MERIT Scholar Biographies


First Year MERIT Scholars


 Sparkle Williams 
Dr. Sparkle Williams
received her BS in Biology from Tuskegee University in 2008 and her MS in Biology in 2010 as well as her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences in 2014 from Tennessee State University. She is performing her Postdoctoral research training with Dr. Brian Sims, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, utilizing a zebra fish model to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie fetal brain injury.


 Kurt Zimmerman 
Dr. Kurt Zimmerman
received his BS in Biochemistry / Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in 2009 and his Ph.D. in Pathology from UAB in 2014. He is performing his Postdoctoral research training with Dr. Brad Yoder, Professor of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology, utilizing the C. elegans model system to define mechanisms of cilia-mediated signaling and disease.


 Second Year MERIT Scholars 


scholar capers 
Dr. Patrice Capers
received her BS in Biology from Spellman College in 2008 and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Morehouse School of Medicine in 2013. She is performing her Postdoctoral research training with Dr. David Allison, Professor of Public Health focusing upon nutrition, obesity and disease. Dr. Capers has selected Dr. Tabitha Hardy, Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Stillman College, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor.


 scholar walker




Dr. Vyvyca Walker
received her BS and MS in Chemistry from Jackson State University in 2005 and 2008, respectively, and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan in 2013. She is performing her Postdoctoral training with Drs. Anupam Agarwal, Professor of Medicine, and James George, Professor of Surgery, examining the role of heme oxygenase in immune-mediated in post-transplant vascular disease and end-stage organ failure. Dr. Walker has selected Dr. Mary Jane Krotzer, Dean of the Division of Arts and Sciences and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at Stillman College, as her MERIT Teaching Mentor. 


 Third Year MERIT Scholar


  Michael Nelson 
Dr. Michael Nelson
received his BS in Biology from Cedarville University in 2005 and his Ph.D. in Microbiology from UAB in 2012. He is performing his Postdoctoral research training with Dr. John Shacka, Assistant Professor of Pathology. His research focuses on delineating the role of the lysosomal enzyme alpha galactosidase in regulating the clearance of alpha synuclein; this work has therapeutic implications for Parkinson's Disease. As a MERIT Scholar, Dr. Nelson has received a Career Enhancement Award from the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education. He has selected Dr. Onesimus Otieno at Oakwood University as his MERIT Teaching Mentor.