Graduate School News

Discoveries: The sweet science behind mending muscle

IMG 0174Rylie Hightower, a third-year graduate student in the Graduate Biomedial Sciences neuroscience program, studies proteins and other factors that contribute to the progression of muscular dystrophy. 

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Link to Leadership: Dr. Lisa Schwiebert, Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

GRAD logo without taglineEmbarking on the graduate school journey can be a challenging experience, but it helps if you understand the major players involved in that experience. This new series, "Link to Leadership," features Q&As with UAB's Graduate School leaders and an opportunity for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to get to know these leaders on a deeper level.
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Graduate Student Organization Spotlight: Graduate Student Government

Grad Student Organization Spotlight graphicThe University of Alabama at Birmingham offers numerous ways for graduate students to enhance their leadership skills, one of which is joining a student organization. But how do you decide which organization is the right fit for you? This Spotlight series will highlight all of UAB's graduate student organizations, as well as the benefits of joining each one.  Read more ...

Upcoming Events

Blazer Spotlights

Hisham Abdelmotilib

Hisham Abdelmotilib

Jacqueline Vo

Jacqueline Vo

Kendra Royston

Kendra Royston

Samir Rana

Samir Rana


GSA Announces Graduate Student Medical Assistance Fund

Over the past several years, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) has become concerned about a small number of graduate students who have medical costs that far exceed the coverage cap of the student health insurance policy which, in turn, has made the completion of graduate studies particularly burdensome for these students. The Graduate School and the GSA believe it is important to keep the VIVA Student Health insurance premium and deductible as low as possible in order to better serve graduate students. To address the issue of excessive health care costs for some students, while at the same time keeping insurance premiums at competitive rates, the GSA founded the Graduate Student Medical Assistance Fund (GSMAF). The purpose of the GSMAF is to provide financial assistance to graduate students with a demonstrable financial medical need that exceeds the benefits levels offered by the student health insurance policy.

GSA members who led the initiative included Grace Walton, chair of the Student Health Services and Insurance Committee, Mick Edmonds, former president of the GSA, and Jeffrey Bolland, current president of the GSA. The funding for the GSMAF is provided by donations made by UAB's students, administrators, faculty, staff, concerned community members, and businesses. The GSMAF fundraising efforts during the 2009-2010 academic year have been successful, with contributions from individuals and organizations, including a generous donation from VIVA Health, totaling more than $25,000. The GSA plans to continue fundraising for the GSMAF as one of its primary missions, and is now busy planning the first annual silent auction fundraiser gala, to be held on November 4, 2010.  Details will be forthcoming in September.

The GSMAF is now accepting applications from graduate students needing financial assistance for medical expenses. Eligible students include all graduate and professional students who are members of the VIVA Student Health Plan.

For more detailed information concerning the GSMAF, along with the downloadable GSMAF Application and Charitable Gift Contribution Form, visit the GSA website at


mentor 2010

22 Recognized for Mentoring Excellence

This past Spring, 22 UAB graduate faculty members received the Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship during the third annual awards ceremony held in the HUC Great Hall on April 12. Each recipient was nominated by a current or formal mentee and received a minimum of five nomination letters. Honorees received a bound volume containing the nomination letters written on their behalf and an engraved plaque. Recipients are from the schools of Education, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Medicine, Health Professions, Public Health, and the Joint Health Sciences.

The 2010 Mentorship Award recipients are: David D. Chaplin, M.D., Ph.D. (Microbiology); Shelia R. Cotton, Ph.D. (Sociology & Social Work); Jose R. Fernandez, Ph.D. (Nutrition Sciences); Frank Franklin, M.D., Ph.D. (Health Behavior); Nataliya V. Ivankova, Ph.D. (Human Studies); Pauline E. Jolly, Ph.D. (Epidemiology); Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D. (Biomedical Engineering); John. F. Kearney, Ph.D. (Microbiology); Connie L. Kohler, Dr.P.H. (Health Behavior); Claudiu T. Lungu, Ph.D. (Environmental Health Sciences); Raymond A. Mohl, Ph.D. (History and Anthropology); Michael J. Mugavero, M.D. (Medicine); R. Kent Oestenstad, Ph.D. (Environmental Health Science); Sarah H. Parcak, Ph.D. (History and Anthropology); David L. Roth, Ph.D. (Biostatistics); Virginia P. Sisiopiku, Ph.D. (Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering); Harald W. Sontheimer, Ph.D. (Neurobiology, Cell Biology, and Physiology & Biophysics); Hemant K. Tiwari, Ph.D. (Biostatistics); M. Tino Unlap, Ph.D. (Clinical & Diagnostic Sciences); David E. Vance, Ph.D. (Family/Child Health & Caregiving); Peter M. Walsh, Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering); Thane Wibbels, Ph.D. (Biology).

To see excerpts from nominating letters, visit the UAB Reporter at



Grad School Adds Online Sections of Research Writing Courses

In response to student demand, the UAB Graduate School’s Professional Development Program has opened online sections of two of its most popular writing courses, GRD 727 QL, Writing and Reviewing Research, and GRD 736 QL, Dissertation Strategies. “This Spring, we offered our first online writing course, GRD 727 QL, and it has filled up for the third semester in a row,” says Jennifer L. Greer, course developer and academic writing instructor at the Graduate School.

Ms. Greer, who worked as a newspaper journalist before specializing in research writing, says GRD 727 QL, is a good course for students to take early in their graduate careers so they can leverage what they learn while reading and writing in other courses.“Students work on topics in their fields, and learn how to analyze and construct empirical papers, develop a research writing voice, and pre-write for introductions and literature reviews. They also practice good writing habits so they can get in shape to complete longer projects, such as course papers, master’s or scholarly projects, articles for publication, and theses.”

GRD 727 QL, which is 3-credit hours and pass-no-pass, is taught this fall by writer/editor Jasmine Hodges, and runs from Sept. 14 to Nov. 22. Students can register for Professional Development courses/workshops up until the day before the class starts, although a “late fee” may apply. For information on registering for GRD 727 QL, contact Ms. Greer at

An even newer writing course, Dissertation Strategies, was launched in 2009 to support doctoral candidates. This fall, after a face -to-face section overflowed, instructor Dr. Susan Olmstead-Wang decided to open a second, online section of a seminar course Dissertation Strategies online. Dissertation Strategies (GRD 736 QL), begins Oct. 1 and runs through Dec. 1. The 1-credit-hour course helps students organize their projects, set goals and a timeline, analyze a model dissertation in their field, and evaluate their writing strengths and challenges.

“Many graduate students have never documented research for publication, worked with a faculty committee, or developed habits for writing under deadline, which is why we started the course,” says Dr. Olmstead-Wang, Assistant Professor in the School of Education. “In addition to information about process, techniques, and instructor feedback, the support that students give to each other for the journey to/through dissertation is very important. We will try to create that dissertation support community online.”

In the strategies course, she explains, students identify a good dissertation in their area, and then analyze the rhetorical/linguistic moves involved in making a well-written paper effective. “This way, we know the nuts and bolts of how to set it up.  The new research findings, or study the students are writing up, then adds the creative part to the process.”

Coming to UAB a year ago from a post at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Olmstead-Wang also teaches in the Graduate School’s Professional Development Program and is a strong advocate for graduate writers. “I think UAB is wise to assist the students in whom we have invested the most.  It's an unnecessary tragedy to leave ABD – All But Dissertation – when students complete all of their coursework but get hung up on the final, but most important, step.”

GRD 736 is a pre-requisite for GRD 737, Dissertation Writing, which is offered in the Spring 2011. Register on BlazerNET: GRD 736-QL #54924, or if you have questions, contact Dr. Susan Olmstead-Wang at


UAB Fifth Year Masters ("Fast Track") Programs

UAB offers several combined Bachelors and Masters degree programs which can usually be completed in five years. These “Fast Track” programs offer students the opportunity to complete a Bachelors and Masters degree in five years instead of the typical 6-7 year timeframe.
Dr. Bryan Noe, Dean of the Graduate School, states, “These programs provide students with a unique opportunity to earn both degrees in a period of time that is shorter than would be the case if they sought to earn each degree separately.  In addition to the reduction in time necessary to earn both degrees, the total financial commitment to pay for tuition and other associated costs is reduced as well.”
The following Fast Track programs are currently available at UAB:

  • Accounting
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Public Health
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Materials Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

More Fast Track programs are currently under development. Additional information is available on program web sites.


International Scholars: Upgrade Your Academic English & Earn Graduate Credit

For multilingual scholars, the ability to communicate in English in academic settings, such as a journal club presentation or an article for publication, offers a strong career advantage – here and in their home countries. At UAB, one of the best learning situations is guided instruction, practice, and feedback in a small-group setting, says Ningzhi Li, a UAB doctoral student developing novel MRI techniques. Ms. Li, who has taken five courses (speaking and writing) from the UAB Graduate School’s Professional Development Program, says she has advised others to consider the electives, which also offer graduate credit.

 “I would definitely recommend the Graduate School’s courses. This summer, in GRD 712, I learned how write an introduction to a research paper as well as how to read and find out the structure of a paper quickly,” she explains. “The small-group setting was also helpful. I was able to peer review others’ work and give them feedback. In addition, I got feedback from people studying in different areas than mine, so I know how far I should go to satisfy the understanding of a general group of people. Another thing I learned from the class is self-editing. Now I write first and edit second, which is more effective than writing and editing at the same time.”

There is still time to register for professional development electives this fall, says Dr. Julia S. Austin, Director of Educational Services at the Graduate School. The program offers a host of elective courses (on a pass/no-pass basis, for 3 credit hours). Most courses run 10 weeks from Sept. 14 through Nov. 18. Students, employees, and post-doctoral fellows can register for the courses/workshops right up until the day before the class starts, although a “late fee” may apply. Courses include Academic Spoken English, Pronunciation, and Research Writing. They include:

*GRD 720 Academic Spoken English I: Tu/Th 5:30 to 7pm, 3 credit hours

*GRD 721 Academic Spoken English II: Tu/Th 3:30 to 5pm, 3 credit hours

*GRD 730 Academic Spoken English III:  M/W Noon to 1:30pm, 3 credit hours

For information about Spoken English courses, Contact Alan Corbin at

* GRD 714: Pronunciation and Accent Individualized Instruction: Aug. 19 to Dec. 9, Thursdays, 5:30 to 8:00pm, 3-5 credit hours

*GRD 724: Pronunciation & Accent Workshop: Aug. 19 to Dec. 9, Thursdays, 5:30 to 8:00pm, 3 credit hours

For information about Pronunciation courses, contact Jonghee Shadix at

*GRD 726 Research Writing for Internationals: M/W 4 to 5:30pm, 3 credit hours

For information about Research Writing courses, contact Jennifer L. Greer at


Don’t Forget Your Deadlines!

While you were working hard to obtain your bachelor’s degree, you probably became aware of how important deadlines are, especially during your last semester. In graduate school, when a candidate is near graduation, she or he must pay close attention to Graduate School deadlines, which are posted online. Important dates include the following Summer and Fall semester deadlines: 

Completing all paper work and final payments by the posted deadlines will ensure that a candidate will graduate by the expected date. 

Fall 2010 deadlines

  • Admission to Candidacy           August 16
  • Change of Residency                August 16
  • Application for Degree              September 3
  • Defense Deadline                      November 5




Graduate Students in the Spotlight

Two graduate students are featured in the September/October Graduate Student Spotlight. Anne Bet, a doctoral student in Microbiology, researches the role of cryptic epitopes in HIV-1 infection and immune control. Anne chose UAB for her academic studies  because the research environment  in the biomedical sciences inspires collaboration and fosters productivity.


Firas Abbas has just completed his first year in Public Health here at UAB. He believes that a community’s primary responsibility is for the common good and pursues this ideal through his research on the mental health of Iraqi women in conflict areas.

For more information about Anne and Firas or to access other students who have been featured in the Spotlight, visit the Graduate School’s homepage at



Graduate Programs Fair to be Held in October

The 2010 Graduate Programs Fair will be held on Tuesday, October 26 from 11:30 am - 2 pm in the HUC Great Hall. Designed to give undergraduates and anyone else interested in graduate studies the opportunity to learn about what graduate school at UAB has to offer, this graduate programs fair includes informative talks on “hot topics” such as how to pay for graduate school, how to select a program, and how to succeed in graduate school.

 Anyone interested in learning about graduate school and speaking one-on-one with representatives from the graduate programs at UAB is welcome.


hooding pic

Graduation News

The graduates of UAB's Graduate School take part in two ceremonies: The Doctoral Hooding Ceremony and the Commencement are held each May and December. August graduates may attend the December commencement. The Doctoral Hooding Ceremony is the commencement for doctoral candidates receiving PhD, DrPH, and EdD degrees. Both ceremonies will take place on Saturday, December 18, at 10:30 a.m. in the Alys Stephens Center.

If you are a doctoral candidate that graduated in August 2010 or will be graduating in December 2010, you must fill out the commencement form by December 3 in order to participate in this ceremony. Simply showing up for the ceremony is not an option.

The commencement ceremony for master's and undergraduate students will be held in Bartow Arena at 2:00 p.m.