Auburn vice president for research receives prestigious service award from American Heart Association

May 16, 2019 @ 1:02 p.m.

Auburn University’s recently appointed vice president for research, James Weyhenmeyer, has been named the recipient of the American Heart Association’s 2019 Morgan Stark Memorial Award.

The honor recognizes “an individual who has been an outstanding steward of AHA resources and leadership in the areas of human resources, finances or operations of the organization.” Weyhenmeyer will receive the award at a June 19 ceremony in Dallas.

“I feel privileged to receive the Morgan Stark Memorial Award from the American Heart Association. Morgan was passionate about his work as a financier and his commitment to changing the course of cardiovascular disease and stroke through his generous philanthropy and volunteerism with the AHA,” Weyhenmeyer said. “I was fortunate to meet him when we both served on the AHA’s Founders Affiliate board of directors and to have had the opportunity to learn from his extraordinary experience in the investment community. I am truly honored to receive this award that bears his name.”

Weyhenmeyer has served as president of the board of directors for the AHA Midwest Affiliate, president-elect of the Founders Affiliate and chair of the Greater Southeast Affiliate board, among other positions of service to the organization. In his role as Auburn’s vice president for research, Weyhenmeyer provides leadership to various research units, including sponsored programs, proposal services and faculty support, innovation advancement and commercialization, the Huntsville Research Center, research compliance, the university veterinarian, electronic research administration and the office of undergraduate research.

He was the founding managing director and CEO of Illinois VENTURES LLC, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on the development of technology-based companies. His area of investment expertise is in the life sciences sector, including therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices. A serial entrepreneur, Weyhenmeyer has served in management positions for companies in the medical device, drug delivery and drug development sectors. He continues to serve as a scientific advisor for technology-based companies and a consultant for early-stage investment due diligence and business start-ups.

Weyhenmeyer currently serves on a number of public and private boards of directors and led an effort for the American Heart Association to launch a Science and Technology Accelerator Fund to reduce the time to market for groundbreaking discoveries impacting the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Weyhenmeyer has published widely in the areas of cardiovascular disease and stroke. His research has been funded by the AHA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the PHARMA Foundation and private industry. He has received many awards and honors for his research, including the AHA’s Meritorious Achievement Award for research and service.

Read more about the award here: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/05/08/scientist-turned-venture-capitalist-has-the-right-blend-for-success.

James Weyhenmeyer, PhD

Four Auburn students, five recent graduates named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

May 07, 2019 @ 3:34 p.m.

Four Auburn students, five recent graduates named NSF Graduate Research Fellows

Four Auburn University students and five recent graduates are recipients of a 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and five others received honorable mention. The fellowship program helps ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States.

This year’s fellows are Katie Brown, MaryJane Campbell, Kyle David, Alexander Davis, Mina Narayanan, Jantzen Lee, Zachary Lee, Matt Preisser and Kevin Wyss.

Fellows benefit from three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period—a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution—as well as opportunities for international research and professional development. The support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, mathematics and social science disciplines.

In the past decade, 58 Auburn students have been awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and an additional 30 have received honorable mention.

“The number of Auburn students and recent graduates being recognized for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program continues to grow each year,” said Paul Harris, Auburn’s former associate director for the Office of National Prestigious Scholarships and current chair of the Department of Political Science. “Their selection recognizes the high quality of scholarly activity that exemplifies and advances Auburn’s research mission.”

Five students and recent graduates who received honorable mentions are Haley Dutton, Gavin Shotts, Sean Herrera, Kevin Nixon and Meghan Ward.

“It has been a privilege to work with such promising students, learning about ground-breaking research and helping guide them as they developed and polished their proposals,” said 2014 Auburn graduate Patrick Donnan, former graduate assistant in the Office of National Prestigious Scholarships and a 2014 Marshall Scholar.

Sushil Bhavnani, associate chair and the Henry M. Burt Jr. Endowed Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said, “These young women and men have distinguished themselves, their respective departments and Auburn University in their pursuit of advanced research. Their selection as National Science Foundation Research Fellows or honorable mentions underscores the strength of Auburn’s research enterprise across disciplines and colleges. Their work will have long-lasting societal impact.”

  • Katie Brown is a second-year graduate student studying bioengineering at Rice University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in polymer and fiber engineering, and her research advisor at Auburn was Professor Maria Auad in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Her project is titled “Investigating Mechanisms of Discrete Subaortic Stenosis with an In Vitro Model” and aims to develop a biological model of a debilitating pediatric heart disease. Brown’s work utilizes patient echo data to inform her model and replicate the pathological conditions of discrete subaortic stenosis. During her time at Auburn, Katie was mentored by Professor Kate Thornton in the College of Human Sciences who inspired her to use her future career as a tool for giving back and making a difference.

  • MaryJane Campbell is a 2015 graduate from the College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Utah, and the title of her project is “An Observational Study of Triadic Family Interactions Among Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes.” While at Auburn, she served as a research assistant in the Adolescent and Young Adult Health Promotion Research Laboratory, working on multiple projects to promote health and wellness in adolescents with chronic illness.

  • Kyle David is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences working with Professor Ken Halanych. His project, "Phylogenomics of an Understudied Marine Phylum, the Arrow Worms (Chaetognatha),” aims to comprehensively sequence the poorly understood group of animals known as arrow worms. The inclusion of genomic data from this enigmatic phylum will allow us to better understand animal relationships and elucidate the origin and evolution of animal development.

  • Alexander Davis is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering working with Assistant Professor Vinamra Agrawal. His project, “Development of a Molecular Dynamics Moving Window Framework to Model Shock Wave Interactions at Microstructural Features in Materials,” utilizes atomistic techniques to model the behavior of metals and composites subject to impact loading leading to the propagation of shock waves. Such knowledge will lead to the design of advanced materials with desired ballistic and detonation response. These materials can be used to protect individuals during ballistic impacts as well as prevent composite satellites from being damaged while in orbit. Davis also was selected recently for the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

  • Mina Narayanan is double-majoring in software engineering and political science. Her undergraduate research mentor is Professor Gerry Dozier of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and the title of her research is “Identification, Quantification, and Prevention of Computational Propaganda.” Her work will focus on the characterization of people's writing styles based on stylometric features to identify the strategies used to create agents that imitate humans and spread false information about current events online, leading to manipulation of public opinion of a candidate or policy. Once these malicious strategies are identified, her goal is to quantify the amount of false data that is propagated and develop countermeasures that make the intentions of political adversaries transparent to the public, as well as identify factors associated with these bots that hinder or encourage political participation.

  • Jantzen Lee is a 2017 graduate of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University where he is engaged in the design, development and testing of the effects of a power asymmetric, swing assistive knee prosthesis on the gait of persons with trans-femoral amputations.

  • Zachary Lee is a 2018 graduate of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. As an undergraduate, he worked under Professor Sushil Bhavnani on experimental research to improve the capability of spacecraft electronics cooling. Lee is currently working toward a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Cornell University with a focus in energy research. His project, “Facilitating Renewable Heating through Smart Heat Pump Control,” seeks to accelerate the decarbonization of residential heating through the use of machine learning and internet of things devices like smart thermostats.

  • Matt Preisser is a 2018 graduate with a double major in biosystems engineering and German. While at Auburn, Matt has conducted undergraduate research under the direction of Assistant Professor Brendan Higgins of the Department of Biosystems Engineering. Currently, Matt is pursuing graduate studies at the University of Texas-Austin in public affairs and environmental and water resource engineering. His project, “Incorporating Flood Mapping with Social Disparities to Identify At-Risk Communities During Extreme Weather Events,” will quantify the variance in resiliency and preparedness of different socioeconomic classes with regard to extreme storms and flooding events. By examining satellite derived datasets, his research will explore the possibility of predicting which communities will be harmed the most through the effects of flood, damage to infrastructure and ability to recover.

  • Kevin Wyss is a senior majoring in chemistry and conducts research under the direction of Associate Professor Anne Gorden in the Department of Chemistry. The title of his project is “Use of Hemilabile Interactions to Create Switchable Hydrogenation Catalysis via an Earth Abundant Metal-centered PNP-Pincer Ligand.” Catalysis, often carried out by metal centered catalysts, is an essential part of producing pharmaceuticals, plastics, commodity chemicals, fragrances and fertilizer. Yet, these catalysts often use rare metals that are expensive and environmentally damaging to extract. Building on preliminary results, Wyss’ project will address these concerns.

The five students and recent graduates who received honorable mentions are:

  • Haley Dutton, a doctoral student in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences

  • Gavin Shotts, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences

  • Sean Herrera, a senior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Kevin Nixon, a 2018 graduate of the Department of Chemical Engineering

  • Meghan Ward, a 2017 graduate of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

For more information about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program at Auburn, contact Ken Thomas in the Honors College at kdt0011@auburn.edu. For more information about the NSF, go to nsfgrfp.org/.


Auburn University study on viruses spread by outdoor domestic cats drawing national attention

May 01, 2019 @ 9:16 a.m.

An Auburn University study on viruses spread by cats is gaining national attention after it showed that cats allowed to roam freely outdoors are 2.77 times more likely to have parasitic infections than indoor-only cats.

The study, “Who let the cats out: A meta-analysis on risk of parasitic infection in indoor versus outdoor domestic cats (Felis Catus),” appeared in the April 17 Biology Letters scientific journal and has been covered by major outlets such as The New York Times.

Kayleigh Chalkowski, a doctoral student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, led the study.

“I was pretty excited,” Chalkowski said. “Academic research is frustrating sometimes. You stare at a computer screen and work through coding errors and data streamlining issues for hours on end, and it feels like the work, in some parts of the process, isn't going to have any real impact.

“I'm very happy to know that my research is getting out there, but even more so the important message that cats—even a pet cat at home—can serve as a parasite reservoir and threaten human and wildlife health.”

Chalkowski’s co-authors were Associate Professor Sarah Zohdy and Professor Christopher Lepczyk, her advisors at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and Associate Professor Alan E. Wilson of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Wilson is also pleased with the paper’s international impact.

“I think the best part of this is that it’s a student project,” he said. “To take a project, publish it and then have so much interest around the world—I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student publish a paper that’s had an impact so quickly.  

“That has really blown me away, and I hope Kayleigh is enjoying this. What she showed in her data really resonates with people. People are crazy about their animals.”

Chalkowski said the group sought to quantify the effect of parasitic infection in indoor cats as compared to outdoor cats because of the potential of pet cats to transmit parasites to humans and surrounding wildlife. The research is the first of its kind.

“Cats are an underappreciated reservoir of infectious pathogens, and we saw a useful dichotomy in cat ownership—free-roaming outdoor access vs indoor-only—that we thought is important to quantify,” Chalkowski said. “Although it’s widely understood that keeping cats indoors prevents other obvious risks like getting run over by cars, the effect of indoor/outdoor on parasitic infection hadn't been quantified yet on a broad scale of geographic locales and pathogen types.”

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati said the international attention the study has garnered is significant.

“Because this research addresses aspects of a commonly debated topic, it can serve as a guide for cat owners who may not have realized the serious health risks inherent in allowing their cats to roam outdoors,” Alavalapati said.

“This meta-analysis is part of an ongoing study that is likely to yield even more insights on this subject.”

In the study’s acknowledgements section, the authors thanked the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Science SQUAD, or Solving Quantitative, Unusual and Awesome Dilemmas, Auburn professors Todd Steury of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Ash Abebe of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Biology and Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and Math Librarian Patricia Hartman.


Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences doctoral student Kayleigh Chalkowski takes samples of soil-borne parasites at a cat colony feeding site in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

NASA awards $5.2 million contract to Auburn University’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence

April 04, 2019 @ 8:10 a.m.

Public-private partnership to improve liquid rocket engine performance

Published: April 01, 2019


Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering today announced that NASA has awarded a $5.2 million contract to its National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, or NCAME, to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The three-year contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

“For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology, or RAMPT, project, which focuses on evolving light-weight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” said Paul McConnaughey, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”

NCAME will support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialized manufacturing technology vendors to be utilized by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies. The announcement was made at the biannual four-day meeting of ASTM International’s Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies (F42) hosted by Auburn University at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National in Opelika, Alabama.

Auburn University and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that are created using additive manufacturing, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the additive manufacturing industry. The center is also one of the founding partners of the newly established ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Auburn.

Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME director. Serving as project manager is Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing,” Ogles said. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.

Auburn Research magazine honored with 2019 ADDY Awards

March 28, 2019 @ 4:03 p.m.

The 2018 issue of Auburn Research magazine—and the creative team that worked on it—were recently honored with 2019 ADDY Awards from the American Advertising Federation of Montgomery in three categories:  Best of Print, Judge’s Choice, and a Gold ADDY.  Auburn Research is published annually in April, and this is the magazine’s second consecutive year to be recognized in the competition.

Read more about the ADDY Awards here.

Cover of 2018 Auburn Research magazine with "Gene Team" cover story art

The 2018 issue of Auburn Research magazine featured a cover story on the College of Veterinary Medicine's "Gene Team'. 

Art by Jennie Carson Hill.

Nearly 600 Auburn students showcasing their research and creativity April 9 at Auburn Research Student Symposium

March 21, 2019 @ 9:40 a.m.

Nearly 600 Auburn University students with a flair for research and creativity will showcase their talents when they gather for the annual Auburn Research Student Symposium.

With projects ranging from chemical engineering to plant pathology to architecture and design, the symposium on April 9 will provide Auburn and Auburn Montgomery students an opportunity to share their discoveries university-wide. The daylong event will take place in the Student Center.

Undergraduate and graduate students from almost every department have registered to participate through posters, oral presentations and creative scholarship displays. Approximately 400 of the young researchers will present posters and displays more than 180 will give 10-minute talks, all under the watchful eyes of judges who will award top honors in a variety of university-wide and college-specific categories.

An awards ceremony and reception will be held April 18 at 5 p.m. in the Student Center ballroom. The keynote speaker will be Michael Zabala, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Auburn in 2007.

Steve Taylor, chair of the Research Symposia Committee and associate dean for research in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, said, “Our students’ innovative research covers many areas, from projects in STEM disciplines [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] to the arts and humanities. They are working with our world-class faculty on life-changing projects that could shape new developments in many fields.”

Following the April 9 symposium, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry George P. Smith will visit Auburn University and the College of Veterinary Medicine April 10-11. Professor Smith will present a public lecture at 2 p.m. April 10 in The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center auditorium, which will be followed by a reception. On April 11, he will be available to meet with faculty and students at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

A fall event, the Auburn Research Faculty Symposium, will be held in September to recognize faculty excellence in research and creative scholarship.

More information about the student symposium is available at www.aub.ie/researchstudentsymposium or by contacting Taylor at taylost@auburn.edu.


Auburn students with a flair for research and creativity will showcase their talents when they gather April 9 in the Student Center for the annual Auburn Research Student Symposium. Pictured, student Elizabeth Bankston discusses her research poster with Steve Taylor, chair of the Research Symposia Committee, at last year’s symposium.

Auburn University names Vice President for Research James Weyhenmeyer to advance university’s research initiatives

March 06, 2019 @ 2:52 p.m.


James “Jim” Weyhenmeyer has been named Auburn University’s new vice president for research, effective April 1. He joins Auburn from Georgia State University, where he has served as vice president for research and economic development and as chair of the Research Foundation board of directors since 2011.

“Auburn is committed to delivering useful solutions that make a meaningful impact on our world. Jim’s deep knowledge of the intersection of academic discovery and economic development will propel Auburn to even greater heights as a world-class research and partnership university,” said President Steven Leath.

In Weyhenmeyer, Auburn gains an accomplished administrator with demonstrated success in advancing university-based research programs and interdisciplinary initiatives. With considerable experience building collaborative research and academic partnerships, Weyhenmeyer will work to expand Auburn’s competitive scholarly portfolio and strengthen the institution’s research enterprise at the state, national and international levels.

Reporting to Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Bill Hardgrave, Weyhenmeyer will oversee various administrative research units, including sponsored programs, proposal services, faculty support, research compliance, the university veterinarian and electronic research administration. Weyhenmeyer will also work with key university units including the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Office of the Vice President for Economic Development and Industry Relations, the colleges and schools and existing research centers and institutes.

“I am excited to join the Auburn community and support this extraordinary university as it continues to expand its research enterprise,” said Weyhenmeyer. “I look forward to working with faculty, researchers, staff and students as they study and innovate around many of the most challenging and important problems of the 21st century.”

Georgia State is recognized as one of the nation’s largest and most diverse R1 universities, and Weyhenmeyer has advanced that institution’s role as a comprehensive urban research university by strategically aligning its research assets with industry needs and resources in the metro Atlanta area. Working with faculty and industry partners, Weyhenmeyer established new interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary centers and institutes designed to promote a broad range of scholarly interests and expand economic development. Under his direction, Georgia State research expenditures more than tripled and the ratio of federal to nonfederal funding doubled while industry-sponsored research increased by almost 300 percent. In addition to directing university research activities, Weyhenmeyer also oversaw Georgia State’s information technology infrastructure that provides technology solutions to the institution’s teaching, research and business operations.

Prior to Georgia State, Weyhenmeyer held several senior-level appointments including serving as the senior vice provost for research and economic development at the State University of New York and was the senior vice president of the State University of New York Research Foundation from 2008-2011. In this role, Weyhenmeyer oversaw the research portfolio and technology commercialization programs for the system’s 64 campuses and expanded the system’s network of internal stakeholders, funding agencies and industry partners. During his time at the State University of New York, research expenditures increased from $900 million to more than $1.3 billion.

Weyhenmeyer also served as the associate vice president for economic development and corporate relations and vice president for technology and economic development at the University of Illinois. Focusing on large-scale research projects, Weyhenmeyer expanded the university’s investment in its research initiatives and increased its expenditures to nearly $1 billion. During that time, Weyhenmeyer also founded and served as CEO of Illinois VENTURES, an early-stage investment firm focused on helping entrepreneurs and researchers build innovative technology- and science-based companies.

A noted researcher in the fields of cell biology and neuroscience, Weyhenmeyer has published extensively on degenerative brain disorders. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association and the PHARMA Foundation, as well as private industries. In addition to serving on scientific advisory boards for companies in the gene technology and drug development sectors, Weyhenmeyer is a member of more than two dozen professional organizations and honorary societies, including the Licensing Executive Society, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, the American Heart Association Stroke Council and the University Industry Demonstration Partnership, among others.

Weyhenmeyer received a bachelor’s degree from Knox College and a doctorate from Indiana University. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Department of Medicine and Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Iowa.


Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.

James “Jim” Weyhenmeyer has been named Auburn University’s new vice president for research, effective April 1.

Auburn University achieves research milestone with ‘R1’ Carnegie classification

December 18, 2018 @ 8:23 a.m.

In another affirmation of its drive forward to excellence, Auburn University achieved a research milestone Monday - being elevated to an “R1” institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

The announcement follows a concerted effort by Auburn to elevate its commitment to life-saving research, beginning with an announcement by Auburn President Steven Leath in December 2017 and subsequent awarding of $5 million for three years toward the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR. An R1 designation by Carnegie is reserved for doctoral universities with the highest levels of research activity.

Among 120 institutions to receive the R1 designation Monday, Auburn was listed in the top 100 of such universities, raising its classification from an already lofty “high research” R2 classification to Monday's “very high research activity” R1 label.

“This tremendous designation acknowledges the hard work involved in the pioneering discoveries happening at Auburn every day,” said Leath, who was recently named one of seven new members appointed by President Trump to the National Science Board, a policy-making body of the National Science Foundation. “We are grateful to the university’s faculty and staff, especially Graduate School Dean George Flowers, for their unwavering commitment to elevating Auburn’s profile as a world-class academic institution.

“Auburn is on the move, and this prestigious distinction recognizes Auburn’s critical role in creating new knowledge and helping others live better lives.”

Universities considered for the R1 designation must have awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and had at least $5 million in total research expenditures, according to Carnegie’s classification website. Auburn has grown its research efforts in both STEM and non-STEM areas, furthering its institutional commitment to offer solutions to real-world problems and grow its reputation as a go-to university in providing results that transform and inspire.

“Auburn University is known for its innovative and transformational research, and receiving the R1 classification is a significant accomplishment,” said Jennifer Kerpelman, interim vice president for research. “This classification recognizes the dedication, commitment and hard work of Auburn’s faculty and student researchers across all disciplines.”


Dr. Amal Kaddoumi and graduate research assistant Sweilem Al Rihani in laboratory

Dr. Amal Kaddoumi, left, a professor in Auburn’s Department of Drug Discovery and Development, works in a lab with graduate research assistant Sweilem Al Rihani. Kaddoumi is leading a multi-disciplinary team in an investigation of oleocanthal, a molecule that appears naturally in extra-virgin olive oil, as a novel preventative treatment for such diseases as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Auburn professor using Hubble Space Telescope to observe comet passing Earth

December 18, 2018 @ 8:18 a.m.

One of the closest comets in modern times is passing by Earth – but don’t worry, there’s no danger of it hitting us. It will come relatively close in scientific terms – seven million miles away. For the average person, the comet will be visible with the naked eye and will provide a rare sky-watching event. For researchers, the proximity of the Comet 46P/Wirtanen to earth will offer a chance to collect data on comets and learn more about the building blocks of the solar system.

Auburn University researcher and astrophysicist Dennis Bodewits will perhaps get the best view of all. He’s been awarded time to simultaneously use three of NASA’s telescopes during the comet event: the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. He will be researching what ices make up the comet and how chemical processes change the gas around it.

“These observations are like a space mission in reverse because the comet flies by us,” Bodewits said.

Bodewits said this sky-watching event will provide important context to the Rosetta and Deep Impact missions. In the Deep Impact mission, NASA launched a space probe in 2005 to study the interior of a comet by releasing an impactor that collided with the comet’s nucleus to emit material from below its surface. It continued its journey through the solar system to snap detailed pictures of a second comet, Hartley 2. Rosetta was a space probe built by the European Space Agency that followed comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko for more than two years around the Sun.

“Because the comet comes very close to Earth, we can investigate the inner 200 kilometers around the nucleus, a region we cannot resolve for most comets. The comet appears to be a close twin to comet Hartley 2, the second target of the Deep Impact mission. Hartley 2 puzzled astronomers because it releases much more gas than was expected from its size. Comparing two will allow us to learn more about how comet activity works,” Bodewits said.

Bodewits explained the Rosetta mission taught scientists more about the makeup of a comet’s nucleus and the origin of our solar system.

“It unexpectedly found a lot of molecular oxygen gas and discovered that electron collisions can change the comet gas,” he said. “These are both important because they inform us what ices made up the building blocks of our solar system, and how they were altered by light and radiation from the Sun.”

Because of the significance of this comet’s proximity for learning more about the solar system, Bodewits is using as many resources as he can to study it.

“We’re going to be observing Comet 46P/Wirtanen with as many telescopes as we can get our hands on,” he said. “The timing of this comet could not be better as our observations will allow us to apply all we learned from Rosetta to a completely different comet.”

Bodewits is also looking at another mission that could take NASA back to Rosetta's comet to learn even more. The proposed CAESAR mission (Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return) is a space mission that will go back to Churyumov-Gerasimenko to bring comet material back to Earth so it can be analyzed in laboratories around the world.


Dr. Dennis Bodewits

Dennis Bodewits

Kloepper named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

December 18, 2018 @ 8:05 a.m.

Article body

The National Academy of Inventors, or NAI, has named Joseph Kloepper, a professor of plant pathology in Auburn’s College of Agriculture, as one of the association’s 2018 fellows.

The 2018 fellows represent 125 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide and are named inventors on nearly 4,000 issued U.S. patents. To date, there are over 1,000 NAI Fellows who have generated more than 11,000 licensed technologies and companies, created more than 1.4 million jobs and generated over $190 billion in revenue. Kloepper conducts research on beneficial bacteria to promote plant growth and provide biological disease control of crop plants.

Specifically, his research focuses on the use of rhizobacteria (PGPR) for promoting plant growth, plant health and nutrient uptake. Kloepper’s work has provided breakthroughs in potential commercial applications, as the call for greener, more organic crop treatments to replace harsh chemicals has influenced the market. One strain developed by Kloepper has been licensed for use as a biofertilizer and biopesticide in numerous seed and soil applications.

In one recent year, his PGPR library was the subject of two license agreements and three option agreements—all with different companies. One of the agreements even branched out into a new area: improved production in aquaculture. Kloepper and his colleagues also have developed additional bacterial libraries of strains from long-term crop rotations and other sources.

“Dr. Kloepper is very deserving of being recognized as an NAI Fellow,” said Dr. Jennifer Kerpelman, Auburn’s interim vice president for research. “He has a significant track record of innovation in the area of crop disease control, and his achievements as an inventor and researcher are certainly worthy of this high honor.”

Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.


Dr. Joseph Kleopper, professor of plant pathology, holds a plant in a greenhouse.

Joseph Kloepper, a professor of plant pathology in Auburn’s College of Agriculture, has been named as one of the National Academy of Inventors 2018 fellows. Kloepper conducts research on beneficial bacteria to promote plant growth and provide biological disease control of crop plants.