This Is Auburn


Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine to host 14th annual Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Day on April 28

March 15, 2023 @ 12:43 p.m.

Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will host the 14th annual Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Day on Friday, April 28, at the Auburn-Opelika Marriott Resort at Grand National.

“Here at Auburn, we are attacking this disease from all sides from the laboratory through a variety of clinical studies,” said Robert Judd, director of the Boshell Research Program and professor of pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology. “Research Day is an exciting opportunity for us to bring researchers and medical professionals together to share and discuss information about diabetes, obesity and their treatments.”

The annual Boshell Research Day event brings together experts from around the U.S. to present current topics related to diabetes and the role of obesity in its development. The meeting is highlighted by research presentations throughout the day and evening.

This year’s guest speakers include Vishwa Deep Dixit, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Pathology, Immunology and Comparative Medicine and director, Yale School of Medicine Center for Research on Aging; Jonathan D. Schertzer, an associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences, Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute Centre for Metabolism, Ontario, Canada; and Dr. Regina Benjamin, former U.S. Surgeon General and founder of the BayouClinic.

Registration and additional information are available now at The event is free for Boshell program members, students and postdoctoral fellows and $125 for non-members. Registration is open through April 19, and the deadline for abstraction submission is March 31.


Robert Judd speaks at Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Day 2021.

Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will host the 14th annual Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Day on Friday, April 28, at the Auburn-Opelika Marriott Resort at Grand National. Pictured: Robert Judd

Auburn researcher finds olive oil to improve brain health, memory in individuals with mild cognitive impairment

March 08, 2023 @ 9:16 a.m.

Extra virgin olive oil may have positive effects on individuals with mild cognitive impairment, according to a recently completed study by Amal Kaddoumi in Auburn University’s Harrison College of Pharmacy. Her findings, recently published in the journal “Nutrients,” suggest compounds found in olive oil impact brain health and improve the blood-brain barrier.

Kaddoumi, a professor in the college’s Department of Drug Discovery and Development, utilized 25 participants experiencing mild cognitive impairment in her study that included consuming 30 milliliters, or about three tablespoons, of olive oil per day for six months. Thirteen participants consumed extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, and 12 consumed refined olive oil, or ROO. EVOO is rich in phenols, a class of organic compounds containing a hydroxyl group and a benzene ring, while the ROO has been purified of phenols.

“The participants were subjected to several tests before and after olive oil consumption, including MRI scans, a battery of cognitive tests and blood analysis for biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “Our findings showed that EVOO and ROO improved cognitive function as determined by the improved clinical dementia rating and other behavioral scores.

“Interestingly, the MRI scans results were not the same between EVOO and ROO. While EVOO enhanced the blood-brain barrier function and the functional connectivity between different brain areas, ROO increased the functional brain activation to a memory task in brain regions involved in cognition.”

The blood-brain barrier and its permeability are key indicators in her study. A network of blood vessels and tissue made up of closely spaced cells, the blood-brain barrier plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy brain by protecting the brain from exposure to blood-related neurotoxins and in the clearance of brain waste products. A functional blood-brain barrier is vital for a healthy brain.

“Regarding blood biomarkers, our findings showed that EVOO and ROO altered two major biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease, namely, beta-amyloid and tau phosphorylation, suggesting EVOO and ROO changed the processing and clearance of beta-amyloid,” said Kaddoumi. “These alterations collectively could have played role in improving the blood-brain barrier and improving function and memory.”

The results are consistent with Kaddoumi’s pre-clinical findings conducted in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. The pilot study on individuals with mild cognitive impairment is the first to look at what directly happens to the brain in humans when consuming olive oil.

“While we need additional studies to understand the mechanisms by which olive oil exerted such effects in humans, findings from our preclinical studies in the mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease showed that EVOO alleviated several pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi.

One surprising finding from the study was the results of the control group. The beneficial compounds found in olive oil are more prevalent in the unrefined EVOO, but those in the refined group saw improvement as well.

“We used ROO as the control or placebo group because it lacks the phenolic compounds in EVOO,” said Kaddoumi. “However, based on the findings from this pilot study, ROO could also provide health benefits suggesting the positive impact of oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat present in both EVOO and ROO, which could contribute to the observed effect. Indeed, additional studies are necessary to confirm these results.”

Even with the need for further studies, Kaddoumi is excited to see the results from her pilot study and what it could mean for those living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive issues.

“These results are exciting because they support the health benefits of olive oil against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “Based on the findings of this study and previous pre-clinical studies by us and others, we can conclude that adding olive oil to our diet could maintain a healthy brain and improve memory function.”

While the study used participants experiencing mild cognitive impairment, Kaddoumi says next steps include a larger clinical trial that includes cognitively normal individuals. With the surprising results from the refined olive oil, she also envisions a trial with a variety of grades of olive oil.

“The research team and I would like to acknowledge and thank the project participants and relatives, without whom this research would have not been possible,” said Kaddoumi.

The pilot study and research were a collaborative effort among a variety of Auburn University units and outside organizations. Kaddoumi led the project, including conceptualization, methodology, data curation and supervision.

Collaborators from Auburn included the MRI Research Center, the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Others included the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn campus, Yale School of Public Health and the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple University.

This research was also funded by Auburn University Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research.


Professor Amal Kaddoumi holding vessel of olive oil in laboratory

Professor Amal Kaddoumi recently completed a study that found extra virgin olive oil may have positive effects on individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

Auburn ranked in top 100 of U.S. research institutions for second straight year

January 31, 2023 @ 8:57 a.m.

For the second straight year, Auburn University is ranked in the top 11% of U.S. research institutions, coming in at No. 100 among 915 universities, according to the National Science Foundation’s most recent Higher Education Research and Development, or HERD, Survey.

Among public universities, Auburn is ranked No. 68 out of 412 institutions. The university also increased its research and development spending overall by $11.1 million in 2021.

“Auburn’s second year of ranking among the nation’s top 100 research institutions continues to be a significant accomplishment,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development. “Our researchers continue to be committed to engaging in impactful research—much of which is critical to supporting major Alabama industries—and that commitment is reflected in Auburn’s being highly ranked once again.”

The annual survey, compiled from fiscal year 2021 research expenditures, saw Auburn hold its position in the rankings’ top 100 even as 10 other SEC schools saw their positions fall. During the five-year period from 2017-21, Auburn’s annual research expenditures increased from $190.3 million to $266.4 million, resulting in a rankings jump of 14 places.

For universities without a medical school, Auburn again ranked No. 61 nationally and No. 1 in the state. Auburn also was highly ranked nationally in a number of specific fields of research, including No. 51 in engineering (up three spots), No. 53 in mathematics and statistics (up one spot) and No. 94 in physical sciences, all state bests. Auburn also ranked No. 41 for non-science and engineering research expenditures (up two spots). These fields include business administration, management, communications, education, humanities, social work and human sciences.

A hallmark of Auburn’s research is the diversity of its funded projects. Highlights include:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded Auburn’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment $2.1 million for studies into mitigating needle blight, a growing threat to pine trees. According to EDPA, the forest products industry is the state’s largest manufacturing industry. A second USDA award of more than $1.5 million is funding another study in the college aimed at reducing the effects of climate change through forest carbon sequestration.

  • The Auburn College of Agriculture’s Department of Poultry Science was awarded more than $1.2 million for research into sustainable poultry processing, as well as received additional funding of approximately $1.3 million for a study of the effects of environmental conditions in production efficiency and product quality in commercial poultry operations. Like forestry, poultry production is another major industry in Alabama. Alabama ranks fourth in the nation in broiler (chicken) production.

In addition to the high ranking in the NSF HERD Survey, Auburn is recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as a top-level, or R1, university with “very high research activity.”


multichannel pipettor

Auburn researchers lead $2 million research project to produce hydrogen

January 31, 2023 @ 8:38 a.m.

Auburn University researchers are leading a $2 million Department of Energy grant that aims to produce hydrogen from blended feedstock such as legacy waste coal, forest residues and municipal solid waste.

“The benefits of converting waste coal, biomass and food waste are twofold,” said Sushil Adhikari, professor of biosystems engineering and principal investigator for the proposal. “First, it will help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen production. Second, it will help to solve food waste problems.”

AU’s co-principal investigator for the project is Oladiran Fasina, department head and alumni professor for the College of Agriculture’s Department of Biosystems Engineering.

Other engineering staff involved in this project are James Johnson, Caroline Whiting and Bobby Bradford, who work for the Department of Biosystems Engineering and the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts (CBB). The CBB is funded by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES), College of Agriculture, and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

The Biden Administration is focused on producing clean hydrogen at $1 per kg, Adhikari said, and this goal can be reached through the use of biomass and food waste while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The six primary objectives of the project — titled “Hydrogen Production from Modular CO2 Assisted Oxy-Blown Gasification of Waste” — are to understand how biomass, waste coal and food waste will flow into the gasifier; how biomass, coal and food waste composition will impact the gas composition and quality; and to understand the cost of hydrogen production from biomass, coal and food waste blends.

Auburn researchers are partnering with RTI International — an independent, nonprofit institute that provides research, development and technical services to government and commercial clients worldwide — to facilitate a unique combination of experimental and modeling research to produce hydrogen from the gasification of a coal-food waste-forest residues mixture while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The research will examine the gasification performance of coal waste from Alabama, food waste discarded from cities and towns and southern pine residues mixture in a laboratory-scale fluidized-bed gasifier to produce hydrogen. Food waste will be supplied by Burcell Technologies located in Cordele, Georgia.
Other specific objectives of the project are to 1) understand the effect of feedstock blends on flow properties and energy requirement for preprocessing; 2) examine the effect of feedstock blends on syngas composition and contaminants; 3) evaluate water-gas shift catalysts, and sulfur and metals removal sorbents for high-purity H2 production; 4) demonstrate 100 hour operation of an integrated system for waste blend gasification and syngas clean up and conditioning at a 1 kg/hour scale gasifier; 5) perform techno-economic analysis for hydrogen production using waste materials; and 6) develop a technology maturation plan to advance the proposed technology beyond TRL-4.

Flow properties for the coal-food waste-forest residues mixture will be measured, and syngas composition will be analyzed for permanent gases such carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen along with contaminants such as tar, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.

RTI will develop a gas cleanup system and process model for hydrogen production from the waste coal-food waste-biomass mixture using data gathered in the laboratory-scale system at Auburn University.

The 24-month research project will have applications in industries such as fertilizer synthesis, power production and chemical production, Adhikari said.


Sushil Adhikari in lab

Sushil Adhikari

Auburn University signs memorandum of understanding with KITECH to expand research efforts

January 31, 2023 @ 8:17 a.m.

Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with Nak Kyu Lee, president of the Korea Institute of Technology, or KITECH, that will expand upon the collaborative research efforts of Auburn’s faculty and laboratories with local companies supported by KITECH.

Building on the signed MOU between the organizations in 2015, this newly expanded agreement includes the establishment of research and/or automotive technology support offices and laboratories, the creation of joint research projects and the exchange of technical information, periodic training symposia and consulting.

“As a land-grant university, Auburn aspires to deliver real-world, practical solutions,” Roberts said while addressing administrators and dignitaries at the ceremonial event held at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. “Through joint research efforts and projects, we can anticipate and meet the distinct needs of the automotive manufacturers and suppliers along the I-85 corridor that have strongly impacted our region’s economic climate. This partnership demonstrates an interchange of education, research and service, with global implications.”

The agreement spelled out a number of desired outcomes:

  • Establishment of research and/or automotive technology support offices and laboratories

  • Exchange of scientific/technical research materials, publications, information and advice

  • Development of mutually agreed-upon collaborative research projects

  • Identification of technical barriers encountered and improvement needed by manufacturers

  • Provision of technical solutions using means and technologies available at both institutions

  • Creation of joint research projects to identify funding opportunities through governmental agencies; and

  • Organization of periodic symposia on manufacturing technologies and related subjects

As identified by Roberts, the I-85 corridor remains a hotbed for automobile suppliers. KIA’s 2,200-acre plant in nearby West Point, Georgia, produces more than 300,000 automobiles per year. Hyundai’s 3.4 billion-square-foot plant just south of Montgomery, Alabama, is capable of producing nearly 400,000 vehicles per year.

“The Auburn-Opelika metropolitan area is an optimal region for joint research between academia and industry in the automobile field,” said Lee, whose institution is an application-oriented research institute founded with the mission to support the industry sector, especially the innovation of small- to mid-sized enterprises. “We plan to embark on joint research with Auburn University on innovative manufacturing technology. We also plan to answer to the demands of parts manufacturers in the region by utilizing the infrastructure and other means available at both institutions.”

Auburn University Outreach will manage the current initiative and coordinate the details of the memorandum of understanding. Since 2015, the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, a unit of University Outreach, and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have worked closely with KITECH on projects, including the “Korea US Automotive Technology Workshop” and various technology support and research projects.

“It is a great pleasure to not only continue this collaborative endeavor, but to expand upon it for the betterment of our stakeholders, community members and economic outlook,” said Royrickers Cook, Auburn University vice president for University Outreach and associate provost. The relationship between Auburn University and KITECH is longstanding, and we in University Outreach and the Office of Professional and Continuing Education are proud to be a part of this impactful collaboration.

“As we embark upon emerging electronic vehicle technologies, the expanded partnership positions each of us at the forefront of innovation, technological research and the promotion of economic development in the state of Alabama and beyond. KITECH’s values align well with Auburn’s land-grant mission of Outreach and help us carry out our responsibility to transform research into services that meet our communities’ most critical needs.”

Auburn University, recognized as a Carnegie R1 research institution, continues to cultivate the growing role that research and collaboration has played in improving business practices, finding new solutions to old problems and improving the quality of lives for thousands.

“In addition to advancing Auburn’s land-grant mission, this partnership demonstrates the value of strategic international and institutional engagements to the economic development of our state,” said Jim Weyhenmeyer, vice president for research and economic development. “Through this partnership with KITECH, we will continue strengthening Auburn’s capacity to lead automotive technology research and development, particularly in the global market.”

In the spirit of intellectual symposia following the signing ceremony, Auburn University and KITECH thought leaders combined to produce the first “KITECH-Auburn University Manufacturing Innovation Technology Forum.”

Larry Rilett, director of the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, discussed “Opportunities and Challenges for Electric Vehicle Adoption: The Alabama Perspective.”

Mark Hoffman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, discussed “Mobile Industry Status and Challenges.”

Flexing KITECH’s academic muscle, KITECH’s Sungwook Kang presented “Friction Stir Welding for EV Parts Manufacturing.”

Rilett, Hoffman and Kang were then joined by Dong Woo “Daniel” Yu, assistant director of Outreach Programs within the Office of Professional and Continuing Education for a 35-minute panel discussion.

Yu will coordinate details of the joint efforts between KITECH and Auburn University.

“Since the initial agreement was signed in 2015, I’ve been able to work with many Korean manufacturers to assess their technical problems, needs and provide training,” said Yu. “Having the opportunity to extend the resources from both Auburn University and KITECH has allowed us to assist several manufacturers. We’ll continue these joints efforts on a broader scope as we move forward, especially in the areas of emerging EV production technologies.”​


Christopher B. Roberts and Nak Kyu Lee display signed memorandum of understanding

Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts, left, signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with Nak Kyu Lee, president of the Korea Institute of Technology, that will expand upon the collaborative research efforts of Auburn’s faculty and laboratories with local companies supported by KITECH.

Auburn University, Tuskegee University create partnership to include research, academics, community engagement around health inequities

November 22, 2022 @ 8:33 a.m.

Auburn University and Tuskegee University initiated a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, to expand partnerships between the universities and collaborate on community outreach at a special signing ceremony on Monday afternoon.

The MOU is a commitment to blend resources and intellectual capacity to address racial and health disparities in communities across the state of Alabama. Through faculty research and outreach collaborations, both universities will work to address lack of health care access and other social and health inequities in the local areas.

“This partnership with Tuskegee University is a win-win for everyone, especially our students, researchers and outreach team,” Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts said. “As a land-grant institution, it is important to work to eliminate disparities that limit opportunities for those in underserved areas. I am confident the collaboration that will emerge from this agreement will benefit students from both universities, as well as our neighboring communities.”

The agreement is the latest in a number of partnerships between Auburn and Tuskegee, and with the two universities united in a shared mission, the future is bright for all involved.

“This partnership demonstrates the capacity of our shared land-grant missions to improve the quality of life for Alabama’s citizens,” Auburn University Interim Provost Vini Nathan said. “Both institutions maintain a longstanding commitment to addressing health disparities across our state. Through these collaborations, we are bringing together our faculty, staff, students and programs to benefit our communities directly.”

The collaboration includes a 10-member committee to review and recommend proposals to the university presidents for prioritization in seeking state and federal support. The collaboration team will focus on academic programs, research and development, outreach and community engagement.

“The impact of this partnership will benefit the students of both schools and the surrounding communities where we are based,” Tuskegee Provost S. Keith Hargrove said. “By blending our resources, we will be able to have a broader reach in developing state-of-the-art academic programs and research and development opportunities, while deepening our community engagement and outreach.”

The MOU signifies a commitment to forge institutional resources and intellectual capacity to address racial and health disparities in communities across the state. With the understanding that communities of color lack adequate access to healthcare and other social determinates of health impact areas, Auburn and Tuskegee will address these issues through ongoing faculty research and outreach alliances.

“As we focus on innovative ways to expose our students to research and training opportunities to keep them in the forefront of their fields, partnering with Auburn University helps expand their experience,” Tuskegee President Charlotte P. Morris said. “This collaboration provides a formal structure to ensure that the common goals are met to support students of both institutions and partner with the community in meaningful ways.”

Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts shakes hands with Tuskegee University President Charlotte P. Morris

Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts and Tuskegee University President Charlotte P. Morris signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will benefit the state of Alabama for years to come. (Photo by Stefan Smith/Tuskegee University)

Auburn professor receives American Cancer Society grant to continue breast cancer research

November 02, 2022 @ 2:38 p.m.

Nancy Merner, assistant professor in the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiology, recently received a $791,808 grant from the American Cancer Society to continue her research into identifying and studying genetic factors associated with hereditary breast cancer in the African American community.

“African American women have higher breast cancer incidence rates before the age of 40 than other ethnic groups in the United States,” Merner said. “They are also more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive subtype with a poor prognosis. These facts, coupled with reports of African American males having higher breast and prostate cancer frequencies than other ethnicities, suggest that hereditary factors are involved.”

Despite the higher incidence of these cancers in the African American community, Merner said there have been an insufficient number of studies to determine the causes.

In efforts to combat this insufficiency, the Merner research team has sought out families with a history of such cancers while traveling the state, spreading cancer awareness in a pink bus called the “Gene Machine” and using online resources.

“There is a critical need to identify and study genetic factors associated with African American hereditary breast cancer,” Merner explained. “Our group has established the Alabama Hereditary Cancer Cohort for genetic analyses. Alabama is a severely medically underserved state, with double the national percentage of African Americans. Therefore, we developed strategic recruitment protocols to break down research participation barriers to recruit African American hereditary breast cancer cases and families effectively.”

Utilizing data gathered from those participants and others, Merner and her team have conducted gene sequencing and identified protein-truncating variants, or PTVs, specific to African Americans that appear to increase inherited breast cancer risk. PTVs are genetic variants that shorten the protein-coding sequence of genes and may cause them to malfunction. 

“We plan to identify these PTVs associated with breast cancer among African Americans and study how they increase risk,” Merner said. “The impact of this work will be substantial for this understudied and underrepresented group. Risk variant identification can lead to better risk assessment and tailored therapies, reducing breast cancer-related deaths.”

“Ultimately, this study will not only identify African American breast cancer risk variants, but generating and sharing this data on African American hereditary breast cancer cases will add to the limited resources currently impeding discoveries. And finally, by carrying out sub-type analyses, this proposal could specifically impact women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, reducing the number of deaths from this aggressive breast cancer sub-type through better risk assessment and tailored therapies.”


Nancy Merner with "Gene Machine" research vehicle

Nany Merner and the "Gene Machine"

Auburn professor selected as an elective member for the American Ornithological Society

September 22, 2022 @ 7:58 a.m.

Christopher Lepczyk, an Alumni Professor in Auburn University’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, was selected to be an elective member, a class of special membership for the American Ornithological Society, or AOS.

Formed in 2016 with the merger of the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society, AOS is the world’s largest international ornithological society. The AOS describes itself as a diverse, global network of empowered professionals, working together to advance the scientific study and conservation of birds.

AOS elective member nominees are expected to have met qualifications such as professional experience, society membership, engagement with the society and contributions to ornithology as a discipline and community.

Lepczyk has made numerous contributions through his time in the society. His interests center on the conservation and management of birds, with research on such topics as endangered species, urban avian ecology, landscape ecology of birds and how people affect bird diversity.

“It is an honor to be chosen as an AOS elective member,” Lepczyk said. “It is my hope that my background will help contribute to the society in impactful ways.” 

With a goal to collect data that contributes to science-based policy and management decisions, Lepczyk regularly partners with nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and collaborators around the world. His focus is on the Hawaiian Islands, the Midwest and the Southeast U.S.

Lepczyk has been recognized as an outstanding mentor and teacher at both the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Auburn University. He has co-edited two books and co-authored more than 110 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and advised more than 40 undergraduate researchers and over 30 master’s and doctoral students.

Lepczyk has been a lead or co-organizer of symposiums at three separate North American Ornithological Conference meetings and an AOS meeting and currently serves on the AOS Conservation Committee.

“The college is proud that Dr. Lepczyk has been selected as an elective member for the AOS,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. “His work with the AOS will continue to advance the study of ornithology through his research contributions, engagement and advisement of future students.”

Lepczyk was nominated and supported by AOS ornithologists David C. Duffy, Sheila Conant and Stanley Temple.


Christopher Lepczyk

Christopher Lepczyk, an Alumni Professor in Auburn University’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, was selected to be an elective member, a class of special membership for the American Ornithological Society.

Auburn statistician receives award from the Office of Naval Research to develop algorithms to help optimize naval navigation

September 15, 2022 @ 3:44 p.m.

Elvan Ceyhan, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is the recipient of an award sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR) under award number N00014-22-1-2572 for the project Adversarial Risk Analysis for Optimal Obstacle Evasion. The project, a collaboration with David Banks of Duke University, received an award of $358,000 with Auburn receiving $214,000 and Duke receiving $144,000.

The overall goal of the research project is to create procedures that avoid adversarial threats for continuous paths such as ships navigating the ocean. It will result in algorithms and methodology in Adversarial Risk Analysis (ARA).

“Imagine a grid over the ocean with traversable edges and diagonals,” said Ceyhan. “This network grid superimposed on the ocean’s surface helps us to unlock approximate paths for naval ships to safely navigate.”

“Adversarial Risk Analysis looks at a navigating agent and an adversarial agent, which would be capable of putting obstacles in the path,” said Ceyhan. “With this work, we can minimize the potential damage and expense on the path of the navigating agent to reach its required destination.”

The proposed approach is a combination of two concepts: Canadian traveler’s problem (CTP) in optimization and ARA. CTP was motivated by the traversal strategies in harsh winter conditions in Canada. “Think of a traveler who needs to reach a target, say, a pharmacy or a supermarket from her home in a vehicle,” Ceyhan explained. “However, some streets may be blocked (due to heavy snow), and she needs to navigate through the street which forms the traversal grid.”

The current project, which proposes a relatively new concept for finding feasible solutions to problems through both basic and applied research, is an adaptation of CTP to weighted and partially blocked spatial networks with adversarial agents on the network.

“We will first define the problem specification and complete the Adversarial Risk Analysis,” he said. “In the next phase of the project, we will use reinforcement learning to find the policy that is nearly optimal.”

In addition to life-saving research in naval navigation, this work also has real-world applications in both robotics and inventory allocation.

“Operations research is filled with finding solutions to traversal problems hindered with obstacles,” he added. “This work can help operations management find more successful solutions to overcome such challenges.” 


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.

Elvan Ceyhan

Elvan Ceyhan

New Auburn University grant programs to support campus diversity, equity, inclusion goals

September 07, 2022 @ 1:51 p.m.

Beginning this fall, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, or OID, will offer four grant programs to support individuals, groups and units working to promote Auburn University’s inclusion and diversity efforts.

Open to all members of the campus community; the competitive grants include the Inclusive Excellence Programming Grant, now in its second year, and three new grant opportunities: (1) the Employee Diversity Engagement Grant; (2) the Advancing Diversity Graduate Student Support Fund; and (3) the Office of Inclusion and Diversity Exploratory Research Grant.

“With these funding opportunities, OID is expanding its campus partners to advance our institution’s strategic goals and recognize the talents and energy of those across campus committed to our shared mission,” said Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost and vice president for inclusion and diversity. “The most meaningful progress comes when we can support the members of our campus community by investing in their ideas.”

All four grants will support different subgroups at Auburn as they work to achieve strategic inclusion and diversity goals.

Inclusive Excellence Programming Grant

The Inclusive Excellence Programming Grant aids programs by funding new and innovative ways to support campus diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Last year, the program contributed more than $18,000 across nine impactful initiatives that assisted underrepresented students throughout Auburn’s campus. The first cycle of the Inclusive Excellence Programming Grant will open on Sept. 19 and provides similar opportunities.

Employee Diversity Engagement Grant

The Employee Diversity Engagement Grant is specifically designed to support the professional development of Auburn faculty and staff to advance their knowledge, skills and awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion. This program will support external professional development to enhance the depth and quality of learning experiences related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Employee Diversity Engagement Grant will open in January 2023.

Advancing Diversity Graduate Student Support Fund

The Advancing Diversity Graduate Student Support Fund funds programs that support graduate students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, to achieve their career goals and foster diversity education in their respective fields. The Advancing Diversity Graduate Student Support Fund will open on Sept. 19.

Office of Inclusion and Diversity Exploratory Research Grant

The Office of Inclusion and Diversity Exploratory Research Grant provides funding to support Auburn faculty members with their research and creative activities. These efforts address complex societal issues, such as justice and inclusion, for broader communities within their field, discipline or society. The grant funds will support the development of competitive proposals for external funding. Those interested in the Exploratory Research Grant should consider attending an interest session at 1 p.m. on Sept. 29 in Room 202 of the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Complex, or ACLC. The session will feature staff from OID and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. The Exploratory Grant Program will open on Sept. 22 via InfoReady. OID plans to fund at least 10 projects between $3,000 and $10,000. The request for proposals can be found at this link.

Members of the campus community interested in applying for any of the other three grants should consider attending an interest session on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. in Room 2107 of the Melton Student Center. A registration link is available here.

Please visit the OID website to learn more about these programs and their application processes. OID can be contacted at

interlocking orange and blue AU logo with text: Auburn University Office of Inclusion and Diversity