Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR)

Updated as of June 21, 2018

The Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR) program supports ideas that foster creativity, facilitate collaboration, and assist Auburn University in reaching new levels of distinction.  PAIR funds interdisciplinary research teams for up to 3 years.  Teams are expected to define an integrated interdisciplinary research effort distinguished by intellectual excellence and driven by a clear vision of fundamental scholarly advances, innovative discoveries, or technological developments having broad economic and societal impact.  PAIR is intended for investigators who seek to enhance their external research sponsorship through multiple, interdisciplinary collaborations. 

Goals of the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR) 

  1. Provide for the formation and continued support of focused interdisciplinary groups working across fields and academic divisions, with distinct theoretical and methodological approaches, to explore innovative research questions. As an example, the health sciences is a focus area that is strongly aligned with the priorities of the university and addresses a wide range of disciplines.  
  2. Support the integration of disciplinary areas creating transformative interdisciplinary research teams working on innovative projects.
  3. Serve as a catalyst for developing scholarly projects that will attract external funding support for faculty, students and the University’s associated research infrastructure.
Development of the AU-NASH Research Program - Tier I - $150,000 over 2 years
AU NASH PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Thomas Denney, Dr. Michael Roberts;
(back row) Dr. Adil Bashir, Dr. Robert “Rusty” Arnold, Dr. Rajesh Amin.

Not pictured: Dr. Darren Beck (VCOM), Dr. Kelly Hester, Dr. Jeff Martin (VCOM),
Dr. Danielle McCollough (VCOM).

Project Team: 

Rajesh Amin, drug discovery and development
Robert Arnold, drug discovery and development
Thomas Denney, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering
Adil Bashir, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering
Michael Roberts, kinesiology
Jeff Martin, VCOM/cell biology and physiology

This project addresses the urgent unmet medical need for development of a novel nonalcoholic steatotic hepatitis (NASH) disease therapy program with Auburn’s unique combination of cross-functional expertise and programmatic experience. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is emerging as the most significant form of chronic liver disease in the world today, and the research team will pursue new therapies to improve health outcomes for those suffering from the disease.
Emerging Contaminants Research Team - Tier I - $150,000 over 2 years
Emerging Contaminants TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. James Stoeckel, Dr. Vanisree Mulabagal;
(second row) Dr. David Blersch, Dr. Vinicia Biancardi, Dr. Jennifer Panizzi;
(back row) Dr. Joel Hayworth, Dr. Benson Akingbemi, Dr. Dean Schwartz.

Not pictured: Dr. Natalie Capiro, Dr. Matthew Waters.

Project Team:

Joel Hayworth, civil engineering
Dean Schwartz, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology
Jennifer Panizzi, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology
Vinicia Biancardi, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology
James Stoeckel, fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic sciences
David Blersch, biosystems engineering


This project will establish the Auburn University Emerging Contaminants Research Team (ECRT), initially comprised of researchers from Auburn University’s College of Engineering (Civil), the College of Agriculture (Biosystems Engineering and Fisheries), and the College of Veterinary Medicine (Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology). The team will study the behavior, fate, ecological and human health consequences, and mitigation of emerging contaminants of concern. Initially, the ECRT will focus on a class of emerging contaminants of recent and growing interest and concern to major extramural funding groups and the general public: emerging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).
PFASs represent a large group of purely synthetic organic compounds with known or suspected endocrine disrupting properties in both humans and wildlife.
A Prototype Framework of Climate Services for Decision Making - Tier I - $150,000 over 2 years
Climate PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Dr. Di Tian;
(second row) Dr. Puneet Srivastava, Dr. Brenda Ortiz;
(back row) Dr. Xing Fang.

Not pictured: Dr. Jasmeet Lamba, Dr. Bo Liu, Dr. Sarah Zohdy.

Project Team:

Di Tian, crop, soil and environmental sciences
Brenda Ortiz, crop, soil and environmental sciences
Puneet Srivastava, biosystems engineering
Jasmeet Lamba, biosystems engineering
Sanjiv Kumar, forestry and wildlife sciences
Sarah Zohdy, forestry and wildlife sciences
Xing Fang, civil engineering
Bo Liu, computer science and software engineering


The goal of this project is to develop and incorporate science-based climate information and prediction into planning, policy and practice at the regional, national, and global scales. The central hypothesis is that that the unified climate information system (UCIS) will provide actionable climate services and result in improved climate resilience and risk management practices in agriculture, natural resources, and public health sectors.
Drugs from Dirt: Development and Characterization of Novel Antimicrobial Compounds - Tier 1 - $150,000 over 2 years
Drugs from Dirt PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Alexey Petrov, Dr. Mark Liles;
(back row) Dr. Angela Calderón.

Project Team:

Mark Liles, biological sciences
Alexey Petrov, biological sciences
Angela Calderon, drug discovery and development

Using antibiotic-producing bacterial cultures found in soil, this research team is working to produce potentially life-saving antibiotics that could have application in human medicine, agriculture, and veterinary practice. Addressing the worldwide need to develop new therapeutic strategies to treat infectious diseases, the team will work to develop purified antimicrobial compounds to fight multidrug-resistant pathogens, as well as beneficial microorganisms that can be used in innovative ways to compete with pathogens through multiple mechanisms that avoid resistance development.
Extra-virgin Olive Oil Prevents Conversion of Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease - Tier 1 - $150,000 over 2 years
Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s PAIR TeamPictured from the left:(front row) Dr. Jennifer Robinson, Dr. Thomas Denney;
(second row) Dr. Amal Kaddoumi, Dr. Gopikrishna Deshpande, Dr. Nancy Merner;
(back row) Dr. Ronald Beyers.

Not pictured: Dr. Darren Beck (VCOM), Dr. Annie Kirby (VCOM).

Project Team:

Amal Kaddoumi, drug discovery and development
Thomas Denney, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering
Gopikrishna Deshpande, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering
Ronald Beyers, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering
Jennifer Robinson, psychology
Nancy Merner, pathobiology
Annie Kirby, VCOM/cell biology and physiology
Darren Beck, VCOM/cell biology and physiology


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder of the elderly that afflicts about 30 million patients globally and over 5 million Americans in the US. Despite the considerable research effort to prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, effective strategies remain lacking. Many disease hallmarks have been identified among which is the compromised blood-brain barrier (BBB). Team members have developed a high-throughput screening assay to identify hit compounds that rectify the BBB integrity from vascular amyloid toxicity associated with AD progression. One of the identified hits is polyphenols-rich olive oil, i.e. extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). In multiple subsequent preclinical studies, the research team was able to show the positive effect of EVOO on modulating the disease hallmarks, including the leaky BBB, in mouse models of AD. The natural extension of this work is to test EVOO performance, in addition to other identified lead compounds, in human clinical studies. 
Development of an Alabama Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Storage Center at Auburn University - Tier I - $255,000 over 3 years
Carbon Dioxide PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Carlos Carrero, Dr. Ashraf Uddin;
(second row) Dr. Tae-Sik Oh, Dr. Lauren Beckingham, Dr. Bryan Beckingham;
(back row) Dr. Anton Schindler, Dr. Andrew Adamczyk, Dr. Marta Miletic.

Not pictured: Dr. David King, Dr. Ming-Kuo Lee.

Project Team:

Lauren Beckingham, civil engineering
Anton Schindler, civil engineering
Marta Militec, civil engineering
Bryan Beckingham, chemical engineering
Carlos Carrero, chemical engineering
Tae-Sik Oh, chemical engineering
Andrew Adamczyk, chemical engineering
Ashraf Uddin, geosciences
David King, geosciences
Ming-Kuo Lee, geosciences

CO2 is one of the leading causes of climate change, and this project seeks to reduce point source emissions and store or utilize them for other viable means.  Seeking to establish an interdisciplinary Alabama CO2Utilization and Storage research center at Auburn University, the team will conduct research on CO2utilization for green fuels, chemicals, and materials and utilization in subsurface energy systems (e.g. CO2 enhanced oil recovery, enhanced geothermal, compressed air energy storage).
Interdisciplinary Rural African American Aging Research - Tier 1 - $255,000 over 3 years
Rural African American Aging Research PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Dominic Cheng, Dr. Loka Ashwood;
(back row) Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. David Chae, Dr. Gopikrishna Deshpande.

Project Team

David Chae, human development and family studies
Loka Ashwood, agricultural economics and rural sociology
Michael Brown, kinesiology
Dominic Cheng, psychology
Gopikrishna Desphande, MRI Research Center/electrical and computer engineering


African Americans in rural areas are characterized by major health disparities, having lower life expectancy and higher mortality rates, and greater morbidity, earlier onset, and faster progression of aging-related diseases compared to Whites. Rural health challenges, including those stemming from lack of access to health-promoting resources, transportation barriers, and limited socioeconomic opportunities, translate into greater health risk. Although racial and rural disparities in health have been well-documented, there remain major gaps in our understanding of how psychosocial stressors, particularly those salient and unique to the experiences of rural African Americans, contribute to multisystem aging across biological systems.  This project will help develop new collaborations and infrastructure for conducting interdisciplinary aging research studies in rural contexts.


A Mobile Mitochondria Laboratory (AU MitoMobile) to Lead the World in Measuring Bioenergetics in Natural Settings - Tier II - $636,941 over 3 years
AU Mitomobile PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. Kristjan Niitepold;
(second row) Dr. Mike Eddy, Dr. Wendy Hood, Dr. Mark Nelms;
(back row) Dr. Andreas Kavazis, Dr. Geoff Hill.

Not pictured: Dr. Bruce Gladden, Dr. John Tennant.

Project Team: 

Geoffrey Hill, biological sciences
Wendy Hood, biological sciences
Kristjan Niitepold, biological sciences
Andreas Kavazis, kinesiology
Bruce Gladden, kinesiology
Mark Nelms, electrical and computer engineering
Mike Eddy, electrical and computer engineering
John Tennant, electrical and computer engineering 

An established team of evolutionary biologists, environmental biologists, exercise physiologists, and engineers will collaborate to oversee construction of a mobile laboratory to measure bioenergetics of vertebrates at remote field sites. With the knowledge of laboratory needs and constraints drawn from life scientists and the experience and expertise in vehicle modification drawn from the engineers on the team, the group will develop the AU MitoMobile, a mobile laboratory that will immediately enhance the competitiveness of team members as they pursue extramural funding for research programs at Auburn University. The mobile laboratory will also stimulate new collaboration with prominent scientists, establishing Auburn as the world leader in measuring bioenergetics in natural settings.
Establishment of a Center for Neuroscience (CNS) - Tier II - $637,500 over 3 years
Neuroscience PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row): Dr. Chris Newland, Dr. Miranda Reed, Dr. Jeffrey Katz, Dr. Jennifer Robinson;
(second row) Dr. Michael Greene; Dr. Vishnu Suppiramaniam, Dr. Thomas Denney, Dr. Timothy Moore, Dr. Ramesh Jeganathan;
(third row) Dr. Chris Easley, Dr. Robert “Rusty” Arnold, Dr. Matt Miller, Dr. Bruce Smith;
(back row) Dr. C. Randall Clark, Dr. Amal Kaddoumi, Dr. Rajesh Amin.
Not pictured: Dr. Ronald Beyers, Dr. David Chae, Dr. Allan David, Dr. Gopikrishna Deshpande, Dr. Muralikrishnan Dhanasekaran,
Dr. Mona El-Sheikh, Dr. Chad Foradori, Dr. Richard Hansen, Dr. Doug Martin, Dr. Peter Panizzi, Dr. JoEllen Sefton, Dr. Geetha Thangiah.

Project Team:

Vishnu Suppiramaniam, drug discovery and development
Miranda Reed, drug discovery and development
Richard Hansen, drug discovery and development
Rajesh Amin, drug discovery and development
Timothy Moore, drug discovery and development
Randall Clark, drug discovery and development
Muralikrishnan Dhanasekaran, drug discovery and development
Amal Kaddoumi, drug discovery and development
Rusty Arnold, drug discovery and development
Peter Panizzi, drug discovery and development
Ramesh Jeganathan, nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management
Michael Greene, nutrition, dietetics and hospitality managment
Mona El-Sheikh, human development and family studies
David Chae, human development and family studies
Chris Newland, psychology
Jennifer Robinson, psychology
Jeff Katz, psychology
Bruce Smith, pathobiology
Doug Martin, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology
Chad Foradori, anatomy, phsyiology and pharmacology
JoEllen Sefton, kinesiology
Matt Miller, kinesiology
Allan David, chemical engineering
Chris Easley, chemistry and biochemistry
Thomas Denney, mri research center/electrical and computer engineering
Gopikrishna Deshpande, mri research center/electrical and computer engineering
Thomas Beck, VCOM/cell biology and physiology

With the long-term objective of establishing the CNS as a flagship entity for Auburn University, the project team will engage in activities to foster extramurally-supported neuroscience research including (1) infrastructure development in which CNS members will be given priority access, including core facilities operated by CNS members, (2) biweekly CNS work-in-progress meetings and a monthly CNS seminar series creating awareness of the scope of neuroscience and neurological disease research on campus, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and multi-investigator applications for extramural funding; (3) a yearly retreat with an organized symposium with outstanding national members of the neuroscience community, as well as senior research administrators from federal agencies; (4) formation of “CNS Ad Hoc Review Committees” to provide internal and external pre-submission reviews of manuscripts and grant applications by study section members of various funding agencies; (5) bridge funding for those faculty members with scored but not funded extramural proposals related to neuroscience; and (6) development of a proposed neuroscience certificate program (MS/PhD). 


Communication is Key: Unlocking Home Affordability and Prosperity in Rural America - Tier III - $1,275,000 over 3 years
Rural Studio PAIR Team(front row) Dr. Michelle Sidler, Mackenzie Stagg;
(second row) Dr. Susan Youngblood, Courtney Windham, Dr. Ed Youngblood;
(back row) David Hinson.

Not pictured: Margaret Fletcher, Justin Miller.
Hale County Pair TeamSeveral members of the team are based in Hale
County, home of the Rural Studio. Pictured
from the left: Andrew Freear, Xavier Vendrell,
Rusty Smith, Natalie Butts-Ball, Emily McGlohn.

Project Team:

James (Rusty) Smith, architecture/Rural Studio
Mackenzie Stagg, architecture
David Hinson, architecture
Andrew Freear, architecture
Emily McGlohn, architecture
Courtney Wyndham, industrial and graphic design
Justin Miller, architecture
Xavier Vendrell, architecture
Margaret Fletcher, architecture
Ed Youngblood, communication and journalism
Susan Youngblood, English
Michelle Sidler, English

For 25 years, Rural Studio in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) at Auburn University has engaged directly in research and real-world applications related to the development of rural prosperity in west Alabama. For the last two years, Rural Studio has been working with external contractors, NGOs, and financial institutions to make their home product available to the rural poor. The absence of new-construction housing is a significant barrier to affordable home ownership. Additionally, traditional methods of construction communication do not assure translation of affordability from a tested design product through the construction phase and ultimately to the homeowner. Fannie Mae and USDA Rural Development are encouraging/supporting Rural Studio to take leadership in this regard. So, to scale up the work of Rural Studio and achieve a transformation in rural housing and development, we will build a multi-sector coalition and solidify this coalition under Auburn’s leadership. We will develop a “proof of concept” pilot that will be the foundation to promote transformational change throughout rural America and mitigate rural poverty. The ultimate vision is the creation of a National Institute for Rural Prosperity, whose mission will be the transformation of rural America.
Additive Manufacturing of Durable, Next Generation Implants and Orthotics - Tier III - $1,275,000 over 3 years
Additive Manufacturing PAIR TeamPictured from the left: (front row) Dr. LaKami Baker, Dr. Daniel Silva, Dr. Hareesh Tippur;
(second row) Dr. Jeff Suhling, Dr. Amal Kaddoumi, Dr. Nima Shamsaei;
(back row) Dr. Jayachandra Ramapuram, Dr. Michael Zabala, Dr. Xiaoyuan Lou, Dr. Robert“Rusty” Arnold.

Not pictured: Dr. Kayla Corriveau, Dr. Julie Gard Schnuelle, Dr. Debra Taylor, Dr. Scott Thompson, Dr. Aleksandr Vinel.

Project Team:

Nima Shamsaei, mechanical engineering
Scott Thompson, mechanical engineering
Jeff Suhling, mechanical engineering
Hareesh Tippur, mechanical engineering
Michael Zabala, mechanical engineering
Daniel Silva Izquierdo, industrial and systems engineering
Aleksandr Vinel, industrial and systems engineering
Xiaoyuan Lou, materials engineering
Amal Kaddoumi, drug discovery and development
Jayachandra Ramapuram, drug discovery and development
Robert Arnold, drug discovery and development
Kayla Corriveau, clinical sciences
Debra Taylor, clinical sciences
Julie Gard Schnuelle, clinical sciences
Lakami Baker, management

This project aims to determine best methods for using additive manufacturing (“3D printing”) to fabricate conformal, drug-delivering (and non-drug-delivering) implants and performance-enhancing/rehabilitative orthotics for both small animals (dogs, cats) and humans. This work should better position AU to compete for health science funding, e.g. from the National Institutes of Health.  PAIR funding will be used to considerably enhance the capabilities of Auburn’s recently-initiated Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence.



Robert Holm, Ph.D.
Proposal Services & Faculty Support

Phone: (334) 844-5877