UAB Magazine Online Features
Alumna Cooks Up a Career
By Caperton Gillett
How do you begin a career running a restaurant that has been hailed as one of the best in Birmingham—and the nation? If you’re Idie Hastings, you study criminal justice and psychology at UAB.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native had intended to pursue a career as a therapist and even began working as a legal assistant, but on the side, she was becoming known for her cooking. Hastings indulged her hobby by hosting small parties and Sunday night dinners for friends and roommates. Before long, she was working part-time in restaurants and facing a choice about her future after she graduated in 1986. “I had two paths,” she says. “I was either going to culinary school and go the food route, or I was going to get my graduate degree in psychology.”
Hastings moved to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy. While there, she worked at Jeremiah Towers’s Stars Café and Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio, and she put her baking skills to the test at Patisserie Francaise. She also met a promising young chef named Chris Hastings, who became her husband.
Degree Leads Alumnus to a World of Opportunity
By Grant Martin
George Little, a 1981 graduate of the UAB School of Engineering, was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2010 and was named one of UAB’s “40 Engineers Making a Difference” in 2011.
When George Little accepted his first job in electrical engineering, he never expected that his career would take him around the world and to the highest levels of leadership. “Being the CEO of an international company was not on my radar,” says the 1981 graduate of the UAB School of Engineering.
That’s just what happened recently when Little was promoted to CEO of HDR, an engineering and design firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with 7,800 employees in 185 offices and a roster of construction projects in more than 60 countries. The firm currently has five projects in China, including designing the world’s first “medical city” in Beijing. “This will be the first fully integrated health community in the world,” says Little. “We’re working on a master plan that will include 10 hospitals with 1,000 beds apiece. To put that in perspective, consider the growth of UAB’s medical center over the last few years, then multiply its size by 10.” When completed, the Beijing complex will cover 4.7 square miles—equal to two-thirds the size of Manhattan—and is expected to cost $7 billion.
Little says he developed an interest in electricity in high school when he participated in an Explorer’s post sponsored by Alabama Power. A resident of Hueytown, Alabama, he began working for the company while he was an undergraduate at UAB, and he stayed at Alabama Power for eight years after graduation. Then he took a job with HDR’s office in Minneapolis—a move that opened up a new world of experiences and opportunities. “The electrical work was a very small part of what we were doing, so I was exposed to a wide range of disciplines,” Little says. “I got experience with wastewater engineering, highways and bridges, and the whole variety of construction and design projects HDR handles. As my confidence grew, I realized that I enjoyed working with clients and the business development aspects of being in management.”
He also got the opportunity to cross other boundaries. “I had never done much traveling outside Alabama before I took the job with HDR,” Little says. The position took him to project sites across the country, and after managing the Minneapolis office for several years, he moved to Omaha to take over the company’s engineering division in 1998.
Inside the Danger Zone with UAB's Child Safety Expert
By Matt Windsor
David Schwebel’s quest to keep children out of harm’s way began with a big purple dinosaur. When the UAB psychology professor was an undergraduate at Yale University, he knew he wanted to work with kids even though he was "naive" about how to go about doing that. So he approached a professor doing research in the field, and it just so happened the professor needed help studying a new TV show— Barney & Friends.
As an undergraduate, Schwebel
"It was just so exciting to influence millions of kids," he says. "So when
Schwebel’s mentor wanted to see if children were actually learning something when they watched Barney, a purple T. rex, cavort around the studio. “We discovered that it was actually fantastically successful,” says Schwebel. The Yale researchers gave Barney’s producers some ideas on ways to increase kids’ learning even more, and the show was tweaked based on that feedback. “It was just so exciting to influence millions of kids,” Schwebel says. “So when I went to graduate school, I decided to do something that would make a difference in people’s lives.”
Since coming to UAB in 2001, Schwebel has done just that. In a series of intriguing, headline-grabbing experiments, he has highlighted the dangers in a range of childhood activities, from crossing the street to playing on a playground and taking a swim at the local pool.
Schwebel’s fieldwork has taken him to local hockey rinks, Iowa cornfields, and communities in Africa and China. As often as not, though, his experiments are based in the Youth Safety Lab in UAB’s Campbell Hall, where danger lurks behind every door. Open one and you’ll find a virtual-reality crosswalk designed to test kids’ decision-making as pedestrians. Down the hall is a contraption, topped by a toy frog, that seeks to determine a teen’s grasp of what is and is not physically possible. Another room contains a scale model of a busy intersection, complete with lights, crosswalks, and a giant mechanical centipede that crosses streets.
These unusual pieces of scientific equipment have helped Schwebel learn some important lessons about child safety—and translate his findings into action that has helped thousands of children around the world.
Inflammation is a necessary component of the immune system’s fight
against infections and the repair of damaged tissues—but problems can arise if the fire won’t subside.
Asthma, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression have been linked to a constant activation of the inflammatory response. It’s not an easy condition to treat, either, because its causes include obesity, stress, and pollution, among others. As a result, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., the Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences, and many other UAB researchers are investigating ways to control inflammation on an individual basis.
They’re not the only ones searching for a solution. Several high-profile celebrities have been touting “anti-inflammatory” diets as a cure. These diets call for eating lots of fruits and vegetables, decreasing consumption of processed carbohydrates, replacing fats and proteins containing omega-6 with their omega-3 counterparts such as fish, and using olive oil instead of other oils.