Upon appointment, a postdoctoral scholar is assigned to one of two distinct categories for payroll and taxation purposes:

Status Code 21: A Postdoctoral Employee is an individual who, while pursuing further training, provides services to UAB for compensation. These postdocs receive a salary, usually as part of an NIH-funded grant. Salaries and wages are fully taxable to the individual providing the services. Postdoctoral employees receive benefits as shown under the Benefits section.

Status Code 20: A Postdoctoral Trainee is an individual who is receiving a true fellowship, as defined by the IRS, and receives an amount to aid in the pursuit of research training. This amount cannot represent payment for the performance of any past, present, or future teaching, research, or other services. Postdoctoral trainees are provided health insurance with the opportunity to purchase dental options.

In accordance with IRS regulations, UAB does not withhold federal income taxes on status code 20 postdoc trainees, and the State of Alabama currently excludes fellowships from taxation in their entirety. Therefore, to the extent that a scholarship/fellowship is federally taxable to the individual, that individual will probably have to file federal quarterly estimated income tax returns and pay quarterly taxes in order to comply with individual income tax regulations. (For specific advice on an individual tax situation, a tax professional or the IRS should be contacted. Non-resident aliens should direct their tax questions to the International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) at (205) 934-3328. Postdoctoral trainees receive benefits as shown under the Benefits section.

In accordance with regulations, federal and state income taxes are not withheld from stipend amount IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES. You may be required to file federal quarterly estimated income tax returns and pay quarterly taxes to comply with individual income tax regulations.

It is important to consult an income tax professional or the IRS for advice on this matter.

The IRS booklet, Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, can be viewed on-line at:http://www.irs.gov. In the Search For field type: Publication 970 and in the Search Within field choose: IRS site. The booklet can be printed out or you may call (800) 829-3676 for a copy to be sent by mail. Additional publications at this site that may help you include:

Publication 421, Scholarships and Fellowship Grants 
Publication 355, Estimated Tax 
Publication 306, Penalty for Underpayment of Estimated Tax 
Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

State of Alabama income tax website - http://www.alabama.gov/ 

Financial Affairs webpage on the UAB web site has a Scholarship & Fellowship section which is very helpful. See "Taxability to Individuals" at http://financialaffairs.uab.edu/content.asp?id=297413

Postdocs in UAB News

  • UAB Psychology professor given early career award
    Faculty member honored for significant contributions to the field.

    Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D., has been selected to receive the Routh Early Career Award from the Society of Pediatric Psychology.

    This national award recognizes an early career member of the society who has made significant contributions to the field of pediatric psychology in research, clinical training and service.

    Stavrinos, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Psychology, studies distracted driving, with particular attention to at-risk populations.

    She serves as the director of the Translational Research for Injury Prevention, or TRIP, laboratory. The focus of the lab’s research is the prevention and control of unintentional injuries that result from motor vehicle crashes.

    The TRIP lab offers students at various levels of training, from high school to postdoctoral, and from various disciplines the opportunity to conduct high-quality behavioral research. Since its establishment in 2009, nearly 100 students have been trained under Stavrinos’ mentorship.

    The award will be presented at the Society of Pediatric Psychology’s annual conference in April.

  • UAB researchers work to unravel the complex genetic disease neurofibromatosis type 1
    One major goal is the discovery of new genotype/phenotype correlations — how a particular mutation indicates that some symptoms in patients are unlikely to develop with age.
    Ludwine Messiaen

    It is easy to tell a medical research story that has a simple and dramatic moment. But disease is often much more complex, and the work to understand it can be painstaking.

    A vivid example of that is seen in the UAB Medical Genomics Laboratory, headed by Ludwine Messiaen, Ph.D., professor of genetics. This lab offers clinical genetic testing for a broad array of common and rare genetic disorders. One of the most confounding is neurofibromatosis type 1.

    This can be a heartbreaking disease.

    Changes at puberty

    It usually starts with café-au-lait skin markings, so named because of their distinctive coloring, in an infant. But at puberty — already a challenging time in a person’s life, many patients develop benign skin tumors called neurofibromas that erupt as bumps across the body. Patients vary widely in their symptoms, which can include freckles near skin folds of the body, nodules in the eyes, tumors along the optic nerve, heart defects, anomalies of connective tissue or bones, developmental delay, intellectual disability, and learning problems.

    Patients show a broad clinical variability as they grow, and whether their case will be mild or severe cannot — in most cases — be predicted when the disease first appears. This leaves physicians and families uncertain about what symptoms will appear in a particular child as he or she nears puberty.

    Cafe-au-lait skin markings on the back of a young child

    Profusion of mutations

    This kaleidoscope of clinical signs is mirrored by an abundance of different mutations in the NF1 gene, responsible for the disease. The UAB Medical Genomics Laboratory has collected DNA and identified a pathogenic mutation in more than 7,800 unrelated neurofibromatosis type 1 patients. All have NF1 mutations, but meticulous examination has revealed so far more than 3,000 different mutations. These can be found in every part of the gene, and the mutational spectrum involves microdeletions, deletions or duplications that involve one or more exons, frameshift and nonsense mutations, and splice or missense mutations. Almost half of the NF1 patients carry a unique mutation found only in their specific family. Other mutations have been found in multiple unrelated families.

    Two searches

    From this complicated array of mutations and clinical symptoms, Messiaen and her colleagues have tried to answer two questions.

    First, can a particular mutation be correlated with the symptoms that will develop as the child grows? This is called a genotype/phenotype (DNA/symptoms) correlation, and only two have previously been found for neurofibromatosis type 1.

    “It’s important for people to know what may happen,” Messiaen said. “When a child is born with neurofibromatosis type 1, café-au-lait spots appear very shortly after birth; but other problems, more specifically the development of skin neurofibromas, typically appear around puberty. If a genotype/phenotype correlation exists for a particular mutation, it will help these families have some perspective of what the future will bring, and it will help families cope with the disease. If it is a mutation that takes away the heavy tumor burden at puberty, that information will relieve families, even though learning disabilities may still appear.”

    The second question for Messiaen and UAB postdoctoral trainee Meng-Chang “Jack” Hsiao, UAB Department of Genetics, is whether they could identify the likely mechanism that caused a group of mutations in which the DNA has been rearranged to create mix-ups that make the gene longer or shorter.

    Each question requires meticulous research. One means reaching out to patients, families and referring physicians around the nation and the world. The other is a molecular genetic detective story, pursued in the UAB lab.

    Messiaen and Meng-Chang "Jack" Hsiao are exploring the mechanisms behind the mutations seen in neurofibromatosis type 1.

    Seeking a correlation

    For the first question, Messiaen last year led a group of 74 researchers and clinicians from 58 centers in the discovery of just the third genotype/phenotype correlation ever found for neurofibromatosis type 1. They looked at 136 individuals who all had a missense mutation in the arginine moiety of neurofibromin, the protein encoded by the NF1 gene, at amino acid position 1,809. These mutations are the second-most-frequent ones seen in the UAB collection.

    To look for a correlation, the team had to gather detailed clinical symptomatic information for each of the neurofibromatosis patients, from patients, families, referral physicians and researchers in 24 U.S. states and Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the United Kingdom, India, Israel and Spain.

    In a paper published in the journal Human Mutation last year, they found that these patients have a distinct phenotype, Messiaen says. They had the café-au-lait marks, with or without the skin-fold freckling and Lisch eye nodules. But the patients did not develop the visible, disfiguring neurofibromas on their skin around puberty. However, there was a higher prevalence of blood flow obstruction from the heart to the lungs and a short stature. More than half had developmental delays and/or learning disabilities.

    Messiaen is calling for international collaboration to expand the study to a total of 250 mutations, which will provide the statistical power needed for patient case management by doctors. And in the next few years, she will focus on finding more genotype/phenotype correlations for other specific mutations.

    "If a genotype/phenotype correlation exists for a particular mutation, it will help these families have some perspective of what the future will bring, and it will help families cope with the disease."

    "If a genotype/phenotype correlation exists for a particular mutation, it will help these families have some perspective of what the future will bring, and it will help families cope with the disease."

    Chasing molecular clues

    For the second question, Hsiao, Messiaen and colleagues looked at NF1 copy-number variations — where the mutant gene is either longer or shorter than a normal NF1 gene — from 85 unrelated neurofibromatosis type 1 patients, along with two previously published copy-number variations. Ten of these were partial duplications within the NF1 gene, and 77 were deletions. Hsiao looked for specific nucleotide breakpoints in these variants — the places where the duplication or deletion begins or ends — that would be clues to how the changes occurred.

    The methods to examine these mutant genes include multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, array comparative genomic hybridization, breakpoint-spanning PCR and sequencing.

    “The most difficult challenge is to see how the rearrangements happen,” Hsiao said. “It’s really difficult to decipher.”

    In a paper published in The American Journal of Human Genetics last year, Hsiao found that DNA replication-based mechanisms — such as fork stalling and template switching, and microhomology-mediated break-induced replication — as well as serial replication stalling appear to be the major causes of the NF1 copy-number variants. In one complicated rearrangement, the DNA replication appeared to have stalled five times, with the stalled DNA strand then either invading forward or invading backward into another part of the NF1 gene. Hsiao also found that the mutant genes showed rearrangement hotspots that included one palindromic sequence and four Alu elements. Alu elements are short primate-specific repeats in the DNA; the human genome contains about 1 million copies of various Alu elements that make up almost 11 percent of the genome.

    Two sides to the research

    Messiaen says the two recent papers are “nice companions.”

    “They show two sides of research aspects of this laboratory,” she said. “One digs deeper into the mechanism of specific types of mutation, and one contributes to genotype/phenotype correlation.”

  • 2016 Darwin Day commemorates Charles Darwin’s birthday, showcases scientific research
    Poster sessions and guest lecturers aim to celebrate Darwin’s legacy.

    To honor the 207th birthday of legendary evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, the University of Alabama at Birmingham will host its annual Darwin Day on Thursday, Feb. 11, and Friday, Feb. 12. The events will celebrate scientific research in evolutionary biology and other disciplines.

    The event is co-hosted by UAB’s departments of Anthropology and Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    “Charles Darwin’s great discovery, the principle of natural selection, is more relevant to science than ever before,” said Steven Austad, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biology. “For instance, it underlies our increasing success in cancer chemotherapy, provides guidance in combating new strains of drug-resistant diseases, and will ultimately determine how catastrophic climate change will prove to be for our planet.”

    A panel discussion exploring evolution, belief and education will kick off this year’s Darwin Day events in Lister Hill Library’s Edge of Chaos.The panel, which will be led by guest speakers Elisabetta Palagi, Ph.D., a behavioral biologist from the Natural History Museum University of Pisa in Italy, and Josh Rosenau, an evolutionary biologist from the National Center for Science Education, will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. on Feb. 11. Lee Meadows, Ph.D., from UAB’s School of Education, and Marshall Abrams, Ph.D., a philosophy professor in UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences, will also be panelists for this discussion.

    Following the panel, students and faculty will present a public poster session highlighting exciting new research from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Edge of Chaos. Those interested in presenting a poster should send an email to darwinday@uab.edu with their name, department, poster title, and indication of whether they are a student, postdoc or faculty.

    “Anthropologists and other students of science today will be well-served by striving to emulate Darwin’s objectivity, meticulous attention to detail and appreciation for complexity during the practice of science.”

    On Thursday evening, Darwin Day activities will continue with a reception followed by a talk by Rosenau. Rosenau’s lecture, “The Impact of Darwin in Everyday Life,” will begin at 7 p.m. following the 6 p.m. reception at the McWane Science Center and is open to the public.  

    Darwin Day will continue on Friday, Feb. 12, from 4 to 5 p.m., with a lecture from Palagi. Palagi’s talk, “The Strategic Functions of Play: Modality and Communication,” will be held in Heritage Hall, Room 104.

    “The approach of Charles Darwin represents the scientific endeavor at its best wherein data and reasoning interact to elucidate the natural world,” said Doug Fry, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anthropology. “Anthropologists and other students of science today will be well-served by striving to emulate Darwin’s objectivity, meticulous attention to detail and appreciation for complexity during the practice of science.”

    Refreshments and drinks will be provided at all events, and Darwin Day T-shirts will be on sale as well. For more information about the events, email darwinday@uab.edu.

    Sponsors for the 2016 Darwin Day include the UAB Honors College and the Endowment for the John S. Jemison, Jr., Visiting Professorship in the Humanities.

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UAB Research News

  • Anal sex linked to increased risk of incontinence in both males, females
    Study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows fecal incontinence risk from anal sex is heightened for both women and men, with men almost three times as likely to experience incontinence.

    Engaging in the practice of anal sex may increase risks for bowel problems, including fecal incontinence and bowel leakage, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Medicine study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

    The incontinence risk is heightened particularly among men who have sex with men, according to lead author Alayne Markland, D.O., associate professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care in UAB’s School of Medicine. The researchers analyzed data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 6,150 adults. They found 37 percent of women and almost 5 percent of men reported trying anal intercourse at least once. Women engaging in anal sex were 50 percent more likely than their peers to report having fecal incontinence at least once a month. The men’s odds of incontinence were almost tripled.

    “The study did not provide data on the frequency of the practice of anal sex and the impact of incontinence, but it did show a relationship between the practice of anal sex and fecal incontinence — more so among men than women,” Markland said. “What we don’t know is whether someone who has anal sex one or two times is at the same increased risk for fecal incontinence as someone who has anal sex regularly.”

    Overall, 4,170 adults ages 20-69 (2,070 women and 2,100 men) completed sexual behavior questionnaires and responded to fecal incontinence questions as part of the NHANES surveys. Overall, 8.3 percent of women and 5.6 percent of men in the study had fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence rates were higher among women (9.9 percent) and men (11.6 percent) reporting anal intercourse than among women (7.4 percent) and men (5.3 percent) not reporting anal intercourse.

    Fecal incontinence was determined to have occurred by researchers who reviewed responses to survey questions about leakage of mucus, liquid or stool and occurred at least monthly. The study showed that most adults who experience fecal incontinence have only occasional bouts of diarrhea. However, fecal incontinence can be chronic; it is often caused by muscle and nerve damage around the rectum, constipation, certain diseases, surgical procedures, and childbirth.  

    Markland says previous clinical trials have shown that pelvic floor muscle or anal exercises can be an effective treatment for fecal incontinence, and she recommends those engaging in anal intercourse consider these exercises to help guard against decreased anal sphincter tone.

    Markland says little is known about how anal intercourse might affect bowel function, even though the survey showed the practice is common among both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

    “We really know very little about the connection between anal sex and fecal incontinence, especially among women,” Markland said. “Older studies among predominately HIV-positive males showed that men who have sex with men may have impaired rectal muscle strength. But one thing I think this study does show is that it is important that both the patient and clinical provider need to be aware of the potential risks associated with anal incontinence and be willing to discuss what those risks may be.”

    Markland says previous clinical trials have shown that pelvic floor muscle or anal exercises can be an effective treatment for fecal incontinence, and she recommends those engaging in anal intercourse consider these exercises to help guard against decreased anal sphincter tone.

    “These are also known as Kegel exercises,” Markland said. “But, doing these exercises has not been studied as a preventive measure for lowering the odds of having fecal incontinence in a general population. All we can do is speculate.”

    Markland maintains an NHANES data set, and her primary research interest is in incontinence, specifically bowel leakage. She completed the study using indirect funding from several grants.

    “I am always looking for potentially modifiable factors that may be related to bowel leakage,” Markland said. “Anal intercourse has been understudied in our population in general, and anal incontinence and bowel incontinence were evaluated only in men who have sex with men in older studies. I thought we really needed to look at both men and women and assess the prevalence and associations between anal intercourse and fecal incontinence in both genders.” 

  • New book by UAB professor examines the role of African-American educators during the Birmingham civil rights movement
    After more than 10 years of archival research and interviews with 45 African-American educators, Tondra Loder-Jackson, Ph.D., reveals their experiences and contributions to the movement.

    Birmingham is rich with stories about the civil rights movement and the prominent leaders, local activists and even children who fought for social change, but little is known about the role educators played during that time.

    A new book by University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Tondra Loder-Jackson, Ph.D., examines the role that African-American educators played in the Birmingham civil rights movement from the late 19th century to the present day.

    “This is the first book of its kind that is devoted primarily to the multigenerational perspectives of African-American educators in the South and how they perceived their roles and contributions to the civil rights movement,” said Loder-Jackson. “I wasn’t born in Birmingham, but I grew up here. My early experiences of attending Birmingham schools during the period of desegregation are part of what shaped my interest in this topic.”

    Schoolhouse Activists: African American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement” revisits the longstanding debate about whether educators were friends or foes of the civil rights movement. The book is the culmination of more than 10 years of archival research and interviews. Loder-Jackson has found that African-American educators in Birmingham were involved in both the front lines of the movement and behind the scenes in ways that are not easily noticeable to most scholars and the general public.

    “Educators spent time teaching students about social justice issues and the perils of Jim Crow,” said Loder-Jackson. “Many of them supported students when they learned of their interest in participating in the movement. An example of this is not reporting students to school administrators when they chose to skip class to participate in the Children’s Crusade. They faced opposition while fighting for benefits such as sick leave. Some even lost their jobs fighting for equal pay.”

    The book is divided into two parts. Part I chronicles the history of Birmingham education in relation to African-American educators between the late 19th century and the mid-20th-century classical phase of the movement, which began in 1954 with the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In Part II, Loder-Jackson shares the memories and experiences of 45 African-American educators who came of age before, during and after the classical movement. She hopes the book will serve as a resource for current educators, community activists and students grappling with contemporary struggles for educational justice.

    “I’m not sure if some of our teachers today are aware of the impact they can have to change schools and society,” Loder-Jackson said. “We live in a time now where many teachers feel they are being dictated to by external entities like federal and state governments. I think it’s important for K-12 educators in particular to know that they have a history of activism and advocacy, and in the past they have been empowered to effect change in schools.”

    Loder-Jackson is an associate professor in the UAB School of Education Department of Human Studies. She will conduct her first campus book talk on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 4-6 p.m., at the UAB Hill Student Center, 1400 University Blvd., Room 203. The book talk is sponsored by the UAB Center for Urban Education and the African American Faculty Association

    To learn more about “Schoolhouse Activists: African American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement,” click here. The first chapter of the book is available to read online.

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