Department of Biology

  • Mentorship, research and volunteer experiences helped shape UAB graduate with medical school plans

    A bilingual speaker of Japanese, Leanna Miku Crafford volunteered with a nonprofit health care clinic, did research in microbiology and led the Japanese Culture Club. She will graduate May 1 with honors magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.

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  • 2021 winners of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Awards for Excellence in Teaching

    The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. Award winners must have held faculty status at UAB for a minimum of three years and may receive the award only once in any three-year period.

    The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. Award winners must have held faculty status at UAB for a minimum of three years and may receive the award only once in any three-year period.

    The CAS President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee selected the 2021 award recipients from each of the following disciplines:

    • Arts and Humanities: Art and Art History, Music, Theatre, English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, and Philosophy
    • Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Mathematics
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences: African American Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Criminal Justice, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology

    The 2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching winners include:

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    Also, in the near future, one of these winners will be awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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  • UAB student’s research selected for presentation on Capitol Hill

    A College of Arts and Sciences student selected for the prestigious Posters on the Hill event will have her research showcased to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

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  • More than 1,100 employees to be honored with annual service awards

    This year, the university recognizes 50 years of service by Jeanne Hutchison, Ph.D., and Ferdinand Urthaler, M.D., and 45 years of service by Robert Kim M.D., and Joseph Lovetto. In addition, 294 employees with 20 or more years and 904 with five, 10 and 15 years will honored for their longevity.

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  • Picture a Scientist: UAB edition

    As UAB hosts screenings of a highly praised documentary on women scientists, meet several pioneers on campus.

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  • Biology alumna helps rescue and release thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles

    Despite all her experience, nothing could have prepared Dr. Amy Bonka for what she has experienced over the past week: the largest sea turtle cold-stunning event ever recorded in Texas.

    A convention center full of cold-stunned sea turtles on South Padre Island Texas. These turtles will be protected, gradually warmed and rehabilitated by Sea Turtle Inc. and eventually released back into the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo Courtesy of Amy Bonka)While earning her doctoral degree in the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Amy Bonka worked on remote sea turtle nesting beaches ranging from Mexico to Indonesia. Despite all her experience, nothing could have prepared her for what she has experienced over the past week: the largest sea turtle cold-stunning event ever recorded in Texas.

    Dr. Bonka received her Ph.D. from UAB in the summer of 2020 studying two of the most endangered sea turtles in the world. In December 2020, she accepted a position as the Chief Conservation Officer for Sea Turtle Inc., a conservation and education organization that monitors sea turtle nesting, stranding and rehabilitation on South Padre Island, Texas. Dr. Bonka was well aware of the previous cold-stunning events that occurred in south Texas and the possibility that Sea Turtle Inc. may have to handle several hundred sea turtles during those events. However, no one anticipated the magnitude of the cold-stunning event that occurred along the Texas coast last week: the largest ever on record.

    (Photo Courtesy of Amy Bonka)Due to the cold-stunning event, thousands of turtles have been washing up on the shores of Texas and many others have been found floating helplessly at the water’s surface. The majority of these incidents have occurred in south Texas, in particular South Padre Island. According to Sea Turtle Inc., “cold stunning” occurs when sudden drops in air and water temperature cause sea turtles to go into a hypothermic shock. Without assistance from conservationists, many of these turtles would perish. Over the past week, Sea Turtle Inc. has collected between 4,000-5,000 cold-stunned sea turtles, and they have resorted to using the South Padre Island Convention Center to house thousands of turtles. These turtles will be protected – gradually warmed and rehabilitated – and eventually released back into the Gulf of Mexico.

    “Fortunately for these thousands of sea turtles, Dr. Bonka and the full crew of dedicated conservationists from Sea Turtle Inc. are currently working around the clock to ensure these turtles will survive and will be able to resume their long lives in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Dr. Thane Wibbels, professor in the UAB Department of Biology.



    Dr. Amy Bonka, a recent graduate of UAB Department of Biology who has recently become the Chief Conservation Officer for Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island Texas. She and the dedicated crew of conservationists are working around the clock to save the thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles. (Photo Courtesy of Amy Bonka)

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  • Give on March 4 and help UAB care for our community

    Donations for Giving Day will make an impact on UAB’s efforts to fight COVID-19, care for pediatric trafficking survivors, support students, provide dental, medical and eye care to those in need, and more.

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  • UAB biology professor awarded NSF Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research

    A UAB researcher has received a grant to develop novel, single-cell tools for studying microbial population genetics.

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  • Pull back the curtain and look “Behind the Science” of COVID-19 with UAB frontline doctors

    Darwin Day 2021 will be virtual and will feature speakers Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases; Paul Goepfert, M.D., professor of medicine; and Nathan Erdmann, M.D., assistant professor of medicine.

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  • Amsler honored for Antarctic expeditions, explorer’s spirit by international organization

    Maggie Amsler, a benthic ecologist and longtime member of UAB’s Antarctic research team, has been selected for membership in The Explorers Club inaugural Explorers 50 program, which recognizes remarkable people working to change the world and extend the meaning and impact of exploration.

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  • Multicultural curriculum grants spark fresh perspectives in Arts and Sciences

    Dean Kecia Thomas, Ph.D., and four faculty explain how new and revised courses made possible by a new grant program will help students become better leaders, practitioners and citizens — and further UAB’s strategic goals.

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  • Creating community in the classroom — wherever that is

    Five faculty share the tools, tweaks and shifts in mindset that helped them build connections with students during the fall semester.

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  • UAB awarded $1.7 million NIH grant to continue cancer prevention research

    A UAB professor continues breast cancer prevention research with additional funding through the National Institutes of Health.

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  • Sigma Xi honor society at UAB awarded honorable mention for Chapter Program of Excellence

    The chapter received the award for the seminar “Wetumpka Impact Crater — Alabama’s Greatest Natural Disaster” by James Lowery, a UAB retiree and member of Sigma Xi for 22 years.

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  • Tended by Blazers, these UAB Gardens plots grow produce for the food-insecure on campus

    The plots will provide vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices to increase food security for the campus community and enable shoppers in UAB’s food pantry, Blazer Kitchen, to make more and varied healthy choices.

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  • Two UAB students awarded Clinton Global Initiative University Seed Funding

    Alice Kim and Ryleigh Fleming each created projects to improve student mask safety, hygiene, and access to health care facts and necessities that were selected by the Clinton Global Initiative University COVID-19 Student Action Fund.

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  • Winners of the 2020-2021 “Building a Multicultural Curriculum” grants

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    This fall, all tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-earning College of Arts and Sciences faculty were invited to submit proposals for a new grant titled, “Building a Multicultural Curriculum.” The goal of these awards is to support faculty in developing new courses or revising existing classes in order to expand the College’s offerings that will support students’ diversity awareness and build their multicultural competence.

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    • Dr. Erin Borry, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Isms in Public Administration”
    • Dr. Olivio J. Clay, Department of Psychology: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Research and the Workplace”
    • Prof. Michele Forman, Department of History: “Our Histories: Documentary Film and Public History in Birmingham”
    • Dr. Reginald Jackson, Department of Music: “African American Music from 1619-Present”
    • Dr. Dione Moultrie King, Department of Social Work: “The Health and Well-being of Black Americans: A Social Work Approach”
    • Dr. Angela Lewis-Maddox, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Social Justice and Pop Culture”
    • Dr. Samiksha Raut, Department of Biology: “Building a Multicultural Curriculum”
    • Prof. Ana Maria Santiago, Department of English: “Themes in Lit with a Latina-o-x American Identity Focus”

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  • $4.5 million grant awarded to UAB to continue aging research

    The UAB Nathan Shock Center received a $4.5 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging to further engage in cutting-edge research focused on comparative bioenergetics and aging.

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  • Likely molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis are revealed by network biology

    These molecular insights may foster effective therapies using existing drugs for patients with COVID-19.

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  • Alumni Honored as 2020 Rising Stars

    The College of Arts and Sciences is proud that three of the five honorees are our graduates.

    The UAB National Alumni Society celebrated the accomplishments of the 2020 UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Award winners during a special virtual ceremony on Thursday, September 17, 2020. These outstanding young alumni have been deemed rising stars in their careers and are exceptional role models for the students and graduates who follow them.

    The College of Arts and Sciences is proud that three of the five honorees are our graduates.

    Dr. Ameen Barghi, B.S., Neuroscience, 2015

    Barghi was an accomplished undergraduate. He combined a major in neuroscience with a second individually designed major in translational research and worked in the lab of Dr. Edward Taub in the Department of Psychology. In 2013, he was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a national fellowship for juniors pursuing research-oriented careers in math, the natural sciences, and engineering. A year later, he was selected as the inaugural Summer Research Scholar for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UAB. In 2015, he was named a Rhodes Scholar, awarded to just 32 American students to pursue fully funded graduate studies at the University of Oxford, England. Barghi was in the Science and Technology Program in the Honors College, was a member of the Early Medical School Acceptance Program and the Collat School of Business Honors Program, and was on the national championship Bioethics Bowl team, housed in the Department of Philosophy.

    He graduated from Harvard Medical School and is currently doing his residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Wake Forest University.

    Barghi is also involved with mentoring UAB students who are applying to competitive national fellowships. He also takes time to mentor pre-med students considering applying for out-of-state medical schools or doing gap years internationally.


    Jessica Lopez, B.S., M.S., Biology, 2015 and 2016

    Jessica is an Associate Athletics Director for Academics at Northern Arizona University, where she is building a department to provide academic support for student athletes. The goal is to achieve the national standards of excellence in NCAA-mandated internal academic services through advising, specialized support for under-prepared students, and interactions with coaches.

    While a student at UAB, Lopez worked as a graduate assistant for the Women’s Basketball and Women’s Soccer programs. She also served as a mentor for the football team and a tutor within the athletics department. From 2012 to 2016, Jessica was a University Academic Success Center Instruction Leader and worked as a biology department representative and Blazing Start co-director.


    Erika Rucker, M.P.A., 2009

    Earlier this year, Erika began her position as 21st Century Community Learning Center Program Coordinator at Auburn University, where she works with grant-funded after-school and summer programs throughout Alabama.

    While pursuing her masters’ in public administration, Erika worked as an after-school teacher for fifth graders in the Birmingham Regional Empowerment and Development Center (BREAD), then called Bethel Community Learning Center. After receiving her MPA, she was promoted to adult education coordinator at BREAD/Bethel.

    In time, she was promoted to Project Director for BREAD, where she provided oversight for three 21st Century Community Learning Center sites, two child nutrition sites, and 12 summer food service program sites.

    She has been a part of the Alabama Community Education Association, Jefferson State College Child Development Program, and Alabama Afterschool Community Network. In 2014, she was named the Extended Day Director of the Year by the Alabama Community Education Association.


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