Mentor:  Dr. Laura E. Dreer, Assistant Professor, Director of Psychological & Neuropsychological Clinical Research Services, CEH 200, University of Alabama at Birmingham 35294-0009. Telephone: (205) 325-8681; Email:

Postdoctoral position is available in Dr. Laura Dreer's clinical research program.

Dr. Dreer is a licensed clinical researcher with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and specialty expertise in medical rehabilitation psychology and neuropsychology.  Her research program focuses on adjustment related issues relevant to patients and family caregivers living with chronic health conditions such as vision impairments, military related injuries, head injuries, and seizures/epilepsy to name just a few.  Additionally, her research focuses on developing health promotion and cognitive behavioral therapy interventions/programs to improve health outcomes.

The research will be focused on these areas in terms of project coordination, preparation of scientific manuscripts, grant submissions, and data analyses.  Individuals with experience in project coordination, scientific publication, national presentations, and grant preparation are highly preferred as well as a background in health promotion,  medical rehabilitation, and/or mental health research.  Highly motivated individuals with a background in these areas are strongly encouraged to apply, particularly experience with publications and managing clinical trials in human research.  Please send a CV, a brief statement of research interests and career goals, and a list of 3 references with contact information to:  Dr. Laura Dreer at

Postdocs in UAB News

  • King crabs threaten Antarctic ecosystem due to warming ocean
    Predators’ arrival could radically alter marine life

    The king crab Paralomis birsteini, photographed on the continental slope off Marguerite Bay, Antarctica, at a depth of 1100 m.King crabs may soon become high-level predators in Antarctic marine ecosystems where they have not played a role in tens of millions of years, according to a new study on which University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers worked in conjunction with the Florida Institute of Technology and other institutions.

    “No Barrier to Emergence of Bathyal King Crabs on the Antarctic Shelf,” published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ties the reappearance of these crabs to global warming.

    This study is a continuation of previous work in the field of Antarctic marine ecology done by James McClintock, Ph.D., paper co-author and professor in UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology, along with his colleagues.

    “The rising temperature of the ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula — one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet — should make it possible for king crab populations to move to the shallow continental shelf from their current deep-sea habitat within the next several decades,” said lead author Richard Aronson, Ph.D., professor and head of Florida Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences.

    Researchers found no barriers, such as salinity levels, types of sediments on the seafloor or food resources, to prevent the predatory crustaceans from arriving if the water became warm enough. That arrival would have a huge impact.

    “Because other creatures on the continental shelf have evolved without shell-crushing predators, if the crabs moved in they could radically restructure the ecosystem,” Aronson said.

    Nathaniel B. Palmer in the ice off Marguerite Bay.The study provides initial data and does not by itself prove that crab populations will expand into shallower waters.

    “The only way to test the hypothesis that the crabs are expanding their depth-range is to track their movements through long-term monitoring,” McClintock said.

    In the 2010 to 2011 Antarctic summer, in research funded by the National Science Foundation, the team used an underwater camera sled to document a reproductive population of the crabs for the first time on the continental slope off Marguerite Bay on the western Antarctic Peninsula. That area is only a few hundred meters deeper than the continental shelf where the delicate ecosystem flourishes.

    “The mounting anticipation as the researchers watched the transmissions from the seafloor culminated in a mixture of both satisfaction and unease upon the seeing the first image of a king crab on the Antarctic slope,” said Margaret Amsler, a research assistant and co-author from UAB.

    “The overall effect of the migration of king crabs to shallower waters,” said postdoctoral scientist and study co-author Kathryn Smith of Florida Institute of Technology, “would be to make the unique Antarctic ecosystem much more like ecosystems in other areas of the globe, a process ecologists call biotic homogenization.”

    SeaSled towed vehicle being deployed from the Palmer off Marguerite Bay.Such changes, the researchers concluded, would fundamentally alter the Antarctic seafloor ecosystem and diminish the diversity of marine ecosystems globally.

    The data used in the paper were collected during an expedition to Antarctica run jointly by NSF, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the Swedish Research Council. The expedition included scientists from Florida Tech, UAB, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

    Journalists may access the embargoed paper through EurekAlert. They should register with and request access to PNAS materials. Already registered journalists may request access to PNAS at

    A video version of this news story available by contacting Dena Headlee at or (703) 292-7739.

  • Starting strong in science
    UAB freshman Priya Shah is already a veteran in the lab. In her senior year of high school, she began a tissue-engineering project with UAB researcher Joel Berry, Ph.D., that has led to national honors — and could eventually affect patients worldwide.
    Written by Matt Windsor

    Team science: Shah is working with Joel Berry (left) and Jillian Richter (right) to create a benchtop model of atherosclerosis that could accelerate drug development. Sections of one of the team’s latest bioreactors are visible in the foreground.Priya Shah was looking for a science project. She found much more — an award-winning study, one-on-one mentoring from a veteran researcher and a leading role in a project that could eventually affect millions — all before graduating from high school.

    Shah, now a freshman at UAB and a member of the UAB Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors program, has spent the past year and a half developing a cutting-edge idea in the lab of Joel Berry, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (a joint department of the schools of Engineering and Medicine). Working with Jillian Richter, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, the team is creating a revolutionary bioreactor — a little black box designed to accelerate the drug development process for treating atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease.

    It’s a rare opportunity for any eager young scientist — one made possible by UAB’s world-class research enterprise, mentoring culture and investment in specialized programs focused on student research. “The opportunities you get here to be part of a research team and to get direct mentoring experience as early as your freshman year are pretty unusual across the country,” said Diane Tucker, Ph.D., director of the SciTech Honors program and a professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology.

    Fearlessness and serendipity

    Last spring, Shah was getting ready for her senior year at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA). That meant she needed an independent, mentored research project — a graduation requirement for members of ASFA’s math and science track. She knew she wanted to do something in biomedical engineering, but “I also knew from previous experiences that it’s not easy to find someone to take you on,” Shah said. Undaunted, she started looking through the faculty pages on UAB’s Biomedical Engineering department site.

    Berry’s work with vascular stents caught her eye, and she sent him an email. After an initial meeting, Shah asked if he would be willing to mentor her. “He said ‘sure,’ which was shocking,” Shah said with a laugh. “I wasn’t expecting it to go so smoothly.” Berry, who is also associate director of the SciTech Honors program, has extensive experience working with promising young people who are fascinated by science. Impressed with Shah’s intelligence, maturity and “fearlessness” in talking with researchers, he had the perfect project in mind.

    Berry’s research “centers around devices implanted to replace diseased or damaged tissue in the cardiovascular system — vascular stents and tissue-engineered blood vessels,” he explained. He is also working on tissue-engineered models of breast cancer. “These models are developed from established cell lines, but will eventually be developed from cells extracted from individual patients,” Berry said. The cells are grown in a three-dimensional culture and can be kept alive for weeks at a time by a perfusion system, allowing for patient-specific testing to identify the most effective tumor treatments, he says. The engineered breast cancer research is funded by a grant from the Department of Defense. Berry will seek funding from the National Institutes of Health based on Shah’s work with the atherosclerosis project.

    A black box to tackle atherosclerosis

    Berry, who came to UAB from Wake Forest University five years ago, had an idea that combined his two research interests. He wanted to develop a tissue-engineered blood vessel — not a pristine vessel, but one filled with fatty, cholesterol-laden plaques. These are the hallmarks of atherosclerosis, “the No. 1 killer of adults in the Western world,” Berry said. An accurate benchtop model of atherosclerosis, derived from human cells, would give scientists searching for new treatments an ideal testing ground compared with the animal models currently used.

    Image of the perfusion bioreactor system used to culture engineered vascular tissue for the atherosclerosis project. A sample of the engineered tissue is seen at center.

    But Berry, occupied with his other research, hadn’t had time to develop the idea. Richter, also a biomedical engineering graduate of Wake Forest University and postdoctoral fellow at UAB, began investigating the idea with a unique imaging method known as bioluminescence. After Berry and Richter spent some time with Shah, they both realized she was up to the challenge. Shah quickly learned the process of growing cells, how to transfect them with luminescent viruses, which are used to monitor inflammation in the model arteries, and how to image them with a special camera. She also molded the tubes for the centerpiece of the project, the bioreactor: a shoebox-sized device containing three perpendicular, hollow tubes to give the cells a structure to grow on.

    Through repeated experiments, Shah and Richter figured out the best ways to induce and measure inflammation in their model system. “You don’t always have to have positive results, but you hope,” Shah said. When she let herself into the lab on a Saturday in December 2014 and saw that their final proof-of-concept experiment was a success, “I was very excited,” she said. “I texted a picture to Jillian and to all my friends. I met my family for lunch and said, ‘Guys, it worked!’”

    Building blocks of success

    Shah’s efforts have already attracted plenty of attention. She took home a first prize in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair (hosted at UAB), followed by a Best in Show award at the statewide Alabama Science and Engineering Fair. Shah also earned a place in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held in Pittsburgh in May, along with students from more than 75 countries. Discussing her work in front of renowned experts “was exciting and terrifying at the same time,” Shah recalled.

    Shah was accepted into schools around the country; but UAB’s Biomedical Engineering and Honors programs, and the connections she had made on campus, clinched the deal for her hometown school. “I had two wonderful mentors, and I’ve been exposed to UAB for the past few years — it made a lot of sense for me,” she said.

    “She’s demonstrated an aptitude for science, and all of the personal attributes you need to succeed in science — independence of thought and behavior, and curiosity,” Berry said. Shah will continue to develop these attributes in the SciTech program, Tucker adds. “We work with the students throughout their time at UAB, so we can systematically introduce skills and ways of thinking and approaching problems,” Tucker said. That includes specialized training in everything from lab skills and oral presentations to submitting actual formatted NIH proposals for their research. The students also work together to develop communication and leadership skills “that will allow them to be part of teams that are solving complex problems,” Tucker said.

    “Prospective students come and talk to our current students, see what we have to offer, including substantial study abroad and service learning options, and they can visualize themselves being successful here,” Tucker added. “They sense this is a place where they will thrive.”

    Investing in ideas — and people

    As she settles in for her freshman year, Shah will continue to work on the atherosclerosis project in Berry’s lab. The team now includes two other undergraduate biomedical engineering students (and SciTech program members): Nathan Wells and Ethan Downs. “We’re continuing to gather data that we think puts us in a good position to secure grant funding,” Berry said.

    The project has also benefited from a $5,000 investment from the Invention to Innovation (i2i) initiative. This joint collaboration between the School of Engineering and the UAB Collat School of Business, led by business professor Molly Wasko, Ph.D., is designed to support just such high-potential projects. “The benchtop model of atherosclerosis is a great example of the creative work we’re trying to support here at the Collat School of Business through programs such as i2i,” Wasko said. “We believe that students can change the world when given the chance to work collaboratively with discovery scientists and business partners to accelerate science from campus to the community.” The funds have allowed the team to purchase a digital flowmeter and a pressure transducer, which will allow them to verify that their model is producing realistic blood flow and pressures.

    “This is a collaboration between multiple departments and schools at UAB — to develop an exciting project, but also to nurture an extremely bright and promising young scientist,” Berry said.

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UAB Research News

  • UAB study looks to improve medication adherence in African-American glaucoma patients
    African-Americans are at increased risk for glaucoma, and a new UAB study looks to find ways to improve medication adherence in that patient group

    Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are hoping a telemedicine-based health promotion intervention can improve medication adherence rates among older African-Americans with glaucoma. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among African-Americans, who are more than three times more likely to develop glaucoma than are Caucasians.

    “Not only are African-Americans at increased risk for glaucoma, studies have shown that they are at increased risk for being nonadherent with medications for glaucoma,” said principal investigator Laura Dreer, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology. “Reasons for nonadherence include age-related memory loss, finances and barriers to care.”

    Unchecked, glaucoma can have a serious negative impact on an individual’s quality of life, independence and everyday functioning and can potentially lead to blindness. Standard therapy is the use of pressure-reducing eye drops that can significantly delay or prevent the onset of disease.

    Dreer’s study, funded by the National Eye Institute, is recruiting 240 adult African-Americans with glaucoma to determine whether a culturally relevant behavioral health intervention can improve adherence. The multicomponent intervention includes glaucoma education, motivational interviewing and problem-solving training.

    “Part of the objective is to plant a seed and help these individuals to reach a better understanding of their glaucoma and to realize the importance of taking increased responsibility for their own health behaviors,” Dreer said. “We’ve made great strides in getting people to take charge of their health and wellness in areas such as diabetes, cardiovascular health and nutrition. We believe glaucoma is deserving of the same effort.”

    Standard medication therapy is usually one or two eye drops, once or twice a day. The tool measures how many drops are dispensed at any one time, and records the date and time of dispensation. Patients at UAB’s glaucoma clinic who enroll in the study will use the device for one month. A failure rate of 75 percent or greater will transfer the subject into the full study.

    The study subjects will be divided into two sections. One will receive standard glaucoma therapy, which includes medication, laser treatments, conventional surgery or any combination of these. The second section will receive standard therapy and the telemedicine-based behavioral health intervention.

    Participants will have one in-person visit with the research team at the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital, followed by a weekly phone interaction for six weeks.

    Researchers will employ a self-measuring drug dispensing tool to determine whether patients are adherent or nonadherent with medications. Standard medication therapy is usually one or two eye drops, once or twice a day. The tool measures how many drops are dispensed at any one time, and records the date and time of dispensation. Patients at UAB’s glaucoma clinic who enroll in the study will use the device for one month. A failure rate of 75 percent or greater will transfer the subject into the full study.

    Outcomes will be assessed at three-, seven- and 12-month follow-up visits, by seeing whether glaucoma medication adherence improves in the group getting the intervention.

    “The practical question to be addressed is does a culturally relevant health promotion-based intervention improve glaucoma medication adherence among a high-risk segment of the population,” Dreer said. “Information from this project will be particularly useful for African-Americans with glaucoma, their families and eye care providers.”

  • UAB names vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    Dilworth will lead efforts to build upon UAB’s longstanding reputation as one of the most diverse college campuses in the nation.

    Paulette Patterson Dilworth, Ph.D., has been named the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s next vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion after a comprehensive needs assessment and national search.

    Dilworth has 38 years of experience in higher education diversity consulting and training, recruitment, retention, and teaching, and she comes to UAB from Auburn University, where she was assistant vice president for Access and Community Initiatives.

    UAB’s student, faculty and staff population represents more than 100 countries and is consistently ranked among the nation’s most diverse campuses. UAB President Ray L. Watts says diversity is a strategic institutional priority.

    “I look forward to what Dr. Dilworth will do to support diversity as one of our core values and strengths; it is a part of UAB’s very fabric and the guiding force behind our involvement in our community, throughout Alabama and around the globe,” Watts said. “We continue to recruit and retain outstanding students, faculty and staff because of our deeply embedded culture of diversity, equity and inclusion — we want to provide equal opportunities for everyone at UAB to thrive and excel.”

    As vice president, Dilworth will report to the president as a member of the senior administrative team. She will have enterprise-wide responsibility for facilitating strategic initiatives to promote diversity excellence as a fundamental institutional and educational value in campus culture, operations, business practices and programming. Dilworth will also nurture collaborative and engaging relationships with internal and external constituents to provide effective leadership in the coordination of diversity-related programs and initiatives, as well as work across the enterprise to optimize UAB’s decision-making capabilities and inspire the highest standards of performance.

    “This is an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on diversity, equity and inclusion on a campus already well-known for those values,” Dilworth said. “I enjoyed my visits to campus and meeting the leadership team, as well as many students and employees, and I look forward to working closely with the UAB family to capitalize on the exciting momentum that has been building over many years.”

    The national search was led by a 19-member search committee made up of student, faculty, staff and community leaders and co-chaired by School of Medicine Associate Dean Mona Fouad, MD, professor of Preventive Medicine, and Collat School of Business Dean Eric Jack, Ph.D., Wells Fargo Endowed Chair in Business. Their time and dedication to this process yielded great results.

    “Dean Jack and I are excited to have a visionary like Dr. Dilworth join UAB and know she will be an asset to the leadership team and the Birmingham community,” Fouad said. “The search committee was pleased with the caliber of candidates we reviewed, and the process that took place before the search was invaluable.”

    As vice president, Dilworth will report to the president as a member of the senior administrative team. She will have enterprise-wide responsibility for facilitating strategic initiatives to promote diversity excellence as a fundamental institutional and educational value in campus culture, operations, business practices and programming.

    UAB conducted a comprehensive assessment of the roles and functions of the UAB Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion before the search began. The assessment involved faculty and staff representatives of groups and programs that advocate for diversity on campus, members of the Faculty Senate, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and senior leadership.

    UAB Chief Human Resources Officer Alesia Jones says it was important that all views were considered in laying the foundation to recruit a leader to this important role.

    “More than 100 stakeholders have participated in these discussions,” Jones said. “We have an amazing opportunity to continue to be a frontrunner in terms of diversity and inclusion, and we worked with the UAB community so the diverse needs of this growing campus can be met.”

    At Auburn, Dilworth remained active in professional, civic and higher-education organizations. She led the Access and Community Initiatives unit of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and provided leadership for staff engaged in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in areas including recruitment, retention and civic involvement. She also developed multicultural programs and services, built and strengthened partnerships on and off campus, and advanced academic support services for students.

    Dilworth has also served as an associate professor in the School of Education at Indiana University–Bloomington, where she was also co-director of Project TEAM, supporting underrepresented groups and first-generation college students in STEM disciplines. Prior to that, Dilworth was at Emory University for 12 years, where she was director of Minority Affairs. A Selma, Alabama, native, she started her career in higher education at Florida A&M University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in political science. Dilworth holds a Master of Art degree in educational research and a Ph.D. in educational studies from Emory University.

    When she begins work at UAB on Jan. 15, 2016, Dilworth will be the second person in the position created in 2003, with Louis Dale, Ph.D., having held the position with distinction since its inception and set to retire after 40 years at UAB.

    For more information on UAB’s Diversity Program, visit  

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