Our new Career Counelor is Jami Armbrester.  She currently serves as the Associate Director of Career Services at at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is responsible for establishing a program building career planning and management as well as professional development for trainees in the Office of Postdoctoral Education and graduate students across UAB. She will setting up resources and programs for collaborative use and effectiveness for these students and trainees. Prior to her current position, Ms. Armbrester was part of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UAB where she executed the marketing and public relations strategy for this new Institute.

Ms. Armbrester received her Masters of Science in Biotechnology from UAB. She completed her undergraduate studies at Auburn University in Economics and at UAB in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.

Ms. Armbrester is available by appointment in the OPE office in Shelby 171A to meet with postdocs and GBS students. Jami is available for one-hour, confidential, one-on-one career counseling. With individualized career counseling, she can help you:

  • Clarify and define your career goals
  • Research and explore career options
  • Identify your strengths and weakness
  • Implement a plan for skills development
  • Develop an effective self-marketing campaign, including job search materials (i.e., CV, resume, cover letter)
  • Prepare for upcoming interviews (academic and industry)

To schedule an appointment with Jami, please contact the UAB Office of Career and Professional Development Services, 205-934-6809 or email JamiA@uab.edu.

 

Postdocs in UAB News

  • NIH awards nearly $34 million to UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science
    This renewing of UAB’s prestigious Center for Translational Science Award will bolster research and workforce development at UAB and throughout its regional partner network in the Southeast.

    Written by Christina Crowe

    The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Clinical and Translational Science $33.59 million over four years to continue the center’s programs advancing translational research.

    Since its initial funding in 2008 through Alabama’s only Center for Translational Science Award to work toward innovative discoveries for better health, the UAB CCTS has nurtured UAB research, accelerating the process of translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, training a new generation of clinical and translational researchers, and engaging communities in clinical research efforts.

    The CCTS will continue to advance its mission to accelerate the delivery of new drugs, methodologies and practices to patients at UAB and throughout a partner network of 11 institutions in the Southeast.

    “We are excited by the capacity to continue to enhance our institution’s and our region’s innovative research and medical care,” said Robert Kimberly, M.D., UAB CCTS director. “Through internal and external partnerships, as well as a robust clinical environment and cutting-edge informatics and clinical trial resources, we look forward to working with our patients over the course of their lifespan.”

    Congress launched the CTSA program in 2006, which is overseen by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

    The amount of this award, more than double its previous funding awarded in 2008 and one of the largest at UAB, reflects an unmatched enthusiasm for the CCTS and its affiliated programs. It includes funding for 10 annual pre-doctoral training awards, 10 summer training awards, and eight career development awards for senior postdoctoral fellows or faculty-level candidates.

    “Our training programs continue to foster a culture of responsible, ethical practice among students, faculty and clinicians conducting human subjects research,” Kimberly said. “The NIH’s support of our expansive partner network, encompassing 11 regional academic and medical institutions throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, will allow us to further grow our scope of practices and research resources as we look to tackle health disparities in the Southeast.”

    Through One Great Community, the CCTS’ community engagement enterprise, and the Community Health Innovation Awards, the CCTS engages Greater Birmingham­­-area residents in innovative programs designed by community members to improve their neighborhoods.

    “UAB is fully committed to the goals of the CCTS and to its continued development as a hub for clinical and translational research in the Southeast,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “This significant renewal speaks to the tremendous work and vision of our CCTS leadership and team, as well as our clinical infrastructure, scientific strengths, informatics expertise, training programs, and biostatistical and research design assistance.

    “The CCTS touches researchers in all UAB schools and across the partner network, and we are thrilled that this important work will continue with the confidence and support of the NIH.”

    Click to enlargeState and regional impact

    “The growth of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UAB will foster economic development in the state and throughout the region,” said Senator Richard Shelby. “With a history of providing optimal clinical care and innovation in human health, UAB’s receipt of this prestigious award enables the continued development of the workforce that is necessary to meet the needs of future research advancement.”

    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, himself a physician, voiced his appreciation for the CCTS’ initiatives. “The center has been highly effective in providing assistance in the state’s efforts to eliminate the health disparities seen throughout our region,” Bentley said. “Whether across the life course or in underserved groups disproportionately affected by cancer, stroke, heart conditions and other diseases prevalent in our state, the center has been exemplary in reaching out to our citizens.”

    UAB Vice President, Research and Economic Development Richard Marchase, Ph.D., says he is particularly pleased that the CCTS is building on UAB’s history of serving populations burdened by health disparities through its partnerships with other state and regional institutions committed to advancing health through translational research. “It is through this culture of commitment and collaboration,” he said, “that we have become a national leader in biomedical research.”

  • When computers learn to understand doctors' notes, the world will be a better place
    By training computers to pick out timing clues in medical records, UAB machine learning expert Steven Bethard, Ph.D., aims to help individual physicians visualize patient histories, and researchers recruit for clinical trials.

    Written by Matt Windsor

    Train a computer to read medical records, and you could do a world of good. Doctors could use it to look for dangerous trends in their patients’ health. Researchers could speed drugs to market by quickly finding appropriate patients for clinical trials. They could also find previously overlooked associations. By keeping track of data points across tens of thousands, or millions, of medical records, computer models could find patterns that would never occur to individual researchers. Maybe Asian women in their 40s with type 2 diabetes respond well to a certain combination of medications, while white men in their 60s do not, for example.

    Machine learning, in particular a branch called natural language processing, has had plenty of successes recently. It’s the secret sauce behind IBM’s “Jeopardy”-winning Watson computer and Apple’s Siri personal assistant, for instance. But computers still have a tough time following medical narratives.

    “We take it for granted how easy it is for us to understand language,” said Steven Bethard, Ph.D., a machine learning expert and linguist in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Computer and Information Sciences. “When I’m having a conversation, I can use all kinds of crazy constructions and pauses between words, and you would still understand me. All these things make language very difficult for computers, however. They like rules and an order that is followed every time, but languages aren’t like that.”

    Timing is everything

    So Bethard, the director of UAB’s Computational Representation and Analysis of Language Lab, builds models that help computers catch our drift. In one ongoing project, he is working with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic and Boston Children’s Hospital “to extract timelines from clinical work,” Bethard said. Using text from clinical notes taken at the Mayo Clinic, “we’re working to find all the clinical events mentioned in those notes — things like ‘asthma’ and ‘CT scan,’ for example — and link them to the proper time,” he said. If the computer sees “the patient has a history of asthma,” it should know that’s in the past. If it sees “planning a CT scan,” that’s in the future. “Sometimes you have explicit dates, such as ‘on Sept. 15, the patient had a colonoscopy,’” Bethard said. “But the computer still has to figure out whether that means Sept. 15, 2014, or Sept. 15, 2015.’”

    The diagram above illustrates how a computer could extract timeline information out of an entry in a medical record.A system like this would help individual doctors keep track of their patients’ progress. “If you have had a patient for 15 years, you see so many things,” Bethard said. “Looking at a visual of all the conditions and procedures over that time is extremely useful.” The system could also identify patients for clinical trials. “Say you wanted to find someone who had liver toxicity after they started taking methotrexate,” Bethard said. “The sequence of events is important; you only want to find people who have taken the drug and had liver toxicity in the appropriate order.” Another use: finding new associations between drugs or procedures and adverse events. “If you have a large number of patients, you can say, ‘How often do you see a certain side effect?’ for example,” Bethard said. “You can generate new hypotheses about causality.”

    Learning to spot cancer

    One of Bethard’s graduate students, John David Osborne, has built a machine-learning model that is already having an impact on the practice of health care at UAB. By day, Osborne is a research associate in the biomedical informatics group of UAB’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. He and his colleagues were called in to help UAB’s Cancer Registry with a Big Data challenge: tracking and cataloguing cancer diagnoses and treatment outcomes.

    Every hospital is responsible for reporting new cases of many different types of diseases to the federal government. “Cancer is one of those diseases, but not all cancers are reportable,” Osborne said. “Lots of skin cancers aren’t, but melanoma is; anything malignant or in the central nervous system is reportable.” Identifying and tracking these cases in pathology reports — and determining whether they are or are not reportable — can be quite challenging at a health care system as large as UAB, Osborne notes. A year and a half ago, the biomedical informatics team at the CCTS created the Cancer Registry Control Panel, which uses natural language processing to detect possible cancer cases in the pathology reports. As an additional research project, Osborne recently designed a machine-learning algorithm that provides additional assistance to the human registrars. “It scans through the records and says, ‘This is a likely case, and here’s why I think that,’” Osborne said. “Humans are still going through every record, but you can speed it up and show them where to look.”

    Language matters

    Bethard and Osborne build their models using the Unstructured Information Management Architecture — an open-source version of the code IBM used to create Watson.

    The first step in building a machine-learning model is to decide what kind of training material to use. “The machine-learning models we create for health information extraction look at gold-standard models that humans have created,” Bethard said. “They say, ‘I see all these patterns in the human timelines, so this is what I’ll look for.’”

    Some of these decisions are relatively simple. “Cancer is always a condition of interest,” Bethard said. “Anything related to cancer is something you want to include. The harder pattern to learn is how to link together time and events. A date and then a colon tells you they are describing something that happened on that date. Verb phrases, noun phrases and linguistic structure in time can be very predictive.”

    As that description makes clear, natural language processing requires a deep knowledge of English grammar as well as computer code. “The most successful people in this field are hybrids,” adept at linguistics and computer science, Bethard said. He has a bachelor’s degree in linguistics. He shares his interest in language with his wife, who is now completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the cognitive neuroscience of language at the University of South Carolina.

    Bethard came to Birmingham in 2013, attracted by ongoing research in natural language processing in UAB’s computer science department. “For me, it makes a lot of sense to be at a place with a major medical school,” Bethard said. He is looking forward to collaborations with James Cimino, M.D., Ph.D., the inaugural director of the School of Medicine’s new Informatics Institute and a renowned expert in the creation and manipulation of electronic medical records. “He’s famous, very well-known and well-respected,” Bethard said of Cimino. “He knows about all the range of problems: getting information from the text that doctors write, how to input this data, how to store it — the whole spectrum.”

    Teaching computers to navigate the ambiguity of the English language can be trying, but the opportunities at UAB are exciting, Bethard says. “There is plenty of data available here, and clear challenges for these models to address.”

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UAB Research News

  • UAB DAAH presents “Hither and Yon” lecture and panel discussion Sept. 12

    “Hither and Yon” is a two-part exhibition and panel discussion featuring four artists, presented by The Fuel and Lumber Company in collaboration with the UAB Department of Art and Art History.

    Craig Drennen, "Servant 12," 2013; graphite, acrylic, oil, alkyd, cigarette burns, aluminum foil on paper; 20x20 inches; image courtesy of the artist"A panel discussion with four artists, “Hither and Yon” is set for 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the new University of Alabama at Birmingham Project Space, 900 13th St. South.

    “Hither and Yon” is a two-part exhibition and panel discussion presented by The Fuel and Lumber Company in collaboration with the UAB College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Art and Art History. The Fuel and Lumber Company is a curatorial initiative founded in the summer of 2013 by Schulte and Amy Pleasant to facilitate exhibitions and related events.

    Co-moderated by Lauren Lake, UAB DAAH chair, and Fuel and Lumber co-founder Pete Schulte, professor of drawing, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, the panel will feature artists Jane Fox Hipple, Astri Snodgrass and Jered Sprecher, whose works, along with those of artist Craig Drennen, are featured in the accompanying exhibition. Exploring unique approaches to contemporary painting and drawing, these four artists share roots in the Southeast and have exhibited nationally and internationally.

    The exhibition will open with a reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at The Fuel and Lumber Company, 1805 Third Ave. North. The show will run through Oct. 10, and is open by appointment only. Call 205-369-8329 or email thefuelandlumbercompany@gmail.com.

    Project Space is an adaptive space that will provide an alternative platform for students, faculty and community to engage teaching, research, public service and visual art practices. New events have been planned there for fall 2015.

    Project Space is in the UAB Humanities Building, 900 13th St. South, on the first floor. It is open during project-specific dates and hours or by appointment. For questions, to schedule use of Project Space or to arrange a visit, contact Project Space director Jared Ragland at Raglandj@uab.edu.

  • School of Nursing re-designated PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center

    Designation indicates that the school’s research and clinical programs have superior scientific and technical leadership in nursing.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing has received re-designation as a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center on International Nursing for four years (2015-2019). The school is one of nine WHO Collaborating Centers in Nursing in the United States and one of 43 in the world.

    UAB’s School of Nursing was first awarded its PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center on International Nursing designation in 1994. The School was re-designated in 1997, then again in April 2011 for the four-year term of 2011-2015.

    “This designation continues to help put our School’s global outreach work, here at home and throughout the world, on the map nationally and internationally,” said Doreen Harper, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing and director of the UAB PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for International Nursing. “Since its founding, our School has been on the forefront of enhancing nursing education, practice and research with the ultimate goal of improving health locally and globally. Our continued designation as a PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for International Nursing provides us an exemplary platform to continue this important work for our community, our state and the world.”

    A PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for International Nursing is a special designation given by the organizations to recognize a school’s sustained involvement and interest in global nursing development. The PAHO/WHO designation indicates that the research and clinical programs in the UAB School of Nursing are nationally and internationally recognized, and that UAB has superior scientific and technical leadership in nursing.

    As a PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center, the UAB School of Nursing participates in an international network that works toward realizing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and the WHO’s major goal of “Health for All” by developing and sharing education and research materials that will help achieve these goals. The UAB School of Nursing collaborates with nurses in other countries to develop programs to enhance nursing education, practice and research and ultimately to improve global health. 

    For this next four-year term, the school’s work will focus on collaborating with PAHO/WHO to strengthen the quality of nursing and midwifery education, including in the agenda priority topics such as Universal Health Coverage, Universal Access to Health Care and Primary Health Care, and collaborating with PAHO/WHO to enhance the use and dissemination of knowledge resources to strengthen nursing and midwifery capacity and quality improvement in nursing and midwifery education program outcomes.

    “Our school has always been a leader and trendsetter in improving primary care, access to care within inner cities and rural communities, and improving quality of care in Alabama and beyond,” said Lynda Wilson, Ph.D., the center’s deputy director and School of Nursing professor. “Our re-designation for the next four years enables our school to collaborate with our global partners to promote nurses’ contributions to universal health coverage and universal access to health care to improve capacity, access and outcomes to help improve the lives and quality of life for millions of people.”

    The UAB School of Nursing is among an elite group of these centers in the Western Hemisphere. The United States belongs to the “AMRO” of the World Health Organization. This region comprises all the countries from Canada to Chile and is administered by the Pan American Health Organization. As a part of the AMRO Region, the School’s Collaborating Center is a member of PANMCC, the Pan American Nursing/Midwifery Collaborating Centers. Currently, PANMCC has 19 centers. The 43 worldwide WHO Collaborating Centers for International Nursing are organized into a global network. For further information visit the Global Network Website.

    The school also has many other global initiatives in addition to the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center work, including visiting scholar programs, study away, global service learning and integration of global health content across the curriculum. The School’s collaborative relationships with Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Zambia and many other countries have included visiting scholars, visiting professors, student exchanges and international research programs.

    More information is available on the School of Nursing website.

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