Faculty Research

ARTHUR APPEL
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: Urban entomology, structural pests, insect physiology and behavior.
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JOHN BECKMANN
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Beckmann’s research focuses on mosquitoes and a bacteria named Wolbachia. Wolbachia lives inside insect testes and sterilizes sperm. One goal is to use Wolbachia as a means of sterilizing insect pests. Beckmann discovered the Wolbachia toxin-antidote operons responsible for the above insect sterility and characterized their enzymatic functions.
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HENRY FADAMIRO
Designation: Associate Dean for Research; Associate Director, AAES; Alumni Professor
Area of Interest: My academic interests concern both the fundamental and applied aspects of insect behavior, chemical ecology, and integrated pest management (IPM). My basic research uses a broad based multidisciplinary approach (analytical, behavioral, electrophysiological, neurobiological and molecular techniques) to address fundamental questions in insect olfaction and plant-insect interactions. The goals of my applied research are to develop and evaluate ecologically based IPM programs for insect pests, and deliver these programs to growers. 
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XING PING HU
Designation: Professor, Extension Specialist
Area of Interest:
Fundamental Research: Arthropods’ biology, behavior, physiological / chemical ecology, toxicology, molecular immunology and disease transmission.
Applied Research: developing and advancing Integrated Pest Management (IPM); exploring and evaluating efficacy of new chemicals, formulations, and application methods and alternative IPM tactics.
Pest groups: Social insects (termites, ants, cockroaches, wasps, etc.); invasive insects (kudzu bugs, etc.), health pests, veterinary pests.
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NATHANIEL HARDY
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Evolution and systematics of plant-feeding insects, especially sap-sucking bugs (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha).
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DAVID HELD
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: The ecology and management of phytophagous insects particularly those pest attacking turfgrass and ornamental plants. Research interests include plant-insect interactions, insect behavior, and ecotoxicology.
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ALANA JACOBSON
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: My research interests are in understanding the abiotic and biotic factors that drive the spatial and temporal dynamics of insect populations in relation to economically important traits and agricultural practices. My work encompasses everything from investigating immediate pest management problems of local, regional, national, or international scale, to advancing basic understanding of fundamental concepts in biology and related sciences, to working toward solutions for big-picture issues related to sustainable agricultural production and feeding the growing population. A large component of my current research program is also focused on better understanding vector-virus interactions responsible for transmission of plant pathogens, including genetic mechanisms of vector-transmission in insect and pathogen populations, how population-level processes shape viral genetic diversity and evolution, and the epidemiological significance of these interactions. My lab researches thrips transmitted tospoviruses, aphid transmitted Cotton leafroll dwarf virus, and whitefly transmitted begomoviruses. Currently, my lab is investigating the effect of whitefly transmission on evolution of East African cassava mosaic virus, African cassava mosaic virus, Tomato mottle virus and Tomato yellow leaf curl virus to better understand the impact of whitefly transmission on begomovirus genetic diversity and evolution. I also have an interest in using population genetics as a tool to better understand the development and spread of economically important traits, and have an ongoing project examining variation in population genetic structuring of a thrips pest of cotton in relation to variation in insecticide resistance status.
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KATELYN KESHEIMER
Designation: Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist
Area of Interest: My lab conducts applied entomological research to help Alabama growers with pest problems in a variety of cropping systems, including but not limited to grains, pastures, turf, and hemp. The overarching goal of my research is to provide practical, integrated pest management solutions for growers that are environmentally and economically sustainable.
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NANNAN LIU
Designation: Chair & Endowed Professor
Area of Interest: To address the important insecticide resistance issues, my research group has focused our studies on:

  1. The mechanisms, genes, and polymorphisms involved in insecticide resistance on a genomic scale
  2. Physiological functions of the genes and polymorphisms involved in insecticide resistance
  3. The molecular and genetic bases of resistant gene interaction and regulation
  4. The evolution of the expression and/or codon usage bias of resistance genes following insecticide selection

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KATHLEEN MARTIN
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Currently, my lab utilizes the tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and soybean vein necrosis virus (SVNV) to understand how the pathways of a virus that infects both plants and insects are conserved or are divergent between such different host cells. To do this work, we utilize microscopy to look at viral proteins in plant cells such as soybean and tobacco and insect cells (Sf9) to determine the localization of viral proteins both in the presence and absence of infection. We also look at protein-protein interactions, both virus-virus and virus-host interactions to determine if these are conserved between insects and plants or are divergent. Since both viruses are in the same viral species, it is also important to look at the differences and similarities between the two viruses to understand more about the infection cycle in a shared host such as Nicotiana benthamiana. This comparison will prompt new discoveries about how viruses are different even when genetically they share the same genes and organization.
My lab is also interested at looking at new and divergent plant viruses in the state of Alabama, including cotton leafroll dwarf virus (CLRDV). CLRDV is the causal agent of cotton blue disease and causes leaf curling, reddening on the leaves, stunting and yield loss on cotton plants. This virus is vectored by aphids in a circulative, non-persistent manner and understanding the complex relationship between the virus, aphids, cotton and other infected weedy species is critical for the management of this disease. As the identification of this virus as a causal agent of disease in Alabama was done in 2018, work understanding the genetics and proteins of CLDV is in its infancy compared to other viruses which share a similar genome organization and vector transmission. To do this work, we plan on utilizing modern sequencing techniques to understand the transcriptome of both the aphids and the infected plants, microscopy to understand localization, and cloning techniques to better understand this virus and how to manage it in the field.

 
KIRA BOWEN
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: Plant disease epidemiology; peanut disease management, including minimization of aflatoxin contamination; also disease management in small grains, corn, and cotton.
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JEFFREY COLEMAN
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Host-specific virulence factors and niche colonization traits on supernumerary chromosomes in fungi.
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LEONARDO DE LA FUENTE
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: The research conducted in my laboratory focuses on the interactions between plant and associated bacteria. I am especially interested in plant pathogenic bacteria in aspects such as infection processes, host colonization, biofilm formation and molecular interactions. Questions about the biology of the pathogenic bacteria are being studied using microbiology and molecular biology techniques, as well as nanotechnology.
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JOSEPH KLOEPPER
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: My research is focused on the use of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) for promoting plant growth, plant health, and nutrient uptake. The emphasis is on various species and strains of the spore-forming bacilli because spores of these PGPR remain viable as seed treatments for a long period of time, thereby increasing the opportunities of integrating the PGPR into current agricultural practices. Modes of action are studied, and effects on plant pathogens as well as plant-damaging insects are evaluated in collaborations with other faculty in the College of Agriculture at Auburn University.
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KATHY LAWRENCE
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: Ares of expertise are in soil borne and foliar fungal diseases specifically plant parasitic nematodes and fungi attacking field crops, vegetables and ornamentals with emphasis on nematode and fungal pathogen interactions and host-pathogen relationships in the natural environment. The goals of my applied research (Hatch Project # ALA015-2-14003) are to develop and evaluate ecologically based plant disease management programs for the economically important crops in Alabama, and to deliver these programs to growers. My basic research uses a multidisciplinary approach to address fundamental questions in plant parasitic nematode pathogenicity as well as fungal pathogen interactions and host-pathogen relationships
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JOHN MURPHY
Designation: Professor
Area of Interest: Plant Virology. Studies focus on the nature of virus disease symptoms and resistance to virus infection, and development of management strategies for insect-borne plant viruses.
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SANG WOOK PARK
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Our research focuses on understanding at the molecular, biochemical and cellular levels how plants sense and equilibrate constant environmental challenges. We are especially interested in plant hormones such as jasmonates, salicylates and their related molecules that mobilize intricate signaling networks attuning genomic, proteomic and metabolomic circuitries in disease resistance and stress acclimation. Our ongoing studies are to decipher 1) the genome-scale delineation of cellular regulators that relay hormone signaling, 2) hormone-responsive cellular redox homeostasis, 3) the redox-dependent transmission of hormone-signaled gene expression, and 4) the therapeutic properties and mechanisms of plant hormones.
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NEHA POTNIS
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Ecology and Evolution of Plant-Pathogen Interactions
My research program focuses on advancing the fundamental understanding of dynamics of host- pathogen interactions and finding ways to integrate this knowledge to better manage plant diseases. I am also interested in understanding how ecological factors shape the outcome of plant-pathogen interactions. My program emphasizes the power of Omics tools in achieving the above mentioned goals.
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EDWARD SIKORA
Designation: Extension Specialist Professor
Area of Interest: I have a 100% extension appointment with responsibilities for soybeans, vegetables, tree fruit, small fruit and nut (pecan) crops in both commercial and home garden production. My program emphasis is directed at developing, evaluating, demonstrating and implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in commercial production systems. In recent years my program has focused on monitoring and management of Soybean Rust.
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AMANDA STRAYER-SCHERER
Designation: Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist
Area of Interest: The goal of my research program at Auburn is to conduct applied research and provide practical solutions that can help producers sustain agriculture in Alabama. My research program largely focuses on the areas of integrated pest management and diagnostics of economically important diseases of cotton and peanut. However, I also have other crop responsibilities including ornamentals, turfgrasses, and small grains.
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GEOFFREY WILLIAMS
Designation: Assistant Professor
Area of Interest: Current efforts directed towards understanding and improving the health of insect pollinators in Alabama and abroad, with a focus on exotic parasites and anthropogenic land-use.
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