Arts & Sciences Magazine

Spring 2017

  • Message from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

    Right now is such an exciting time on campus, and not just because the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. With the approval of our new Arts & Sciences building, scheduled to be open in Fall 2019, we are embarking on an exciting journey to construct a stunning space for our faculty and students.

    Right now is such an exciting time on campus, and not just because the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. With the approval of our new Arts & Sciences building, scheduled to be open in Fall 2019, we are embarking on an exciting journey to construct a stunning space for our faculty and students. When the building is complete, it will be a significant achievement of our College’s Strategic Plan, which outlines specific goals to provide modern teaching facilities, technologies, and collaborative spaces for our faculty, staff and students.

    But it will take all of us working together to see this project through to its completion. Fortunately, we have an incredible community of people in the College of Arts and Sciences—our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors—who will come together to ensure that the new building is well supported and well used. We will break ground this summer, and from there the activity will rapidly increase. I encourage you to come to campus to see the progress of the building, and attend one of our many College events, from lectures to performances and exhibitions. We would love to see you and highlight our people and projects.

    During this season of growth and renewal, we are grateful that the College is thriving across all of our departments and disciplines. Enrollment is up again for the third consecutive semester, and we’ve launched several new majors and introduced new degree tracks to appeal to our current and prospective students. We continue to recruit some of the best faculty in the nation, and our international reputation continues to expand as we attract students from across the globe and as our faculty, students and alumni make their mark on every continent.

    Our community is rich, diverse, engaged and enthusiastic. From support for student scholarships, to cutting-edge research, to incredible artistic talent, this issue highlights some of the people who make the College of Arts and Sciences such a remarkable place to study, teach and work.

    I look forward to sharing more about the building and our continued academic successes in the coming months.           

    Go Blazers!
    R.E. Palazzo, Dean

    Read more...
  • A Vibrant Fall Semester

    There was an explosion of creativity and celebration last fall with AEIVA and the Institute of Human Rights kickoff event at the Alys Stephens Center.

    There was an explosion of creativity and celebration last fall as we opened the Luis Cruz Azaceta exhibition at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts and welcomed Liberian activist Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee to the Alys Stephens Center for the UAB Institute for Human Rights kickoff event. Thousands of people attended Azaceta’s “War and Other Disasters” and Gbowee’s public lecture on ensuring human rights for all.

    Though their backgrounds and platforms are different, both artist and activist confront issues of increasing importance in our contemporary society: violence, environmental destruction, dictatorships, refugees, grassroots protest, and fundamental human rights. We are proud to have provided our campus and surrounding communities the opportunity to experience these two influential individuals.

    “War and Other Disasters” Exhibit

    [widgetkit id="3" name="Magazine - Spring 2017 - A Vibrant Fall Semester - “War and Other Disasters” Exhibit"]

    Luis Cruz Azaceta is Cuban-born but lives and works in New Orleans. His multimedia work is heavily influenced by his years under the Castro regime. The “War and Other Disasters” exhibit, sponsored by PNC Bank and curated by the late AEIVA director Lisa Tamiris Becker, featured several large-scale paintings as well as sculpture.

    Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee Lecture

    [widgetkit id="6" name="Magazine - Spring 2017 - A Vibrant Fall Semester - Leymah Gbowee Lecture"]

    Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee lectured to a big crowd, then spent a few days visiting with thought leaders on campus and across Birmingham. UAB Institute for Human Rights director Dr. Tina Kempin Reuter hosted Gbowee with some of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Foot Soldiers, as well as Birmingham Civil Rights Institute president Andrea Taylor.

     

    Other Events

    "One for the Books" Faculty Reception

    [widgetkit id="5" name="Magazine - Spring 2017 - A Vibrant Fall Semester - One for the Books Faculty Reception"]

    Twenty faculty members published 21 books during the 2016 year. All were celebrated at our annual “One for the Books” faculty reception, hosted at AEIVA in the midst of the Jessica Angel “Facing the Hyperstructure Installation.”

    Homecoming 2016

    [widgetkit id="4" name="Magazine - Spring 2017 - A Vibrant Fall Semester - Homecoming"]

    Homecoming 2016 was another smashing success. For the first time, the College of Arts and Sciences took first place in the Building Decoration competition, helped in large part by the UAB Marching Blazers, the UAB cheerleaders, and a kissing booth with Blaze. The Department of Government won the Door Decoration Competition, and while Team Biology didn’t win the Gurney Derby, they made a strong showing alongside Blaze. Our county fair theme, designed by the Department of Art and Art History, extended to the float, which featured Department of Music faculty in a Dixieland Band and a crew of walkers who carried signs representing every department.

    Read more...
  • Dean's Award Winners

    Congratulations to these deserving undergraduate and graduate students, who were nominated by their professors for this prestigious recognition.

    Read more...
  • Neuroscience Major a Finalist for Gates Cambridge Scholarship

    Hriday Bhambhvani, a double major in mathematics and neuroscience, was named a finalist for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship

    Hriday Bhambhvani, a double major in mathematics and neuroscience, was named a finalist for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a post-graduate scholarship awarded to undergraduates worldwide and endowed by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda. Typically about 40 winners (of the total 95) come from the United States; winners are able to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, free of charge.

    Bhambhvani conducts research in the lab of James Meador-Woodruff, M.D., professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. The lab’s primary research focuses on understanding how different parts of the brain communicate with other parts via a variety of chemical signals, and how this communication is disrupted in schizophrenia. 

    He was previously selected for the NIH Summer Internship Program and the Amgen Scholars Program, and was named Honorable Mention for the Goldwater Scholarship. Though he was not selected for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Bhambhvani was accepted to study medicine at both Stanford University and UAB.

    Read more...
  • Lamario Williams Wins Scholarship and Travel Award

    Physics major Lamario Williams received a PhysCon MSI/HBCU Travel Award to attend PhysCon 2016 in San Francisco.

    Physics major Lamario Williams received a PhysCon MSI/HBCU Travel Award to attend PhysCon 2016 in San Francisco. At the conference, he presented his poster “Statistical Analysis of the Differences Between Fibroblasts and Mesenchymal Stem Cells.” In 2015, he won a Research Award from the UAB Department of Physics.

    Williams, who is also a biomedical sciences major in the UAB School of Health Professions, was chosen for a Scholarship of Excellence from the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions, which selects 12 students across the nation who excel in their academic programs and have significant potential to take on take on future leadership roles in health professions.

    Read more...
  • Students, Faculty and Alumni Win Big at 2017 ADDY Awards

    Students, faculty, and alumni from the College of Arts and Sciences make a strong showing at the ADDY Awards.
    Alumnus Jonathan Niega won a Gold ADDY in the Single Poster category for “I Am the Greatest”Once again the College of Arts and Sciences made a strong showing at the ADDY Awards. Students, faculty and alumni from the Department of Art and Art History, the Department of Music, and UAB Digital Media won Gold and Silver awards at the 59th annual American Advertising Awards.

    The American Advertising Awards, or ADDY Awards, are presented by the American Advertising Federation of Birmingham and is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting more than 40,000 entries nationally every year in local AAF Club competitions.

    View a complete list of the winners.

    Read more...
  • 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.

    Read more...
  • Two Biology Faculty Members Elected as Fellows in American Association of Advancement of Science

    Department of Biology faculty members Dr. Charles Amsler, professor, and Dr. Steven Austad, distinguished professor and department chair, have been elected fellows of the American Association of the Advancement of Science.
    Department of BiologyDr. Chuck Amsler faculty members Dr. Charles Amsler, professor, and Dr. Steven Austad, distinguished professor and department chair, were elected fellows of the American Association of the Advancement of Science. They are joined by Dr. David Briles, professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Department of Pediatrics.

    Since 1986, UAB has had 13 faculty members selected to this prestigious organization. This is the second time since the program’s inception that three UAB faculty members were chosen as AAAS fellows in a single year. This year, 391 members were awarded fellows by the AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

    Amsler’s research focuses on marine chemical ecology and behavior. He has traveled numerous times to Antarctica with other researchers and has made more than 750 research scuba dives there to study marine communities.Dr. Steven Austad

    “I was thrilled to learn of my election as an AAAS fellow, and I am humbled to now be associated through this with many of the leading scientists in our nation,” Amsler said. “This was possible only because I have had the great fortune to have been associated throughout my 22-plus years here at UAB with so many outstanding research colleagues, in particular my students and postdocs.”

    Austad is a leader in aging studies, and serves as the scientific director for the American Federation for Aging Research and directs UAB’s Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the basic biology of aging. His specific research interests are in the use of nontraditional animal species as models for extending and enhancing human health and understanding gender differences in the way we age. (To read more about his research, see page 43.)

    “It is a tremendous honor to be elected a fellow by the AAAS,” Austad said. “It’s an organization that stands for the very best in science and that emphasizes the importance of communicating science to the general public.”

    Read more...
  • Psychology Professors Part of New Alabama Regional Autism Network

    Dr. Fred Biasini and Dr. Sarah O’Kelley, professors in the Department of Psychology, are part of a new Alabama regional autism network.

    One of three Alabama Regional Autism Networks (ARAN) has opened at the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics to empower persons of all ages and all levels of functioning who have an autism spectrum disorder. It also provides support to their families.

    Dr. Fred Biasini, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, directs the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics in the UAB Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine.

    The Alabama Regional Autism Network will also connect with Alabama’s University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, led by Dr. Sarah O’Kelley, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and chair of the Alabama Autism Providers Network.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Melissa Harris Receives Award from PanAmerican Society

    Dr. Melissa Harris, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, has received the 2016 PanAmerican Society for Pigment Cell Research (PASPCR) Medrano Award.

    Dr. Melissa Harris, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, has received the 2016 PanAmerican Society for Pigment Cell Research (PASPCR) Medrano Award, which includes PASPCR membership for 2017 and a travel award to the 2017 PASPCR Conference.

    Each year, the award is given to an individual at the early stages of his/her career who embodies the characteristics and love of science exemplified by the late Dr. Estela Medrano. Dr. Medrano was a highly respected scientist who contributed to deciphering the roles of cyclins in senescence, of epigenetic changes in aging, and of Ski in melanoma progression.

    Dr. Harris studies stem cells and aging and joined the UAB faculty in fall 2016.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Margaret Johnson Awarded NIH Funding

    The Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a five-year MIRA R35 grant to Dr. Margaret Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

    The Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a five-year MIRA R35 grant to Dr. Margaret Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

    Johnson’s lab studies molecules produced during infection by respiratory viruses such as SARS and MERS. The three-dimensional structures of molecules on an atomic scale are investigated to understand essential viral functions, which may provide clues to targeted therapies and vaccine strategies.

    The Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for New and Early Stage Investigators (MIRA R35) is a grant to provide support for all research in an investigator’s laboratory that falls within the mission of NIGMS. Through this mechanism, investigators have the flexibility to pursue new research directions and explore new questions that may arise during the course of their research. Funding from the MIRA awards is given out over a five-year period to support the research program.

    Read more...
  • NSF Grant Funds New CyberCorps Scholarship Program

    After years of collaboration between the Departments of Criminal Justice and Computer Science, The National Science Foundation has awarded a $2.1 million Scholarship for Service grant to address cybersecurity challenges.

    After years of collaboration between the Departments of Criminal Justice and Computer Science, The National Science Foundation has awarded a $2.1 million Scholarship for Service grant to help prepare a highly qualified workforce to address cybersecurity challenges and threats against the nation’s computer and information systems.

    The NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program is an effort to address the growing threat to the nation’s information technology infrastructure. Students applying to or currently pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Forensics and Security Management degree will have the opportunity to apply to program. The scholarships will cover tuition and other expenses and will include a stipend. To learn more, visit the Computer Science department website.

    Read more...
  • One for the Books

    Congratulations to our 20 faculty members who published 21 books in 2016.

    Congratulations to our 20 faculty members who published 21 books in 2016.

    [widgetkit id="5" name="Magazine - Spring 2017 - A Vibrant Fall Semester - One for the Books Faculty Reception"]

    Franklin Amthor, Psychology
    Neuroscience for Dummies
     

    Serge Bokobza, Foreign Languages and Literatures
    Jewish Identity in French Cinema
     

    William Cockerham, Sociology
    Medical Sociology, 13th ed.
    The New Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology
     

    Hayden Griffin, Criminal Justice
    The Money and Politics of Criminal Justice Policy
     

    Ragib Hasan, Computer and Information Sciences
    Bidyakoushol: Lekhaporay Shafoller Sohoj Formula (Engineering: How to Study Effectively)
     

    George Liber, History
    Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine, 1914-1954
     

    Kevin McCain, Philosophy
    The Nature of Scientific Knowledge: An Explanatory Approach
     

    Bruce McComiskey, English
    Microhistories of Composition
     

    Steve McCornack, Communication Studies
    Choices and Connections: An Introduction to Communication, 2nd ed.
     

    John Maddox, Foreign Languages and Literatures
    Juliet of the Tropics: A Bilingual Edition of Alejandro Tapia y Rivera’s La Cuaterona (1867)
     

    Stephen Miller, History
    The Social History of Agriculture: From the Origins to the Current Crisis
     

    Kathryn Morgan, Criminal Justice
    Probation, Parole, and Community Corrections Work in Theory and Practice: Preparing Students for Careers in Probation and Parole Agencies
     

    Eduardo Neiva, Communication Studies
    Chuanbo Boyilun Whenhua Fuhaoxue Jichu  (Communication Games)
     

    Gregory Pence, Philosophy
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club: Bioethics and Philosophy in Orphan Black
     

    Lourdes Sánchez-López, Foreign Languages and Literatures
    El Mundo Hispanohablante Contemporaneo: Historia, Poltica, Sociedades y Culturas. (Contemporary Spanish-Speaking World: History, Politics, Societies and Cultures)
     

    Trygve Tollefsbol, Biology
    Medical Epigenetics
     

    John Van Sant, History
    Far East, Down South: Asians in the American South
     

    John Sloan, Criminal Justice
    The Money and Politics of Criminal Justice Policy
     

    Sergey Vyazovkin, Chemistry
    Isocnoversional Kinetics of Thermally Stimulated Processes
     

    Jaclyn M. Wells and Alan Brizee
    Partners in Literacy: A Writing Center Model for Civic Engagement

    Read more...
  • 2017 Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction Dr. Heith Copes, Department of Criminal Justice

    Dr. Heith Copes, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has been named the 2017 winner of the Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction.

    We are pleased to announce that Dr. Heith Copes, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has been named the 2017 winner of the Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction.

    Dr. Copes graduated with his B.S. in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1993, then received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Tennessee in 1998 and 2001. He came to UAB as an assistant professor in 2001, a position he held until his promotion to associate professor in 2006. He was named professor in the Department of Criminal Justice in 2014 and has also maintained a secondary appointment in the Department of Sociology since 2006.

    Dr. Copes’ work focuses on individuals who engage in both crime and drug use. Specifically, his research centers on criminal decision-making and narrative sense-making. He is a leader in the field of narrative criminology, which captures and explores the stories of criminals to understand their motivations for committing their crimes, as well as how they got into crime, their methods of committing the crime, and the strategies they use to reduce their risk. In addition, Dr. Copes’ research examines the ways that offenders excuse and justify their crimes and how they construct social identities.

    Over many years of developing his methodological strategies of ethnography, inquiry and other related fieldwork, Dr. Copes has become an expert scholar who is sought after by his peers. He has published numerous articles about qualitative research methods in criminology and criminal justice, as well as several books, including, “Identity Thieves: Motives and Methods,” “Advancing Qualitative Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice,” “Voices from Criminal Justice,” and the “Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Criminology.”

    He is currently collaborating with Jared Ragland in the Department of Art and Art History on a photo-ethnography of people who use methamphetamine. In this project, they explore the lives of residents of Sand Mountain, Alabama, many of whom are struggling with drug addiction and poverty. He was asked by Springer Nature and The Story Collider to tell a personal story of experiences working on the project. You can hear the story and learn more about his work at: www.beforetheabstract.com

    Dr. Copes is also a popular and awarded teacher. While he offers many courses, he most often teaches criminological theory and patterns in crime, which is most closely aligned with his own research. While at UAB, he has been honored with the Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship, and was twice been recognized with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He has also received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Southern Criminal Justice Association.

    As a visiting professor, Dr. Copes has taught at the University of South Wales in Wales, United Kingdom, at Aalborg University and Aarhus University in Denmark, and at the University of Oslo in Norway. He has presented widely at conferences both across the United States and internationally, and chaired numerous professional associations and organizations, including the American Society of Criminology, the Southern Criminal Justice Association, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Program Committee, and the Center for Identity Management and Information Protections Advisory Board. He has also been extremely active on committees and boards here at UAB, including the College of Arts and Sciences Promotion and Tenure Committee, the Institutional Review Board, the Faculty Affairs Committee and the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award Committee.

    The Ireland Prize

    Charles W. Ireland and his wife Caroline P. Ireland established The Caroline P. and Charles W. Ireland Endowment for Scholarly Distinction, which today funds two annual Ireland prizes. The Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award is given to a distinguished intellectual outside of the UAB academic community whose work is groundbreaking and transformational in his or her field. While on campus, honorees give a public lecture and share their knowledge through informal meetings with students and members of the faculty. Daniel Beaty was the recipient of the 2017 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award.

    Read more...
  • 2016 Alumni Awards

    Our 2016 Alumni Award winners represent another outstanding class of graduates who have made—and continue to make—a tremendous impact in their respective fields and in the larger community. This year’s winners graduated with degrees in Computer and Information Sciences, Political Science, History, Physics, and Public Administration, reflecting the breadth of scholarship and study in the College.

    Read more...
  • Class Notes

    We want you to share your accomplishments! Update your alumni information.
    We want you to share your accomplishments! Update your alumni information.

    Read more...
  • The Power of Two

    Couples Jim Sokol and Lydia Cheney, Lee and Brenda Baumann, and Jane and Jim Ed Mulkin discuss their strong ties to UAB.

    Photos by Nik Layman

    Making Connections

    Jim Sokol and Lydia Cheney

    Jim Sokol and Lydia CheneyJim Sokol and Lydia Cheney’s ties to UAB are so strong—and go back so many years—that it takes them both a few minutes to untangle exactly where the strands start.

    “Let’s see, I’ve been collecting artwork by the faculty in the Department of Art and Art History for a long time,” Sokol says. “I bought some of John Dillon’s work, he’s now retired. That was a long, long time ago. And Sonja Rieger’s work, and Gary’s Chapman’s work, and Edith Frohock.”

    Sokol and Cheney have been longtime collectors of contemporary and outsider art, and over the years have amassed a jaw-dropping collection of pieces from Jeff Koons, Willie Cole, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Frank Fleming, Chris Clark, Mose T, and many more. 

    “About 15 years ago I decided to audit some art history courses at UAB because at some point I said, ‘We’re buying this stuff and it would help if I knew something about it.’ I had a dangerously small amount of knowledge about art,” Sokol says.

    “You also took classes with Katherine McIver,” Cheney points out.

    “That’s right. She taught Italian Renaissance; I audited everything she taught,” Sokol says.

    “And Jim always went to most of the shows at the Visual Arts Gallery (part of the Department of Art and Art History), that Brett Levine used to curate,” Cheney adds.

     It’s not unusual for the couple to finish each other’s sentences, or elaborate on a point the other has missed. Together for 26 years and married for 13, they have developed a unique balance of independence and deep connection that allows them to pursue their personal passions (they are often drawn to different artists and projects) while still maintaining an exceptional closeness. They are different, yet complement each other: where Sokol is more reserved and thoughtful, Cheney is outgoing and effervescent. But it’s a combination that clearly works, and is based in their love for one another and their shared passion for art—and UAB.

    The Sokol-Cheney home includes pieces by Amy Pleasant (black-and-white portrait, top left), Odili Donald Odita (brightly colored geometrics, below left), Jeff Koons (puppy vase on cabinet), Radcliffe Bailey (door with axe, top), and June Wayne (yellow prints).

    Cheney’s connection to the institution goes back to 1991, when she worked in the UAB Center for Aging, a position she held for six years. From there she moved to the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she worked for another six years. It was her connections in the medical school and health system that led the couple to assist with a new art project at UAB—ArtBlink, the Cancer Center’s biggest fundraising event.

    “I guess we helped them find the first artists for ArtBlink,” Cheney says, looking at Sokol. “We identified several,” he confirms, listing Amy Pleasant and Karen Graffeo before Cheney jumps in to add Lonnie Holley and Darius Hill’s names to the list.

    The threads of connections between the couple and UAB continued to be tightly woven. When senior administrators began to develop a concept for a UAB art institute, Sokol and Cheney were early supporters.

    Cheney says. “[Former School of Arts and Humanities Dean] Bert Brower deserves great credit for what became the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts,” Cheney says. “He cultivated the relationships, particularly with Marvin and Ruth Engel, that helped get the project off the ground. Hal and Judy Abroms were also a key component for the Institute."

    “And [President] Ann Reynolds was also interested in art,” Sokol adds.

     “Yes, Jim loved the work of Joel Seah, a BFA student at UAB,” Cheney says. “We hosted a social here that featured his work, and President Reynolds came. It was an early iteration of what is now the Friends of the Department of Art and Art History, and really the first salon that we hosted.”

    Since then, the Sokol-Cheney home has become something of a nexus for artists and faculty members in the Department of Art and Art History, as well as for AEIVA staff. And the couple’s vast connections in the contemporary art world have inspired some of AEIVA’s landmark exhibitions, which have often included pieces from the couple’s personal collection.

    “Lydia collects Leslie Wayne, and Leslie was the artist for ‘Mind the Gap,’ one of the first shows at AEIVA,” Sokol recalls. “That was before [Chair] Lauren Lake was hired, so we reached out to [faculty member] Gary Chapman who said, ‘As soon as our new chair gets here, we’ll talk about it.’ So that’s how that came to be. Really anytime we host artists here in our home, we take them to campus and show them AEIVA. They are just blown away. Not long ago we invited the artist Titus Kaphar to stay with us and we took him to campus for a tour. As soon as he saw AEIVA he said, ‘I want to have a show here,’ and so he’s going to be exhibiting there this fall.”

    “We have really seen the evolution of both the department and of AEIVA, and both are very important to UAB and to the whole community,” Cheney says. “The department has its focus on students and faculty: the academic part. The Institute really has the engagement with people from all over, and both have put UAB on the map. These are things the university can be proud of.”

    Sokol agrees. “And the galleries that represent these artists—they list UAB and AEIVA in their bios. It makes us credible.”

    “We can’t say enough about the people we’ve come to know over the years,” Cheney continues. “Lauren has done an amazing job with the department, and we just think the world of her. Curator John Fields has been an excellent curator at AEIVA and has some incredible ideas for future programs. And of course Lisa [Tamiris] Becker, was a wonderful founding director for AEIVA. I admired her intellect and her appreciation for Enrique Martínez Celaya, whose work I love. When I realized Lisa and I had that connection, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.“

    When asked what they envision for the future of the arts at UAB, Cheney doesn’t hesitate. “Jim and I hope that the arts at UAB would receive support from the highest echelons. The AEIVA building itself and the vision of Dean Palazzo are both impressive.”

    “We couldn’t imagine life without UAB,” Sokol says.

    Meeting Needs

    Lee and Brenda Baumann

    Lee and Brenda Baumann at their home. Perhaps it's no surprise that two physicians would choose to fund student scholarships. “Most people go into medicine to help humankind,” says Dr. Lee Baumann. “Our scholarships are really an offshoot of that.”

    Lee and his wife Brenda have endowed the God at the Speed of Light Scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences, which funds four students in need of financial assistance. “It’s based purely on financial need,” Lee says. “To us, you don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar or even show lots of community service. We know that many students are working while they’re going to school, and that can have an impact on their GPA or their ability to participate in extracurricular activities. We want to help any student who needs it.”

    Though the roots of the Baumanns’ altruism were established in medical school at the University of Southern Illinois, their generosity flourished after they moved to Birmingham. The couple was living in Pennsylvania, where Lee, who had a background in internal medicine and geriatrics, was working in administrative medicine. When he had the opportunity to take a position with Complete Health in Birmingham in 1992, he and Brenda relocated.

    "We all have to participate to give opportunities to young adults." — Dr. Brenda Baumann

    While Lee was establishing himself with his new company, Brenda took a job as a team physician with UAB Athletics, a position she held—along with her work in Student Health Services—for more than two decades. “It was such a positive experience for me,” Brenda says. “Through Student Health, I got to meet so many students, including international graduate students. To interact with such bright people at the start of their career was so rewarding. Spending time with them, you learned what they were doing and what they hoped to accomplish. I might be at a basketball practice in the morning and then treat a biomedical engineering student in the afternoon. I got to really experience the whole breadth of UAB.”

    Lee left administrative medicine in 1998 and turned to writing, inspired by his own spiritual journey and his longstanding curiosity about the intersection of faith and science. His first book, “God at the Speed of Light,” argues that science and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. And its title is the name the Baumanns have given to their scholarships, which they’ve established at UAB, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, Mississippi State University, Southern Mississippi University, and the University of Mississippi. They’ve also endowed scholarships at Southern Illinois University and in Cape Town, South Africa.

    Lee and Brenda Baumann with Stephanie (Gracie) Giang and Alexandra Fry at the 2015 Scholarship and Awards Luncheon. “We didn’t want to put anything in our own name,” Lee says. “I wanted to acknowledge something beyond me.”

    Although Lee says he was the catalyst for starting the scholarships, he says Brenda is fully supportive of their giving. “In my years as a physician, I’ve seen a lot of people have trouble paying for their medicine, much less tuition,” she says.

    “And we both know that the future of the world is based in education,” Lee says.

    “Yes, that’s right,” Brenda agrees. “Looking back at my own education, I came from a middle-class family and my scholarships were a huge help to my parents,” Brenda says. “If I had not had those opportunities I would have had to work a lot harder to pay for my education. But now college is so much more expensive than it was then, and it’s becoming unattainable for a lot of people. We all have to participate to give opportunities to young adults.”

    The couple says that they will continue to fund their scholarships in the coming years to ensure that the amount of money awarded to students can meet the costs of their education. The proceeds from Lee’s book will go toward these funds.

    As for UAB, the Baumanns say that now that they’ve spent time on other campuses, they know UAB has something special.

     “It’s truly one of the most diverse, international communities anywhere,”  Lee says. “There’s nothing else like it.”

    Maximizing Opportunity

    Jane and Jim Ed Mulkin

    Jane and Jim Ed Mulkin with scholarship recipient Kevin Lee.There are people who let life happen to them, and then there are the people who tackle it head-on. Without a doubt, Jane and Jim Ed Mulkin are in the latter group. Curious, passionate, entrepreneurial and hardworking, this couple, married for almost 62 years, see each day as an opportunity to learn.

    Within minutes of arriving at the Mulkins’ 100-acre farm in Tuscaloosa County, guests are greeted with hugs, big smiles, and lots of questions: Where are you from? Where did your parents grow up? Are you kin to the so-and-sos? How long have you had your job? What did you do before that? And on and on…the questions keep coming as the couple explores who you are and what you think. They are excited to show you around the house and surrounding land, but they are just as excited to learn something new. They are joyful, positive, and well ... happy.

    Jim Ed takes us on a tour of their land in a six-seat golf cart, with Jane riding in the rear-facing back seat. As we circle the property, Jane calls out the names of native plants while Jim Ed narrates how he, his children and grandchildren built structures and memories along the banks of Rockcastle Creek. Every turn brings a new tale: the funny “Mulkin Falls” sign his granddaughters made next to the slightest spill of water, the swinging bridge the couple deftly traverses, the two ancient beech trees, and the time Jane decided to don a wetsuit and walk in the water until she couldn’t climb out.

    “The wet suit had gotten so tight I couldn’t bend my knees!” Jane laughs. “Jim Ed had to come lasso me and haul me up onto the bank.”

    They are collectors of memories and stories. But they are also collectors of folk and outsider art, primitive furniture, Alabama pottery, textiles, old tools and even fire-fighting equipment.

    The farmhouse and outbuilding are filled with these items, but the Mulkins assure us that there is much more in their Bessemer home. Jim Ed was born and raised in Bessemer and was a football star at Sewanee before joining the Air Force and receiving a deployment to Okinawa during the Korean War. While he was in college he’d noticed Jane, who lived in in the nearby mining community of Woodward, Alabama, and resolved to marry her when he returned from the war. He did just that, and rather than become a college football coach at Johns Hopkins—his original plan—he took the munitions pay he had collected during the war and bought a junkyard in Bessemer.  He converted that junkyard into an auto parts store called Mulkin Auto and eventually opened seven locations across the Birmingham metro area before retiring. Jane, who was young when she married Jim Ed, stayed home to raise their three sons.

    “But when our youngest son started Tulane,” I went back to school to get my college degree,” she says. “I majored in literature and art history at UAB and I just loved every minute of it. And the thing that impressed me most was that I had always been in my cocoon, my own insulated world, but UAB opened my eyes to all of the other kinds of people in the world I had never known about. These young people had families but they were working and going to school at the same time. It was taking everything I had to just go to school—my kids were all grown. I was so impressed by them.”

    A moment in the writing lab further changed Jane’s worldview.

    “I was working with a student named Curtis, and he was just trying to pass,” she recalls. “He was struggling with his paper and I said, ‘What if you wrote about something you’re passionate about? He said, ‘I’m passionate about mining. I work in the coal mines and then I drive in at night to go to class.’ And I just had tears in my eyes. Here was this young man who worked in the mines during the day but still made the effort to get through college and graduate with new skills for his future. He made a C in that class and I was so excited for him.”

    The moment inspired the couple to establish the Jane White Mulkin Endowed Scholarship in the College to help students like Curtis. “Since then we’ve loved coming to the Scholarship and Awards Luncheon every year to meet our recipient,” Jane says. “The energy and all those bright minds in the room are just so inspiring. You can see they will change the world.”

    “I think that is just a great event,” Jim Ed says. “You hate to see a young person not be able to get an education.”

    Jane also gave her extensive collection of antique clothing to the Department of Theatre in 2015.

    “I always adored fabric and textiles because you can see the evidence of other people in the things themselves,” she says. “I had stored them at the house but I knew they would deteriorate. I talked to my son Jimbo, who connected me to a costume designer in New York, but I also loved the Theatre department at UAB. I had taken several theatre courses and one of the first classes I took gave me the courage to go on and get my degree. Giving the clothes to the department turned out to be more meaningful than I could have imagined. A lot of the clothes belonged to people I knew, people who had died. And my daughters-in-law and grandchildren had worn them in fashion shows over the years. I had so many memories. So to know the theatre department is continuing to use them is just so special.”

    Back in 1955, the young Mulkins took a little bit of money and started a business. Over the decades they raised a family, assembled a collection, and established a family legacy, all with a remarkable joie de vivre and always with a curiosity to know more about the world and the people in it. As they enjoy their active retirement, they know their endowment is supporting students who they know need the same kinds of breaks they received when they were young. “We’re just interested in helping people,” Jane says. ​

    Read more...
  • Write On

    Tucked into Sterne Library is one of UAB’s best kept—and most powerful—secrets: the University Writing Center.

    By Kathleen Kryger, Shelby Morris, and Nick Reich. Photos by Nik Layman and Shannon Robinson.

    Tucked into Sterne Library is one of UAB’s best kept—and most powerful—secrets: the University Writing Center.

    Staffed by Department of English faculty, including director Dr. Jaclyn Wells, and a slew of professional writing majors, the Writing Center last year offered more than 5,000 tutoring sessions to more than 1,700 students from across the entire campus, including those from the graduate and professional schools. From understanding an assignment for a freshman paper to tweaking a dissertation, the team at the Writing Center offers a vast array of support to all UAB students, ensuring their academic success along the way.

    We asked three staff members: Kathleen Kryger, Shelby Morris and Nick Reich to talk about their work and what it’s like to provide so much support to so many students. What follows is their conversation.

    Nick: I guess the best way to start a conversation about the University Writing Center would be to talk about what we do as tutors. What kinds of roles do you think we play?

    Kathleen: I see my role as constantly changing—some days I feel like a coach helping students discover their individual writing processes or gather their ideas, while other days I feel like a translator enabling students to better understand their assignments. Either way, I try to make the student’s concerns my top priority—my responsibility is to help the students become better writers and self-editors, not necessarily to perfect one piece of writing. Students are often most anxious about their grammar, which is definitely an area where we can support growth, but that’s not all we do. So many students come in for brainstorming and outlining sessions! But being mindful of, and attentive to, students’ expressed goals is what I believe to be the most important part of my role.

    Nick: Yeah, while there are definitely times I have to play the grammarian, obsessing over sentence structure and living up to all those notorious English major stereotypes, I prefer to act as more of a facilitator with students. Sometimes students really just need help steering all their knowledge, language skills, and ideas in the right direction. Sometimes, this includes understanding the expectations of specific kinds of writing assignments. I once met with a non-traditionally aged, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) student who wrote beautifully in English. He was working on a literacy narrative for a composition course, constructing this vivid poetic landscape with colorful, fascinating language. Unfortunately, the essay was not really working within the boundaries of the assignment. It became my job, then, to help him figure out how to address the prompt more directly – something he said was not a common approach in his native language – without losing his unique writing voice. That is the type of role I value most. We met several times more and he produced a really great essay.

    Shelby: I totally agree that while we can certainly help students with the details like helping them to proofread or fix citations, we also spend a lot of time on the bigger picture stuff, like helping students make sure they are fulfilling the requirements of their assignments. I would add too that some of the most important and common feedback students need is being told that they are a good writer. A lot of people come in with no idea of how to start or what their assignment is asking of them. Many of my sessions consist of brainstorming paper ideas or directions to take papers in. I know I’ve done my job when a student leaves the center knowing what the assignment is asking of them and with a clear idea in their mind of what they want to write about. Also, we’re not here just to help them with a particular class, but to empower students with the ability to communicate through words. Writing reaches across all disciplines so it’s imperative that they hone these skills to be successful in their area or field.

    Kathleen: Writing is definitely a transferable skill. Nick, you just mentioned a non-traditional student. Can you talk about the kinds of diverse students we typically assist at the University Writing Center?

    Nick: It may sound like we’re throwing a wide net, but we are here to help any UAB student at any level in any field. Yes, we work with a great number of freshmen. We help them transition from high-school writing to college-level writing. But I have also had shifts of just a couple of hours when I have met with a junior or senior chemistry major working on lab reports, a graduate-level nursing student writing out practice clinicals, and a PhD candidate editing a dissertation in mechanical engineering. Many people don’t realize there is actually a strong emphasis on writing in the sciences, and what we know at the UWC is that writing can be challenging for everyone—not just students who are only beginning their academic careers. Whether you’re a doctoral student or first-year undergrad just getting started, turning profound ideas into coherent, approachable writing is easier said than done. We may not always understand the advanced discipline-specific concepts some students are working on, but we can always help sentence-to-sentence and paragraph-to-paragraph. How about you, Kathleen, have you worked with a lot of upper-level students?

    Kathleen: I have! It’s always a pleasure. The graduate students who see us at the UWC are especially goal-oriented. I have worked with graduate students on papers for their coursework, but I have also helped with several scholarship, admissions, and conference applications. If these students want to work through multiple drafts of a high-stakes document like a personal statement, it can sometimes take three or four sessions. Graduate students often have a lot at stake—their personal goals are inextricably tied to their writing goals. When writers are deeply invested in their writing, paying attention to their expressed concerns is vital, but so is keeping an eye on other potential issues. Many of the graduate students I’ve worked with are also second-language writers. I love working with second-language writers because they have such rich global experiences and because they remind me that during every session, I can learn as much from students as they learn from me.  

    Shelby: I definitely think it’s best when a student can continue to work with the same tutor over the course of an assignment or project. It’s like having a conversation that can be picked up right where it left off. Do you two have a lot of regulars?

    Kathleen: I do! And I agree—when we have “regulars,” it’s often easier to provide indications of their progress, which encourages the students so much. The fact is that students who visit the UWC multiple times a semester or even throughout their time at UAB often see that reflecting positively in their growth as writers. We also develop bonds with them that allow us to help them more effectively and efficiently. I see a lot of the same students, and they usually come for reassurance about specific assignment requirements. My goal is for them to leave our sessions feeling confident in their ability to, at the very least, complete their current writing task. I feel like it is important for students to visit often because regular one-on-one sessions are really productive learning environments; as tutors, we can personalize our sessions to focus on each student’s unique literacy needs. Don’t you guys think that’s the case?

    I love the UAB Writing Center! I always get very helpful feedback. I wish I would have started using it a lot sooner. It is such a great asset for students! — Student Feedback

    Nick: I think so. I feel it’s especially important for students who still learning the language. UAB has a strong ESL population. Our campus is one of the most diverse in this area of the world. The writing center has become a rock for many of these students. They know we will always be there to help with writing problems big and small. I feel the best thing to do when meeting with a student whose first language isn’t English is to keep an open mind – their native language may work quite differently – and encourage return visits. American academic English is not a lingua franca. It’s difficult enough for native English speakers to navigate scholarly genres and especially so for someone who is still learning the language. This is why we go through training and hire specialists – so we can be there to help UAB’s considerably diverse population. Shelby, you’re part of our online tutoring team. I guess the whole point of that system is to cater to UAB students on a national scale – if that’s not too much to say?

    Shelby: No, I don’t think that’s too much to say. UAB has many distance programs and online courses, and enrolled students are located all over the country. Online tutoring and E-tutoring allow us to help students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make an appointment in our physical center in Sterne Library. With online tutoring, I can chat with students in real time, which can be helpful for understanding what they are trying to say; this type of session mimics the conversational nature of our in-person sessions. In E-tutoring, students simply upload a paper for me to comment on, which is another great option that allows me to leave clear and detailed feedback. Plus, because students can download the feedback I write at their convenience, E-tutoring is really convenient for our distance students who work fulltime in addition to going to school. In both kinds of distance tutoring sessions, I can link the student to other online resources, like the research and citation guides from UAB Libraries. I find that’s a really great way of not only helping them with their writing, but also reminding them of all the great resources UAB has to offer. I really love tutoring online because I get to see a range of students from every department, just like during our face-to-face sessions in Sterne; we get English, engineering, and a huge portion of nursing students. And just like with face-to-face sessions, we can help students from the brainstorming stage to the final edits during distance appointments. 

    Kathleen: Online and E-tutoring offer great opportunities for distance students to have someone else look at (and discuss) their work. I wonder how many students know about our online options—we do lots of classroom visits here on campus, but we can’t exactly do that for online courses. Shelby, how do you think we could spread the word?          

    Shelby: Since we can help with writing from any course, professors from all over campus can recommend our services to their students. Everyone needs feedback on their writing, and nearly every paper will improve with the kind of helpful feedback we provide. I can’t tell you how many students come in surprised that we’ll assist with an engineering essay or a personal statement. While we post signs around campus about us, and we did just get added to the UAB app, it’s during our class visits that we can address concerns students or teachers have regarding our services. The best way to get the word out that we’re here to help with any type of writing assignment is through faculty members. When faculty tell students about us and our services, I think it really helps encourage students to come in for help with their writing.

    Kathleen: UAB faculty are instrumental in helping students reach out to us. Nick, since you started teaching in the fall, quite a few of your students have visited the writing center. You must be mentioning the UWC in your classroom all the time. Have you noticed a big difference in the writing of students who use our services?

    Nick: Yes, I certainly do talk us up, endlessly. And the difference I see in the writing is extremely validating. Repetitive errors decrease and the students’ writing styles become cleaner and more precise. They address writing assignments more clearly and elaborate on their ideas with more detail and confidence. I’ve never had a student tell me visiting the writing center was not worth it. In fact, a majority of the students who go tell me their visits helped them conquer the anxiety they feel toward writing. Proficiency leads to confidence. We’re here to help students become proficient and confident writers, and we love what we do.

    WHAT DO WE OFFER?

    The UWC offers many services to support UAB writers. Our services are open to all UAB students and include: 

    • Face-to-face tutoring: In a session of 30 or 60 minutes, a tutor will sit down with a student and assist at any stage of the writing process.
    • Distance tutoring: Online and distance students can chat with a tutor in real time or upload a paper for feedback.
    • Classroom visits: In 15-minute presentations, tutors introduce the UWC’s services. We generally visit classes, but we are also happy to present during program orientations and other events. 
    • Ask-a-tutor: This email service is perfect for quick questions. Students can expect a response with 24 business hours.

    To schedule a face-to-face or distance tutoring appointment, students log onto our online scheduling system with their Blazer ID and password. To schedule a classroom visit, faculty can email our director with the time, location, and preferred day(s) for a visit.

    WHO ARE WE?

    The UWC is directed by Dr. Jaclyn Wells, an assistant professor in the English Department. Tutors are graduate students and adjunct instructors from English. Beginning in fall 2017, we will also have a small group of undergraduate tutors. All tutors receive training in working one-on-one with students on all kinds of writing, and several specialists have additional training in areas like teaching second-language writers and tutoring online. The UWC is also staffed by three undergraduate work-study students who welcome students with a friendly face. 

    Where can you find and contact us?

    Physical Location: Mervyn Sterne Library, Room 175

    Phone Number: 205-996-7178

    Website: www.uab.edu/writingcenter

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/UABWritingCenter

    Twitter: www.twitter.com/UABWritingCntr

    Ask-a-Tutor (for quick questions): askatutor@uab.edu

    UWC BY THE NUMBERS

    The UWC’s usage has grown dramatically over the past several years. From August 2015-July 2016, the UWC: 

    • Held 5,258 tutoring sessions.
    • Assisted students during 3,055 total tutoring hours.
    • Worked with 1,701 unique clients.
    • Helped students from all majors and colleges at UAB.
    • Offered numerous workshops, with 235 attending students.
    • Received “highly satisfied” or “satisfied” from 98% of students who were asked to rate their consultation experience.

    This year’s numbers suggest that UWC usage will only continue to grow. The fall 2016 semester, for example, saw an 18% increase in tutoring sessions from fall 2015, as well as a 24% increase in the number of freshman clients. 

    Read more...
  • Body and Mind

    College of Arts and Sciences researchers investigate what actually happens when we age—from our cells to our cognition—in the hopes of prolonging high-quality life.

    Lauren Lake: "swath 21," mixed media on paper, 13.5" x 13.5", 2017College of Arts and Sciences researchers investigate what actually happens when we age—from our cells to our cognition—in the hopes of prolonging high-quality life.

    By Cary Estes
    Artwork by Department of Art and Art History faculty members:  Doug Baulos, Gary Chapman, Stacey Holloway and Lauren Lake.

    An Orchestra of Genes

    Imagine attending a symphony concert where the conductor suddenly walks off stage in mid-performance. The musicians likely would be able to continue in synch on their own for a short period of time. But without a central person to maintain rhythm and control, the music would become increasingly chaotic until all semblance of a coherent melody falls apart and eventually stops completely.

    That, in essence, is what happens to our bodies from a physical standpoint as we age, according to Steven Austad, Ph.D., distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Biology. Austad says there is a “symphony of gene expression” taking place within our bodies, with genes being turned on and off at the appropriate moments. But the timing and organization of this genetic activity tends to fade with age, resulting in a gradual physical deterioration.

    “It’s a process that happens to virtually everything, but it happens at vastly different rates,” Austad says. “So a dog gets old in 10 years, while for a human it takes 80 years. One of the big mysteries is figuring out exactly why that’s going on.”

    Stacey Holloway: "Secrets," mixed media, 2.5” x 2” x 2”, 2014Along with Kathleen Fischer, Ph.D — a research assistant professor in the Department of Biology — and several other UAB collaborators, Austad is conducting extensive studies into the physical process of aging. In 2015, Austad was named the director of UAB’s Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, one of only six such centers across the U.S. funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    Part of Austad’s and Fischer’s research involves trying to decipher why there is such a wide disparity in the lifespan of different animals. There are some vertebrae fish that live less than 6 months, while the quahog clam can live for 500 years.

    “We use these differences in longevity to try to get at the relationship between the rate of aging, and an animal’s energy acquisition, storage and use,” Fischer says. “Are the animals that live longer better at protecting proteins from aggregation, which is one of the problems that organisms suffer as they get older? Proteins have to be a certain shape to function. If they get stuck together and aggregated, they can’t function properly. So the quahog, for example, is really good at maintaining protein function and keeping them from becoming aggregated over hundreds of years. We’re trying to understand what it is about metabolism that influences aging.”

    Doug Baulos, "Binding my Lost Heaven" exhibition, 2015. Another area of research involves the aging differences between men and women. While women worldwide generally live longer than men, they also tend to have more physical problems in older age than men do. “That’s a paradox that nobody really understands yet,” Austad says. “We’re just beginning a series of studies to try to understand those differences. That’s a major focus of our research right now.”

    Fischer says one possibility might be found in the basic hormonal distinction between men and women. She points out that hormones in women decline dramatically during menopause, whereas with men the decline is more gradual.

    “That’s one of the ways we can start to take apart what’s going on with the biology of aging to try to understand the mechanisms that underlie these age-related changes,” Fischer says. “Once we do that, we can try to figure out how we can intervene in order to prevent this decline in health with age.”

    The goal of this research is not necessarily to prolong human life, but rather to improve the quality of life as we age. Austad says it is possible that with enough scientific discoveries in this field, people eventually could take daily medications – much like baby aspirin is currently used to help prevent heart attacks – that would literally slow down their rate of physical aging.

    “So by the time a person gets to age 80, they would be the physical equivalent of someone several decades younger. That’s sort of the ultimate goal,” Austad says. “The idea isn’t to make people live longer. It’s to keep people functioning longer. If you can have the same ability at 80 years old to walk and hear and go upstairs and do what you want, that’s the kind of advance we’re looking for. If we can affect the underlying process of aging, then we can delay all these problems.”

    Collaborators with
    Dr. Stephen Austad

    Dr. Stephen Watts
    Professor
    Department of Biology

    “It has been a pleasure to work with Dr. Austad in his projects related to comparative aging. Working together, we are examining the nutritional basis of health in a variety of animal models. It is apparent that many nutrients or nutrient combinations can affect disease onset and progression, and our studies can potentially lead to a better understanding of the role of nutrition in healthy aging and an associated extension of health span for human beings.”

    Exercise for the Mind

    A certain level of physical decline will inevitably happen to all of us. A person who is a great athlete in their 20s and 30s simply will not have the same strength and stamina later in life, no matter how much they work out. Father Time, as they say in the world of sports, is undefeated.

    Mental abilities, however, do not always diminish with age. There are people who remain mentally sharp well into their 80s and even 90s, while others begin having basic cognitive issues such as forgetfulness in middle age. Some of the decline is disease related, but for many people it is just a consequence of getting older. “Senior moments,” they are called. Yet these types of memory lapses never arrive for some seniors.

    Lauren Lake: "swath 2," mixed media on paper, 8.75 x 14.75in, 2016. So why is there such a wide difference in how aging affects the mind, especially when it comes to memory, reasoning and the ability to quickly process information? That is one of the things Karlene K. Ball, Ph.D., Professor and Chair in the Department of Psychology, has been examining through her work with the Ed Roybal Center for Research on Applied Gerontology.

    “There is very little variability in many of these abilities when you’re younger. Everybody is doing pretty well,” Ball says. “As people age, though, the variability gets higher. You have some people who aren’t much worse than they were when they were young, and then others who have a steady decline. What we are asking is, ‘What did those people do when they were younger that might have prevented any decline from occurring? And what can we do now to mentally stimulate those cognitive abilities in order for people to regain them?’”

    Ball and fellow researchers at UAB have been conducting studies looking at cognitive training programs, which she said are “basically ways to exercise the brain.” They have run tests to see how quickly a person can handle such common functions as looking up a phone number, making change for a dollar, or finding a specific food item on a crowded grocery store shelf.

    “We’ve looked at not only their performance on the cognitive tests themselves, but how does this translate into improvements in their everyday life,” Ball says. “In addition, we also look at what changes in the brain before and after they go through these exercises, and see where in the brain these changes are occurring.

    “What we’ve found over the years is you can improve an older person’s cognitive abilities by doing targeted exercises that get progressively more difficult as they improve their performance. And the changes that occur in their cognitive skills translate to improvements in everyday function.”

    Gary Chapman, "INSIGHT," oil/silver leaf on linen, 53h x 42w, 1996. Ball also has been involved in studies examining cognitive issues in the ability to drive a car. Ball says this research is particularly important because many seniors feel isolated or have to enter an assisted-living facility once they no longer are able to drive.

    “We have found in a large clinical trial that if certain people go through the cognitive training program, they were half as likely to crash over the subsequent seven years, with benefits to some extending as far as 10 years,” Ball says. “So whatever we’re doing with the cognitive training seems to have a long-term benefit.”

    Ball says researchers are now trying to discover exactly how widespread these types of training programs can be applied, ranging from patients with mild cognitive impairments to those with more severe diseases such as Parkinson’s. She says they also are looking at how much physical exercise and creative activities like knitting can improve cognitive abilities.

    These studies are being conducted in collaboration with several other researchers at UAB, including Virginia Wadley Bradley, Ph.D., in the School of Medicine; Karen Meneses, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, in the School of Nursing; and Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., MSPH, in the Department of Ophthalmology (see sidebar at right).

    “One of the things that’s been great at UAB is the opportunities for collaboration across the whole campus,” Ball says. “We’ve provided these kinds of training programs to many other researchers, so they can try it out in their particular areas of expertise. So what’s really promoted this research is our ability to collaborate internally across campus as well as externally.”

    Collaborators with Dr. Karlene Ball

    Dr. Virginia Bradley
    Professor of Gerontology,
    Geriatrics and Palliative Care

    School of Medicine

    “I’ve worked with Dr. Ball for many years. Our work together on a randomized controlled trial evaluating three types of cognitive training, as well as our collaboration on a study validating a self-administered version of processing speed training, was instrumental in the design of my current research. This NIH-funded five-year project is a clinical trial comparing the benefits of enriched versions of computer-based training and home practice in adults with clinically diagnosed Mild Cognitive Impairment. Our main interest is in maintaining function for as long as possible in daily activities such as driving, bill paying, and medication management.”

    Dr. Cynthia Owsley
    Professor of Ophthalmology
    School of Medicine

    “Dr. Ball has been part of our research team here in the Department of Ophthalmology, where we have conducted a NIH-funded population-based study on 2,000 older drivers in Alabama. The goal of the study is to examine which vision screening tests are related to collision involvement three years after the screening. Vision screening tests currently used at the state licensing office do not identify drivers at increased risk for collision involvement. So our study will be very useful for advising states on driver’s licensing policy. Preliminary analysis of the data suggests that tests of peripheral vision and slowed visual-processing speed had the highest sensitivity for identifying older drivers who would be involved in future crashes.” 

    Dr. Karen Meneses
    Professor and Associate Dean for Research
    School of Nursing

     “I am currently a recipient of a pilot funding from Dr. Ball’s Center for Translational Research on Aging and Mobility. My project is called Speed of Processing in Middle Aged and Older Breast Cancer Survivors (SOAR)., which determines the cognitive changes that occur in cancer survivors as they return to work and live full lives. The pilot is important because cancer survivors are living longer, and the intervention may help them live better. Funding for this project has also enabled me to include my predoctoral students in the recruitment, retention, testing, and support for the intervention.”

    Read more...
  • Telling Your Story Alphabetically

    Kerry Madden-Lunsford, associate professor and Director of Creative Writing, teaches her creative writing students to shape their life stories alphabetically.

    Kerry Madden-Lunsford is an associate professor in the Department of English and director of the Creative Writing program.By Kerry Madden-Lunsford

    Thirty years ago, my husband and I were teaching English in China at Ningbo University on the East China Sea. I’ve never figured out how to write about the time, even though I wrote letters every single day from China on an old electric typewriter. Recently, poet and UAB English alumna, Ashley Jones, asked me to read some nonfiction at the Nitty Gritty Magic City Reading Series at Desert Island Supply Company, terrific places of support for writers in Birmingham.

    Ashley had introduced me to the work of Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She wrote a kind of lyric essay memoir called, “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life,” which is Amy’s life alphabetically as an encyclopedia. I’ve often used it as an example to get my own creative writing students to shape their stories. One student wrote about her family’s obsession with “Everybody Loves Raymond.” One wrote about a bossy aunt named Aunt Fred under “F.” One wrote about being Jewish in Trussville, Alabama. One wrote about earning her Girl Scout badges — all alphabetically. Here are some other entries by UAB students:

    A - Albany, Georgia. That’s where I was born, but I grew up in neighboring Leesburg (home of Luke Bryan and Phillip Phillips!). When asked where you’re from, you still would say “Albany” (pronounced all-BEN-ny). It’s sort of like people who live just outside of Atlanta. It’s easier to say “Atlanta” rather than explain where your little town is. It’s also known as Agony, Georgia, which if you’ve ever been there, you’d understand. Elizabeth McAlister

    F is for fainting, something I did frequently when I was a child if I ever came in contact with blood. Especially if I had my blood drawn. There’s a funny story my mother always tells about how my sister was bleeding and it freaked me out so bad I fainted. Elliot Moe

    J is for Jazz, the music I grew up to. My mother was obsessed with Jazz, and she always took me to the many Jazz festivals that would pop up throughout the seasons back in Miami. Our house always echoed with the melodies of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. I first started writing around six, mostly terrible short stories based on the lives of my toys, and it was the sound of fingers playing upon the piano keys to the lull of the saxophone that carried into my room. To this day, to even attempt to write something, I must have some sort of Jazz radio playing in the background. Chase Coats

    Amy Krouse Rosenthal begins her book with a timeline of her life, categories, and finally an “alphabetized existence.” My students could see how simple and ordinary it was, but not only that, they could see they had a story to tell, too, because of how Amy did it using the form of a lyrical essay, which invites the writer to explore and play with memory and story.

    But I’m so deeply saddened that Amy’s story has ended way too soon—she just recently lost her battle with ovarian cancer. A week before her death, she wrote a beautiful essay for the Modern Love column in “The New York Times.” The essay is presented in the form of a personals ad for her husband, whom she knew would survive her.

    Amy’s essay broke my heart in a million ways, because I’m not much older, and we have kids the same age. It also made think about Ningbo, China, and beginning a life 30 years ago with my own husband, whom I love dearly but have lived apart from for eight years because of our tenured jobs (yet somehow this distance has made us even closer). It also made me remember our first year of marriage in China and the place I discovered Carson McCullers when I was losing my mind with culture shock.  

    Then I had my proposal accepted for this summer’s “Carson McCullers in the World” symposium in Italy to commemorate her 100th birthday. So with Amy’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life in mind I tapped out a creaky alphabetical beginning and realized that I could possibly write it alphabetically – Atlanta Falcons, Black Hole, Bourgeois Liberalism Campaign, Carson, China, escaping the South, Thornton Wilder’s Long Christmas Dinner, Kramer Vs. Kramer (the only film in Ningbo at the time),– all of it. Somehow. I’d never been able to lasso any of it chronologically, but with Amy as my guide, maybe I could find the story the way my students did with their own radiant lyrical essays.

    To learn more about Ashley Jones, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and the organizations listed above visit:

    ashleymichellejones.wordpress.com

    nittygrittybham.com

    discobham.com

    whoisamy.com

    Read more...