academic elite when he was chosen as a 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar , an honor bestowed upon approximately 300 students nationwide each year. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
Ever eager for more knowledge and experience in the realm of physics, Donnan, who is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music, spent the summer working in Dresden, Germany, at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems under the guidance of Thomas Pohl, leader of the Complex Dynamics in Cold Gases unit.
“I was working at the boundary between plasma physics and atomic physics, studying ultra-cold neutral plasms,” Donnan said. “I had been doing research in atomic physics for a long time, so moving into a different area was challenging. I had new physics to learn.”
Donnan was introduced to Pohl last year at the Undergraduate Session of the Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.
“I asked if I could come and work for him, and he said yes,” Donnan explained. “I think it’s best if you don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. You have to go and get them.”
Just before the beginning of fall semester, Donnan traveled to Europe again, this time to Scotland where he gave a research presentation on laser cooling anti-hydrogen atoms at the International Conference of Physics Students. Donnan was selected to give a presentation because he is the recipient of a 2013 Society of Physics Students Outstanding Student Award for Undergraduate Research. The award recognized his research efforts in the realm of laser cooling anti-hydrogen atoms, work that was published in the Journal of Physics B: Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics in 2013, his second paper to be accepted for publication in the journal. He has also published papers in the prestigious journal Nature, as well as the New Journal of Physics.
During his time at Auburn, he has taken advantage of numerous opportunities. This year he is the recipient of an undergraduate research fellowship, and he is working under the mentorship of physics professor Jianjun Dong studying phonon-polaritons. He also had an undergraduate research fellowship his sophomore year, and he has conducted research in Auburn’s Department of Physics since his first semester at Auburn. Additionally, he plays bassoon in Auburn’s Symphonic Band, Orchestra, Woodwind Quintet and Bassoon Ensemble, and he is an editor of the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship. This semester he is applying to graduate schools and working closely with Paul Harris, associate director of national prestigious scholarships in the Honors College, seeking additional scholarships.
Donnan has some advice for incoming freshman students: “Start research as soon as you can – that’s how you find out if you really love what you are doing, and it will make you better at your field. You will learn to work on problems that no one knows the answer to, rather than looking in the back of the book to find the answer. Also, don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. There are a lot of resources and cool things you can do – figure out what they are. Both are important to be sure you maximize your time here at Auburn.”

Development News:

Dean's Scholarship Golf Classic to be held at Grand National
Grand NationalRegistration is now open for the 2013 COSAM Dean's Scholarship Golf Classic, which will be held Friday, Oct. 11, at Grand National in Opelika, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. All proceeds from the tournament benefit annual scholarships in COSAM. Click here to register online. For more information, contact Brook Moates at 334.844.2931 or by email at brook@auburn.edu.

COSAM to host tailgate
tAILGATEOn Sept. 14, COSAM Office of Development will host a tailgate prior to the Auburn vs. Mississippi State football game in the COSAM Quad, located between the Sciences Center Classrooms Building and Extension Hall. The tailgate will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and all friends and alumni of COSAM are welcome. Click here to read the evite. Be sure to stop by if you are in town for the game. War Eagle!

Leadership Council Member Spotlight:
Nathan Sills
Nathan SillsNathan Sills, geography ’05, is area director for Magnolia River Services, an Alabama-based company providing infrastructure and geospatial services for pipeline, energy, GIS, surveying and mapping. He received a master’s in geography from the University of Alabama, and he specializes in geospatial technologies. A member of the Dean’s Leadership Council for three years, Sills said he feels it’s his duty to give back to Auburn in any way he can. “I want to help students have a great experience like I did at Auburn,” he said. Sills and his wife, Jill, marketing ’04, have a one-year-old son, Nolan, and they live in Birmingham, Ala. In his spare time, Sills enjoys Auburn football, baseball, riding dirt bikes and travel.
Why did you agree to participate in the Dean’s Leadership Council?
First, I always wanted to be involved and give back to Auburn. I had a great experience at the university that I don’t think would have been possible at many other places; especially in the areas of undergraduate interdisciplinary research and interaction. COSAM is such a diverse college and has very bright people who challenged my way of thinking and transformed my direction as a student. I don’t think I would have gone to graduate school if I had not had such influential mentors in the Auburn geography program.
What talents and/or qualities do you possess that make you a valuable member of the Dean’s Leadership Council?
I feel I bring a real-world expectation level to the group considering I am still at the foundation level of my career. With today’s rapid technological advancements changing how people work, it is good to have a perspective brought to the Leadership Council that causes us to consider how students are being taught and what is coming “down the pike,” so to speak. I want Auburn and COSAM to continue to produce the highest quality students who can contribute to the workforce as soon as they enter. Auburn University and COSAM do a great job in this pursuit, and I am glad to contribute where I can.    
Of what in your career, thus far, are you most proud?
I am most proud of being able to deliver cutting edge technologies that change the way people approach their work and make lives easier. I am also proud to say the geospatial technologies field I work in is a growth area and will create many jobs in the future that Auburn graduates can fill.
Is there a particular area of COSAM that holds significant interest for you? If so, what is it and why?
The geography program is of significant interest to me. When I was in the program less than 10 years ago, I believe we only had around 15 to 20 declared majors. In the short time since my graduation, geography has added a graduate program and continues to grow. Geography is a core science that bridges many gaps and opens up many opportunities for collaboration, which I experienced firsthand at Auburn. I feel the technology of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which is taught in the Geography Department, is a particular area that helps spur collaboration and will continue to cause growth in the Geography Department for many years to come. I plan to support the effort in any way possible.

Arboretum News:

Davis Arboretum to host 50th anniversary celebration
ArboretumTo commemorate 50 years of dedication to the university and community, on Sept. 29, from 2 to 4 p.m., the Donald E. Davis Arboretum will host a 50th anniversary celebration in the garden. Sponsored by the College of Sciences and Mathematics, the arboretum is located at 181 Garden Drive and is situated on 14 acres of the university's main campus. A popular Auburn University landmark, the arboretum showcases native plants of the Southeastern U.S., and the core collections include oaks, carnivorous plants and native azaleas. For 50 years, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum has served Auburn University and the broader community by offering visitors a natural setting for reflection and relaxation. The garden also supports educational programming for all ages and provides an extension of the classrooms for most of the colleges on campus. Friends of the arboretum are encouraged to attend the celebration where birthday cake, ice cream and lemonade will be served, and donations will be accepted to assist the arboretum in furthering its mission to display and preserve native southeastern plant communities, to inspire an understanding of the natural world, and to promote education, research and public outreach. For more information, visit the arboretum’s website.

Outreach News:

BEST Robotics in full swing; sponsorship, mentorship opportunities available 
War Eagle BESTDuring the next few months, more than 25 schools from the east Alabama region will participate in a robotics competition, War Eagle BEST, sponsored by the COSAM Office of Outreach and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. The teams will first compete at War Eagle BEST Mall Day on Oct. 6, at 1 p.m. at the Village Mall in Auburn, and again on Oct. 19, at War Eagle BEST Gameday, which begins at 8 a.m. in the Auburn University Student Activity Center and lasts throughout the day. Winners from the War Eagle BEST Gameday will advance to South’s BEST, a regional robotics competition featuring winning teams from the eastern U.S., including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. South’s BEST, which is also hosted by the COSAM Office of Outreach and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, will take place on the Auburn University campus on Dec. 8-9. All events are open to the public.
You can get involved:
“BEST” stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, and is a national educational program offered to middle and high school students. The third-largest robotics program in the nation, BEST Robotics is the only program that is offered free of charge to schools. The primary objectives of the BEST Robotics program are to: provide students with a real-world engineering experience that incorporates the practical application of math and science; prepare students to be technologically literate and thus better prepared to enter the workforce; help students develop leadership, project management, teamwork and organizational skills; and develop confidence and competence. 
BEST Robotics achieves its objectives by enlisting the leadership of local industries who provide sponsorship and mentorship to area middle and high school student teams. Opportunities for industry leaders to get involved are still available. Please contact Mary Lou Ewald at ewaldml@auburn.edu for more information.

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