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COSAM presents Dean’s Research Awards

Published: 04/13/2015

On April 1, COSAM hosted the annual Dean’s Research Awards ceremony. This year, COSAM honored Professor J.V. Ortiz from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who gave the Research Award Lecture titled, “Orbital Concepts in Chemical Discovery.” Ortiz, who served as chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 2006-2014, supervises a research group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that specializes in his area of research, quantum chemistry. The field is concerned with the prediction and explanation of the properties of atoms, molecules, and solids using computers, principles of physics, and mathematical methods. His group is engaged in the derivation and programming of new quantum mechanical methods for calculating molecular spectra. A special emphasis has been the development of ab initiopropagator theories, which combine the rigor of many-body formalisms with chemically perspicuous orbital concepts. 
 
Student recipients of a Dean’s Research Award include the following:
Doctoral candidate 
Paul Zwack from the Department of Biological Sciences: Zwack is a graduate research and teaching assistant who began working with his mentor, Associate Professor Aaron Rashotte, as an undergraduate in biological sciences. Zwack’s research in plant hormones has led to the identification of a novel regulatory gene that delays leaf senescence in the model organism Arabidopsis, as well as in tomato plants. He has also demonstrated a previously unknown interaction between the plant hormone cytokinin and stress response signaling. 
Master’s student Peter Starnes of the Department of Geosciences: Starnes area of research is arsenic sequestration.
Undergraduate student Rebecca Vaught of the Department of Biological Sciences: Vaught is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in molecular, cell and microbial biology. Her primary research focuses on aspects of crustacean biology, particularly the shrimp species Halocaridina rubra, which is endemic to the anchialine ecosystem in the Hawaiian Islands. She works under the guidance of Associate Professor Scott Santos.
 
Also recognized at the ceremony was Orlando Acevedo who was the recipient of the 2014 COSAM Young Faculty Scholar Award. Acevedo joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Auburn University in 2006 and is currently the S. D. and Karen H. Worley Associate Professor. His research program focuses on the application and development of new computational tools that target organic and enzymatic catalyst design, alternative environmentally friendly solvent design, and drug discovery.
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