Faculty and staff achievement:

Halanych awarded NSF grant
Ken Halanych, professor of biological sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant along with his collaborator, Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii. The combined $800,576 of funding will begin in September of 2012 and allow Halanych and Smith, along with collaborators from five different countries, to continue their research on the diversity of deep-sea organisms “We hope to gain a better understanding of the deep sea environment, the last frontier, and we hope that we can relay some of the gained knowledge and information to the lay public,” Halanych said. (Full Story)

Auburn researchers secure NSF math and science partnership
Professor Curtis Shannon and assistant professor Christopher Easley, both of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and associate professor Virginia Davis of the Department of Chemical Engineering, are part of an National Science Foundation-funded math and science education partnership led by Shaik Jeelani of Tuskegee University titled, "The NanoBio Partnership for Alabama's Black Belt Region." The Auburn researchers were awarded $550,000 over five years for teacher training and curriculum development that focuses on the interface between nano-science and biology. Other partners in the grant include Alabama State University, the University of Alabama (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa campuses) as well as Central Alabama, Enterprise, Shelton State, Wallace State and Wallace State at Selma Community Colleges. 

Physics professor given the John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research
Last year, an international team of scientists, including Auburn University Physics Professor Francis Robicheaux,made a scientific breakthrough by trapping and holding the anti-matter version of the hydrogen atom. The international team, known as ALPHA, was recently awarded the John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research for the introduction and use of innovative plasma techniques which produced the first demonstration of trapping antihydrogren. This annual award will be presented at an award ceremony at the Division of Plasma Physics Annual Meeting Banquet.  To learn more about the ALPHA collaboration, visit this link:http://alpha.web.cern.ch/alpha/. 

Physics professor receives $2.1 million NSF award
Physics Professor and Director of the Plasma Sciences Laboratory, Edward Thomas, received an NSF award through the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program. This competitive program serves to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and research training in our nation's institutions of higher education, museums, science centers and not-for-profit organizations. The total amount awarded to Thomas is $2.1 million, which includes a 30 percent cost-sharing by Auburn University. This project represents one of the largest MRI projects ever awarded to Auburn University. With the funds, Thomas proposes to build a Magnetized Dusty Plasma device that will allow for the study of coupling between neutral atoms, ions, electrons and charged microparticles in a fully magnetized plasma environment in which the magnetic force is comparable to electric, gravitational or other inter-particle interaction forces. This new experiment enables laboratory investigations of phenomena relevant to plasma physics, astrophysics, fusion and fluid systems. The device will also allow investigations into scientific topics that were previously inaccessible in earlier experiments such as grain charging (e.g., ion/electron gyro-orbits less than inter-grain distances), wave phenomena (e.g., electrostatic dust cyclotron wave), magnetic field effects on dust transport (e.g.,  drift), and the behavior of plasma with embedded paramagnetic particles. For more information on Thomas and his research, visit the following link: http://www.auburn.edu/cosam/faculty/physics/thomas/index.htm

Auburn Team Awarded Wetland Grant
A multidisciplinary team of scientists from across the Auburn campus will work on Alabama wetland studies through a $363,800 grant from National Institutes for Water Resources/U.S. Geological Survey National Competitive Grant Program. The three-year project, titled "Inventory, Classification, and Assessment of Alabama's Geographically Isolated Wetlands," includes: Sam Fowler, director of Auburn’s Water Resources Center; COSAM’s Luke Marzen, associate professor in geography; and Alabama Heritage Program GIS database manager, Michael Barbour, and ecologist/biologist Al Schotz. The statewide project is based on a partnership agreement between Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, and Auburn University. The agreement designates Auburn, including the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, as a Watershed Center of Excellence. Information collected by the team will support ADEM’s Wetland Management Program, which is working to strengthen the state’s ability to implement a comprehensive wetlands program by providing baseline data to fill information gaps. The project will inventory, classify and assess isolated wetlands in Alabama to enhance protection of these biologically diverse ecosystems.

Professor recognized and published in Analyst
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Christopher J. Easley was a contributor to the Emerging Investigators Issue of the journal Analyst. Analyst features high-impact research in analytical, bioanalytical and detection science. To see the complete list of contributors, click on this link: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2011/an/c1an90056k. To read Easley’s article, “A simple and rapid approach for measurement of dissociation constants of DNA aptamers against proteins and small molecules via automated microchip electrophoresis,” which was co-written by Auburn student Jiaming Hu, click on this link: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2011/an/c0an00842g

Professor receives grant to research tomatoes
Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Aaron Rashotte, was awarded a two-year, $50,000 competitive USDA-Hatch grant to research the genetic make-up and function of tomato plants during leaf development. Specifically, Rashotte will build on his previous research that indicated a set of cytokinin regulated transcription factors (CRFs) were implicated in the leaf developmental processes of tomato plants. Rashotte intends to expand this finding by conducting a detailed examination of SlCRF transcripts during leaf development. Implications of this research include an increased knowledge and potential ability to regulate and improve the vegetative growth of tomatoes, such as larger more photosynthetically efficient leaves. The project is titled "An examination of SlCRFs in vasculature and leaf development in tomato." For more information on Rashotte, visit the following link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/biology/rashotte/

Biological Sciences professors to research Antarctic invertebrates
Alumni Professor Kenneth M. Halanych and Associate Professor Scott R. Santos, both from the Department of Biological Sciences, were awarded a four-year NSF grant in the amount of $489,305 for a project titled, “Collaborative Research: Genetic connectivity and biogeographic patterns of Antarctic benthic invertebrates." They will conduct two organismal collection cruises: one to the Amundsen and Ross Seas, and one along the lower Antarctic Peninsula and Bellingshausen Sea. Previous research efforts by Halanych have indicated that organisms from different regions of the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic Islands often have very different evolutionary histories and much more biodiversity than traditionally realized. In an effort to better understand and accurately assess the genetics underlying biogeographic patterns, Halanych and Santos will assess if Antarctic benthic invertebrates form broadly distributed populations with considerable genetic exchange or, alternatively, structured populations, indicating periods of isolation and divergence suggestive of refugia during periods of major glaciation. The research will provide initial organismal and genetic data that will be important for revealing how, and to what degree, organisms respond to global climate change in the Antarctic. For more information on Halanych and Santos, visit the Molette Biology Laboratory for Environmental and Climate Change Studies website at the following link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/departments/biology/molette_lab/index.htm 

Auburn researchers pass milestones for patents, license agreements in variety of fields
Auburn University researchers set university records in 2010 for the number of U.S. patents and license and option agreements. During 2010, Auburn earned 25 U.S. patents, beating the second highest mark of 19 in 2007, and secured 25 new license and option agreements. Auburn researchers also cited 105 new invention disclosures, almost reaching the university's top score of 110 four years ago. New patents and inventions are in fields as diverse as advanced materials, biotechnology and environmental sciences. Of the University’s numbers, COSAM accounted for 14 issued U.S. patents, trademarks and copyrights, and three license and option agreements. Additionally, COSAM had 18 non-disclosure agreements, memorandums of understanding, material transfer agreements or teaming testing in the year 2010. In all, these categories brought COSAM more than $500,000 in funding. To read more about Auburn University’s 2010 patents and license agreements, visit the following link: http://wireeagle.auburn.edu/news/3704#more-3704

Physics professor works to produce high-quality, low-cost solar cells
Associate Professor of Physics Minseo Park has received research funding from the Korea institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH). The title of the research project is "Development of Organic/Inorganic Hybrid Solar Cells based on ZnO Nanostructures and Polymers." The amount of funding is approximately $32,000. The proposed organic/inorganic Hybrid Solar Cell will exploit the flexibility and inexpensive nature of polymer materials and high electronic quality of inorganic semiconductor nanostructures. Park and his colleagues will synthesize ZnO nanorods and fabricate/test the hybrid solar cells. Successful implementation of the project will bring us an alternative way to produce high-quality, low-cost solar cells. For more information on Park, visit the following link: https://sites.google.com/site/test3456789or/

University professors secure valuable time on supercomputer
A group of scientists from Auburn University are working with an international team on a research project titled, “Atomic and Molecular Collision Dynamics using Petascale Computing Systems.” Representing Auburn from the College of Sciences and Mathematics are: Physics Professors Michael S. Pindzola and Francis Robicheaux; Assistant Professor of Physics Stuart Loch; and Assistant Research Professor of Physics Connor Balance. College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science Assistant Professor Weikuan Yu is also on the team. The research will focus on the development of computational methods to solve Schrödinger and Dirac equations for atomic and molecular collision processes. The collision calculations will support light source experiments, stored ion experiments, controlled fusion experiments and astrophysical observations. The project was made possible through an award of 7,883,000 core-hours on the Cray XT5 supercomputer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences in Knoxville, Tenn.  The Cray XT5, also called "Kraken," is ranked 11th in the world. The monetary value of the hours awarded is around $400,000.

Professor receives NSF grant
Christopher J. Easley, an assistant professor who joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in August of 2008, was awarded a three-year grant totaling $383,786 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research project titled, “Cooperative Approaches for Aptamer Selection and Protein Detection.” Easley seeks to utilize the proximity ligation effect, a process that allows for sensitive high-capacity protein measurements, to select target-binding sequences (aptamers) from a random sequence library of single-stranded DNA. His laboratory will then use proximity assays to detect peptides and proteins secreted by small numbers of pancreatic islets or adipocytes (fat cells) in research related to diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. For more information on Easley’s research, visit the following link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/chemistry/easley/index.htm

Articles published in Ecology Letters and Symbiosos
The Department of Biological Sciences congratulates Professors Geoff Hill, Nanette Chadwick and Scott Santos for their respective cover articles in the July 2011 issue of Ecology Letters and Symbiosis. The symbiosis paper represents the work of a former master’s student, Moodi Roopin ’07, biological sciences. To read the articles, visit the following link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1461-0248

Physics professor continues to make strides with team ALPHA
Last year, an international team of scientists including Auburn University physics professor Francis Robicheaux 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 309 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. Updated results of the ALPHA collaboration's research were published in the June edition of the journal Nature Physics. To read the article, go to this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NPHYS2025. To learn more about the ALPHA collaboration, visit this link: http://alpha.web.cern.ch/alpha/.

Mathematics professor receives NSF grant
Advances in science and technology have led to an explosive growth of high and ultra-high dimensional data across a variety of areas such as bioinformatics, climate research and the internet. Traditional statistical analysis methods often become unstable when facing such a large number of variables. Associate Professor Peng Zeng of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was recently awarded a three-year NSF grant in the amount of $100,000 that will enable him to work toward the development of more sophisticated statistical methodologies, specifically, the development of effective penalization methods for fitting multiple index models. The project, titled “Penalization Methods for Screening, Variable Selection and Dimension Reduction in High-Dimensional Regression via Multiple Index Models,” is expected to: make a significant contribution to the advancement of semiparametric methodology and theory; generate a group of effective variable selection and dimension reduction methods and variable screening procedures with understood properties: and extend to accommodate categorical responses and generalized multiple index models. For more information on Zeng, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/~zengpen/

Innovation Award for S. D. Worley
Emeritus Professor S. D. Worley won the Excellence in Innovation Award from the Auburn Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors. The academy was founded at the University of South Florida in 2009 to recognize and encourage inventors and to raise the visibility of technology transfer on campuses. Auburn University is a charter member of the academy and has recently formed a local chapter of the organization. Worley was recognized for his antimicrobial technologies that are being commercialized into water purification systems in third world nations by the start-up company HaloSource, based in Seattle, Wash. HaloSource has manufacturing plants in China and India and has recently received FDA approval for use of the product in the United States and the FDA equivalent in China. To read the full story, visit this link: http://wireeagle.auburn.edu/news/3625

Dee Smith wins employee of the year
The Donald E. Davis Arboretum curator, Dee Smith, was named the 2010-2011 Administrative Professional Employee of the Year at the Employee Recognition Program held on May 26, 2011. Smith was selected from a group of 12 administrative professionals, all of whom were Spirit of Excellence award winners in 2010-2011. Smith, who was given the Spirit of Excellence award in April, 2010, received a gift of $500 for winning the Administrative Professional Employee of the Year award. The Employee Recognition Program also honored university employees for landmark years of service. Included in COSAM were: Eva T. Lilly, lead administrative assistant in the Department of Geology and Geography for 40 years of service; Wendell L. Sandlin, retired glass shop manager, for 20 years of service; Tammy Beck Hartwell, director of COSAM development, for 10 years of service; Nancy K. Capps, lab technician in the Department of Biological Sciences, for 10 years of service; Michael G. Brackin, building planning and systems manager for COSAM, for five years of service; Phillip T. Coxwell, information technology specialist for COSAM, for five years of service; Matt Montgomery, glass shop manager, for five years of service; and David M. Patrick, lab manager for the Department of Physics, for five years of service.

Santos named Outstanding Graduate Mentor
Faculty across campus were nominated by their students and selected by the Graduate Student Council to receive the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award. Three of the six awardees are COSAM faculty members and include Biological Sciences Professor Scott Santos. For more information on Santos, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/biology/santos/

Physics professor receives Frank J Malina Astronautics Medal
J-M Wersinger
received the Frank J Malina Astronautics Medal from the International Astronautical Federation. Additionally, Wersinger is the faculty advisor for the cubesat program, which is part of the Auburn University Student Space Program. The cubesat program is an initiative driven by undergraduate students in physics and engineering to send a cube satellite into space. The first Auburn University cube satellite, called AubieSat-1, is scheduled to launch into space on October 25, 2012. For more information on the Auburn University Student Space Program, visit this link: http://space.auburn.edu/

Professors receive awards from Graduate Student Council
Faculty who have shown steady and active support for the Graduate Student Council and graduate education at Auburn were selected to receive the Provost’s Award for Supporting Graduate Scholarship. Recipients were chosen by a committee from the Graduate Student Council and Graduate School and include mathematics professor Gary Gruenhage. For more information on Gruenhage visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/%7egruengf/. Faculty were also nominated by their students and selected by the Graduate Student Council to receive the Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award. Two mathematics professors received this award: Chris A. Rodger and Tin-Yau Tam. For more information on Rodger, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/math_stats/rodger/index.htm. For more information on Tam, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/~tamtiny/

Mathematics professor receives NSF grant
Professor and Associate Provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Overton Jenda, received an NSF grant in the amount of $200,000 to fund the Masamu Program. The primary goal of the program is to spur continued collaboration between U.S. and Southern African mathematicians who are advanced graduate students, early career and junior faculty, and senior research faculty. The program will promote research and professional development as well as provide participants with an accessible online forum to maintain collaborative research projects. Auburn University and the Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA) will partner to implement the program for the inaugural two years. Participants selected for the program will attend the SAMSA annual conference followed by additional institute and workshop collaboration. For more information visit this link https://masamu.auburn.edu/.

Neely honored by American Chemical Society
Emeritus Professor W. C. Neely was honored by the American Chemical Society for completing 50 years as a member in the April 11, 2011 issue of Chemical and Engineering News. 

Schneller published in Nature
Professor Stewart Schneller, former Dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, is a coauthor of the article "2'-O methylation of the viral mRNA cap evades host restriction by IFIT family members", which was published in the highly prestigious journal Nature. For more information on Schneller, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/chemistry/schneller/index.htm

Chemistry professor receives Chemluminary Award
Assistant Professor Orlando Acevedo was awarded the 2010-2011 Chemluminary Award by the American Chemical Society, and is the current president of the local branch of the American Chemical Society. Additionally, he was selected as an honorary member in the Golden Key International Honor Society. For more information about Acevedo, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/chemistry/acevedo/index.htm

Biological Sciences professor named Learning Community Coordinator of the Year
Professor Robert Boyd was named Learning Community Coordinator of the Year for 2010-2011. Boyd has been at Auburn University for 22 years. His research in serpentine ecology, which refers to habitats characterized by high levels of heavy metals and low levels of plant nutrients, is so extensive he is recognized internationally as a leading expert in the field. In 2001, a previously unknown insect species, Melanotrichus boydi, which feeds on the metal-accumulating plants in these areas, was named after him. In the classroom, he specializes in courses dealing with conservation biology and ecology, and was recognized with the Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award in 1998 and the College of Sciences and Mathematics Dean's Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1999. Additionally, Boyd was given Auburn's 2005 and 2009 Faculty Mentoring Award, the College of Sciences and Mathematics Award for Outstanding Faculty Advising in 2009, and in 2010 he was named Auburn's Outstanding Graduate Mentor. For more information about Boyd and his work, visit his website at this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/biology/boyd/

SGA names Outstanding Faculty Member
Professor Michael Wooten was named 2010-2011 Outstanding Faculty Member in COSAM by the Student Government Association for his high-quality genetics course taught year in and year out. For more information on Wooten, visit this link: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/biology/wootenmc/

Faculty Recognized at 2011 Honors Convocation
COSAM held its yearly Honors Convocation on April 15, 2011. Students were recognized for outstanding academic achievement during the 2010-2011 school year. Interim Dean Charles Savrda also congratulated members of the COSAM faculty and staff for exceptional performance including the following: Outstanding COSAM Advisor, Professor John D. Gorden, Chemistry and Biochemistry; Outstanding COSAM Teacher, Professor Douglas C. Goodwin, Chemistry and Biochemistry; and The Robert K. Butz Award for Teaching Excellence in Mathematics, Professor Dmitry Glotov.

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Last updated: 04/10/2012