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 ...

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Blazer Spotlights

Hisham Abdelmotilib

Hisham Abdelmotilib

Jacqueline Vo

Jacqueline Vo

Kendra Royston

Kendra Royston

Samir Rana

Samir Rana


GS:         Where are you from?
KG:         I was born and raised in Blount Springs, Alabama.

GS:         What degree will you receive and when?
KG:         I will receive my PhD in Biology this Fall.

GS:         How long have you been at UAB?
KG:         I have been at UAB since Fall of 1999 where I began my undergraduate studies. I have a BS and MS in Biology, and I will have a PhD when I complete my time here at my Alma Mater.

GS:         What is your research? 
KG:         I study nutritional physiology of sea urchins in an effort to facilitate the development of nutritionally-complete feeds for sea urchin aquaculture. I enjoy learning how nutrients can affect how our animals grow and reproduce.

GS:         Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
KG:         As an undergraduate, I had the great fortune of working summers in a research lab. I began working with Dr. Watts at the end of my freshman year, and I loved the research and guidance in the lab. My experiences in undergraduate research and also as a McNair Scholar revealed the many excellent opportunities UAB and the Department of Biology had for graduate students. Our graduate program is one of the best in the nation and one of the few that provides opportunities to develop research and teaching skills that are important for someone interested in a career in academia.

GS:         Have you received any awards or honors?
KG:         2011       Samuel B. Barker Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies Doctoral Level, UAB

2011       UAB College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award, Graduate Level

2011       United States Aquaculture Society Student Spotlight Award, 1st Place

2011       United States Aquaculture Society Best Abstract/Travel Award

2011       Invited speaker for Women in Aquaculture Session, Aquaculture America 2011

2010       Evelyn M. and Harold C. Martin Endowed Support Fund in Biology

GS:         What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
KG          UAB has been my home for many years now, and each year brings its own opportunities for learning and growth. I don’t know that I could pick one over another for everything my experiences have taught me. I believe that my desire to stay involved on campus and to work with various organizations at UAB have helped me develop leadership and communication skills to complement my formal instruction in the classroom and lab. All of my experiences here have taken some part in developing the person I am today, and for that I am grateful.

GS:         Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
KG:         My greatest influence here at UAB is my mentor, Dr. Stephen Watts. He has taken the time to train me as a scientist, teacher, and mentor over the many years I have worked with him. I owe a great deal of my success to his guidance and support. Dr. Watts is an excellent mentor, and I know he will continue to provide guidance and advice throughout my career.

GS:         What is your motivation in your academics/research?
KG:         My greatest motivation is my desire to know “why.” I am not satisfied with just knowing what something is or how things may be related. I always want to dig deeper and find out why something is as it is and why things are related as they are. Biology is a great and endless mystery that will always keep me searching for answers, and I love it!

GS:         What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
KG:         I have been offered a three-year post-doctoral position at Villanova University to begin this Fall. The position provides the opportunity for teaching and research to prepare me for tenure-track faculty positions. Ultimately, I would love to have my own lab to continue research and train the next generation of investigators.

GS:         Is there anything else you would like to say?
KG:         I would love to thank the many faculty and staff at UAB who have taught me so much through their formal instruction and also through their friendship and the positive examples they set as professionals.

Katie’s advice for other graduate students:
Graduate school is a great opportunity for professional and personal growth. Don’t pass up a chance to work a little outside your element. When you challenge yourself, you can really learn more about your own potential and how much farther you can go.

For more information regarding the Samuel B. Barker Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies, visit