COSAM News Articles 2021 August Liles wants to help faculty, staff, and students excel and achieve as Acting ADR

Liles wants to help faculty, staff, and students excel and achieve as Acting ADR

Published: 08/03/2021

By: Maria Gebhardt

“It is an absolute honor and privilege to be selected as COSAM’s Acting Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies,” said Mark R. Liles.

He takes on this position as Edward Thomas Jr. becomes the interim dean for the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) on August 16, 2021. The current dean, Nicholas J. Giordano, officially steps down as of August 31.

“Under the leadership of Dean Giordano and Dean Thomas, COSAM faculty and student researchers have made incredible strides and achieved new research milestones.” COSAM reached a record funding level in 2020-2021 with $18 million in extramural grants. “I want to help sustain and build on this research foundation during the time I can serve in this capacity. I have been fortunate during my time at Auburn to build productive research partnerships with faculty across Auburn University and beyond, and that has led to success in obtaining funding from organizations including NASA, NIH, NSF, USDA, international sources and industry.” Liles added, “The tremendous funding success COSAM has seen is a reflection of the partnership between faculty, students and staff. We should applaud and encourage this research success while also recognizing that these people contribute in so many other ways to our teaching, outreach, and service missions. I look forward to working with Dean Thomas to help the COSAM community continue to thrive.”

“I am sincerely looking forward to the contributions Mark will make in this role,” Ed Thomas Jr. said. “He is going to help COSAM move forward during this transition and focus on the significant accomplishments that our faculty and graduate students make each and every day.”

Liles earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Tulane University and his PhD in microbiology from Northwestern University. He joined COSAM’s Department of Biological Sciences as an Assistant Professor in 2005 and became the Marguerite Scharnagle Endowed Professor in 2020. He is also the cofounder and President of the Varigen Biosciences Corporation. Liles leads a productive research group at Auburn and has received 72 grants and published 118 peer-reviewed articles. “Mark has an exceptional record in research,” Nicholas J. Giordano said. “I am especially proud of his almost $600,000 award from NASA as part of the Planetary Protection team to help prevent microbial contamination of the upcoming Europa Lander on the icy moon of Jupiter. In this project and in many others he has also been an outstanding mentor of undergraduate and graduate student researchers.” In addition to NASA research, the Liles lab merges the science of microbiology, genomics and bioinformatics to identify new antibiotics that target human pathogens, to study the world-wide spread and virulence of bacterial pathogens and works in inter-disciplinary teams to develop new sustainable ways to prevent disease in agriculture, including a prebiotic/probiotic combination used as a seed treatment and a vaccine developed to prevent disease in fish.

“I want to help everyone in COSAM reach their potential, overcome challenges and make important achievements,” Liles added. And he has been planning to do exactly that. “I told the search committee that I have been thinking about serving in this role for more than a decade,” Liles said. “COSAM has a bright future, and I am truly excited to help lead its progress over the next year.”


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