Neurobiology News

You are cordially invited to the
Sixth Annual
McKnight Brain Research Foundation
Poster Reception
Sunday, November 10, 2013
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Indigo Ballrooms D & H
1 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

Hosted by:
Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, The University of Arizona
Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Brain Institute, The University of Florida
Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, The University of Miami

Sponsored by:
McKnight Brain Research Foundation

Michael Heaven, a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Michael Brenner, has been granted the first of two patents he has submitted for methods developed as part of his graduate work. The patent title is “General Mass Spectrometry Assay Using Continuously Eluting Co-fractionating reporters of mass spectrometry detection efficiency.” Prior to this invention, highly accurate quantitation by mass spectroscopy required use of custom isotopically labeled peptides as internal standards. Michael’s invention replaces these with a universal set of peptide standards that lowers cost and increases throughput and sensitivity. Partial support for this project was obtained by Michael winning a grant of $22,000 in the Alabama Launchpad competition. Receiving a patent is quite an accomplishment for a graduate student!

Michael’s public defense of his dissertation titled “A Biochemical Characterization of Alexander Disease and the Development of a Proteomics Research Tool” will be held on Friday, November 1, 2013 in Shelby 1013 at 2:00 p.m..

Michael has a promising future!


Congratulations to senior UHP student, Deepa Etikala, who was selected as one of nine students nationally to participate in the Fishbowl Session at the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council in New Orleans (November 6-10, 2013).

The Fishbowl session it is one of the most popular sessions, especially for honors directors, at the NCHC conference. Students are seated in a circle and will have a conversation with the other students on the panel about things they like and dislike about honors. At the end,  attendees can direct their questions to the students.

This is the third year in a row that a student from UAB's University Honors Program has been granted this prestigious honor.

Mike Sloane, PhD.,
Director, University Honors Program,
Associate Professor of Psychology,
University of Alabama at Birmingham,
Phone: (205) 934-8733
Fax: (205) 975-5493

The UAB Department of Neurobiology is proud to announce Dr. Jacques Wadiche has been promoted to associate professor with tenure. Candidates must be reviewed and approved by the departmental promotion and tenure committee before requests can be made to the School of Medicine and the University. It is not a task the committee takes lightly.

Join us in congratulating Jacques as he continues his success at UAB!

Dr. Harry Sontheimer has been elected to the board of directors of Citizens United to Cure Epilepsy (CURE), which is probably the most prestigious philantrophic organization devoted to support research in epilepsy. It was founded by Susan Axelrod in 1996 and has provided tens of millions in support to epilespy research.

Harald Sontheimer received his Ph.D. in cell biology and biophysics from the University of Heidelberg in 1988. He received postdoctoral training at Yale University, School of Medicine where he was appointed as Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology from 1991-1994. He is now Professor of Neurobiology
Sex, drugs, and good food
Press Release

Selwyn Vickers, M.D., chosen to lead UAB School of Medicine

Vickers, an Alabama native and former UAB faculty member, will begin his new post at UAB Oct. 15, 2013.

Written by Clinton Colmenares

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., has been named the next senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine. Vickers, a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, is a world-renowned surgeon, pancreatic cancer researcher, pioneer in health disparities research and a native of Alabama. He was recommended after an extensive national search.

Vickers, 53, spent his formative years as a young faculty member at UAB, beginning in 1994, and he directed the section of gastrointestinal surgery here from 2000 to 2006. He now is the Jay Phillips Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He will begin his new post at UAB Oct. 15, 2013. Pending approval from the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, Vickers will also hold the James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair. Anupam Agarwal, M.D., who has served as interim vice president and dean since February, will return to his position as director of the Division of Nephrology and vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine.

“We were fortunate to have a pool of very highly talented candidates who recognize that UAB is doing great things here and around the world,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts, who was senior vice president and dean of the School of Medicine from 2010 until his appointment as president in February of this year. “In the end, Dr. Vickers emerged as the right person at the right time for UAB. We are glad to have him back. There are very high expectations for the School of Medicine. With Dr. Vickers as its leader, we have every confidence those expectations will be exceeded.”

“It is my great honor to return to Alabama and UAB, where my family and I created so many wonderful memories,” Vickers said. “I would like to thank President Ray Watts and the search committee for placing their trust in me. I look forward to working with Dr. Watts and everyone else at UAB and leading the School of Medicine toward even greater success.

“I feel fortunate to have served six years as chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School,” Vickers said. “It has been a transformative experience. I will miss working with the outstanding faculty, especially those in the Department of Surgery, and I will always appreciate the opportunity to serve and grow at the University of Minnesota.”

Vickers will lead the medical school’s main campus in Birmingham, as well as regional campuses in Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. He also will be part of UAB Medicine’s joint operating leadership (JOL) team with UAB Health System Chief Executive Officer Will Ferniany, Ph.D., and James Bonner, M.D., president of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, the School of Medicine faculty-physician practice group. The JOL steers operations and finances for all UAB Hospital and ambulatory medical services, including The Kirklin Clinic and the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital. 

Vickers was born in Demopolis, Ala., and grew up in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. He earned baccalaureate and medical degrees from the Johns Hopkins University and completed surgical training there, including a chief residency. He completed two summer post-graduate research fellowships with the National Institutes of Health and training at John Radcliffe Hospital of Oxford University, England. He was an instructor of surgery at Hopkins for a year before coming to UAB as an assistant professor.

While at UAB, Vickers was co-director of the Minority Health and Research Center and the Pancreaticobiliary Center. He was a senior scientist in the Comprehensive Cancer Center and an associate scientist in the Gene Therapy Center.

He left UAB to become chair of the department of surgery at Minnesota in 2006. From Minnesota, he continued research collaborations with faculty at UAB and is the co-principal investigator for the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Pancreatic Cancer. Vickers leads or co-leads several multi-year, multi-million dollar research projects funded by the NIH, covering health disparities, pancreatic cancer and training. He has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1994.

With Mona Fouad, M.D., director of UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine and the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center, Vickers helped create Enhancing Minority Participation in Clinical Trials (EMPaCT), a consortium of five cancer centers aimed at increasing the participation by minorities in clinical trials.

In July, Vickers and James Shikany, Ph.D., a professor in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine, were awarded a $13.5 million grant to create the National Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for African-American Men's Health (NTCC). The NTCC is a collaborative effort with 100 Black Men of America Inc., the National USA Foundation Inc. and the National Football League to create community partnerships to design, deliver and evaluate interventions targeting the four most significant causes of death and disease across the lifespan of African-American men and boys: unintentional and violence-related injury, cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke.

While at UAB, Vickers won numerous honors and awards, including the Argus Society for Excellence in Teaching Award and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2000, he was the first faculty member chosen by students as commencement speaker.   

Vickers and his wife Janice Vickers, who also is from Alabama, have been married since 1988; their parents live in Huntsville. They have four children: Lauren, 22, Adrienne, 20, Lydia, 16, and Benjamin, 14.

The School of Medicine at UAB has more than 1,100 faculty, 3,000 staff, 879 medical students and 814 medical residents. UAB attracts more than $400 million annually in external research funding and consistently ranks among the top 25 schools in funding from the NIH.