COSAM Today is a newsletter that provides alumni and friends of the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, with a smart way to stay on top of the latest news and updates from the college.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Cold feet, warm hearts, and the flightless bird

Biological Sciences Professor Stephen Dobson published a new book, “Why Penguins Communicate,” with co-author Pierre Jouventin, retired director of Research at the National Center for Scientific Research, Montpellier, and past director of the National Center for Scientific Research laboratory at Chizé.

The book, published last September, is a comprehensive and condensed review of several hundred publications on the evolution of penguin behaviors, particularly signaling, linking genetics and ecology via such behavioral adaptations as nuptial displays. The work developed from the authors’ many years of researching the behavioral strategies of penguins, such as the unique vocal signatures for individual recognition. 

Dobson has made six trips to the sub-Antarctic to study the behavioral patterns in penguins, and has published over 120 peer-reviewed scientific articles.


Don Logan inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame

COSAM alumnus and BASS owner Don Logan, mathematics '66, is among the six newest inductees into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. He and his family own the Birmingham Barons and Seek Publishing. In 2010, he and two partners acquired BASS, the world's largest fishing organization, from ESPN.

Logan also serves on the executive board of the Birmingham Business Alliance, is a founding member of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and has served on the boards of the Magazine Publishers Association and National Book Foundation.

Logan, the 2005 COSAM Distinguished Alumnus, graduated magna cum laude from Auburn University. He retired as chairman of Time Warner Inc.'s Media and Communications Group, a position where he oversaw America Online, Time Inc., Time Warner Cable and the Time Warner Book Group.

"Classes dealing with abstract math challenged you to open your mind and look at all sides of an issue to prove or disprove – to find what was really true," said Logan. "In every business decision I have been involved with, that discipline and training have been very valuable."

Logan earned his master of science from Clemson University, and he has received honorary doctorates from Auburn University, Clemson University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


Can snorkeling hurt coral reef systems?

Biological Sciences Professor Nanette Chawick was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal, PLOS ONE. Her paper, “Benthic community structure on coral reefs exposed to intensive recreational snorkeling,” explores the effects of recreational snorkeling on coral reefs. The study demonstrated that stony coral cover decreased and macroalgal cover increased significantly with increased levels of snorkeling. Stony coral cover is the primary contributor to a reef's three-dimensional framework, providing structure that serves as critical habitat for many organisms. In the paper, Chadwick recommends preventing further degradation by limiting snorkeling rates coupled with visitor education and in-water guides to reduce reef damaging behaviors in high-use areas.


COSAM students seek female mentors

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 4 to 6 p.m., female COSAM alumni are invited to serve as mentors to currently enrolled COSAM women through an online chat. All you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone to serve as a mentor! As women who have matriculated through the College of Sciences and Mathematics, it is important to provide encouragement and support to women currently pursuing degrees in STEM fields. COSAM students are interested in learning keys to accomplishment from those who have achieved success in fields where they are still largely underrepresented. Register today to drop in with current students and share your wisdom and experience through one-on-one chats.


Aurelia Powell Henson: Auburn’s first female physics graduate

The first female students were admitted to Auburn University in 1892, and women have come a long way since then. This year, the university is celebrating the 125th anniversary of women: the pioneers who broke boundaries and opened doors for others; the brilliant stars who transcended negativity and propriety to shine around the world; the doers and dreamers who knew that this practical world runs on work, hard work. One such alumna is Aurelia Powell Henson, Auburn’s first female physics graduate.

If you have a story to share, please visit the 125 Years of Auburn Women website.


Alumna helps new scientists and engineers apply knowledge to real-world problem solving

Dr. Melisa Buie ’88, received a master’s in physics from Auburn University. She is currently the director of operations for Coherent, one of the world’s largest suppliers of lasers for more than 50 years. She recently authored a book, “Problem Solving for Engineers: What Every Engineering Manager Wants You to Know.”

The book focuses on practical problem solving in engineering, covering the critical concepts and ideas that engineers must understand to solve engineering problems. She provides strategy and tools needed for new engineers and scientists, armed solely with a problem to solve and knowledge of their subject matter, to become apprentice experimenters.

Buie joined Coherent and also started lecturing at San Jose State University in 2007. In her role as director of operations, she works on both engineering and business problems. She has worked in the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., making theoretical lasers. Buie holds 40 publications and six patents to her name. In addition to a master’s degree in physics from Auburn University, she has a doctorate in nuclear engineering/plasma physics from the University of Michigan. She will soon complete a certification program in innovation leadership at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.


COSAM well represented at national plasma physics meeting

The Auburn plasma physics group had a significant presence at this year’s American Physical Society - Division of Plasma Physics meeting. Ten faculty and more than 10 graduate students and postdocs attended the meeting and contributed to more than 25 presentations. In addition, Auburn physics undergraduate student Ayden Kish presented a project he completed in summer 2017 while participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Auburn physics faculty at the conference were David Ennis, Luca Guazotto, Physics Department Chair James Hanson, Greg Hartwell, Uwe Konopka, Yu Lin, Stuart Loch, David Maurer, COSAM Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Edward Thomas, and Xueyi Wang.

Physics alumni were also active at the conference, including recent physics doctoral student Brian Lynch, who was highlighted in a press release from the conference titled "Dusty Plasmas: Experiments Reveal the Gravity of the Situation.”


Geology graduate student receives international award

Geology master’s student Leticia de Marchi came to Auburn from Brazil to study under the guidance of Geology Professor David King. A Sao Paulo naive, de Marchi worked with one of King’s colleagues in Brazil, which is how she learned about King’s work on impact craters. Although she says she felt a little out of place when she first arrived to campus, she now feels like Auburn is home.

“The people here are so friendly, I feel like I am from Auburn,” said de Marchi. “The lifestyle and quality of life is very good here, and there are wonderful opportunities for international students. I really like it here. American people are very much in solidarity—they help one another all the time.”

de Marchi has excelled as a student at Auburn, and she is the recipient of a prestigious international award from the Barringer Family Fund for Meteorite Impact Research.


Bond lends spider savvy to Science magazine

Biological Sciences Department Chair Jason Bond lent his spider savvy to Science magazine in a feature that highlights the complexities of spider evolution, “Untangling Spider Biology.”

Bond specializes in the evolution, systematics and taxonomy of arachnids and myriapods, and his work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including MSNBC, BBC, NPR and the New York Times. He was even featured on the Comedy Channel’s “Colbert Report” for his discovery of two spiders, a trapdoor spider Bond named after Neil Young, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi, and another spider he named after television show host, Stephen Colbert, Aptostichus stephencolberti. Bond has discovered approximately 40 spiders to date, including Myrmekiaphila tigris, which was found in Auburn and is referred to as the Auburn Tiger trapdoor spider.


2017 STEM Minority High School Visitation Day

On Oct. 30,  COSAM's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosted the 2017 STEM Minority High School Visitation Day. The event allowed high school students from neighboring rural towns and cities around Auburn a chance to learn more about what services Auburn University can provide to them, should they decide to enroll. Auburn faculty and staff held small breakout sessions discussing subjects like financial aid and adjustment to student life. A photo gallery of the event can be viewed on COSAM's Facebook page.

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