UAB students and trainees have many options for the direction they choose for their careers. Graduates take a variety of routes as they leave this University. Many will enter a Postdoc at UAB or a variety of different universities, companies or agencies. Others will enter the workforce in the areas of education, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, government agencies, and a multitude of other areas.

It is very important that you thoroughly investigate your career options, gathering as much information about the industry, the market and individual employers/schools as possible. Self-assessment is the first step in gathering information. Other sources of viable information are printed materials, internet-based information, people in the field and your own personal experience. The more information you gather, the better prepared you will be to build a career story. Information will also help you do the following:

  • Uncover new career areas not previously considered
  • Gain insight into current and future trends in your field
  • Learn the jargon and important issues
  • Obtain advice on where you might fit in
  • Broaden your own network of contacts

UAB aims to provide support, no matter which path you choose to follow for your career. In this Explore section you find resources to help you explore yourself as an individual as well as various career fields.

Now, go exploring!

UAB Research News

  • UAB researchers identify protein that plays key role in brain cancer stem cell growth and survival
    New UAB research study shows therapeutic promise in targeting MLK4 in brain cancer patients.
    Front row, from left: Ichiro Nakano, Sunghak Kim, Terry Hamby, Tesha Sherpa, Mutsuko Minata, Shinobu Yamaguchi; Back row: Jun Wan, Zhuo Zhang, Svetlana Komarova, Marat Pavliukov, Jia Wang

    A team of physicians and scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discovered that a kinase protein, mixed lineage kinase 4, also known as MLK4, plays a crucial role in survival of patient-derived brain cancer stem cells in pre-clinical animal models. The findings suggest that MLK4 could potentially be a useful target for cancer treatment.

    Protein kinases are key regulators of cell function that constitute one of the largest and most functionally diverse gene families. Until recently, MLK4 was considered a poorly characterized kinase. The UAB team, however, identified this gene from a stepwise screening of molecules that are elevated in cancer stem cells isolated from brain cancer patients.

    The findings, published this week online in Cancer Cell, nailed down the novel molecular mechanisms for which MLK4 is essential in cancer stem cells and not in normal cells in the human body. Most importantly, brain cancer patients with higher MLK4 expression have shorter survival despite the current intensive therapies including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Nonetheless, there are no MLK4-targeting therapies or clinical trials currently available for patients.

    “There is no doubt that society desperately needs new and effective therapies for this life-threatening brain disease. Improvement of patient survival for the past 50 years has been counted by months and not years,” said Ichiro Nakano, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Neurosurgery and principal investigator of the study. “We, as an international collaborative team centered at UAB, focus on cancer stem cells as a therapeutic target in brain cancers.”

    “There is no doubt that society desperately needs new and effective therapies for this life-threatening brain disease. Improvement of patient survival for the past 50 years has been counted by months and not years. We, as an international collaborative team centered at UAB, focus on cancer stem cells as a therapeutic target in brain cancers.”

    In early 2000, Nakano was involved in a team that isolated cancer stem cells from brain cancers at the University of California at Los Angeles. This discovery gained attention from physicians and scientists because accumulating evidence suggested that cancer stem cells are relatively therapy-resistant and appear to contribute to re-generation of recurrent tumors that subsequently kill affected patients.

    “Cancer stem cells share many of the properties of normal stem cells but have also gained transformed cancerous phenotypes,” said Sunghak Kim, Ph.D., an instructor in the UAB Department of Neurosurgery who has led much of the research. “We have been trying to identify the cancer stem cell-specific Achilles heel that could make all the difference.”

    While conducting this study, the investigators also found that MLK4-high tumors appear to have Mesenchymal signature, considered to be one process cancers use to become aggressive and therapy-resistant.

    “Approximately 35 to 40 percent of glioblastoma patients appear to have Mesenchymal signature. It is also interesting that some non-Mesenchymal cancers seem to shift their phenotype to a Mesenchymal one after therapeutic failure,” Kim said. “We are still collecting more data on this additional piece of information to prove that this is a universal event in brain cancers.”

    It is important to note that MLK4 is not expressed in all brain cancers. But now that research indicates that MLK4 is elevated in a subset of brain cancer patients and plays a key role in brain cancer stem cell growth, the next step is to identify targeted therapies that affect the MLK4 in the cancer stem cells.

    “We have begun to collaborate with Southern Research Institute to screen drug candidates that selectively target MLK4 in brain cancers,” said Nakano, also a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Targeting strategies for MLK4 may work for other cancer types, as we already know that MLK4 is highly expressed in some other malignant types of cancers.”

    Nakano added, “Ultimately, we want better outcomes for patients with brain cancer. There’s no question that this is not an easy battle. But by further understanding the molecular mechanisms and applying new targeted therapeutic strategies including MLK4, we are hoping to provide brain cancer patients with more promising and tailored therapeutic approaches.”

    Collaborative participants on this project include M.D. Anderson, Ohio State University, University of Texas, Northwestern University, Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center, and a variety of German and Japanese research departments and institutes.

    The work was supported by the American Cancer Society, the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Takeda Science Foundation.

  • Fixing published research mistakes not easy; fixing the publishing system may be harder
    Articles in peer-reviewed research journals sometimes have mistakes, and a UAB study shows the process to correct such mistakes is flawed.

    A commentary published today in Nature suggests that the process for fixing mistakes in peer-reviewed research articles is flawed. The article, written by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, points out that journals are slow to respond and even slower to take action when questions regarding the accuracy of a published research paper are raised.

    The authors say that, in the course of assembling weekly lists of articles on obesity and nutrition, they began to notice more peer-reviewed articles containing what they refer to as ‘substantial or invalidating errors.’ “What was striking was how severe some of these errors were, involving mathematically impossible values, probabilities greater than one, weight loss results that, if true, would have required that adults had grown over 6 centimeters in height in two months, to name just a few,” said David B. Allison, Ph.D., leader of the research team and associate dean for Science in the UAB School of Public Health.

    “These errors involved factual mistakes or practices which veered substantially from clearly accepted procedures in ways that, if corrected, might alter a paper’s conclusions,” said Andrew Brown, Ph.D., a scientist in the UAB School of Public Health and co-author of the commentary. “In several cases, our noting these errors led to retractions of the papers containing them.”

    Brown says the team attempted to address more than 25 of these errors with letters to authors or journals. Their efforts revealed invalidating practices that occur repeatedly and showed how journals and authors react when faced with mistakes that need correction.

    “We learned that post-publication peer review is not consistent, smooth or rapid,” Allison said. “Many journal editors and staff seemed unprepared to investigate, take action or even respond. Too often, the process spiraled through layers of ineffective emails among authors, editors and unidentified journal representatives, often without any public statement’s being added to the original article.”

    During the informal 18-month review of literature, the authors found a number of recurring problems:

    • Editors are often unprepared or reluctant to take speedy and appropriate action
    • Where to send expressions of concern is unclear
    • Journal staff who acknowledged invalidating errors were reluctant to issue retractions or even timely expressions of concern
    • Some journals may charge fees to authors who report the issues to correct others’ mistakes (more than $1,000)
    • No standard mechanism exists to request raw data for review to confirm the errors
    • Concerns expressed through online forums are easily overlooked and are not connected in a way to be found by readers of the article in question
    The authors observed that there is little formal guidance for post-publication corrections. They recommend that journals should standardize their submission and peer-review processes, establish clear protocols to address expressions of concern, and waive publication fees associated with those expressions of concern.

    The authors observed that there is little formal guidance for post-publication corrections. They recommend that journals should standardize their submission and peer-review processes, establish clear protocols to address expressions of concern, and waive publication fees associated with those expressions of concern.

    Further suggestions include creating an environment to address readers’ concerns rapidly and provide clear information on how and to whom such concerns should be addressed.

    “We also think it is very important to create an understanding that such expressions of concern are not a condemnation of the work, but should be viewed as an alert that the work is undergoing further scrutiny,” said co-author Kathryn A. Kaiser, Ph.D.

    Additional recommendations suggest journals and statistical experts should work together to identify common statistical mistakes and that authors and journals should be prepared to share data and analysis code quickly when questions arise.

    The authors noted common statistical errors in many of the studies, including mistaken design or analysis of cluster randomized trials, miscalculation in meta-analyses, and inappropriate baseline comparisons.

    The authors acknowledge that their work did not constitute a formal survey and suggest that a more formal, systematic survey is needed to establish whether their experiences are representative of science in general.

    “Ideally, anyone who detects a potential problem with a study will engage, whether by writing to authors and editors or by commenting online, and will do so in a collegial way,” Brown said. “Scientists who engage in post-publication review often do so out of a sense of duty to their community, but this important work does not come with the same prestige as other scientific endeavors.”

    “Robust science needs robust corrections,” Allison added. “It is time to make the process less onerous.”

    Co-authors of the commentary are Brown, Allison, Kaiser and Brandon J. George, Ph.D., of the UAB School of Public Health.

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