External Engagement News
Auburn University, Fort Benning agree to $18 million, 10-year environmental services partnership, paving the way for new multidisciplinary research opportunities
Auburn University and Fort Benning have agreed to a 10-year partnership for the university’s Department of Risk Management & Safety to assume management of the Georgia Army base’s environmental services.
The Intergovernmental Support Agreement, or IGSA, connects the university and military base—which are located just 40 miles apart—in a long-term partnership that will expand research opportunities for Auburn’s colleges and units. The university’s Department of Risk Management & Safety, or RMS, will support Fort Benning’s environmental compliance program needs for the next decade as part of the $18 million deal, which begins in April.
Auburn RMS operates with a mission to “protect people, the environment, property, financial and other resources in support of Auburn University’s teaching, research, outreach and student services.” RMS also will help the base adhere to state and federal Clean Air Acts and Clean Water Acts and hazardous waste regulations, oversee staffing needs and expand research opportunities for Auburn’s colleges and units.
The partnership marks a significant advancement in the collaboration between Auburn and Fort Benning.
“This long-term partnership between Auburn University and Fort Benning is a welcomed joint venture that will link our two great neighboring institutions for years to come,” said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ron Burgess, Auburn’s executive vice president and a 38-year U.S. Army veteran. “Auburn has long been a friend to the military and veterans, and this collaboration will strengthen that bond as we help the Army manage the base’s environmental needs through our Department of Risk Management & Safety. The potential for faculty research opportunities through this agreement will be a profound boost across campus, and we look forward to a long alliance with Fort Benning.”
For the base, the deal represents an opportunity to streamline operations, maximize efficacy and partner with a major land-grant institution.
“The Intergovernmental Service Agreement model has been successful across the Army and has been a great tool to work with surrounding communities to create mutually beneficial partnerships,” said Maj. Gen.
Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding general, Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence. “We are excited to build on those lessons learned and apply them here at home.”
The partnership was initially conceptualized by College of Sciences and Mathematics Interim Dean Edward Thomas Jr., who views the collaboration as a mechanism for additional research funding at Auburn.
“I am excited for this opportunity to have Auburn faculty work in conjunction with Fort Benning to conduct research and help solve problems that have real-world applications,” Thomas said. “This partnership will spark new innovations and help Auburn work on long-term projects with the United States Army.”
As part of the partnership, Auburn’s various colleges, faculty and campus units can apply for research funding for projects relevant to Fort Benning missions. The university will form an advisory board to process funding applications, consider new projects related to the Army base and communicate opportunities for faculty to consider during their research.
“Fort Benning relies on our partnerships and contracts to support our operations,” said Brandon Cockrell, deputy to the Garrison Commander, Fort Benning. “Intergovernmental service agreements like this allow us to reduce the administrative costs and focus on the partnership and our mission.”
Auburn RMS will manage many of the same environmental compliance responsibilities for Fort Benning that it does for the university, including chemical waste management, stormwater pollution prevention, spill response and personnel training.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Auburn University and Fort Benning to work together in this first of its kind partnership,” Auburn Department of Risk Management & Safety Executive Director Chris O’Gwynn said. “Through this agreement Auburn University Risk Management & Safety will be providing Fort Benning with singular oversight of environmental compliance including Hazardous Waste Management, Clean Water Act compliance, Clean Air Act compliance and a variety of environmental education and training services. Our goal is to help them create more efficient processes and improved coordination of personnel, on-site inspections, and tracking of materials.
“Our Environmental Health & Safety team does an outstanding job for the university, and the opportunity to work with Fort Benning to provide the same exceptional level of support is very exciting. Additionally, Auburn University will have the opportunity to establish new types of educational, research and professional development opportunities for its faculty, staff and students. We are looking forward to a long, collaborative partnership.”
BY NEAL REID
Auburn University and Fort Benning signed a 10-year environmental services agreement at The Park at Auburn in the university's Research and Innovation Center on Wednesday. Auburn was represented by Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ron Burgess, left, and Fort Benning by Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding general, Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
Building Science, Architecture faculty digitally preserving Alabama’s disappearing Rosenwald Schools
In the early decades of the 1900s when racial segregation was the norm, almost 400 schools were built in rural Alabama to serve as educational facilities for African American children.
These were known as the Rosenwald Schools and, between 1912-32, they made it possible for African American children to obtain a formal education in a time when doing so would otherwise be nearly an impossibility.
Today, these schools are quickly fading, and a team of researchers from Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction is working to digitally preserve and bring attention to the disappearing Rosenwald Schools. Funded by grants from their college, the university’s inaugural Creative Work and Social Impact Scholarship Funding Program and the McWhorter Fund for Excellence, Junshan Liu, Bob Aderholdt Endowed associate professor in the McWhorter School of Building Science, and Gorham Bird, visiting assistant professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, have begun their initial work to digitally document and re-construct four of these schools.
Using the latest digital documentation technology, their end product includes digital Building Information Models, or BIMs, 3D-printed physical models, as-built drawings and online virtual tours of these historic buildings. Their work will be presented through exhibitions to engage the public in civil rights history, teach emerging technologies and promote historical preservation.
“We started last summer,” Bird said. “It is now approaching 100 years since many of these schools were built. It is estimated that 10-12 percent of the original schools remain. Most are falling apart, and there is a pressing need to document and preserve them before they are gone.”
According to the research team, the first six schools in Alabama were built in Lee, Macon and Montgomery counties. The first Rosenwald School was built in Loachapoka in 1914.
In 1917, Julius Rosenwald expanded the project and established the Rosenwald Fund to oversee the establishment of new rural schools. Until 1920, the projects were managed by Tuskegee Institute and designed by Tuskegee architecture faculty Robert R. Taylor and W.A. Hazel. Starting in 1920, management of new schools was taken on by an independent Rosenwald Fund office located in Nashville, Tennessee, and the design of the schools became the responsibility of Samuel L. Smith, a white architect.
“Historic preservation has always been a part of my academic interest,” Bird said. “These schools advanced rural African American education beyond any other system, and they have maintained an impressive community impact. In fact, some alumni still hold reunions to this day.
“Economists have attributed the Rosenwald Schools for creating the African American middle class. Despite the inequities that existed in the Jim Crow South, the remaining Rosenwald Schools serve as a testament to the self-determination and resilience of the communities that worked to build them. This legacy cannot be lost to time.”
Liu leads the digital effort of the project using drones, LiDAR scanners—a system that uses laser to capture dimensional data of an object—360-degree photography, photogrammetry and other digital-based technologies to document and develop intelligent BIM models of these structures.
“We will ultimately create a digital and physical archive of these schools as historic sites that can be shared through exhibits to teach students and others,” Liu said.
Working with partners at the Alabama Historical Commission, or AHC, the project team has identified four Rosenwald Schools in Alabama for this initial work.
The four Alabama schools are geographically diverse, include different models of building type, and condition. The team plans to use this sample of schools to test and perfect the approach for documentation and presentation, in anticipation of seeking more external funds to map, document and preserve the remaining schools in the state and the South.
“The AHC has long wanted to document the remaining Rosenwald Schools,” Bird said. “This project is very much in line with their goals.”
The team has identified sites that are on the National Register of Historic Places that include:
- New Hope School, Chambers County, 1915. One-teacher school type;
- Mount Sinai School, Autauga County, 1919. Two-teacher school type;
- Oak Grove School, Hale County, 1921. Two-teacher school type;
- Tankersley School, Montgomery County, 1922. Three-teacher school type.
“The benefits of this workflow include the expedience of documentation and level of detail and accuracy,” Liu adds. “These benefits allow for a greater number of Rosenwald Schools to be digitally recorded in a shorter period of time with a very high degree of quality.”
The research team has completed a pilot test of documentation through a field survey of one of the Rosenwald Schools, the New Hope School in Chambers County. Three-dimensional LiDAR scanning and aerial photogrammetry was used to develop a digital 3D BIM.
The team also has uncovered archival materials, including the original design documents, through interviews with the president of the New Hope Foundation. An example virtual tour of the Tankersley Rosenwald School in Montgomery County illustrates the pressing need for intervention and preservation of these schools.
The project’s first phase including all four schools is expected to be completed in spring 2023, Bird said.
BY MITCH EMMONS
The New Hope School in Chambers County is one of 400 Rosenwald Schools built between 1912-32 to serve as educational facilities for African American children. A team of Auburn University professors from the College of Architecture, Design and Construction is working to digitally preserve and bring attention to the disappearing schools.
Auburn professors’ Selma ‘Bloody Sunday’ project gaining momentum through social media, public support
The interdisciplinary tandem is enlisting a group of Auburn Honors College students to help expand the project’s reach to the social media realm, and they have established a Facebook page where visitors can connect and help identify marchers who participated in one of the seminal moments in civil rights history—Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, in Selma.
On that day, John Lewis, Hosea Williams and a group of approximately 600 marchers were confronted by Alabama State Troopers armed with tear gas and metal batons as they began a march for equality toward Montgomery. The nation watched in horror that night on ABC as marchers were pummeled by law enforcement in what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” an event that would serve as a catalyst for Americans across the country to rally behind the civil rights movement like never before.
The researchers are hoping the public can help distinguish the identities of the brave men and women who took part in the march that day.
“Social media platforms such as Facebook offer public historians invaluable tools to connect with multi-generational audiences across a broad geography,” Hébert said. “We have received critical information from former Bloody Sunday foot soldiers and their loved ones near and far as we build a comprehensive database of those marchers’ names and stories. Our Honors College students are gaining experience communicating with diverse audiences as we all come together to collect and celebrate the heroic sacrifices those foot soldiers made in Selma on March 7, 1965. Those learning opportunities will bode well for their future career endeavors as they help America build a diverse, inclusive and equitable society.”
In addition, Burt and Hébert have received considerable support from the Selma community, in particular the Selma City Council and Selma High School. City council members were briefed about the Auburn-led project at a recent meeting and have pledged their support and resources to aiding the endeavor’s success.
“Actually putting names to these faces is a game-changer,” Selma City Council Chairman Billy Young said. “We’re extremely enthusiastic about recording history this way, because for so long, these men and women who did so much never had their names provided. It means a great deal for Auburn and all the students and everyone to come together for this project.
“This project brings us back into the forefront in the fight for social justice that’s been taking place in Selma, and identifying these people this way is a great homage to Selma. We are gung-ho and really proud of the work that’s being done, and seeing everything unfold this way makes the city council feel even better about our support and makes us want to support it even more.”
The project also will be promoted with posters at the Selma Dallas County Public Library, and photos from that fateful day will be on display at a November photography festival in Selma thanks to the efforts of Bloody Sunday march participant JoAnn Bland, who identified herself in one of the historical images.
“I think it’s amazing, and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Bland said of the project. “That was the first time I’d seen a picture of me, and I don’t think the ordinary foot soldiers get the recognition for what we did. Our kids know about Dr. King and John Lewis, but they don’t realize ordinary people like me were out there fighting and didn’t give up.
“It makes the pictures come alive when you know [people’s] names, and they’re pictures that need to have captions and need to have names listed with them. So many people have been left out, and a lot of people around here have the blood of those history-makers running through their veins and they should know about them.”
Albert Turner Jr.—chairman of the Perry County Commission whose father, Albert Turner Sr., helped organize the march in 1965—applauded the team’s efforts.
“I think this will be the most accurate depiction of Bloody Sunday that has ever been documented,” said Turner. “It will speak to the core of the people who were there on Bloody Sunday, the march that changed America. The civil rights movement was built by everyday people who felt the sting of segregation and being treated as second-class citizens, and those were the people who rallied together on Bloody Sunday, which was the most revolutionary act of defiance since the Civil War.
“I think this project is going to help give Perry County the national recognition it deserves for its role in the foundation of Bloody Sunday, and more than 50 percent of the marchers were from Perry County. This project that Auburn University is doing will help bear witness to Perry County and its dominant role in Bloody Sunday.”
Selma High School teacher Veronica Pitts has even enlisted her AP History class in helping advance the project, particularly working on the social media component and enlisting family members to help identify Bloody Sunday marchers. Pitts was first introduced to the cause of identifying marchers while working for the National Park Service prior to becoming a teacher, so this project is a chance to rekindle a passion project from her past.
“I’m excited to be able to share this project with my class,” said Pitts, a Selma High School alumnae who has nearly 30 students in her class. “The biggest thing has been trying to convince them to get some of their grandparents to assist us in this process in identifying some of those foot soldiers. When this opportunity presented itself, it made my heart sing because I had an opportunity to get back to some work I’d done nine or 11 years ago.
“We’re excited to get the ball rolling and see how much we can get done this semester and the rest of this year.”
Burt—who also has set up a workroom for students to utilize for the project in Dudley Commons on campus—and Hébert have been energized and are immensely appreciative of the wave of support the research venture has garnered this year.
“The project is really starting to come together now,” said Burt, the McWhorter Endowed Chair and head of the McWhorter School of Building Science in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, who has worked for years to survey and map the area where the historic confrontation occurred. “We have set up a workroom in the exhibition space of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction in Dudley Hall. The space is open during regular working hours, and folks are free to come visit to see how the project is progressing.”
The project recently received another boost when it was chosen to receive a nearly $190,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH, to support a pair of week-long workshops to include 72 K-12 educators in field studies that focus on the significance of Selma in the early days of the civil rights movement. Those workshops will be led by Hébert and his fellow Department of History colleague Elijah Gaddis, and their team members also include Junshan Liu, CADC, Leslie Cordie, College of Education, Meghan Buchanan, College of Liberal Arts, and Danielle Willkens of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the team also is working with faculty from Alabama State University.
The overarching hope for the project is to identify as many Bloody Sunday participants as possible and, therefore, perhaps better understand the crucially important civil rights event while also elevating Selma’s status as a historical site.
“Our project highlights the need for additional historical research and documentation for one of the most famous moments in American history,” Hébert said. “By taking a fresh look at Bloody Sunday, our research has revealed rich details about how the march unfolded that prior historians have overlooked. We intend to help those in Selma who want to do more to preserve and interpret the historic landscapes connected to this seminal event.
“Today, the historic conflict site is in dire need of historic preservation and interpretation. Hopefully, we can build a coalition to save this historic site before it is too late.”
BY NEAL REID
The Selma, Alabama, community has come together with Auburn University researchers to help identify marchers from the 1965 Bloody Sunday incident. From left to right, Rachel Metcalf from the City of Selma, marcher JoAnn Bland, Selma Times reporter James Jones and Selma Public Library Director Becky Nichols recently met up to look at historic photos. Bland identified herself in one of the photos for the first time thanks to the project.
A new collaboration between Auburn University and Tuskegee University aims to provide opportunities for Tuskegee students to explore new educational and career paths through STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—research mentorships with Auburn graduate students and faculty.
Maria Soledad Peresin, associate professor of forest biomaterials in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, established the collaboration with Michael Curry, chemistry and mechanical engineering professor at Tuskegee.
The partnership is part of Peresin’s National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or NSF CAREER, Award for which she was selected earlier this year. The award supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.
Curry, who was recently awarded the 2021 HBCU—or historically black colleges and universities—Pioneering Award from the National Organization for Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, is excited about the prospects of this joint effort.
“This collaboration will create new opportunities for joint research projects and lab exchanges that will strengthen research outcomes for both labs. Specifically, I am especially excited that this research effort includes a significant boost for early-career STEM research opportunities for Tuskegee undergraduates.”
Peresin said the new program’s frame enables students to integrate research activities within their studies through a tier-mentorship program with graduate students.
“During these internships, students will acquire hands-on experience in the field of surface chemistry, material design and development, organic chemistry and applied engineering concepts,” she said. “This will increase their expertise and preparedness for a better transition into the job market.”
Curry and his team visited Peresin and her team July 13 at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences for a daylong collaborative meeting. As part of the event, 15 students displayed posters about their research and delivered three-minute speeches to the group. The day also included networking activities and a tour of Peresin’s lab.
The collaboration was sparked earlier this year when Curry invited Peresin to speak to the American Chemical Society student chapter at Tuskegee. Through that event, chemistry major Jermya Hollins became the first Tuskegee student to join Peresin’s lab. Hollins is training in analytical techniques such as atomic force microscopy and dynamic light scattering, among other subjects. She is now beginning independent studies under the co-supervision of Curry and Peresin.
Joining Curry and Peresin’s teams at the July event were Scott Enebak, the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences associate dean for academic affairs; Michelle Cole, advisor of the Auburn chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS; and Ja’lia Taylor, coordinator of the Auburn Young Professionals in Training program.
“I thought the chemistry between all these people gave the meeting a great spin,” Peresin said. “It ended up not only being about our common research interest, but about the big picture.”
Tuskegee students participating in the collaboration said the opportunity had given them a new outlook on their studies and research work.
“Because of this event, my group was able to construct new research ideas and work on new collaborations, which opened doors for new students to join,” said student Morgan Fair. “I was recently on the fence of deciding if I wanted to continue my studies at the Ph.D. level and, after attending, I gained more confidence towards making a final decision.
“The advice I would give others would be to always take the opportunity to collaborate, because it opens new doors that could place you on the right path where you are destined to be.”
Another Tuskegee student, Johnathan Mitchell, said the collaboration has been especially impactful in his experience.
“Prior to this collaboration, I planned to pursue a career in the industry with my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and my master’s degree in chemistry, but after seeing so much interesting research and talking to so many amazing people, I plan to continue my education at Tuskegee with a Ph.D. in material science engineering. I hope to attend the next collaboration event and those to come. I am grateful for this opportunity,” Mitchell said.
As a follow-up to these joint activities, Curry and Peresin are co-organizing symposia for the American Chemical Society at its November regional meeting in Birmingham and its national meeting in spring 2022 in San Diego.
The two also are working on a proposal for an NSF Research Experiences for Teachers site that would increase science and literacy in the state’s Black Belt region regarding the sustainable use and processing of materials.
BY TERI GREENE
Tuskegee University master’s student Johnathan Mitchell participated in a daylong collaborative event as part of a new partnership with Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to create a STEM research mentorship program with Auburn graduate students and faculty.
Auburn University launched two new pilot internal awards programs in 2021 and has named the program’s first recipients.
The Research Support Program, or RSP, and the Creative Work and Social Impact Scholarship Funding Program, or CWSI, were established by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Both programs provide a competitive internal funding source to support faculty and to provide an opportunity for them to experience a small-scale pilot and refine their projects before competing for larger awards.
“This is a pilot version of a larger intramural award program,” said Bob Holm, associate director of Proposal Services and Faculty Support, the unit that administers the programs. “It enables faculty to participate in a competitive funding program and make improvements to their projects before a commitment to a long-term award program is made. The pilot provides a platform to test what works and what does not.”
The RSP is intended to be an annual cycle funding program to foster the development and growth of innovative and transformational research activities. It builds on faculty expertise, stimulates interdisciplinary collaborations and strengthens seed research activities. It is a strategically focused Auburn investment that promotes promising and impactful new lines of research as well as the growth of collaborative and interdisciplinary teams to build the foundations of science, to overcome scientific and societal challenges and to promote and enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities.
The CWSIS funding program fosters innovation and discovery and builds faculty reputation and competitiveness. Examples of prestigious recognition for CWSIS include: the McArthur Genius Award, the Gates Foundation Award, appointment to the National Council on the Humanities or the National Council on the Arts and an NSF Senior Advisor for Public Access. Disciplines associated with CWSIS include design and the arts, humanities and applicable areas within business, education, social sciences and health and well-being.
As a form of research, creative work poses questions and searches for the answers through iterative processes that demand intellectual rigor and hard work. Related scholarship narrates, analyzes and evaluates the production and products of creative work, or proposes new and innovative approaches to that work, including interdisciplinary collaborations and explorations. The goals of creative work and scholarship are ultimately tied to making significant contributions to a meaningful and dignified quality of life.
Social impact scholarship involves research that is specifically aimed at societal challenges and values both theoretical and applied domains to produce core knowledge and address persistent and complex issues to create a better world and improve the lives of all individuals. Research in this domain often engages a diversity of stakeholders with the goal of bringing beneficial effects and valuable changes to the economy, society, education, public policy, health and quality of life.
This year’s recipients are:
Research Support Program
Brian Albanese, College of Liberal Arts, $24,999.34; “Neurobehavioral sensitivity to negative reinforcement in suicide”;
Benjamin Bush, College of Architecture, Design and Construction, $24,987; “EX4C: Next Generation Blood and Vaccine Transport for Combat, Austere and Challenging Environments”; co-investigators: Lorenzo Cremaschi, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering; Joellen Sefton, College of Education; David Crumbley, School of Nursing;
Nathaniel Hardy, College of Agriculture, $25,000, “The Evolution of Virulence in Xylella fastidiosa”; co-investigator: Leonardo De La Fuente, College of Agriculture;
Amal Khalil Kaddoumi, Harrison School of Pharmacy, $25,000; “Amylin role in Alzheimer’s disease”; Co-Investigator: Ahmed Hamid, College of Sciences and Mathematics;
Peng Li, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, $25,000, “Probing Novel Quantum Phases in van der Waals Magnet Fe5GeTe2”; co-investigators: Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering; Wencan Jin, College of Sciences and Mathematics;
Panagiotis Mistriotis, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, $25,000; “Bioengineering tools to uncover the mechanisms of human mesenchymal stem cell migration”;
Kristina Neely, College of Education, $25,000; “Inhibitory Motor Control in Adults with ADHD,” co-investigator: William Murrah, College of Education;
Janna Willoughby, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, $24,998; “How do environmental and genetic effects interact to determine individual fitness?”; co-investigators: Avril Harder, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; Lana Narine, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; Kelly Dunning, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
Creative Work and Social Impact Scholarship Funding Program
Junshan Liu, College of Architecture, Design and Construction, $20,000; “Digitally Preserving and Re-presenting Alabama’s Rosenwald Schools”; co-investigators: Gorham Bird, College of Architecture, Design and Construction; Richard Burt, College of Architecture, Design and Construction;
Alicia Powers, College of Human Sciences, $19,191.92; “A clinical-community pediatric wellness initiative to manage and prevent cardiometabolic diseases in children with limited resources in Alabama”; co-investigators: Jeanna Sewell, Harrison School of Pharmacy; Felicia Tuggle, College of Liberal Arts, Sarah Watts, School of Nursing.
More information about these and other funding support programs supported by the AU Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development can be found by clicking here.
BY MITCH EMMONS
Auburn University’s Rural Studio and its Front Porch Initiative have made great contributions to several communities in the Southeast thus far in 2021.
By partnering with affordable housing providers throughout the region, the Front Porch Initiative has been able to support the completion of several houses and the groundbreaking for others since February. All totaled, nine homes are or will soon be under construction through the Rural Studio program, which features homes designed by College of Architecture, Design and Construction, or CADC, students enrolled in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, or APLA.
These homes are the result of partnerships with housing providers in the Southeast who leverage the applied research and prototype home designs developed through Rural Studio’s ongoing teaching and research with the technical assistance offered by the Front Porch. The initiative leadership includes principal investigator Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio and an APLA faculty member, and co-principal investigators Mackenzie Stagg and Elizabeth Farrell Garcia, assistant research professors.
“In 1993, Rural Studio began by designing and constructing a single home for one family in rural west Alabama,” Smith said. “Acting almost on instinct, we knew then that access to safe and affordable home ownership might be the key to unlocking prosperity in under-resourced communities. Now almost 30 years later, the research is unequivocal: having equitable access to healthy, efficient and durable housing is one of the most powerful social determinants of health. Leveraging this power of home ownership, Rural Studio’s Front Porch Initiative brings together the best housing products, partnerships, practices and policies necessary to provide opportunity and advance equitable outcome throughout the Southeast and in the communities and families that need it most.”
The Front Porch Initiative is a program of Auburn’s Rural Studio, an off-campus design-build program in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture that has been educating citizen architects in Hale County, Alabama, since 1993. The initiative—whose mission is to promote equitable access to affordable, dignified, energy-efficient, resilient and healthy housing—is supported through Rural Studio’s partnership with Fannie Mae.
Front Porch partner Affordable Housing Resources, or AHR, in Nashville was the first collaborator to break ground and complete a collection of four new homes. With estimated mortgage payments of $900 a month, the new homes align with AHR’s mission is to provide affordable housing to Nashville residents.
The Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity, or CAHFH, broke ground on a pair of Rural Studio-designed homes in Jackson County, Florida, on Feb. 25, with two more in the planning stages. Construction of the homes is bolstered through a new partnership with the Building Construction Technology Program at Chipola College that enables students enrolled in the program to earn class credits in exchange for building the CAHFH homes.
On May 7, the Florida project took a big step forward thanks to CAHFH’s Women Build event, which brought out a group of approximately 50 women from the region. Stagg represented Rural Studio on the special day, which saw builders frame the interior and exterior walls of one home, install hurricane straps to another and air seal the home to increase energy efficiency.
“The work with Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity and Chipola College is an exciting collaboration that unites our shared resources in order to increase equitable housing access, facilitate continued disaster recovery efforts and grow a skilled workforce that is prepared to build back better and mitigate damage from potential future weather events,” Stagg said. “It has been a rewarding experience to see how many pieces of the complex housing system have started to come together.”
Certified Community Housing Development Organization Eastern Eight CDC, or E8CDC, is partnering with Front Porch to build a model home to attract more interest from residents of eastern Tennessee to pursue small-unit offerings in the area. The team broke ground on the house on April 8 with representatives from Rural Studio, Appalachia Service Project—a not-for-profit builder providing home repairs and new construction—and E8CDC, which provides a range of housing services to clients in an eight-county service area.
The Front Porch Initiative currently works with organizations in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina. Auburn’s Rural Studio is based in Newbern, Alabama, and has a 15-year history of developing affordable, high-performance rural homes.
BY NEAL REID
Construction progress of Front Porch Initiative homes at Chipola Street Development in Marianna, Florida. (Image by Rural Studio)
An Auburn University professor and researcher is one of the founding members of an international group of scientists and industry professionals that has launched an ambitious new project aimed at improved understanding of the most intractable species of weeds in the world.
The International Weed Genomics Consortium, or IWGC, comprising 17 academic partners across seven countries, assembles a global community of experts who will develop genomic tools that fundamentally advance humanity’s approach to weeds and crops.
The $3 million consortium is supported by $1.5 million in industry sponsorships and matching funds from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, or FFAR, a research and funding organization established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scott McElroy, Alumni Professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, is a founding member of the IWGC, serves on the IWGC’s executive committee and was the initial developer of the group’s website. His research focuses on weed genomics and identification of herbicide resistance mechanisms and the evaluation of herbicides for use in turfgrass management.
The goal of the consortium is to sequence genomes of weeds. Without this information, it is extremely difficult to study herbicide resistance, ecology and the evolution of weed species.
Large-scale weed control is usually accomplished by spraying herbicides, but weeds can adapt and evolve resistance to such treatments. Herbicides becoming less effective costs farmers billions of dollars, forcing increased use of unsustainable practices like soil tillage or even larger quantities of herbicides. In addition, there is a clear need to make herbicides more environmentally friendly and develop plants with fortified genetics that suffer less from emerging weed species.
By applying tools from genomics and molecular biology to advance weed science, that stress tolerance could possibly be applied to crops, and traditional management strategies could be reduced or retired. Genomic information also aids in investigation of herbicide resistance mechanisms.
The consortium is now finalizing a list of 10 weed species for which they will sequence complete genomes within three years. Among them are annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum), which is especially problematic in Mediterranean climates like southern Australia, southern Europe and California; and tall fleabane (Conyza sumatrensis), which poses major issues in South America.
McElroy, along with his colleague Alex Harkess—assistant professor and faculty investigator, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama—will be assembling the genomes of yellow (Cyperus esculentus) and purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus).
“Palmer amaranth, common ragweed, annual ryegrass and goosegrass have evolved resistance to Roundup [glyphosate] in Alabama, along with other herbicides,” McElroy said.
“Amaranth [pigweed] and ragweed [Ambrosia] species will be the species sequenced most relevant to Alabama,” he said. “These are some of the most common weed species in Alabama agriculture. From north to south, from east to west, they are a problem in the entire state.”
McElroy said the first full genomes will be finished by early 2022, but they will not be released publicly until late 2022 or 2023.
FFAR’s support will enable the sequencing of additional species beyond the industry-appointed 10, including perennial weeds and aquatic varieties, to drive even more fundamental knowledge of weed biology.
“FFAR is proud to support this new effort to tame the threat of weeds,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “From genome sequencing to training the next generation of agriculture research scientists, the IWGC shows that new research can be the solution to many agriculture challenges.”
In addition to the genomes, the team will create user-friendly genome analytical tools and training, particularly to serve early-career weed scientists.
As a key component of the partnership, agricultural biotechnology company KeyGene will develop a tool based on the company’s internationally renowned, interactive genomics data management and visualization system, called CropPedia. The cloud-based tool will enable analysis of multiple genomes and access to many users at once, giving all partners the latest information in one place.
“We are looking forward to working with the International Weed Genomics Consortium partners to maximize the use of translating genomes into science, innovation and products, therewith contributing to a more resilient agricultural ecosystem,” said Marcel van Verk, team leader of crop data science at KeyGene.
The planned whole-genome approach to advance knowledge of specific weed species is a long time coming, according to project director Todd Gaines, associate professor of molecular weed science in Colorado State University’s Department of Agricultural Biology.
“When you think about weeds, what makes them great is they are adapted to the harshest situations,” Gaines said. “They are the most cold-tolerant, the most salt-tolerant, the most heat-tolerant.”
Consortium project manager and CSU research scientist Sarah Morran called weeds the “wild west of genetics,” which is why weeds are such a respectable and fascinating opponent.
“Yes, we want to help growers deal with weeds, but to me it’s more about understanding them, and how we can target them by more integrated pest management strategies,” Morran said. “How can we set up these ecosystems where we can work with them a bit better, if we understand their genetics and understand how they are adapting and working?”
Another goal of the consortium is to facilitate collaboration and workforce development within the emerging field of molecular weed science. Some of that development will take place through relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including North Carolina A&T State University’s Small Farms Resource and Innovation Center. Consortium leaders are seeking to increase representation of traditionally underrepresented groups within the academic and industry pipeline of weed science.
The genomics consortium is working in close partnership with sponsoring company Corteva Agriscience, which will provide the expertise and resources for gold-standard genome assemblies. Corresponding annotations of these assemblies will be led by partners at Michigan State University.
“We’re proud to contribute our expertise in whole-genome sequencing to this important collaboration, which has the potential to yield industry-shifting insights to benefit farmers, consumers and the environment,” said Sam Eathington, chief technology officer at Corteva Agriscience. “Stubborn weeds are among the biggest challenges to farmer productivity. The outcomes of this collaboration will enable us to help farmers tackle those challenges in more precise and planet-friendly ways.”
Results and information will be shared via annual conferences made possible by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding. The first conference is slated for Sept. 22-24 in Kansas City, Missouri, with in-person and virtual options.
Founding industry sponsors of the International Weed Genomics Consortium are Bayer CropScience, BASF, Corteva Agriscience, Syngenta and CropLife International. In addition to Colorado State University and Auburn University, the academic partners include Clemson University, University of Illinois, Oregon State University, Michigan State University, University of California-Davis, North Carolina A&T, University of Adelaide, University of Western Australia, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Zhejiang University, Kyoto University, Seoul National University, Agricultural Research Organization (Israel) and Rothamsted Research.
The consortium is seeking additional corporate partnerships. More information is available at www.weedgenomics.org.
BY PAUL HOLLIS
Auburn Professor Scott McElroy’s research focuses on weed genomics and identification of herbicide resistance mechanisms and the evaluation of herbicides for use in turfgrass management.
Eight Auburn students selected to study Alabama matters with fellows from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
Eight Auburn University students are the first from the Plains to partner with fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in conducting research and initiatives for the Alabama Innovation Commission.
Allison Foster, Andrew Miller, Jordan Windham and Regan Moss were selected by the leadership of Auburn’s Honors College, while Shivam Patel, Madeline Ellison, Emily Schramek and Daniel “Trey” Sims III were selected by the Cupola Society in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
Gov. Kay Ivey established Alabama’s first statewide commission on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation in July 2020. In December, the Alabama Innovation Commission, or AIC, announced its partnership with the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank affiliated with Stanford in Palo Alto, California, to promote innovation and economic growth in Alabama.
The Hoover Institution is known for its fellows, leading scholars in areas such as tech innovation, education, business and economic development. The institution is currently under the direction of Condoleezza Rice, an Alabama native, former U.S. Secretary of State and AIC Advisory Council member.
Auburn students will be working—albeit virtually—with Hoover fellows on specific projects, as well as students selected from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Tuskegee University, Alabama A&M University and Stanford. Projects should take about 10 weeks to complete.
Miller and Ellison will participate in the Business Incentives and Prosperity project, with Josh Rauh, a Hoover senior fellow and the Ormond Family Professor of Finance at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. This project will evaluate Alabama’s existing incentives for attracting businesses and make recommendations based on the successes and failures of recent incentive programs around the country.
Miller, from Huntsville, Alabama, will graduate May 1 from the College of Liberal Arts with degrees in economics and political science. Besides the Honors College, he is involved in the Auburn Economics Club, Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, Auburn Tabletop Club and serves as an academic tutor.
“I consider this experience to be a capstone for everything I have learned at Auburn University, requiring me to apply the entirety of what I have studied into practice,” he said. “Working with the fellows will supplement my Auburn education by allowing me to work with and learn from some of the nation’s foremost authorities in economic development.
“As a lifelong resident of Alabama, I am proud to support this initiative, which will aid Alabama’s understanding of the driving forces and incentives behind fostering economic development. I am hopeful that it will lead to greater prosperity for all its citizens.”
Ellison, from Fairhope, Alabama, will also graduate May 1 from the Ginn College of Engineering with a degree in industrial and systems engineering and a business minor. Besides serving as a Cupola ambassador, she is photo editor of the Glomerata and a member of a social sorority and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.
“Being able to contribute to this research is an outlet to further cultivate problem solving and critical thinking skills I have developed through my Auburn education,” said Ellison. “Additionally, it is an incredible opportunity for me to give back to a state and university that have done so much for me.”
Moss and Schramek will join Margaret “Macke” Raymond, founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford, in the project, Deploying Broadband-Based Education. The team will look at the current and potential means for deploying broadband-based education throughout the state to augment the current capacities of K-12 educators to deliver high-quality instruction, especially in the priority areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, which ties in closely to economic development plans for the state.
Moss, who grew up in Arkansas, but moved to Marietta, Georgia, before starting at Auburn, is a junior, studying microbiology and neuroscience in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM. Some of her activities include serving as a COSAM undergraduate research ambassador and a research assistant in various labs. She is also a member of Auburn Students Against Human Trafficking, PERIOD. @ Auburn, NICU and Infant Health Unification, the student advisory board for Student Counseling and Psychological Services, Microbiology Club and Neuroscience Club.
“My Auburn education has given me the opportunity to engage with individuals across numerous disciplines with a range of various expertise,” said Moss. “I hope to apply my education effectively, but also know that this experience will ultimately help me to become a more critical thinker, an engaged listener and a stronger advocate for many necessary statewide and local policy changes forefront to the lives of Alabamians.”
Schramek, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, will graduate in August from the Ginn College of Engineering with a degree in chemical engineering. She is this year’s executive chair for Cupola and a student worker in the college’s recruiting and scholarship office. She is a member of Omega Chi Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi and a Delta Zeta sorority alumna.
“This experience will allow me to proudly represent Auburn and the education I’ve received the last five years,” said Schramek. “I plan to apply my engineering education to this project to provide a different perspective which will also allow me to broaden my skills within chemical engineering.”
Windham and Sims will join Rauh and Rick Banks, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, in the project, Fostering the Role of Universities. This project will aim to make specific, concrete recommendations for state government policy to build on the strength of Alabama’s universities to grow Alabama’s technology and innovation economy.
Windham, from Cullman, Alabama, is a junior, studying political science in the College of Liberal Arts. She is an assistant swim coach with the Opelika Swim Team and founder of Auburn Get Plugged In, a student organization aimed at helping students safely build a community during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was recently awarded an Auburn University Research Fellowship for the fall.
“This internship is an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve learned in my classes to actual policy research,” said Windham. “I am so excited to develop the skills to effectively research and advocate for education policies that lift up communities and change lives in Alabama.”
Sims, from Homewood, Alabama, will graduate next year with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Ginn College of Engineering. He is the director of alumni relations for Cupola and president of the Auburn Biomedical Engineering Society.
“I’m looking forward to this position because I’ll get to work with students from other universities in Alabama to help expand the role of universities with innovation in the state,” said Sims.
Foster and Patel will be part of the Outdoor Recreation Lab project with Stephen Haber, the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at Hoover and the A.A. and Jeanne Welch Milligan Professor at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. This project will assess the hypothesis that Alabama’s Cumberland Plateau has necessary environmental characteristics to be a draw for high-tech workers and entrepreneurs but is considered an underdeveloped resource for the state.
Foster, from Tampa, Florida, is a junior, studying wildlife ecology and management in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. Besides the Honors College, she is involved in Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Wildlife Society and the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Leadership Academy. Foster is also an undergraduate researcher and a lead peer mentor for Supplemental Instruction.
“This will allow me to take the knowledge and skills I’ve already gained from my time at Auburn and use them in a practical way,” she said.
Patel, from Decatur, Alabama, will earn his degree in electrical engineering from the Ginn College of Engineering on May 1. He is a part of the Cupola Society and a member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity. Patel has served as a Camp War Eagle counselor, Student Government Association senator and EMERGE leader.
“This experience will help me give back to the state and allow me to make connections with those that share similar interests in improving the state,” he said. “It will also shed light on what we can do as Auburn graduates to improve the state of Alabama, fulfilling the mission as a land-grant institution.”
BY AMY WEAVER
Eight Auburn University students have been selected to partner with fellows from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in conducting research and initiatives for the Alabama Innovation Commission.
(from left, top row): Allison Foster, Andrew Miller, Regan Moss and Jordan Windham
(from left, bottom row): Shivam Patel, Madeline Ellison, Emily Schramek and Daniel “Trey” Sims III
Recently, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities named Auburn an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, a designation that recognizes the university’s strong commitment to economic engagement and its work with public and private sector partners in Alabama and the region.
“Auburn is in the business of helping people achieve their hopes and dreams, and that’s why we’re committed to working alongside entrepreneurs, industry leaders and government officials… as an engine of economic opportunity,” Auburn University President Jay Gogue said.
To that end, we are working to provide a central point of contact for stakeholders interested in partnering with Auburn, by launching a website dedicated to external engagement activity. When you have a chance, check it out! We’d appreciate your feedback.
Categories: External Engagement
Fannie Mae extends agreement with Auburn University’s Rural Studio to provide rural housing solutions
Housing finance provider Fannie Mae has extended a research agreement with Auburn University’s Rural Studio program, providing an additional $450,000 to advance The Front Porch Initiative for those in low-income, rural areas.
The contract is under the leadership of principal investigator Rusty Smith and co-principal investigator Mackenzie Stagg. Smith is associate director of Rural Studio and on the faculty at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, or APLA, where Stagg is an assistant research professor.
Under the terms of the initial two contracts with Fannie Mae, faculty and students from Rural Studio, located in Newbern, Alabama, developed prototype designs and related construction documents for high performance rural homes. The third contract, for $450,000, moves the project from planning to implementation as field-test partners work with The Front Porch Initiative to begin building houses.
Under the guidance of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae has developed a three-year Duty to Serve plan that seeks creative ways to increase availability of mortgages and housing in low-income, high-needs rural areas.
“This project is about changing the way people look at mortgages and home ownership by linking home performance with financing,” Stagg said.
The partnership is beneficial to both parties: Rural Studio has a 15-year history of developing affordable, high-performance rural homes, and Fannie Mae has the financial expertise to help make them accessible to those in need.
The current phase enables the Rural Studio Front Porch Initiative team to continue to partner with organizations on the ground that are building homes in rural areas. The Front Porch Initiative currently works with organizations in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina.
Additionally, the research contract with Fannie Mae allows the team to offer technical assistance and construction documents to field test partners and home builders.
Rural Studio has refined construction documents and communication, both paper and online, with house-specific instructions. Finally, this contract will enable Rural Studio to develop both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the performance of the energy-efficient homes that are now under construction.
Based on the specific model and owner of each home, the team collects data related to energy consumption, indoor air quality, ambient light, temperature, relative humidity and intra-wall measurements that will then be compared to exterior weather and climate data. Of equal importance is gathering information related to the general experience and relative comfort of people living inside the home.
Fannie Mae’s support of the Front Porch Initiative has been fundamental to receiving other funding, including a recent USDA grant to study rural housing. As the Front Porch Initiative team presses on in its study of affordable rural housing, both partners are finding the collaboration to be fruitful.
“The faculty, staff and students of Rural Studio have been innovative and creative housing partners,” said Michael T. Hernandez, vice president of Housing Access, Disaster Responses and Rebuild Fannie Mae. “Our work with the Front Porch team has resulted in many new actionable learnings on how to design and build affordable and resilient homes to serve the needs of rural communities.
“I applaud their efforts to assist other rural and urban housing providers across the country leverage the knowledge and experience of Rural Studio.”
BY CADC COMMUNICATIONS
A 20K Home recently constructed as part of Auburn University Rural Studio's Front Porch Initiative in partnership with Auburn Opelika Habitat for Humanity. Housing finance provider Fannie Mae has extended a research agreement with the program, providing an additional $450,000 to advance The Front Porch Initiative.
Bill Dean, a veteran financial and research park executive with more than three decades of experience in developing innovative ideas for research parks, life science parks and biotech incubators, has been selected after a national search as the executive director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, effective April 6.
Dean is a past president of the Association of University Research Parks, former director of both Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Piedmont Triad Research Park (Innovation Quarter) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was the first chairman of the North Carolina Research Parks Network.
“Bill has a demonstrated track record of success in the innovation and idea spaces that are our nation’s research parks,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development.
“Under his leadership, I am confident that the growth we are seeing both in Auburn Research Park and at the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation will continue and will evolve to meet the complex needs of our institution’s stakeholders and partners. Bill has both the passion and skill for linking science and business in ways that serve to drive our economy forward and improve quality of life in Alabama and beyond.”
Dean is a graduate of the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance. Additionally, he is an alumnus of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University. Among his many honors, he is the recipient of the Triad Region Biotech Community Leadership Excellence Award from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, as well as the Career Achievement Award of Excellence from the Association of University Research Parks.
“My interest over the course of my career has been at the intersection of business and technology, working with those who innovate, collaborate and create new, world-changing technologies,” Dean said. “The Auburn Research and Technology Foundation is central to the university’s innovation ecosystem of leading technologies and I look forward to being a part of their many resources shaping our technology future into economic opportunities that can solve societal issues.”
In addition to his work with the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, Dean will also serve as the executive director of the Office of External Engagement and Support, a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.
BY LESLIE CHAPMAN
Rusty Smith would be the first one to tell you experience is the greatest teacher. And that’s exactly the model for how Auburn University’s Rural Studio program operates.
“We set up experiences where students can learn the things they need to learn,” said Smith, associate director of Rural Studio and associate professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture in Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. “That’s really what we do. So to do that, you can’t really take shortcuts. The students have to learn things by experience. So by nature, we have to ask the students to do things that we ourselves don’t know how to do.”
Smith is one of this year’s two recipients of the university’s Faculty Award for Creative Research and Scholarship. The honor acknowledges the research achievements and contributions of faculty who have distinguished themselves through research, scholarly works and creative contributions to their fields.
Although Smith was recognized with the award, he would explain this award also acknowledges the hard work of his students at Rural Studio—which is Auburn’s internationally recognized design-build program for the underserved communities of Alabama’s rural Black Belt region. The program is located in Newbern, Alabama, and gives architecture students hands-on educational experience by partnering with the neighbors in the community to fundraise, define solutions, design and ultimately build remarkable projects.
“It’s important to know that the work done at Rural Studio is the work of students,” said Smith. “It is one of the things that is hard to imagine for many folks when they find that out and see it in action. The students come out and really invest themselves in some of the challenges that our clients, neighbors and community members face in rural America.”
Smith supports his students as they immerse themselves in rural areas while conducting research on home ownership attainability and testing new methods of sustainable homes. Rural Studio has designed and constructed more than 200 projects and educated more than 900 citizen architects.
In previous years, the Rural Studio was known for establishing an ethos of recycling, reusing and remaking. However, the studio’s scope and complexity of its projects to include the design and construction of community-oriented infrastructure, the development of more broadly-attainable small home affordability solutions and a comprehensive approach to addressing insecurity issues relative to income, energy, food, health and education sources has broadened over the past decade.
Its philosophy is that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good, dignified design. The studio continually questions what should be built, rather than what can be built. Smith applies this philosophy by creating experiences for students to address specific community needs and people needs.
Smith’s creative approach to teaching through experiences provides students the opportunity to invest themselves in the immediate needs and deeply complex challenges of rural America.
“The thing that becomes most memorable in that interaction with students is that they come to faculty members and say ‘how do I do this?’” said Smith. “You look at them and you say ‘I don’t know.’ They get nervous because it is not what they’re used to a faculty member saying, but then we roll up our sleeves and we figure it out together. Those are the moments that are the most memorable and important to me as a teacher. It’s rolling up our sleeves and learning how to do things together.”
Smith is a nationally recognized teacher and scholar who was educated at Auburn University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He recently received the American Institute of Architects' National Teaching Honor Award and the American Institute of Architecture Students' National Teaching Honor Award.
BY SUSIE BRIDGES
Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio and associate professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture in Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction, is one of two recent recipients of Auburn University’s Faculty Award for Creative Research and Scholarship.
Auburn University, ASTM International and other partner organizations on Monday celebrated the launch of two new centers of excellence in additive manufacturing aimed at accelerating research and development, standardization and innovation in that field, also known as 3-D printing.
Global standards developer ASTM International launched its Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence with Auburn University, NASA, manufacturing technology innovator EWI and the UK-based Manufacturing Technology Centre. Auburn and NASA also formally launched the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence.
ASTM International President Katharine Morgan said, “The synergy among EWI, MTC, Auburn and NASA will help fill the gaps in technical standards that this industry needs to drive innovation. As a result, we’ll empower industries that are eager to apply additive manufacturing to aerospace, auto, medical and more.”
AMCOE’s advisory board comprised of U.S. and international public and private sector leaders met for the first time today while other meetings involved research and development as well as education and workforce development teams. The events come on the heels of AMCOE’s international launch on July 13 at the MTC, where European industry and government officials gathered to celebrate this initiative.
Auburn University President Steven Leath said, “Auburn is committed to growing research, solving real-world problems and establishing partnerships that support these transformative initiatives, such as our thriving additive manufacturing program. By investing in skilled researchers and first-rate facilities, we aim to drive additive technology forward and unleash its full potential. We look forward to continuing to work with our industry and government collaborators.”
Auburn University is in the final stage of renovations to the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory, which will in part house additive manufacturing research funded through the centers.
Auburn was selected for the two research partnerships in March.
Media Contact: Chris Anthony, firstname.lastname@example.org, 334.844.3447
Components made through additive manufacturing are shown in the additive manufacturing lab in Wiggins Hall at Auburn University.
AUBURN, Alabama – John M. Mason Jr., Auburn University vice president for research and economic development and president of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, or ARTF, today announced that John Weete has given notice of his intention to step down as the executive director for the ARTF, effective Jan. 31.
Weete joined the ARTF as its executive director in 2007 and was responsible for the overall development and operation of the Auburn Research Park and the Auburn Business Incubator. From 2008 to 2014, he also served as acting vice president for technology transfer and commercialization at Auburn University where he oversaw the commercialization of university-owned intellectual properties.
Previously, Weete served as the vice president for research and economic development at West Virginia University and president of the West Virginia Research Corporation from 1998 to 2007. Prior to going to West Virginia University, he served on the faculty and in the administration at Auburn University from 1973 to 1998. Weete was a professor, including serving in the Alumni Professor position, in the Department of Botany and Microbiology and associate dean for research in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.
As executive director, Weete was instrumental in growing the ARTF into an operationally functional and financially stable organization, and in developing strategies for success that focused on integration and innovation. Through his efforts, the first building in the park was completed in 2008, with three additional buildings completed since then. These include the Auburn University MRI Research Center, the Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“We are grateful for our association with Auburn and the opportunities it provides for both partners,” said John Rocovich, Via College of Osteopathic Medicine founder and chairman of the board. “John Weete was a central figure in our effort to open a campus in the Auburn Research Park and we have appreciated his assistance through all phases of the project, from our groundbreaking in 2012 to our first class of students in the fall of 2015.”
In 2011, Weete established the Auburn Business Incubator with state funding acquired through the assistance of Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. In just over three and a half years, the incubator has become highly successful, providing assistance to over 22 startup or early-stage companies.
Weete has been highly involved in community economic development by serving on the board of directors for the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, BioAlabama, Aetos Technologies Inc. (as Auburn University’s representative) and the City of Auburn Industrial Development Board. He also served a four-year term on the board of directors of the National Academy of Inventors.
“John Weete has played a significant role in economic development in Auburn since he became the ARTF executive director,” said Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. “His partnership with the city in building the Auburn Research Park as well as the highly successful incubator has allowed the city to tap into the vast resources of Auburn University in the creation of jobs and tax revenue. To further establish linkage between the city and the university in economic development, John is a vital member of the Industrial Development Board. His knowledge, experience and innovativeness have been important to Auburn economic development.”
During his stint as acting vice president for tech transfer and commercialization, he implemented successful programs and initiatives, some of which included a student intern program, the Commercialization Initiative, mentoring students in the Auburn Business Incubator, updating the university patent policy, and a database for managing the university intellectual property portfolio. During his tenure in this position, operation costs were reduced and revenues from commercializing Auburn technologies increased. Through his initiative, Auburn University became an active charter member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and he worked to establish the Auburn University Chapter of the NAI.
“John Weete’s leadership and vision have been invaluable to the ARTF,” said James (Jimmy) Sanford, ARTF chairman of the board and member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees. “He has helped us reach a number of significant milestones, including the licensing of Auburn’s patented VaporWake® Technology to the ARTF and the subsequent licensing to iK9 Holding LLC, resulting in the largest license revenue generation in the history of the university.”
Stepping into the role of interim executive director of the ARTF will be Larry Fillmer, Auburn University’s executive director of External Engagement and Support, or EES. Fillmer is a 1969 graduate of Auburn University, who, after a successful career in the private sector, returned to Auburn in 2005 as a development officer in corporate relations. Since then, he has served as executive director of the Natural Resources Management and Development Institute and the executive director of the Research Program Development Office, recently renamed the Office of External Engagement and Support. His appointment as interim executive director for the ARTF is effective immediately and will be served concurrently with his existing role in EES.
“We are deeply grateful for Dr. Weete’s years of service to Auburn University and to the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation,” Vice President Mason said. “He has laid important groundwork and developed critical infrastructure needed to foster collaboration between the university and the business community. Through his efforts, we are now poised to expand entrepreneurial opportunity and to contribute meaningfully to Alabama’s knowledge-based economy. It is my hope that he will be as successful in his future endeavors as he has been here, at Auburn.”
Reflecting on his time at Auburn, Weete said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my eight years as ARTF executive director and will leave with a great since of accomplishment for the ARTF as a financially stable organization, the growth of the Auburn Research Park and success of the Auburn Business Incubator,” Weete said.
“Our mission is to advance the mission of Auburn University and I believe we have been successful in spite of the downturn of the economy that occurred when we officially opened in 2008. With improvement in the economy, I believe the organization, research park and business incubator are poised for a rapid growth phase. I greatly appreciate the support I have received from board chair Jimmy Sanford, the entire ARTF board of directors, John Mason and Mayor Ham in working with the City of Auburn. I certainly wish the ARTF great success in the future.”
Founded in 2004, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation (ARTF) is a university-affiliated, non-profit [501(c)3] corporation formed to support the mission of Auburn University, particularly research and economic development. The ARTF is governed by a board of directors consisting of business and economic development professionals, including an Auburn University trustee, governor’s appointee, vice president for research and economic development, City of Auburn mayor, university deans, and a venture capitalist.
Contact: Leslie Parsons, Office of External Engagement and Support, email@example.com, 334.844.6147
Categories: External Engagement
Seven Auburn University researchers have been recognized for their ideas and projects that could impact the economy of the state and region. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development recently presented the researchers with funding from LAUNCH: The Fund for Research and Innovation to help move their research to the marketplace.
"Auburn is committed to providing a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem for our faculty, staff and students as a natural extension of our land-grant mission," said John Mason, vice president for research and economic development. "Every day, our experts put good ideas to work in innovative ways across a range of sectors."
The 2017 recipients are:
Virginia Davis, Alumni Professor, and Robert Ashurst, associate professor, both from the Department of Chemical Engineering, who are commercially developing cellulose nanocrystal microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, devices to deliver low cost, high sensitivity bio-sensing;
Bernhard Kaltenboeck, professor in the Department of Pathobiology, whose work relates to testing microparticle immune stimulators to promote growth in agricultural production animals;
Amit Morey, assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science, who is finalizing a process to rapidly detect poor meat quality in chicken breasts;
Austin Gurley, doctoral candidate, David Beale, professor, and Roy Broughton, professor emeritus, all in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who are using shape memory alloy servo actuators to improve mobility in robots.
They will receive a cash stipend toward the commercialization of their research.
"We are thrilled to be selected for LAUNCH funding because this will enable us to take the next step to bring our unique and patented cellulose nanocrystal micromachine platform to commercial markets," said Ashurst. "We are excited to continue this cutting-edge research and are hopeful that our work will positively impact the process for identifying and diagnosing a variety of diseases, contaminants or cancer in the years to come."
LAUNCH is an endowed fund conceived by the Auburn University Research Advisory Board as a mechanism to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. The fund was created in 2015 with the support of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development with the goal of creating an endowment of $10 million that will generate approximately $400,000 annually for research grants. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development is funding the awards.
LAUNCH recipients have the opportunity to meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business as well as members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization to assist in developing plans and assembling resources to move scientific achievement into commercial success.
Teams of MBA students will be assigned to carry out market research for each recipient, providing for real-world learning experience. Researchers may also be partnered with Auburn alumni and friends with specific industry-related experience to advance the projects.
More information is available at https://cws.auburn.edu/OVPR/pm/tt/launch.
Categories: External Engagement
Auburn Airport Director, Bill Hutto receives national award for fostering relationships between aviation businesses and airport operators.
The National Air Transportation Association has announced Auburn University Regional Airport Director Bill Hutto will receive its Airport Executive Partnership Award.
The national award, which recognizes an airport manager for efforts to foster relationships between aviation businesses and airport operators, will be presented during the association’s Industry Excellence Awards luncheon June 7 in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with its Aviation Business Conference.
"This is really a team award for everyone associated with the Auburn University Regional Airport," Hutto said. "We have a great group of talented individuals at the airport along with the unwavering support of the university’s leadership and the local community. I am humbled to be named and will accept it on everyone’s behalf."
Hutto also serves as director of the Auburn University Aviation Center and has expanded the Auburn aviation program, resulting in a rise in students over recent years. He has led efforts to expand the airport in recent years including a new aircraft ramp, T-hangars, a new terminal building, new taxiways and a new electrical system, along with other capital improvements. A new aviation education facility and maintenance hangar are scheduled to be under construction next month. His aviation-oriented outreach efforts foster growing interest across the state from aviation and aerospace industries and have paid dividends for the university, airport and local community.
"Bill and his team have done an excellent job in developing one of the strongest university airports and aviation programs in the country," Provost Timothy Boosinger said. "We are excited about the future projects and expansions."
The NATA’s Industry Excellence Awards are presented annually to individuals, offices and organizations demonstrating superior service to the aviation business community, particularly through their efforts in advancing general aviation’s safety-first culture.
"Once again NATA has the honor of highlighting the achievements of the individuals and organizations that make the general aviation community so great," said NATA President Martin H. Hiller. "The award winners demonstrate the dedication and ingenuity of our members in advancing the industry to the next level."
Published: May 25, 2017
Charles Martin | Office of Communications & Marketing
Categories: External Engagement
By John M. Mason Jr., vice president for research and economic development at Auburn University and president of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.
The state of Alabama has welcomed and benefited from new industries over the decades and now looks forward to the knowledge-based economy of tomorrow. To maximize our potential, it's incumbent that we invest in our workforce and nurture government, business and industry partnerships, especially those in sectors building upon advanced technologies and new ideas.
For many years, state and local economic development programs relied on offering tax breaks and other incentives in a sort of arms race to see who could give the most generous package. While financial incentives have their place, our future as local communities and as a state rests on enhancing investments in three economic pillars--a trained workforce, new technologies and entrepreneurship-- as the recipe for a sustained, secure and prosperous future.
Invest in our workforce
The immense ability of our state's educational institutions to provide impactful research and a workforce able to fulfill the promise of next-generation technologies is undeniable and appealing, nationally and globally. More strategically focused partnerships among four-year universities and the Alabama Community College System will ensure we can supply high-tech companies with a talented workforce.
Technical institutes offering credentialing and certificate programs in partnership with higher education represent another avenue. For example, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation is working with the City of Auburn, Auburn University, the Alabama Community College System and commercial partners on creating technology credentialing, training and research and development in emerging manufacturing technologies, advanced computer numeric control operations and tool and die design. The goal is an advanced workforce capable of meeting the increasing technological needs of current industries in the state and others considering locating here where industry startup training is an attractive incentive.
Bringing more industry and training to all parts of Alabama will help communities move forward. An educated, highly capable workforce will propel our efforts to attract knowledge-based industries and enhance those already in the state.
Invest in knowledge-based technology
Our nation is looking for next-generation technologies in areas like sensitive cyber security, additive manufacturing, health sciences, military defense, agriculture and bioscience systems, robotics and radio frequency identification. Knowledge-based industries in these associated fields represent the type of companies that will stay in the U.S. to better protect their respective proprietary and intellectual property.
An excellent tool for recruiting industries of the future and expanding existing ones is the Alabama Science and Technology Roadmap, developed as part of Accelerate Alabama 2.0, which updates the state's strategic economic development growth plans. It identifies science and technology capabilities at Alabama universities and research institutes and matches this expertise to targeted business sectors. This will help enhance and expand Alabama's infrastructure and resources needed to ensure the state is nationally and internationally competitive.
Auburn, like many state institutions, focuses on knowledge-based technologies. We collaborate with partners such as GE Aviation, which brought high-volume additive manufacturing to its facility in the City of Auburn, and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, working with our College of Veterinary Medicine and others to identify genes associated with cancer, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. On campus, our Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is tasked with helping protect the cyber security of our nation's infrastructure through the Charles D. McCrary Institute, founded through an Alabama Power Foundation donation in honor of its former CEO and an Auburn alumnus.
Invest in our entrepreneurs
Supporting an idea that seemed far-fetched a few years ago could lead to an industry of the future. A community will thrive with entrepreneurs and a collection of small, knowledge-based companies, each with 25 to 100 well-paying jobs.
An exemplary program is Alabama Launchpad, part of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, that promotes and rewards high-growth, innovative startup companies from across Alabama. The competition is for startups that need additional capital to launch their business as they compete for cash grants.
At Auburn we have created LAUNCH to help faculty bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. One project that could impact the healthcare industry involves the production of antimicrobial wound dressings with the hope of reducing the occurrence of dangerous infections and enhancing wound healing. This spring, our Raymond J. Harbert College of Business will host its third annual Entrepreneur Summit March 30-31 featuring the Tiger Cage competition, similar to ABC's popular "Shark Tank" show, for student entrepreneurs.
Providing more opportunities at the state and local levels will help attract and empower startup companies.
Auburn and its partners work diligently to strategically position our community and state for growth in the knowledge-based economy of tomorrow. Our local partnership received accolades in a recent Wall Street Journal article spotlighting college towns and their economic resilience to overcome job losses from vanishing industries and overseas competition.
Collaboration on knowledge-based technologies among four-year universities, community colleges, government officials, local authorities and industry partners will usher in the next phase of economic growth and innovation in Alabama.
Before his moving company raised more than $22 million in venture capital and grew to serve customers in 86 cities, Bellhops co-founder Cameron Doody roamed Auburn-area apartment complexes and went "door to door" in search of business. Before her fast casual restaurant concept took off, Chicken Salad Chick founder Stacy Brown used the kitchen of her Auburn home as a point-of-sale and flavor lab for meals that now satisfy diners in eight states.
Auburn University's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business recently honored Doody and Brown for their ability to grow thriving companies from humble beginnings. Doody, a 2009 supply chain management graduate, earned the Auburn University Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and Brown, a 1999 communication alumna, earned the Entrepreneur of the Year at the Top Tigers awards luncheon on April 22.
The Harbert College of Business, in partnership with Business Alabama and Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors, also honored 60 "Top Tigers," fast-growing companies founded, owned or led by Auburn alumni. Montgomery Transport topped the list in the large revenue category of $20 million and above in annual revenue, Muscle Up Marketing took first in the medium revenue category of $5 million to $20 million and Meridian Global Consulting earned top honors in the small revenue category of $500,000 to $5 million. Companies were evaluated on the basis of percentage revenue growth. Top Tigers companies collectively averaged 44 percent revenue growth across all categories.
Entrepreneur and original ABC "Shark Tank" panelist Kevin Harrington served as keynote speaker for the event and as a judge for the Tiger Cage student entrepreneur competition. Envelope Aerospace, a team composed of sophomore engineering major Troy Ferguson, senior engineering major Shawn Majzlik and sophomore media studies major Dennis French, won the $10,000 grand prize and $30,000 in legal assistance for their concept, which focuses on improving the reliability and cost effectiveness of using aerostats to obtain weather data.
For information about Young Entrepreneur and Entrepreneur of the Year, go to http://harbert.auburn.edu/news/alumniawards.php. For information about Tiger Cage, go to http://harbert.auburn.edu/news/Envelope%20Aerospace%20wins%20Tiger%20Cage.php. For information about Top Tigers Companies, go to http://harbert.auburn.edu/entrepreneurship-summit/large-company-rankings.php.
by Troy Johnson
Categories: External Engagement
The ninth annual Boshell Research Day will showcase research in the fields of diabetes and metabolic disease Friday, Feb. 26, at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.
The conference brings together experts to present current topics related to diabetes and the role of obesity in its development. It is an annual event of the Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Research Program at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and includes more than 40 researchers from across Auburn University.
Speakers and presentations include:
- Keynote speaker Dr. Christopher Newgard, director of the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Duke University's School of Medicine.
- A plenary lecture by Dr. Jacqueline Stephens, the Claude B. Pennington Jr. endowed chair in Biomedical Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
- Distinguished banquet speaker Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His efforts to address the culture of obesity in his city have resulted in a collective drop of a million pounds by Oklahoma City citizens. Banquet-only tickets can be purchased for $30 per person or $200 for a table of eight. Tickets can be purchased online.
Other highlights of the conference include morning and afternoon oral and poster presentations by experts and researchers.
"Cases of diabetes and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and this conference allows investigators from Auburn and other universities the opportunity to get together and discuss significant ongoing research," said Dr. Robert L. Judd, chair of the Boshell program and an associate professor of pharmacology at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Research Program was established in 2001 through an endowment by the Birmingham-based Diabetes Trust Fund in honor of founder Dr. Buris R. Boshell. A 1953 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Boshell joined the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center in 1959 and became the chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 1963. During this time, he established the Diabetes Research and Education Hospital and the Boshell Diabetes and Endocrine Center in Birmingham.
Online registration is live. Registration is free for Boshell research members and is $100 for non-members. Students and postdoctoral fellows can attend at no cost. To register for the conference and to view a brochure and itinerary, visit www.auburndiabetes.com/researchday.html.
A limited number of rooms are available at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Reservations can be made by calling (800) 228-2876 or (334) 821-8200. Ask for the Boshell Room Block. Transportation from the Atlanta Airport is available through Groome Transportation by calling (334) 821-3399.
For questions about Research Day, email Judd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Edward Brown
At Auburn University, research fuels the engines of innovation. Our entrepreneurial spirit drives discovery to the marketplace, improving quality of life at home and around the world.
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Categories: External Engagement
Unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are more than a passing hobby—Auburn University officials believe they could be a key component in the nation's commerce and research.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers recently received a firsthand look at the potential when Auburn University Aviation Center officials demonstrated rotary-wing and fixed-wing unmanned aircraft, showing how they can be used in business and industry, as well as in research areas such as engineering, building science and agriculture.
"Auburn leads the nation in UAS technology, and I'm excited by the opportunities it will create for both Alabama and the nation," Rogers said.
Earlier this year Auburn received the nation's first FAA approval to operate a new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight School as part of its Aviation Center. The FAA approval requires that operators of unmanned aircraft pass a written exam and a flying test, both of which Auburn will administer through its flight school.
"The potential is immense," said Bill Hutto, Aviation Center director. "Unmanned aircraft systems can safely and efficiently inspect bridges and construction projects, conduct search-and-rescue operations and play a key role in precision agriculture."
In agriculture, unmanned aircraft systems equipped with sensors, such as infrared cameras, can quickly and easily monitor the health of crops and work in conjunction with GPS-guided ground equipment that can deliver resources—water, pesticides and fertilizer—precisely where they are needed.
"Precision agriculture techniques can save time and money and increase yields and profits for agribusiness," said Steve Taylor, head of Auburn's Department of Biosystems Engineering. "These tools will have a major impact in many areas, not only for agricultural crops but also for better management of our forests."
Auburn will conduct UAS flight training on campus and around the state for Auburn students and faculty, members of public agencies and the general public. Hands-on training covers basic flight maneuvers through obstacle courses, while classroom work covers the proper uses for unmanned aircraft, FAA rules and regulations and how to pursue FAA approval to fly commercially. The first class is tentatively set to begin later this month at Auburn.
The university has been involved in aviation education for more than 80 years and has been providing fight training for pilots for nearly 75 years. Auburn offers three aviation/aerospace degrees: aviation management, professional flight management and aerospace engineering.
More information is available on the Auburn University Aviation Center website at http://www.auburn.edu/aviationcenter.