UAB Magazine Online Features
By Grant Martin
If you have driven any distance along an Interstate highway in the past couple of decades, you have probably passed the work of UAB engineering professor Dean Sicking, Ph.D. And if you’ve had the misfortune to crash your car along that Interstate—and lived to read this story—it could be that you have Sicking to thank.
For more than 30 years, Sicking has been a leading figure in highway safety research. His designs have reshaped guardrails and other roadside barriers throughout the United States. He was also one of the developers of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers that are used on NASCAR and Indy Racing League tracks around the world. Last fall, Sicking joined the UAB School of Engineering as a professor and the vice president of product development.
of safety devices, to the point where it’s virtually impossible to drive more than a mile on any major freeway in this country without encountering one of our systems,” says Sicking, who spent the past two decades as director of the Nebraska Transportation Center at the University of Nebraska. “Our roadside safety devices save hundreds, if not a thousand, lives per year without getting a whole lot of attention, but when we build a device that saves one or two racecar drivers, everyone wants to know about it.”“Over the years, we have generated dozens
Beckman Scholars Jumpstart Research Careers
By Matt Windsor
Tim Fernandez has been fighting killers throughout his college career. As a UAB freshman, Fernandez began tracing the cell signaling pathways that allow the HIV virus to replicate. He eventually moved on to cancer, targeting the interactions of the cell death receptor known as Fas and the protein Calmodulin, which play a major role in cancer. By his senior year, Fernandez’s research journey produced more than a dozen conference presentations, four papers in professional journals, an acceptance letter from the UAB School of Medicine—and more than $19,000 in funding.
President Ray Watts and the Future of UAB
By Matt Windsor
Somewhere outside Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta are homes with lovely gardens, lovingly tended by a physician with a flashlight.
At each stop on his path from a prestigious neurology residency to the presidency of UAB, Ray L. Watts, M.D., has spent his limited spare time coaxing the best out of his backyards. Any doctor can tell you that gardening is a great blend of exercise and stress relief. Most gardeners do their work while the sun shines, but Watts has rarely had that luxury. “I’ll look outside at night, and he’ll be out there,” says his wife, Nancy. “He has a vision, and then he just creates.”
“I like to grow beautiful things,” Watts says, simply. But those who know him best say this is less a hobby than the outgrowth of a lifetime habit—for Watts, beautiful results are just another example of the power of careful planning, hard work, and devotion to detail.
Designing Solutions to Community Problems
By Charles Buchanan
Can graphic design save a river—and a region? Doug Barrett, M.F.A., UAB assistant professor of graphic design in the Department of Art and Art History, and his students have laid out a plan to do just that, creating logos, brochures, signage, and more to draw attention to the Cahaba River and surrounding communities. And it seems to be working. A campaign they created last summer in partnership with the economic-development organization Alabama Engine won a 2013 Ideas That Matter grant from Sappi Fine Papers—one of only 13 awarded to designers nationwide to help them create and implement print projects for charitable causes.
“Graphic design is more than mere styling,” Barrett explains. “Good design is doing deep research and creating meaningful concepts and stories around products, ideas, and initiatives that connect with consumers on an emotional level.” That deep research, known as “design thinking,” is increasingly used as a tool to develop solutions to social issues, he adds. The American Institute of Graphic Arts has embraced design thinking in its “Design for Good” initiative, which has inspired the students’ projects.