UAB Magazine Online Archive
UAB Researchers Build the Nanoscale Future
By Suzanne Parker
Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration (CNMB), is leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers who are working toward synthesis and characterization of nanoscale materials and structures and subsequent integration of these nanomaterials and nanostructures into practical biomedical devices and technologies.The poet William Blake once imagined seeing “a world in a grain of sand,” but Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., sees a world of possibilities on a much smaller scale. Vohra, a UAB physics professor and director of UAB’s
These scientists, engineers, and physicians are building and manipulating extremely tiny structures that could make a big impact on patient care, from improving drug delivery to developing better implants for joints and blood vessels—and even boosting the success of transplants. But they will never see their handiwork with their own eyes because they’re operating on the scale of atoms and molecules.
Nanoscale, nanotechnology, and nanoscience—all derive their meaning from the Greek word nanos, meaning “dwarf.” A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and nanoscale structures are constrained in at least one dimension to less than 100 nanometers. By comparison, a grain of sand is 500,000 nanometers, 10 times wider than a human hair, which is approximately 50,000 nanometers. A single red blood cell is approximately 9,000 nanometers.
But there is more to nanotechnology than size. Working at the nano level has forced researchers to redefine their understanding of matter itself. Nanomaterials possess novel physical, structural, chemical, and biological properties and behaviors. For instance, they have a much larger surface area in relation to their mass compared to bigger particles. That means they respond to electricity and magnetic fields, for example, in ways that are only beginning to be revealed as scientists delve into this miniature realm.
Students Help Redesign the Designer’s Role
By Matt Windsor
The advertising world may follow the maxim “image is everything,” but in reality designers are often relegated to a secondary role in the creative process, says UAB assistant professor of art Douglas Barrett, M.F.A.
“We’re often given projects after the big idea has happened, and we just style what someone else has created,” Barrett says. But UAB art faculty are helping students explore a new paradigm in design, he notes. “There’s a new catchphrase of ‘designer as author,’” Barrett says. The idea is to encourage designers to express their own ideas and show what they can contribute to the creative process. “We want to be there when the big idea happens and have a seat at the table.”
To prepare students for these roles, Barrett has tinkered with UAB’s graphic design curriculum. “We still spend plenty of time on traditional projects, such as setting type or creating brochures,” he says. “But at least once a semester, I try to do a project where the student is the author. In typography class, for example, I had each student choose a saying about time, and then they drew the text of that saying by hand.”
This work gives students “something in their portfolio that not everyone has,” Barrett says. “Someone hiring graphic designers wants super-creative people who are doing more than just typical graphic design work.”
Shalev Leads Diabetes Center
By Tara Hulen
UAB’s approach to diabetes research and treatment drew renowned scientist Anath Shalev, M.D., to become director of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center. However, she is equally excited about what can be done outside the lab to combat—and prevent—the disease.
“More than 30 percent of people in Alabama are obese, and another 30 percent are overweight,” Shalev says. Because obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, UAB programs taken directly to people across the state could make meaningful and immediate differences in many lives, she explains.
Outreach is one aspect of Shalev’s expansive view of diabetes research and care. “It’s a complex disease that requires an interdisciplinary approach,” she says. Shalev comes to UAB from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she directed endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism research and conducted groundbreaking studies on cellular processes that lead to pancreatic beta cell death associated with diabetes. Now she heads a center with more than 150 faculty members dedicated to combining diabetes research, training, and clinical care—the result of collaborative efforts involving UAB, Children’s Hospital, and the Birmingham community. Shalev also has been appointed to the Nancy R. and Eugene C. Gwaltney Family Endowed Chair in Juvenile Diabetes Research.
Student Selects a Big Idea for Birmingham
By Charles Buchanan
Prize2theFuture, a competition organized by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to generate ideas for the block of land next to Railroad Park, a 19-acre green space along the tracks that has become a popular downtown destination. With $72,000 in prizes and the opportunity to create a new Birmingham landmark at stake, the contest attracted 1,115 entries from around the world.Earlier this year, an ordinary parking lot near UAB became the subject of intense scrutiny. It was the focus of
When it came time to find a winner among all the ideas, the foundation turned to someone who knows the neighborhood well: UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) president Bradley Watts. “It was an amazing opportunity to represent both my school and my constituents,” says the Springville, Alabama, native and member of the University Honors Program.
Searching for Impact
Watts was one of 33 judges, who included nationally known architects and designers, community and business leaders, and politicians; he was the only university student on the panel. Each judge received between 50 and 80 entries to evaluate, Watts says. “We used a sliding scale between 0 and 100 to score five different factors relating to each project’s appeal, how it complemented Railroad Park, and feasibility.” The foundation aggregated scores from multiple judges to create a final score for each entry.