Faculty Highlights – Fall/Winter 2012

IGERT group

From left, Tom Gallagher, Mario Eden, P.K. Raju, Steve Taylor and Chris Roberts

Mario Eden, Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan associate professor in chemical engineering, has been awarded a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to instruct more than 30 doctoral students in sustainable biofuels and chemicals. The grant, a collaborative Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, is Auburn’s first. It will provide students technical expertise and the opportunity to work on emerging technologies for economical and environmentally sustainable energy solutions. An interdisciplinary team of co-principal investigators includes Chris Roberts, Uthlaut professor and department chair in chemical engineering; Steve Taylor, director of Auburn’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts and department head in biosystems engineering; P.K. Raju, Thomas Walter professor in mechanical engineering; and Tom Gallagher, associate professor in forestry and wildlife sciences.

Prathima Agrawal and Shiwen Mao, faculty members in electrical and computer engineering, have been awarded a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant for their research, “An Exploratory Study Toward Robust Free Space Optical Networks.” The project will support wireless access networks with data rates as high as several gigabits per second to accommodate an expected exponential increase in wireless data volume and serve a larger area.

Vishwani Agrawal, James J. Danaher professor in electrical and computer engineering, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for his research, “Methods for Diagnosis of Non-Classical Faults in Digital Circuits,” which investigates testing for computer error detection and diagnosis. His research will test algorithms to diagnose complex, non-classical faults, such as transition delay and bridging faults, which require sequences of two input patterns.

Robert Barnes, James J. Mallett associate professor in civil engineering, has been awarded the outstanding teaching award for the Southern district of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. Barnes is the fourth Auburn civil engineering faculty member to win the award in the past five years, including Rod Turochy in 2007, Anton Schindler in 2008 and Molly Hughes in 2010.

Mark Byrne, Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden associate professor in chemical engineering, recently attended the National Academy of Engineering’s 2011 EU-U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium, held at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif. The event brought together 60 outstanding, early-career European and American engineers performing exceptional research and technical work in industry, academia and government. Byrne has also been recognized by Auburn University with the Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Bryan Chin, faculty member in materials engineering, has been awarded a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop, demonstrate and field test a biosensor that identifies critical salmonella sources. Chin is working with scientists James Barbaree, Jean Weese and Tung Shi Huang from Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics and College of Agriculture to assess the accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use biosensor.

Prabhakar Clement, Arthur H. Feagin professor in civil engineering, has been invited by the National Research Council to serve on a committee that is reviewing possible health effects from exposure to toxic environmental contaminants in drinking water supply wells at U.S. Army base Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The team is reviewing an assessment conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as well as ongoing cancer assessment studies being conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Frederick County Health Department.

Virginia Davis, faculty member in chemical engineering, has been selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s 17th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium, a three-day event held in September at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Davis, whose research looks at nanomaterials dispersion, microstructure and processing, was recognized last year with a Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers Award.

Steve Duke, Alumni associate professor in chemical engineering, has been named interim director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering. The center provides continuing education and research related to the pulp, paper and bioresource industry.

Joel Hayworth, faculty member in civil engineering, along with civil engineering faculty member Prabhakar Clement and research associate Vanisree Mulabagal, has completed a preliminary study related to tar balls found on Alabama’s beaches after Tropical Storm Lee. The study shows that the chemical signature of tar mat fragments that appeared in early September is the same as oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

Robert Jackson, faculty member in mechanical engineering, has received the Burt L. Newkirk Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The award is given to a member under the age of 40 who has made outstanding contributions to tribology research and development.

N. Hari Narayanan, faculty member in computer science and software engineering, has been awarded an additional $500,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to continue developing a virtual science platform that will technologically enhance middle school science instruction. Auburn will lead computer science research and development, leveraging Narayanan’s expertise in human-computer interaction and educational technology.

Buzz Powell, assistant NCAT director and test track manager, and David Timm, Gottlieb professor in civil engineering, served as keynote speakers at the 14th International Flexible Pavements Conference, held in Sydney, Australia, in October. They participated as session leaders in post-conference workshops and master classes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, featuring research findings from NCAT’s pavement test track, including sustainable materials and perpetual pavements.

P.K. Raju, Thomas Walter professor in mechanical engineering, received the best paper award at the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education annual conference and exposition. Raju’s paper, “Improving Engineering Education in Developing Countries: A Study,” included contributions from Jian Yu, visiting scholar from the Tsinghua Center for Leadership Development and Research in Beijing, and Chetan Sankar, faculty member in Auburn’s College of Business.

Alice Smith, faculty member in industrial and systems engineering, will host a three-day workshop for women in engineering academia in Istanbul, Turkey, next year. The workshop, “Empowering Women in Industrial Engineering Academia – International Collaborations for Research and Education,” discusses best practices for initiating, funding, sustaining and growing international collaborations.

Hareesh Tippur, McWane professor in mechanical engineering, has been elected a fellow of the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM). He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Experimental Mechanics, the flagship journal of SEM. Tippur’s research interests include the development of experimental and computational methods for failure characterization of advanced composite materials.

Levent Yilmaz, faculty member in computer science and software engineering, has been awarded the Society for Computer Simulation’s Distinguished Professional Achievement Award, an honor that represents multiple outstanding achievements given to senior researchers who contribute to modeling and simulation through their research results and publications.

Xinyu Zhang, assistant professor in polymer and fiber engineering, has published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Chemical Communications that discusses a poptube approach to growing carbon nanotubes on a variety of material substrates. Zhang’s research explores how the poptube method will provide a faster, more economical means of producing carbon nanotubes. His method has been featured in Nature, the world’s most highly cited interdisciplinary science journal, as well as in the American Chemical Society’s weekly publication, Chemical and Engineering News.