In 2013, Julie Decker walked through the doors of the Bevill Biomedical Research Building, not as a researcher but as a program manager. She spent more than 20 years honing her skills researching HIV before making a job change beyond her expectation.

After earning her undergraduate degree in molecular biology and mathematics at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, Decker moved to Alabama to do HIV research at Southern Research Institute. In 1993, she moved across the street to UAB and the labs of George Shaw, Ph.D., and Beatrice Hahn, Ph.D., both former professors of medicine.

When Shaw and Hahn moved to Pennsylvania, Decker remained in Alabama, swapping benchwork for deskwork. The microbiology department was searching for an employee who knew the needs of researchers and who could also coordinate the intricate details of building renovation. Decker had the qualifications for both. Not only does she have extensive research experience, she also has a master’s degree in Business Administration, which she received here at UAB.

Frances Lund, chair of the microbiology department, explains Decker’s job. “She coordinates every element of the building renovation, working closely with building employees, the dean’s office, the Animal Resource Program and the contractors who are carrying out the renovations. She set up temporary lab facilities so the faculty and staff can continue their work while their labs are being renovated or when various utilities are temporarily shut down in parts of the building.”

Decker’s colleagues appreciate her exceptional capabilities as program manager for the department. “What I value most is her willingness to take on difficult projects and see them to successful completion. I feel very fortunate to have her as a part of our team,” says Kristina Sinclair, administrator for the department.

Then, Decker has another trait that endears her to everyone she contacts. According to Dr. Michael Saag, Infectious Diseases, “She makes every visitor feel special and pays extraordinary attention to detail.” And microbiology professor Chuck Turnbough says, “She has been one of the most agreeable, pleasant, and cooperative colleagues I have ever worked with.”

Clearly, Decker enjoys her work, although it is different from what she had been doing for 20+ years. “I’m on the other side of the bench as a program manager, and I have a whole lot more appreciation for what goes on this side to make the research happen,” Decker said. “It was quite a switch at first, and I felt like a fish out of water, but everyone was really encouraging and helped show me the ropes. The best part of my job is getting to interact with a variety of people. The people distinguish the department and it is a real pleasure to be a part of the microbiology department.”

Away from UAB, Decker is a busy wife and mother of two teenagers, Trent—a freshman at Thompson High School, and Kristen—who will be attending UAB in the fall. Both children are avid musicians, active in the high school band.

Congratulations to our 2015 PostDoc Research Day award winners:

    Davide Botta (Lund lab) who won 1st place in session 6
    Shannon Kahan (Zajac lab) who won 1st place in session 5
    Venkata Yeramilli (Kearney lab) who won 3rd place in session 5
Hiramoto photo 2Dr. and Mrs. Ray HiramotoCongratulations to graduate students Constance Agamasu, Greg Bedwell, Rosie Hill, Yuan Tian, and Art VanValkenburg who have received Hiramoto Travel Awards. These awards will enable recipients to attend upcoming scientific conferences.

The Hiramoto Travel Award honors the memory of Ray Hiramoto, Ph.D., a noted immunologist and faculty member in the UAB Department of Microbiology until his death in 2002.

All Microbiology graduate students (defined as Ph.D. students with a primary Microbiology faculty member as a dissertation mentor) in good standing are eligible to apply for a Hiramoto Travel Award.

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LeonBeatriz Leon, Ph.D., is one of the five Pittman Scholars for 2015. As a Pittman Scholar, Leon is appointed as an endowed scholar for five years. She will receive additional funding to support her research-related activities or scholarly enrichment.

The Pittman Scholars Program was created to “support the recruitment and retention of up to five highly competitive junior faculty members each year either to basic science or clinical departments,” explains Selwyn Vickers, M.D., Senior VP & Dean in the School of Medicine. “The purpose of the Pittman Scholars program is to identify and nurture tomorrow’s best physicians and scientists, and to reward their efforts with additional resources that support their goals.”

Eligibility for this highly competitive award is restricted to NIH-funded early career scientists who are within five years of their initial appointment to assistant professor position (tenure or non-tenure earning).  

The other 2015 Pittman Scholars are:
     Andre Ballesteros-Tato, Ph.D., Division Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine
     Lizhong Wang, Ph.D., Department of Genetics
     Michael Wells, M.D., Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Clinical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine
     Adam Wende, Ph.D., Department of Pathology

“I'm glad to see the microbiology department represented in this group and hope that we will be in the running every year,” says Frances Lund, Ph.D., Chair, UAB Microbiology Department.

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ramos barnumScott Barnum, Ph.D., and postdoctoral fellow Theresa Ramos, Ph.D., have partnered with Kypha Inc., a St. Louis-based company focused on complement proteins and lateral flow assays, to develop a diagnostic test to rapidly and inexpensively discriminate between bacterial and viral meningitis. This kind of test would be a valuable tool for the emergency room physician, according to Barnum.

Read more:
“UAB, industry partnership could lead to first rapid test for bacterial meningitis,” by Nicole Wyatt. UAB School of Medicine News, January 21, 2015.

"This simple meningitis test could save money and lives—and open a new window on inflammation," by Matt Windsor. The Mix, January 23, 2015.

Ramos and Barnum 2014Theresa Ramos, Ph.D., (left) and her mentor, Scott Barnum, Ph.D. (right) have partnered with a start-up biotech company, Kypha Inc., on the development of a rapid diagnostic device for meningitis and other conditions. Ramos is UAB’s first “corporate postdoctoral fellow” and holds the title of Postdoctoral Entrepreneur at Kypha. She also manages Kypha’s beta testing site at UAB, encompassing other potential projects with UAB’s Institute Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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