• John Kearney, Ph.D., named an AAI Distinguished Fellow

    John Kearney, Ph.D., named an AAI Distinguished Fellow

    ohn Kearney, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named a 2023 Distinguished Fellow of the American Association of Immunologists.

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  • UAB named Center of Excellence in mast cell diseases

    UAB named Center of Excellence in mast cell diseases

    An overabundance of mast cells, which are important components of the immune system and are produced in the bone marrow, can lead to a variety of health issues.

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  • College of Arts and Sciences announces grant recipients

    College of Arts and Sciences announces grant recipients

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences offers faculty a range of awards and grant opportunities to advance their research and scholarship and recognize their achievements.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences offers faculty a range of awards and grant opportunities to advance their research and scholarship and recognize their achievements.

    In 2020, the College announced a new grants program aimed at supporting students’ diversity awareness and building their multicultural competence. Through the program - entitled Building a Multicultural Curriculum - faculty can access grants to develop new courses or revise existing courses. Faculty can use the funds to pay for instructional materials, professional development, student assistants, and salaries. Congratulations to the 2022-2023 grant recipients:

    • Aiqi Liu, Ph.D., Department of History: “Race and Power in U.S-Pacific Relations from 1776 to 1952”
    • Gabe H. Miller, Ph.D., Department of Sociology: “The -Isms and -Phobias: Intersectionality in the Social Sciences”
    • Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., Department of Biology: “Instructional Teaching Practicum BY 488-02A; BY 488- 02B (Honors)”
    • Michelle Wooten, Ph.D., Department of Physics: “Preserving Alabama’s Starry Skies”

    In 2021, the College launched a new grant mechanism -  Mid-Career Pivot Grants - to support tenured faculty seeking to “pivot to a new direction in their research scholarship or creative activity." The individual grants are for a maximum of $10,000 over a two-year period for the disciplinary project proposed by the tenured faculty. After a review conducted by the senior faculty members in CAS, the following three pivot grants were selected for funding for 2022-2023:

    • Aaron Catledge, Ph.D., Department of Physics, “From Super-Hard to High-Entropy:
      A Novel Approach in Materials Development”
    • Stephen Merritt, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, “Social Science Research in Cellular Agriculture”
    • Gregory Mumford, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, “Coring in Lisht’s floodplain to locate the ‘lost’ Middle Kingdom Itj-tawy, Egypt”

    The College organizes monthly innovation forums to focus on some of the world's biggest problems where interdisciplinary innovations could have a significant impact and where UAB has existing strengths/interests.

    In addition to the forums, the College issues an annual call for interdisciplinary team proposals.

    Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology, was selected for a FY 2023 CAS Interdisciplinary Team Award of $30,000 for his proposal entitled “Alternative antimicrobials and ecology of therapeutic treatment.” This interdisciplinary team award represents a collaboration led by Morris between CAS and the UAB School of Engineering. This interdisciplinary team proposal was selected after an external review of the all the proposals that were submitted to the College in November 2022.

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  • Osteoarthritis: Multi-ancestry analysis reveals novel genetic loci associated with the disease

    Osteoarthritis: Multi-ancestry analysis reveals novel genetic loci associated with the disease

    The first large multi-ancestry genetics study of osteoarthritis, or OA, has found 10 novel OA-associated genetic loci, and results showed some of the OA-associated regions are robustly found in every population ancestry studied.

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  • UAB ranked in top 8 percent of global universities by U.S. News

    UAB ranked in top 8 percent of global universities by U.S. News

    UAB’s research and reputation land it among the top institutions in the world.

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  • Protein kinase CK2 has key role in killer T cells during infection by Listeria monocytogenes

    Protein kinase CK2 has key role in killer T cells during infection by Listeria monocytogenes

    Experiments reveal that a catalytic subunit of CK2, called CK2α, is an important regulator of mouse CD8+ T cell activation, metabolic reprogramming and differentiation, both in vitro and in a mouse-infection model by the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

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  • Undergraduate programs in immunology and cancer biology offer innovative, one-of-a-kind degrees

    Undergraduate programs in immunology and cancer biology offer innovative, one-of-a-kind degrees

    Undergraduate programs in immunology and cancer biology are offering students one-of-a-kind educational experiences.

    Over the past 12 years, the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine established five interdisciplinary undergraduate programs to promote STEM and biomedical majors and increase the future pipeline of highly skilled workers. The shared programs include: neuroscience, bioinformatics, genetics and genomic sciences, immunology, and cancer biology.

    “The founding goal of these programs was to bring innovative majors to Alabama’s brightest students to build the next generation of the biomedical workforce,” said Cristin Gavin, Ph.D., assistant dean for the Undergraduate Biomedical Programs in the Heersink School of Medicine and co-director of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program. “UAB’s intensive research environment spans both schools and provides the perfect ecosystem for high-impact practices such as undergraduate research and collaborative learning.”

    Immunology

    History

    The Undergraduate Immunology Program was approved in 2016 and offered its first round of classes in 2017. It is an interdisciplinary program between the Department of Microbiology in the Heersink School of Medicine and the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to launching the undergraduate program, UAB only offered graduate-level degrees in immunology.

    “It made sense to extend our reach to undergraduates and build grassroots-level knowledge of immunology,” said Undergraduate Immunology Program Director Louis Justement, Ph.D.

    Significance

    Immunology is the study of the immune system, which protects the human body against pathogens and toxins. However, “the immune system can kill you any day if it is dysregulated,” said Justement. Therefore, understanding how the immune system works and its potential impact on the human body is crucial.

    After two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance and life-saving potential of studying the immune system has been significantly amplified. “Vaccines are a great example of immunologic success,” said Justement. “If that isn’t impactful, it’s hard to say what truly is.” Along with vaccines, immunology can also support early detection and treatment of cancer.

    Curriculum

    Immunology is interdisciplinary by nature and has direct ties with the fields of biochemistry, cell biology, cancer biology, infectious diseases, neurobiology, endocrinology, and cardiology. “All of these topics are woven into the immunology curriculum,” said Rueben Burch, an alumnus of the immunology program who currently works at a biotechnology company in Seattle. The program’s curriculum is a sequenced path consisting of seven courses and research opportunities. Some of the required courses include "Introduction to Immune System," "Immunologically-Mediated Diseases," and "Microbial Pathogen-Immune System Interaction." Students are also required to participate in undergraduate research to help them acquire knowledge and skills in experimental design, data analysis, scientific writing, and oral presentation.

    Heather Bruns, Ph.D., co-director of the program, worked alongside Justement to build a four-year comprehensive undergraduate curriculum. “As we identified the knowledge and competencies that we wanted our students to possess, it was also important to us to include appropriate assessments in the curriculum to ensure that the program was providing an effective learning environment,” said Bruns.

    Since it is a relatively small program, students receive quality, hands-on mentorship from faculty. Kristine Farag, an alumnus of the program who is now enrolled at the Indiana University School of Medicine, sought and found valuable mentorship from Bruns.

    “Immunology program directors truly want to see their students succeed in every capacity, and they put in the time and effort to make that happen,” said Farag.

    Careers

    Studying the immune system can be a valuable option for those who have an interest in health professions and biomedical research. Graduates of the program may go on to pursue a variety of careers, including research, medicine, science policy, science communication, and medical technology.

    Hollis Graffeo, a current immunology major, chose immunology because she is interested in becoming a physician, and the same is true for many of her fellow classmates. Additionally, the sheer uniqueness of the program was attractive to her.

    “UAB is the only school in the country that offers the immunology [undergraduate] major, and [I think] this will make me stand out greatly as an applicant when I apply to medical school,” said Graffeo.

    Learn more about the immunology major at UAB.

    Cancer Biology

    History

    The Bachelor of Science in Cancer Biology at UAB officially launched in Fall 2020. The program is an interdisciplinary partnership between the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology in the Heersink School of Medicine. These two departments initiated the cancer biology program because, “chemistry and cancer pair nicely together given the importance of chemical structure and drug discovery,” said Sadanandan Velu, Ph.D., co-director of the Undergraduate Cancer Biology Program.

    “Starting a program during the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly not ideal and unanticipated,” said Braden McFarland, Ph.D., co-director of the program. “However, everyone was on their computers and social media during that time, and the word spread about our program through cyberspace very quickly.”

    The program started with 13 students in Fall 2020 and has grown significantly. Currently, the directors anticipate 90 students in Fall 2022.

    Significance

    Cancer biology focuses on the mechanisms underlying fundamental processes such as cell growth, the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells, and their spread.

    Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, so its reach and impact is profound. “No matter the health profession, one will encounter cancer in their profession and their personal life,” said McFarland.

    Therefore, understanding the risks, early detection, and development of new therapies to combat cancer deaths is vital. Through the cancer biology program, students gain foundational knowledge of what cancer biology is and its application to cure and advance cancer research.

    Curriculum

    The program provides a strong educational and research background. Velu explains that the academic training in this program is reinforced with a required research component, which provides students with early exposure to cancer research.

    Cancer biology majors participate in investigator-led programs in high-profile cancer research labs, the majority of which are in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center—the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Alabama.

    Students can participate in research in any lab on campus with a focus on cancer. This includes basic or clinical research, as well as cancer nutrition or epidemiology. “Our current students have a palpable energy to learn everything about cancer, which is usually due to personal or family experiences with cancer,” said McFarland.

    Careers

    The UAB Undergraduate Cancer Biology program prepares students for academic and industrial career opportunities in cancer biology and life sciences, and it is a launch pad for students who want to research, treat, and fight cancer.

    Specifically, the program prepares students to excel in a variety of medical fields such as medicine, dentistry, optometry, physician training, and physician assistance. After completing the program, students might also pursue careers in biomedical research, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, veterinary sciences, medical technology, and public health policy.

    “Excellent faculty mentoring and career counseling are provided to students to identify graduate and professional programs or job opportunities most suited to their interests,” said Velu.

    Some students choose cancer biology for reasons beyond professional success. For example, Neeral Patel, one of the first cancer biology students at UAB, chose cancer biology because he watched his mother battle both ovarian and breast cancer growing up.

    “Birmingham became a second home to me, as our family would frequent UAB for my mom’s appointments and treatments. My mom’s battle is what initially sparked my interest in the medical field,” said Patel. “Although it is extremely early to know, this program has prepared me well in all things cancer. I look forward to exploring different specialties, while carrying all of the academic and non-academic skills this program and its faculty have taught me.”

    Learn more about the cancer biology major at UAB.

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  • College of Arts and Sciences alumni receive NAS awards

    College of Arts and Sciences alumni receive NAS awards

    The UAB National Alumni Society hosted its annual meeting honoring the recipients of the 2022 Alumni Awards and the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards.

    On Friday, September 23, 2022, the UAB National Alumni Society (NAS) hosted its annual meeting and awards dinner honoring the recipients of both the 2022 Alumni Awards and the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards. This was the first time that recipients for both awards were be acknowledged at the same event.

    In total, the NAS distributed five Alumni Awards at the event, including: Honorary Life Membership Award, Honorary Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and Volunteer of the Year Award.

    Along with the Alumni Awards, the NAS honored recipients of the UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Award. This award was established to recognize young alumni who have “demonstrated an ability to excel personally and professionally while committing time and energy in service to the University and local community.” In total, five alumni received the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards at the September 23 event.

    The College of Arts and Sciences would like to acknowledge and celebrate six stellar alumni from the College who were honored at the event.

    Congratulations to the following two alumni for winning Alumni Awards:

    Distinguished Alumni Award

    Dr. Kierstin Cates Kennedy, World Languages and Literatures with a concentration in Spanish, 2002

    Kierstin Cates Kennedy, M.D., is Chief of Hospital Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor at UAB Medicine. The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to a UAB graduate whose professional and community accomplishments are outstanding. The recipient must be one who is distinguished in his/her profession or other worthy endeavors, has demonstrated a continual interest in UAB, and who is a member in good standing of the UAB National Alumni Society.

    Volunteer of the Year Award

    Adam Roderick, Psychology, 2009

    Adam Roderick is the Manager of Learning and Development at Milo's Tea Company. The Volunteer of the Year Award is given to an individual who has dedicated their time and effort to improving the University through volunteerism.

    UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Awards

    Also, congratulations to the following four alumni for winning UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Awards:

    • Briana Bryant (Communication Studies, 2018) – Southern Research
    • Dr. Bliss Chang (Biology, 2015) – Columbia University
    • Dr. Zachary “Kane” Jones (Psychology, 2012) – United States Air Force
    • Hernandez Stroud (History, 2010) – Brennan Center for Justice

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  • Williams selected as a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar

    Williams selected as a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar

    Taylor Williams of the Department of Biology was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    Photo Courtesy of Taylor Williams. Taylor Williams, a doctoral student in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    According to NOAA, the competitive Nancy Foster Scholarship Program provides support for independent graduate-level studies in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology, particularly to women and students from underrepresented communities.

    This year, the organization selected seven graduate students from across the country for the scholarship. Each scholarship recipient will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 and up to $12,000 annually as an education allowance. Additionally, recipients may receive up to $10,000 to support a 4–6-week research collaboration at a NOAA facility.

    Williams, who is from Orcutt, California, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology under faculty advisor Stacy A. Krueger-Hadfield, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Her research will focus on a cryptogenic alga that is acting invasively within the boundaries of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), a U.S. National Monument and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. According to Williams, Chondria tumulosa is a red macroalga that was found growing in dense mats and smothering the coral reefs at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) and Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll) within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. She will be using a combination of population genetic analyses and laboratory experiments to assess the reproductive system of this alga.

    "The Nancy Foster Scholarship provides me the opportunity to work directly with our NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program to use our science to best meet the needs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument while also bridging the gap between science and place-based community outreach," said Williams.

    Williams completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa where she first became involved with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a scientific diver. She then earned her Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston under Dr. Heather Spalding before coming to UAB.

    “The Nancy Foster Scholarship will afford Taylor the exceptional opportunity to continue work on Chondria and collaborations with researchers in Hawai'i and at the College of Charleston,” said Krueger-Hadfield. “We will be gaining valuable data with direct benefits to understanding the natural history of organisms in the PMNM as well as population genetics in organisms that undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction. Surprisingly, we don't have good tools for this and the Chondria data Taylor generates during her dissertation research will be invaluable to testing theoretical predictions in different biomes and ecosystems.”

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  • McClintock has a story to tell

    McClintock has a story to tell

    For Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, storytelling may be the key to fighting climate change.

    A compelling story can change the way people think, feel, and act. For Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, storytelling might also be the key to fighting climate change.

    “20 years ago, I decided that I would exploit my love of writing and speaking in order to transcend what most scientists do when it comes to giving a lecture on climate change,” said McClintock. “I want to use storytelling as a tool to get this message out.”

    And that’s exactly what he’s done.

    McClintock—a world-renowned marine biologist, researcher, professor, and author who focuses his work on the ecological impacts of climate change on marine life in Antarctica—has published two books in the past 10 years: Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land and A Naturalist Goes Fishing. Both are nonfiction “trade books” that have reached tens of thousands of people across the world. That said, McClintock wants to further expand his audience and continue to sound the alarm about the implications of climate change. His plan? Write a novel with complex characters set in Antarctica.

    “I plan to use Antarctica as the backdrop,” said McClintock. “It will be built around the kinds of imagery and challenges that only Antarctica could bring to bear—that’s where my expertise comes in... If you can get a novel to take off, you have the potential of getting the narrative of climate change out to many millions of people.”

    And, for McClintock, the message needs to reach people as soon as possible. Earlier in the summer, he was invited to join an Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) cruise through the Arctic. McClintock served as a scholar and lecturer on the ship, commenting on the sights—and changes—the 150 voyagers were witnessing as they navigated Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland.

    “What’s happening in the Antarctic, like all polar environments, is also happening in the Arctic,” said McClintock. “Polar environments are excessively sensitive to climate warming. A little increase in temperature has a huge impact.”

    In Svalbard, for example, waterfalls stunned the A&K passengers. According to McClintock, when he visited the same site ten years earlier, he saw the beautiful cliffs and sea birds—but not waterfalls. Although the cascading water was impressive, McClintock believes that the new water is the result of melting ice.

    As the cruise continued to Greenland, the passengers soon found themselves navigating a band of nutrient-rich water, which drew an array of marine mammals. “When you come off of the Svalbard Islands, you cross a shelf—this is an underwater platform—and the shelf hits this slope…and it drops steeply about 5,000 feet down to the deep ocean. What happens when you have a steep wall is that the deep nutrient-rich water… hits the slope and comes shooting up and concentrates nutrients in a very narrow band of several miles,” said McClintock.

    “We penetrated that band of rich water and… saw four species of whales all in the same field of vision. We saw humpbacks, minkes, fin, and sei. To top it off, in the midst of all those whales feeding, there was a pod of white-beaked dolphins... Then there was a raft of several hundred Harp seals,” said McClintock. “To see humpback whales combined with three other species of whales and seals and porpoises, was, for me, a first in my life.”

    For over an hour and a half, the voyagers watched the spectacular display. Thinking back to these moments, McClintock lamented: “This vast richness in marine life is now increasingly threatened by climate warming and ocean acidification. Arctic marine mammals are particularly vulnerable because the food they consume, whether plankton or fish, are experiencing declines in abundance with rapid climate change.”

    The next stop on the trip was Greenland. When they arrived, McClintock was pleasantly surprised to see large, healthy polar bears—that said, several of McClintock’s expedition colleagues aboard a past A&K Arctic cruise had witnessed two polar bears foraging among birds’ nests and eating the eggs and chicks rather than hunting for seals.

    “As the sea ice disappears… they’re going to continue to have challenges,” said McClintock. “One small population of polar bears have learned recently that they can hunt on glacial ice—so, instead of hopping from sea ice floe to sea ice floe like they normally do, they’re hopping from floating bits and pieces of glacial ice. It’s an example of adaptation to climate change.”

    Thankfully, McClintock was able to share this insight with the passengers on the cruise in real time. For the general public, witnessing polar bears leaping from one piece of glacial ice to the next might be a treat. During the A&K cruise, people learned that there’s much more to the story.

    And, although the trip is over, the story continues. Whether it’s lectures on Arctic or Antarctic cruises, fictional books set in Antarctica, or visual art, McClintock plans to continue seeking ways to effectively (and creatively) share the story of climate change and prompt real action.

    “When I get a guy coming up and saying, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard this stuff and now I really believe it’s happening and I didn’t before,’ that’s huge for me. It may be only one or two people after a talk, but you never know how far that goes,” said McClintock.

    Others are joining his storytelling circle too, including a group of professional theatre actors who recently staged a performance of Ushuaia Blue a play scripted by New York playwright Caridad Svich, loosely based on McClintock’s life and book, Lost Antarctica. The theatrical production was featured at the recent prestigious Contemporary American Theatre Festival at Shephard University in West Virginia, and McClintock made the trip to see it. The performance brought tears to his eyes—and, unsurprisingly, it also prompted meaningful questions from the cast after the show.

    “I met [the actors] after the production… I’ve given them all copies of Lost Antarctica. They wanted to know all about Antarctica; they wanted to know about climate change,” said McClintock.

    Perhaps his strategy is working, one story at a time.

    McClintock leads A&K expedition cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic each year. For more information contact him at mcclinto@uab.edu.

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  • Amsler selected as 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow

    Amsler selected as 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow

    Margaret “Maggie” Amsler, M.S., a polar marine biologist and researcher in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow.

    Margaret “Maggie” Amsler, M.S., a polar marine biologist and researcher in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow. In total, only ten scientists received this distinction in 2022. The cohort will be recognized during the International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE), which will take place in Alexandria, Virginia on November 2-6.

    Sigma Xi is a Scientific Research Honor Society, and it was founded in 1886 at Cornell University. Currently, the honor society has approximately 60,000 members across the world. According to Sigma Xi, “[t]he Fellow of Sigma Xi distinction is awarded on a competitive basis to members who have been recognized by their peers. Fellows must be an active (dues-paying), full member for the last 10 years continuously, or a life member, with distinguished service to Sigma Xi and outstanding contributions to the scientific enterprise.”

    Amsler arrived at UAB in 1996, and she has visited and conducted research in Antarctica for over 30 years. She has researched various subjects during her many visits to Antarctica, ranging from Antarctic krill to deep-sea king crabs. She works alongside her spouse, Charles Amsler, Ph.D., and Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology — both faculty members in the Department of Biology. After a brief hiatus from traveling to Antarctica, Amsler will return in December 2022 to further research the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms.

    According to Sigma Xi, Amsler received the fellow distinction “for distinguished accomplishments and personal rejuvenation of the University of Alabama at Birmingham chapter of Sigma Xi and integral involvement in growth of membership.”

    For Amsler, the distinction is significant. “I am truly honored to be recognized by Sigma Xi for my scientific accomplishments and service to the Society,” said Amsler.

    “I am particularly pleased to be recognized for my scientific contributions. As a career marine biologist with a master’s degree, it is really quite special to be distinguished with a cohort of Ph.D.’s,” said Amsler. “My fellow chapter officers and I strive to support Sigma Xi’s mission by hosting monthly seminars ranging the science and engineering disciplines and encouraging our invited speakers to share the zeal and passion for their research with attendees who include undergraduates to emeriti and members of the general public.”

    Learn more about Amsler’s research.

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  • I am Arts and Sciences: Kristine Farag

    I am Arts and Sciences: Kristine Farag

    Being the first to do something can be challenging—thankfully, when you have a mentor by your side, the experience can be enjoyable and empowering.

    Kristine FaragBeing the first to do something can be challenging—thankfully, when you have a mentor by your side, the experience can be enjoyable and empowering.

    For Kristine Farag, one of the first students to graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Undergraduate Immunology Program, she sought and found mentorship from Heather Bruns, Ph.D., the co-director of the innovative new program.

    “We were the first class to graduate [in Spring 2021]. We were a really small class, so it was nice to have good relationships with our mentors,” said Farag. “I found a lot of mentors, including Dr. Bruns. We have a unique relationship.”

    “Kristine is an engaging, kind, and compassionate individual,” said Bruns.

    Farag came to UAB from Carmel, Indiana, with a strong science background. While studying anatomy and working in a research lab in high school, she learned about immunology—the study of the structure and function of the immune system—for the first time. The field intrigued her, so, when it was time to declare a major, she decided to join the first cohort of the Undergraduate Immunology Program, an interdisciplinary partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Heersink School of Medicine.

    The program—which launched in 2017—offers the only undergraduate major in immunology in the U.S. with coursework that focuses on topics including the innate immune system and microbial pathogen-immune system interactions. Through the program, students conduct hands-on research and prepare for careers in medicine, biomedical research, health-related professions, and/or science-related professions.

    “The newness was really interesting. It feels like the up-and-coming thing,” said Farag. “I would learn something new every day. [The faculty] would always bring in different clinical correlations.”

    Those correlations were valuable to Farag because she came to UAB with a conditional acceptance to the Heersink School of Medicine through the Early Medical School Acceptance Program. Now, Farag, in Indianapolis, is pursuing her M.D. at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Bruns is proud to see Farag applying her knowledge in medical school.

    “Kristine is a highly accomplished individual in both academics and research,” said Bruns. “She exemplifies the attributes we desire all of graduates from the Undergraduate Immunology Program, and we are so proud that she is an alumna of our major.”

    While at UAB, Farag also contributed her time and talent to the UAB Dance Marathon, a fundraiser that benefits Children’s of Alabama. Farag is passionate about the student-led program—which is also a part of the Children’s Miracle Network—and found an opportunity to include Bruns.

    “I asked her to be our faculty sponsor for Dance Marathon because we needed someone from the school to be a part of it,” said Farag.

    Throughout this experience, Farag and Bruns continued to collaborate and work together. By her third year with the Dance Marathon, Farag became the president and, in turn, nurtured valuable leadership skills.

    “I have seen first-hand her passion and compassion for others and her ability to be a strong leader to accomplish goals that benefit others,” said Bruns.

    Now, in medical school, Farag reflects fondly on her time at UAB and offers appreciation for the strong foundation she built during her time in the burgeoning immunology program. She also acknowledges that the program’s curriculum was particularly important during a global pandemic.

    “With COVID-19, it’s a very interesting time to have this knowledge,” said Farag. “My past year-and-a-half of being an undergrad was absorbed by COVID-19—that made those classes more interesting.”

    When asked to offer a piece of advice to her peers who will graduate in December, she pauses for a moment and smiles. “Treasure the next few months—it’s a really special time,” said Farag.

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  • Welcome back: Information for our students

    Welcome back: Information for our students

    Are you ready for Spring 2018? Our online newsletter is full of information for our students, from class registration information to research opportunities.

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  • New Degrees in Computer Science, Digital Forensics, Immunology and Genetics and Genomics Sciences

    New Degrees in Computer Science, Digital Forensics, Immunology and Genetics and Genomics Sciences

    The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to offer new degrees in Computer Science, Digital Forensics, Immunology, and Genetics and Genomics Sciences.

    The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to now offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Digital Forensics. This interdisciplinary degree program, a joint offering from the Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Computer Science, will prepare graduates for a professional career in the field of digital forensics and cybersecurity.

    “The program is a mixture of criminal justice and computer science,” said Jeffery Walker, Ph.D., chair of Department of Justice Sciences. “The goal is to provide students with the tools they need in computer programming to work effectively within a computer environment and understand the behavior of those who may be a threat to computer systems or engage in cybercrime. Students will also develop an understanding of the legal system and processes necessary to gather digital evidence and support a computer investigation in court if necessary.”

    In addition, the College also provides students with a new Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, the only B.A. in computer science in the state. Bachelor of Arts degree programs in computer science are emerging across the country in response to industry growth and demand. The Department of Computer and Information Sciences joins a short list of computer science programs in the Southeast to offer the degree.

    “One of our goals is to offer innovative interdisciplinary programs that span the traditional boundaries of science, arts and humanities,” said Dean Palazzo. “With the ever-increasing use of computers and computer software in all aspects of life, computer science is becoming an integral part of many fields of study. This new degree will give students a unique opportunity to combine their interests and maximize career prospects.”

    And two degrees offered in partnership with the School of Medicine are also available to undergraduates in fall 2017: the Bachelor of Science in Immunology, and the Bachelor of Science in Genetics and Genomics Sciences

    “The B.S. in Immunology is a cutting-edge major,” says Louis Justement, Ph.D., director of the Immunology program, and a professor in the microbiology department in the School of Medicine. “Students will get comprehensive experience in the scientific process, critical thinking, problem solving, scientific methodology and in communicating science. Our goal is to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future — and build up a pipeline of young immunologists to tackle the pressing problems of the 21st century.”

    Likewise, the Genetics and Genomics program is one of only of a small group of undergraduate programs available at American universities and offers a rich environment of research, training, and education. The degree is offered in partnership between the Department of Biology and the Department of Genetics in the School of Medicine. Students will receive strong educational and research experiences and will have the opportunity to develop skills in leadership, teaching, research, providing professional services, and scholarship.

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