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Because This Is Auburn: A $1 Billion Capital Campaign for Auburn University

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With the public kickoff of an ambitious $1 billion comprehensive campaign Saturday, April 18, 2015, (including announcement of the largest single gift in school history) Auburn University is delivering a renewed commitment to its students and faculty, a continued promise to the state of Alabama and a shared responsibility to the world.

Auburn also announced it has raised more than $775 million to date in support of the “Because This is Auburn” campaign, the largest in Auburn’s history and one of the largest fundraising campaigns to date in the state.

“Today, we show the world why we believe in Auburn University,” said Auburn President Jay Gogue. “This effort is unprecedented in Auburn’s 160-year history. This campaign will add new chapters to Auburn’s story and will make Auburn stronger for all the generations that follow.”

Before Saturday’s kickoff celebration at the A-Day football game, John and Rosemary Brown, both 1957 Auburn graduates, committed to Auburn $57 million, the largest gift in school history. The gift will fund two major new facilities: a new performing arts center and a student achievement center in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“We are very happy to give back to Auburn,” said John Brown. “Auburn was a transformative educational experience for us, preparing Rosemary for her career in teaching and laying the foundation for my various roles in industry.”

“We wanted to do something that not only impacted Auburn students, but also something that would impact the entire community,” said Rosemary Brown. “That is why we decided to do both the student center and the performing arts center.”

John W. Brown was CEO and chairman of the board of Stryker Corporation, a leading medical device company with annual revenue exceeding $9 billion. Rosemary K. Brown retired after serving as a mathematics teacher for almost 30 years. She has served on many community boards, including the Freed Hardeman University and Kalamazoo College Board of Directors, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Board, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Board and currently the Atlanta Opera Board. John serves on the boards of St. Jude Medical, the American Business Conference and the Auburn University Foundation. He is an inductee in the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a recipient of an honorary law degree from both Freed Hardeman University and Kalamazoo College, the inaugural recipient of the AdvaMed Lifetime Achievement Award and will be the inaugural inductee into Auburn University’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame hosted by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business.

Auburn has named seven co-chairs for the campaign:

  • Joe and Gayle Forehand, residents of Dallas, Texas, are members of Auburn’s 1856 Society and Petrie Society, as well as the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Ginn Society and Eagle Society. Gayle is a 1970 business administration graduate of Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and served previously as chief accountant at Emory University and assistant controller at Emory University Clinic in Atlanta. Joe, who earned a degree in industrial engineering from Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in 1971, is the former chair and CEO of Accenture and currently serves as a director on the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors.
  • Raymond and Kathryn Harbert, residents of Birmingham, are members of Auburn’s 1856 Society, James E. Foy Loyalty Society and Heisman Society. Kathryn is a 1981 public administration graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and currently serves on the boards of directors of the Alabama Department of Archives and History and several community nonprofit organizations. Raymond, who earned a degree in 1982 from the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, is chairman and CEO of Harbert Management Corporation, as well as a current member and immediate past president pro tem of the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
  • Wayne and Cheryl Smith, residents of Nashville, Tennessee, are members of Auburn’s 1856 Society and James E. Foy Loyalty Society, as well as the College of Education’s 1915 Society and Patrons of the Kesytone/Dean’s Circle. Both College of Education graduates, Cheryl earned a degree in education in 1968. Wayne, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1968 and a master’s degree in school administration in 1969, is chairman, president and CEO of Community Health Systems, as well as a member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
  • Beth Thorne Stukes, who resides in Jasper, Alabama, is a member of Auburn’s 1856 Society and James E. Foy Loyalty Society, as well as the Woodlands and Wildlife Society in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. After attending Auburn University in the 1980s, she completed a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1988. She chairs the College of Human Sciences’ Campaign Committee and serves as an Executive Committee member of its Women’s Philanthropy Board.

The “Because This is Auburn” campaign will support four major areas across the university. Auburn’s goal is to create thousands of new scholarships for students, to endow more than 100 new chairs and professorships for educators and researchers, to develop programs that will allow the Auburn Family to connect with people everywhere, and to build new facilities and re-imagine existing campus facilities.

“This campaign will inspire all of us to take action and show support through philanthropic investments in our university,” said Jane DiFolco Parker, vice president for development and president of the Auburn Foundation. “At the conclusion of the campaign, the world will see a strengthened Auburn—an institution with enhanced abilities to shape our world, serve our communities, equip our students and build a better future.”

Opportunities to support research include the LAUNCH Fund for Research Innovation at Auburn University.   LAUNCH is designed to accelerate the best research and ideas into real products in the marketplace. LAUNCH is for innovative research projects that are likely to impact the regional economy and workforce development. It’s for projects that hold promise for generating additional sources of revenue for Auburn, with the goal of reinvesting those revenues to expand additional research efforts, year after year.

To learn more, visit: http://auburneconomicdevelopment.org/support-auburn-research.php

Or contact Mary Shirley-Howell at: mas0052@auburn.edu or at (334) 844-6438

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Cashing in on Oyster Renaissance: Branding Premium Gulf Oysters

This image has been enhanced with augmented reality.  To view, download TigerView by Auburn University to your smartphone or tablet.  Open the app and use the "view now" feature to scan this image and enjoy the story behind the headline.

This image has been enhanced with augmented reality. To view, download TigerView by Auburn University to your smartphone or tablet. Open the app and use the “view now” feature to scan this image and enjoy the story behind the headline.

In December 2012, diners at the Lakewood Country Club in Point Clear, Alabama, enjoyed a complimentary feast of oysters provided by researchers Dan Petrolia of Mississippi State University (MSU) and Bill Walton of Auburn University. The oysters came from all over the country—some wild, some farmed, some generic, some branded—with a wide range of price points. Diners were asked to indicate which oysters they would be most and least likely to purchase if they were in a restaurant considering these oysters at these prices. The goal of this ongoing Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded study is to determine whether diners in the southeastern United States and around the country will pay a premium for branded high-quality Gulf oysters.

“Imagine you’re going to go buy a car,” Petrolia says. “You have your own personal top five things you’re going to look for—the color, the gas mileage, the whatever. We are trying to identify the top four or five things people look for in an oyster —hence, price, the name or brand, taste, what they look like.”

The Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, native to the Gulf and East coasts, tends to come from one of three sources. Natural oysters grow and reproduce in the wild with little to no human intervention and are harvested by commercial fishermen and lease holders that manage private grounds. The vast majority of natural oysters come from the Gulf of Mexico. Lumped together as “Gulf oysters,” they bring the lowest price wholesale. In contrast, farmed oysters are cultivated in baskets in private waters and typically branded with a name that generates a premium price in restaurants around the country. Similarly, managed wild oysters can be harvested from a specific geographical area (and are often hand-selected), such as Galveston Bay in Texas or Apalachicola Bay in Florida, where the oysters are also branded for name recognition. They too fetch a higher price than generic Gulf oysters.

The question, however, is whether consumers, both regionally and in other parts of the country, are willing to pay for farmed and/or branded oysters from the Gulf. “One hypothesis is that people like a nice, pretty, uniform set of oysters in front of them,” Petrolia says. “The cultivated oysters tend to all be roughly the same size and shape, while the wild-caught can vary widely in appearance.”

Walton notes that there has been an “oyster renaissance” in the United States, and that oysters marketed along the Atlantic Coast sell under regional names such as Wellfleets (from Cape Cod), Blue Points (Long Island), Chincoteagues (Virginia), and Beausoleils (New Brunswick). Southern oysters, however, have generally been sold as generic oysters. Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America, says this is “indicative of a region that pays less attention to the nuances of different raw oysters than to their culinary possibilities.”

The only larger scale exception on the Gulf coast is Apalachicola oysters, which comprise the bulk of Florida’s oyster harvest. Although there is no clear evidence that they sell at a premium, it is evident that a market has developed for these branded oysters. Petrolia and Walton wanted to find out if there is a market for similarly branded oysters from other parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

At the Point Clear taste test, and a similar event in Houston in February 2013, participants were served different combinations of oysters in four rounds. The first two rounds were blind. They were given a price point, but nothing else. The generic Gulf oysters at a significantly lower cost fared very well in the blind test, getting 41 percent of the vote based on taste and price. In the final two rounds, tasters were told the brand or point of origin of the oysters. Here, voters showed a clear geographical preference: The four branded oysters from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida together received 45 percent of the vote, while voters shied away from the East Coast brands when they were aware of the oysters’ origin.

After the taste test portion of the event, diners were given a questionnaire regarding their feelings on issues such as price point, brand, and geographical origin. The ultimate goal is to develop an online questionnaire to survey a wide cross-section of national consumers regarding their preferences when selecting oysters at restaurants. Petrolia and Walton have contracted with a marketing company to recruit a representative sample of consumers of raw oysters from the five Gulf states, as well as from major metropolitan cities such as Chicago and New York, to determine the factors, including perceptions of risk, that go into oyster choice nationally. The two have created an advisory board of industry professionals to help design the survey with the intent of being able to hand the professionals helpful, real-world data when the project is complete.

“The results of the survey will help us tailor our production characteristics and marketing techniques to enable us the best chance of penetrating and competing in many high-value markets currently unavailable to Gulf oyster products,” notes Chris Nelson, vice president of Alabama’s Bon Secour Fisheries. “An attribute as simple as ‘saltiness’ may be of much greater importance than we realize at this point, and ‘Gulf’ vs. ‘Pepper Grove’ may market completely differently.”

Walton, a fisheries specialist, has spent years studying the science of oyster aquaculture. He thinks that the Gulf Coast fisheries industry is missing out on a potential economic driver by not cultivating and branding oysters in addition to harvesting what’s already there. He believes a market exists for higher-price-point “boutique” Gulf oysters not only in the region but in larger cities around the nation. He speculates the oysters will do well in cities like Boston and Chicago, and plans to hold a similar restaurant event in Chicago to test his theory.

“We already know that there are consumers who are willing to pay a higher price for a premium oyster,” Walton says, adding that Gulf oysters have an advantage in the winter months because the oysters harvested out of the Northeast can be relatively “skinny” due to a lack of food in the water regionally. “The oysters out of the Gulf are fat, plump—you get a lot of oyster in the shell. That looks really good in comparison to some of the oysters coming out of the more northern climates. On a raw bar in the colder months, our product really stands out.”

Walton’s expertise, combined with that of Petrolia, an agricultural economist at MSU, will go toward defining the attributes that oyster consumers look for when purchasing in general, along with identifying specific regional and national interest in branded Gulf oysters. This information will be useful to everyone, from those who harvest wild oysters or cultivate their own to distributors to the restaurant industry itself, but particularly to industry professionals in the Gulf states who might be missing out on an economic opportunity.

By Bill Walton and Dan Petrolia

Auburn Speaks: On Cyber and the Digital Domain available April 2015

This image has been enhanced with augmented reality.  To view, download TigerView by Auburn University to your smartphone or tablet, open the app, then use the "view now" feature to scan the cover and enjoy augmented reality.

This image has been enhanced with augmented reality. To view, download TigerView by Auburn University to your smartphone or tablet, open the app, then use the “view now” feature to scan the cover and enjoy augmented reality.

The stories behind the headlines, available in April 2015

“In recent years, technology has made a major impact on the way we think, how we work and the manner in which we share information, both professionally and privately. The immense ability to instantly transfer information, thoughts and ideas across a world stage has led to an unprecedented boon in information availability, research sharing and both social and industrial development.” –Eric O’Neill, founder of The Georgetown Group, LLC, former FBI operative, Auburn graduate and contributor to Auburn Speaks: On Cyber and the Digital Domain.

Cyber touches all our lives.  Digitized information teaches us, entertains us, keeps track of our finances, monitors our health and our food supply, facilitates rapid and open communication, allows nearly instantaneous access to information and resides at the heart of our nation’s critical infrastructure.  Enhanced with our new augmented reality app, TigerView, the latest edition of Auburn Speaks features stories of the Auburn men and women who are helping to not only navigate and secure the cyber frontier, but to explore the promise it offers.

To learn more about this award-winning series published by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Auburn University visit:  http://www.auburn.edu/auburnspeaks

Auburn Experts Pave the Way

David TimmDavid Timm, Brasfield & Gorrie professor in Auburn University’s Department of Civil Engineering, served as a keynote speaker at the 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Urbanization in Hong Kong in December.

Timm’s keynote address, “Pavement Design: Past, Present and a Sustainable Future,” provided a comprehensive view of pavement design in the U.S. and featured perpetual pavement research findings from the National Center for Asphalt Technology Pavement Test Track in Opelika, Ala.

In his presentation, Timm stressed the importance of pavements in healthy infrastructure. The growing demand for higher-performing, longer-lasting pavements has led pavement engineers to embrace mechanistic-empirical approaches. Timm’s presentation evaluated these approaches which more readily accommodate innovation in construction, materials and better prediction of pavement performance over time.

The international conference, hosted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, included 300 presentations representing 30 countries. The conference aimed to provide an international forum for the scientific and engineering community to examine the challenges arising from the massive urbanization programs underway throughout the world and to find effective solutions to ensure stable urbanization globally. 

by Valerie Cashin

Auburn Speaks SERIES Now Available Print-On-Demand

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As a land-grant university, Auburn University serves the state and its people as a discoverer of new knowledge and ideas, and as a repository of science, literature, history, art, and culture. Every day, Auburn experts add to that store of knowledge–developing new processes, materials, and technologies along the way. They then take this expertise and focus it on real-world challenges and problems. In putting good ideas to work, Auburn researchers improve quality of life, strengthen the economy, and help keep us safe and secure.

Because this aspect of Auburn University is little known and often not well understood, Auburn Speaks seeks to translate and make accessible the sometimes dense and mysterious language of research, and to capture Auburn’s role in addressing the increasingly complex issues facing our state, nation and world. Produced by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Auburn Speaks is an annual book series focusing on a specific research topic of interest to a public audience.

To date, we have produced three issues in the series. Released in April of 2012, the inaugural issue, Auburn Speaks: The Oil Spill of 2010 is devoted to chronicling Auburn University’s research related to the catastrophic oil spill in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Released in the spring of 2013, the second issue, Auburn Speaks: On Water, seeks to provide readers with insight into the breadth and depth of water-related research and creative scholarship at Auburn. The third issue, Auburn Speaks: On Food Systems was released in the spring of 2014 and focuses on food, food-related topics, and hunger.

We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with EBSCO Media to make each issue of Auburn Speaks available through their print-on-demand service.  Each issue is now newly available in the same beautiful form and style as its initial release.

It is a privilege to share our research story with you. Through Auburn Speaks you are able to see firsthand what motivates our talented experts, to hear about the challenges they face, and gain an understanding of how their commitment and perseverance have led to innovation and discovery.  With your purchase of Auburn Speaks, you help fuel the engines of innovation and foster opportunities for partnership by sharing the work of Auburn experts throughout the state and region.

To purchase copies for yourself or to share with friends, visit the new Auburn Speaks store at: store.auburnspeaks.org.

Get to know Brian Vaughn, an award-winning Auburn University authority on children and peer-relationships

“I’m curious about puzzles and mysteries, and to me the interesting and exciting part about science is finding the solution to a puzzle or demystifying something that people don’t really know about.” -Brian Vaughn

Parents often find that no matter how much they prepare beforehand or think they know about children, they can learn more from simply watching and living the experience. That bit of advice to parents is based on research by Brian Vaughn, an award-winning Auburn University authority on children and peer-relationships.

Throughout the past decade, Vaughn, a professor of human development and family studies in Auburn’s College of Human Sciences, has conducted research on peer relationships at Auburn’s Harris Early Learning Center in Birmingham.

“I study how children learn to love in their families and how they learn to use the character that’s developed within the context of those early family relationships to accomplish the kinds of goals that they set for themselves as they move out of the family and into social groups,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn is an authority in child development with special emphasis on the social/emotional development of infants and young children. His published research has made important contributions for understanding the development and consequences of social attachments between children and their major caregivers. He has also contributed to the literature of social competence and peer relationships in early childhood.

“Unless you understand how trajectories unfold for the average case, you’re never going to understand the pathway that leads to deviance or problems,” Vaughn said. “If I’m successful in that, then it will be possible to put the atypical in context. I find that uncovering the mystery rather than changing the ways that trajectories move along motivates many people in science.”

Vaughn has discovered that children who enjoy interacting with other children become more socially skilled and socially competent. Most recently, his research has expanded to include the roles that sleep may play in a child’s cognitive and social/emotional development and adaptive functioning for preschool children. He has found that children who receive more sleep tend to develop higher quality social relationships and a larger vocabulary.

Vaughn is a recipient of the Creative Research and Scholarship Award, which was presented to him at the ninth annual Auburn University Faculty Awards ceremony in October. The award recognizes and encourages the individual efforts of Auburn faculty who honor the practice of mentoring undergraduate research and scholarship, and it is meant to highlight significant commitment to undergraduate scholarship and creative work outside the classroom.

Vaughn credits his career success to a personal drive to solve questions. “I’m curious about puzzles and mysteries, and to me the interesting and exciting part about science is finding the solution to a puzzle or demystifying something that people don’t really know about,” he said.

“When I was invited to come to Auburn, the most impressive thing I noticed was the degree of collegiality and support presence in my department and the College of Human Sciences,” said Vaughn, who has been at Auburn since December 1988. “I thought, ‘Yes. This is a place I could complete my career.'”

As a father, Vaughn’s advice for child rearing is “that not everything you learned in textbooks applies to you. Your family situation and your child is going to be unique, and many of the things that are given as advice don’t apply.”

Vaughn said he finds satisfaction in seeing students complete their programs, especially on a graduate level of instruction.

“Watching students who didn’t think they were ready or belonged walk across the stage at graduation gives me a thrill,” he said. “I really do like that. I am happy to talk to any student who really wants to learn about human development at almost any time.”

“I know that I will never stop being curious and never stop finding out things I didn’t already know,” Vaughn said. “I’ve been very fortunate to find interesting things several times. Staying curious and never thinking that you know all you need to know about some phenomenon, I think is the key to creativity.”

by Tori Rivers

To learn more about Brian Vaughn, visit his faculty page.

Auburn oil spill research indicates recovery for microscopic invertebrates

The results are in on Deepwater Horizon oil spill research conducted by an Auburn University postdoctoral researcher, and her study indicates microscopic animals at the base of the food web that were harmed during the 2010 oil spill have recovered.

The researcher, Pamela Brannock of the Department of Biological Sciences in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, together with a team from Auburn Professor Kenneth Halanych’s lab and the University of Texas San Antonio, gathered and analyzed sediment samples taken before and after the oil reached Dauphin Island. The samples provided a basis for comparison to assess how the microscopic communities of marine invertebrates that live between the sand grains, or meiofauna, fared the oil spill.

An initial study, conducted by Halanych and colleagues at the University of New Hampshire, revealed an increased presence of fungus in meiofaunal communities. According to the study, a rise in fungus indicated organismal death, and COSAM researchers were concerned that oil, or perhaps dispersants used to clean up the spill, may have been responsible for irreversibly harming meiofaunal communities.

Brannock’s latest research results indicate the fungus that was present in large amounts in the sediment immediately after the oil spill is no longer there, which means the microscopic marine invertebrates are no longer dying at an alarming rate.

“For one year, people from the Halanych Lab intermittently collected sediment samples at five intertidal locations throughout Dauphin Island and Mobile Bay,” Brannock said. “We would freeze the sediment immediately on dry ice and then store it in the minus 80 degree freezer when we came back. Coming back into the lab we would do this process called ‘decanting,’ which is basically agitating the sediment in order to release the organisms. We would then isolate the meiofauna, or animals, on a sieve, and we would extract the DNA from that material. We would then send the DNA off to be sequenced, and we used computers and bioinformatics to determine which animals were present in the communities sampled.”

Researchers are relieved that the microscopic invertebrates seem to no longer be in danger of mass destruction. However, Brannock’s research also shows that while fungus is no longer present, there has been a significant shift in the composition of meiofaunal communities compared to pre-spill communities. The research was published in The Biological Bulletin at this link: http://www.biolbull.org/content/227/2/161.full.pdf+html.

“These communities of small organisms have recovered from the oil spill, but we are still trying to assess how much natural variation exists in these communities,” Halanych said. “These communities are important because they are at the base of the food web, and they are also critically involved in helping pass nutrients and chemicals back and forth from the sediment to the water column. Pamela has continued to look quite extensively at these small organisms to see how they are faring and whether their communities are changing.”

Halanych said this kind of research is critically important to assessing the health of the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Auburn University researchers continue to investigate effects of the oil spill

“One of the things we have learned is that the effects from an environmental catastrophe like this can take a long time to be realized,” Halanych said. “One of the main reasons we should be concerned with or interested in studying the effects is, in all likelihood, another spill is going to occur. The Gulf Coast region has a huge number of rigs, about 4,000, and we keep going into deeper and deeper water to drill. As you move into deeper water, the engineering challenges become greater and greater and greater. The concern is another big blowout, like the Deepwater Horizon, may happen in the Gulf. The hope is we have collected enough information about the Deepwater Horizon spill that we can apply that knowledge to the next spill and be able to control the damage a little bit better.”

As a member of the Gulf of Mexico Research Board, Halanych has his finger on the pulse of oil-spill-related research in the Gulf. The 20 scientists that make up the board are tasked with distributing $500 million over a 10-year period for oil spill research. The board awards funds to investigators based on a highly competitive, peer-reviewed proposal process. BP provided the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Research Board, but the funding is now independent of the multinational oil-and-gas company.

“This work continues, and it has already made a huge difference for the Gulf Coast region,” Halanych said. “Unfortunately, in many ways the Gulf Coast is the forgotten coast in terms of national funding priorities. The west coast, especially southern California, and the northeast really have major marine and oceanographic efforts, and there is a lot of money that goes there. The Gulf Coast does have institutions but typically federal funding does not flow in the same way to these areas. This research initiative is helping with that – it is helping to stimulate scientific research, and one of the things we are hoping is we will be able to build much stronger capacity so in the future we can address societal concerns and national research priorities.”

Halanych’s group will continue to investigate effects of the oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Brannock plans to continue her research into the composition of meiofaunal communities in the Gulf region and how they change over time so she can establish a baseline dataset for the next time an event like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurs. The Halanych Lab has also received soil samples from various NOAA cruises throughout the Gulf of Mexico taken right after the spill and a year after the spill. The lab is working to compare the meiofaunal communities in samples from sites located within or near the spill to communities present in samples from areas that were not impacted by the spill.

“As the spill was happening, a lot of people around the coast realized this was going to be a big deal, and people at Auburn, including researchers in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, started mobilizing because we knew there were going to be things that needed to be studied,” said Halanych. “COSAM researchers have stayed involved because we want to know the effects through time. We want to know how this will be a lasting problem or if this will be a lasting problem, and we want to be ready for the next oil spill.”

To learn more about Auburn’s research related to the oil spill, check out: Auburn Speaks: The Oil Spill of 2010.

by Candis Birchfield