• Moore awarded research prize for his book on jailed 17th-century Iberian “mulatto pilgrim”

    John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded the 2021 Prize for Research on the Road to Santiago and Pilgrimages for his 2020 book, which is both a critical study and scholarly translation of the case.

  • Cultivating an office culture that works for everyone

    How can leaders create a workplace where “how things really get done” matches “how things should get done”? Two experts in industrial-organizational psychology — Kecia Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and C. Allen Gorman, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods — offer five ways to make it happen.

  • Climate change hits home as Alabama experiences more rain, more flooding

    Alabamians are experiencing more intensive, flooding rainfall. Our insurance agents selling flood insurance know it, our meteorologists know it, our road crews and state troopers know it, as do homeowners living along our creeks and rivers.

    ‘And I wonder / Still, I wonder / Who’ll stop the rain?’
    — John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1970

    Alabamians are experiencing more intensive, flooding rainfall. Our insurance agents selling flood insurance know it, our meteorologists know it, our road crews and state troopers know it, as do homeowners living along our creeks and rivers.

    Alabama residents of communities built on floodplains also know torrential rains have increased, as do the agencies that manage and monitor our sewage treatment plants. The financial costs of the adaptive infrastructure needed to sustain our Alabama communities in the face of these increasing flooding events are significant. We will all have to chip in to keep our heads above water.

    So what is contributing to this increase in the intensity of Alabama’s rainfall over the past few decades? The recipe is simple. Greenhouse gases generated by the combustion of fossil fuels are raising the temperature of our planet. A warmed atmosphere has a greater capacity to hold more water vapor. Moisture-laden air produces downpours that are more intense.

    Southerners are not experiencing more inches of rain each year, but rather, more inches of rain over shorter and shorter time periods, according an analysis of more than a century of rainfall data by climate scientist Daniel Bishop from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and his colleagues, published in 2019 in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters. They attribute this heavier rainfall to climate-warmed, moister air, combined with greater high-intensity frontal precipitation.

    Therein lies the problem.

    When it rains, it pours.

    Flooding rains are also a growing problem for our natural environment. For example, explosive rains are causing the erosion of the banks of Alabama’s wondrous Cahaba River, one of the most biodiverse, uninterrupted stretches of riverine habitat in America. These bank sediments, along with those from neighboring construction sites, turn the river chocolate brown.

    In addition to the sediments, there are a plethora of fertilizers and pesticides flushed from lawns and farms as well as sewage, sometimes raw, overflowing along the Cahaba River from treatment plants designed to handle rainfall amounts from days gone by. All of these factors challenge the survival of more than 150 species of fish and 30 species of mussels that call our Cahaba River “home.”

    What can we do to protect “Alabama the Beautiful” from increasingly intense rain events? We must invest in the sort of climate-adaptive infrastructure necessary to address our changing climate.

    We can create buffer zones along our rivers and their tributaries to facilitate the absorption of flooding rainwater and pollutants.

    We can invest in bigger and more efficient sewer treatment plants.

    In order to protect our road infrastructure, we can provide funds to enlarge and improve the drainage systems along our highways and the streets of our urban and suburban neighborhoods.

    Moreover, we can avoid building future developments in flood-prone areas.

    At the same time as we address our enhanced infrastructural needs, with the help of our academic and corporate institutions, and our city, state and federal governments, Alabamians can address the underlying root cause of climate warming by reducing our state’s production of greenhouse gases.

    A great place to begin is to take advantage of new cost-effective renewable energies, revolutionary battery technologies — and a rapidly expanding national electric vehicle fleet that will soon include an Alabama icon: the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Who can resist a pick-up truck with an electric engine that has enough torque to climb just about any Alabama red-dirt, backcountry road?

    Half a century ago, singer/songwriter John Fogerty titled his prophetic song “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” Fogerty’s hit included the equally climate-centric verse: “Clouds of myst’ry pourin … confusion on the ground.”

    We Alabamians cannot stop the rain. We can take action, however, to ensure that flooding rains are not with us for generations. 

    Dr. Jim McClintock is the Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology in the Department of Biology.

  • With new NSF grant, UAB researchers have a hot ticket to the materials of the future

    UAB will be a statewide hub for developing a new generation of components for spacecraft, power plants and biomedical implants thanks to crush- and corrosion-resistant spark plasma sintering technology.

  • Professor’s new textbook prepares medical students for interactions with Spanish-speaking patients

    In teaching the Intermediate Spanish for Health Professionals course at UAB, María Antonia Anderson de la Torre, Ph.D., wanted to work with a text that in addition to language skills also portrayed racial and cultural diversity.

  • UAB alumna named Alabama’s 12th poet laureate

    A UAB College of Arts and Sciences alumna has been named the 12th Alabama state poet laureate.

  • Physicists explain how to beat automation and navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    The first Industrial Revolution, the one that built cities and takes up the most space in history books, was driven by water and steam. The second was fueled by electricity. The third was the result of simple digitization. Today, we are living in the early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered in part by artificial intelligence (AI), quantum science, and quantum engineering.

    The first Industrial Revolution, the one that built cities and takes up the most space in history books, was driven by water and steam. The second was fueled by electricity. The third was the result of simple digitization. Today, we are living in the early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered in part by artificial intelligence (AI), quantum science, and quantum engineering. A convergence of physical, digital, human, and biological sciences is forcing companies across all industries to re-examine how they do business and what kinds of employees they hire.

    More and more, repetitive work is being taken on by computers that use AI techniques such as machine learning. What is left for humans? Anything that requires creativity and critical thinking. Research has shown that five skills are of the greatest value to today’s employers. These are what you could call “21st century skills”:

    • problem-solving,
    • critical and creative thinking,
    • collaboration,
    • communication and
    • ethical reasoning and mindset.

    When combined with technical specialized training, these skills make workers more competitive for high-demand, high-paying jobs in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) fields.

    The Building (IT) Together report from Burning Glass Technologies, commissioned for the city of Birmingham by a consortium of local groups, has identified three main areas for economic growth and workforce development in our region: advanced manufacturing, information technologies, and life sciences and biotech. These recommendations also align with the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Accelerate Alabama 2.0 economic development plan for recruitment, development, and workforce training. As both plans note, employers are seeking candidates who have demonstrated proficiency in using specialized skills to solve complex problems.

    What is the best way to prepare for this future? The 21st century skills are not specific to any individual discipline, but the right blend of training and opportunity is crucial. In the UAB Department of Physics, our existing hands-on research projects and faculty expertise let students pursue highly sought-after experiences in materials science, lasers and photonics, computation, and high-tech instrumentation. These experiences are now critical for all STEMM fields and 21st century jobs.

    Our courses integrate new AI-enabled, socially rich, remotely accessible activities with the best of face-to-face and in-laboratory experiences. In-person or online, our students benefit from one-on-one, high-quality interactions with faculty researchers who have international reputations. You don’t become a physicist by watching a professor talk. You must be a problem-solver, work effectively in teams, have STEMM content knowledge, must be a self-directed learner, and must make ethical decisions.

    The problems addressed by physics research are complex. They require skills such as imagination and the ability to break down a complex problem into manageable parts. You know where you want to go, but you don’t know how to get there. So we train students to tackle situations they have not encountered before through team-based learning and project-based lessons.

    Three examples will give you a flavor of what our students learn:

    • In Machine Learning Applications in Physics and Materials Science, students solve real problems while learning about one of the hottest branches of artificial intelligence and getting hands-on with industry-standard tools.
    • Understanding the World through Data gives students of all disciplines an introduction to computer modeling as a way to develop reasoning, critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills. Throughout the course, students make and explore conjectures in physics and data science as well as biology, the social sciences, business, and more.
    • Reasoning through Modeling and Simulation of Data dives deeper into modeling and simulation, with a focus on using acquired knowledge for project-based cooperative learning in the analysis of real-world datasets.

    UAB has always set itself apart by welcoming undergraduates into our research labs as early as their freshman years. Students who discover an interest in any of these areas can join our research teams working on projects in advanced computation, advanced materials, and lasers and photonics.

    The impact doesn’t stop there. Over the past several years, our faculty have developed an online course called Coding with Physics that uses hands-on, experiential learning and “gameful” learning concepts to help teachers in Alabama high schools get their students excited about science. Our Understanding the World through Data course is a foundational class in the Magic City Data Collective project. This public-private partnership aims to help Birmingham students explore careers and gain data-literacy skills while tackling real-world projects for local companies and organizations. We emphasize the development of digital fluency, i.e., an ability to use technology in order to create new knowledge. For example, when learning a new language, a literate person can read and speak, while a fluent person can use it to create a story or a poem. All students and life-long learners must be able to learn and use the new technologies that they will need to solve problems in the future, including those technologies that do not exist yet.

    No one wants to spend a career looking over their shoulder as a robot is trained to do their work. We are doing our part to prepare a generation that looks forward instead.

    Ilias Perakis, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Physics. Lauren Rast, Ph.D., is assistant professor in the Department of Physics.

  • Researchers are learning how to understand stigma and bring people back from ‘social death’

    Fear and self-loathing play a role in conditions from cancer to HIV and COVID-19, spurring a flood of new NIH funding for stigma research. This summer, UAB researchers led — and participated in — a first-of-its-kind “crash course” to bring more investigators into the field.

  • See “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” exhibition

    UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts will host “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” exploring the work of imprisoned artists and the centrality of incarceration to contemporary art and culture, on view from Sept. 17-Dec. 11.

  • I am Arts and Sciences: Angelo Della Manna

    When building something from the ground up, it’s valuable for the builder to be detail-oriented and driven. For Angelo Della Manna, Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, both skills came into focus during his time studying in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice.

    When building something from the ground up, it’s valuable for the builder to be detail-oriented and driven. For Angelo Della Manna, Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, both skills came into focus during his time studying in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice.

    “Having attention to detail is an extremely important skill in Forensic Science,” said Della Manna. “That is one of the best things I learned at UAB.”

    Della Manna’s journey to UAB set the tone for his future professional endeavors. In 1991, during his senior year studying chemistry at the University of Toronto, he purchased a plane ticket and traveled from Canada to the United States to attend the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference. At that conference, he scheduled a meeting with faculty members from UAB’s Department of Criminal Justice.

    “I wanted to see, as an international student, if it was possible for me to come [to UAB],” said Della Manna.

    Della Manna met with Fred Smith, Ph.D., and Ray Liu, Ph.D. Both former faculty members were impressed with the young, analytical chemist’s drive and willingness to travel to the conference on his own dime. During the conversation, they encouraged Della Manna to take the GRE and asked him to share his transcripts.

    Soon after his journey to the conference, Della Manna was accepted into the forensic science graduate program at UAB. At the time, it was one of the few programs of its kind in the country. Della Manna took advantage of the burgeoning field of study and sought out an internship to obtain practical experience and work alongside forensic scientists.

    “You’ve got to be deliberate and intentional,” said Della Manna. “Having that internship was very valuable to me and helped teach me that skill.”

    At the time, Della Manna was also nurturing a long-distance relationship with his future wife, Debbie, who he met in Canada. Little did he know, she would later move to Birmingham to pursue her master’s in basic medical sciences, and, eventually, become a cancer researcher in the School of Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology.

    “Just having her in the same zip code was a win,” said Della Manna.

    After earning his M.S. in Forensic Science, Della Manna started his career as an hourly laborer position with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS), the second oldest crime lab system in the country. With a deep interest in forensic biology and a background in DNA techniques from UAB, he found an opportunity to build something within the ADFS.

    “I was fortunate that I had that background,” said Della Manna. “It was a technology that was just starting here in Alabama… We saw early on that DNA could be revolutionary in forensic science.”

    And it was. Through his tireless efforts, Della Manna and others built a DNA program within the ADFS, and, in turn, put Alabama on the map. In May 1994, the Alabama legislature took notice of the importance of forensic DNA testing and passed the Alabama DNA Database Law, which allowed Della Manna to move faster and help ADFS develop a national reputation.

    “The application of new technology has always been fascinating to me,” said Della Manna. “It allowed Alabama to be at the forefront, on the cutting-edge, of DNA technology.”

    Nearly 30 years later, Della Manna now serves as the Director of the ADFS and has helped build the only internationally accredited provider of forensic laboratory services in the state. Along the way, other agencies and organizations have taken notice of his knowledge and talents — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

    “I was appointed by the FBI to the Executive Board on DNA Analysis Methods,” said Della Manna. “We helped set the national standard for forensic science.”

    The FBI also encouraged CBS’s 60 Minutes to film a segment about the ADFS’ work, an experience that Della Manna cherishes.

    Given some of ADFS’ recent statistics and outcomes, it’s no surprise why the agency values Della Manna’s expertise. Last year, his lab helped solve 806 cold cases, leading the country in the number of cases solved per capita.

    Now, Della Manna is ready to support and train the next generation of forensic scientists. He strongly advocates for work-based learning experiences and internships, and he is quick to offer advice to students who work in his office.

    “Always look for opportunities to give back,” Della Manna often tells students and interns. “As you look for your own career path, be patient. Let the body of your work develop your reputation.”

  • Plant AI project aims to bring food to tables and students into science

    With a $1 million-plus grant from the National Science Foundation, Shahid and Karolina Mukhtar, associate professors in the Department of Biology, will use machine learning to identify new ways to boost crop production and train high school science teachers in cutting-edge gene studies.

  • UAB’s Lightner honored by Alabama Conference of Theatre

    Roy Lightner, MFA, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Theatre, has received the Dorothy Schwartz Outstanding Educator Award.

  • Films from six UAB students to premiere at Sidewalk Film Festival

    Six students from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences will have their films shown at the 23rd annual Sidewalk Film Festival from Aug. 23-29.

  • UAB celebrates groundbreaking of Science and Engineering Complex on Sept. 9

    UAB’s newest academic building, located in the heart of campus, will serve College of Arts and Sciences faculty, staff and students.

  • Career Influencer Network prepares faculty, staff for effective career conversations

    A new program from the UAB Career Center has reached more than 160 faculty and staff with information on how to best support students in achieving post-graduation success.

  • Science and Engineering Complex: A personal perspective

    “My first steps at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Physics began 28 years ago in July 1993.”

    My first steps at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Physics began 28 years ago in July 1993. Dr. Bill Sibley, at that time UAB Vice President for Academic Affairs and physics faculty member, invited me to UAB and charged me with establishing a laser lab. Soon after that invitation, I remember sitting at one of the Department of Physics offices with Dr. Chris Lawson and Dr. David Shealy, chair of the department at the time, on the recently opened third ​floor of Campbell Hall, and, together, we generated technical drawings of the future Laser and Nonlinear Optics Labs. We intended to build the labs on the fourth floor during the upcoming remodeling of the then-vacant building shell located on the fourth floor of Campbell Hall.

    After several decades of teaching and researching within the Department of Physics, I am excited for a big day in Fall 2023 when the department, together with the departments of Chemistry and Biology, will be relocated to a modern science and engineering building. The Science and Engineering Complex will provide cutting-edge instructional and research laboratories and will be a magnet for excellent students and faculty. The research missions of these departments and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) as a whole will be strongly advanced due to a modern and highly collaborative space enabling synergetic relationships between our departments, as well as with other departments, clinical units, colleges, and universities. It is expected that the new complex will enable the three basic science departments to attract new talent, retain existing talent, and win new research funding not possible without this infrastructure investment.

    The UAB and CAS investment in the new Science and Engineering Complex was an instrumental component of a $25 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center for Infrared-driven Intense-field Science (IRIS) project recently submitted by 11 universities led by the University of Central Florida. The project became one of the NSF finalists and the final decision is expected soon.

    The UAB Department of Physics’ world-leading expertise and patented technology of novel infrared gain materials and lasers opened the pathway for the design of new highly intense mid-long-wavelength infrared (3-10 um) lasers. Many physical phenomena performed with intense laser pulses—including electron acceleration and the production of short wavelength X-rays—favor lasers with wavelengths longer than the widely available, conventional near-infrared (~1 um) solid-state lasers. Conquering these so-called scaling laws will provide for laboratory tabletop plasma formation and particle acceleration, novel materials modifications, and attosecond (10-18 s) molecular dynamics investigations in university laboratory settings. The long-wavelength regime represents an unexplored scientific frontier that will reveal new phenomena; generate a significant impact across STEM fields; and bring deep insight into atomic, molecular, plasma, and material sciences.

    The UAB Department of Physics and IRIS activities of integrated research, optical development, and education are important steps in reestablishing the United States’ presence in the international landscape of high power laser activities. The commercialization of the infrared laser technology will make them available for new discoveries by many more scientists, including biologists, chemists, materials scientists, and medical doctors.

    Sergey Mirov, Ph.D., is University Professor of Physics. The groundbreaking of the UAB Science and Engineering Complex will be held on Septembter 9, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. Learn more about the new building at uab.edu/cas/building.

  • UAB professor secures $3.6 million LEND grant renewal

    UAB’s Sarah O’Kelley, Ph.D., has successfully renewed a $3.6 million grant from the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilites.

  • Theatre UAB celebrates 50 years, announces new performance season

    “Godspell,” Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Noises Off,” an original play by a Theatre UAB alumna, and “The SpongeBob Musical” are set for the 2021-22 season.

  • UAB, Miles College to form Birmingham student ensemble focused on the music of Motown

    Legendary musician Greg Phillinganes and UAB’s Reginald Jackson will lead the student ensemble and work with UAB University Professor Henry Panion III, Ph.D., who is artistic director of the 2022 World Games.

  • UAB researcher awarded NIH grant for genetic behavioral study

    Research by Sylvie Mrug, Ph.D., will study how early life stress contributes to health disparities within different age groups.  


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