Assistant Professor Wendy Hood of the Department of Biological Sciences received a five-year, $1,032,465 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for her proposal, “Effects of mitohormesis on reproduction and longevity.” The Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Merner group’s first paper selected as ACS Editor’s Choice
Ami DuBois, a Ph.D. graduate of the Department of Physics, has been highlighted by the American Geophysical Union journals for her research on laboratory simulations of boundary layers in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Jonathan Armbruster, biological sciences professor and curator of fishes for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has named a previously unknown species of catfish in honor of the enigmatic Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo. The suckermouth armored catfish, Peckoltia greedoi, was found along the Gurupi River in Brazil and is known physically for its large, dark eyes, sucker mouth and protruding bristles. Armbruster, along with David Werneke, Milton Tan and Chris Hamilton, all of the Department of Biological Sciences, were examining the specimen for characteristics when they made the connection.
Assistant Research Professor Joonyul Kim, working with Associate Professor Christopher Easley, will present his work at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS 2015). Their presentation was selected as a finalist for the SLAS Innovation Award, a $10,000 cash award given to recognize highly innovative techniques developed in academic or industrial laboratories. Dr. Kim's presentation, entitled "Zero Background in Homogeneous Proximity Assays Using Thermofluorimetric Analysis (TFA) for Quantitation of Attomole Protein Levels in Serum," has been highlighted in the SLAS conference program and website. http://slas2015.org/awards/innovationAward.cfm
In 2009, Overtoun Jenda, associate provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, attended a conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, held by the Southern Africa Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA). As the only representative from the United States, Jenda made a promise that he would increase the presence of American mathematical research in Africa, and capitalize on an opportunity to create U.S.-Africa collaboration through Auburn University and SAMSA. When he returned to Auburn, Jenda, along with Ash Abebe, A.J. Meir and Peter Johnson of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, together with southern Africa mathematicians, began to brainstorm and developed what would become the Masamu Program, meaning mathematics in the southern African region.
Jonathan Armbruster, of the Department of Biological Sciences, received a grant from the Coypu Foundation Trust to study the fish fauna of the upper Ireng River in Guyana, a country in Northern South America formerly known as British Guiana. Armbruster is currently studying when fishes moved into or became isolated within the high Pakaraima Mountains and the diversity of fishes there.
A recent manuscript from Prof. Christopher Easley’s research group (group page)—in collaboration with Prof. Robert Judd’s group at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine—was featured on the front cover (link) in the latest issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analyst. The article is entitled “A microfluidic interface for the culture and sampling of adiponectin from primary adipocytes,” and the work was supported by a research grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2015/an/c4an01725k
A recent manuscript from Prof. Christopher Easley’s research group—in collaboration with Prof. Robert Judd’s group at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine—was selected as a “Hot Article” by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analyst. The article is entitled “A microfluidic interface for the culture and sampling of adiponectin from primary adipocytes” and is currently featured on the journal’s blog (http://blogs.rsc.org/an/). Free access will be provided to readers for the next several weeks. http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2015/AN/C4AN01725K
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The results are in on Deepwater Horizon oil spill research conducted by an Auburn University postdoctoral researcher, and her study indicates microscopic animals at the base of the food web that were harmed during the 2010 oil spill have recovered. The researcher, Pamela Brannock of the Department of Biological Sciences in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, together with a team from Auburn Professor Kenneth Halanych’s lab and the University of Texas San Antonio, gathered and analyzed sediment samples taken before and after the oil reached Dauphin Island. The samples provided a basis for comparison to assess how the microscopic communities of marine invertebrates that live between the sand grains, or meiofauna, fared the oil spill.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Alabama could potentially be the new home of the Argentine Black and White Tegu, a large predatory lizard reaching 4 feet in length and more than 10 pounds. The tegus, native to South America, have made their way to southern Florida where they are rapidly flourishing. The lizards are known to eat small mammals, birds and most importantly, other reptile eggs, which presents a threat to alligators and the rare gopher tortoise, both native to the Southeast.
Professors James Saunders, Ming-Kuo Lee, and Ashraf Uddin, all of the Department of Geology and Geography, recently received a $345,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled, “Metal(loid) Sequestration by Natural Bacterial Sulfate Reduction and Field-Scale Biostimulation.” The researchers will evaluate if indigenous sulfate-reducing bacteria can be stimulated to make nanoparticle biominerals of iron sulfides that have the capacity to remove arsenic from contaminated groundwater. Two sites will be evaluated: an industrial site in Florida that is routinely doused with arsenic-rich pesticides; and an alluvial aquifer in Macon County, Ala., where arsenic contaminates groundwater by a natural biogeochemical process. The project was funded jointly by the Environmental Engineering and Low-Temperature Geochemistry and Geobiology programs at NSF.
If Natasha Narayanan’s performance at the 2014 Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society is any indication of what lies ahead in her academic and professional career, she is headed toward a consummate future. Narayanan, a COSAM sophomore and Honors College student majoring in biochemistry, gave an oral presentation titled, “Streamlined Chemical Synthesis of Tricyclic Nucleic Acid Analogues for Antisense Technology” during the undergraduate symposium portion of the conference. In recognition of both her research and eloquence, Narayanan’s talk was selected as the best oral presentation in the organic chemistry division out of 60 total presenters.
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.
Dr. Wendy Hood’s research on the milk composition in the naked-rat and Hood and Dr. Amy Skibiel’s research on evolution of milk composition were recently featured in Science News, Smithsonian Magazine, SPLASH! Milk Science Update, and the blog Mammals Suck…Milk!
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.
From May 19-23 Auburn will host 31 researchers representing nine institutions in the U.S., Canada and Germany participating in a genomic analysis workshop or “Bioinformatics Bootcamp”. Initiated by the NSF-funded WormNet2 grant, the workshop will train participants in various aspects of next-generation DNA sequencing data manipulation including genome mapping, assembly, annotation and phylogenomic analyses.
“Warning!” reads the course description, “Mega-mammals, crocodiles, snakes, thorns, baboons, etc. may be abundant at many of the sites. Please be very careful!” The course, Field Biology and Ecology, provides one of the latest study abroad opportunities offered at Auburn University. Last summer during the inaugural course, 10 Auburn students ventured to Swaziland and South Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime, hands-on, research experience, guided by Biological Sciences professors Troy Best and Michael Wooten.
Two Auburn University professors have developed a disease-detection technology that could be the beginning of handheld, point-of-care devices – a breakthrough that would let health care professionals, first responders and even individuals quickly do blood tests for a variety of illnesses and conditions. Associate Professor Christopher J. Easley and Professor Curtis Shannon, both in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, led the research team that published its results in the March 27 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Ed 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.”
Kaijun Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, received a three-year, $240,444 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. The project, “An Integrated Study of Fast Magnetosconic Waves in the Radiation Belts,” aims to comprehensively understand the excitation of fast magnetosonic waves, or “equatorial noise,” and their interactions with relativistic electrons in radiation belts. Liu and his team will use satellite data analysis, linear kinetic dispersion theory, kinetic plasma simulations, and test-particle computations to carry out an integrated study.
Physics professor Michael Bozack received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for research addressing the reliability of Sn-Ag-Cu (SAC) lead-free solder alloys under harsh environmental conditions. The work follows a successful world-wide effort to develop alternative, environmentally friendly materials for electronics packaging. Currently, SAC alloys have replaced conventional lead-bearing solder alloys in most consumer electronics.
Sarit Dhar, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, was awarded a $598,777 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation program. The grant will support collaborative research between Auburn University and industry partners CoolCAD Electronics, LLC, in College Park Md., and United Silicon Carbide, Inc., in Monmouoth Junction, N.J. CoolCAD Electronics performs design, analysis and prototyping for cryogenic SiC and IR electronics, and United Silicon Carbide works on the design, fabrication and commercialization of SiC technologies.
Professor Mike Fogle received a one-year grant in the amount of $21,511 from the National Science Foundation's Catalyzing New International Collaborations program, which is funded through the Office of International Science and Engineering. The grant, titled, "U.S.-Sweden Planning Visit: Research on the Dynamics of Complex Systems with Ion Storage Rings," will cover travel costs for Fogle and a graduate student to travel to Stockholm, Sweden, to develop a collaboration with Richard Thomas, a research associate at Stockholm University. Thomas' research group in Stockholm recently completed construction of a new, state-of-the-art ion storage ring facility, the Double Electrostatic Ion Ring Experiment, which will be used to investigate the detailed structure and dynamics of molecular systems under precisely controlled interaction conditions. No devices of this type exist in the U.S.
Justin C. Havird and Scott R. Santos, both of the Department of Biological Sciences, are the recipients of a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology. The research proposal is titled, "Assessing evolution of euryhalinity in anchialine shrimps," and the funding will allow Havird and Santos to further investigate the evolution of the molecular mechanisms of osmoregulation in shrimp species from coastal ponds and pools. According to Havird, the molecular mechanisms of ionic and salt regulation in crustaceans have only been characterized for a narrow range of species, mainly crabs with a marine ancestry.
Jason Bond, professor of biological sciences and director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, received a three-year, $548,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology for his research proposal titled, "Millipede Systematics: Developing phylogenomic, classification, and taxonomic resources for the future." The grant funding will allow Bond to conduct research on millipedes which are in the arthropod class Diplopoda, comprising some 12,000 described species distributed worldwide in nearly every biome. According to Bond, the group has a deep evolutionary history that includes some of the first terrestrial animals, dating from the mid-Silurian over 400 million years ago. Despite their ecological importance as decomposers in forests, wealth of diversity with an estimated 20,000 to 80,000 species, and prominence as chemical warriors owing to their vast array of defense secretions, the group is woefully understudied. Bond and his team will revise the current ordinal and family-level classification systems using a modern phylogenomic framework based on next-generation sequence data and then employ these data to explore the evolution of chemical defense secretions and their precursors.
Narendra Singh, professor of biological sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in India from August to December 2013 at SRM University. Singh's research and teaching involves the molecular biology of stress tolerance in plants, genetic manipulation of higher fungi, and edible vaccines that can be mixed with feed to ward off diseases that cause massive damage to the poultry industry. In India, he will teach and co-teach graduate courses in plant molecular biology and biotechnology, and offer a senior seminar course for undergraduate students. He plans to focus his research on the elucidation of mechanism of action of a plant protein he discovered in 1985 and named osmotin.
James Saunders, professor in the Department of Geology and Geography, received a three-year National Science Foundation grant for his research project titled, "Transport and Deposition of Metallic Nanoparticles as a Hydrothermal Ore-forming Process." The grant is supported by the Petrology and Geochemistry program and will allow Saunders to expand his research in the realm of metallic nanoparticle transport, particularly those involved in the formation of shallow deposits of gold and silver, which were the type of precious-metal ores commonly mined in the western U.S. in the 1800s.
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.
Professor Eduardus Duin is a co-investigator for a project funded by NASA on “Iron-sulfur clusters in the evolution of the Enzymatic Synthesis of RNA” in collaboration with scientists at the University of Arkansas and Ehime University in Japan.
Professor Douglas Goodwin and Professor Angela Calderon of Pharmacal Sciences have received funding for their Internal Grant Proposal, “Toward new antitubercular drugs: Uncovering mechanistically appropriate inhibitors of Mycobacterium tuberculosis shikimate kinase from natural products”.
Professors Christopher Easley and Curtis Shannon of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Aleksandr Simonian of the College of Engineering have received funding for their Internal Grant Program proposal entitled “Surface Dynamics of a Highly Sensitive and Versatile Protein Quantitation Method, the Electrochemical Proximity Assay”.
On Jan. 15, a dinner was held in recognition of Chris Rodger, the inaugural recipient of the Logan Chair, established by Don and Sandy Logan. Rodger is the associate dean for research and graduate studies for COSAM. The Logan Chair is designed to support superior faculty of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics who possess academic leadership in the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and university and professional service, including outreach activities, within the department, with each category weighted equally. Additionally, the recipient of the Logan Chair is expected to work to strengthen and enhance mathematics, and serve as a positive role model for students and colleagues.
Prof. Francis Robicheaux is co-author of a study published in the Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics that describes a method for cooling trapped antihydrogen which they believe could provide ‘a major experimental advantage’ and help to map the mysterious properties of antimatter that have to date remained elusive.
On Jan. 1, a team of scientists from Auburn University's College of Sciences and Mathematics will embark on a research cruise to one of the world's most secluded and mysterious places, Antarctica. The voyage will last approximately six weeks, during which time the team will explore the genetic diversity of marine organisms found in the waters surrounding Earth's southernmost continent.
Luke Marzen, professor in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, and Art Chappelka, professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, or SFWS, spurred collaboration between Auburn University and the U.S. Geological Survey Alabama Water Science Center to produce an exact, three-dimensional model of the Toomer’s oaks. The model provided both a means of measuring the overall health of the trees, as well as documentation of the historic oaks. It was produced using a tripod-mounted laser scanner, also known as terrestrial light detection and ranging, or T-LiDAR. The T-LiDAR sends out a laser that scans anything within range and produces a three-dimensional replica.
Two researchers in Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics have delivered preliminary results of ongoing research into the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and results indicate potentially serious consequences for the environment. The researchers, Ming-Kuo Lee, Robert B. Cook professor of geology, and Ken Halanych, alumni professor of biological sciences, carried out two separate projects surveying different regions in the gulf, and in each location, effects of the oil spill are persistent. The research suggests the oil spill may have caused massive harm to the environment at a microscopic level, which in turn could have serious repercussions on the food chain in the long term.
Dr. Christopher Easley has received an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled “Interrogating Dynamics of Acute Secretion of Adiponectin Multimers from Adipose Tissue” in collaboration with Dr. Robert Judd, Associate Professor of Pharmacology.
Researchers at Auburn University reported the discovery a new trapdoor spider species from a well-developed housing subdivision in the heart of the city of Auburn, Ala. Myrmekiaphila tigris, affectionately referred to as the Auburn Tiger Trapdoor spider, is named in honor of Auburn University’s costumed Tiger mascot, Aubie.
Department of Biological sciences graduate students Alex Bentz, Nicole Garrison and Rebecca Koch each won a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship is the oldest fellowship of its kind and has a long history of recipients achieving high academic and professional success. GRFP fellows often become life-long scientific leaders and educators. Bentz's mentor is assistant professor Wendy Hood; Garrison is being mentored by professor Jason Bond; Koch's mentor is professor Geoff Hill.
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.
A recent scientific breakthrough could lead to changes in the world of antimatter physics, according to Francis Robicheaux, an Auburn University physics professor and member of ALPHA, the international team of scientists conducting the antimatter research. Last year the ALPHA (Anti-Hydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus) team was able to trap and hold the antimatter version of the hydrogen atom. They have now accomplished the goal they set at that time of being able to measure the fundamental properties of antihydrogen. An article in this week’s edition of the journal Nature, titled “Resonant quantum transitions in trapped antihydrogen atoms,” describes the progress made in that research. The article reports that ALPHA has made yet another monumental step toward being able to make defendable and precise comparisons between atoms of matter and those of antimatter. Recently, Robicheaux and collaborators were able to measure the frequency needed to alter the magnetic properties of the antihydrogen atom by sending microwaves through the atom trap. “This is the first baby step into doing great experiments with antihydrogen atoms,” Robicheaux said. “This is the first time any properties of antihydrogen have been measured with any type of precision.”
Anne Gorden, associate professor of Chemistry, received an intramural grant from Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President for Research for $160,000. The grant was awarded based on her proposal, “Ultraviolet-visible/ Fluorescence Microspectrophotometer.” Collaborators on the grant include assistant professor Christian R. Goldsmith and associate professor German Mills, both of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as Virginia A. Davis, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Funding from the grant will be used money to purchase an ultraviolet-visible/ fluorescence microspectrophotometer for the University to be housed in Chemistry. Gorden notes that not only will this machine be available for use by other departments, many of which have already shown interest, but it will also help attract additional funding to the University.
Populations of the rusty blackbird, a once-abundant North American species, have declined drastically in recent years, and Auburn University researchers say climate change is to blame. That’s the finding of graduate students Chris McClure, Brian Rolek and Kenneth McDonald published recently in the scientific journal Ecology and Evolution. Under the direction of ornithology professor Geoffrey Hill, McClure, Rolek and McDonald studied the blackbird decline and wrote the paper “Climate change and the decline of a once common bird.” The group analyzed rusty blackbird breeding data and climate indices and examined temperature oscillations in the Pacific Ocean, and concluded that climate change does in fact play a major role in the recent decline of the population.
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 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.
For the past several years, Lesley de Souza has focused her research efforts in a place so remote, it's nearly impossible to access: the Guiana Shield. A mountainous, forested region just north of Brazil, the Shield has no cities, cold drinks or showers. Instead, it welcomes visitors with attractions such as anacondas, piranhas, jaguars, venomous snakes and a tiny fish called a candiru that is rumored to invade humans by swimming up the urethra. de Souza knows that should she ever receive a poisonous snake or spider bite in the field, not much could be done; there is no medic standing by. But for her, the dangers are worth the rewards of researching the area's rich biodiversity.
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.
Diabetes is a disorder of the endocrine system signified by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and results in $174 billion in direct and indirect medical costs per year. Indeed, medical costs are more than two times greater for those with diabetes, due in part to a host of health problems that can result from the disease including: blindness and eye problems, kidney failure, limb amputation, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, pregnancy complications and depression.