Auburn professor plays role in mapping peanut genome

February 22, 2018 @ 11:40 a.m.

Professor Charles Chen in his lab, displaying peanuts

Auburn Professor Charles Chen was part of the Peanut Genome Consortium—an international team of scientists—that unveiled the map of the cultivated peanut’s entire genome, marking the completion of a rigorous five-year research project.


New and improved peanut varieties could be coming growers' and consumers' way more frequently in the future with the successful mapping of the crop's genetic code.

The Peanut Genome Consortium—an international team of scientists that includes Auburn University's Charles Chen—unveiled the map of the cultivated peanut's entire genome in January, marking the completion of a rigorous five-year research project.

The genetic breakthrough will allow scientists to pinpoint beneficial genes in cultivated and wild peanuts and use those in breeding new varieties. These traits can lead to greater yields, lower production costs, lower losses to disease, improved processing traits, improved nutrition, improved safety, better flavor and virtually anything that is genetically determined by the peanut plant.

"This project gives us the tools to accomplish a lot of different things," said Chen, a plant breeder and geneticist in the College of Agriculture's Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and head of Auburn's peanut breeding and genetics program.

"Genetic improvement will now occur more quickly and more efficiently, and farmers will benefit greatly from the gains this research allows," Chen said. "This advancement gives scientists around the world a map that can be used to unlock the genetic potential of the peanut plant."

The discovery is a significant boost for Auburn's peanut breeding program, the youngest of its kind in the Southeast. The program's first runner peanut variety—AU-NPL 17—was officially released in 2017 and is already winning accolades for its high yields, resistance to disease, longer shelf life and healthy traits.

Limited supplies of AU-NPL 17 seed should be available to U.S. farmers in 2019. Alabama is the second largest peanut-producing state in the U.S., with 225,000 acres planted in 2017.

"We're working on new varieties that will incorporate improved disease resistance and drought tolerance, and the mapping of the genome helps tremendously with the basic science," Chen said.

An added advantage of the project is that it increases Auburn's capability to train graduate students, providing more resources and advanced technology, he said.

In 2012, The Peanut Foundation, with industrywide support, launched the International Peanut Genome Initiative, the largest research project ever funded by the industry. Peanut growers, shellers and manufacturers footed the $6 million bill.

Peanuts are a staple in diets across the globe, from the Americas to Africa and Asia. They are also a key ingredient in ready-to-use therapeutic foods that treat severe acute malnutrition and a crop that farmers in developing countries rely on for personal and community economic well-being.

"Mapping the genetic code of the peanut proved to be an especially difficult task, but the final product is one of the best [genome maps] ever generated," Steve L. Brown, executive director of The Peanut Foundation, said. "We now have a map that will help breeders incorporate desirable traits that benefit growers, processors and, most importantly, the consumers that enjoy delicious and nutritious peanut products all over the world."

Bob Parker, National Peanut Board president and CEO, agreed.

"Peanuts are already more sustainable and affordable than any nut available today, and consumers choose them for their flavor and familiarity," he said. "I don't know that any of us can fully articulate what this advance means to our ability to grow more peanuts with fewer resources to feed the world. But I'm excited just thinking about the promises ahead of us."

The Peanut Genome Consortium was comprised of scientists from the U.S., China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Israel and several countries in Africa. In addition to Auburn's Chen, the U.S. research team included University of California-Davis, University of Georgia, Texas A&M University, North Carolina State University and University of Florida researchers, along with scientists at USDA–Agricultural Research Service labs in Tifton and Griffin, Georgia; Stillwater, Oklahoma; Ames, Iowa; and Stoneville, Mississippi and from the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Researchers with the Huntsville-based HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology coordinated the assembly of the final peanut genome.

The entire report is available on the Peanut Foundation website at www.peanutfoundation.org.


Auburn University expands research engagement with state, regional and national partners

December 01, 2017 @ 11:01 a.m.

Auburn University President Steven Leath has launched a new research and development program to drive collaboration with leading businesses, industries and government agencies.

The Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, will provide $5 million in the next three years to support Auburn researchers in building competitive teams that will advance major technology developments, scientific discoveries or scholarly advances with broad economic, health or societal impact.

“PAIR is one of our first steps in a more aggressive strategy as a partnership university,” said Leath, whose background is in research. “By fueling cross-discipline research and scholarship, we’re sending a signal to industry and government that Auburn is open for business.”

Auburn researchers seeking PAIR funding will define an integrated interdisciplinary research effort distinguished by intellectual excellence, scholarly advances, innovative discoveries or technological developments.

“By boosting our internal investment, we’re helping Auburn scientists, engineers and researchers engage on a larger scale with those who want and need university expertise,” said John Mason, vice president for research and economic development.

A similar program, launched while Leath was president of Iowa State University, successfully funded research and partnership collaboration in such areas as health sciences and food security. Proposal criteria and other program information are available at https://cws.auburn.edu/ovpr/pm/pair.

Auburn University President Steven Leath has launched the Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, or PAIR, that will provide $5 million in the next three years to support Auburn researchers in building competitive teams that will advance major technology developments, scientific discoveries or scholarly advances with broad economic, health or societal impact.


Auburn University to host 2018 SEC Academic Conference: Cyber, a Shared Responsibility

November 29, 2017 @ 3:43 p.m.

The conference, entitled Cyber Security: A Shared Responsibility, is scheduled for April 8-10, 2018, and will explore computer and communication technology; the economic and physical systems that are controlled by technology; and the policies and laws that govern and protect information stored, transmitted and processed with technology.

“This year’s SEC Academic Conference is a great opportunity for us to help enrich collaboration among SEC students, faculty and administrators in a critical area of national importance,” said Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner. “Auburn leaders have worked tirelessly to develop a program that will challenge and encourage those in this field, and I commend them for their efforts.”

In its second year, the SEC Academic Conference provides an opportunity to showcase SEC faculty and student research in an area of significant scholarly interest to a range of academic, legislative and other stakeholders. It features keynote speakers as well as presentations from individuals representing each of the SEC’s 14 member universities.

“We welcome our SEC colleagues and cyber professionals to Auburn for dynamic, serious discussions,” said Auburn University President Steven Leath. “The nation is facing more and more data breaches that affect all facets of daily life. Strategic partnerships among universities and industry are vital in developing the technology and policies to protect private information.”

Lt. General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. (U.S.A. retired) is leading the Auburn organizing committee. Commissioned in Military Intelligence by the Auburn ROTC Program in 1974, he’s held a variety of key staff and command positions throughout his 38 years in the military. Lt. General Burgess currently serves as the Senior Counsel for National Security Programs, Cyber Programs and Military Affairs at Auburn.

“The schools that make up the SEC are home to a tremendous array of talent in the cyber arena,” said Lt. General Burgess. “The 2018 SEC Academic Conference will showcase some of the best and brightest minds in the country. It’s a great opportunity for faculty and students from around the Conference to connect and collaborate, and for government and industry to get a sense of the resources available to them in the SEC.”

The conference will start with the SEC CyberChallenge where students from each SEC university will compete in a problem-solving activity. Other undergraduate and graduate students will also have the opportunity to showcase their research during a poster exhibition.

The SEC Academic Conference is supported by the SEC under its SECU banner. SECU serves as the primary mechanism through which the collaborative academic endeavors and achievements of SEC universities are supported and advanced.

To learn more, visit: http://ocm.auburn.edu/sec/

SEC Symposium CYBER SecurityAuburn University will host the 2018 SEC Academic Conference that will focus on cyber security, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced eariler in November.

El-Sheikh receives 2017 Research and Economic Development Advisory Board Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award

November 28, 2017 @ 1:31 p.m.

At its recent fall meeting, Auburn University’s Research and Economic Development Advisory Board presented Dr. Mona El-Sheikh, a professor in the College of Human Sciences, with the 2017 Research and Economic Development Advisory Board Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award.  The award recognizes El-Sheikh’s contributions to public health, and particularly to sleep research, over the course of her 27-year career at Auburn.

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

“I am thrilled that Dr. Mona El-Sheikh has been named the recipient of the 2016-2017 Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award.  Noted for being one of the world’s leading scholars in the area of sleep regulation and its physiological and socio-cultural correlates, Dr. El-Sheikh continues to advance the field with her transdisciplinary lines of creative inquiry, continuous pursuit of excellence, and commitment to mentoring the next generation of scholars,” said Dr. June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences.

El-Sheikh, the Leonard Peterson & Company, Inc. Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, was honored for innovative research that links socio-economic adversity, family risks and well-being, with physical health, sleep processes, and brain function.  Supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation among others, El-Sheikh and her colleagues’ groundbreaking work on the role of sleep and sleep problems in child development has expanded to include sleep regulation in adults and adolescents. Her findings help identify and address insufficient sleep as an important public health issue.

“Dr. El-Sheikh is one of Auburn’s most accomplished health science researchers and has earned this recognition through her strong track record of impactful research,” said Dr. John Mason, vice president for research and economic development.



Dr. Mona El-Sheikh holds a plaque recognizing her as recipient of Auburn University's 2017 Research and Economic Development Advisory Board Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award. Also pictured: Dr. John Mason, vice president for research and economic development; Dr. Lori St. Onge, board member; and Charles Pick, board member.

Dr. Mona El-Sheikh receives Auburn University's 2017 Research and Economic Development Advisory Board Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award at the board's fall meeting.  Also pictured:  Dr. John Mason, vice president for research and economic development; Dr. Lori St. Onge, board member; and Charles Pick, board member.

Study shows climate change pushing Greater Bamboo Lemur closer to the brink of extinction

November 14, 2017 @ 2:17 p.m.

Human disturbance of tropical rainforests in Madagascar including wildfires, burning and timber exploitation, have led to reduced rainfall and a longer dry season, further pushing the already critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur to the brink of extinction.

Auburn Professor Sarah Zohdy, along with primatologist and lemur expert, Patricia Chapple Wright of Stony Brook University, evolutionary biologist Jukka Jernvall of University of Helsinki in Finland and other colleagues published the new study titled “Feeding Ecology and Morphology Make a Bamboo Specialist Vulnerable to Climate Change,” in the Oct. 26 online edition of Current Biology.

Researchers have evidence to suggest that, as the climate changes, Madagascar’s Great Bamboo Lemur will gradually be forced to eat culm, the woody trunk of the bamboo, for longer periods of time throughout the year. Based on an analysis of anatomical, behavioral, paleontological and climate data, they suggest that ultimately this dietary constraint will impact the Greater Bamboo Lemurs’ ability to thrive and reproduce and will shorten its lifespan.

Zohdy, an assistant professor of disease ecology, along with Wright, a primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist, and colleagues including Jernvall and Stacey Tecot, associate anthropology professor at University of Arizona, first showed that the Greater Bamboo Lemurs are equipped with highly complex and specialized teeth, just as giant pandas are—the only other mammal capable of feeding on culm. Those teeth make it possible for them to consume and survive on woody culm for parts of the year.

“Many animals are highly specialized in their diets and habitats, and this typically provides them with an evolutionary advantage,” Zohdy said. “However, it also makes them particularly vulnerable to any shifts in equilibrium, such as those brought on by climate change, which can throw off adaptations that have been evolving for millennia.

“What we see here with the greater bamboo lemur is a great example of what could happen, and is probably happening to specialized species all over world.”

To find out more about the Greater Bamboo Lemurs’ feeding habits, the researchers spent hours watching them in their natural habitat in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park over a period of 18 months, collecting more than 2,000 feeding observations in all. Those data showed the lemurs spend 95 percent of their feeding time eating a single species of woody bamboo. But they only eat the culm from August to November, when dry conditions make tender shoots unavailable.

“The culm of the bamboo is very tough and therefore mechanically taxing to consume. It is because of this that feeding on the culm for prolonged periods of time during the extended dry season would wear down all of the dental nooks and crannies that these lemurs need to eat bamboo,” Zohdy said. “Without those dental tools they will not be able to eat the following season.”

“We think that this is what has driven the range contraction of the greater bamboo lemur, and why they can only be found in the places on the island of Madagascar where the dry season is the shortest,” Zohdy said.

According to the research findings, Madagascar rainfalls are changing annually. Over the past two years, Wright says, there has been a three-month delay in the rainy season and new tender shoots that Great Bamboo Lemurs use for sustenance are appearing in January and February—14 days after the first rainfall. Since new offspring are born in November, the delayed rainy season is dangerously affecting the survival of the baby lemurs because of lack of nutrition available for both the mothers and offspring.

“This is why, for extreme feeding specialists like the Greater Bamboo Lemur, climate change can be a stealthy killer,” Wright said. “Making the lemurs rely on a suboptimal part of their food for just a bit longer may be enough to tip the balance from existence to extinction.”

A characteristic of bamboo-feeding mammals is that most are considered threatened by extinction. In Asia, both giant and red pandas have much diminished geographical ranges and similarly, in Madagascar, the two larger bamboo lemurs, the Greater Bamboo Lemur and the Golden Bamboo Lemur, have highly restricted distributions within the island. In fact, once the most broadly distributed lemur in existence, the Greater Bamboo Lemur is now one of the most critically endangered of all lemurs, with only an estimated 800 in the wild.

“By studying specialists like the Greater Bamboo Lemur, we can identify the different ways that climate change can cause extinction,” Jernvall said. “And if we do not study these endangered species now, they may go extinct before we know all the reasons why, and we’ll be less able to protect what remains.”

Still, the researchers remain hopeful. “The maps generated in this manuscript take into account the length of the dry period, and may be used to identify locations where remnant populations of this critically endangered species may exist and where they are most likely to be viable in the future,” Zohdy said. “Information that is critical for their long-term survival.”


A greater bamboo lemur eats the tough culm (trunk) of bamboo.

Similar to the giant panda, the greater bamboo lemur eats the tough culm (trunk) of bamboo, and only does so during the dry season, but it prefers bamboo shoots which are more nutritious. (Photo by Jukka Jernvall)

Liu named a Fellow of the World Aquaculture Society

August 18, 2017 @ 2:05 p.m.

Zhanjiang “John” Liu—Auburn University’s associate provost and associate vice president for research, and a professor in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences (left)—was named a Fellow of the World Aquaculture Society at its annual meeting, held June 26-30 in Capetown, South Africa.  The honor recognizes a member of the society “who has made outstanding achievements in aquaculture science, industry, outreach or extension as recognized by his/her peers." 

A member of the Auburn faculty since 1995, Liu has published four books on aquaculture genomics and bioinformatics and led a research team that completed the world’s first catfish genome sequence, on the channel catfish.  He served as the associate dean for research in Auburn’s College of Agriculture and assistant director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station for six years, prior to his appointment as associate provost and associate vice president for research in 2013.

“This is a great recognition for Dr. Liu,” said Joseph Tomasso Jr., director of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.  “His laboratory uses the most modern techniques to understand and improve the genetics of animals important to aquaculture. The work also reflects well on Auburn University and its land-grant mission.”

Throughout the course of his career, Liu has been awarded research grants and contracts totaling over $47 million and was also named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007.  He has served on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals and on genome-related grant review panels around the world.

Liu was recently named the next vice president for research at Syracuse University, effective September 1, 2017.


John Liu receiving award

Two Auburn professors honored with faculty enhancement awards from Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium

August 18, 2017 @ 1:41 p.m.

A pair of researchers from Auburn University—Majid Beidaghi, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and Bridgett King, assistant professor of political science—have been named recipients of the 2017 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards, given annually by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium, or ORAU.

The awards are intended to provide seed funding and enhance the research and professional growth of junior faculty at ORAU member institutions. Each winner receives a one-year, $5,000 research grant from ORAU, which is matched by the faculty member’s institution.

"It is a great achievement for Auburn University to receive two Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards from ORAU," said John Mason, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development. "It speaks very highly of Dr. King and Dr. Beidaghi and their promising research programs that ORAU has selected them for this honor."

Beidaghi, who came to Auburn in 2015, conducts research on the synthesis of advanced materials and the development of devices for energy storage applications. For his Powe Award project, Beidaghi will collaborate with researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to examine potential cathode materials for aluminum batteries, which show promise as an alternative to the traditional lithium-ion batteries used in many portable electronic devices.

King, who joined Auburn’s faculty in 2014, will work with colleagues from the University of Kentucky to study the impact of felony disenfranchisement laws and policy on community voter turnout among citizens who are still legally able to vote. The team will utilize geographic information system technology in combination with data on felony convictions, precinct-specific election data and information from the U.S. Census for a comprehensive precinct-level analysis.


ORAU Award Recipients

Majid Beidaghi, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and Bridgett King, assistant professor of political science, are recipients of the 2017 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, given annually by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium.

Auburn University’s Warrior Research Center collaborating with U.S. Army Game Studio to develop aviation-training technology for FAA

June 06, 2017 @ 4:03 p.m.

Auburn University is collaborating with the U.S. Army and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop innovative aviation learning and training modules using virtual, interactive and multimedia technology. The partnership seeks to develop gaming modules that can be implemented into the FAA's current curriculum for air traffic controllers.

A cooperative research and development agreement signed on Tuesday, June 6, enables Auburn's Warrior Research Center to join forces with the U.S. Army Game Studio, which is part of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, or AMRDEC, at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. The project is through the FAA's Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance, of which Auburn serves as a core team member.

The team will develop air traffic controller training technology using research and science-based knowledge on training adult learners and the use of gaming to improve learning and retention. The modules will demonstrate team capabilities to provide realistic, engaging and effective training.

AMRDEC's Army Game Studio has established unmatched capabilities in the development of virtual, interactive and multimedia technology used for outreach, recruiting, education and training. The studio brings together artists, soldiers and gaming experts to create virtual environments for soldiers to train in without putting them at risk in combat. Rapid prototyping of gaming technology tools ensures that the computer-generated training environments are user-friendly and customizable to the soldiers. The studio is best known for developing the free online U.S. Army video game, "America's Army."

"The Army Game Studio is my go-to place for any training, animation, augmented learning or virtual environment that I need," said JoEllen Sefton, director of the Warrior Research Center and associate professor in Auburn's School of Kinesiology. "I know that the talented team there can take anything we develop, or anything I can imagine, and make it real."

A cross-disciplinary effort, the Warrior Research Center is led by Auburn's School of Kinesiology in the College of Education and includes research from engineering, industrial design, psychology, business, veterinary medicine and human sciences. Collaborators also include Auburn's ROTC program, MRI Research Center, Center for Disability Research and Policy Studies and the Gastrointestinal Research Center, as well as the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine on Auburn's campus.

Warrior Research Center investigations include the effects of military vehicles on a body's skeletal system, blood flow and muscles; consequences from prolonged helicopter sitting; evaluation of neck injuries from prolonged wear of helmets; reducing injury and improving warfighter performance. Studies also explore the design of a universal cockpit, controllers and pilot seats to improve mission efficacy and decrease pilot fatigue and injury.


Jeff Langhout, left, acting technical director of the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, signs a cooperative research and development agreement with John Mason, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development.

Jeff Langhout, left, acting technical director of the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, signs a cooperative research and development agreement with John Mason, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development. The organizations will develop innovative aviation learning and training modules using virtual, interactive and multimedia technology.

GE chooses Auburn for advanced education program in 3-D printing

August 18, 2017 @ 1:42 p.m.

GE has chosen Auburn University as one of only eight universities from around the world to participate in the GE Additive Education Program. Auburn will receive a state-of-the-art Concept Laser MLAB 100R metal printer as part of this program, which will support Auburn’s ongoing research and education initiatives in additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing.

A GE advisory group composed of engineers and additive manufacturing specialists chose Auburn out of more than 250 applicants because of its established additive manufacturing curriculum and extensive research initiatives within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

"Auburn Engineering is a national leader in industrialized additive manufacturing," said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. "Companies such as GE have asked for our help in graduating engineers who are well versed in additive manufacturing and prepared to lead American industry into the future.

"We responded by developing new curricula so students learn how to design for additive manufacturing systems. We are also investing millions of dollars in the latest 3-D printing technology and hiring world-class faculty to teach our students. This award further strengthens our relationship with GE, and we look forward to even greater collaboration with them in our education and research programs."

Additive manufacturing involves fabricating parts layer-by-layer from metals, plastics or other materials based on a 3-D computer-aided design model. Because parts are made by building upon each layer, additive technology reduces waste in the manufacturing process, improves production speed and can create parts that are lighter and more durable than those made using traditional manufacturing methods.

With the ability to create highly complex parts in a fraction of the time, additive technology is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry and creating new opportunities for engineers to explore. As an industry leader in this area, GE is using additive manufacturing to mass produce fuel nozzle injectors for jet engines at its plant in the city of Auburn’s Technology Park West.

Auburn Engineering faculty are also researching other ways to employ additive technology, such as producing next-generation rocket engines for space flights to Mars or developing intricate medical implants for use during surgery.

Auburn has created a new Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing, directed by materials engineering professor Tony Overfelt, and hired internationally known faculty working in this growing field of research. The university’s newly renovated Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory opens later this year and will feature dedicated space for Auburn’s additive manufacturing research, including upgraded and expanded testing equipment.

GE’s Additive Education Program was created to support colleges and universities such as Auburn that are educating students in additive manufacturing technologies. Through the program, GE is investing $8 million over five years to provide up to 50 metal additive machines to higher education institutions around the world. The printers are valued at $250,000 each.

"Additive manufacturing and 3-D printing is revolutionizing the way we think about designing and manufacturing products," said Mohammad Ehteshami, vice president of GE Additive. "We want a pipeline of engineering talent that have additive in their DNA. This education program is our way of supporting that goal."


AU Professor Tony Overfelt

Lab technician Mike Crumpler, left, and materials engineering professor Tony Overfelt examine metal components in the lab. Overfelt is director of the Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing and principal investigator on a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to research ways for smaller manufacturers to incorporate additive technology into their processes.

Auburn researchers presented with LAUNCH awards to help commercialize their projects

May 26, 2017 @ 12:14 p.m.

Seven Auburn University researchers have been recognized for their ideas and projects that could impact the economy of the state and region. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development recently presented the researchers with funding from LAUNCH: The Fund for Research and Innovation to help move their research to the marketplace.

"Auburn is committed to providing a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem for our faculty, staff and students as a natural extension of our land-grant mission," said John Mason, vice president for research and economic development. "Every day, our experts put good ideas to work in innovative ways across a range of sectors."

The 2017 recipients are:

  • Virginia Davis, Alumni Professor, and Robert Ashurst, associate professor, both from the Department of Chemical Engineering, who are commercially developing cellulose nanocrystal microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, devices to deliver low cost, high sensitivity bio-sensing;

  • Bernhard Kaltenboeck, professor in the Department of Pathobiology, whose work relates to testing microparticle immune stimulators to promote growth in agricultural production animals;

  • Amit Morey, assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science, who is finalizing a process to rapidly detect poor meat quality in chicken breasts;

  • Austin Gurley, doctoral candidate, David Beale, professor, and Roy Broughton, professor emeritus, all in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who are using shape memory alloy servo actuators to improve mobility in robots.

They will receive a cash stipend toward the commercialization of their research.

"We are thrilled to be selected for LAUNCH funding because this will enable us to take the next step to bring our unique and patented cellulose nanocrystal micromachine platform to commercial markets," said Ashurst. "We are excited to continue this cutting-edge research and are hopeful that our work will positively impact the process for identifying and diagnosing a variety of diseases, contaminants or cancer in the years to come."

LAUNCH is an endowed fund conceived by the Auburn University Research Advisory Board as a mechanism to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. The fund was created in 2015 with the support of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development with the goal of creating an endowment of $10 million that will generate approximately $400,000 annually for research grants. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development is funding the awards.

LAUNCH recipients have the opportunity to meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business as well as members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization to assist in developing plans and assembling resources to move scientific achievement into commercial success.

Teams of MBA students will be assigned to carry out market research for each recipient, providing for real-world learning experience. Researchers may also be partnered with Auburn alumni and friends with specific industry-related experience to advance the projects.

More information is available at https://cws.auburn.edu/OVPR/pm/tt/launch.

LAUNCH Award Winner