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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World AIDS DayMore than 130 investigators, students and staff interested in HIV, global health and infectious diseases research gathered at UAB on December 11, 2014, to celebrate World AIDS Day. CFAR Director Michael Saag presented the State of the CFAR, and a Research Poster Competition rounded out the event. Four of the five of the monetary awards for project funding went to teams directed by microbiology department faculty.

FIRST PLACE ($4000 funding + $250 prize)
A novel approach to generate HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies
Team: Jan Novak, Zina Moldoveanu, Hui Hu, Matthew Renfro, Jialan Geng, Hairong Wei, Bi Shi, Qing Wei, Milan Raska, Audra Laube, Bara Knoppova

SECOND PLACE ($2000 funding + $125 prize)
Novel copper-coordinating small molecule inhibitors against methicillin resistant stphylococcus aureus
Team: Suzanne Michalek, Olaf Kutsch, Frank Wolschendorf, Santosh Shah, Alex Dalecki, Kaitlyn Schaaf

PEOPLE'S CHOICE ($1000 funding + $75 prize)
Engineer the CRISPR/Cas9 system to clear pathogenic DNA virus infections in AIDS patients
Team: George Luo, Mengxi Jiang, Joshua Justice

*SPECIAL GLOBAL HEALTH AWARD ($4000 funding + $250 prize)
Isolation of human antibodies for the treatment of fungal infections
Team: John Kearney, Rodney Glenn King, Emily Stefanov

Justement 2013In a November 18, 2014, article in GEN (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News), Susanna F. Greer, Ph.D., says microbiology professor Louis Justement, Ph.D., changed her life.

As an undergraduate chemistry major in the 1990s, Greer spent a summer doing biomedical research in Justement’s lab at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. This initial encounter led Greer to choose a career in research. She is currently associate professor of biology at Georgia State University, specializing in transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of immune response and cancer immunology.

Justement, who chairs the Training and Career Opportunities Subcommittee of the Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology, continues to change the lives of students here at UAB.

Read Susanna Greer’s thoughts about mentoring in “Making Mentoring Meaningful.”
Working Together KlugThe UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive facility, is known as a leader in bringing scientific discoveries from laboratories to patients. It is home to more than 350 scientists and physician-scientists—many who are in the UAB Department of Microbiology. These scientists are focusing their research on the basic mechanisms of cancer pathogenesis.

An October 2014 US Airways article, “UAB: A Center for Healing,” features the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and is illustrated with a photograph of UAB Microbiology Department professor Christopher Klug, Ph.D.