UAB Magazine Online Features
Alumnus Boosts Nation’s Drug Defenses
By Matt Windsor
If there is trouble somewhere in the world, Michael V. Callahan, M.D., DTM&H, M.S.P.H., probably isn’t far away. For three months every year, Callahan, a 1991 graduate of the UAB School of Public Health and 1995 graduate of the UAB School of Medicine, works in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. The rest of his time is spent on the move.
Callahan has been on the scene at some of the world’s most famous—and dangerous—virus outbreaks, including H5N1 avian flu in Hong Kong in 1999 and 2001, SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, Marburg in Angola in 2004, and so on. He also has responded to recent Ebola virus outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lassa fever in Nigeria, and controversial laboratory accidents resulting in the infection of scientists at foreign biohazard laboratories.
But Callahan’s most enduring contribution to health care may come from the lab rather than the field. Since 2005, he has been a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the secretive R&D center of the American military. Callahan was recruited to DARPA “to work on fast-paced solutions to health threats,” he says. His biggest mission: Create a government-funded drug research and production capability focused strictly on national priorities, such as defense and pandemic preparedness, rather than profits. “The Department of Defense had no idea how to make drugs, and neither did I,” Callahan recalls. But they knew they needed to learn how.
Taking Sleep Science into the Bedroom
By Matt Windsor
You may think you're getting enough sleep, but your wrist might tell a different story.
Using a motion-sensing chip built into a wristwatch-shaped device, sleep scientists can create a highly accurate map of a person’s daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness. The method is called actigraphy, and UAB investigators are using it to take the university’s sleep research program to a new place: patients’ own bedrooms.
“An overnight sleep study is the gold standard” in order to get a precise understanding of a person’s sleep issues, says Kristin Avis, Ph.D., associate director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s of Alabama and associate professor of pediatrics at UAB. Overnight sleep studies are routinely conducted for adults at UAB Highlands Sleep Wake Disorders Center and for children at the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s of Alabama. “But in many cases, we would like to establish what a patient’s sleep pattern is over time, and how they sleep in their everyday environment," says Avis. "And we can’t do that in the clinic.”
UAB Students Get Animated and Interactive
By Caperton Gillett
Digital graphics and animation used to be known as “new media” back when they really were new. Today they appear on screens of every size under the name of “time-based media,” reflecting the fact that these works have a beginning and an end and often involve input from the viewer.
UAB’s time-based media program lives in the Department of Art and Art History, where it harnesses technology to create a new kind of fine art. A key focus is animation—both hand-drawn and 3D—but that’s not the only emphasis, says Christopher Lowther, M.F.A., assistant professor of time-based media.
The students “are very engaged in contemporary practice,” he says. “We’re doing investigations in interactivity using sensors and circuit boards.” The 3D animation even has a virtual-reality component—something that other programs often don’t have, Lowther says.
UAB’s nationally recognized time-based media program consists of seven courses: introductory, intermediate, and advanced time-based media; 3D computer modeling; 3D computer animation; Emerging Technologies; and a capstone seminar. To learn more, visit http://www.uab.edu/art/programs_timebased.php
From Flipbooks to 3D
Lowther goes back in time to teach the basics of the field, beginning with what he calls “pre-cinematic devices”—frame-by-frame animation using flipbooks and zoetropes—and progressing through more traditional 2D animation and stop-frame animation in the style of movies like Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and current Oscar nominees Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Other courses concentrate on object-based art; in them, students have used a preprogrammed circuit board called a MaKey MaKey to connect with a computer and make their artwork interactive. The technology grows more advanced from there. In fact, Lowther’s 3D computer modeling course brings the art out of the computer and into the real world, where students can interact with their objects in the School of Engineering’s VisCube, a fully immersive 3D multiscreen display; print them out on the art department’s 3D printer; or create entire virtual-reality environments.
English Composition Students Combine Service with Style
By Rosalind Fournier
UAB Highlands Hospital, and Thompson listened as his companion, a World War II pilot, recalled an aerial adventure. “His blue eyes gazed off at nothing in particular,” Thompson later wrote in his journal. “It seemed that he was re-living his days of flying through the air for his country.”UAB freshman Kyle Thompson made a new connection over lunch recently. It was mealtime at the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at
Thompson was taking part in the hospital’s SPOONS program, in which volunteers visit with patients at mealtimes, helping them eat or simply providing companionship. But his lunch plans weren’t simply a matter of good will—they were a part of the curriculum for his freshman composition course.
Cassandra Ellis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of English at UAB, was looking for new ways to teach basic English composition when she heard about SPOONS. Inspired in part by volunteer work she did herself as an undergraduate at Syracuse University, Ellis saw SPOONS as a way to get students involved in the larger Birmingham community—and as a rich source of inspiration for writing assignments. “It’s an opportunity for them to turn off their cell phones and engage in a real conversation,” Ellis says. “They’re in a situation where they’re not texting their friends and are instead completely focused on being of service to someone else.”
After piloting a similar curriculum a few years ago, Ellis recently received UAB’s official “service learning” designation for the fall 2012 course, a first for the English department. Fifty students in two sections of basic English composition are now taking Ellis’s course, which follows the theme “age, memory, and identity,” she says. In addition to their volunteer work, students watch films and read memoirs that deal with the issues of aging. The semester culminates with a research paper, and many students choose their topics based on experiences they have had in SPOONS, Ellis says.