AUBURN UNIVERSITY – A group of Auburn researchers has published a study that could overturn some long-held paradigms regarding spider web evolution. Because of similarities in behaviors associated with web construction and the complicated nature of the webs, it has long been thought that all orb-weaving spiders shared a common ancestor. The study shows that spiders that weave orb-shaped webs are not all closely related and that the orb web was likely not the pinnacle of web evolution.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY—An Auburn University research team has produced a new drug candidate that could one day slow or even stop the deadly Ebola virus. The discovery will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. The group, led by professor of chemistry and biochemistry Stewart Schneller, has designed a compound aimed at reversing the immune-blocking abilities of certain viruses, including Ebola. “In simple terms, the Ebola virus has the ability to turn off the body’s natural immune response,” Schneller said. “We have made a small tweak in compound structure that will turn that response back on.”
An Auburn graduate student and former "Gator Boy" who wrestled with alligators in Eufaula continues his research in Costa Rica; this time, with crocodiles. "In terms of behavior, crocodiles seem to be a lot gnarlier than alligators," said Chris Murray, a member of the Craig Guyer lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, who is investigating the physiological and ecological factors that affect crocodilians within that country. "They're larger, and don't tire out nearly as fast, if ever, in some instances. They have a lot of fight and they're more nimble and flexible than your average alligator." He is seeking solutions for crocodile population issues identified by a Costa Rican commission that studies the animals.
Biological Sciences Professor Troy Best co-authored a new book titled, "Mammals of Alabama." Best wrote the book with the late Auburn University Professor of Biological Sciences Julian Dusi, and it is the first and only exhaustive guidebook to Alabama's diverse mammalian fauna. Written for anyone with an interest in mammalian diversity within the state, the book serves as a guide to species identification and includes hundreds of photos and fun facts.
COSAM’s Office of Student Services welcomed a new academic advisor this month, Meredith Jones ’12. She received an undergraduate degree from COSAM in biomedical sciences and then attended Clemson University where she received a master of education with a focus in counselor education. “While I was a student, I worked for COSAM as a peer advisor. That was when my career path began to take a major shift; no longer did a future in dentistry excite me, but working with students gave me a new perspective and caused me to begin researching graduate programs that focused on higher education and student affairs,” said Jones. “On the first day of graduate school, our professors told us that 'no one ever gets their dream job out of grad school.' I, however, did! I am so excited to return to The Plains and to be working for the office that sparked my interest in advising!” In addition to serving as a COSAM Peer Advisor while she was an undergraduate, Jones was also an orientation intern for COSAM, a role that positioned her to advise incoming students on academic-related matters, such as curriculum and course scheduling, as well as a COSAM Leader. The COSAM Leaders are a group of exemplary COSAM students who serve as the official ambassadors for the college.
During the past five years, physics Professor Edward Thomas developed the mantra, "No stress, no stress, no stress." By repeating the phrase over and over, he had hoped to stave off any ill effects that might result from overseeing the creation of the new Magnet Laboratory at Auburn University, which included the development and delivery of a 6,000-pound superconducting magnet, the only one of its kind in the world. The new lab houses the Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment, a one-of-a-kind facility that will support plasma physics research for Auburn University students and researchers, as well as for a diverse team of national and international researchers who will come to Auburn to perform experimental and theoretical studies. More than a dozen Auburn students, including undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral-researchers, were involved in the design and implementation of the new laboratory, and as the research evolves over the next several years, Thomas envisions opportunities for a long line of undergraduate and graduate student researchers.
For more than a century, researchers have believed that sponges represented the earliest living lineages of the animal tree. Thanks to modern genomic sequencing techniques, scientists in Auburn's College of Sciences and Mathematics discovered that ctenophores, or comb jellies, are actually at the base of the animal kingdom. The research results have been published in the journal Nature and can be read at this link. "The placement of comb jellies at the base of the animal tree rewrites some of our very basic understanding of how animals first evolved on this planet," said Kenneth Halanych, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn. "The new genomic data overturns 150 years of scientific theories about the early evolution of animals." Halanych and the team of scientists, including Kevin Kocot, postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn, along with an international team of scientists led by Leonid Moroz, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida, have studied the complete genome of a comb jelly, Pleurobrachia bachei, known as the "Pacific sea gooseberry." They were able to show that the species is remarkably distinct from other animals in that the genetic mechanisms used in ctenophore nerves and muscles are different from those seen in other animals.
Three Auburn University Honors College students, including Jamesa Stokes, a senior physics major, have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships to continue their studies in the United Kingdom and Germany this summer and fall. Stokes will conduct research at the German Space Agency’s Institute of Structures in Design in Stuttgart, Germany. An Atlanta native, Stokes has completed internships with Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In addition, she was a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar to Reutlingen, Germany. Her research investigates the behavior of fiber-oriented ceramics during hyper-sonic flight in order to develop better thermal protection systems for spaceflight vehicles. “I studied in Germany in the fall of 2012, and it was my first time traveling outside of the country, so it was truly an amazing experience,” Stokes said. “Now I can go back and experience more of Germany while doing research that interests me at the same time.”
Graham Gordon, a COSAM Honors College student double-majoring in mathematics and physics, has been chosen as a 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, an honor that is only bestowed to a approximately 300 students nationwide each year. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in STEM disciplines. Gordon, of Aiken, S.C., conducts research under the guidance of Professor Peter Nylen in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He is also an undergraduate teaching assistant with Professor Joe Perez in the Department of Physics, and he previously participated in a research group studying computational Rydberg atomic physics. “I would like to thank Dr. Nylen for being an ideal research adviser and Dr. Paul Harris (associate director for national prestigious scholarships) for guiding me during the application process,” Gordon said. “Anyone pursuing research in a STEM field should consider this scholarship. Applying is an enlightening experience itself.” Gordon’s primary research involves partial distance matrix completion with multilateration applications to wireless sensor network localization, and his publications include an article in the Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.
The National Academic Advising Association selected Elizabeth Yarbrough, Ph.D., and Kathryn Milly West for 2014 Region 4: Excellence in Advising awards. The awards are presented to individuals who have demonstrated qualities associated with outstanding academic advising of students. Yarbrough, who is the director of student services for COSAM, is the recipient of the NACADA Region 4 Excellence in Advising: Advising Administration award. She also received the Certificate of Merit of the Outstanding Advising Award - Academic Advising Administrator, which is a national recognition.
The annual Duncan Lecture was held on April 23, and featured Bradley M. Peterson, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University and a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee and chair of the Astrophysics Subcommittee. The title of his lecture was, “Solving the Quasar Mystery: A 50-Year Quest,” and featured discussion of quasars, which are among the most distant and intrinsically brightest objects in the universe, but also small and dense. Quasars are powered by spectacularly massive “black holes,” objects so dense that not even light can escape from them. Peterson related the story of how quasars and supermassive black holes and their role in the cosmos have come to be understood.
The 2013 Arboretum Photo Contest is over and it's time to announce the winners! Here they are, listed by category. Click on each image to view a larger version.
Stuart Loch, associate professor of physics, was selected as the recipient of the SGA Outstanding Faculty Member Award for the College of Sciences and Mathematics. The award is presented to one faculty member from each of the university's schools and colleges. Nominated by students, recipients are chosen for respect of their peers and students, excellence in teaching, and concern for and involvement with students.
The Littleton-Franklin Lecture in Science and Humanities was held on April 15 and featured Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of Physics and the Office of the Provost. Wilczek’s talk was titled, “Expanding the Doors of Perception: The Physics of Color Vision,” and detailed his work in the area of particle physics.
Auburn University serves more than 800 teachers and upward of 25,000 K-12 students in an eight-county region through the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative. The AMSTI program is the Alabama Department of Education’s state-funded, K-12 education program, designed to initiate and sustain improved statewide mathematics and science teaching and learning.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University and the Southeastern Conference announced today that Professor Geoffrey Hill of the College of Sciences and Mathematics has been honored with the SEC’s Auburn University Faculty Achievement Award for 2013-2014. “The 2014 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winners are some of our nation’s most accomplished instructors, researchers and scholars,” said Dr. Jay Gogue, President of Auburn University and President of the Southeastern Conference. “It is my great pleasure to preside over an intercollegiate athletics conference that not only recognizes their work, but strives to support it as well.” Hill, an Alumni Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of birds for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, will receive a $5,000 honorarium and represent Auburn as the university’s nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year. The SEC Professor of the Year will be selected from 14 nominees representing each of the SEC universities.
Auburn students interested in an intensive study-abroad program in one of the world’s most lush and adventure-filled locations can take advantage of the Organization for Tropical Studies, which owns and operates three biological field stations in Costa Rica: La Selva, Las Cruces and Palo Verde. OTS is a non-profit consortium that includes 63 universities and research institutions from the U.S., Latin America and Australia. Auburn University is the only school in the state that is a member of OTS, and since joining the consortium in 1987, Auburn students have had access to educational, research and funding opportunities in Costa Rica that are not available to non-member institutions.
Over the past 20 years, Willis Hames, a professor in Auburn University’s Department of Geology and Geography, has seen his fair share of student athletes in his classroom. He teaches Physical Geology, a large, auditorium-style science class which fills up quickly because it’s open to students from diverse academic curriculums. Last semester, one of his students was Auburn University football star and instant legend, Chris Davis. It was Hames’ class that erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation in honor of Davis on Dec. 2, the Monday following the Iron Bowl; a game which ended with Davis returning Alabama’s missed field goal for a touchdown, bringing Auburn the victory. Hames recalls the standing ovation and notes there was a feeling of the extraordinary in the air, even before Davis walked into the classroom.