The recipient of this prestigious annual award will receive a $5,000 award and will be the keynote speaker at the DFL reception to be held in their honor.
Nominations for the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award are now being accepted. To be eligible for this prestigious annual award, an individual must be a full-time, part-time, or emeritus member with a primary or secondary appointment of the faculty of the Academic Health Center, or a University Professor who has:

  • Advanced the frontiers of science or otherwise made a significant contribution to the health of people, or
  • Made an outstanding contribution to the Academic Health Center through education, research, or public service.

Submit a Nomination

Faculty News

Trussville couple prepares for April birth of baby with serious heart defect
Trussville couple prepares for April birth of baby with serious heart defect
The future for babies born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome depends to a great extent upon additional cardiac issues that may not be fully known until after birth.
The UAB/Children's of Alabama fetal team enables caregivers to combine the best of OB, cardiology and surgery to give HLHS babies the best chances to have the best outcomes they can have.

Crystal and James Burford are preparing for the birth of their son, Jeremiah James, on April 8, with the knowledge that Baby J.J. will be fighting for his life from the moment he arrives.

J.J. was diagnosed with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome by physicians in UAB’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine this past fall. Children born with HLHS have underdeveloped features on the left side of their heart, and it cannot pump oxygen-rich blood to the body properly.

More on the surgery and the challenges faced by the Burfords and other families dealing with HLHS is explained in this video.

The Burfords are allowing UAB News to follow their journey to their April 8 due date and beyond, in part to bring awareness to a condition that affects 960 babies born in the United States each year.

“We see approximately 10-20 babies who have hypoplastic left-heart syndrome or related variants every year,” said Waldemar Carlo, M.D., pediatric cardiologist at Children’s of Alabama and assistant professor in the UAB School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

Although treatments for HLHS have improved in recent years, there is no cure. Nationwide, only 75 percent of babies born with HLHS survive to age 1, Carlo says.

Follow their story from the beginning.

“Survival depends to a great extent upon the rest of the problems that may or may not be present and additional cardiac issues that may not be fully elucidated until the baby is born,” said Bennett Pearce, M.D., pediatric cardiologist at Children’s of Alabama and professor in the UAB School of MedicineDivision of Pediatric Cardiology. “We make a diagnosis before birth, and we refine the diagnosis after birth.”

Treatments include three major surgeries — the first occurring within one week of birth.

A successful first surgery is better ensured by bringing the baby as close to a full 40-week term pregnancy as possible, says UAB Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician Richard Davis, M.D.

“In some ways it is a catch-22: You want these babies to stay in the uterus as long as they can, as long as they are growing and have normal fluid levels; but too much prenatal surveillance can sometimes lead to false results, and an additional problem may be indicated that may prompt thinking that an earlier delivery is necessary when, in fact, there are no additional issues,” Davis said. “Our goal is to get these babies to 39 or 40 weeks so they are big, strong babies for surgery. It’s important to tell the mothers that because they often think, ‘Let’s treat the baby as soon as we can.’ But amazingly, these hearts are very stable in the uterus.”

The fetal team comprises physicians and nurses from the high-risk Maternal-Fetal Medicine group, plus pediatric cardiology, cardiac ICU, cardiac surgery and neonatology.

“Our fetal team enables us to combine the best of OB, cardiology and surgery to give these babies the best chances to have the best outcomes they can have,” Carlo said. “We have a great deal of experience in dealing with this type of cardiac physiology and with the surgeries and post-operative care required in these little babies.”

UAB rolls out new technology to help users combat mobile malware attacks
UAB rolls out new technology to help users combat mobile malware attacks
Researcher’s approach allows the phone’s weakest security component — the user — to become its strongest defender.

mobile malwareUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have developed simple but effective techniques to prevent sophisticated malware from secretly attacking smartphones. This new malware defense is being presented at the IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications, or PerCom, today in St. Louis.

As mobile phones increase in functionality, they are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life. At the same time, these devices also are becoming easy targets for malicious activities.

One of the primary reasons for such malware explosion is user willingness to download applications from untrusted sources that may host apps with hidden malicious codes. Once installed on a smartphone, such malware can exploit it in various ways.

For example, it can access the smartphone’s resources to learn sensitive information about the user, secretly use the camera to spy on the user, make premium-rate phone calls without the user’s knowledge, or use a Near Field Communication, or NFC, reader to scan for physical credit cards within its vicinity.

Such malware already is prevalent, and researchers and practitioners anticipate that this and other forms of malware will become one of the greatest threats affecting millions of smartphone users in the near future.

“The most fundamental weakness in mobile device security is that the security decision process is dependent on the user,” said Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., the director of the Security and Privacy In Emerging computing and networking Systems (SPIES) Lab and an associate professor of computer and information sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at UAB. “For instance, when installing an Android app, the user is prompted to choose whether or not the application should have permissions to access a given service on the phone. The user may be in a rush or distracted, or maybe it is the user’s kid who has the phone. Whatever the case may be, it is a well-known problem that people do not look at these warnings; they just click ‘yes.’”

Current operating systems provide inadequate security against these malware attacks, putting the burden of prevention upon the user. The current anti-virus systems are ineffective against such constantly evolving malware. UAB pursued research to find a mechanism that would defend against mobile malware that can exploit critical and sensitive mobile device services, especially focusing on the phone’s calling service, camera and NFC.

Current operating systems provide inadequate security against these malware attacks, putting the burden of prevention upon the user. The current anti-virus systems are ineffective against such constantly evolving malware. UAB pursued research to find a mechanism that would defend against mobile malware that can exploit critical and sensitive mobile device services, especially focusing on the phone’s calling service, camera and NFC.

This study from researchers within the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research explains how natural hand gestures associated with three primary smartphone services — calling, snapping and tapping — can be detected and have the ability to withstand attacks using motion, position and ambient sensors available on most smartphones as well as machine learning classifiers.

If a human user attempts to access a service, the gesture would be present and access will be allowed. In contrast, if the malware program makes an access request, the gesture will be missing and access will be blocked.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, researchers collected data from multiple phone models and multiple users in real-life or near real-life scenarios, simulating benign settings and adversarial scenarios.

The results showed that the three gestures can be detected with a high overall accuracy and can be distinguished from one another and from other benign or malicious activities to create a viable malware defense.

“In this method, something as simple as a human gesture can solve a very complex problem,” Saxena said. “It turns the phone’s weakest security component — the user — into its strongest defender.”

The research team believes that, in the future, transparent gestures associated with other smartphone services, such as sending SMS or email, also can be integrated with this system. The researchers also aim to commercialize this technology in the near future.

UAB graduate student Babins Shrestha, a researcher in UAB’s SPIES Lab, co-authored the article and is presenting the paper at PerCom. The other members who co-authored the paper include UAB doctoral student Manar Mohamed, UAB undergraduate student Anders Borg, and doctoral student Sandeep Tamrakar of Aalto University, Finland.

UAB engineering professor receives national industry award
UAB engineering professor receives national industry award
American Institute of Chemical Engineers grants service award to Peters.

robert petersRobert W. Peters works in the lab with one of his students.Robert W. Peters, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, recently received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

With more than three decades of involvement with the AIChE Environmental Division, Peters was chosen as the 2014 recipient of the award “for distinguished service to the environmental division of AIChE as executive committee chair and secretary; for leadership and guidance to industry on hazardous waste issues; and for initiatives on hazardous waste programming on behalf of the environmental division.”

His nomination references those leadership positions within AIChE, while also acknowledging his longstanding dedication to the division’s student program and his editorship of the journal “Environmental Progress.”

“This is a much deserved honor for Dr. Peters, whose work in environmental engineering has long been recognized among his peers throughout the country,” said Department Chair Fouad Fouad, Ph.D. "This prestigious distinction is a point of pride to the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.”

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