Provost Linda Lucas presented five UAB faculty members with the Award for Faculty Excellence in Academic Engagement and Global Citizenship on April 26. Recipients included Drs. Cassandra Ellis, Ken Marion, James McClintock, Michelle Olsen, and Elizabeth Sztul.

These awards acknowledge extraordinary commitment to engaging UAB’s undergraduate students in research, scholarship, creative activities, service learning, and study away experiences.

Dr. Cassandra EllisCassandra Ellis (Assistant Professor in English) for transforming English 101 into a unique and amazing student experience. In her search to make English composition more meaningful, Dr. Ellis found UAB Highlands Hospital’s SPOONS program. Through SPOONS, her freshman students visited with elderly patients at mealtimes, helping them eat or simply providing companionship. She then encouraged the students to reflect on their service experiences through writing assignments focused on age, memory, and identity. Not only did the students learn composition, but they also realized their great capacity to connect with socially isolated elderly patients.

Student Kyle Thompson says that “it was a great experience as a freshman at the beginning of my journey to learn from someone at the end of his journey.”

Dr. Ellis has created other innovative service learning experiences with the Jefferson County Health Department and area schools. Right now, her English students are teaching area high school students about the impacts of littering. Kyle Thompson says that “Dr. Ellis treats us like respected colleagues. When a teacher is that willing to put that much work into a class, it inspires me to do a better job.”

Dr. Ken Marion with Provost Dr. Linda LucasDrs. Ken Marion and Jim McClintock have been the “dynamic duo” of study abroad faculty-led programming at UAB.  Over the last 15 years, they have led more than 300 students to The Bahamas for tropical coral reef ecological studies, to Costa Rica to explore rainforest ecology, or most recently to The Galapagos Islands to follow in the footsteps of Darwinian biological observation.  They have introduced students to international biological fieldwork and have mentored them in their graduate and professional pursuits.  They consistently receive rave reviews from their students who are quick to tell anyone who will listen, “that [we] didn’t think science majors could study abroad until [we] learned of Dr. Marion’s and Dr. McClintock’s programs.  If it weren’t for them, [we] probably never would have studied abroad as undergraduate students.”  Because of their collective and individual support of study abroad at our university, UAB is one of the few universities in the nation to send students to all 7 continents!

Dr. Ken Marion, Professor Emeritus of Animal Natural History & Aquatic Environmental Biology, teaches ecology and field biology. Dr. Marion has considerable research experience with amphibians, reptiles, and birds of tropical habitats in Central and South America.  Marion is a fellow of the Alabama Academy of Science and a winner of the UAB Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award in 2005. He joined UAB in 1971.

Dr. James McClintockDr. James McClintock, Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, is best known for his Antarctic expeditions but has conducted significant research on marine invertebrates in the coral reefs of the Caribbean and soft-bottom habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.  His drug discovery program recently found an anti-cancer compound in an Antarctic marine invertebrate.  McClintock is a world-recognized authority on Antarctic marine biology with more than 30 years of active research in polar marine biology. He has published over 225 scientific papers and his recent popular book Lost Antarctica – Adventures in a Disappearing World has received national acclaim.

Michelle Olsen - Assistant Professor Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology

Dr. Michelle Olsen and Provost Dr. Linda LucasDr. Olsen received her Ph.D. (Neurobiology) from UAB in 2005. The focus of her research is to enhance understanding of the role of astrocytes in brain and spinal cord function. Astrocytes are some of the most common cells in the central nervous system - yet little is known about their role in neurodevelopmental disorders and injury, particularly pediatric injury.

As a mentor to undergraduates in her lab, Dr. Olsen knows that research experience can transformational to young students. She also has played a key role in supporting her students outside of the lab in their science-related endeavors, such as the Inaugural Neuroscience Day and the Alabama Brain Bee. Student Sasank Peramsetty says that “Dr. Olsen has enhanced the quality and scope of the research programs through her devotion to her work, resulting in an enrichment of UAB’s research mission and reputation.”

Elizabeth Sztul - Professor Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology

Dr. Elizabeth Sztul and Provost Dr. Linda LucasDr. Sztul left Princeton to join the UAB faculty in the Department of Cell Biology as an Associate Professor in fall of 1995. A major aim of her research is to understand how cells regulate the delivery of proteins. Her lab’s ultimate goal is to provide a detailed understanding of molecular protein traffic to aid in the development of disease-specific therapies.

As a past recipient of the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, Dr. Sztul recognizes the value of guiding young scientists. For the last four years, her students have participated in the Expo.Dr. Sztul’s student Bliss Chang says that “Dr. Sztul is a wonderful research mentor in more ways than one. She devotes time out of her busy schedule to spend at the bench with members of the lab, including undergraduates like me.”

Her students say that Dr. Sztul’s lab atmostphere is “fun, relaxed, and challenging,” and they get results. After only 9 months in Dr. Sztul’s lab, one undergraduate student has already secured two research grants to fund his first author project as well as multiple travel grants for conferences.