UAB Magazine Online Features
UAB’s System for Scholarship Success
By Matt Windsor
Things that are easier than earning a Rhodes scholarship: getting selected in the NFL draft, getting elected to Congress, hosting your own TV show, winning an Oscar, recording a hit single.
Rhodes Scholars, who win funding for up to three years of study at Oxford University in England, have done each of these and more. There aren’t many of them: Only 32 are selected each year, but they make an outsize impact on the world. Rhodes alumni include politicians Bill Clinton and Bill Bradley, football player Myron Rolle, pundits Rachel Maddow and Bill Kristof, Hollywood director Terrence Malick, and singer Kris Kristofferson. The list also includes UAB’s own Neel Varshney—who won in 2000, went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School, and is now a venture capitalist in Chicago—and Josh Carpenter, who won the Rhodes scholarship in 2012.
You have to be a scholar to win a scholarship, but grades are not enough. Neither are energy, activism, or a killer list of extracurriculars. The secret is in the story. “All of your fellow applicants will be smart and engaged—just like you,” says Carpenter, who is currently studying comparative social policy at Oxford’s St. Hilda’s College. “You have to identify what it is that makes you unique.”
Investing in Success
A scholarship is essentially an investment, Carpenter explains. “The committee wants to find the person who will give them the best return on that investment, and it’s important that you be able to articulate why you are that person.” (For more advice from UAB scholarship winners, see “Scholar Tips,” below.)
Preparing Peace Corps Volunteers for Nursing Careers
By Jo Lynn Orr
The two years Andrea Torre spent in Dimbwe Village in southern Zambia changed her life. Now she has come to the UAB School of Nursing (SON) to learn the skills she needs to spend the rest of her career helping to change others’ lives.
As a Peace Corps volunteer from 2006 to 2008, Torre was officially tasked with helping to teach women in Dimbwe about HIV prevention. But once she learned the local language and got to know the people, Torre took on a larger role. “I worked with women’s groups on income-generating activities, taught math at the local school, and worked with the local clinic to vaccinate and weigh children five years old and younger,” she says.
Collaborating with the village’s parent-teacher association, Torre wrote a grant proposal and received $3,000. “Over the next eight months, a preschool was built with local materials and local labor, a local teacher was hired, and 45 children each year will now receive an early education,” she says.
After returning to her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, Torre worked as a program director at a local nonprofit organization while she settled on a future career. “I went back and forth between teaching and nursing,” she says. She decided on the latter, because “I knew with nursing I could educate and heal.”
UAB Filmmaker Chronicles a Journey of Discovery
By Matt Windsor
On May 21, 1944, Captain Malcolm A. Smith’s P-47 Thunderbolt fighter fell out of the skies over northwestern France. The U.S. Army Air Corps, suspecting weather trouble, informed Smith’s family in Alabama of the loss, but kept his status as “missing in action” for another two years before acknowledging he would never return.
Sixty years later, Smith’s sister, Marianne Smith Morgan, received a letter from a Frenchman who said he had discovered what really happened on that fateful Sunday afternoon. Smith had actually been killed in action in a dogfight with a German warplane—and he had become a beacon of hope for the villagers of Vibraye, a tiny community near his crash site.
“At first we thought it was a hoax,” says June Mack, M.F.A., Morgan’s daughter and an award-winning filmmaker on the faculty in the UAB Department of Communication Studies. But Mack soon discovered she had become a part of an incredible true story of redemption, gratitude, and hope. She eventually turned the tale into a documentary, Lest We Forget: A French Village Recalls 1944. The film will get its public premiere on Saturday, November 10, 2012—Veteran’s Day weekend—at 4:00 p.m. in UAB’s Hulsey Center Recital Hall, room 108.
Path of Honor
The story owes its life to Jacky Emery, a French citizen whose hobby is finding villages in areas of France where Allied soldiers died or were wounded. “He does it simply because he is so grateful for what they did during the war,” Mack says. “He goes to the towns and suggests that they use their next building project—a new road, building, or bridge—to honor the soldier.”
Alumnus Aims to Keep Mars Rover Safe
By Matt Windsor
merica’s latest Mars probe is called Curiosity, but as the car-size spaceship hurtled toward the Red Planet on August 5, Luther Beegle’s 10-year-old son, Ryan, was experiencing a different emotion: anxiety.
Beegle, who holds a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in astrophysics from UAB, was a little antsy himself. A safe touchdown meant he would finally get a shot at a mission after more than a decade as a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It would also be a neat follow-up to the Mars rover missions undertaken by his UAB mentor, Thomas Wdowiak, Ph.D., in the mid-2000s.
The Big Dig
“Five minutes before the rover landed, my son came up to me and said he was really nervous,” Beegle says. “He and my daughter, Abigail, have been to the lab many times and saw the rover being made, but it didn’t become real to them until the landing. I gave him a hug and said it would be OK.”
It was. Curiosity landed safely, drawing cheers from the crowd. In a conversation a month later, Beegle was still elated, even though the pressure has, if anything, intensified.
Beegle’s role on this mission is to be something of an interplanetary safety inspector. “I am one of three surface sampling systems scientists,” he says. “We’re in charge of Curiosity’s drill and scoop”—which are crucial to the mission goal of “finding traces of organics and understanding the habitability potential of Mars,” Beegle says. “It’s our job to let the engineers know if it’s safe to drill into something. If the drill fails, then the two analytical instruments can’t work, so we’re very conservative in what targets we choose.”
For the first 90 days of the Curiosity mission, Beegle and the entire team are working on Mars Time. Since a day (or “sol”) on Mars lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes, that means his shift begins roughly 40 minutes later each day. (Beegle and most other team members track the shifting clock using a NASA smartphone app, which has largely replaced the “Mars watches” used by earlier crews.) After three months, “we go to a more reasonable 8:00-to-6:00, seven-day-a-week schedule,” Beegle says. “It sounds horrible, but it’s really not; I’m doing such interesting work.”