Department of Mathematics

  • Blazing a new path to follow one’s dream

    Christina J. Glenn is the first Doctor of Public Health with a concentration in biostatistics graduate from UAB’s School of Public Health.

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  • I am Arts and Sciences: Eric Teoh

    For students who study math in college, the notion of saving lives with their knowledge may seem distant — maybe even far-fetched. For Eric Teoh, director of statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the connection between math and lifesaving work is crystal clear.

    For students who study math in college, the notion of saving lives with their knowledge may seem distant — maybe even far-fetched. For Eric Teoh, director of statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the connection between math and lifesaving work is crystal clear.

    That was not always the case, though. In high school, Teoh had a complicated relationship with mathematics.

    Eric Teoh “I wasn’t very good at math until I got to college,” said Teoh. “I let it intimidate me.”

    Teoh admits that he did not have a positive attitude about the discipline prior to college. However, when the time came to declare a major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he unexpectedly selected the subject that posed numerous challenges for him in high school.

    “At the time, I thought to myself, ‘I can do anything — I’ll major in math,’” said Teoh.

    This new outlook on life (and education) prompted a different mindset for Teoh. Instead of allowing math to get the best of him, he found himself working harder and challenging himself to master the discipline. And that’s exactly what happened.

    “The faculty in the Department of Mathematics took a chance on me,” said Teoh. “Between them taking a chance on me and a shift in my attitude, I made it work.”

    Right after being accepted to UAB, Teoh was also accepted into the Mathematics Fast Track Program. Through the program, Teoh earned both a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics in only four years. Along the way, he also took a few extra courses in a variety of subjects, including more than were required for him to earn a minor in chemistry. All in a day’s work for Teoh.

    “I think UAB was an excellent place to learn,” said Teoh. “We learned a lot of important skills for work and life in general. We learned to think independently.”

    After graduating from UAB, Teoh enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue a Ph.D. in Biostatistics. Although the program was engaging, Teoh started reevaluating his future with a new focus on starting a career that would allow him to save lives. His reflective mindset motivated him to leave Chapel Hill and accept a role as a data analyst with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). According to Teoh, IIHS — an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage from motor vehicle crashes — aligned with his vision, values, and talents.

    Now, 15 years after taking the job with IIHS, Teoh has a clear perspective on the transportable skills he developed while at UAB and the ways in which his work improves the world.

    “I’ve learned the value of simplicity,” said Teoh. “We try to use the simplest scientifically sound analysis methods so everyone can understand our work and use it to make better decisions.”

    When Teoh reflects on his professional accomplishments, he immediately circles back to the values that drove him to leave Chapel Hill and start his job with IIHS: saving lives and reducing harm.

    “There are no panaceas or silver bullets in this field, so every effective countermeasure is important,” said Teoh. “Some of the biggest ones from my research studies include antilock braking systems on motorcycles, front crash prevention technology on large trucks, graduated driver licensing laws for teenage drivers, and vehicle roof strength in rollover crashes.”

    Teoh’s journey is full of valuable lessons — that said, there is one theme in particular that he emphasizes when speaking with students who are crafting their visions for the future.

    “Do not be afraid of changing your mind on future plans,” said Teoh. “[If you do change your mind] do so in a way that builds off of what you’ve already accomplished. I changed my mind substantially at least a couple times and, looking back, I’m glad I did each time.”

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  • Stanislavova selected to lead UAB Department of Mathematics

    Milena Stanislavova, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Mathematics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Milena Stanislavova, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Mathematics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Dr. Stanislavova was trained in all areas of pure and applied mathematics. She earned her M.S. in Mathematics from Sofia University in Bulgaria in 1993 and Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Missouri in 2000. Dr. Stanislavova’s goal as an educator is to help students gain a more complete understanding of the intrinsic beauty of mathematics, its interdisciplinary connections, and the many doors its analytical skills can open.

    Dr. Stanislavova comes from the University of Kansas, where she started in 2002. She was director of graduate studies in the Department of Mathematics from 2012-2017 and, most recently, served as chair of the Department of Economics since 2017. Dr. Stanislavova’s research is in differential equations and dynamical systems, focusing on the stability of special solutions of nonlinear differential equations of mathematical physics.

    “Dr. Stanislavova is uniquely prepared to lead the Department of Mathematics. As a productive and funded scholar at the University of Kansas, she provided transformative leadership to the Department of Economics there,” said Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I look forward to all the ways in which she will support the growth of mathematics at UAB, while also promoting greater collaboration with other College of Arts and Sciences units — like physics and computer science — as well as other schools at UAB.”

    Dr. Stanislavova’s research has been continuously supported by the Applied Mathematics Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She has collaborated on establishing a new NSF-funded regional partial differential equations and dynamical systems annual conference together with colleagues from the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

    She is passionate about creating opportunities for women to pursue careers in mathematics and about helping and mentoring them in the profession.

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  • Roger T. Lewis - In Remembrance

    Roger Lewis has passed away, but his impact on the development of our Mathematics Department will be felt for many years by both students and faculty. 

    Roger Lewis has passed away, but his impact on the development of our Mathematics Department will be felt for many years by both students and faculty. Before entering graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Roger had worked in industry as a mathematician at the Ballistics Research Labs (Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland) and RCA Service Corporation (Patrick Air Force Base in Florida). Following this, he received his M.S. in mathematics from the Florida Institute of Technology (1964) and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee (1972). He was briefly at Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania before joining UAB in 1975.

    At this time, UAB was only two years beyond the conversion from junior college to university status, and the Department of Mathematics was essentially a junior college department, with faculty involved primarily in teaching remedial and elementary mathematics courses. Further, at this time there were no organized research or grant initiatives in mathematics. 

    Then, in 1978, the department had a new chairman who placed some emphasis on visible research programs which could attract funding. Roger made the most of this opening. He had continued to expand on the work of his doctoral thesis, and in 1980 he received the department’s first NSF research grant. 

    This was followed by a bold plan developed jointly by Roger and Ian Knowles, who Roger had first met at a conference in Scotland in 1974 and who later joined our department. Although on paper UAB did not have facilities to host a large international conference, in 1986 they managed to find space and organize a conference which brought many of the world’s leading researchers in differential equations and mathematical physics to Birmingham (260 mathematicians from 22 countries). This was followed up by conferences in 1990, 92, 94, 97, 99, 2002 and 2005. These were so successful that Barry Simon of CalTech encouraged several of his graduate students to apply for positions at UAB upon receiving their doctorates. And some applicants for positions in the department commented on the impact our meetings had on them and their interest in joining the UAB faculty.

    Roger was chairman of the department in 1984 - 87 and 1997 - 2001 and continued the practice of filling new positions with research talent. This was paying off, and UAB at one point was ranked number three in the Southeast (just behind Duke and Georgia Tech) in NSF grants per faculty. This success was no doubt made possible partly through Roger’s personal manner as chairman.  He was a familiar figure to department members, who knew him as a reasonable person who could be approached with ideas and observations. He was meticulous in honoring agreements, and one had the confidence that he was always trying to do the right thing, which in this setting was to achieve best results for faculty and students. He brought a high level of integrity to his position as chairman, and inspired confidence in those who worked with him on various projects to improve department teaching and research.

    In addition to individual grants faculty were winning for their research, the university was awarded an EPSCoR grant (1986 - 91). These grants were for Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research and were large interdisciplinary university grants designed to enable promising departments to develop their research potential. Over the next few years, the Mathematics Department (along with Physics and other areas) enjoyed substantial EPSCoR funding to develop research activities they had been building over the past few years. Roger was a lead investigator on our first EPSCoR proposal.

    In addition to these successful efforts to develop research areas, productivity and funding, the department took the significant step of beginning a doctoral program. Previously within the Alabama system there had been a doctoral mathematics program only at the Tuscaloosa campus. But Roger engaged UAB administration and interested department members to lead UAB’s objective of raising its graduate program to the highest level. After skillfully weaving through sensitive and highly political issues, a joint program involving the Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville campuses emerged and received state approval. Our doctoral program is now a high point of our department and has generated additional initiatives to raise the level of hiring research faculty and developing the research capabilities of our students. And in his leadership role, Roger continued his productivity past retirement, producing a total of 51 books and papers.

    Finally, it is a sign of the current status of the department that UAB was selected to host an NSF Fast Track program, in which undergraduate students showing talent for mathematics are given the opportunity to accelerate their programs to reach the graduate level more quickly. In this way the tremendous success of the research and graduate activities of the department have helped develop new opportunities for undergraduate students as well.

    Through these efforts, Roger has been a significant figure in achieving the present success of the department, and in pointing a way to build an even more exciting future for our students and faculty.


    Funeral services will be held on Monday, June 14, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. at Independent Presbyterian Church, 3100 Highland Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35205.

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  • I Am Arts and Sciences: Vincent Cirel

    Vincent Cirel developed a passion for mathematics in high school and found personal inspiration even earlier in life working with his grandfather as a land surveyor. When it was time to pursue his undergraduate degree, he looked to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    While growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Vincent Cirel developed a passion for mathematics in high school and found personal inspiration even earlier in life working with his grandfather as a land surveyor. When it was time to pursue his undergraduate degree, he looked to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    "I always thought I'd do my undergraduate work at UAB," said Cirel. "It was a part of my hometown."

    During his tenure at UAB, Cirel pursued a major in mathematics and a minor in physics. His talents and interests aligned with the emergence of the Word Wide Web, and, as a result, he applied his valuable knowledge in real-time at UAB's Health Sciences Learning Technologies Lab.

    He became the co-founder and co-chair of the UAB Web Advisory Group, and he navigated the evolution of the web at UAB for seven years. This experience reflects a primary theme in Cirel's life and career—leveraging emerging technologies during pivotal moments within institutions and businesses.

    "I was passionate about science and technology, and I blended it with the business world," said Cirel.

    Cirel continued to build his knowledge and expertise, earning a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from UAB and a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. By combining his cross-curricular academic interests in mathematics, applied sciences, and business, Cirel successfully co-led Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings through a defining moment in 2013.

    "Norwegian went public in 2013," said Cirel. "It transformed the cruise line industry."

    As Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Cirel spearheaded the expansion of mobile/social to include full customer lifecycle integration and got to stand at the podium when the company was added to the NASDAQ. It was a defining point in his career.

    Throughout his numerous professional milestones, Cirel admits that he never steered far from his early foundations in mathematics and physics. "That foundation is something I rely on and apply everyday," said Cirel.

    Today, Cirel is the executive vice president of Worldstrides, Inc. (in addition to many independent consulting engagements) and, through these roles, he finds ways to leverage emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. As he continues to blaze ahead, he sees his alma mater as a source of continued pride and inspiration. 

    "It's interesting to watch how UAB has grown in size and impact. It's what you always hope will happen," said Cirel.

    As Cirel's career moves forward, he continues to watch the transformation of the business world, noting that fewer people are focused solely on financial wealth. He sees workplaces emphasizing and elevating personal growth and diversity, equity, and inclusion, which he believes is important and necessary.

    He encourages future UAB graduates to think about both their personal and professional goals as they look ahead. "The most important early-career question to ask is, 'Where does my passion lie?' And do your very best to align your efforts to that answer," said Cirel.

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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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  • Xavier Turner and Angela Lee named Mr. and Ms. UAB 2021

    Started in 1981, the Mr. and Ms. UAB Scholarship Competition is one of UAB’s longest-standing Homecoming traditions.

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  • 50 years, 8 buildings, 1 career: Vaughan says time at UAB was a ‘long, strange’ but rewarding trip

    Loy Vaughan, associate professor of mathematics, clocked 50 years of service at UAB before retiring in January. The West End native remembers introducing the Apple II into the mathematics classroom in the late 1970s, playing handball with Gene Bartow and seeing his wife and children all earn medical degrees — all while watching UAB becoming the epicenter of the city in which he grew up.

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  • Computer science students use innovation, technology for drone ideation project

    A UAB instructor gave his students the chance to work on a group ideation drone project, developing new ways to use drones for farming.

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  • Why I Give: Stephen Odaibo, M.D.

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters—including Stephen G. Odaibo, M.D., (B.S., 2001; M.S., 2002)—to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

     

    Arts & Sciences magazine: What do you do for a living?

    Stephen Odaibo: I am a retina physician, computer scientist, AI Engineer, and healthcare AI startup founder and CEO. I am also on the clinical faculty of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the No.1 ranked cancer center in the U.S. My company, RETINA-AI Health Inc. builds artificial intelligence (AI) systems to improve healthcare. We developed the world's first mobile AI app for eye care providers, and our autonomous diabetic retinopathy AI screening system is currently in independent validation testing in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

    A&S: Did you benefit from scholarships when you were a student?

    SO: Yes, I did. I was a recipient of the Mathematics Fast-Track Program Scholarship, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and was directed by Prof. John Mayer and Prof. Lex Oversteegen of the Mathematics Department. I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees in mathematics from the College in 2001 and 2002 respectively. These launched me to Duke University for medical school and graduate school in computer science. My career took me to Duke University Hospital for an internal medicine internship, Howard University for residency, and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for a retina fellowship. I had an academic advantage everywhere I went. It was the UAB Math advantage.

    A&S: What made you decide to make a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences?

    SO: Much of the success I am now enjoying in my career can be traced back to the opportunities that were granted me through the Mathematics Department at the College of Arts and Sciences. The opportunity to build AI to shape the future of healthcare not just in the U.S. but globally, is one for which I am truly grateful. It was only natural for me to give something back to the College. And I hope to have more opportunities in the future to give more back to UAB.

    A&S: Where do you see the College of Arts and Sciences in the next ten years? Fifty years?

    SO: I see the College of Arts and Sciences taking its rightful place amongst the most renowned colleges in the world in terms of measurable impact of its ongoing research and development. And also in terms of the quality and impact of its graduates across industries the world over.

    Read more on Dr. Stephen Odaibo in his alumni profile.


    Donor support is invaluable in ensuring that our students receive the quality education that, regardless of their course of study, will set them on the path to success. For additional information regarding gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences, please contact Camille Epps at camilleepps@uab.edu or call (205) 996-2154.

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  • Why I Give: Elizabeth and Charlie Scribner

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters—including Charlie (M.P.A., 2015) and Elizabeth Scribner (M.S., 2011; Ph.D., 2017)—to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

     

    Arts & Sciences magazine: What do you do for a living?

    Elizabeth Scribner: I'm an analyst in model risk management and validation at Regions Bank. Charles is executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeepers Alabama.

    A&S: Did you benefit from scholarships when you were a student?

    ES: Yes, I was the recipient of a year-long fellowship through the Department of Mathematics, as well as a two-time recipient of the James Ward Memorial Award for Research in Mathematical Biology.

    A&S: What made you decide to make a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences?

    Charles Scribner: UAB is a pivotal force in Birmingham’s renaissance, and the College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of UAB. In two very different CAS graduate school programs, the classes that Elizabeth and I took and the relationships we made have all been invaluable to our careers. I also have the pleasure of now working with College of Arts and Sciences staff in my role as president of the UAB MPA Alumni Society and see their incredible skill and passion for serving the College and the community.

    A&S: Where do you see the College of Arts and Sciences in the next ten years? Fifty years?

    CS: The College of Arts and Sciences does not simply cover an amazingly wide range of important fields, it also connects them through one impeccably organized institution and alumni network. As society is increasingly challenged by division and hostility, the networking and collaborative opportunities the College provides students, faculty, and alumni from many backgrounds and curricula will be crucial for UAB, Birmingham, and the world.


    Donor support is invaluable in ensuring that our students receive the quality education that, regardless of their course of study, will set them on the path to success. For additional information regarding gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences, please contact Camille Epps at camilleepps@uab.edu or call (205) 996-2154.

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  • Entrepreneurial student teams compete and solve real-world problems

    Real-world problems are solved through a two-month entrepreneurship educational experience for students across UAB’s campus.

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  • UAB math, public health undergraduate students shine at international research conference

    Undergraduate students won awards for their research in virtual reality and child safety and in stabilization of proteins.

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  • Kuzmanic Top 30 Finalist for 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year Award

    A UAB female student-athlete has been named a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, recognizing her academic, athletic, leadership and community service success.

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  • UAB’s new University Hall fans Blazer spirit with flames, dragon’s tail

    Furnishings in an array of gold and green, an artistic display of Blaze’s flames in metal panels and a colorful terrazzo floor like a dragon’s tail creatively express the spirit of UAB.

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  • Meet 5 role models who are inspiring young women to get into engineering

    From national television appearances to hands-on mentoring events, faculty, alumni and students of the School of Engineering demonstrate that innovation and leadership have no boundaries.

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  • Four students’ passion for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship lead to outstanding honor

    Four UAB students have been named University Innovation fellows by Stanford University.

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  • I am Arts & Sciences: Stephen G. Odaibo, M.D.

    Mathematics alumnus Stephen G. Odaibo, M.D., is an ophthalmologist and retina specialist, as well as a mathematician, computer scientist, and physicist.

    Dr. Stephen G. Odaibo is an ophthalmologist and retina specialist, as well as a mathematician, computer scientist, and physicist.

    He is currently the co-founder and CEO of RETINA-AI, a biotechnology company that specializes in developing artificial-intelligence software technology to improve physicians' ability to diagnose and treat retinal disease.

    Clinically, Dr. Odaibo focuses on caring for patients with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular occlusions, retinal tears, and localized retinal detachments.

    He is the author of two books: Quantum Mechanics and the MRI Machine published in 2012, and The Form of Finite Groups: A Course on Finite Group Theory, published in 2016.

    Dr. Odaibo was part of the Mathematics Fast Track Program at UAB, earning both his bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics in 2001 and 2002, respectively. He is the only ophthalmologist in the world with graduate degrees in both math and computer science (Duke, 2009).

    In 2017, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Arts & Sciences. This award is the College's highest honor, reserved for prominent alumni with a history of excellence in their careers.

    "The UAB Math Fast Track Program was a wonderfully rich experience for me," Dr. Odaibo says. "It provided me with a solid foundation in rigorous critical thinking, which has served me well in my career."

    Read more on Dr. Stephen Odaibo.

    Read more "I am Arts & Sciences" alumni profiles: 
    Sarah Randolph of Birmingham Audubon
    Johnny E. "Rusty" Bates, M.D., of Quality Correctional Health Care
    Christina Richey, Ph.D., of NASA

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  • I am Arts and Sciences: Dr. Johnny E. "Rusty" Bates

    Rusty Bates is an alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences who went on to complete his medical degree at the UAB School of Medicine. He founded and is the chief executive officer of Quality Correctional Health Care, which provides inmate healthcare in the correctional environment.

    Rusty Bates is an alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences (Mathematics, 1979) who went on to complete his medical degree at the UAB School of Medicine in 1983. He founded and is the chief executive officer of Quality Correctional Health Care, which provides inmate healthcare in the correctional environment. In addition to his membership on the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Board, he serves on the UAB National Alumni Society Board of Directors and has been a two-time recipient of the Excellence in Business Top 25 Awards in 2016 and 2017. Dr. Bates recently established the Henry E. Bates, Jr. Scholarship in honor of his father. The scholarship is part of the new UAB Blazing the Way program, by which UAB provides a 1:1 match for annual scholarships. We asked Dr. Bates to tell us more about his family and his journey through UAB and to his professional success today.

    My father had an associate's degree from the University of North Alabama. However, after I was born, he had to take a job and provide for his growing family. This kept him from pursuing his education further. On several occasions, I remember him mentioning that he was not eligible for some positions with engineering companies that he worked for because he did not have a bachelor's degree.

    My dad worked for several sub-contractors for NASA and was project manager on several major projects related to the Saturn-V launch pad. He never felt quite good enough, because he lacked his bachelor's degree. We were both determined that would not happen to me.

    I knew at quite a young age that I wanted to be a physician. I had survived TB meningitis just a short time after the introduction of INH therapy (developed to treat tuberculosis) and always marveled at the stories my mom told me about this event. I became unable to walk and cried from headaches and back pain. I wanted to be a doctor, like the one who saved my life. I wanted to completely fulfill my dreams and in so doing, fulfill my father's dreams as well. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to UAB back in the day when there were only three main buildings on campus.

    I loved UAB and still do to this day. I also loved mathematics for its purity and the fact that all the other sciences are dependent upon an understanding of mathematical principles. I still enjoy the symmetry of mathematics to the natural world. It was with all of this in mind that I wished to honor my father with a scholarship in his name. It is a pleasure for me to help someone else fulfill their dreams. One of my favorite quotations is from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." This scholarship takes me back to the past in hopes of providing a better future.

    Learn more about The Henry E. Bates, Jr. Scholarship.

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  • Award winning: What it takes for students to win major scholarships and awards

    The number of College of Arts and Sciences students who win major national and international scholarships and fellowships grows every year. What does it take to win one of these major prizes?

    The number of College of Arts and Sciences students who win major national and international scholarships and fellowships grows every year. What does it take to win one of these major prizes? And what does the achievement mean for our students as they pursue their goals?

    Sarah Faulkner, a 2017 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in art with a concentration in art history and sociology.

    When chemistry major Gunnar Eastep fell asleep early after his last final in fall of 2017, he never dreamed that he’d wake up to a nomination for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. “When I woke up, I saw the nomination and was pretty ecstatic about it,” he says. “All-around, it was a very surreal experience, especially since I had no clue what to expect.”

    He had turned in the application about a month before he found out. “I spent a week writing terrible drafts and deleting them the next day,” he says. “I found it challenging to write a succinct and interesting personal statement without sounding overly clichéd.”

    But this portion of the application wasn’t the only part that challenged Eastep. Outside of the personal statement and description of future goals, the application also requires students to write a research proposal detailing the work they’ve already accomplished as well as discussing what comes next. However, unlike most scientific journals, this proposal has to be written in the first person.

    For Eastep, this portion meant detailing the research he’d pursued under Dr. Jamil Saad, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, who has a secondary appointment in the Department of Chemistry. Here, he’d studied the role of a particular protein in certain portions of retrovirus replication. Before last summer, his work had focused on the protein’s role in replicating the avian sarcoma virus.

    Eastep says the support he received from faculty was critical to his completion of the application, and his success in winning the Goldwater. “Without Dr. Saad and the experiences I’ve had doing research in his lab, winning the Goldwater scholarship wouldn’t have been possible,” he says. “It certainly gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.

    ”Dr. Gray in the chemistry department has been a great help for me, too,” Eastep adds. ”He was the professor for several of my chemistry courses and wrote one of my recommendations for the scholarship. Although he didn't mentor my research, he was so helpful in giving career advice and has undoubtedly been my favorite professor.”

    OPTIONS

    The science-focused Goldwater Scholarship is only one of the many prestigious scholarships and fellowships that College of Arts and Sciences students can apply for. These programs range widely from scholarships for students in specific disciples to fellowships, which provide short-term learning opportunities. These experiences also vary: some support research projects at specific universities, while others are aimed at developing independent research projects on a myriad of subjects.

    Sources of funding for these programs are just as diverse as the offerings themselves. Some, like the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, are sponsored by federal government agencies to bolster international relationships. Other governmental agencies fund scholarships aimed at ensuring future public servants speak languages critical to international diplomacy.

    From left to right: Anthonia Carter, Gunnar Eastep, and Ayla McCay

    These few programs are only the tip of the iceberg. Yet other programs are financed by private trusts to encourage traditionally marginalized groups to participate in specific fields, and others include on-campus research programs sponsored by multiple organizations from various backgrounds.

    In addition to strengthening recipients’ resumes, many of these programs also connect participants with their alumni networks, adding an additional level of value with professional connections.

    Depending on a student’s major and interests, one or several of these programs may be a fit. But one thing is consistent across all of these offerings: the application process is rigorous. Writing essays, securing recommendation letters, and, if necessary, preparing for interviews is time-consuming, and requires long-term hard work and focus. Although the payoff is great, there is a significant time commitment involved in getting there.

    RESEARCH

    Recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship like Eastep receive a set amount of money each year to put towards books, living expenses, tuition, and other fees. Although Eastep believes he would be pursuing a very similar course of study and research if he had not been chosen, he calls the scholarship a big confidence boost. “Being awarded the Goldwater scholarship has been immensely gratifying considering how long I’ve been working as a student researcher,” he says. “It’s definitely a massive boon to my career prospects, and particularly graduate applications.”

    Senior neuroscience student Jasmin Revanna

    Other students benefit from the research opportunities afforded by fellowships rather than scholarships. One such program is the Amgen Scholars U.S. Program, which provides summer research opportunities at one of 10 universities around the country. Funded by the Amgen Foundation, this program connects participants from all over the world while also allowing them to undertake a rigorous research program under different faculty. Senior neuroscience student Jasmin Revanna attended the 2017 session at Caltech, and used her time in the fellowship to optimize a genetic editing tool to activate and deactivate targeted genes in nematodes.

    Each of the Amgen schools has an individual application process. In addition to the traditional personal statements, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, Caltech also requires applicants to identify a researcher and work with them to write a research proposal for their time in the program, says Revanna. “This takes a lot of communicating back and forth, so starting early is always recommended.”

    To continue her 2017 research, she applied to the 2018 WAVE Fellows Program at Caltech. This fellowship is designed to open the school’s research resources to demographics that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, and Revanna applied in hopes of returning to the same lab to test the system she’d built the summer before.

    Though her research focus ended up being different—there, she built more than 100 tools for the public to use to study the role of specific neurotransmitters in nematodes—she feels that both experiences were extremely valuable.

    “These fellowships helped me discover what I want to do after graduation, which is go to graduate school,” she says. Revanna continues that these two fellowships have given her the confidence to apply to high caliber graduate programs to further her studies. But she’s not limiting herself to only one possibility: Revanna is also currently applying for a Fulbright fellowship to do research abroad.

    INTERNATIONAL/GLOBAL

    The Fulbright fellowship is arguably one of the most recognizable fellowship programs in the world. They award approximately 1,900 grants annually to students and recent graduates who want to do projects to study culture or science or to teach abroad. In 2018, six UAB students received the honor. Sarah Faulkner, who graduated in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in art with a concentration in art history and sociology, applied to the program to study the textile art of the Lepcha, a cultural group indigenous to Sikkim, India.

    During her time abroad, Faulkner will research and compile a record of the Lepcha’s crafts, study the local language, and begin studying local Buddhist art. “Due to both their integration with daily life and the history associated with them, Lepcha textiles represent a vibrant, fundamental facet of Lepcha heritage,” she says. “I aim to highlight both Lepcha culture and their arts, which go hand-in-hand. I hope to also learn more about the Lepcha’s folklore, performative arts, and language, which is an essential factor of the Lepcha identity.”

    WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

    CATCHING UP WITH A FEW ALUMS

    MUNA AL-SAFARJALANI

    Class of 2017

    Muna Al-Safarjalani graduated in 2017 with a degree in chemistry. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy.

    REBECCA EGELAND

    Class of 2015

    After graduating with a degree in communication studies in 2015, Rebecca Egeland joined the Southern Company as a research communication specialist on the Research and Development Team. She also has a budding music career. In her free time, she’s a singer-songwriter, and can often be found at an open mic or playing a local venue with a ukulele in hand.

    BRENDAN RICE

    Class of 2012

    Brendan Rice graduated with a degree in international studies in 2012 and he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable international agriculture at the University of Göttingen (Germany) as a Fulbright Scholar. Prior to this, Rice worked for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Sierra Leone and Italy. He also worked in Uganda with smallholder farmers to promote food security.

    ALI MASSOUD

    Class of 2017

    Massoud graduated in 2017 with a degree in international studies. He currently works with CAIR Alabama (Council on American-Islamic Relations) as a government affairs coordinator, where he is charged with educating and engaging voters for increased civic participation.

    Faulkner says she worked on her application every day for about four months. Though the process was rigorous, it was made easier because she had a clear idea of what she wanted to do. “Even so, I must have gone through at least three dozen drafts of my essays, which included a personal statement and a rather detailed outline of my research objectives and methods,” she says.

    “You have to think in concrete terms and explain your plan and purpose unambiguously,” she continues. “The only advice I have for that is just to be well-read on the area you plan to stay in and culture you intend to study, your research, and other similar projects that could serve as guides for your own. I personally took inspiration from the work already being done by various government-sponsored institutes across India to preserve the country’s traditional arts and the methodology of the cataloging work that I had done in the past as an undergraduate.”

    Another federally funded program open to about 600 students each year is the Critical Language Scholarship Program. Students who receive this scholarship undergo an eight-week language immersion in a language important to national security and economic prosperity. At the same time, students are also learning about and living in the culture they’ve studied to enhance their understanding.

    For UAB Honors College Global Community Leadership program student Ayla McCay, the scholarship enabled her to study Korean as part of her goal to work in international human rights.

    The application process, she says, was straightforward, but the impact the program had on her future plans was unexpected. “As a student from a low-income background, I never thought that studying abroad would be an option,” she says. “Because of CLS and the help of our fellowship office, my life is going in a direction I never thought would be possible.”

    All of the students are shepherded through the application and selection process by Ashley Floyd Kuntz, Ph.D., fellowships director and assistant professor in the UAB Honors College. Dr. Kuntz says that all of the students applying for fellowships and scholarships, regardless of whether they are members of the Honors College or not, have a tremendous support system around them—one that goes all the way to the top. "We are fortunate to have the strong support of President Watts," she says. "Dr. Watts makes time each fall to meet with nominees and learn about the projects they’re proposing. He advises students to be themselves, even when facing intimidating interview panels, and he encourages students to believe in their potential to compete at the highest levels. Few university presidents take such a sincere interest in getting to know students and celebrating their successes."

    POST-GRADUATE

    Some of these programs support recent grads’ graduate studies. Anthonia Carter, who graduated with degrees in mathematics and art, applied for and received the Fulbright Study/Research grant to pursue a degree in multidisciplinary innovation at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. The application process was pretty standard, she says. “I chose to pursue this because I come from a multidisciplinary background of mathematics and art. I’m passionate about giving back and teaching kids that anyone is capable of learning and giving them the confidence to learn.”

    The hardest part, she continues, was opening up to write her personal statement. “The easiest thing to do is to talk about my academic background. It was harder to open up and let them see what motivates me—to tell them that I was raised by a single mom who said that if I didn’t do well, she wouldn’t pay for college.”

    During her time in the program, she has learned a lot about identifying and solving organizational, systemic, and creative problems in many industries. All of this, she says, is in preparation to get her Ph.D., and to one day open a youth-focused community center.

    CHANGED LIVES

    For some of these students, the award has only solidified their future plans. But for a few of them, this experience has completely changed the trajectory of their lives. “My time in Korea has definitely changed my plans for the future,” McCay says. “[While] applying for CLS, I thought that Korean language and culture would only be a small part of my career going forward with international human rights. Now, I cannot see a future that does not involve going back to Korea.”

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