Graduate School News

Meet Your Student Leaders: Nirzari Gupta, president of GSG

1. Nirzari Alokkumar PresidentThe Graduate School has launched another new series called "Meet Your Student Leaders." This series will provide graduate students and postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to get to know the students who run the various graduate student organizations. This week's featured student leader is Nirzari Gupta, president of the Graduate Student Government.
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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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“Publish or perish.” It’s an old saying in academia, but it still speaks to many of today’s graduate students, says Dr. Bryan Noe, a distinguished cell biologist and dean of the UAB Graduate School.

“The basic principle is to try to get your work published in the most high-impact journals in your field,” he recently told a group of graduate research writers. “So, you try to submit to journals that are highly respected; journals that have developed a reputation for meeting stringent review and acceptance requirements.”

But the odds of getting papers accepted can be daunting, depending upon the journal, he admits. This can present a stiff challenge for younger scholars who need to publish – as first author -- to fulfill a graduation requirement or who must write successful grant applications to secure funding in their first permanent positions.

“As I progressed through college and graduate school, I had had little formal instruction in writing after freshman composition. During the first three months in my first faculty position, I had to prepare a grant application, and I had never even seen the contents of a grant application before. It was frustrating, and needless to say, I didn’t succeed initially in securing funding.”

To help UAB students avoid the possibility of being in the same type of situation, the Graduate School offers more than half a dozen different elective courses in support of research writing through its Professional Development Program.

“To a great extent, the measure of a scientist is in his or her record of publication, presentations and grantsmanship. For some researchers, writing comes easily. For others, it doesn’t. Taking advantage of the Graduate School Professional Development courses can help jumpstart and accelerate the writing and publishing process.”

Since his first unsuccessful grant application, Noe subsequently published many times in his field and obtained as Principal Investigator, or Co-Investigator, numerous grants from NSF, NIH, and intramural sources. As dean, he continues to serve as PI on grants with the Graduate School.  His advice: “We tell students: Good science comes first. Then make sure what you publish is well written, and you’ll succeed.”

Other tips:

  1. Plan writing projects at the beginning of the research, including target journals.
  2. Tell a complete and compelling research story. Avoid carving projects into the “Least Publishable Unit” (LPU).
  3. However, do come to closure on projects. If you find yourself constantly saying: “we need one more experiment,” it may be time to publish instead.
  4. In a dissertation, write in a sequential, cohesive fashion, not a disjointed one. If previously published papers are being incorporated into dissertation chapters, pull their contents together with a well-thought out Introduction and/or in your Discussion / Conclusions section. Also, don’t run out of time and energy and dismiss the Discussion / Conclusions section; it can be a very important part of the dissertation, a place where you are free to speculate about future questions and where the field is headed.
  5. Think about your audience. Committee members and journal readers are not all experts in your field, especially today, with so much science being inter-disciplinary.
  6. “Never assume it will be easy” – and you’ll develop the persistence and standards you need to compete with the best.


Between 1974 and 1981, only a dozen cases of scientific misconduct were disclosed by major research institutions in the U.S., says Dr. Jeff Engler, biochemist and Associate Dean at the UAB Graduate School. These cases occurred prior to stricter government oversight, however, and may have been only the tip of the iceberg. Between 1989 and 2007, approximately 800 cases of alleged misconduct came before the federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI), the oversight arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The numbers indicate that research misconduct persists in spite of legal consequences, formal censure, and the threat of irreparable damage to a person’s reputation, says Engler, referencing the ORI website at and the article  “Mentoring and Research Misconduct: An Analysis of Research Mentoring in Closed ORI Cases” published online July 10, 2008 in Science and Engineering Ethics.

“When you read about these cases, the guilty individual often began falsifying data as a student and continued the practice during his or her career,” says Engler. “The student didn’t understand that cutting corners creates more problems than it solves. In fact, it can ruin your career. It can also take down other people with whom you collaborate.”

To address the problem, the UAB Graduate School has won a grant to train Teaching Assistants (TAs) to educate their students in an area of responsible conduct of research (for example, data integrity.) Part of the university’s ORI-funded Scholarly Integrity Project, the new initiative recognizes the fact that graduate TAs are on the front lines of ethical issues, as both instructors and role models. Says Engler: “We prepare future researchers, faculty, policy makers, and leaders. We want to make sure that scholarly integrity is a value that they take away from UAB.” 

Each fall, the Graduate School trains 30 to 40 new graduate TAs in the elements of pedagogy and curriculum development to equip them to teach and mentor undergraduate students in courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science. This year, the TAs themselves will be instructed in research standards for accurately recording and safely storing data, and will then, as a group, create and implement a lesson plan related to that topic. The course will be taught by Dr. Julia S. Austin and Ms. Nancy Abney. The effectiveness of this approach will be assessed using pre- and post-tests for both the TAs and their undergraduate students. 

Dr. Bryan Noe, a cell biologist and Dean of the UAB Graduate School, says he sees multiple benefits from the project. “We anticipate that this experience will prompt these future faculty to think more consciously about embedding ethics lessons in their courses as they assume more permanent teaching positions. Another benefit of our strategy is the engagement of undergraduate students in discussions of ethical behavior early in their academic careers.” 


GreenMail is an electronic newsletter that services all of UAB’s students, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students.

Designed to complement BlazerNET, GreenMail covers news, events, university offerings for students, deadlines, and announcements. Published every two weeks, GreenMail is a recommended alternative to mass emails. A request for publicity form is located on GreenMail’s homepage.

Although GreenMail is published for UAB’s students who automatically receive it via email, non-students are welcome to subscribe. Simply follow the directions on GreenMail’s homepage. GreenMail is also available on Facebook,, and Twitter,  


UAB's Graduate Student Association (GSA) will be holding its New Graduate Student Orientation on Friday, August 21, from 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at the Bartow Arena Concourse. The orientation will provide new graduate students with useful information to help facilitate the transition to UAB and the Birmingham community.

Various UAB organizations and services, along with a number of local businesses, will have representatives on site to answer questions. New students will be able to sign up for health insurance, campus cards, and parking passes.

Please RSVP your first and last name, along with your department's name, by Tuesday, August 11, 2009, to Lunch will be provided. This event is open to all students who began their graduate studies at UAB beginning in Spring, Summer, and Fall 2009.

Schedule of Events

11:00-11:30 a.m             Student sign-in

11:30 a.m.                       Welcome

12:00 p.m.                       Vendor fair and buffet lunch

1:30 p.m.                         Prize raffle and evaluations

This event is sponsored by the GSA and the Graduate School.

Get involved in GSA!

The GSA provides services to the graduate community such as travel grants, social and service activities, and representation of graduate student issues to the UAB administration.  It is a great opportunity to network with fellow graduate students. 


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 2009 deadlines

  • Admission to Candidacy           August 17
  • Change of Residency                August 17
  • Application for Degree              September 4
  • Defense Deadline                      November 6


The 2009 Opportunity Zone will be held on Thursday, October 22 from 12pm - 2pm 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. 


An article senior-authored by Lynne Gauthier, a graduate student in the Medical Psychology program, was featured by MDLinx, a major indexing service covering all medical fields. The other authors were Edward Taub, Gitendra Uswatte, graduate student Christi Perkins and Victor Mark. This is the second paper that Lynne has published on which she was senior author. The first paper was “Remodeling the brain: plastic structural brain changes produced by different motor therapies after stroke.”

Here is a recap of the article, "Improvement After Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy is Independent of Infarct Location in Chronic Stroke Patients" featured in MDLinx for which Lynne was the senior author:

CI therapy is highly effective in sub-acute and chronic patient populations (efficacy has been demonstrated in individuals who experienced insult to the brain as many as 20 years earlier) with chronic hemiparesis of varying etiologies. Gauthier et al., 2009 examined whether infarct location would be predictive of treatment response from CI therapy.  We discovered that improvement from CI therapy does not depend on the location of neurological damage, despite there being a pretreatment relationship between infarct location and in-laboratory motor ability. This dissociation might be explained by brain plasticity induced by CI therapy.  We hope that this finding will influence medical practice by encouraging medical professionals to 1) realize that plastic brain reorganization is possible even long after stroke, 2) refrain from making assumptions regarding which patients will benefit most substantially from therapy, and 3) offer an empirically-validated therapy such as CI therapy for stroke, TBI, or MS with moderate or severe motor deficit. The research confirms that the mature brain has a great deal of plastic capacity to compensate for neurological damage when an appropriate rehabilitation technique is administered.

Lynne’s research, neuroplasticity resulting from rehabilitation, has given her the opportunity to work with Dr. Edward Taub, a distinguished member of the neurorehabilitation field. Lynne credits Dr. Taub, her mentor, for greatly influencing her research training as well as other faculty and members of the research team (e.g. Dr. Uswatte, Dr. Mark).  She adds, “Not to be discounted, however, is what I have learned by interacting with other students.” Lynne won first place in the 2008 Graduate Student Research Days competition and received the Outstanding Graduate Student in Medical Psychology award.

Congratulations to Lynne on this and all of her achievements!




Professional Development Courses Fall 2009



GRD 701 Presentation & Discussion Skills

Wednesdays, Aug.19 to Dec. 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.                                                         Location: BBRB 263

3 credit hours;  Contact Alan Corbin at

This course is designed to develop professional communication skills through individual presentations and group evaluations. Topics include the basics of oral presentation, content, organization, and delivery of formal presentations; use of voice and nonverbal communication; and speaking to different audiences. Students’ presentations are videotaped and critiqued by their classmates and the instructor.


GRD 706 Grants and Fellowships 101: How to Obtain Funding

Saturday, Sept. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.                                                                          Location: CH 204

1 credit hour; Contact Dr. Julia Austin at

This workshop provides an introduction to writing grant proposals and fellowship applications. Topics include funding sources, electronic databases, organization and format of proposals and applications, submission and review processes, use of secondary sources, and guidelines for effective proposal writing.


GRD 707 Giving Professional Presentations

Saturday, Nov. 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.                                                                           Location: CH 204

1 credit hour; Contact Dr. Julia Austin at

This workshop examines elements necessary for giving effective professional presentations. Topics include analyzing audience and purpose, assessing environment, language choices, differences between speaking and writing, nonverbal communication, characteristics of effective delivery, controlling nervousness, poster presentations, visual aids, and handling questions.


GRD 717 Principles of Scientific Integrity.
Fridays, Aug. 21 to Dec. 4, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.                                                    Location: BBRB 170

3 credit hours; Contact Dr. Harold Kincaid at

This course surveys ethical issues and principles in the practice of science. Among the topics discussed are the nature, extent, and causes of fraud in the sciences; UAB policies on fraud; ideals of good science; the responsibilities of authorship and peer review; potential problems raised by the commercialization of research; scientists as public policy advisors; and ethical issues involved in animal experimentation and in clinical trials.


GRD 728 Advanced Academic Writing      

Sept. 15 to Nov. 19                                                                                                     Location: TBA

One Section:  VTB—Tu/Th 4 to 5:30 p.m.

3 credit hours; Contact Jennifer L. Greer at

Created for students who seek to publish professionally, GRD 728 reviews academic writing genres, standards, and conventions. Fast-paced with text analysis and guided practice, this course covers the writing of biographic statements, conference abstracts & posters, review articles, critiques, and empirical research articles. Embedded language instruction addresses key grammatical issues for second language writers. (Pre-requisite for second language English writers: Writing Assessment Level 3 or GRD 727)


GRD 736 Dissertation Strategies               

One SectionClass meets 6:00 to 8:00 pm on three Wednesdays – October 7, 14 & 21

1 credit hour

Contact Dr. Susan Olmstead-Wang at

A series of seminars for graduate students who are preparing to start a dissertation within the next year; seminar topics include creating a dissertation committee, crafting the proposal, outlining the text, and managing the writing and reviewing process.


Academic English for Internationals Fall 2009: Tentative Schedule

Sept. 14 to Nov. 19 (unless otherwise indicated)

**Check Fall Schedule on BlazerNET for changes**


Oral Communication


GRD 720 Oral Communication I                                                                             

Sept. 15 to Nov. 19

One section: VTA—Tu/Th 5:30 to 7 p.m.                                                                   Location: TBA

(Prerequisite: OPI Level 2—Low or Mid)  3 credit hours

Contact Alan Corbin at

Learn strategies for clearly and accurately expressing your ideas while building your confidence. On-line lectures allow students to practice listening to presentations and interviews on current topics. In-class discussions build fluency, grammar, and pronunciation. This interactive speaking and listening course prepares students to participate actively in discussions with Americans in both academic and social settings. (First class in a 2-part sequence)


GRD 721 Oral Communication II

Sept. 15 to Nov. 19

One Section: VT—Tu/Th 3:30 to 5 p.m.                                                                     Location: TBA

(Prerequisite: OPI Level 2 High or GRD 720)  3 credit hours

Contact Alan Corbin at

Build academic vocabulary and knowledge of American culture. Improve listening and speaking accuracy, and practice effective language learning strategies. Students in this dynamic, web-enhanced course discuss ethical and global issues while learning to speak and listen effectively in small groups. Class size is limited to ensure maximum participation.


GRD 730 Advanced Oral Communication

Sept. 14 to Nov. 18                                                                                                     Location: TBA

One Section: VTA—M/W 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.

(Prerequisite: OPI Level 2 High or GRD 721)  3 credit hours

Contact Alan Corbin at

Build communication skills and learning strategies while exploring cultural values. Through small-group interaction, students learn to effectively discuss their opinions, organize effective talks, and analyze complex problems. This Level 3 course prepares students for the kinds of communication expected in graduate school —participating in academic discussions; debating scholarly projects with colleagues; and delivering formal talks at professional meetings.


Pronunciation and Accent Improvement>


GRD 714: Individualized Pronunciation Instruction                                                     

Aug. 18 to Dec. 4

(Permission of instructor required) 3 to 5 credit hours per semester  

Contact Jonghee Shadix at

Students in Individualized Instruction have acquired basic speaking skills in group instruction and are now ready for fine-tuning their language abilities with an experienced instructor, who tailors lessons to their particular pronunciation needs. The course includes a thorough diagnostic and goal-setting session, followed by one-to-one instruction in the sounds and rhythms of English, including computer-assisted language mapping and techniques used by professional actors.


GRD 724 First-timers’ Pronunciation Workshop                                                 Location: TBA

Wednesdays, Aug. 19 to Dec. 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.

(Permission of instructor required) 3 credit hours

Contact Jonghee Shadix at

Conversation groups in which second language students practice conversation skills with peers and with native English speakers. Students also attend lectures given by invited speakers and participate in a variety of cultural events


Academic Writing

*GRD 726 Academic Writing I                                                                                 

Sept. 14 to Nov. 19                                                                                                     Location: TBA

Two Sections: VTA—M/W 4 to 5:30 p.m. or VTB—Tu/Th 8 to 9:30 a.m.

(Prerequisite: Writing Assessment Level 2)  3 credit hours

Contact Jennifer L. Greer at

This hands-on course introduces students to the writing process, the elements of effective writing, common academic texts, ethics, peer review, and techniques for efficient editing. Based on guided activities, independent practice, and small-group work with instructor feedback, it is the first of two courses on writing academic journal-style articles. *Instruction also addresses key grammatical issues for second language writers.

*GRD 727 Academic Writing II

Sept. 14 to Nov. 18                                                                                                     Location: TBA

One Section: VTA—M/W 4 to 5:30 p.m.

(Prerequisite: GRD 726 or permission of instructor)  3 credit hours

Contact Jennifer L. Greer at

In the second of a 2-part series, international writers build on their knowledge of the academic writing process and standards, while learning to write effective summaries, critiques, and review articles as well as how to construct empirical research papers. Activities include text analysis, writing practice, peer review, and revision as students model professional strategies. *Instruction addresses key grammar issues for second language writers.

GRD 728 Advanced Academic Writing      

Sept. 15 to Nov. 19                                                                                                    Location: TBA

One SectionVTB—Tu/Th 4 to 5:30 p.m.

(Prerequisite: Writing Assessment Level 3 or GRD 727)   3 credit hours

Contact Jennifer L. Greer at

Created for students who seek to publish professionally, GRD 728 reviews academic writing genres, standards, and conventions. Fast-paced with text analysis and guided practice, this course covers the writing of biographic statements, conference abstracts & posters, review articles, critiques, and empirical research articles. Embedded language instruction addresses key grammatical issues for second language writers. (Pre-requisite for second language English writers: Writing Assessment Level 3 or GRD 727)


Preparing Tomorrow’s Professionals