The Purpose:

Conducting informational interviews helps you learn to identify people who are doing what you want to do. Different from a job interview, you ask the questions. Your goal is to gather information you need in order to make a good decision. You want people who are doing a specific job to confirm what the occupation is really like before you commit your time, effort, and finances to the pursuit of that occupation. The process helps broaden your knowledge of the occupational field you are exploring. Remember, you are not looking for a job, but confirming information you have about the occupation and also developing contacts that may prove useful in the future.

The Process:

You may know a relative, friend or other acquaintance involved in the fields in which you are interested. Or you may know someone who can provide you with a potential contact. If you have no personal contact or referral, you may use the telephone to make a new contact.

Make an appointment to meet for 15-20 minutes. Even if you think you have the answers to some of the questions, the interview will help flesh out details and possibly fill in some gaps in your information – some that you may not realize are there. Be sure to thank your interviewee and follow up with a thank-you letter.

Questions To Ask:

  • How would you describe your typical workday?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What do you like least about your job?
  • What education and training is needed for someone who wants to enter this field now?
  • What skills and experience is needed to get into this field?
  • What personal qualities do you think are most important in your work?
  • What do you wish someone had told you before you entered this field?
  • What are the opportunities for promotion?
  • Is this field expanding or taking any new directions?
  • What steps did you take to enter this field?
  • What are some alternative ways to enter this field?
  • What is the salary range for this field?
  • What types of people tend to do well in this field?
  • What are the stressors that you experience on the job?
  • What related occupations would you suggest I investigate?
  • Who else does this type of job?
  • What else do you think I need to know that I have not asked?
  • Can you give me the names and contact information of three other people who also enjoy working in this field?
For additional information, contact Career Services at (205) 934-4324 or email careerservices@uab.edu.



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UAB News

  • Changes in shape and ‘squishiness’ can help drug-containing microcapsules reach tumors
    The properties of cubic or spherical shape and solid or elastic stiffness affect the fates of polymer microcapsules meant to carry chemotherapy to a tumor.

    University of Alabama at Birmingham researcher Eugenia Kharlampieva, Ph.D., makes polymer microcapsules meant to carry cancer drugs to the site of a tumor. Working in the UAB Department of Chemistry at the intersection of polymer chemistry, nanotechnology and biomedical science, she is creating novel “smart” particles that will provide controlled delivery for therapeutic drugs. Specifically, she has found that changes in shapes or elasticity of these tiny carriers greatly influence their ability to surmount the drug-delivery hurdles that lie between an injection into a vein and engulfment into a cancer cell.

    Alexander, JF; Kozlovskaya, V; Chen, J; Kuncewicz, T; Kharlampieva, E; and Godin, B; Cubical Shape Enhances the Interaction of Layer-by-Layer Polymeric Particles with Breast Cancer Cells. Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2015, Vol. 17, front cover. Copyright Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. Reproduced with permission.

    In a recent paper, Kharlampieva and colleagues compared four different microcapsules — rigid cubes or spheres, and elastic cubes or spheres — to see how they perform against three challenges. The first is avoiding engulfment by healthy macrophage immune system cells that act as lookouts and first defenders against foreign pathogens entering the body. The second is the ability to squeeze through the tiny openings in the walls of unhealthy blood vessels to reach tumor cells. The third is getting taken up by tumor cells, where they can deliver their chemotherapy payload.

    In the in vitro experiments, the team found clear winners. For the macrophage challenge, the elastic spheres and cubes were far better at avoiding engulfment compared with the solid spheres and cubes. This potentially means less harm to the healthy immune system cells and a longer half-life in the bloodstream for the elastic therapeutic microcapsules.

    “We want them to stay away from macrophages, which are like the clearing soldiers of the bloodstream,” Kharlampieva said. “We found that the hollow particles are much more elastic, and they are not taken up by macrophages, which is fantastic.”

    In the challenge of squeezing through tiny openings, the elastic spheres and cubes again were far better than the solid microcapsules. The walls of the microscopic blood vessels in tumors have openings that range between 300 nanometers to 1.2 micrometers. The researchers found that the elastic microcapsules, which are 2 micrometers wide, could squeeze through pores that were two to three times smaller than the diameters of the particles. And after squeezing through, the microcapsules regained their shapes as spheres or cubes.

    In tests of uptake into breast cancer cells, the cubes — whether solid or elastic — showed greater uptake, possibly because the flat walls have greater surface area contact with the cells.

    Thus, overall, the researchers write, “Our data show that elastic cubical capsules possess important biological characteristics, which can warrant their further development for cancer therapy.”

    The next step for Kharlampieva and her colleagues will be testing the biological significance, looking at how changes in shapes and elasticity affect the fates and destinations of these polymer microcapsules in the bloodstreams of mice.

    Laser scanning confocal microscopy image of SUM159 human breast cancer cells incubated with cubic capsules for 24 hours. Cell nuclei are stained blue, cell skeleton is stained green, and the capsules are labeled with a red fluorophore. Credit: E. KharlampievaDetails

    To manufacture the spheres and cubes, Kharlampieva and colleagues start with solid scaffolds — either a spherical particle of silicon dioxide or a cubic crystal of manganese carbonate. They then coat the particles with five bilayers of polymers, using tannic acid and poly(N-vinylpyrrolidone). For the solid microcapsules, they leave the scaffolds in place. For the elastic microcapsules, they remove the scaffolds with either acid or a chelating agent.

    The resulting microcapsules are water-soluble, nontoxic and biodegradable, which suits them for the job of controlled drug delivery, and the polymer walls of these shapes are just 50 nanometers thick. Their elasticity is measured with an atomic force microscope, and they are so small that a line of 12,700 of the microcapsules would measure 1 inch.

    Kharlampieva’s investigation of the effects of shape and elasticity comes from the simple observation that cells of the body that travel through the bloodstream are not spherical and are quite elastic.

    The paper, “Cubical shape enhances the interaction of layer-by-layer polymeric particles with breast cancer cells,” was published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, and the cover art features the research. UAB authors of the study are Kharlampieva, Veronika Kozlovskaya, Ph.D., and Jun Chen, all of the Department of Chemistry. Authors at the Houston Methodist Research Institute are Jenolyn Alexander, Thomas Kuncewicz and Biana Godin, Ph.D. Kharlampieva and Godin are the corresponding authors. Alexander and Kozlovskaya are co-first authors.

    Financial support came from NIH U54CA143837, NIH 1U54CA151668-01 and NSFCAREER1350370.

  • REGARDS data show diabetics who use verapamil have lower glucose levels
    Lead author of paper published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal says, while causal relationship cannot be inferred, findings are “absolutely encouraging.”

    A new University of Alabama at Birmingham research paper published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice shows for the first time that there is an association of verapamil use and lower fasting glucose levels in humans with diabetes. It is a promising finding at UAB, where the Comprehensive Diabetes Center is currently conducting a first-of-its-kind, JDRF-funded clinical trial using verapamil, a drug that researchers in the School of Medicine have shown completely reverses the disease in mice models.

    Yulia Khodneva M.D., Ph.D., a research associate and postdoctoral scholar in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine and junior member of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, examined the association of calcium channel blockers and verapamil use with fasting serum glucose among almost 5,000 adults with diabetes who were part of the REGARDS study. The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke project, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a national study focusing on learning more about the factors that increase a person’s risk of having cardiovascular disease.

    The sample of diabetic adults included 1,484 calcium channel blocker users, of whom 174 were verapamil users. The findings showed that calcium channel blocker users had 5 mg/dL lower serum glucose compared to non-users. Verapamil users had on average 10 mg/dL lower serum glucose compared to calcium channel blocker non-users. And the numbers showed a substantially greater difference among insulin users who also took verapamil. Verapamil users who took insulin in combination with oral medication had a 24 mg/dL lower serum glucose, and verapamil users who took insulin alone to manage their diabetes showed a 37 mg/dL lower serum glucose.

    “This is a cross-sectional observational study unlike the current prospective randomized UAB verapamil clinical trial, so we can’t infer causal relationship between using verapamil and lower glucose levels; but we can say there is an association with lower glucose levels, and that is absolutely encouraging,” Khodneva said.

    About the verapamil clinical trial

    • Recruitment for the UAB verapamil clinical trial began in early 2015.
    • The trial will enroll 52 people between the ages of 19 and 45 within three months of receiving a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. MORE ENROLLEES ARE NEEDED.
    • Patients enrolled will be randomized to receive verapamil or a placebo for one year while continuing with their insulin pump therapy.
    • Patients will receive a continuous glucose monitoring system that will enable them to measure their blood sugar 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • Talk to your primary care physician if you are experiencing excessive thirst, excessive urination or unwanted weight loss in association with fatigue.
    • For more information or to enroll, contact UAB at 205-934-4112 or T1DM@uab.edu. To speak to a physician, contact Fernando Ovalle, M.D., at 205-934-4171.
    • Support this and other diabetes research at UAB by visiting the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

    Khodneva says the findings in the final subgroup, which used insulin alone and included participants who had mostly Type 1 or severe Type 2 diabetes, were quite striking.

    “The change in glucose for that group compared to those not taking verapamil — 37 mg/dL — is almost four times higher than when you look at the whole sample of diabetic adults,” Khodneva said. “That made us think that verapamil is predominantly active for participants who have Type 1 diabetes or those with Type 2 diabetes who have really damaged beta cells. There seems to be something that works on the structural level, especially for those who have stronger beta-cell damage.”

    “Dr. Khodneva has done a tremendous job analyzing these large data sets and discovering for the first time that verapamil use is associated with lower glucose levels in patients with diabetes,” said Anath Shalev, M.D., director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center and principal investigator of the verapamil clinical trial. “Strikingly, the observed difference in glucose levels is comparable to an approximately 1 percent reduction in HbA1C and to what would be expected from the addition of an approved diabetes drug. Moreover, the large difference in glucose levels especially in the groups taking insulin is consistent with our underlying hypothesis that verapamil promotes functional beta-cell mass.”

    UAB announced its verapamil clinical trial in November 2014 and began enrolling patients in January 2015. The first results that will assess verapamil’s effectiveness on Type 1 diabetes are still approximately 18 months away.

    The trial is testing an approach different from any current diabetes treatment by focusing on promoting pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin the body needs to control blood sugar. UAB scientists have proved through years of research that high blood sugar causes the body to overproduce a protein called TXNIP, which is increased within the beta cells in response to diabetes, but had never previously been known to be important in beta-cell biology. Too much TXNIP in the pancreatic beta cells leads to their death and thwarts the body’s efforts to produce insulin, thereby contributing to the progression of diabetes.

    But UAB scientists have also uncovered that verapamil, which is widely used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches, can lower TXNIP levels by decreasing calcium concentration in the beta cells — to the point that, when mouse models with established diabetes and blood sugars above 300 milligrams per deciliter were treated with verapamil, the disease was eradicated. See an animation of how this works here.

    The trial will enroll 52 people between the ages of 18 and 45 who are within three months of receiving a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. More than 20 people have enrolled so far, and more participants are needed. For more information or to enroll, contact UAB at 205-934-4112 or T1DM@uab.edu.

  • Anal sex linked to increased risk of incontinence in both males, females
    The incontinence risk is heightened particularly among men who have sex with men, according to lead author Alayne Markland, D.O., associate professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care in UAB's School of Medicine.
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