• UAB’s Veterans Services, an office of mentorship, transition and community

    More veteran students are seeking help from UAB’s Student Veterans Services, including Obie Carnathan, a Marine who, with mentorship from director Walter C. Stewart III, is helping others.

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  • Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration partners in $20 million statewide effort funded by NSF

    Nine Alabama universities and one private firm are partnered in a new $20 million, five-year effort to develop transformative technologies in plasma science and engineering.

    Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., working with physics graduate student Chris Perreault.Nine Alabama universities and one private firm are partnered in a new $20 million, five-year effort led by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) to develop transformative technologies in plasma science and engineering (PSE) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

    The grant is entitled “Future Technologies enabled by Plasma Processes” (FTPP) and will be for a five-year duration (2022-2027) to explore plasma synthesized novel materials, surface modified biomaterials, food safety and sterilization, and space weather prediction.

    Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., associate dean for University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and professor university scholar in the Department of Physics, serves as a co-principal investigator and UAB’s Institutional lead for this statewide award. The UAB research team, led by Vohra, includes the following members from the UAB Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration (CNMB), which is based in CAS:

    Scott Snyder, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Education, will provide internal evaluation for this grant and will monitor management, statewide workforce issues, and internal projects.

    The grant will support two postdoctoral research scholars at UAB—along with several graduate students—who will work synergistically with other academic institutions and an industrial partner in this consortium. In addition, the grant offers the opportunity for faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars to take the laboratory-based pilot synthesis of novel materials to their full commercial potential.

    “The funding is the result of a team effort from the co-investigators in assembling the group, who generated the concepts and ideas underlying the proposal and executed the plan by writing a successful proposal,” said Gary Zank, Ph.D., FTPP’s principal investigator, director of UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) and the Aerojet Rocketdyne chair of the Department of Space Science.

    Although different in aims, research goals, and scope from a previous $20 million NSF EPSCoR grant awarded in 2017, the new FTPP grant will continue to build plasma expertise, research, and industrial capacity, as well as a highly trained and capable plasma science and engineering workforce, across Alabama.

    Yogesh Vohra. “Plasma is the most abundant form of matter in the observable universe. PSE is a technological and scientific success story, translating advances in fundamental plasma science to technologies that address society’s needs,” said Vohra. “UAB’s role in this consortium is to develop future transformational technologies enabled by PSE including data-driven approaches in plasma synthesized high-entropy and quantum materials.”

    According to Vohra, the research team will employ machine learning techniques to speed up the process for materials discovery and guide the materials synthesis effort using microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition and plasmas generated by high-powered lasers. The plasma synthesized materials will be especially designed for their applicability in extreme environments, including elevated temperatures as well as thin-film superconductors which can be used in quantum information devices. An additional effort is devoted to plasma assisted metal nanoparticle deposition for their antimicrobial properties to be employed in biomedical devices for reduction in infection rates.

    Partnered with UAH and UAB are the University of Alabama (lead: Dr. R. Branam), Auburn University (lead: Dr. E. Thomas), Tuskegee University (lead: Dr. V. Rangari), the University of South Alabama (lead: Dr. E. Spencer), Alabama A&M University (lead: Dr. R. Mentreddy), Alabama State University (lead: Dr. K. Vig), and Oakwood University (lead: Dr. A. Volkov), together with a commercial/industrial partner CFD Research Corporation (lead: Dr. V. Kolobov), that specializes in computational fluid dynamics software and is located in Cummings Research Park.

    In addition, FTPP cooperatively partners with three national laboratories: Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Lab, and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. FTPP will harness and share cooperatively the project team’s collective expertise, resources, and workforce.

    “Not only are the problems to be investigated in the FTPP program among the most challenging intellectually, they have enormous societal benefits and commercial implications,” said Zank.

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  • Welcoming Dr. Ellen Mwenesongole to UAB

    Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice, moved to Birmingham in January 2022.

    Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D.,Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D. associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice, moved to Birmingham in January 2022. Prior to coming to UAB, Mwenesongole studied and worked at universities in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Botswana.

    Burel Goodin, Ph.D., associate professor in UAB’s Department of Psychology, wanted to learn more about Mwenesongole’s journey to UAB and her scholarly work, so he recently conducted a digital interview with her. Below is an edited summary of their conversation.

    Goodin: What brings you to UAB and how has the transition been? 

    Mwenesongole: I chose to come to UAB due to its reputation as a research-intensive university and because it has one of the few accredited master’s in forensic science degree programs in the U.S. The opportunities offered to faculty for career development, research, and teaching also attracted me to UAB, as did its genuine approach and effort towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. After being appointed by UAB, I initially started teaching online while based in Botswana, which was not easy with the time difference. Now, it is so much better being in the same country while teaching. It’s been a few months since I arrived in Birmingham, so I’m still in the transition period, but I realize that there are more similarities than differences from previous universities I’ve worked at. 

    Goodin: You seem to have a varied education and work experience, tell us more about that. 

    Mwenesongole: My venture into further education actually started at Procter & Gamble in South Africa where I worked as a senior scientist after obtaining my bachelor’s degree in chemistry. I wanted to be part of the research and  development team, but, at that time, most of my workmates in that section had master’s or Ph.D. degrees. Therefore, I took time out to get a master’s degree with the intention of returning to the corporate world as a research and development scientist. I guess the study-bug bit, and I ended up with chemistry and forensic science master’s degrees from University of Pretoria and University of Strathclyde, respectively, and a Ph.D. in Forensic Science from Anglia Ruskin University. I interspaced my studies with working at a pharmaceutical company in Scotland and a doping control laboratory in South Africa before venturing into academia to lead the development of forensic science programs at universities in South Africa and Botswana. 

    Goodin: How did you end up in forensic science? 

    Mwenesongole: My interest in science was ignited when I was in junior high school—from that point forward, I knew I’d end up as some sort of scientist. Also, my interest in mystery crime novels and movies fuelled my passion to contribute to using science to aid in investigating criminal incidents.

    Goodin: What are your current research interests? 

    Mwenesongole: My key focus area of research is in analyzing drugs of abuse (illicit and pharmaceutical) from different matrices such as blood, urine, and wastewater. Analysis of wastewater provides a quick snapshot of what drugs a particular community is using and can help with developing appropriate intervention measures from a law enforcement, health, or education perspective. It’s research that I have conducted in the U.K. and Botswana and plan to continue in the U.S. In recent years, I’ve also been involved in the chemical profiling of illicit drugs for intelligence purposes. 

    Goodin: What is your thought on collaborations—are you open to collaborations? 

    Mwenesongole: Once you realize that no one person, department, university, organization, or other entity holds the key to solving any problem, you start appreciating that answers to problems can come about much quicker when you collaborate with others. I’ve collaborated with universities in the U.K., Botswana, and South Africa and hope to extend that into U.S. universities as well as other departments at UAB. The most effective collaborations are those in which every team member’s voice is heard and their competence and experience in a particular area is harnessed for the good of the overall research project. Collaborations that fizzle out within a short time are those where a few team members think they know best and impose ideas onto others rather than incorporating various ideas and ways of doing things to arrive at the best outcome.

    Goodin: What would you like to see changed or improved in your area of teaching or research? 

    Mwenesongole: Forensic science still has many unchartered areas of research both on a local and global scale. I’d like to see more collaboration with various departments—such as engineering and the legal department—to develop relevant and unique products that can be used in teaching and research. More work also needs to be done to collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including various law enforcement agencies and forensic labs nationally and internationally. Also, we must find opportunities to collaborate with other forensic programs. There is so much one can learn from interacting with a diverse portfolio of collaborators.

    Goodin: What are your expectations from UAB and what do you hope to achieve? 

    Mwenesongole: My expectations of UAB are tied to what attracted me to the university in the first place. I expect to be given the space to use the opportunities at hand to grow my teaching and research portfolio. We must avoid saying, “We have always done things this way,” because that mindset can become a hindrance to teaching and research. I look forward to freely contributing to the growth of the department, college, and university.

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  • Public Relations Council of Alabama names UAB 2022 Outstanding Chapter

    Students in the UAB Public Relations Council of Alabama/Public Relations Student Society of America chapter won an unprecedented 46 individual student awards, including Chapter of the Year and Student of the Year.

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  • Five UAB students selected for prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program

    Five Blazers will work, live with and learn from people in their host countries during their time in the Fulbright program.

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  • Yager selected for a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities fellowship award

    Yager is the first UAB student to receive the NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities fellowship award since its inception in 2011.

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  • Study shows greater increase in depression and anxiety in minorities during the pandemic

    While the mental health of many Americans worsened during the pandemic, a recent UAB study found the increase in depression and anxiety symptoms was greatest within Black, Hispanic and Asian communities.

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  • Computer science enrollment soars, powered by hot job market

    Enrollment is up more than 300 percent in the Department of Computer Science. Students and alumni of the B.A. and B.S. programs in computer science explain what attracted them to the field and to UAB.

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  • 8 faculty elevated to Distinguished, University professorships

    The UA System Board of Trustees awarded the rank of Distinguished Professor to Khurram Bashir, Aurelio Galli, Eugenia Kharlampieva, Bruce R. Korf and Jan Novak and the rank of University Professor to W. Timothy Garvey, Linda D. Moneyham and Jeffery T. Walker during its April 8 meeting.

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  • Four faculty share the stories behind their development grants

    A civil rights field experience, safer MRI scans, investigating college stress and implementing a massive genetic test for cancer: Recipients of 2022 Faculty Development Grant Program awards explain how they will use their funds.

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  • Computer science enrollment soars, powered by hot job market

    Enrollment is up more than 300 percent in the Department of Computer Science. Students and alumni of the B.A. and B.S. programs in computer science explain what attracted them to the field and to UAB.

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  • Donor establishes endowed scholarship honoring Liliana and Marcelo Benveniste

    A new scholarship is now available for students majoring or minoring in Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at UAB.

    A new scholarship is now available for students majoring or minoring in Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). An anonymous donor recently established the Sefarad Endowed Scholarship Honoring Liliana and Marcelo Benveniste in celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary during the 2022-2023 academic year.

    The scholarship is named in honor of Liliana and Marcelo Benveniste who founded Centro Cultural Sefarad (Sepharad Cultural Center), a non-profit organization based in Argentina whose objective is to promote the culture of Sephardic Jews through activities, courses, concerts, and more. In the 15th Century, a royal edict in Spain forced Jews to either convert to Catholicism or face expulsion. After their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula, the dispersed Jews maintained a strong relationship to their Iberian traditions, customs, and the Spanish language from that time. “Sepharad” is the Hebrew word for Spain, which is why descendants of these Jews are known as “Sephardic Jews.” The Benvenistes and the Sepharad Cultural Center aim to highlight the universal values of the Sephardic community and Judeo-Spanish languages, including Ladino.

    “It is wonderful that the donor chose to honor Liliana and Marcelo Benveniste because their Sepharad Cultural Center promotes the endangered languages and culture of the Sephardic diaspora not only in Argentina by also worldwide,” says John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. “It is even more meaningful that this award celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Sephardic Jews alongside the achievements of UAB's Spanish students.”

    The mission of the UAB Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures is to educate, motivate, and inspire students to interact with people from other nations and/or cultures in a multiplicity of languages; to develop linguistically proficient and culturally competent individuals who think critically and communicate effectively in local, national, and global communities; and to foster the international exchange of knowledge and information between humanities scholar-teachers and other professionals. For students interested in the Spanish language, the department offers a concentration in Spanish, a concentration in Applied Professional Spanish, as well as minors in Spanish and Spanish for Business. This new scholarship will honor the legacy and impact of Liliana and Marcelo Benveniste and support students as they pursue studies in the Spanish language.

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  • Three UAB students named 2022 Goldwater Scholars

    Recipients receive a scholarship equal to the amount of their tuition, housing, fees and books up to a maximum of $7,500 per academic year.

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  • A family affair: From NICU patients to UAB alumni

    Years after spending 87 days in a neonatal intensive care unit, Tara Wood and her twin daughters are now UAB alumni who are using their life experiences to help others.

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  • College student defies all odds to graduate at UAB’s spring commencement

    Matthew Leong will graduate in the spring undergraduate commencement ceremony April 30 in Bartow Arena.

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  • Vohra receives $540k grant from U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration

    A UAB physics professor has received a grant to synthesize novel materials for hypersonic applications and study their response under extreme conditions.

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  • Art students make wildlife habitats for UAB Gardens

    Bee condos, bat houses and an owl house will help wildlife populations thrive in local gardens and hopefully inspire members of the community to create their own gardens.

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  • Goodin seeks more equity in pain research

    Goodin has identified social determinants that created barriers for minority and minoritized communities seeking continued access to care providers for chronic pain.

    The Journey to Pain Research

    As an undergraduate student at Illinois College, Burel Goodin, Ph.D., was drawn to both biology and psychology. He majored in the former and minored in the latter and, along the way, uncovered fascinating points of intersection between the two disciplines.

    “I started to inquire more about fields of study and potential job opportunities that really brought together biology and psychology,” said Goodin.

    After earning a B.S. in Biology, Goodin sought out graduate programs that would offer him opportunities to research topics that touched both fields of study. Over time, he found his way to pain science and pain research.

    “Ultimately, I landed at mental health with an emphasis on neuroscience… and [eventually] pain. It was a natural fit—I found it fascinating,” said Goodin. “You can’t make pain go away. It serves an adaptive purpose. The chronic aspect—you want to try make that go away or make it more manageable.”

    As he dug deeper into chronic pain, his research uncovered troubling disparities. According to Goodin, “the prevalence rates of developing a chronic pain condition are often equal across racial groups.” That said, often, the burden disproportionality impacts minoritized and minority communities. Goodin was concerned by these findings and was determined to figure out his role as a scientist in the field.

    “I wanted to understand and better characterize how disparities come about and how they manifest,” said Goodin.

    While researching disparities in pain science, Goodin identified a set of concerning findings related to determinants. Specifically, he identified social determinants that created barriers—especially financial barriers—for minority and minoritized communities seeking continued access to care providers for chronic pain. Social issues—particularly racism, sexism, and agism—manifest these treatment disparities, says Goodin.

    Building a Career at UAB

    Goodin continued his pain research through a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Florida and, near the end of that fellowship, he accepted a position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2012.

    “I was impressed… by the vision of the Department of Psychology,” said Goodin. “They were trying to increase their thumbprint with pain science and also moving into the intersection of pain and addiction science.”

    After arriving at UAB, Goodin identified a vast landscape of new interdisciplinary resources and partners across the campus. He embraced these opportunities and, eventually, became the co-director for the Center for Addiction and Pain Prevention and Intervention (CAPPI) alongside Karen Cropsey, Psy.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology in the Heersink School of Medicine.

    A Call to Action

    In recent years, Goodin has turned his attention to the conduct of pain research—specifically, the ways in which language within the field can perpetuate racist ideologies. It’s not enough to be non-racist, says Goodin. Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed on anti-racism.

    “To be anti-racist is it to be actively against racism and trying to do things to draw attention to it and to have difficult conversations [about it]. If it’s making people uncomfortable, then that’s how I know we’re doing it right,” said Goodin.

    His commitment to action is clear in a series of three new papers that the Journal of Pain published earlier this year. The name of the first manuscript communicates a powerful message that reflects Goodin’s priorities: “Confronting Racism in Pain Research: A Call to Action.”

    “The first paper is really a call-to-action—this is what’s been going on, this is why it’s troubling, and we want folks to do better,” said Goodin. “[Also], we want it to be a blueprint for other fields beyond pain.”

    In total, numerous co-authors from across the globe came together to contribute insights and research to the three manuscripts, including two additional faculty members from UAB: Calia Morias, Psy.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, and Edwin Aroke, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Nursing. For Goodin, this interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to the effort of making pain research more equitable.

    When summarizing the research, Goodin seems particularly passionate about the paper entitled, “Confronting Racism in all Forms of Pain Research: A Shared Commitment for Engagement, Diversity, and Dissemination.” Through this paper, Goodin and his co-authors advocate for expanding the number of seats at the table in the field of pain research and inviting more people to that table.

    “How do we engage those in the field, as well as the communities that our field represents and that we care about,” said Goodin. “How do we make it more inclusive?”

    So, moving forward, Goodin and his colleagues plan to prioritize these questions, especially when developing outreach efforts and designing studies (which is the focus of the third paper). Simply stated, representation matters, says Goodin.

    For those who are interested in exploring all three manuscripts, you can access them by visiting the following links:

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  • In-person UAB commencement set for Bartow Arena on April 29, 30

    More than 2,600 students will graduate from UAB this spring. Approximately 1,600 students will walk in one of the university’s three ceremonies.

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  • MPA alumnus wins award for nonprofit work

    Trey Gordon is passionate about his community and aims to do everything in his power to serve the people within it.

    Trey Gordon, co-founder of Adjacent SpaceTrey Gordon is passionate about his community and aims to do everything in his power to serve the people within it. So much so, he co-founded Adjacent Space, a nonprofit that is committed to advancing public spaces into more visual-tactile accessible and equitable places for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deafblind communities. 

    Now, Gordon—an Alabama native who self-identifies as fully Deaf—is receiving public recognition for his impactful work with Adjacent Space. In February, the Birmingham Business Journal honored him as a 2022 Leader in Diversity, an achievement that further elevates his work and leadership.

    Gordon is an alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Public Administration program, and he views the skills and knowledge he developed in the program as vital to his growth as a nonprofit leader.

    “My professors loved and cultivated the idea of Adjacent Space, and the support was incredible and propelled me and my team to go for it,” said Gordon. “Their understanding and advice created a path I could walk through.”

    Gordon discovered the MPA program while living in New Delhi, India. “I was… working for a Deaf-led nonprofit organization focusing on empowering Deaf Indians in learning basic English and job skills, connecting with Deaf leaders, and teaching Deaf culture,” he said. That passion prompted him to research MPA programs with course offerings on nonprofit management, which led him to UAB’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

    “I saw that UAB had a great fit for my interest,” said Gordon. “And UAB is such a lovely university located in a vibrant, growing city in Birmingham.”

    Gordon excelled in the program, and he remains proud of his experience at UAB.

    “I feel like I'm an ambassador for UAB when working with people, and a lot of lessons I learned in classes really came through during my work around the community, so I'm a grateful Blazer,” said Gordon.

    Gordon often sought advice from his faculty mentors while at UAB, so, now, he finds opportunities to share his wisdom with students who are currently preparing for the future. In Gordon’s opinion, it’s important to be present and focus on the moment at hand.

    “[I]t’s really important for me to not think too much about what I should be doing,” said Gordon. “Just be—you’re more than enough…things will come.”

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