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At Auburn University, research fuels the engines of innovation.  Our entrepreneurial spirit drives discovery to the marketplace, improving quality of life at home and around the world.

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Auburn’s new ‘This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015’ set for Sept. 30

AUBURN UNIVERSITY — Auburn University will launch its new “This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015” Sept. 30 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center to recognize research excellence of Auburn and Auburn Montgomery faculty.

“Our researchers are world class and do great work,” said John Mason, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development. “This symposium is a great way to bring them together and showcase their work.”

The event is also designed to provide a forum for collaboration, offer information about support offices on campus and increase the visibility of Auburn research to external constituencies, such as advisory board members, representatives from industry and foundations as well as community members.

“The morning sessions will bring together researchers with common interests,” said Jennifer Kerpelman, chair of the This is Research Symposia Committee. “We want to initiate opportunities for researchers to continue to make connections during the upcoming year.”

Three-minute, morning lightning presentations will cover cyber, energy, health disparities, military-related research, SENCER, applied design, STEM education, climate-earth systems, digital applications, fMRI research, nano-bio research, omics and informatics, data management and visual and literary arts.

A morning research expo will provide information about key research support offices on campus.

“The sessions are designed to increase visibility to both internal and external audiences,” Kerpelman said. “We will have Auburn Talks, posters sessions and opportunities for one-on-one conversations with researchers.”

Fourteen Auburn researchers from across campus will present 10-minute Auburn Talks about their work. The list of presenters and titles is available on the This is Research website (https://cws.auburn.edu/OVPR/pm/thisisresearch/auburntalks).

The afternoon will also have one-on-one sessions to allow attendees to visit with researchers in areas of health, energy, environment, cyber and technology. Another afternoon session will have updates from directors of Auburn’s institutes, centers and initiatives.

The evening portion of the program will include the presentation of the Auburn University Research Advisory Board’s Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award, followed by the keynote address by Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. A reception for all attendees will conclude the event.

The “This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015” is one of two This is Research symposia scheduled this school year. A spring event, “This is Research: Student Symposium 2016,” will be held in April in the Student Center. The two symposia replace the former Research Week which concurrently showcased faculty and student research.

In 2016 a biennial part of the faculty symposium, “Showcasing the Work of Creative Scholarship,” will debut with feature exhibitions and performances.

More details on the 2015 symposia are available on the This is Research website at www.auburn.edu/thisisresearch. For more information, contact Jennifer Kerpelman at kerpejl@auburn.edu.

Auburn doctoral student and entrepreneur known around the globe for her seafood businesses

Auburn Graduate Student

When she was asked to join some of the world’s best-known senior scientists as a presenter at the 2012 gathering of the World Aquaculture Society, Noe Noe Lwin stole the show. Then just 31 years old, the teacher-turned-entrepreneur captivated the crowd with the story of her challenges and triumphs as a young, female immigrant starting an aquaculture supply company, three seafood farms and a seafood trading business in Thailand—all with no prior experience in the industry and while speaking a second language.

Widely known in aquaculture circles around the globe, Lwin is now a student in Auburn’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, where she hopes to fulfill her father’s last wish for her—that she adds a Ph.D. to her already outstanding resume.

But it is not just her father’s dying wish that motivates Lwin in her studies and research. As a small business owner in an industry that is vital to her home country, Myanmar, and neighboring Thailand, Lwin understands the need for innovation on crab farms like the three she owns and operates.

“I want to understand the science behind my daily farming activities,” she explained. “Aquaculture requires expert management and precise activity. Being a small scale farmer and business owner, I feel that innovation is the only way for me to keep going since I do not have much investment money.”

And innovation is at the heart of her doctoral research. Studying under Professor Allen Davis and Associate Professor Bill Daniels, Lwin aims to develop a practical feed for farm-raised mangrove crabs, a popular and important food source throughout much of the world. Specifically, she is examining the physiology of the digestive system of the crabs, hoping to identify key enzymes and nutritional pathways.

Once she’s accomplished this, she will test the digestibility of several ingredients typically used in aquaculture diets, then test to see whether the various formulations she’s created meet the animal’s dietary needs. Eventually, she plans to manufacture the feed and conduct trials to determine which formulas result in the fastest growth and highest survival rates.

While all of this sounds like the work of someone who has dreamed of being an aquaculture researcher for years, Lwin actually stumbled into the role while in Bangkok, doing what she had always planned to do—teaching science to children. She had learned of the need for an aquaculture supply business in her home city of Yangon, Myanmar, while completing her master’s degree, and together with an uncle and his prawn-farming boss, Lwin set up her first business. While she was in Bangkok, she would purchase the items the men suggested, then ship them home to Yangon, near the Thai border, for sale to the seafood farmers there.

In her presentation to the World Aquaculture Society and in conversations with colleagues today, Lwin describes the obstacles she has overcome as a foreigner, a female and a novice trying to break into the aquaculture industry. She has had to learn to manage employees, often acting as interpreter at medical clinics for her Burmese employees living and working in Thailand. Managing cash flow and keeping accurate records are daily challenges as well.

As a small-scale producer, Lwin does not have the capital to qualify for bank loans and so, must balance income and payments daily. In an industry where most deals are made with a handshake and very few written records are kept, Lwin says bookkeeping is an on-going effort that keeps her up into the night, making careful notes of the day’s transactions.

She has faced discrimination rooted in racial and ethnic prejudice but has made every effort to prove herself an honest and positive person, efforts she says have paid off in the seven years since she began her first farm.

During those seven years, she also witnessed the impact of Auburn aquaculture researchers’ work in Southeast Asia and came to know it as the world’s leading fisheries and aquaculture program. When given the challenge by her father to pursue a Ph.D., she knew immediately that Auburn was the school she would attend.

“It has been my long-time dream to come and study in Auburn,” she said, though she did not know how she would afford to do so.

Shortly after being admitted to Auburn’s program in 2014, she learned of a fellowship program that could be the answer to her funding challenges. Henry Fadamiro, assistant dean and director of the College of Agriculture’s Office of Global Programs, brought the opportunity to the attention of Daniels and encouraged Lwin and her major professors to pursue the opportunity.

In March, Lwin received word that she had been selected for the prestigious Faculty for the Future Fellowship. Sponsored by the Schlumberger Foundation, the program provides funding for women from developing countries to pursue doctoral degrees in the top programs at U.S. universities. The program requires that upon completing her degree, she return to her home country to apply what she has learned—something she planned to do anyway.

“Since her arrival, I have been amazed by [Noe Noe’s] enthusiasm and dedication to her goal to obtain her Ph.D. and return to Myanmar to lead development of the aquaculture and fisheries industries,” said Daniels. “She continues to emphasize the need for the Ph.D. to enter the university system in Myanmar and have a greater impact on the country’s development. She truly desires to move her country forward and be a mentor to others, particularly the women of Myanmar.”

By: Mary Catherine Gaston

Auburn University experts say biosecurity is crucial in the fight against Avian Influenza

Auburn University Poultry Science expert, Dr. Ken Macklin

Auburn University Poultry Science expert, Dr. Ken Macklin

While avian influenza has been confirmed in 20 states, Alabama remains free of the disease and Alabama poultry producers are doing all that they can to keep the disease at bay.

A poultry scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System said poultry producers are more vigilant than ever when it comes to sanitation and other biosecurity measures.

“All our Alabama poultry growers have biosecurity measures in place,” said Ken Macklin. “Biosecurity measures are the first line of defense against avian influenza and other poultry diseases.”

Macklin said that more than 43 million chickens and turkeys have either died from the disease or had to be euthanized because the flock tested positive for a highly contagious form of avian influenza in the first five months of 2015. The most severely impacted states are in the upper Midwest, including Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“These cases in commercial poultry operations in the upper Midwest have mostly been linked to a failure of biosecurity,” said Macklin. “Growers may have thought they were following biosecurity guidelines fully, but it seems that there were lapses.”

Macklin, who is also an associate professor of poultry science at Auburn University, said strong biosecurity measures take many forms, including:

  • Isolating the birds from other animals
  • Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment
  • Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds
  • Sanitizing the facility between flocks
  • Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
  • Having an all in, all out policy regarding the placement and removal of the birds
  • Disposing properly of bedding material and any mortalities

Joseph Giambrone, an Auburn University professor of poultry science, called the losses to the national poultry industry staggering.

“The losses are in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Giambrone. “We can expect a reduction of at least 10 percent in egg laying production and a similar drop in turkey production nationally.”

Macklin said the potential production loss is why Alabama producers are working hard to keep their flocks free of the disease. According to Auburn University research done in 2012, poultry and egg production and processing contributed more than $15 billion to the state’s economy and employed more than 86,000 people.

Giambrone, whose research focuses on viral diseases of poultry, said the disease is spread by migrating water fowl such as ducks and geese.

“This outbreak began in Canada, and water fowl spread it south along the migratory bird flyways,” he said. “It was brought into the Midwest by birds using the Mississippi flyway. It has persisted so long there because of the heavy concentration of poultry producers in that region of the country.”

Giambrone said ducks and geese shed the virus in fecal material.

“Infected water fowl shed the virus into ponds and lakes as well as onto the land they are grazing.”

Macklin said that warmer weather may slow the disease’s spread.

“The virus can survive for days, especially if it is in water. In water, the virus can survive up to 100 days with a water temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit. But when water temperatures reach the 80s, the virus can survive for less than a month.”

He said the virus has a reduced ability to survive on land.

“On land, the virus can survive for 30 days at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 7 days at 68 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Macklin. “Once the outside temperature hits the 80s the virus breaks down in hours.”

While warmer weather may halt the disease’s progress in the United States, Giambrone emphasized that the disease can return next year.

“Even if we get control of the disease this year, wild water fowl in Alaska and Canada remain carriers of the disease and are a threat to bring it back to the United States when they migrate again next year.

By Maggie Lawrence

Auburn University receives national recognition for fostering economic growth, prosperity and innovation

One of the nation’s top higher education associations today recognized Auburn University for leadership in fostering economic growth, prosperity and innovation.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities named Auburn an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, a designation that recognizes the university’s strong commitment to economic engagement and its work with public and private sector partners in Alabama and the region.

“Auburn is in the business of helping people achieve their hopes and dreams, and that’s why we’re committed to working alongside entrepreneurs, industry leaders and government officials as an engine of economic opportunity,” Auburn University President Jay Gogue said.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, or APLU, is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Auburn began the application process for the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation in September and engaged in an extensive self-study which included, among other things, surveys and focus groups with stakeholders from around the state of Alabama. The study found Auburn had a $5.1 billion economic impact on the state economy in 2014 and supports 23,600 jobs, in addition to direct employment.

“We are establishing partnerships and providing support to business and industry with an eye toward spurring growth,” said John Mason, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development. “These relationships benefit our students with learning experiences, while companies benefit from Auburn’s world-class faculty and research.”

A highlight is the university’s engagement with GE Aviation to help bring high-volume additive manufacturing to the GE facility in the city of Auburn, where it will manufacture jet engine fuel nozzles. The facility will be the first of its kind to mass produce additive components for the jet propulsion industry. The university will collaborate on training and industrializing processes as well as developing a curriculum for engineers interested in industrialized additive manufacturing.

Auburn is also home to a 13,000-square-foot Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, Lab focusing on the business and technical implementation of RFID and other new technologies in retail, supply chain management and manufacturing. It is a unique private and academic partnership between major manufacturers and retailers, technology vendors, standards organizations as well as top faculty and researchers from many disciplines.

Auburn is one of 18 universities named in APLU’s third annual class of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities and is the only university named in the state of Alabama. Joining Auburn this year are Binghamton University; Clemson University; East Carolina University; Mississippi State University; New Jersey Institute of Technology; New Mexico State University; Ohio University; Southern Illinois University; University of Arizona; University of Kansas; University of Louisville; University of Maryland; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of New Mexico; University of South Florida; Utah State University; and Western University.

With a membership of 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement.

To learn more, visit www.auburn.edu/externalengagement

Listeria and Traceability: Auburn Speaks to the Importance of Tracking Food

lab testingOn Friday, April 24, 2015, Inventure Foods, Inc. in Jefferson, Georgia announced a recall of many food items due to listeria, including some found regularly in our freezers such as fresh frozen vegetables and Jamba home smoothie kits. http://www.inventurefoods.com/information/frozenrecall  This announcement adds to the growing list of foods found to contain listeria recently, including Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sabra Classic Hummus.

Listeria is a form of bacteria that causes listeriosis, an infection that can potentially harm newborns, pregnant woman, the elderly, and others whose immune systems are already compromised. Common symptoms include fever, body aches, and gastrointestinal distress. These conditions can be serious for those already in poor health and can lead to life-threatening conditions for the fetuses of pregnant women.

Recent listeria recalls point to the importance of tracking food from its origins to the table. In the 2014 edition of Auburn Speaks, entitled Food Systems, Brian Gibson, Joe Hanna, and Mark Clark overview ways that technology can track foods through supply chain management principles and technological applications. The authors argue that prompt traceability (which they define as the “ability to follow a food product through the processes of production, processing, and distribution”) helps to ensure food safety while allowing farmers, wholesalers, and retailers to track their stocks and improve supply and efficiency.

To limit the impact of contamination like that of listeria, Gibson, Hanna, and Clark recommend implementation of better data gathering techniques that will help authorities quickly identify cases of food similar to those they find to be contaminated. They suggest that two current methods, barcoding and RFID chips, may offer the most immediate solution. Both of these technologies involve placing a marker of some sort on each case of product. This marker can then be scanned to reveal information about the product’s history and handling, including who produced the product, the lot number from which it came, and the packing date.

More consistent and precise data will help authorities trace potentially damaged stock back to its original source. In addition, this information allows authorities to identify all of the produce linked to a source of contamination and eliminate it from supermarket shelves. The authors stress that information is one major method for minimizing the potential dangers of food-borne pathogens like listeria.

To learn more, and to get the stories behind the headlines, check Auburn Speaks: On Food Systems.

To purchase issues from the award-winning Auburn Speaks visit the Auburn Speaks Store.