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Science and Technology Honors in the News

  • Honors abound for graduating students at UAB
    Here’s a look at the many fellowships, scholarships, honors and awards earned by the talented 2015 spring graduates at UAB.

    Earning a college degree is one of the defining moments of accomplishment in life. For some among the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s graduating class this spring, that success was sweetened with the added honors of awards, fellowships and scholarships.

    Ameen Barghi, who graduates with degrees in neuroscience and an individually designed major in translational research in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, is a 2015 Rhodes Scholar. He is one of 32 outstanding U.S. students who will start their all-expenses-paid, graduate educations at Oxford University this fall. He is the third UAB student since 2000 named as a Rhodes scholar.He is a member of the UAB Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Program, the Collat School of Business Honors Program, and Early Medical School Acceptance Program

    Bliss Chang, graduating with degrees in biochemistryand biology in theCollege of Arts and Sciences, was awarded a 2015 Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Germany for a year. Chang, a member of the Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Program, is the 17th UAB student to receive this honor since 1993. Chang also received a DAAD Graduate Scholarship and a Golden Key International Honors Society Undergraduate Scholarship.

    Ophelia Johnson was named to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Johnson, graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering, was one of two UAB students, along with Chang, to receive Barry Goldwater Scholarship Awards for the 2014-2015 academic year.

    Yoonhee Ryder, graduating with degrees in biology and anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, was a finalist for the Marshall and Rhodes scholarships. Ryder is one of UAB’s Outstanding Women for 2015, selected by the UAB Commission on the Status of Women. She has been awarded prestigious scholarships and educational opportunities, including the Clinton Scholarship to study in the Middle East and the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Institute to further study Korean.

    Sadhvi Batra is one of only 40 winners nationwide for the Humanity in Action Fellowship, which supports original research concerning intolerance and democratic values. Batra recently graduated from UAB with a degree in neuroscience and philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. She was a member of the Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Programand is completing her master’s degree in the School of Public Health’s fifth-year fast-track program. Batra will graduate with a master’s degree in public health. The fellowship begins May 25 in Washington, D.C., where the winners will begin orientation with the Council on Foreign Relations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

    Tori Gandy, Yamani Bhat and Adelaide Beckman have been invited to join the 2015 Teach for America Corps. They will spend the next two years teaching in low-income areas throughout America. Gandy is graduating with a mathematics degree from the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Mathematics, with a minor in economics. Bhat, a member of the Honors College’s University Honors Program, is graduating with a degree in international studies. Beckman, graduating with a degree in communication studies, is a recipient of the CAS Department of Communication Studies’ James E. Mills Scholarship and the Dean’s Leadership Scholarship. She also is a member of the Honors College’s University Honors Program. After graduating, the three TFA volunteers will attend an intensive five-week training program to prepare them for their teaching experience and familiarize them with their regions and school districts. They will begin teaching in August.

    Sara Liaghati-Mobarhan, Ali Massoud, Nicole Ogle, Shejuti Paul and Andrew Milstead were selected for the Clinton Global Initiative University, held March 6-8 at the University of Miami. Liaghati-Mobarhan is graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering; Massoud, an Honors College University Honors Program student, is graduating with a degree in international studies. Ogle and Paul are students in the College of Arts and Sciences, where Ogle is an Experiential Learning Scholar graduating with a degree in sociology and Paul, a UHP student, is graduating with a degree in neuroscience in the Early Medical School Acceptance Program. Business Honors student Milstead is graduating with a degree in finance from the UAB Collat School of Business.

    Tyler Furgerson, Razaq Kadri, James Cody, Tierra Andrews, Rebecca Egeland, Sarah L. Smith and Jeanette Vasquez were honored with gold and silver student ADDY awards. The students, all in the CAS’ Digital Media program, are graduating with degrees in accounting and information systems, art, music technology, psychology, and public relations, were honored at the 2015 Birmingham American Advertising Awards in February. Upon graduation, Vasquez has a paid internship with BBDO Minneapolis advertising agency.

    Seniors Barghi, Brynna Paulukaitis and Kevin Shrestha, all honors students on the UAB Intercollegiate Bioethics Bowl team, won the 2015 Bioethics Bowl on April 11 in Tallahassee, Florida. UAB beat out teams from universities including Dartmouth, UCLA, Georgetown, Rutgers and Samford for the national title.

    Leah Berkebile, who will graduate with degrees in biology and an individually designed major in the College of Arts and Sciences and is an honors student, is a national finalist for the Fulbright Scholarship to Jordan, and is awaiting final word from the host country.

    “This is an exciting time of year for the UAB community as we celebrate the hard work and many accomplishments of all our graduates,” UAB President Ray L. Watts said. “I want to recognize the commitment of our faculty and staff to our students’ academic success as we all join in congratulating each graduate and extending our very best wishes to them all.”

    The UAB Office of National and International Fellowship and Scholarships assists students in identifying and applying to programs of interest.

  • UAB commencement ceremonies, doctoral hooding set for April 25
    At least 2,724 students will graduate this spring, and more than 1,200 are expected to participate in UAB’s two spring commencement ceremonies at Bartow Arena.

    Charles Collat will be awarded the President's MedalTwo commencement ceremonies and a doctoral hooding for the University of Alabama at Birmingham are set for Saturday, April 25. At least 2,724 students will graduate this spring.

    The commencement ceremonies will take place at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Bartow Arena, 617 13th St. South. An estimated 1,200 are expected to walk in the ceremonies. College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education graduates will commence at 9:30 a.m. All other graduates will attend the 2 p.m. ceremony.

    The UAB Graduate School’s hooding ceremony is set for noon at UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. The ceremony is for students earning doctorates in education, philosophy, public health and science. For spring 2015, the university’s highest degree will be conferred on 60 students from 14 states and five countries in 25 disciplines; 48 will participate in the ceremony. The speaker will be Professor of Nursing; Chair of Acute, Chronic and Continuing Care; and Assistant Dean, Clinical Simulation and Technology in the UAB School of Nursing Jacqueline Moss, Ph.D. Moss will also bear the academic mace for the ceremony.

    The School of Optometry doctoral convocation and hooding ceremony will be at noon Friday, May 15, at the Alys Stephens Center. The School of Medicine commencement ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 17, in Bartow Arena. The Doctor of Nursing Practice hooding ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, April 27, at the National Alumni Society House. The School of Dentistry commencement ceremony will be held at noon Saturday, May 30, at theAlys Stephens Center.

    For the first time in its history, UAB will honor newly commissioned officers from the Air Force and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps during the two undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies April 25. Cadets, as well as service members and veterans in the graduating class, will stand and be recognized at graduation. This ceremony is also the first to include a graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in public health.

    A to-do list for graduates, as well as information for guests, is available on the commencement website. Tickets are not required; but seating is first come, first served. Arena doors will open at 8:30 a.m. for the morning ceremony and at 1 p.m. for the afternoon ceremony. University officials recommend guests leave nonessential bags at home or in the car. The ceremonies will be recorded and added online for viewing at www.uab.edu/commencement about a week after the ceremonies.

    The bearer of the UAB academic mace for both commencement ceremonies will be Trygve Tollefsbol, Ph.D., D.O. Tollefsbol is a professor in the Department of Biology at UAB and a senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging, Nutrition Obesity Research Center and the Comprehensive Diabetes Center. He is director of the UAB Cell Senescence Culture Facility, which he established in 1999. He has published more than 120 articles related to the fields of epigenetics, aging and cancer. He was awarded this year with UAB’s Caroline P. and Charles W. Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, presented to a full-time faculty member for professional and academic achievements and contributions to the university and local community.

    UAB spring 2015 commencement undergraduate speakers Ameen Barghi and Alicja Maria Foksinska at their graduation from Oak Mountain High School, where they were voted "Most Presidential."Charles A. Collat Sr., UAB’s largest philanthropic supporter, will be awarded the President’s Medal at the 2 p.m. ceremony in recognition of his humanitarian deeds. Collat is chairman emeritus of Mayer Electric Supply Co., Inc., one of Birmingham’s largest privately held corporations, established in 1930 by Ben S. Weil, Patsy Collat’s father. Mr. and the late Mrs. Collat have funded UAB programs through personal contributions as well as gifts from Mayer Electric Supply and the Mayer Electric Supply Foundation. The Collats’ gifts have spanned across many areas of UAB, including naming the Collat School of Business and the Collat Chair in Neurosurgery, funding UAB Athletics, the UAB Center for Palliative and Comfort Care, AIDS research, Alzheimer’s disease research, and ophthalmologic and cancer research; and providing support for the schools of Business, Education, Engineering and Medicine.

    Each ceremony will include an undergraduate and graduate speaker. Both of UAB’s undergraduate graduation speakers, Ameen Barghi and Alicja Maria Foksinska, attended Oak Mountain High School, where they graduated together and were named “Most Presidential” their senior year.   

    Ameen Barghi will be the undergraduate commencement speaker for the morning ceremony. He graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and translational research. Barghi was elected to the Rhodes Scholar Class of 2015 and will start his graduate education at Oxford University next fall before attending medical school. He was admitted to UAB’s Early Medical School Acceptance Program. As a sophomore, Barghi won a Goldwater Scholarship. He is in the UAB Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Program, as well as the Business Honors Program at the UAB Collat School of Business. He speaks several languages and has done health-related work in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For six years, he has been working with stroke, MS and traumatic brain injury patients using neuro-rehabilitation techniques developed at UAB. He is interested in developing clinical imaging systems and software technologies that could allow for earlier diagnosis of progressive diseases as well as working in the public health-policy sector. 

    Elizabeth Simmons will be the graduate commencement speaker for the morning’s ceremony. She graduates with a Master of Arts degree in English with a concentration in literature. She also has a master’s degree in ESL education from UAB, a juris doctorate from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from Auburn University. Simmons was recently selected by the Department of English as the Graduate Student of the Year for 2014-2015. While completing her master’s in English, she served as a graduate teaching assistant, writing tutor and assistant to the UAB University Writing Center director. Simmons was a practicing attorney for many years before deciding to focus on education and student development. After graduation, Simmons will work as an assistant director at UAB’s Career and Professional Development Services.

    Alicja Foksinska will be the undergraduate commencement speaker for the afternoon ceremony. She graduates Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in information systems and business management with the concentration of business administration. Foksinska is a member of the UAB Honors College’s Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, Business Honors Program and the Presidential Honors List. She has been an active student leader in campus organizations, including vice president of the Collat School of Business Student Leaders, chief marketing officer and industrials and materials sector analyst for the Green and Gold Fund, and a student tour guide for the UAB TrailBlazers. Foksinska was a research assistant and teaching assistant. Throughout college, she held a part-time job as an administrative assistant at the Diocese of Birmingham. She was a fund development coordinator intern at The Bell Center and an international recruitment intern at UAB. During her free time, she focused on her research, especially in the service-learning realm, which led her to present at research expos and conferences, including the Gulf South Summit. She is currently an IT internal auditor at Protective Life Corp. After graduation, she will continue her career at Protective Life while working toward her information systems auditor certification. She plans to remain active in the Birmingham community, especially with The Bell Center, an early intervention program for children with developmental delays.

    Harsh Shah will be the graduate commencement speaker for the afternoon ceremony. He graduates with a Master of Public Health degree in health care organization and policy. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from UAB in April 2014 and will be graduating with a 4.0 GPA in both programs. Shah is a member of the UAB Honors College’s University Honors Program. He is a member of the Birmingham Blazin’ Bhangra and the UAB Rangeela dance groups, and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta National Pre-Health Honors Society. During his collegiate career, he worked as a research assistant in the Department of Biology, Howard Hughes Phage Program and the Department of Preventive Medicine. He has been an ACT exam preparation tutor, and has a strong connection to helping the underprivileged as a volunteer with Project Downtown, Students for a Healthier Community and Highlands United Methodist Church. He plans to pursue a career in medicine, and will attend the UAB School of Medicine on a full academic scholarship. 

  • UAB Honors student wins Humanity in Action Fellowship
    Sadhvi Batra is one of only 40 winners nationwide for this fellowship, which begins May 25.

    University of Alabama at Birmingham honors student Sadhvi Batra is one of only 40 winners nationwide for the Humanity in Action Fellowship, which supports original research concerning intolerance and democratic values.

    Humanity in Action is an international educational organization that promotes human rights and diversity. The fellowship that brings together university students and young professionals is highly competitive, with more than 700 applicants from around the globe.

    Batra recently graduated from UAB with a degree in neuroscience and philosophy in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. She also was a member of the UAB Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Program and is completing her master’s degree in the School of Public Health’s fifth-year fast-track program.

    “I applied for this fellowship because it promises academic rigor, calls for action and connects students to a network of inspiring senior fellows,” Batra said. “The fellowship not only will allow me to study human rights globally, but will provide me with resources and tools that will allow me to be an agent of change in my own community. Furthermore, the network of senior fellows will bring collaborations across disciplines as a means to solve the world’s most complex issues.”

    Batra hopes the fellowship’s combination of research and activism will deepen her understanding of social injustices and how social issues affect public health and health inequality.

    “I believe this understanding will help me pursue my career goals in becoming an academic physician and a public health expert who studies health disparities and the social determinants of health,” Batra said. “Hopefully, the research opportunities afforded by the fellowship will help me gain knowledge of resources that I can take back to my community to implement an effective and sustainable action project, and add to my perspective by making me aware of my own underlying biases, and challenge me to think about the life that I want to live and lead.”

    Ashley Floyd, associate director of the UAB Honors College and director of the Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships, says Batra’s commitment to social change helped lead her to winning this fellowship and several other national awards.

    Humanity in Action is an international educational organization that promotes human rights and diversity. The fellowship that brings together university students and young professionals is highly competitive, with more than 700 applicants from around the globe.

    “As an undergraduate student, she was awarded a Young Leaders scholarship from the National AIDS Memorial Grove for her work in the fight against HIV and AIDS. She was also selected as an E3! Ambassador for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Floyd said. “Her continued commitment to human rights combined with her leadership abilities helped her land this prestigious accomplishment.”

    Batra will graduate with a master’s degree in public health April 26. The fellowship begins May 25 in Washington, D.C., where the winners will begin orientation with the Council on Foreign Relations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. On May 30, the fellowship program will begin in Europe. The fellows will depart on June 30 after the Humanity in Action International Conference. 

    Upon completion of the fellowship, Batra will begin her medical education, likely at the UAB School of Medicine

  • Bliss Chang awarded Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany

    UAB senior will research Alzheimer’s disease abroad through prestigious scholarship program.

    University of Alabama at Birmingham honors student has been named to an elite group that includes heads of state, CEOs and Nobel Prize winners. Bliss Chang, a senior majoring inbiochemistry andbiology within theCollege of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2015 Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Germany for a year.

    Chang, a member of theUAB Honors CollegeScience and Technology Honors Program, is the 17th UAB student to receive this honor since 1993.

    “Without a doubt, I am humbled and honored to be a Fulbright scholarship recipient,” said Chang, who also was a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship recipient and a 2013 Beckman Scholar. “I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.”

    The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, gives students the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research overseas as part of the organization’s goal to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Participants are selected based on academic merit and leadership potential and help contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

    “My inclusion in this program is possible only because of all the support that I have received from my family, friends and mentors,” Chang said. “People often congratulate and celebrate winners of prestigious awards but forget that the awards were not won by one individual. They are truly won together as a family, and these supporters should receive just as much credit.”

    Most recently, Chang has worked in the labs of two mentors — Jamil Saad, Ph.D., associate professor ofmicrobiology, and Elizabeth Sztul, Ph.D., professorof cell, developmental and integrative biology. Chang credits his collaboration with one of his first mentors, Timothy Fernandez, a UAB alumnus, for encouraging his original passion for research.

    While in Germany, Chang will conduct research in the lab of Markus Zweckstetter, Ph.D., and he will focus his studies on a protein that plays a central role in the proliferation of Alzheimer’s disease. Zweckstetter’s expertise in this area will enable Chang to work in the world’s only lab to possess a crucial segment of this protein.

    “Chang exemplifies the caliber of students coming to UAB in increasing numbers to prepare for dynamic careers and leadership roles that impact our state, nation and world,” said Shannon Blanton, Ph.D., dean of the UAB Honors College. “His appointment reflects UAB’s continued tradition of academic excellence and commitment to serving our local and global community.”

    Chang, who graduates later this month, has big plans for his future, both in the short and long terms. He hopes to help make scientific breakthroughs during his Fulbright appointment in Germany, while also taking in the German culture. An avid pingpong enthusiast, Chang intends to spend some of his time outside of the lab furthering his skills in the sport.

    “I’m ecstatic about having the opportunity to spend an entire year in Germany,” Chang said.

    Eventually, Chang would like to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree and work to bring basic science findings to fruition in the clinic.

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