Student Spotlight

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Maigen Bethea

Undergrad: Francis Marion University

We are acdepting applications for Fall 2017; we suggest that applications be submitted by August 1, 2016. The application deadline (for everyone) is January 15, 2017.


Welcome to the Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (CMDB) PhD Theme, a part of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. The CMDB theme is designed to provide maximum flexibility that results in students who are prepared to launch into a career in the emerging biomedical science field. Our graduates have exciting careers in scientific research in both academic and industrial settings; scientific-related writing, business, law, bioterrorism, forensics, administration, and education. 

About Us: CMDB is a cross-disciplinary theme at a leading research University in the sunny south, consisting of a diverse group of scientists and physicians who have a collective interest in fundamental processes in cell, molecular, and developmental biology and how alterations in these processes result inhuman diseases and birth defects.

About UAB: We are consistently one of the top 25 NIH funded research institutions in the U.S. and with faculty from over 30 departments across campus there are many opportunities for you in new and exciting areas of biomedical research. And, UAB is a leader in innovative technology such as whole genome sequencing, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, crystallography, flow cytometry, drug discovery and others.

Contact Us: We are always searching for the brightest and most dedicated students to join our highly competitive CMDB theme and experience firsthand our cutting edge science. This is your personal invitation to explore the many possible opportunities offered by CMDB at UAB. Please explore this web site and apply today!
  • New study finds relationship between lifetime marijuana use and loss of verbal memory in middle-aged adults
    New study finds relationship between lifetime marijuana use and loss of verbal memory in middle-aged adults
    A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looks at the relationship between lifetime marijuana use and cognitive function in middle-aged adults.
    stefan kerteszStefan Kertesz, MD, and his team have found that there is an association between long-term marijuana use and impaired verbal memory in middle aged adults.

    Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug in the United States, according to a recent survey from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and new data suggest that marijuana use now could pose a serious cognitive function risk later in life.

    Stefan Kertesz, M.D., an associate professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, is part of a recently published nationwide study reporting potential long-term consequences with implications for public health.

    Impaired cognitive functioning is an acute effect of marijuana use, and there is increasing evidence that such effects may persist later in life after marijuana use has ceased. Heavy, long-term use of marijuana has been associated with cognitive impairment, particularly in learning and remembering new information.

    Kertesz and other researchers foundpast exposure to marijuana use to be significantly associated with worse verbal memory in middle age.

    Their paper used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study which started in 1985, where more than 5,000 healthy adults were regularly asked about marijuana use. In contrast to studies that focus on people known to have an addiction, this study focused on community-based adults, where casual use tends to be more common than addiction.

    In the final year of the study, CARDIA participants underwent simple cognitive tests, including a word memory test. Individuals were presented with 15 words and then asked to try to remember them. After 25 minutes, they were later asked to recall the words. The tests showed that there was a significant decline in verbal memory among persons whose cumulative marijuana use exceeded the equivalent of one joint a day for five years.

    marijuana ts 2“For every five years of marijuana exposure, one out of two participants would remember one word less,” Kertesz said.

    Kertesz also said that it is important to realize that marijuana is more potent today than it was in the 1980s, raising the possibility that users of today’s marijuana may face cognitive consequences of greater magnitude than those reported.

    “It’s crucial to recognize that young brains are truly different and not fully developed until age 22 and are at more risk from marijuana,” he said. “Parents and teachers need to be vigilant that this poses a larger risk to adolescents.”

    Data from 2012 indicates that, among students in the 12th grade (ages 17-18 years), 37 percent had used marijuana within the last year, 23 percent within the last 30 days and 6.5 percent daily.

  • Hallucinogens use could protect against intimate partner violence
    Hallucinogens use could protect against intimate partner violence
    Hallucinogen research gains traction, suggests class of substance could be therapeutic for problem behaviors, including intimate partner violence.

    partner violenceEvidence in a study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia along with University of Alabama at BirminghamSchool of Public Health Associate Professor Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., suggests hallucinogens such as psilocybin or LSD may have therapeutic potential for reducing intimate partner violence, or IPV.

    Hendricks says the identification of risk and protective factors for IPV is an important goal for public health research.

    “A body of evidence suggests that substances such as psilocybin may have a range of clinical indications,” he said. “Although we’re attempting to better understand how or why these substances may be beneficial, one explanation is that they can transform people’s lives by providing profoundly meaningful spiritual experiences that highlight what matters most. Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what matters.”

    The study looked at 302 men ages 17-40 in the criminal justice system. Of the 56 percent of participants who reported using hallucinogens, only 27 percent were arrested for later IPV as opposed to 42 percent of the group who reported no hallucinogen use being arrested for IPV within seven years.

    From the 1950s through the early 1970s, thousands of studies reported on the medical use of hallucinogens, mostly LSD. Due to the classification of the most prominent hallucinogens as Schedule I controlled substances in 1970, research on health benefits was suspended, causing many of these studies to be forgotten. However, research with hallucinogens has experienced a rebirth.

    “Recent studies have shown that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field,” Hendricks said. “However, additional research is needed. This study suggests that hallucinogens could be a useful avenue for reducing IPV, meaning this topic deserves further attention.”

  • Frans de Waal named recipient of 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award
    Frans de Waal named recipient of 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award
    Internationally renowned primatologist Frans de Waal will give his lecture titled “Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?” on Thursday, March 31, at 4 p.m., in the UAB Hill Student Center Ballroom.
    frans ireland web

    Frans B.M. de Waal, one of the world’s best-known primatologists, has been named the winner of the 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award. De Waal is the C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University, where he directs the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

    The Caroline P. and Charles W. Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award is given to a distinguished intellectual outside of the University of Alabama at Birmingham academic community whose work is groundbreaking and transformational in his or her field. During their time on campus, awardees give a public lecture and share their knowledge through informal meetings with students and members of the faculty.

    De Waal will give his lecture, titled “Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?” on Thursday, March 31, at 4 p.m., in the UAB Hill Student Center Ballroom. The presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the lobby.

    “We are excited to grant the Ireland Prize, the highest recognition of scholarly achievement offered by UAB, to Dr. de Waal,” said Robert Palazzo, Ph.D., dean of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “For decades, Dr. de Waal has explored the roots of human behavior in primates. Through a lifetime of work, he has documented that maintaining cooperative relationships and reconciling after a fight are important in both chimpanzees and bonobos, the two primate species most closely related to humans. His work explores complex questions of where our values, morality and sense of justice originates. By examining the behavior and neuroscience of other primate species, Dr. de Waal also suggests ways that human beings can live more peacefully with each other. Fundamentally, his work sheds light on what it means to be human.”

    Born in the Netherlands, de Waal trained as a zoologist and ethologist at the Dutch institutions of Radboud University Nijmegen, the University of Groningen and Utrecht University. He received his doctorate in biology from Utrecht in 1977.

    In 1982, he published his first book, “Chimpanzee Politics,” the result of a six-year study of the world’s largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Netherlands. In the book, de Waal compares the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Since then, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture.

    Despite the commonly held idea that humans are the only moral animals, de Waal’s research indicates a continuum of empathetic, altruistic and cooperative instincts between nonhuman apes and human beings. In “The Age of Empathy,” he argues that humans must understand where we came from before we can make social progress.

    De Waal will give his lecture, titled “Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?” on Thursday, March 31, at 4 p.m., in the UAB Hill Student Center Ballroom. The presentation is free and open to the public.

    His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American and outlets specializing in animal behavior. His popular books – translated into 15 languages – have made him one of the world’s most visible primatologists.His many acclaimed books include “Peacemaking Among Primates,” “Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals,” “Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us About Human Social Evolution,” “The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society,” and “The Bonobo and the Atheist.”

    De Waal was named one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2007 and named one of Discover magazine’s 47 Great Minds of Science in 2011. In 2013, he received the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award, the Galileo Prize from Padua University in 2014 and was named the 2015 Distinguished Primatologist from the American Society of Primatologists.

    Today, de Waal continues to explore cultural learning, behavioral economics, empathy, communication, social reciprocity and conflict resolution in primates, as well as the origins of morality and justice in human society. His research on the concept of fairness among primates has been of particular interest after recent political and corporate corruption has come to light in the U.S. and Europe. To learn more about his work, watch his 2011 TED talk.

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