UAB Magazine Online Features
UAB Imaging Lab Explores Science in HD
By Grant Martin
Melissa Chimento has seen the face of the enemy, and that enemy looks like—a finger. Chimento, a UAB alumna, is an electron microscopist in UAB’s High Resolution Imaging Facility (HRIF), a technology-packed lab in the Shelby Biomedical Research Building that offers researchers the chance to see their work up close and personal, even when the object of their attention is thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
A male (right) and female fruit fly are shown at more than 75 times their size by using laser confocal microspy. To view this and other images from the HRIF, scroll down and click the arrows in the slideshow below.
At the controls of an FEI Tecnai T12 TEM, Chimento has captured images of anthrax, adenoviruses, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the potentially lethal bug that causes tuberculosis—looking remarkably fingerlike (and quite nonthreatening) in its native environment.
Each year, hundreds of researchers pay a visit to the HRIF, says Kent Keyser, Ph.D., who directs the facility and UAB’s Vision Science Research Center. Vision researchers are regular users of the lab’s equipment, which includes two electron microscopes and several high-powered light microscopes, but its users also include scientists from the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rheumatic Disease Core Center, Hepatorenal Fibrocystic Disease Core Center, Cystic Fibrosis Center, Biomatrix Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Center, and many others, Keyser notes. These centers also provide monetary support for the facility, Keyser adds, “which is critically important in helping keep fees low while maintaining a high standard of service.”
Seeing Is Believing
Researchers come to capture details of cellular processes and to take advantage of the HRIF’s ability to create two- and three-dimensional reconstructions and animations and record time-lapse video, among dozens of other applications. The devices necessary to do this “are all very expensive, so placing the equipment in a shared core facility ensures that it is accessible to scientists from all different labs across campus, as well as scientists from other universities and institutions,” explains HRIF microscopist Shawn Williams.
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Music Alumnus Helps Gospel Choir Spread the UAB Sound
By Glenny Brock
Clinton Green sees the combination of music and technology as a natural symbiosis.
For Clinton Green, there is no clear line between the digital and the spiritual. The 2008 UAB graduate has found sweet harmony between music technology and old-time gospel music, transforming his college experience into a series of rhythmic adventures.
“Music has always been my first love,” says Green. It’s also his constant companion. By day, he serves as minister of music at New Life Interfaith Ministries, Inc. in Bessemer. At nights he is the primary keyboardist for the world-renowned UAB Gospel Choir. In both positions, Green says he uses the lessons he learned while earning his degree in UAB’s music technology program.
“Music technology was a simple choice for me, because technology and music go hand in hand,” Green says. “Every time you hear music, even in many live performances, some type of technology was involved to create it, record it, manipulate it, or even to play it so that you can hear it.”
UAB Accounting Graduate Turns IRS Investigator
By Caperton Gillett
Assuming you haven’t recently attempted to defraud the government, you probably would enjoy meeting Donald Smith. The 2006 UAB accounting graduate is a special agent in the Birmingham office of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID). But the popular image of the IRS agent in short-sleeved shirt and Coke-bottle glasses, “collecting taxes and maybe harassing a few people,” as Smith says, doesn’t fit this unfailingly polite—and well-dressed—guy.
He may not fit the stereotypes of an IRS agent or a CPA, but Donald Smith uses his accounting degree from UAB to track down money launderers and drug traffickers through his role as an agent in the IRS's Criminal Investigation Division.
His job description isn’t exactly in line with conventional wisdom, either. Although Smith says he draws on his UAB accounting training daily, he spends more time out in the field than hunched over a calculator. And when push comes to shove, he can deploy something more effective than intellectual firepower: a .40 caliber Glock handgun.
By the Books
The role of the CID, Smith explains, is to apprehend and prosecute criminals who commit financial fraud. That means he spends much of his time soliciting testimony from witnesses and victims of fraud. “Particularly with victims, I tell them, ‘I’m here as a friend to help you out. All I need is for you to tell me what happened to cause you this kind of distress.’ I try to come across as the nice guy from the IRS.” When he is dealing with criminals—including drug traffickers and money launderers—a different persona emerges, however. “I always talk to people with the utmost respect, but my job is to gather evidence.”
High-Tech Hearing Aids Put Seniors Back in the Conversation
By Dorothy Foltz-Gray
Audiologist Cara Snable says that advances in technology have made modern hearing aids virtually undetectable—and have vastly improved sound quality.
Five years ago, Ida, 68, a widow in Fort Payne, Alabama, began noticing she had to work hard to follow conversations. The pleasure of discussion had become a chore. “I knew someone was speaking, but I was missing words,” she says. “When I couldn’t hear my grandchildren, that motivated me to do something.” At UAB’s Kirklin Clinic, audiologist Cara Snable fitted Ida with tiny hearing units on each ear that have made a big difference in her quality of life.
New audio technologies have shrunk hearing aids to the point that they’re almost undetectable, while sound quality has improved tremendously, Snable says. And that’s good news for the estimated 20 to 40 percent of older adults with some sort of hearing impairment, notes UAB geriatrician Andrew Duxbury, M.D., a professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care.
It’s important to keep in mind that hearing well isn’t a perk—it’s a health necessity, Duxbury says. A person with hearing loss may not detect oncoming traffic as he or she crosses a road, for example. “When people feel less safe, they shrink their world,” says Duxbury. “They stop driving and socializing. If you cannot hear properly, you become isolated from what is going on in the world, from your family, and from your peer group.”