OVPR News


Auburn agricultural research shows different farming strategies needed for changing climate

August 01, 2018 @ 10:50 a.m.

Farmers will need to change their management strategies over the next few decades to adapt to impending climate extremes, according to a study recently published by researchers at Auburn University and Pennsylvania State University.

The study, featured in the June 11 issue of the open access journal PLOS ONE, is the first climate change study on corn that focuses on aspects of growth and development from an agronomic viewpoint. The majority of such studies have used either simulation or statistical models to evaluate yield losses.

And while the research itself focuses on three northeastern U.S. states, the general conclusions are applicable for all regions, including the Southeast, says Rishi Prasad, assistant professor and extension specialist with the College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences.

“We need to investigate the Southern region as well,” said Prasad, who began the initial study during his time as a post-doctoral scholar at Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at Penn State.

“We are going through similar phases as those in the Northeast, where we have a very wet period followed by a very dry period. We need to understand how future climate change is going to affect our current scenario and what kind of best management practices we need to be prepared for the next 50 years.”

The warming trends occurring are specific to location, he says.

“The globe is warming, but we are seeing different heating effects from one location to another,” Prasad said. “It will be difficult to make a general recommendation for an entire region. Instead, recommendations will need to be location-specific, depending on how fast a location is warming.”

Prasad and his colleagues chose corn as the subject of their study because of its importance to U.S. agriculture, offering many possibilities for feeding and fueling a growing world population.

“However, future corn production will potentially face vagaries of extreme weather in a warming climate that is being affected by greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “These emissions currently are the highest in human history and are expected to continue (rising?)in coming decades.”

While mean annual temperatures already have increased throughout the world, the global temperature is expected to increase further by 36 degrees F. by 2050, Prasad said, and the local effects on heat, cold and precipitation extremes will vary widely, with regional differences in geography and landscape features.

Corn production in the Northeast U.S. will suffer from the impacts of climate extremes like other corn-growing regions, but it draws special attention from researchers because it is a major dairy region, and corn is a major feed for the industry. Also, the Northeast is cited as the fastest-warming region in the contiguous U.S.

“Most climate-change studies on corn have been carried out in the Midwest and Great Plains, with little attention to the Northeast, so we saw a need to evaluate the local risks of extreme climate on corn production in the region,” Prasad said.

Although several global and regional studies have evaluated heat and water stress effects on corn yield using historical weather data, there is less information on growth-stage-specific anomalies in corn production at local levels, he said.

“Warming trends in the U.S. are not spatially and temporally uniform, so local evaluations of climate-change effects on corn production are important,” Prasad said. “Examining temperature anomalies, water deficit periods and frost occurrences during the growing season are of great importance as these factors are strongly associated with yields.”

The study views data from nine different climate models that simulate the climate of the entire world.

“Because they’re simulated on a larger scale, we fine-tuned the data down to a smaller scale,” Prasad said. “We downscaled it so we could study the impact of climate change from one place to another place in one particular region.”

Researchers used the climate models looking 100 years into the future, all the way to the end of the 21stcentury. They considered current farming practices, such as the time when farmers are planting and harvesting their corn. The study focused on locations in New York and Pennsylvania, where corn production provides feed for the dairy industry.

“We looked at how corn production is going to change in the future,” Prasad said. “One of the most important stages of the corn lifecycle is the reproductive stage, where the corn produces pollens. If, during that period, the temperature exceeds the upper threshold of 95 degrees F., the pollen viability decreases, or the pollens will not be fertilized and will not form corn grains. We’re looking at what’s happening in the future in terms of these high temperatures episodes, especially during the corn reproductive phases.”

The study concludes that if farmers continue with current management practices, there will be a dramatic decrease in yield, and the reason for that is two-fold, he said.

“High-temperature frequencies will increase, and 2050 is when we can expect to see a very clear demarcation of this effect,” Prasad said. “We also looked at the moisture deficit trends during corn growth stages, and it is widening. The corn will experience more drought during its main reproductive phase. These two situations will make the scenario worse in the future.”

The study goes on to recommend possible remedies for corn producers, including a shift in planting dates and irrigation.

“The months of January, February and March are getting relatively warmer than they used to be, and the warming trends will continue in the future,” Prasad said. “This means growers can shift their planting dates backward from the typical April planting dates for corn to avoid high heat intensities during the reproductive stage of corn.”

Also, with the widening gap between evapotranspiration and precipitation, especially during corn’s prime reproductive phase irrigation is recommended.

Prasad’s research at Auburn continues to focus on the development of next-generation best management practices for crop-livestock systems

“We need to approach in an integrative way how these weather changes will affect environmental nitrogen and phosphorus losses and affect water, air and soil quality.” Prasad said. “We need to develop the next generation of best management practices in terms of managing water and in terms of managing nutrients so that we have an adaptive response to a changing weather pattern.” 

Also involved in the research were Heather Karsten, associate professor of crop production ecology, and Greg Roth, professor of agronomy, Pennsylvania State University; Alan Rotz, Stephan Kpoti Gunn and Anthony Buda, all with the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service; and Anne Stoner, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University. This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

BY PAUL HOLLIS

Dr. Rishi Prasad

Dr. Rishi Prasad, assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences


Auburn, partner organizations sign agreements for additive research centers

July 24, 2018 @ 8:33 a.m.

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, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447                                             

Components made through additive manufacturing are shown in the additive manufacturing lab in Wiggins Hall at Auburn University.


Agricultural research grants address cost, efficiency

July 19, 2018 @ 12:45 p.m.

Cost and efficiency are high on the list of concerns for Alabama farmers and equally high on the list of priorities for Auburn University researchers.

The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Production Agriculture Research, or PAR, grants program, now in its second year, is committed to finding timely solutions to problems that prevent the state’s farmers from being profitable.

Administered through the AAES with USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch funding and matching state appropriations, the PAR program is funding nine research projects this year, with a total commitment of $446,138.

“These projects address needs identified by farmers, commodity groups and other agricultural stakeholders in Alabama, and cost and efficiency are at the top of everyone’s list,” said Henry Fadamiro, associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and associate director of the AAES.

Among those stakeholders is the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state’s largest farm organization.

 “I am excited that Auburn University is continuing this effort to address real-world production challenges and opportunities for Alabama farmers and timber owners,” said Brian Hardin, director of governmental and agricultural programs for the federation and a member of the PAR proposal review panel.

The projects selected for funding show the diversity of the state’s agriculture and the issues that need to be addressed across all areas, Hardin said.

“Alabama farmers are fortunate to have the expertise of these researchers at Auburn University and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station,” he said. “Even more though, we are fortunate that the administration and faculty are paying attention to how they can help people be profitable on their farms and land. That is the ultimate mission of the land-grant university.”

The grants program is a first of its kind for the AAES, in that it focuses specifically on production agriculture, Fadamiro said. Last year, the program supported 15 projects, with a total commitment of $622,000.

Many of the two-year, $50,000 PAR grants support combined research and extension projects that address current farming problems in a timely manner through applied research..

“This is an opportunity for College of Agriculture and AAES faculty to work on solving or providing immediate solutions to production challenges,” Fadamiro said.

For central Alabama’s fledgling new kiwifruit industry, a serious concern is winter freeze damage in young orchards.

“Winter freeze injury is not a significant problem on mature vines, but vines have proven to be susceptible in the establishment phase,” said Jay Spiers, Department of Horticulture associate professor and lead kiwifruit researcher. “This issue has deterred us from establishing cultivar trials and small commercial plantings throughout the region.”

Currently, producers use overhead sprinklers and/or microsprinklers for freeze protection, and, while that works for spring frosts, it is not a good control option during hard winter freezes. In his PAR project, Spiers will test the efficacy of several different trunk protection strategies for winter freeze protection.

He will present his results at grower and scientific meetings, where it will be applicable for kiwifruit and citrus producers and other stakeholders faced with management decisions on winter freeze protection.

In another new PAR initiative,  the Alabama Animal Waste and Nutrient Management team at Auburn, the Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Committee will work together to find ways to improve  on-farm phosphorus management and minimize phosphorus runoff.

While applying manure to agricultural lands can improve soil health and promote nutrient cycling, phosphorus mismanagement can lead to eutrophication of waterbodies and jeopardize their designated use.

“We will evaluate phosphorus retention and release rates of Alabama soils under different management practices and determine the ability of soil to act as source or sink of phosphorus to the environment,” said project leader Rishi Prasad, extension animal-systems environmental specialist, and Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences assistant professor.

The project also aims to develop a soil test–based decision support tool for assessing the risk of environmental phosphorus loss from agricultural lands.

Another PAR grant project, looks to stem economic losses from reduced animal gain and reproductive performance in endophyte-infected tall fescue forage systems. The fungus costs the U.S. beef industry more than $1 billion per year.

Study leader Kim Mullenix, Department of Animal Sciences extension assistant professor, said endophyte-infected tall fescue is the predominant perennial forage ecotype in north Alabama and the Black Belt region, where more than 60 percent of Alabama beef operations are located.

“As tall fescue matures during the early summer months, the endophyte produces high levels of ergovaline, a plant chemical compound that has negative impacts on animal performance,” she said. “Alternative forage systems are needed to improve animal production potential and extend the grazing season in regions otherwise dominated by cool-season species.”

In her two-year grazing project at the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction, Mullenix will determine the forage production, nutritive value and animal performance characteristics of alternative warm-season grasses in replacement-heifer production systems.

Meanwhile, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences professor Terry Hanson will be leading a project to solve the Alabama catfish industry’s big-fish problem.

“For some time now, there has been a surplus of big catfish, or fish greater than 4 pounds in pond inventories for which catfish processors have been unable to identify a viable market,” Hanson said.

Subsequently, processors are paying half price for fish between 4 to 6 pounds and nothing for fish larger than 6 pounds, resulting in lost revenue for commercial catfish farms.

“Our research seeks to determine the cost of different management strategies toward long-term management of the big-fish problem in the Alabama aquaculture industry,” he said. “Catfish aging techniques will be employed to determine the age of different size classes of fish in commercial ponds to provide much needed information on harvest efficiency.”

Data from the study will provide management solutions towards solving the big-fish problem, he said.

The titles of and lead investigators on the five remaining projects that received 2018 PAR grants follow.

  • Derive “double cash” from trash: Co-production of single-cell protein as aquafeed along with the lactic acid production from paper mill sludge: Yi Wang, assistant professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering, $50,000.
  • Assessment of profitability of irrigation in crop production and acreage expansion in Alabama: Denis Nadolnyak, associate professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, $50,000.
  • Evaluation of summer annual forage mixtures for grazing and baleage production in Alabama: Leanne Dillard, assistant professor, Department of Animal Sciences and Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, $49,983.
  • Agrometeorological monitoring and forecasting for sustainable water and agronomic management: Di Tian, Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, $49,975.
  • Value-added building blocks from locally abandoned biomass for advanced food packaging materials, Maria Soledad-Peresin, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, $49,762.The 2018 PAR grant call for proposals included several improvements that were based on feedback from stakeholders.

“In their grant proposals for this year, we specifically asked faculty members to consider project outcomes and impacts,” Fadamiro said. “We also asked for stakeholder involvement in developing the projects. We didn’t want faculty thinking about projects in a vacuum, so we asked them to work with stakeholders from the conception of the project, and we requested letters of support from stakeholders.”

In addition, projects that will be based at one of the 15 AAES outlying research units required letters of support from the unit director.

These changes, Fadamiro said, raised the quality of all proposals received.

“Almost all the proposals submitted this year could have been funded had the dollars been available, because they all were specific and relevant to the goals of the program.”

BY PAUL HOLLIS

Jay Spiers, Department of Horticulture associate professor, is leading a research project that will test the efficacy of several different trunk protection strategies for winter freeze protection of kiwifruit and citrus crops.


Lall receives advisory board's Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award

July 09, 2018 @ 1:12 p.m.

At its recent spring meeting, Auburn University’s Research and Economic Development Advisory Board selected Pradeep Lall, the McFarlane Endowed Professor in Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, as the 2018 recipient of its Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award. The award recognizes Lall for his research achievements in the fields of harsh-environment electronics and flexible electronics.

The advisory board is made up of more than 40 industry professionals from across the country who actively support Auburn’s research efforts. The group established the award in 2014 to recognize significant research and scholarly activity that exemplify and advance Auburn’s research and scholarship mission. The recipient of the annual award receives a $25,000 grant to further his or her research.

Lall, director of Auburn’s NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, is the author or co-author of two books, 14 book chapters and more than 500 journal and conference papers in the field of electronics reliability, safety, energy efficiency, and survivability. He serves on the NextFlex Institute’s technical council and governing council. Lall spearheaded research efforts in flexible electronics and led Auburn’s proposal team for the NextFlex Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute.

A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Lall has received numerous awards for his research. He is the recipient of the IEEE Sustained Outstanding Technical Contributions Award in 2018 and the National Science Foundation Schwarzkopf Award for Technology Innovation in 2016. With significant funding from public-private partnerships, Lall’s work has proven beneficial to the aerospace and automotive industries and in military vehicles and defense systems.

“The Research and Economic Development Advisory Board has made a great choice in honoring Dr. Lall with this award,” said Jennifer Kerpelman, Auburn’s interim vice president for research. “He is a very accomplished researcher with a strong track record, and his work is a great asset to Auburn University,” she added.

Lall’s research focuses on the development of methods for assuring survivability of electronics to high shock forces, vibration and extreme temperatures. He is best known for his research in the areas of reliability and prognostics for electronic systems operating in harsh environments, such as:

  • Combined exposure to temperature and vibration under the hood of an automobile for electronics mounted on-engine or on-transmission;
  • Extreme cold or extreme hot environmental temperatures for prolonged periods of time experienced in military and defense applications;
  • High g-forces experienced by electronics inside missiles;
  • Corrosive attack of salt fog for electronics operating on ships at sea.

“Electronic systems have taken an increasingly important role in automotive design and operation,” Lall said. “Traditional automotive electronics at one time consisted of climate control and entertainment systems. Roll the clock forward to the present day, and automotive electronics have expanded to include driving assists such as antilock braking systems, traction control systems, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems and more. Failure of one of these systems is no longer an inconvenience; it may be critical to the safe operation of the vehicle.”

Dr. Pradeep LallPradeep Lall, McFarlane Endowed Professor in Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been named by Auburn’s Research and Economic Development Advisory Board as the 2018 recipient of its Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award.


Lall wins IEEE Outstanding Sustained Technical Contributions Award

June 21, 2018 @ 10:57 a.m.

Pradeep Lall, MacFarlane Endowed Professor in department of mechanical engineering, is the 2018 recipient of the IEEE’s outstanding Sustained Technical Contributions Award for outstanding sustained contributions to the design, reliability and prognostics for harsh environment electronics systems.  

The award recognized Lall’s seminal contributions to the field of harsh environment electronics. Lall is widely credited with the development of leading indicators of failure for prognostics health management of electronic systems to allow for early identification of faults that may impair system operation. Lall is the author and co-author of over 500 journal and conference papers in the field of electronics reliability, safety, energy efficiency, and survivability. 

"This award is recognition of Dr. Lall's international reputation and the impact of his contributions to state-of-the-art innovation," said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. "His work has positioned Auburn Engineering to be a leader in harsh environment electronics."

“Electronics is pervasive in today’s consumer products and many of the functions are safety critical”, Lall said. “Take present day automobiles -- electronics enables much of the safety critical circuitry in present-day cars," Lall said. "Examples include lane-departure warning systems, collision avoidance systems and park and drive assist systems. Given the level of criticality and the need for continued reliable operation, it is important that problems be identified much prior to catastrophic failure. Much of the electronics resides under the hood of the automobile where temperatures and vibration loads are very high. Ensuring survivability for sustained operation of electronics is a continuing evolving challenge with the miniaturization of electronics.” 

Lall joined the Auburn faculty in 2002 after a distinguished industry career at Motorola, where he worked on the development and manufacture of wireless products such as cellphones and two-way radios. 

Lall is a fellow of the IEEE. The award was conferred at the IEEE Electronic Components and Technology Conference (ECTC), a premier international event attended by more than 1,700 attendees in San Diego in May. Lall received $3,000 and a certificate for his achievements. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology.  

Lall is also a member of the Technical Council and Governing Council of NextFlex and is director of the NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics at Auburn University. He has previously been recognized by the National Science Foundations-IUCRC’s Schwarzkopf Prize for Technology Innovation in 2016.  Lall is the recipient of The Alabama Academy of Science Wright A. Gardener Award, the IEEE Exceptional Technical Achievement Award, ASME-EPPD Applied Mechanics Award, SMTA’s Member of Technical Distinction Award, Auburn University’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Senior Faculty Research Award, and 20 best paper awards at national and international conferences.

BY TERI GREENE

Media Contact: Teri Greene, tag0036@auburn.edu, 334-844-3591                                            

 

Pradeep Lall and Avram Bar-Cohen

 

 

 

 

Pradeep Lall, MacFarlane Endowed Professor at Auburn University, left. receiving the Outstanding Sustained Contributions Award from Avram Bar-Cohen, President of IEEE Electronic Packaging Society at ECTC 2018 in San Diego.

 

 

 


Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR) Announced

June 21, 2018 @ 10:43 a.m.

Auburn research teams are tackling local and global challenges ranging from housing affordability to advanced manufacturing of medical implants, thanks to a new $5 million investment in 11 groundbreaking projects designed to deliver practical, life-changing solutions.

“Auburn research is on the move,” said Auburn President Steven Leath. “Our world-renowned faculty are leading Auburn in our drive to solve problems, provide real-world benefits and serve the social good.”

Today’s announcement is part of an initiative funded through the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, that Leath created last year to propel Auburn to new levels of research and development distinction. The PAIR funding will span three years. Additional research topics include rural health disparities in poverty-stricken areas, treating the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, neuroscience research and graduate education, reducing carbon dioxide emissions or using them for other means, and other critical areas of human and environmental health.

Project teams were selected from three award tiers: Tier 1 for new teams, with funding up to $100,000 per year; Tier 2 for established teams, with funding up to $250,000 per year; and Tier 3 for high-impact teams, with funding up to $500,000 per year. All proposals received an in-depth evaluation from Auburn’s associate deans for research, and Tier 3 proposals were also externally evaluated. Top-evaluated proposals were those that most closely aligned with the goals of PAIR as stated in the program guidelines. From 101 proposals received, 11 project teams will receive funding (the two top-evaluated proposals per tier for up to three years of funding, as well as five additional, top-evaluated Tier 1 proposals for two years of funding with a third-year no-cost extension available).

Project teams to receive funding are:


Project: Creating better bio-medical implants for patients in need using additive manufacturing, or “3D Printing” (Tier 3; $1,275,000 total funding over three years)

The issue: Auburn researchers plan to develop improved implants/orthotics for those with neuromuscular and skeletal system needs through the process of additive manufacturing. This process, also known as “3D printing,” allows for more customizable implants for small animals and humans and the possibility of embedded drugs in implants to ward off infections that can sometimes follow implant surgeries.

The Auburn solution: Research will take place to ensure “3-D printed” biomedical implants will remain durable during use and conform well to a patient’s needs while serving as a reliable drug-delivery source that can offer injury-triggered pain relief. The additive manufacturing process also helps reduce implant production costs.


Project: Unlocking Home Affordability and Prosperity in Rural America (Tier 3; $1,275,000 total funding over three years)

The issue: Auburn researchers are focusing on helping those in poor, rural areas gain greater access to resources that will ultimately lead them to finding affordable housing options.

The Auburn solution: Auburn researchers will work toward the creation of a National Institute of Rural Prosperity that will foster partnerships to help rural residents more easily overcome barriers to home ownership, including mortgage lending, home insurance and local ordinances and policies.


Project: Reducing the burden of neurological disease by increasing fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system (Tier 2; $637,500 total funding over three years)

The issue: Auburn researchers will work to mitigate against mental, neurological and substance use disorders, which make up a substantial proportion of the world’s disease burden.

The Auburn solution: A team of experts in chemistry, physiology, development, degeneration, and imaging of the brain will collaborate to develop a neuroscience center to increase fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.


Project: A Mobile Mitochondria Laboratory (AU MitoMobile) to Lead the World in Measuring Bioenergetics in Natural Settings (Tier 2; $636,941 total funding over three years)

The issue: Because the successful study of genetic and environmental impacts on mitochondria (the energy-providing part of the cellular makeup of plants and animals) can be severely limited in a laboratory setting, Auburn researchers will collaborate to build a mobile laboratory to bring this research to field sites.

The Auburn solution: A team of evolutionary biologists, environmental biologists, exercise physiologists and engineers will develop a mobile laboratory for measuring mitochondrial energy production of vertebrates at remote locations, such as oil spill sites and other places where environmental disturbances have damaged the health of local wildlife.


Project: Rural African American Aging Research (Tier 1; $255,000 total funding over three years)

The issue: Auburn researchers will assess the psychosocial stressors that can contribute to the problem of rural African Americans having a lower life expectancy and a faster progression of age-related diseases. Research in this area has the potential to inform health-promoting interventions and polices and lead to health and social equity.

The Auburn solution: PAIR funding will be used to establish a sustainable research structure in east-central Alabama focused on improving health in that community and beyond by partnering with surrounding communities. The ultimate goal is to grow the scientific knowledge of how psychosocial risk factors can accelerate aging among African Americans.


Project: Reducing and reusing carbon dioxide emissions for useful means (Tier 1; $255,000 total funding over three years)

The issue: Auburn researchers seek to combat the dire environmental effects of carbon dioxide emissions through a plan to reduce such emissions and store or utilize them for other useful means.

The Auburn solution: Researchers will work toward the development of an Alabama CO2 Utilization and Storage Center at Auburn University, with a goal of establishing Auburn as a leader in carbon dioxide utilization and storage research focused on best ways to capture CO2 emissions and convert them into helpful forms such as green fuels.


Project: Extra-virgin olive oil examined for uses in treating hallmarks of Alzheimer’s (Tier 1; $150,000 total funding over two years)

The issue: Auburn researchers are examining the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil for its potential to have a positive effect on the disease hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease. The research team is seeking to conduct more research into this area to determine the viability of findings for humans.

The Auburn solution: A multidisciplinary team will be assembled to conduct a pilot study on the positive effects of extra-virgin olive oil and to produce data for a strong human clinical trial to be submitted to funding agencies.


Project: Drugs from Dirt: Development and Characterization of Novel Antimicrobial Compounds (Tier 1; $150,000 total funding over two years)

The issue: Because many disease-causing organisms are resistant to current drug therapies, Auburn scientists are pursuing new approaches to the development of antibiotics.

The Auburn solution: Researchers will test and develop new therapeutic strategies for treating infectious diseases, through the study of antiobiotic-producing bacterial cultures they have discovered in soil. These are potentially life-saving antibiotics that could have application in human medicine, agriculture, and veterinary practice.


Project: Creating a Climate Information System to aid in planning for climate-related disasters (Tier 1; $150,000 total funding over two years)

The issue: Auburn researchers will create a climate service model that will help guide decision making in planning for climate-related disasters that can cause great economic and social damage.

The Auburn solution: A cross-disciplinary team of investigators will develop a science-based, Unified Climate Information System to better inform planning, policy and practices at regional, national and global scales. In addition to exploring emerging climate data, the research will seek to improve and integrate impact models for water quantity, water quality, crop growth and disease transmission simulations. The project also will include the creation of an interactive website platform, with all work being focused on the southeastern U.S. and being easily adaptable to other locations worldwide.


Project: Emerging Contaminants Research Team (Tier 1; $150,000 total funding over two years)

The issue: Auburn experts are conducting research into newly recognized environmental contaminants, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have not been studied sufficiently to determine their impact on the environment and their possible health risks to humans and wildlife.

The Auburn solution: This Auburn research team will use its expertise in civil engineering, pharmacology, aquatic sciences, and other key areas to collaborate on focused research into the effects of these and other previously understudied contaminants, to increase knowledge and public awareness of risk factors.


Project: Development of the AU-NASH Research Program (Tier 1; $150,000 total funding over two years)

The issue: Auburn researchers are seeking solutions to the problem of nonalcoholic steatotic hepatitis, or NASH, the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and perhaps the most significant form of chronic liver disease in the world today, which has no current approved therapies available.

The Auburn solution: The research team will work to address this urgent, unmet medical need by developing a disease therapy program to increase positive outcomes for those suffering from liver disease.


For more details on each PAIR project and how Auburn is inspiring as a leading provider of life-changing research, creative scholarship and community engagement, visit auburn.edu/auburninspires.

BY JONATHAN CULLUM AND PRESTON SPARKS

research laboratory


Thomas honored for research on black women in computing

May 24, 2018 @ 1:52 p.m.

Jakita Thomas, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, was awarded a Best Paper Award at the 2018 conference for Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Computing, Engineering and Technology.

The paper, “Speaking Truth to Power: Exploring the Intersectional Experiences of Black Women in Computing,” examined the experiences of 11 black women in computer science.

Thomas’ research found that these women experienced discrimination, unrealistic expectations from others, isolation, sexism and racism, but despite these obstacles, they stayed committed to the computing discipline. These women continued in the field by remaining true to their personal and professional goals, having effective mentors and inspiration from their fathers, according to the study.

“Improving diversity in computing is an important initiative right now,” said Hari Narayanan, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. “Dr. Thomas’ research in this area is crucial because it examines why black women persist in computing, rather than why they leave the field. Her work will help identify ways to encourage and retain talented students from underrepresented groups in our field.”

Co-authors of the paper include Nicole Joseph of Vanderbilt University, Arian Williams of Mississippi Valley State University, Jamika Burge of Capital One and Auburn computer science graduate Chan’tel Crum.

Thomas joined the Auburn Engineering faculty in 2016 after a six-year stint on the faculty at Spelman College. She began her career as a researcher at IBM Research – Almaden. Thomas is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

BY CHRIS ANTHONY

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447                                            

Jakita Thomas, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University

Dr. Jakita Thomas


Auburn Engineering faculty participating in NSF’s STEM for All Video Showcase

May 17, 2018 @ 10:51 a.m.

Alice Smith and Jeff Smith, faculty members in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, are featured in the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase funded by the National Science Foundation. The event is being held online through May 21 at stemforall2018.videohall.com.

The presentation, entitled “NASA Academy of Aerospace Quality,” highlights work conducted by the two faculty members to create an open-access Internet-based quality assurance training platform for those involved in aerospace research, technology development and space payload design and development. The project is funded by NASA.

“NASA AAQ is an innovative platform that teaches critical aspects of quality engineering and quality assurance through 50 educational modules available to academics, students and commercial space service providers,” said Alice Smith, the Joe W. Forehand/Accenture Distinguished Professor.

Now in its fourth year, the annual showcase will feature more than 200 innovative projects aimed at improving STEM learning and teaching, which have been funded by NSF and other federal agencies. During the weeklong event, researchers, practitioners, policy makers and members of the public are invited to view the short videos, discuss them with the presenters online and vote for their favorites.

The theme for this year’s event is “Transforming the Educational Landscape.” Video presentations cover a wide range of topics including science, mathematics, computer science, engineering, cyberlearning, citizen science, maker spaces, mentoring, informal learning, professional development, research and evaluation, Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core. The videos highlight initiatives for students of all ages - kindergarten through graduate school, as well as those for adult learners.

Last year’s STEM for All Video Showcase is still being accessed, and to date has had more than 51,000 unique visitors from more than 189 countries.

BY ENGINEERING COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING STAFF

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447                                            

NSF Stem for All 2018 logo featuring images of scientists at work


Auburn University researchers study longleaf pine drought resilience

April 05, 2018 @ 2:11 p.m.

Longleaf pine ecosystems may be the key to creating more drought-resilient forests, according to a study that Lisa Samuelson, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station researcher and Alumni Professor in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, is conducting.

“Due to the challenges related to climate and water availability, a better understanding of ecosystem behavior is needed to improve the management and conservation of our forests,” Samuelson said. “The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of longleaf pines’ role in creating resilient forests for the future.”

Longleaf pine once was one of the most extensive forest ecosystems in North America, covering an estimated 90 million acres. Today, due to overharvesting or forestland conversion to farming or development purposes, less than 4 percent of longleaf pine forests remain.

Samuelson, who is also director of Auburn’s Center for Longleaf Pine Ecosystems, an entity dedicated to the species’ restoration, conservation and management, said the reduction in the amount of longleaf communities has incurred many ecological consequences including loss of plant and wildlife species. Besides preserving these species’ habitats, rejuvenation of the once-abundant pine also may improve overall forest health due to its ability to withstand drought.

“There is increased interest in the restoration of longleaf pine forests, not only for forest products but for a variety of important ecosystem services and, more recently, as a species resistant to disturbances associated with changes in climate,” Samuelson said. “Our research will provide information on the current and future vulnerability of longleaf pine to drought.”

The study site is an 11-year-old longleaf pine plantation owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Samuelson’s objective is to explore the longleaf pine’s drought adaption patterns and its resilience in relation to its ecosystem. Basically, she and her research team are manipulating drought to study its effects.

“Our study is unique in that we are removing precipitation to study drought effects,” she said. “Whereas most studies utilize irrigation to remove drought effects, we are creating drought.”

To remove about 40 percent of the water that typically would hydrate ground in the experimental plots, the researchers have installed rainfall exclusion troughs that catch precipitation and transport it away from the trees’ roots.

Keeping detailed records of soil moisture dynamics, the scientists then use extensive monitoring equipment, including sap-flow probes and 30-foot-tall scaffolding, to examine above- and below-ground mechanisms that control tree growth and survival. The team monitors total tree health in the absence of hydration, including stand transpiration, leaf physiology, soil and ecosystem carbon fluxes, needle and shoot phenology, photosynthesis and phenology.

Once collected, the soil moisture data will be used to create predictability scales for regional and seasonal drought patterns, and the tree-growth/health data will contribute to the development of parameters and models that simulate longleaf pine growth under varying climate and fire regimes.

Ultimately, the research data will benefit the overall effort to improve the management of Southern forests, Samuelson said.

Dr. Lisa Samuelson, director of Auburn’s Center for Longleaf Pine Ecosystems and Alumni Professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences (photo by Rebecca Long)


Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducting clinical trial on new melanoma drug

April 05, 2018 @ 3:30 p.m.

Dogs, like their human companions, can be susceptible to skin cancer, and the Oncology Service at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine could use the help of man's best friend in launching a clinical trial to test a new melanoma treatment drug.

"This study is designed to test a new drug that may be useful in treating melanoma, or skin cancer, which most commonly occurs in the mouth in dogs," said Dr. Bruce Smith, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, or AURIC.

"The drug, called MMX, is a peptide, which is a chain of amino acids, the basic building blocks of all proteins," Dr. Smith said. "This study seeks to measure the effect of this drug on these tumors. We are currently taking patients to participate in the clinical trial."

Dog owners who are interested in enrolling their pets into this clinical trial must do so through the Oncology Service at the college's Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

They can be referred by their primary veterinarian, according to Dr. Smith. The treatment, as well as surgery to remove any tumor left at the end of the trial, will be provided at no cost to the owner.

The trial initially is about a five-week program, Dr. Smith said. It involves the dog owner bringing the animal in for an initial evaluation.

"The melanoma is measured, the drug is administered, and we begin a series of treatment and monitoring the tumor to measure its response," Dr. Smith said. "The dog will need to visit Auburn weekly for five weeks. In addition, owners will administer the peptide daily at home and keep a logbook about their dog while it is being treated."

Dr. Smith said this drug is not chemotherapy, but rather, a protein-based medication that has been tested on dogs in a clinical setting with no known side effects.

"It appears to act quickly to shrink the tumors," Dr. Smith adds. "It has been under testing in a clinical setting for about 10 years and now, it is ready to be tested for FDA approval."

Dog owners who believe their pet might be a candidate for participating in this clinical trial can contact the Oncology Service at the Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital at 334-844-6000. More information about this clinical trial can be found on the Oncology Service website.

The study is an example of Auburn faculty working toward life-changing solutions to meet pressing global health issues.

BY MITCH EMMONS

Dr. Annette Smith, left, the Robert and Charlotte Lowder Distinguished Professor in Oncology with the Department of Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Bruce Smith, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, or AURIC, are shown with a canine patient in an exam room at the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.The Oncology Service at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine is launching a clinical trial to test a new melanoma treatment drug for dogs. Dr. Annette Smith, left, the Robert and Charlotte Lowder Distinguished Professor in Oncology with the Department of Clinical Sciences, and Dr. Bruce Smith, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, or AURIC, are shown with a canine patient in an exam room at the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital. (Photo by Mitch Emmons)