Undergraduate Immunology Program

  • I am Arts and Sciences: Kristine Farag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Welcome back: Information for our students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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