UAB Postdoctoral Association Executive Board Handbook


Table of Contents

Mission of the UAB Postdoctoral Association

History of the UAB Postdoctoral Association

Orientation to the Executive Board: Roles and Responsibilities

Standing Committees: Descriptions and Positions

UABPDA Constitution

UABPDA By-laws




The mission of the UABPDA is to provide a voice for UAB and SRI postdoctoral fellows that reflects the important contribution postdoctoral fellows make to scholarly research: (1) by advocating for effective career training and preparation for transitioning to independence in the diverse career paths available to postdoctoral scholars, and (2) by working toward an improved environment for postdoctoral scholars which allows for balancing work and home responsibilities.



2004-2005 EB

Adam Keeton PhD, Aimee Landar PhD, Erin Thacker PhD, Maaike Everts PhD, Meredith A Preuss PhD, Doug Moellering PhD, Rob Cartee PhD, Stephanie Cowey PhD, Qiana Matthews PhD, Stephen Perrett PhD, Abdul Ajees Abdul Salam PhD, Amy VanEngen Spivey PhD.

Late in 2003, at the urging of Dr. Victor Darley-Usmar, the Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education, a Founders Committee was formed to begin the process of establishing a Postdoctoral Association at UAB (UABPDA). The Founders Committee was comprised of two postdoctoral scholars at UAB, Drs. Keith Micoli and Maaike Everts. Modeling the UABPDA after the newly established National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), the Founders Committee prepared and submitted a Constitution and By-laws to the postdoctoral community of UAB in April, 2004, and the Constitution and By-laws were approved at the inaugural Town Hall Meeting of postdoctoral scholars on May 4, 2004.

The Executive Board

The first Executive Board (EB) was elected in June 2004 with Dr. Maaike Everts being elected to serve as Chair. The 2004-2005 EB worked to establish the basic framework of the UABPDA and began the process of defining the needs of postdoctoral fellows at UAB. The first university-wide Postdoctoral Research Day (PDRD), held in April 2003, was organized by the Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE) under the direction of Dr. Victor Darley-Usmar and by the efforts of two postdoctoral scholars, Drs. Rob Cartee and Maaike Everts. This event allowed postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to present their research to their peers and gain valuable experience in an important career skill. In 2005, the UABPDA took over responsibility for the PDRD and the second PDRD was held in February 2005. It has continued as a yearly event organized by the PDRD standing committee of the UABPDA EB. The 2004-2005 EB also instituted the Balance in Science luncheon, which addresses the issue of balancing work responsibilities with the demands of home life. The Balance in Science luncheon has been held yearly since 2005 and is organized by the Balance in Science standing committee of the UABPDA EB.

2005-2006 EB

Doug Moellering (Chair), Erin Thacker (Vice Chair; I),  Qiana Matthews (Secretary), Stephanie Cowey (Treasurer; BiS), Meredith Preuss (Electoral Officer; PDRD), Xuxia Wu, Balu Chacko (O), Nick Khoo, Adam Keeton (BtB), Eric Kelley (TH), Steve Perrett, and Abdul Ajees Abdul Salam.

The 2005-2006 EB, with Dr. Doug Moellering serving as Chair, worked to provide a smooth transition to subsequent EB's as well as the incorporation of specific events designed to improve the training environment for postdoctoral fellows. Seminars and other events were implemented or continued, with input from the EB, to address specific career skills necessary for successful advancement, including effective presentation skills, grantsmanship and manuscript preparation. In addition, the By-Laws were modified to include representation on the EB by one postdoctoral scholar from Southern Research Institute (SRI).

2006-2007 EB

Catherine DiCostanzo PhD (Chair), Mickael Cariveau PhD (Vice Chair), Kelly Andringa PhD (Secretary), Lisa M. Curtis PhD, Erin Thacker PhD, Laszlo Not MD, Xuxia Wu PhD, Melanie Styers PhD, Senait Asmellash PhD, Amanda K. Wake PhD, Thea Nicola PhD, Balu Chacko PhD, Torry Tucker PhD and Issa Coulibaly PhD.

The activities of the 2006-2007 EB have focused on refining the goals of the UABPDA EB and expanding the professional topics addressed in seminars, workshops and other event venues. During the past year, a specific set of seminars and workshops was defined to constitute a Postdoctoral Curriculum. A current short-term goal of the UABPDA EB is the implementation of this Postdoctoral Curriculum. The long term goals of the UABPDA are to maintain a focus on empowering postdoctoral scholars in advancing their careers and maintaining a balance between career and home life.

2008-2009 EB

Kelly Andringa (Chair), Rashada C Alexander (Vice Chair), Diane Bimczok (Secretary), Marlene Winkelbauer, David Krzywanski, Melanie L Styers, Thomas William Lowder, Hilal Arnouk, and Jamiyanaa Dashdorj

2009-2010 EB

Marlene Winkelbauer (Chair), David Krzywanski (Vice Chair), Diane Bimczok (Secretary), Hilal Arnouk (Electoral Officer), Eugene Masters (Industry Roundtable Representative), Jamiyanaa Dashdorj, Lacey McNally, Changchun Ren, Jessy S Deshane, Michelle Amaral, and Tony Filiano

The 2009-2010 EB started addressing the postdoctoral quality of life, specifically pertaining to benefits and salary. With the help of the Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE), the EB was able to improve the benefits at UAB for all postdoctoral scholars. In addition to improved benefits, the EB continued to plan and organize postdoctoral career development curriculum and seminar series that provides the trainees with the needed resources for transitioning to their next career stage.

2010-2011 EB

Marlene Winkelbauer (Chair), David Krzywanski (Vice Chair), Diane Bimczok (Secretary), Michelle Amaral (Interim Secretary), Aundrea Bartley (GCAT Liaison),  Kirk Yancy Williams (Electoral Officer), Jamiyanaa Dashdorj, Lacey McNally, Syed Rahmanuddin, Kumar Putcha, Changchun Ren, Jessy S Deshane, and Hilal Arnouk

The 2010-2011 EB has continued to address the postdoctoral quality of life and has focused on negotiating with the administration to increase the minimum postdoctoral stipend level. The EB continued the seminar series to address areas of interest indicated by the postdoctoral community, mainly focusing on the academia lifestyle. The majority of the committees were not in use during this year.    

2011-2012 EB

Aundrea Bartley (Chair), Jessica Perez (Secretary), Jessica Grunda (GCAT Liaison), Tabitha Hardy (Media Representative), Diane Bimczok, Michelle Amaral, Lacey McNally, Kumar Putcha, Hope Amm, Jackie Harris, Teruko Bredemann and Katherine Ingram

Several initiatives happened during the 2011-2012 that was supported by the EB. The need was felt and met to extend the awareness of UAB’s PDA to the postdoctoral community. This was accomplished through the establishment of a quarterly newsletter. The newsletter was used to make postdocs aware of the benefits available to them at UAB, issues that postdocs nationwide have encountered, as well as recap of important seminars. The seminar series mainly focused on careers that branched outside of academia, including but not limited to scientific writing, science policy, and patent law. Through our collaboration with the OPE, two additional courses have been implemented, Translational Science, and Job Skills. At the end of this term, we decided to remove the position of GCAT liaison from the EB and revamp the EB, more details on the revamp are below. These changes were partially brought on by the need for one on one career counseling for all postdocs at UAB. It has definitely been an exciting year.  

2012-2013 EB

Teruko Bredemann (Chair, Balance in Science Chair), Jessica Grunda (Vice-Chair, Postdoc Research Day Chair), Jessica Perez (Secretary), Tabitha Hardy (Social/Involvement Chair), Hope Amm (Postdoc Research Day Chair), Baldeep Khare (PDA Newsletter Editor), Tanecia Mitchell (PDA Newsletter Editor), LaToya Paul (Balance in Science Chair), Helen Collins, Jennifer McLarty, Tomader Ali, Michelle Amaral (emeritus) and Aundrea Bartley (emeritus)

The EB and the OPE

The UABPDA is independent from the Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE), but collaborates with the OPE in organizing events aimed at postdoctoral scholars at UAB and SRI. The Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education works closely with the EB providing advice on the feasibility of carrying out the activities that the EB proposes on behalf of postdoctoral scholars at UAB and SRI. Prior Associate Deans have included Drs. Tika Benveniste, Sadis Matalon and Victor Darley-Usmar. The current Associate Dean, Dr. Lisa M. Schwiebert, was appointed in March 2007.

Several members of the Executive Board also serve on the UAB Council on Postdoctoral Education (COPE), which advises the Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education on issues related to postdoctoral training. Issues that the EB believe require attention from the UAB administration can be brought to the attention of COPE for discussion and action.

In addition, the OPE will sponsor one or two interested Executive Board members to attend the annual meeting of the NPA ( each year, as permitted, with funds allotted by the Associate Dean. A past Chair of the NPA and current members of the Board of Directors of the NPA are at UAB and are important resources for the UABPDA. In addition, UAB is a founding member of the NPA and postdoctoral scholars at UAB are encouraged to consider joining the NPA as individual members.

ORIENTATION TO THE EXECUTIVE BOARD: Roles and responsibilities

The constituency of the UABPDA, the postdoctoral scholars at UAB and SRI, rely upon the Executive Board (EB) to bring about positive change to the postdoctoral training and environment at UAB which will result in improved career outcomes. Working in concert with and with the guidance of the Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education and the staff of the Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE), the EB is tasked with defining the needs of postdoctoral fellows at UAB and SRI and advocating for specific changes to achieve this goal. The EB works through the efforts of four officers and eight board members, who play important roles in implementing the goals of the UABPDA.

Officers of the Executive Board

A. Chair

Role and responsibilities:

1.  The Chair defines the overall vision and direction of the UABPDA efforts during the next 12 months, while being responsive to input from the EB.

2.  The Chair organizes and runs the business meetings of the EB and is responsible for timely notification to the EB of meeting times and locations, as well as preparation and timely dissemination of the agenda for the meetings and any other information or materials that the EB needs in order to address the issues. While also expressing his/her own views, the Chair must encourage and ensure that all EB members are given an opportunity to voice their opinion or input at meetings.

3.  The Chair should lead by example. The Chair should be engaged in all committees, assisting each committee chair in making progress on the committee's yearly goals.

4.  The Chair serves as the point of contact for the UABPDA in any official communications.

5.  The Chair works closely with and shares responsibilities with the Vice-Chair, as appropriate.

6.  The Chair should acknowledge and respond to all email communication in a timely manner, including communication of any known absence of availability (e.g. vacation, attendance at meetings) to the EB in advance.

7.  The Chair is responsible for presenting the goals and accomplishments of the UABPDA to postdoctoral scholars during the Postdoctoral Orientation. Be a point of contact and information for newly arrived postdoctoral scholars to help the transition of living and working at UAB.

8.  The Chair is responsible for scheduling the monthly EB meeting, both the room and sending out reminder emails.

9.  The Chair should recruit volunteers for committees and service on the EB.

Necessary skills/tools:

·    The Chair should have experience as a postdoc and a clear idea of the needs and concerns of postdocs, with particular emphasis on the needs of postdocs at UAB and SRI.

·    The chair will have sat on the EB for at least 6 months in order to understand the past efforts and history as well as any contacts which might be helpful in achieving the goals of the UABPDA. Substantial differences exist between graduate student organizations and postdoctoral associations and the postdoctoral scholar who assumes the Chair position should be cognizant of these differences. Experience as a postdoc, experience with UAB in some capacity (e.g. graduate student, staff), or perhaps service on another professional board might also be important credentials.

·    The Chair should exhibit strong leadership and people skills and be receptive to constructive input from the EB, the Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education or other interested parties in defining the goals of the UABPDA. Strong team-building, motivational and communication skills will facilitate not only the monthly meetings, but also the interactions of board members in the various activities.

·    The ability to delegate is important, however, the Chair should have sufficient time to dedicate effort in assisting Committee Chairs and be able to step in and take over the responsibilities of any position vacated until it is filled.

·    As the official point of contact, the Chair should have sufficient time to devote to handling email and phone interactions.

·    The Chair should demonstrate an ability to work well with the Vice-Chair, ensuring a smooth transition of responsibilities if necessary.

·    Ultimately, the ability of the chair to effectively lead will determine the success rate of the EB.

B. Vice Chair:

Role and responsibilities:

1.  The Vice-Chair should work closely with the Chair as a collaborator. In the event that the Chair steps down, the Vice-Chair must be able to step in and take over the responsibilities of the Chair.

2.  The Vice-Chair should be fully versed in the status of all projects and the overall vision of the UABPDA as defined by the Chair.

3.  In addition, the Vice-Chair functions as the liason for the additions/corrections to the website, which are done by staff of the Office of Postdoctoral Education or other administrative entity.

4.  The Vice-Chair should acknowledge and respond to all email communication in a timely manner, including communication of any known absence of availability (e.g. vacation, attendance at meetings) to the EB in advance.

5.  The Vice-Chair should recruit volunteers for committees and service on the EB.

Necessary skills/tools:

o  Since the duties of the Chair and Vice-Chair potentially overlap, the Vice-Chair should have similar experience as the Chair and have sat on the EB for at least 6 months.

o  Leadership and people skills as well as strong communication and team-building skills are important.

o  Although the Vice-Chair does not need as much background in a leadership position as the Chair, this position should be seen as a natural step towards Chair, with the year as Vice-Chair an opportunity to become fully acquainted with UAB, the OPE and the EB and how they work together to improve the lives and training of postdocs.

C. Secretary

Role and responsibilities:

1.  The Secretary is responsible for taking minutes at the monthly EB meetings and composing and disseminating a synopsis of these shortly after each meeting.

2.  The Secretary is responsible for communication with the OPE regarding advertisement of events to postdocs via email as well as making certain that events are advertised in the UAB Reporter or other venues appropriate for communication with postdocs.

3.  The secretary should acknowledge and respond to all email communication in a timely manner, including communication of any known absence of availability (e.g. vacation, attendance at meetings) to the EB in advance.

4.  The Secretary should recruit volunteers for committees and service on the EB.

Necessary skills/tools:

o  Because the Secretary is the main point of communication in the EB, he/she should exhibit strong organizational and writing skills and be able to manage inflow and outflow of information effectively.

Members of the Executive Board

The members of the EB are made up of emeriti members, standalone members, the chairs of all the committees, and the officers. The emeriti members are made up of individuals who previously served on the EB, but transitioned out of the postdoctoral category, and maintains an interest in seeing the PDA evolve. The standalone members are made up of postdocs who are involved in one of the committees, but are not a chair of the committee.

All EB members should embrace the following role and responsibilities on top of any other duties needed in the PDA.  

Role and responsibilities:

1.     EB members must represent the views of postdocs at UAB and SRI.

2.     All members of the executive board should be on at least one committee. As members of any committee, each EB member should contribute recognizable effort to the activities of any committee on which he/she is a member. The following are list of standing committees.

a)    Postdoctoral Research Day

b)    PDA Newsletter

c)     Social/Involvement

d)    Balance in Science

3.  As chair of a standing committtee, the EB member must clearly define and direct the activities of the members of his/her standing committee and communicate effectively with the EB to facilitate completion of the committee's yearly goals.

4.  EB members should acknowledge and respond to all email communication in a timely manner, including communication of any known absence of availability (e.g. vacation, attendance at meetings) to the EB in advance.

5.  Help plan and carry out the annual Town Hall Meeting, where UAB and SRI postdoctoral scholars can gain insight into issues affecting their status and progress at UAB.

6.  Help develop and plan a comprehensive and evolving series of seminars and workshops to address various concepts of fundamental, scientific, administrative and career preparation.

7.  The EB members should recruit volunteers for committees and service on the EB.

8.  When an EB member attends a conference outside of UAB, they are required to obtain recruitment materials from the OPE office. These materials should be displayed at some point during the conference to advance UAB’s mission to recruit more postdocs. Please notify the OPE office in advance so that they will have enough material available.

Necessary skills/tools:

o  Enthusiasm for issues associated with the goals of the PDA is essential.

o  Board Members should demonstrate an ability to work well in teams and communicate ideas, in both written and verbal form.

o  Board Members should have an ability to convey the importance and fun of being on the EB of the UABPDA to prospective volunteers. Ideally, a Board Member who leaves the EB should identify a potential replacement before or at the time he/she resigns.

o  Chairing a committee is an excellent vehicle for development of leadership and networking skills and Board Members should exhibit enthusiasm for taking on these challenges.



Standing Committees: Descriptions and Positions

Each committee requires a minimum of one chair person to oversee the committee. The committees are made up of individuals from the executive board as well as UAB postdocs that want to become more involved.

All committees need to perform surveys on a regular basis to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the postdoctoral community.

PDA Newsletter

Goals: To continue to increase awareness about the PDA’s activities at UAB, the benefits available to all postdocs at UAB, and highlight important issues faced by the postdoctoral community. Additionally, this is an avenue for postdocs to become more involved.

Activities: Creates, writes, and distributes newsletter to increase number of persons reading/utilizing newsletter.

Required Positions

UABPDA Newsletter Editors

As this is a very involved entity, this will require the need for two individuals to be co-editors.

Role and responsibilities:

1.     The PDA Newsletter Editor is responsible for developing and maintaining a quarterly newsletter discussing issues that postdocs at UAB and SRI face, as well as solutions developed by the PDA towards the issues.

2.     The Editor is in charge of developing the format for the Newsletter.

3.     The Editor should recruit volunteers to write brief pieces for the newsletter.

4.     The Editor should recruit volunteers for committees and service on the EB.

Balance in Science

Goals: To stimulate discussion of how postdoctoral scholars can balance their work with family and personal responsibilities.

Activities: Plans mentoring luncheon where postdoctoral scholars can discuss their concerns about balancing their work and other aspects of life with a faculty member in a small group setting. Also plans seminars regarding aspects of time management, such as "Seven habits of highly effective scientists" and the WorkLife workshop, "How do I manage?", that addresses personality differences in the workplace.

Required Positions

Committee Chairs

This committee will include two co-chairs to oversee all activities.

Role and responsibilities:

1.     The Chair organizes and runs the committee, ensuring that they meet the goals of the committee.

2.     The Chair is the liaison between the committee and the executive board, so that the executive board is aware of the needs of the postdoctoral community as a whole.




Goals: To encourage involvement of the UABPDA members in activities of the Association and in interaction with each other.

Activities: Plans monthly networking meetings and special events throughout the year to facilitate the interaction of postdoctoral scholars at UAB and SRI across disciplines and departments. This includes the yearly Postdoc Appreciation Events in September. Additionally, they are responsible for maintaining our media relations, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

Required Positions

Chair of the Committee

Role and responsibilities:

1.     The Chair organizes and runs the committee, ensuring that they meet the goals of the committee.

2.     The Chair is the liaison between the committee and the executive board, so that the executive board is aware of the needs of the postdoctoral community as a whole.

Postdoctoral Research Day

Goals: To plan and carry out the annual Postdoctoral Research Day, where UAB and SRI postdoctoral scholars can present research results and compete for monetary prizes.

Activities: Plans the Postdoctoral Research Day, including obtaining funding for catering and awards.

Required Positions

Committee Chairs

As this is a very involved entity, this will require the need for two individuals to be co-chairs.

Role and responsibilities:

1.     The Co-Chairs organizes and runs the committee, ensuring that they meet the goals of the committee.

2.     The Co-Chairs are the liaisons between the committee and the executive board, so that the executive board is aware of the needs of the postdoctoral community as a whole.

3.     The Co-Chairs are responsible for the fundraising necessary for this event in order to award cash prizes.

4.     The Co-Chairs are involved in ensuring that the event has enough judges and that they come from a variety of backgrounds.

5.     The Co-Chairs are responsible for determining the rules and guidelines for the event.

6.     The Co-Chairs are involved in the placement of postdocs in the appropriate sections of Postdoctoral Research Day.


May 4, 2004

Amended June 16, 2012



1.1   Name

The name of the organization shall be the University of Alabama at Birmingham Postdoctoral Association, hereinafter referred to as the "UABPDA" or the "Association".

1.2 Purpose

The purpose of the UABPDA is to establish a self-sustaining organization to provide a voice for postdoctoral fellows and scholars (hereafter referred to as postdocs) and advocate for their interests.

1.3 Activities

The UABPDA shall work to provide a voice for the interests of postdocs. The UABPDA will: (1) gather information and build consensus regarding "best-practice" policies for postdocs, (2) work with the Office of Postdoctoral Education (OPE) to develop educational initiatives for the dissemination of these policies to postdocs and the University administration and encourage their implementation into institutional policy, and (3) enter into meaningful and constructive dialogue with the OPE, the Council of Postdoctoral Education, University administration, professional organizations and other relevant organizations to advocate for improvements in policies affecting postdoctoral scholars.

The UABPDA is not, and shall not become, a union. The UABPDA does not represent, or seek to represent, any class of individuals for the purpose of collective bargaining with any organization or organizations. The UABPDA shall not use, or cause to be used on its behalf, lobbying activities. The UABPDA shall seek to use a collaborative, educational and non-adversarial approach to its relationships with all relevant parties for the pursuit of the aims of the Association.



2.1 Eligibility

All postdocs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham or Southern Research Institute (SRI) are automatically members of the UABPDA.

2.2 Rights and Obligations

All members shall have the right to petition the Executive Board (EB, section 4.1) with respect to any matter of relevance to the purpose of the UABPDA, nominate or be nominated for positions on the EB, propose policy initiatives to the EB, serve on committees of the UABPDA as established in the By-Laws, vote for members of the EB, vote on amendments to the Constitution, and attend the Annual Meeting. Members shall be obligated to observe the By-Laws of the UABPDA.

2.3 Non-Discrimination

The UABPDA shall not discriminate against any individual or organization on the basis of age, socio-economic status, disability, ethnic or national origin, gender, marital status, political orientation, race, religion or sexual orientation.



3.1 Annual Meeting

The UABPDA shall hold an annual national meeting open to all members of the UABPDA, prospective members, and interested parties, to further the purpose of the Association, provide a forum for open discussion of issues relevant to postdoctoral scholars, debate the policies and vision of the Association, and carry out the necessary democratic processes of the Association. The annual meeting location and details shall be decided by the Executive Board.

3.2 Notification of Annual Meeting

Printed and electronic notification of the Annual Meeting of the UABPDA, including the date, time and place shall be widely disseminated.


May 4, 2004

Amended June 16, 2012



1.1 Membership

Membership of the UAB Postdoctoral Association (the "UABPDA" or the "Association") shall consist of all postdoctoral fellows and scholars (hereinafter referred to as postdocs) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham or Southern Research Institute (SRI).

1.2 Voting Privileges

The voting privileges of the Association (the "voting members") shall apply to all members of the Association. Each individual or institutional member shall be entitled to one vote.

1.3 UABPDA Definition of a Postdoc

For the purposes of the UABPDA the term postdoc shall be defined as follows: an individual holding a doctoral degree or equivalent (e.g. PhD, MD, DVM), appointed to pursue research and scholarship under the direction of a mentor. The postdoctoral appointment is not a permanent position, and is undertaken for the purpose of further developing professional skills that will benefit the postdoctoral fellow in pursuing the career path of his/her choice. In addition to research activities, postdocs may provide instruction to undergraduate, graduate and medical students, and write or assist in the writing of grants or fellowships, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and other scholarly works.



2.1 Removal

Members who violate any provision of these By-Laws or act in an injurious manner towards the Association may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the Executive Board present at a meeting in consideration of the matter.



3.1 Annual Meeting

The UABPDA shall hold an Annual Meeting open to all members of the UABPDA, prospective members, and interested parties, to further the purpose of the Association, provide a forum for open discussion of issues relevant postdoctoral scientists, debate the policies and vision of the Association, and carry out the necessary democratic processes of the Association in compliance with the UABPDA Constitution.



4.1 Executive Board

The UABPDA shall be governed by an Executive Board ("EB") of up to 15 persons. Each member of the EB must be a member of the UABPDA at the time of his/her election and may serve for a maximum of two consecutive two-year terms (four years) unless a petition for an extension of one year is allowed by a majority vote of the EB. One of the maximal 15 EB positions will be available for a postdoctoral representative from SRI. SRI will be responsible for determining that individual and informing the UABPDA EB. If an SRI postdoc is not elected, appointed, available or notification from SRI that a postdoctoral representative exists to occupy that one EB position, by default that one position may be filled by any of the remaining UABPDA members Each member of the EB shall be entitled to one vote on each matter of substance submitted to a vote of the EB. Vacant positions on the EB arising between elections shall be filled by a majority vote of the EB within 60 days of the vacancy and the appointed individual shall serve the remainder of the unexpired term. The Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary, shall be elected from the EB for one-year terms by majority vote of the EB.

4.2 Duties and Obligations of the Executive Board

The Executive Board shall act in the best interests of postdoctoral scientists at UAB. The EB shall ensure that the UABPDA is an information and consensus driven organization that provides a constructive means for postdoctoral scientists to advocate for effective change. Specifically, the EB shall:

·    endeavor to establish the UABPDA as an organization that provides a voice for the interests of postdoctoral scientists

·    gather information and build consensus regarding "best-practice" policies for postdocs, develop educational initiatives to disseminate these policies to postdocs and the university administration, and encourage and facilitate their implementation into institutional policy

·    conduct or assist in surveying postdoctoral scientists and policies and tracking progress over time

·    host and distribute information and resources of interest to postdoctoral scientists

·    adopt resolutions and statements on matters affecting the Association

·    propose amendments to the Constitution and amend the By-Laws

·    establish standing committees and appoint standing committee chairs

·    initiate, supervise, and terminate subcommittees

·    appoint administrative officers

·    determine the time and place of the annual meetings, have general responsibility for the programs and arrangements for the annual meeting

·    authorize public statements on behalf of the Association

·    arrange to meet as a group at least four times per year

·    take whatever precautions necessary to ensure that the By-Laws and Constitution of the UABPDA are upheld

4.3 Executive Board Chair

The Executive Board Chair (the "Chair") shall be appointed from the EB by a majority vote of the EB. EB members are eligible to be Chair after serving 6 months on the EB. The Chair shall serve a term of one year. The Chair shall convene, preside over and set agendas for meetings of the EB and the UABPDA. The Chair shall act as the representative of the UABPDA to the university administration and Council of Postdoctoral Education, delegate such duties to other EB members as may be required, and ensure that the UABPDA is performing within its Constitution and Bylaws and making progress towards its aims. The EB Chair shall be a member or an ex-officio member of all UABPDA sub-committees.

4.4 Vice-Chair

The Vice-Chair shall assume the responsibilities of the EB Chair when the Chair is unable to perform those functions. If the Chair is unable to function in that role for more than four months for reasons foreseen, or unforeseen, the Vice-Chair shall become the Executive Board Chair. EB members are eligible to be Vice-Chair after serving 6 months on the EB. The Vice-Chair shall be responsible for taking on projects from the Chair when, or if, the Chair is too encumbered to carry them out at the discretion of the Chair. The term of the Vice Chair is one year.

4.5 Secretary

The Secretary shall maintain a current record of all members of the EB, Standing Committees and ad hoc subcommittees, maintain a permanent record of EB, Standing Committees, and ad hoc subcommittees proceedings, and arrange for and approve drafts of official UABPDA correspondence.

4.6 Committee Chairs

Each Standing Committee (Article V) shall have a committee chair who shall be responsible for managing the efforts of the committee, advising the EB of issues of concern to the committee or issues that require the attention of the full EB, providing updates to the UABPDA on committee activities, and providing an annual report on the activities of the committee. Chairs of committees are appointed by the EB, and will be members of the EB.

4.7 Admittance and Elections

Admittance to the EB will be on a rolling admission basis, since all postdocs do not start UAB at the same time. The only time admittance may be denied is if the EB contains is at the maximum number of individuals required to govern the Association. However, if in this situation positions are taken on the EB by emeriti members, then the emeriti members should give their slot to the interested postdoc.

Elections shall be held as needed. This will occur either when the one year term is finished for that position or due to changes in the elected official’s situation. A positions should not be left vacant for greater than sixty days.

Slates for candidates for EB positions shall be published to the members at least 30 days in advance of issuance of ballots. Nominations should be submitted to the EB, and must include the following:

1.  A curriculum vitae of the candidate

2.  A biographical statement from the candidate describing their interest in serving on the EB and their relevant experience. This statement will be provided to the electorate with the slate of candidates.

4.8 Leave of Absence

Any member of the EB may request a leave of absence from the Chair, or the Vice-Chair if the Chair is the requesting party. A leave of absence may be no longer than three months, except under extenuating circumstances as determined by the Chair or the Vice-Chair if the Chair is the requesting party. In no circumstance may the leave of absence extend beyond the term of office of the EB member. The Chair, or Vice-Chair if the Chair is the requesting party, upon granting the leave of absence, shall appoint a member of the EB to serve in the vacant position on an interim basis.

4.9 Removal

Any member of the EB may be removed from office for malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance by a two thirds majority vote of the EB and subject to the following grievance procedure: any person wishing to file a grievance must submit a letter to the Chair of the EB, or the Vice-Chair if the Chair is named in the grievance, outlining the grievance. The Chair, or Vice-Chair if the Chair is named in the grievance letter, shall convene an Adjudication Committee consisting of the EB members not named in the grievance letter. Within 15 days of the receipt of the grievance, this committee shall be provided with the grievance letter, shall contact the parties involved in the dispute and give both sides the opportunity to satisfactorily express their positions in the grievance, shall then discuss the issue and vote on the validity of the removal. A majority vote of the Adjudication Committee shall be required for the removal to take place.

Members who do not attend the EB meeting for three consecutive months without notification to the Chair as to the reason for the absence are eligible for removal.

4.12 Resignation

The resignation of an EB member shall be effective when a written letter of resignation is received by the Chair of the EB, or in the event of a leave of absence exceeding three months in duration without approval of the Chair, or Vice-Chair if the Chair is the involved party.

4.13 Parliamentary Procedure

Robert's Rules of Order, except when inconsistent with the Constitution and By-Laws of the Association, shall govern the meetings of the EB, subcommittees, and annual UABPDA meeting.



5.1 General Regulations

Committees may be established, charged and, when appropriate, terminated by a majority vote of the EB.

Each committee shall promote the work of the Association, under general direction and oversight by the EB. Meetings of the committees may not incur financial obligation by the Association without prior approval of the EB. The EB shall determine the maximum size of each committee. The EB shall annually review the activities of the committees and, where appropriate, shall provide for rotation of committee membership.

5.2 Standing Committees

Standing Committees necessary to the achievement of the goals of the UABPDA shall be formed by the EB. A committee chair shall be named by the EB, and this chair is responsible for the activities of the committee and for reporting the activities to the EB. Standing Committees are formed as permanent committees, but can be dissolved or reorganized following a majority vote of the EB.

5.3 Ad-hoc Subcommittees

Ad-hoc Subcommittees shall be established within Standing Committees as and when necessary by a majority vote of the EB. In its charge to a committee, the EB shall make explicit the term of the subcommittee's effective life. The EB may subsequently extend that term if, in its judgment, such extension is desirable. Any two members of the UABPDA prepared to work on a Subcommittee may suggest the creation of a Subcommittee and a remit for that Subcommittee.



The Association shall not be responsible for statements or opinions advanced by any of its officers or presented in papers, discussions at meetings of the Association or printed in its publications, except for those authorized by the EB.



7.1 Amendments

Amendments may be made to these By-Laws by a two-thirds majority vote of the EB or the voting members of the UABPDA. Amendments to the By-Laws will become in full effect the next day following the conclusion of the vote. Any By-Law amended by a vote of the EB must be approved by a majority vote of the members of the UABPDA at the next Annual Meeting of the UABPDA. If the amendment is then not accepted by the vote of the members of the UABPDA it shall be repealed.

7.2 Proposal of amendments

Amendments to the By-Laws may be proposed by any member of the EB or by petition signed by at least 10% of the members of the Association. Proposed amendments shall be submitted in writing, or electronically, the Chair of the EB by any voting member of the UABPDA. A vote by the EB on acceptance of the amendments must occur within sixty (60) days of their acceptance by the Chair of the EB.

7.3 Notification

Proposed amendments must be sent in writing, or electronically, to all members at least thirty (30) days prior to voting.

7.4 Annual Review

The EB shall conduct an annual review of the By-Laws of the UABPDA so as to evaluate and update them if necessary to ensure that they stay current, adapt with the times and remain effective.



8.1 Ratification

The By-Laws of the UABPDA shall take effect immediately pursuant to ratification by a majority vote of the attendees of the inaugural UABPDA meeting.

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

  • Fernández is inaugural winner of diversity award from the Obesity Society

    UAB’s Fernández honored for diversity leadership by the Obesity Society.

    José Fernández, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for Education in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at BirminghamSchool of Health Professions, has been named the inaugural winner of the Shiriki Kumanyida Diversity Leadership Award from the Obesity Society. The award recognizes an investigator whose research has made a significant difference in the field of obesity disparities.

    The prevalence of obesity has significantly increased among the population of the United States over the past 30 years, with nearly one-third of adults now considered obese. Obesity is a known risk factor for many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Significant racial/ethnic disparities continue to exist in the occurrence of obesity.

    Fernández joined UAB in August 2001, bringing special expertise in the application of statistical models to detect and disentangle genetic and environmental influences in obesity-related traits. His main research interest is the identification of genes that contribute to racial differences in obesity and diabetes. He uses the genetic admixture approach as a tool to decompose the genetic, social and cultural components underlying racial and ethnic differences in complex traits.

    Fernández serves as a member of the editorial boards for the International Journal of Obesity and for Ethnicity and Disease. He has been the recipient of the UAB President’s Faculty Diversity Award, the UAB Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, and the UAB School of Health Professions’ Joseph F Volker Outstanding Faculty Award.

    The award is named for Shiriki Kumanyika, Ph.D., professor emeritus of epidemiology in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Kumanyika has an interdisciplinary background and holds advanced degrees in social work, nutrition and public health. Her research focuses on identifying effective strategies to reduce nutrition-related chronic disease risks, with a particular focus on achieving health equity for black Americans.

    In 2002, Kumanyika founded and continues to chair the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN), a national network that seeks to improve the quantity, quality and effective translation of research on weight issues in African-American communities. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine and is president of the American Public Health Association for 2015.

    Fernández will receive the award in November at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

  • Roberson wins prestigious Denny-Brown award from American Neurological Association

    UAB’s Roberson wins young investigator award from the American Neurological Association.

    Erik Roberson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is the winner of the 2015 Derek Denny-Brown Young Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association.

    The award, considered the ANA’s highest and most prestigious, recognizes early- to mid-career neurologists and neuroscientists who have made outstanding basic and clinical scientific advances toward the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of neurological diseases.

    Roberson’s primary research focus is Alzheimer’s disease, in particular the role of tau reduction in protection against memory loss. Roberson and his colleagues were also the first to show that tau plays a critical role in regulating neuronal excitability, which could have applications in the treatment of many neurological conditions with seizures. He has also contributed new insights into mechanisms and therapeutic approaches to frontotemporal dementia.

    Roberson graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and completed his M.D./Ph.D. training at Baylor College of Medicine. He was chief resident in neurology at the University of California at San Francisco. He joined the faculty at UAB in 2008 with appointments to the departments of Neurology and Neurobiology. He holds the Spencer Endowed Professorship in Neuroscience. He is a co-director of the UAB Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics and has recently been appointed co-director of the McKnight Brain Institute at UAB.

    “Dr. Roberson is recognized nationally and internationally for his expertise in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders,” said David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAB Department of Neurology. “I think Dr. Roberson is one of the leading neuroscientists of his generation. He is exceptionally bright, very well trained and, most importantly, fully committed to his goals.”

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