Faculty Achievement Hightlights

Dr. Aeriel Belk

Dr. Aeriel Belk, assistant professor in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture Department of Animal Sciences, secured a substantial four-year grant totaling nearly $639,000 for her project titled “The Wisdom of the Quorum.” This initiative investigates the role of biofilm microbiomes in either facilitating or impeding the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in small meat processing facilities. Dr. Belk emphasizes the significance of understanding biofilm dynamics, as these structured microbial networks can create optimal conditions for Listeria proliferation, posing risks to food safety. Through this research, she aims to uncover insights into the specific microbial communities within biofilms and their potential impact on Listeria contamination.

Dr. Adrienne Duke-Marks

Dr. Adrienne Duke-Marks, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the College of Human Sciences, has worked to develop a suite of anti-vaping programs with Alabama Extension called “Escape Vapes.” The focus is debunking the perception that vaping is less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The program has affected more than 7,000 youth and adult participants, and Duke-Marks continues to collaborate with regional agents to design a publication series to present the most recent research on vaping. A more robust vaping parent program is on the horizon. Duke-Marks is committed to helping parents understand why adolescents are vaping. “The goal for this new program is to bring awareness to mental health issues that often coincide with vaping for teenagers, what to look out for, what to notice,” she said.

Dr. Travis Holt

Dr. Travis Holt, an associate professor at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business School of Accountancy, recently concluded a prestigious three-year fellowship as director of academic research at KPMG’s Global Audit Methodology Group in New Jersey. This exclusive position, offered by the Big 4 accounting firm to only one faculty member worldwide, saw Holt leading KPMG’s academic grant program and engaging in vital discussions with firm leaders. His research focuses on governance transparency, auditor independence, and investor judgment. Now in his 10th year at Auburn, Holt is delving into new projects including juror assessments of audit results and the accounting treatment of cryptocurrencies.

Dr. Portia Johnson

Dr. Portia Johnson, an assistant professor in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences, spearheads nationally acclaimed research in financial resource management, fostering increased higher education access for high school students. Since its establishment in 2021, Johnson’s leadership of Alabama FAST (Free Application for Federal Student Aid Application Survival Toolkit) has empowered students, parents, counselors, coaches and administrators statewide with essential resources to navigate the FAFSA process. Recognized with accolades at local, regional and national levels, Alabama FAST has thrived with support from the Women’s Philanthropy Board, securing vital seed funding. Johnson’s pioneering work continues to reshape educational opportunities and empower communities.

Farah Kandah

The National Science Foundation awarded a $116,750 grant over three years to the collaborative project “EQUIS,” led by Dr. Farah Kandah, associate professor in Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Partnering with experts from various institutions including Tennessee-Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, Fisk University, and Middle Tennessee State, EQUIS aims to introduce quantum information science and engineering education to Southeastern institutions. Targeting first-generation college students, women, and underrepresented groups in STEM fields, the project seeks to foster diversity and expertise in quantum information science across the region, addressing gaps in representation and advancing knowledge in this cutting-edge field.

Dr. Wenying Li

Dr. Wenying Li, assistant professor in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, heads the pioneering effort to empirically assess equivalence scales, measuring the economic well-being of diverse U.S. households over five decades. Supported by a nearly $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of a larger $22 million investment in agricultural economics research, the project aims to refine existing scales. Dr. Li underscores the importance of transparent and evidence-based scales, crucial for policymakers to tailor social benefit payments accurately across households of varying sizes and compositions, promoting fair and equitable support.

Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness

Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness has been named one of three facilitators for the World Design Organization’s (WDO) Youth Designers Circle. Paepcke-Hjeltness is an associate professor of industrial design in Auburn’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD). As a facilitator, Paepcke-Hjeltness will work with 35 designers from around the world over the next two years to contribute to WDO’s mission of designing a better world.SIGD was recently named a member institution of WDO, which means that SIGD faculty and students now have opportunities to connect with a global network of professional organizations, corporations and educational institutions.

Dr. Dr. Glenn Richey

Dr. Glenn Richey, a Harbert College of Business Eminent Scholar, was recently named to the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA) advisory board, one of the supply chain management (SCM) industry’s most impactful professional organizations. Often overlooked, reverse logistics plays a key role in driving today’s sustainable, circular economy by helping reduce returns, improve product recovery and keep valuable products and materials from turning into waste headed to landfills. As the sole academic voice on the RLA Advisory Board, Richey joins a team of some of the world’s leading retailers and SCM technology providers, including executives from Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, Dell, Cisco, HP and Intel.

Dr. Dr. April Smith

Dr. April Smith, associate professor and director of the Research on Eating Disorders and Suicidality (REDS) Lab at Auburn University, investigates predictive measures and interventions for suicidal tendencies in individuals with eating disorders. Supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, Smith’s study focuses on understanding factors influencing suicidal ideation and attempts among those with anorexia nervosa. Over 200 participants will utilize wearable technology to monitor physiological and emotional states, alongside self-reporting through an app. Collaborating with Associate Professor Dr. Cheri Levinson from the University of Louisville, Smith aims to identify critical conditions triggering suicidal thoughts or actions, contributing to proactive prevention strategies.