UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
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.
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.)
UAB School of Nursing’s master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree offers a specialty track in nursing informatics, a growing field that combines “computer science, cognitive science, information science, and nursing science,” says Jacqueline Moss, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Adult/Acute Health, Chronic Care and Foundations at the SON.The
Nursing informatics specialists “use technology to support decision-making in clinical practice,” Moss says. “Although they do some technical work, their role is really about deeply understanding clinical practice to the point where new systems work with clinicians to improve care.”
The program, which has been offered since 2006, includes classes in nursing, computer science, and business. Courses are offered online, with in-person class meetings as well. “We teach students to be change agents,” Moss says. “There is often resistance to new technologies and procedures in any workplace. And our graduates are charged with implementing multimillion-dollar projects, so they take courses in organizational behavior and project management, for instance.”
Students generally have worked extensively with technology in their practices as R.N.s, Moss notes. “We get a lot of intensive-care nurses interested in this program, because they are used to working in a very information-rich environment and see the benefits of new technologies,” she says.
Although more nursing schools are adding informatics programs, they are still relatively rare, and the SON’s reputation makes graduates a hot commodity. “In the last two years, our graduates have all been hired right out of school, and most of them are hired while they’re still in school,” Moss says.
To learn more about the program, including admission requirements, download a PDF here.
Mock Trial Team Faces Tough Cases and Competition
By Caperton Gillett
The prosecutor stalks before the judge’s bench, his opening statement thrumming with a quiet intensity. His delivery full of gravity but lacking in melodrama, he presents the case at hand: a young woman accused of killing a friend in a drunk-driving incident. The defendant sits across the room next to her three attorneys, unexpectedly unruffled for a woman facing time in prison (and somewhat underdressed for a day in court).
Luckily, casual attire notwithstanding, the defendant’s freedom remains unthreatened, and her friend is safe and sound—and fictional. The entire setup, from faux judge to pretend witnesses, is a practice round—a “scrimmage”—for UAB’s mock trial team. In April 2012, the team put in a strong showing at the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) national championships in Minnesota, earning Outstanding Trial Team Honorable Mention in the Hon. Edward Toussaint, Jr., Division and All-American honors for team members Valencia Jackson (witness category) and captain Grady Lowman (attorney category). (See a video of the team’s practice below and learn more about their performance at the national championship here.)
Story continues after video.
Body of Evidence
Mock trial is simply “addictive,” says team co-coach Joseph Dease, himself a UAB mock trial alumnus now in his final year at Cumberland School of Law. “Once you go to that first competition and understand why you’ve put in all the time and effort, you’re hooked.”
The drunk-driving case was provided by the AMTA and will be used by all competing teams throughout the year. Dease has a binder with the relevant materials: affidavits from witnesses and experts, receipts, and even, he says, “crime scene photos.” (Squad captains Grady Lowman, Brian Price, and Kimberly Jeter jump in simultaneously to object: Until the prosecutors have proven that a crime actually has been committed, the photos are merely “incident photos.”)