Displaying items by tag: faculty excellence

Valerie Accetta, M.F.A., assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and the head of UAB’s new bachelor of fine arts degree program in musical theatre, has plenty of impressive roles under her belt, from playing romantic lead Margy Frake in the first national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair to singing baroque opera in Greece.
Dr. Ryoichi Kawai (Department of Physics) and Dr. Elizabeth Sztul (School of Medicine) are the latest winners of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Awards.
November 12, 2014

Secrets In Stone

Dr. Cathleen Cummings, Associate Professor of Art History, is featured in UAB Magazine this month for her work decoding religious carvings on the eight-century Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal, India.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have taken an in-depth look at patterns in pediatric sports-related injuries in anew study published in the Journal of Athletic Training.
Take a video tour of the Biobehavioral Pain Research Lab at UAB with director Burel Goodin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor of Piano Yakov Kasman, DMA, will perform as part of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s “Concertmaster and Friends” series.
Aaron L. Lucius, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, was formally presented with the Dean's Excellence in Mentorship Award.
Mark Hickson, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Communication Studies, is the 2014 recipient of the National Communication Association Gerald M. Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship.
Justice Sciences' Chair Dr. John Sloan has received a $24K grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Social and Economic Sciences (SES) Directorate to support a conference on ethics and digital forensics next May at NSF headquarters in Bethesda, MD.
The first book by University of Alabama at Birmingham Associate Professor of Art History Cathleen Cummings, M.A., Ph.D., “Decoding a Hindu Temple: Royalty and Religion in the Iconographic Program of the Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal,” has been published.
The College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce that Dr. Timothy Levine has accepted the position as Chair of the Department of Communication Studies.
The Department of Justice Sciences is pleased to announce that Dr. Elizabeth Gardner is the new Director of the department's forensic science program.
August 19, 2014

Liquid Chemistry

If you’ve never heard of zymurgy, you aren’t alone. But if you’ve ever tasted a beer, you’ve experienced it: Zymurgy is the science of fermentation.
CAPTCHA services that require users to recognize and type in static distorted characters may be a method of the past, according to studies published by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
UAB Computer and Information Sciences assistant professor Thamar Solorio has been named the winner of the Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award. The award recognizes a junior faculty member for high-quality research and significant positive impact on diversity.
During the past year, 11 faculty have worked together to create new service-learning courses or to integrate components in existing courses. Martha Earwood of Justice Sciences is one of them.
Professor George Liber's expertise in Soviet, post-Soviet, and East European history has been in demand by local news media ever since the crisis in Ukraine began in February 2014.
Page 13 of 19
  • What philosophy teaches us

    How do you know you’re awake right now? You’re reading this, so of course you’re awake. Still, though. How do you know you’re not dreaming?

    How do you know you’re awake right now? You’re reading this, so of course you’re awake. Still, though. How do you know you’re not dreaming?

    Philosopher René Descartes posed this challenge back in the 1600s to make sure he had a solid foundation of knowledge and to throw out anything he didn’t know with absolute certainty. But, he wondered, can we even trust our senses? What if we’re just dreaming right now? The catch was clear: there is no test you could devise to prove that you’re not dreaming, because you could always be dreaming that you passed the test.

    I’m an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and this is a fun little game we play in introductory philosophy classes. I use a twist with my students, though. I start by asking them why they believe what I say. “Because you have a Ph.D.!” they reply. “Cool. How do you know?” Eventually, after many false starts, they land somewhere around “Well, UAB hired you, so you must know what you’re doing.” I ask if that’s what they write on every instructor evaluation. (Spoiler: it’s not.)

    My goal in this game is not to undermine their faith in the academic community to which they’ve committed their mind, energy, and finances. Quite the contrary. My goal is to challenge them to engage with that community, to dig in, to get what they came for. It’s like Descartes’ dream trick: I want them to think about what they believe and why they believe it. After a while, students admit they don’t know why they trust me. This might seem worrying, but in fact it’s nothing short of inspiring. See, they don’t know it yet, but they’ve just arrived at the starting point of meaningful conversation. In fact, it’s the required starting point in philosophy. They’ve just said, “I don’t know.”

    Philosophy is an activity, a thing one does, a style of thinking. It takes a ton of practice. As researchers, we’re trying to figure out what we should believe and do. As teachers, we’re trying to help students do the same thing.

    One reason it takes so much practice is that the entire project is fundamentally countercultural. Think about any other type of debate. The goal is to win. You start with your conclusion, you defend it to the bitter end, and you earn bonus points for crushing the other side along the way. In philosophy, the goal is to figure out what is right. We don’t start with the conclusion and plug in reasons until the debate moderator cuts our mic. We start with reasons and see where they lead.

    Rule #1 in philosophy: humility. We want to find the right answer and know we may not already have it, so we have to listen to others. Importantly, we have to try to understand their reasons for disagreeing with us. Rule #2: charity. Our goal is not to prove our own intellectual or moral superiority; it’s just to figure out hard things together. With this shared goal in mind, we work through hard, important questions together.

    Lest any of this seem overly idealistic and ivory-tower-ish, it’s worth noting that a 2020 report from Project Lead the Way and Burning Glass Technologies (pdf) identified the following skills as “most demanded” by employers: problem solving, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and ethical and moral reasoning. So, contrary to every philosophy joke ever, philosophy cultivates the exact skills the paid labor market wants!

    But it’s so much more than that. Imagine a world where we begin with humility, charity, and a shared goal of figuring it out together, and then–through dialogue, in community with one another–we ask how we should live. Told you: nothing short of inspiring.

    Read more...
  • Gezon selected to lead Department of Anthropology

    Lisa Gezon, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Anthropology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Lisa Gezon, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Anthropology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Lisa Gezon, Ph.D.Dr. Gezon received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Albion College and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    Dr. Gezon has been a faculty member in the Anthropology Department at the University of West Georgia for 25 years and has served as chair of the department for a total of 13 years.

    Dr. Gezon specializes in cultural anthropology, and her areas of research are in health and environment, with a focus on sustainability and social justice. She has done research in Madagascar, Guatemala, and the United States. Generally, she has been interested in topics related to health and wellness. Theoretically, she has written on political ecology, degrowth, and critical medical anthropology. In her current research and scholarship, she is analyzing local responses to COVID-19, and she plans to return to Madagascar to study pluralistic approaches to health.

    “I am excited about joining the UAB Anthropology Department,” said Gezon. “I look forward to working with faculty and staff in order to promote professional growth and meet ever-changing student needs through innovative programming in an inclusive and collaborative environment.”

    In addition to publishing numerous peer-reviewed articles and edited volumes, Dr. Gezon has published two monographs: Global Visions, Local Landscapes: A Political Ecology of Conservation, Conflict, and Control in Northern Madagascar (AltaMira Press, 2006) and Drug Effects: Khat in Biocultural and Socioeconomic Perspective (Left Coast Press, 2012). She is currently under contract to co-author a book to be called Anthropology of Drugs.

    She has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship, and the National Geographic Society.

    “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gezon to UAB and to Birmingham,” said Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Lisa is an experienced and excellent leader who will support the Department of Anthropology's growth and create new collaborations and partnerships across the campus and community. We are very fortunate to have recruited her.”

    “The College also appreciates Dr. Chris Kyle’s effective leadership during his extended time as interim chair of the department,” said Dean Thomas.

    Read more...
  • Kerley selected to lead Department of Criminal Justice

    Kent R. Kerley, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Kent R. Kerley, Ph.D.Kent R. Kerley, Ph.D., has been named the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Dr. Kerley received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from East Tennessee State University and a Ph.D. in Sociology/Criminology from the University of Tennessee.

    Since 2015, Dr. Kerley served as professor and chair in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also served as a faculty member at UAB for ten years (2005-2015) and at Mississippi State University (2001-2005).

    “I am honored to return to UAB in this new role as chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. UAB was my home for ten great years early in my academic career, and I am thrilled to come back,” said Dr. Kerley. “I want to thank my department colleagues, search committee members, and Dean Kecia M. Thomas for this amazing opportunity to serve. I support fully the dean’s vision for increasing Inclusive Excellence in CAS and look forward to working with my new colleagues in support of that vision.”

    Dr. Kerley’s primary research interests include corrections, religiosity, and drug careers. His research has appeared in top journals such as Aggression and Violent Behavior, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Justice Quarterly, Social Forces, and Social Problems. He is author of Religious Faith in Correctional Contexts (2014), Current Studies in the Sociology of Religion (2015), Finding Freedom in Confinement: The Role of Religion in Prison Life (2018), and Religion and Crime: Theory, Research, and Practice (2018).

    “The College of Arts and Sciences is excited to welcome Dr. Kent Kerley back to Birmingham,” said Dean Thomas. “Dr. Kerley is an outstanding and engaged scholar and funded researcher who will help to elevate the continuing success of the Department of Criminal Justice. I am happy to have him as a new leader and a partner in the College’s mission related to Inclusive Excellence.”

    Dr. Kerley was Principal Investigator for two National Science Foundation grants used to create a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at UAB called Using the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics to Study Crime. He has also received research funding from Google and the Religious Research Association.

    Dr. Kerley currently serves as the vice president for the Southern Criminal Justice Association and will become SCJA President in September 2022. He and his wife, Lori Hill Kerley, met at the University of Tennessee and have two kids, eight grandkids, and one dog.

    “Our Department of Criminal Justice is interdisciplinary and unique in that our faculty excel in three areas: forensic science, digital forensics, and criminal justice. Dr. Kerley is committed to the success of all three areas, and I’m looking forward to all the ways in which the department will continue to flourish under his leadership,” said Dean Thomas.

    “I’m also very grateful for the leadership of Dr. Jeff Walker, outgoing chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and our College’s newest University Professor. I look forward to the continued impact he will have on our campus and in the community,” said Dean Thomas.

    Read more...
  • Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration partners in $20 million statewide effort funded by NSF

    Nine Alabama universities and one private firm are partnered in a new $20 million, five-year effort to develop transformative technologies in plasma science and engineering.

    Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., working with physics graduate student Chris Perreault.Nine Alabama universities and one private firm are partnered in a new $20 million, five-year effort led by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) to develop transformative technologies in plasma science and engineering (PSE) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

    The grant is entitled “Future Technologies enabled by Plasma Processes” (FTPP) and will be for a five-year duration (2022-2027) to explore plasma synthesized novel materials, surface modified biomaterials, food safety and sterilization, and space weather prediction.

    Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., associate dean for University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and professor university scholar in the Department of Physics, serves as a co-principal investigator and UAB’s Institutional lead for this statewide award. The UAB research team, led by Vohra, includes the following members from the UAB Center for Nanoscale Materials and Biointegration (CNMB), which is based in CAS:

    Scott Snyder, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Education, will provide internal evaluation for this grant and will monitor management, statewide workforce issues, and internal projects.

    The grant will support two postdoctoral research scholars at UAB—along with several graduate students—who will work synergistically with other academic institutions and an industrial partner in this consortium. In addition, the grant offers the opportunity for faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars to take the laboratory-based pilot synthesis of novel materials to their full commercial potential.

    “The funding is the result of a team effort from the co-investigators in assembling the group, who generated the concepts and ideas underlying the proposal and executed the plan by writing a successful proposal,” said Gary Zank, Ph.D., FTPP’s principal investigator, director of UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) and the Aerojet Rocketdyne chair of the Department of Space Science.

    Although different in aims, research goals, and scope from a previous $20 million NSF EPSCoR grant awarded in 2017, the new FTPP grant will continue to build plasma expertise, research, and industrial capacity, as well as a highly trained and capable plasma science and engineering workforce, across Alabama.

    Yogesh Vohra. “Plasma is the most abundant form of matter in the observable universe. PSE is a technological and scientific success story, translating advances in fundamental plasma science to technologies that address society’s needs,” said Vohra. “UAB’s role in this consortium is to develop future transformational technologies enabled by PSE including data-driven approaches in plasma synthesized high-entropy and quantum materials.”

    According to Vohra, the research team will employ machine learning techniques to speed up the process for materials discovery and guide the materials synthesis effort using microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition and plasmas generated by high-powered lasers. The plasma synthesized materials will be especially designed for their applicability in extreme environments, including elevated temperatures as well as thin-film superconductors which can be used in quantum information devices. An additional effort is devoted to plasma assisted metal nanoparticle deposition for their antimicrobial properties to be employed in biomedical devices for reduction in infection rates.

    Partnered with UAH and UAB are the University of Alabama (lead: Dr. R. Branam), Auburn University (lead: Dr. E. Thomas), Tuskegee University (lead: Dr. V. Rangari), the University of South Alabama (lead: Dr. E. Spencer), Alabama A&M University (lead: Dr. R. Mentreddy), Alabama State University (lead: Dr. K. Vig), and Oakwood University (lead: Dr. A. Volkov), together with a commercial/industrial partner CFD Research Corporation (lead: Dr. V. Kolobov), that specializes in computational fluid dynamics software and is located in Cummings Research Park.

    In addition, FTPP cooperatively partners with three national laboratories: Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Lab, and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. FTPP will harness and share cooperatively the project team’s collective expertise, resources, and workforce.

    “Not only are the problems to be investigated in the FTPP program among the most challenging intellectually, they have enormous societal benefits and commercial implications,” said Zank.

    Read more...
  • Welcoming Dr. Ellen Mwenesongole to UAB

    Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice, moved to Birmingham in January 2022.

    Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D.,Ellen Mwenesongole, Ph.D. associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Criminal Justice, moved to Birmingham in January 2022. Prior to coming to UAB, Mwenesongole studied and worked at universities in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Botswana.

    Burel Goodin, Ph.D., associate professor in UAB’s Department of Psychology, wanted to learn more about Mwenesongole’s journey to UAB and her scholarly work, so he recently conducted a digital interview with her. Below is an edited summary of their conversation.

    Goodin: What brings you to UAB and how has the transition been? 

    Mwenesongole: I chose to come to UAB due to its reputation as a research-intensive university and because it has one of the few accredited master’s in forensic science degree programs in the U.S. The opportunities offered to faculty for career development, research, and teaching also attracted me to UAB, as did its genuine approach and effort towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. After being appointed by UAB, I initially started teaching online while based in Botswana, which was not easy with the time difference. Now, it is so much better being in the same country while teaching. It’s been a few months since I arrived in Birmingham, so I’m still in the transition period, but I realize that there are more similarities than differences from previous universities I’ve worked at. 

    Goodin: You seem to have a varied education and work experience, tell us more about that. 

    Mwenesongole: My venture into further education actually started at Procter & Gamble in South Africa where I worked as a senior scientist after obtaining my bachelor’s degree in chemistry. I wanted to be part of the research and  development team, but, at that time, most of my workmates in that section had master’s or Ph.D. degrees. Therefore, I took time out to get a master’s degree with the intention of returning to the corporate world as a research and development scientist. I guess the study-bug bit, and I ended up with chemistry and forensic science master’s degrees from University of Pretoria and University of Strathclyde, respectively, and a Ph.D. in Forensic Science from Anglia Ruskin University. I interspaced my studies with working at a pharmaceutical company in Scotland and a doping control laboratory in South Africa before venturing into academia to lead the development of forensic science programs at universities in South Africa and Botswana. 

    Goodin: How did you end up in forensic science? 

    Mwenesongole: My interest in science was ignited when I was in junior high school—from that point forward, I knew I’d end up as some sort of scientist. Also, my interest in mystery crime novels and movies fuelled my passion to contribute to using science to aid in investigating criminal incidents.

    Goodin: What are your current research interests? 

    Mwenesongole: My key focus area of research is in analyzing drugs of abuse (illicit and pharmaceutical) from different matrices such as blood, urine, and wastewater. Analysis of wastewater provides a quick snapshot of what drugs a particular community is using and can help with developing appropriate intervention measures from a law enforcement, health, or education perspective. It’s research that I have conducted in the U.K. and Botswana and plan to continue in the U.S. In recent years, I’ve also been involved in the chemical profiling of illicit drugs for intelligence purposes. 

    Goodin: What is your thought on collaborations—are you open to collaborations? 

    Mwenesongole: Once you realize that no one person, department, university, organization, or other entity holds the key to solving any problem, you start appreciating that answers to problems can come about much quicker when you collaborate with others. I’ve collaborated with universities in the U.K., Botswana, and South Africa and hope to extend that into U.S. universities as well as other departments at UAB. The most effective collaborations are those in which every team member’s voice is heard and their competence and experience in a particular area is harnessed for the good of the overall research project. Collaborations that fizzle out within a short time are those where a few team members think they know best and impose ideas onto others rather than incorporating various ideas and ways of doing things to arrive at the best outcome.

    Goodin: What would you like to see changed or improved in your area of teaching or research? 

    Mwenesongole: Forensic science still has many unchartered areas of research both on a local and global scale. I’d like to see more collaboration with various departments—such as engineering and the legal department—to develop relevant and unique products that can be used in teaching and research. More work also needs to be done to collaborate with relevant stakeholders, including various law enforcement agencies and forensic labs nationally and internationally. Also, we must find opportunities to collaborate with other forensic programs. There is so much one can learn from interacting with a diverse portfolio of collaborators.

    Goodin: What are your expectations from UAB and what do you hope to achieve? 

    Mwenesongole: My expectations of UAB are tied to what attracted me to the university in the first place. I expect to be given the space to use the opportunities at hand to grow my teaching and research portfolio. We must avoid saying, “We have always done things this way,” because that mindset can become a hindrance to teaching and research. I look forward to freely contributing to the growth of the department, college, and university.

    Read more...
  • Goodin seeks more equity in pain research

    Goodin has identified social determinants that created barriers for minority and minoritized communities seeking continued access to care providers for chronic pain.

    The Journey to Pain Research

    As an undergraduate student at Illinois College, Burel Goodin, Ph.D., was drawn to both biology and psychology. He majored in the former and minored in the latter and, along the way, uncovered fascinating points of intersection between the two disciplines.

    “I started to inquire more about fields of study and potential job opportunities that really brought together biology and psychology,” said Goodin.

    After earning a B.S. in Biology, Goodin sought out graduate programs that would offer him opportunities to research topics that touched both fields of study. Over time, he found his way to pain science and pain research.

    “Ultimately, I landed at mental health with an emphasis on neuroscience… and [eventually] pain. It was a natural fit—I found it fascinating,” said Goodin. “You can’t make pain go away. It serves an adaptive purpose. The chronic aspect—you want to try make that go away or make it more manageable.”

    As he dug deeper into chronic pain, his research uncovered troubling disparities. According to Goodin, “the prevalence rates of developing a chronic pain condition are often equal across racial groups.” That said, often, the burden disproportionality impacts minoritized and minority communities. Goodin was concerned by these findings and was determined to figure out his role as a scientist in the field.

    “I wanted to understand and better characterize how disparities come about and how they manifest,” said Goodin.

    While researching disparities in pain science, Goodin identified a set of concerning findings related to determinants. Specifically, he identified social determinants that created barriers—especially financial barriers—for minority and minoritized communities seeking continued access to care providers for chronic pain. Social issues—particularly racism, sexism, and agism—manifest these treatment disparities, says Goodin.

    Building a Career at UAB

    Goodin continued his pain research through a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Florida and, near the end of that fellowship, he accepted a position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2012.

    “I was impressed… by the vision of the Department of Psychology,” said Goodin. “They were trying to increase their thumbprint with pain science and also moving into the intersection of pain and addiction science.”

    After arriving at UAB, Goodin identified a vast landscape of new interdisciplinary resources and partners across the campus. He embraced these opportunities and, eventually, became the co-director for the Center for Addiction and Pain Prevention and Intervention (CAPPI) alongside Karen Cropsey, Psy.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology in the Heersink School of Medicine.

    A Call to Action

    In recent years, Goodin has turned his attention to the conduct of pain research—specifically, the ways in which language within the field can perpetuate racist ideologies. It’s not enough to be non-racist, says Goodin. Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed on anti-racism.

    “To be anti-racist is it to be actively against racism and trying to do things to draw attention to it and to have difficult conversations [about it]. If it’s making people uncomfortable, then that’s how I know we’re doing it right,” said Goodin.

    His commitment to action is clear in a series of three new papers that the Journal of Pain published earlier this year. The name of the first manuscript communicates a powerful message that reflects Goodin’s priorities: “Confronting Racism in Pain Research: A Call to Action.”

    “The first paper is really a call-to-action—this is what’s been going on, this is why it’s troubling, and we want folks to do better,” said Goodin. “[Also], we want it to be a blueprint for other fields beyond pain.”

    In total, numerous co-authors from across the globe came together to contribute insights and research to the three manuscripts, including two additional faculty members from UAB: Calia Morias, Psy.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, and Edwin Aroke, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Nursing. For Goodin, this interdisciplinary collaboration is essential to the effort of making pain research more equitable.

    When summarizing the research, Goodin seems particularly passionate about the paper entitled, “Confronting Racism in all Forms of Pain Research: A Shared Commitment for Engagement, Diversity, and Dissemination.” Through this paper, Goodin and his co-authors advocate for expanding the number of seats at the table in the field of pain research and inviting more people to that table.

    “How do we engage those in the field, as well as the communities that our field represents and that we care about,” said Goodin. “How do we make it more inclusive?”

    So, moving forward, Goodin and his colleagues plan to prioritize these questions, especially when developing outreach efforts and designing studies (which is the focus of the third paper). Simply stated, representation matters, says Goodin.

    For those who are interested in exploring all three manuscripts, you can access them by visiting the following links:

    Read more...
  • 2022 Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas

    The Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas was established in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2018 in honor of the 16th-century French essayist.

    Jonathan Wiesen, Ph.D.The recipient of the 2022 Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas is Jonathan Wiesen, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of History. This prestigious academic award acknowledges his notable essay "International Responses to Nazi Race and Jewish Policy, 1933-1939." Dr. Wiesen's UAB colleagues on the selection committee chose his work for this honor.

    The selection committee remarked that "This essay situates the argument clearly within scholarly discourse and cites relevant literature" and went on to describe the piece as "clearly written and organized." Moreover, the members note, "The discussion of the U.S. as a case study for race and how it fed into German policies in the 1930s is both accessibly framed and really a stunning contribution to this area of research."

    The Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas includes a $1,000 award, as well as a plaque to commemorate Dr. Wiesen's achievement.

    Read more...
  • 2022 winners of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Award 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 (CAS) who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

    2022 winners of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching: Ragib Hasan, Ph.D.; Dione King, Ph.D.; and Andrew Baer, Ph.D.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 (CAS) 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 Excellence in Teaching Committee selected award recipients for being outstanding representatives of effective teaching and thoughtful pedagogy from the Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    • Arts and Humanities: Andrew Baer, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of History
    • Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences: Dione King, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work

    Congratulations to this year’s winners. Also, in the near future, one of these faculty members will be awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

    Read more...
  • UAB Professor Emeritus honored through gifts to his academic department – and one of his favorite pastimes

    The sister of Dr. Edward L. Wills chose to celebrate her brother’s career in physics and his lifetime of trumpet-playing.

    When giving back to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in her brother’s memory, Physics Professor Emeritus Edward L. Wills’ sister Mary Buckman chose both a professional and a personal recipient: Naturally, the Physics department, housed within the College of Arts and Sciences, and the UAB Summer Community Band, which Wills participated in each summer and deeply enjoyed.

    A $100,000 gift to the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences established an endowed scholarship in his name, The Edward L. Wills Endowed Scholarship in Physics. Alongside it, a $50,000 gift was given to the UAB Summer Band, comprised of adult amateur and professional musicians from around the Birmingham metro. The band rehearses Monday nights in June and performs an annual Fourth of July concert on UAB’s campus. Wills played the trumpet in the band while a student at Auburn University (he’d later return annually to Homecoming to play on the field with the Auburn Alumni Band). After retirement, he joined the UAB Summer Community Band, where he formed friendships and continually honed his trumpet-playing skills before his death in September 2020.

    “Ed spent a lot of time in his last years playing the trumpet with the Birmingham Community Concert Band, and also played each Fourth of July with the UAB Summer Band that has always performed before the fireworks show at UAB,” said Todd DeVore, Ph.D., one of Wills’ colleagues in the UAB Department of Physics. “One of his yearly highlights, until his very last years, was playing with the Auburn Alumni Band at the halftime of Auburn’s Homecoming football game. He is missed by friends who knew him from all these activities.”

    Wills’ gift to the Summer Community Band will allow it to grow as an ensemble, said Dr. Sean Murray, Director of Bands at UAB.

    “We will use this support to offer more diverse musical offerings and allow for a more professional presentation at our annual July 4 concert,” he said.

    Wills was born and raised in Birmingham and graduated from Woodlawn High School before heading off to Auburn and, later, the University of Virginia for graduate school and the University of Georgia for a post-doctoral appointment, where he studied nuclear physics.

    “Ed loved Birmingham, so getting hired by UAB Physics in the early days of the department was a good fit for him,” DeVore said. “Ed quietly supported several Birmingham institutions and organizations he cared about over the years. When I attend an event at the Alabama Theatre, I like to sit in the chair with his name on it.”

    Wills was committed to seeing his hometown of Birmingham thrive, DeVore said; he was equally as passionate about UAB. In his later years, Wills–known affectionately as “Doc” to his closest friends at UAB–bought season tickets to UAB football games and, even when he was no longer well enough to attend himself, shared his tickets with others who might enjoy attending. As a professor, students appreciated his down-to-earth nature and sense of humor, DeVore said, and his $100,000 gift to the department will help others appreciate the discipline as much as he did.

    “I would say his gift is important to physics because it helps support scholarships for Alabama students who may follow in his physics footsteps,” DeVore said. “We have many talented high school students in this state, but many do not see regular evidence of STEM opportunities we have here in Alabama and at UAB. Scholarships are an important tool to help students and they help us promote the attractive physics tracks we have to offer.”

    After joining the UAB faculty in 1973, Wills oversaw the undergraduate lab program for many years and was involved in numerous experimental research efforts while at UAB, including blood flow studies with the Department of Neurology. He taught both undergraduate and graduate classes and, when he wasn’t teaching or playing trumpet, was an avid organizer of class reunions for his fellow graduates of Woodlawn High School. He was also a board member of Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and a frequent supporter of Birmingham’s Jimmie Hale Mission.

    Read more...
  • Sunken ‘Endurance’ is far more than a relic

    My first thought upon learning of the discovery of the Endurance was that despite the constant barrage of gut-wrenching news about the Russian slaughter of Ukrainian civilians and North Korea’s latest intercontinental missile test there is some good news about the human capacity to cooperate and endure.

    My first thought upon learning of the discovery of the Endurance was that despite the constant barrage of gut-wrenching news about the Russian slaughter of Ukrainian civilians and North Korea’s latest intercontinental missile test there is some good news about the human capacity to cooperate and endure. My second thought was “Thank God, I lived to see the day!” Not only one of the most storied shipwrecks of all time, the vessel’s discovery below the diminishing sea ice of the Weddell Sea focuses international attention on a region of our planet undergoing unprecedented climate change.

    James McClintock, Ph.D., photo by Michelle ValbergMarine Archaeologist Mensun Bound, the leader of the international Discovery Expedition that found the shipwreck seemed overwhelmed by the condition of the ship, exclaiming, “Without any exaggeration, this is the finest wooden shipwreck I have ever seen – by far.” There is an element of poetic justice in the sustainability of the Endurance, its largely intact hulk having rested upon the seafloor for 107 years. Shackleton famously sustained his party of 27 men for a year and a half after sea ice trapped the ship on January 18, 1915. The party endured subsequent hardships beyond imagination.

    Living aboard the stricken ship and then camped on the adjacent sea ice the men watched and listened as the pressure of the ice slowly cracked the hull of the Endurance like a walnut. The ship sank from sight on November 21, 1915. Five months later, the ice supporting the party’s camp broke apart and the men sought refuge in to life boats retrieved earlier from the ship. Negotiating ice and waves that soaked shivering men, the party managed to land on Elephant Island off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here, for the first time in 497 days, the men stood on land.

    Shackleton realized no rescue would happen, and he would need to take a small party and sail 780 nautical miles northeast with the hopes of reaching the whaling station on the island of South Georgia. Through a perilous sea, they sailed, reaching the island only to beach their boats and discover they would have to climb over the island’s central mountains to reach the whaling station. On April 20, 2016, Shackleton and two of his men at last reached the station: unkempt and grime-covered they were unrecognizable. Four and a half months later, on August 30, 1916, Shackleton made it back to Elephant Island to rescue the remainder of his party. In the end, not a single man was lost.

    As if gently placed by hand, the Endurance sits upright at a depth of 10,000 feet. Images taken by a remotely operated vehicle reveal a hull littered with sea anemones, sea cucumbers, starfish, brittle stars, and sponges. The pristine nature of the wreck is not by chance. Here in the icy-cold Southern Ocean, the types of microbes, worms and clams that infest and in some cases, burrow into and consume wood, are absent. Without such vectors of decomposition, the hull and the deck of the ship are beautifully intact.

    Dr. Polly Penhale, Environmental Director for the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, informed me via e-mail that the wreck of the Endurance is already listed as an ‘Historic Site and Monument’ by the Antarctic Treaty. Remarkably, this protective measure had been ratified by the parties of the Antarctic treaty in anticipation of the famous shipwreck’s discovery. Protections include the ship’s hull and fittings and all items of personal possessions left on the ship by the ship’s company at the time.

    In the bigger picture, the Antarctic Treaty does far more that provide a platform to protect historical artifacts. This one-of-a-kind document ensures that the world’s seventh continent, a land mass the size of China and India combined, is devoid of any militarization or exploitation of mineral and oil resources. Even sovereignty land claims go purposefully unrecognized under the treaty. Antarctica remains a continent for science and peace and poignantly illustrates the advantages of international cooperation and collaboration.

    In reverence to Shackleton’s party whose return to England demarcated the end of the heroic era, and whose collective ordeal of survival has come to symbolize attributes of exemplary leadership, collaboration, and the boundaries of the human condition, the designation of the ship as a perpetual monument is well served. The Endurance will remain intact on the polar seafloor for centuries to come, serving as a reminder that, to endure, nations must work in unity to preserve Antarctica and its hidden treasures.

    Dr. James McClintock is Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology in the Department of Biology. He recently returned from his 31st trip to Antarctica, 15 of which were expeditions supported by the National Science Foundation.

    Read more...
  • Laurel Hitchcock seeks innovative ways to train future social workers

    After Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Social Work, graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin in 1991, she joined the Peace Corps as a volunteer.

    After Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Social Work, graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin in 1991, she joined the Peace Corps as a volunteer. She served two years in Senegal, West Africa, and, when she returned home to the Midwest, she wanted to further expand her knowledge of public health. While exploring graduate school options, she found UAB and developed an interest in the young university.

     

    Laurel Hitchcock, Ph.D.“UAB is a top-notch public health program,” said Hitchcock. “I fell in love with the University and the state.”

    Soon after discovering UAB, Hitchcock packed her things and moved to Birmingham. She earned a Master of Public Health from UAB, then continued her academic journey at the University of Alabama where she earned a Master of Social Work and a Ph.D. in Social Work.

    While conducting research for her dissertation at UA, Hitchcock identified areas where both public health and social work intersect.

    “I started off being very interested in historical research—social welfare policies—and the combination between social work and public health,” said Hitchcock.

    This interest prompted a deeper connection to the field of social work. So, as Hitchcock entered the early days of her academic career, her research and teaching interests began to shift.

    “Early on, I really got interested in how we train people to do really difficult helping professions,” said Hitchcock. “My research is about training the best social workers we can. And, additionally, using new tools to do that… doing innovative things like simulations.”

    As she continued to seek out innovative ways to train future social workers, Hitchcock found several opportunities to work with UAB, including as an adjunct instructor and a team member for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Through these relationships and experiences, she formed a deep connection to the institution and, eventually, moved into a full-time faculty role with the Department of Social Work in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013.

    When she arrived at UAB as a faculty member, she brought a valuable partnership with her. Prior to joining the Department of Social Work, Hitchcock frequently worked alongside Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization that breaks down barriers to prosperity through education, collaboration, and advocacy. Hitchcock was (and continues to be) a strong advocate for the organization’s Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS).

    “They were using poverty simulations to educate professionals in the community,” said Hitchcock. “When I came to UAB… I connected Alabama Possible with my colleagues, and we thought, ‘Let’s do some of these simulations! We should be doing this with students before they become professionals.’”

    The Missouri Community Action Network created CAPS, and Alabama Possible describes the simulation in the following way:

    [A] unique, interactive experience that helps facilitate understanding of the challenges faced by individuals in our community who are living at or below the poverty level. The simulation increases participants’ understanding of hardships and the emotional toll experienced by impoverished members of our society and the work it takes to achieve self-sufficiency.

    During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of families living at or below the poverty level. Participants will experience typical challenges faced by individuals living in the context of constrained financial circumstances including maintaining employment, caring for children or elderly family members, seeking public assistance, and dealing with transportation issues.

    After partnering with Alabama Possible on poverty simulations during her first year at UAB, Hitchcock—and her colleagues from the School of Nursing—decided it would be wise to build internal capacity to facilitate future experiences at the university. Also, they wanted to ensure they were achieving specific learning outcomes for students.

    These goals sparked campus-wide partnerships with the School of Nursing, the Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation, the School of Dentistry, the Heersink School of Medicine, the School of Optometry, the School of Health Professions, the School of Public Health, the African American Studies Program, and the Department of Criminal Justice. According to Hitchcock, these partners—including students and faculty—came together because they recognized the experience(s) can prompt people to think about poverty as a systematic problem that needs to be addressed by everyone.

    Now, over six years later, hundreds of students participate in the simulations across campus each year. Also, dozens of faculty and staff members volunteer their time to facilitate the experiences and participate in conversations with each other (and students) afterwards. For Hitchcock, the growth has been inspiring and has influenced her scholarly work.

    “It’s a nice trajectory for how an academic can use a community partnership to create a body of peer-reviewed work,” said Hitchcock. “I have six peer-reviewed articles from the work of the poverty simulations—all done, of course, in collaboration with others.”

    These publications examine a number of topics related to the poverty simulations, ranging from the overall of structure of the experiences to the impact on students. Most recently, Hitchcock and several of her colleagues conducted a comprehensive reflection on the simulations, which led to two articles that were published in the Journal of Health Communication in 2021.

    According to Hitchcock, “These two articles are an accumulation of all the work and really help tell the story of why we should do poverty simulations in higher education.”

    Thankfully, Hitchcock and her collaborators identified a way to continue these valuable simulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the experiences are offered virtually through a platform called Spent, which was developed by Urban Ministries of Durham. This pivot embodies Hitchcock’s own teaching philosophy, which is ever evolving and flexible.

    “My teaching philosophy is dynamic—we do have to pivot a lot. Especially given recent events,” said Hitchcock. “My most recent pivot in my teaching philosophy has been around trauma-informed teaching and really trying to bring my understanding that our students are going through traumatic experiences, just like everybody else, so how can we bring that into our teaching with students.”

    It’s an approach that is rooted in active listening, empathy, and, in some instances, service learning—all themes that Hitchcock has embodied throughout her academic career.

    Read more...
  • New social work course resonates with students

    In November 2020, the College of Arts and Sciences awarded “Building a Multicultural Curriculum” grants to eight faculty members for academic year 2020-2021. With the grants, faculty members could develop new courses or revise existing courses to support students’ diversity awareness and build their multicultural competence.

    In November 2020, the College of Arts and Sciences awarded “Building a Multicultural Curriculum” grants to eight faculty members for the academic year 2020-2021. With the grants, faculty members could develop new courses or revise existing courses to support students’ diversity awareness and build their multicultural competence.

    Dione Moultrie King, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Social Work, was one of the faculty members who received a grant. King’s research focuses on minority health disparities and adverse childhood experiences, and she has a deep interest in preparing her students to serve communities effectively. With this in mind, King used her grant to develop a new course entitled, “The Health and Well-being of Black Americans: A Social Work Approach,” which she taught for the first time in Spring 2021.

    “In social work, diversity is really important. It’s one of the new standards that we’ll be continuing to bridge on,” said King. “I wanted to build a course that focused largely on the Black experience.”

    For King, a former middle school teacher who grew up in Birmingham and graduated from Ramsay High School, examining the systems and institutions that perpetuate inequity in Black communities is a necessity for future social workers.

    “[We have] students learning to serve marginalized and vulnerable populations, [and] there really was a gap in them understanding the historical component that… was impacting their ability to deliver services,” said King. “[Clients] have been engaging in systems that weren’t designed for them and/or didn’t support them, so there’s a general level of mistrust.”

    As King developed the new course, she worked diligently to identify the main learning objective that would align with her grant proposal and her discipline’s national accreditation standards.

    “The main objective was for students to critically examine and explore macro systems that have contributed to structural and systematic health disparities for Black Americans in the U.S.,” said King. “This was very much at the macro level.”

    To achieve this objective, King avoided textbooks, and, instead, sought out a variety of course materials, including journal articles, news articles, and websites. She collected these items and identified ways in which she could prompt in-person discussions with her students. Although COVID-19 limited in-person classes at UAB in 2020, King was hopeful the public health landscape would improve by Spring 2021. Unfortunately, by January 2021, COVID-19 continued to be a significant concern, so King had to leverage virtual tools for the course.

    “I had to be intentional with thinking about strategies,” said King. “We set norms in advance [for discussions]. It gave students a chance to talk it through in a safe space.”

    King knew the conversations could be challenging, so she was intentional about creating an environment where students could engage with and learn from one another. By deploying effective strategies and supplemental tools, King created a space where students collaborated and engaged in thoughtful discussions on many subjects, including oppressive practices and theoretical frameworks.

    Overall, King viewed the course as a success. That said, she wanted to know how her students felt about the experience. So, like all great teachers, she dove into the course evaluations.

    “The evaluations that I received from this class…were simply amazing,” said King. “The averages are extremely high for this type of content. Students are saying this course should be a requirement.”

    These evaluations and insights reflected what King saw throughout the duration of the course. From day one, students engaged with the content, participated in discussions, and explored ways to confront injustices.

    “Our students really grew,” said King.

    King finds this growth inspiring, and, based on the glowing course evaluations, it’s clear that “The Health and Well-being of Black Americans: A Social Work Approach” will have a lasting impact on the 24 future social workers who took the course.

    Read more...
  • 3 things to explore for Black History Month

    Joyce-Zoe Farley, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of African American Studies and Public History at UAB, shares three things to read, watch, and listen to in honor of Black History Month.

    Black History Month (BHM) is the brainchild of late scholar and historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The celebration of Black accomplishment and progress started as Black History Week in 1926 and became a month-long observance in the late 1960s. Since its inception, the jubilee celebrates the undeniable legacy and impact of Black culture, genius, and the dark past of the enslaved in the U.S. To see and sample the beauty of Black History Month, support local Black businesses, listen, read, and watch. Here are my three recommendations, plus some extra credit.

    1. Read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
      The incredible and fascinating read tells the story of the Great Migration of Blacks from the American south to the north in the early years of the 20th century to the 1970s from the perspective of three protagonists.
    2. Watch The Women of Brewster Place.
      It is a film adaptation of Gloria Naylor’s book by the same name and tells the story of several Black women from different generations living in a Chicago tenement and their societal and generational problems.
    3. Listen to "A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina)" by Terence Blanchard.
      Blanchard, a jazz trumpeter and composer, is the writer of the score for Spike Lee’s "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," a documentary about the response and ills of Hurricane Katrina.

    Plus, some extra credit:

    • Listen to At the Close of a Century, the four-disc compilation is a collection of the legendary works of writer, musician, and composer Stevie Wonder. He’s my fave!
    • Watch The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, the PBS documentary film series presented and written by lauded scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., offers a comprehensive view of African American history from the African continent to today.

    In the words of James Weldon Johnson, the author of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the Black national anthem: "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last, where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”

    Black history's future is in its people and will always have a place in American history.

    Joyce-Zoe Farley, Ph.D., is the visiting assistant professor of African American Studies and Public History in the Department of History and African American Studies Program at UAB.

    Read more...
  • TACC features UAB Physics Assistant Professor Cheng-Chien Chen’s research

    The Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) has a clear mission: To enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies.

    The Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) has a clear mission: To enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies. TACC, which is located at the University of Texas at Austin, offers innovative resources to researchers as they work to solve complex problems. Also, TACC highlights valuable research from scientists and scholars across the world that is based on innovative uses of advanced computing techniques.

     

    Recently, TACC featured UAB Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Cheng-Chien Chen’s research on quantum materials using advanced high performance computing, in an article entitled, “Thriving in Non-Equilibrium: Computational studies of laser-induced non-equilibrium reveal new states of matter." In the article, TACC notes, “Chen’s theoretical work suggests it is possible to generate superconductivity at higher temperature than previously possible using this method, opening the door to revolutionary new electronics and energy devices.”

    The piece also notes Chen’s past research that has been supported by the National Science Foundation and his recent publication in Physical Review X entitled “Fluctuating Nature of Light-Enhanced d-Wave Superconductivity: A Time-Dependent Variational Non-Gaussian Exact Diagonalization Study.”

    Chen is leading the Department of Physics efforts on Data-driven Materials Science using Machine Learning and High-Performance Computing. He also teaches a popular UAB course entitled “Machine Learning Applications in Physics and Materials Science.”

    Recently, Chen received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study magnetic topological systems. In an article for UAB News, Chen noted, “The goal of this study is to have the ability to control magnetic and topological properties without the need to apply external magnetic fields, which can open revolutionary opportunities for the U.S. Department of Defense in creating next-generation device technologies.”

    Access the full TACC article.

    Read more...
  • Moore to become associate dean for College of Arts and Sciences

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences has named John K. Moore, Jr., Ph.D., the new Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.

    John K. Moore, Jr., Ph.D.The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences has named John K. Moore, Jr., Ph.D., the new Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.

    Moore earned his B.A. in Spanish from Sewanee: The University of the South, MAT in Spanish from Middle Tennessee State University, and Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

    Moore currently serves as Professor of Spanish in the College’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and his research interests include Hispanic literature and pilgrimage studies, ethnic studies, and film studies. He recently published an award-winning book entitled Mulatto · Outlaw · Pilgrim · Priest: The Legal Case of José Soller, Accused of Impersonating a Pastor and Other Crimes in Seventeenth-century Spain. Through this scholarly work, Moore was honored with distinguished fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Pilgrimage Studies of William & Mary.

    Along with his teaching and research, Moore has served as a strong advocate for his department and for his fellow faculty members. Moore has held several leadership roles across the College, including interim chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and chair of the College’s Faculty Affairs Committee. While leading the Faculty Affairs Committee, Moore focused his efforts on finalizing departmental handbooks for all 19 departments and ensuring faculty members across the College received the clarity and guidance necessary to navigate the promotion and tenure process.

    As associate dean, Moore will be able to further build upon his passion for faculty affairs, while also supporting the College’s goal of promoting inclusive excellence.

    "It is my privilege and pleasure to serve the College's faculty as an ally and champion," said Moore. "I look forward to understanding, supporting, and promoting my colleagues' work. I thank Dean Thomas for this opportunity to stretch professionally and to help her team and her continue building a culture of distinction and belonging in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences."

    Moore will work alongside Dean Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D.; Catherine Daniélou, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and Yogesh K. Vohra, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research and Innovation.

    "The College was fortunate to have received applications from a number of excellent candidates for this important position. Dr. Moore’s prior experience as a former interim department chair and as a chair of the College’s Faculty Affairs Committee have prepared him well for the tasks at hand," said Dean Thomas. "I also believe that his outstanding record of research—such as his current book award and fellowships—uniquely position him to assist with our goal of expanding and diversifying the College’s portfolio of externally funded research, scholarship, and creative activities. I am confident he will serve as an effective mentor and role model for our faculty regardless of discipline. Finally, his history of working toward a more diverse and inclusive community makes him an ideal member of the CAS leadership team."

    Moore will start his new role with the College on December 1, 2021.

    Read more...
  • Writing Isn’t What It Used to Be

    Not until I became a college professor did I contemplate the gap between the writing I had been taught and the writing I had practiced in the working world.

    Alison ChapmanIn my seven years as chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of English, I have often reflected, with a certain ironic amusement and—yes—nostalgia, on the kind of writing I did, decades ago, as an English major at a small liberal arts college. We were asked to produce finely crafted, carefully researched essays with a thesis sentence right up front, in which we leaned attentively into the work of interpretation and analysis. I loved writing these polished little essays. I was good at them. And because I was good at them, I later turned out to be good at being a scholar, which is part of what I do as a university professor.

    But that’s not the whole story. After graduation and subsequent employment, I realized that the kind of writing I had been taught wasn’t necessarily the kind of writing my various supervisors wanted from me. I scrambled to figure out how to craft a concise memo, how to understand the audience for a grant proposal, how to construct a survey, how to combine words and images into an effective flyer, how to write a firm newsletter where no one expected—or wanted—to encounter a thesis statement. I figured these things out in part because my undergraduate education had taught me how to stick with a problem and had developed in me the basic building blocks of elegant, effective communication. But still, I had to figure them out.

    It wasn’t until I became a college professor and thereby a writing teacher that I began truly contemplating the gap between the writing I had been taught and the writing that I had practiced in the working world. Digital communications have recently made this gap even wider. In a typical day, I might write text for a new departmental website with an eye to how portions could be repurposed for social media and or an email newsletter—and how those might later form the basis of a new podcast series or be the seedbed for a marketing campaign. The truth is that I love this kind of writing too. It’s shaggier and more sprawling than the serenely contained essays of my college years. It feels more dynamic. My writing has also gotten more creative, in that I’ve realized how much a feel for narrative and imagery can transform any piece of writing: even a memo benefits from a recognizable sense of voice, and the best websites, at heart, tell a story.

    My ideal curriculum would give students a working familiarity with many kinds of writing: literary analysis, fiction, technical writing, and others. Each of these offers different lessons: literary analysis is about preferring open-ended questions to pat answers; fiction is about creativity and nuance; technical writing is about precision and the need for fact. Also in my ideal curriculum, students would become savvy digital users, as comfortable with desktop publishing and video editing software as with the trusty word processor.

    Increasingly, my UAB colleagues and I have been working to transform these ideals into the lived reality of our classrooms. I’m seeing more freshman writing classes that emphasize creativity. More literature classes that require students to draw on an awareness of new media. More linguistics classes that ask students to use sophisticated digital tools. This last example represents one of the most significant changes of the past few years; to adopt a metaphor from the sciences, one might call it a kind of pedagogical red shift. There are simply more digital—and digitally inventive—assignments than ever before.

    Examples of this abound at all levels, but because I’ve been thinking here about my own evolution as a writer, I’ll point to a History of the Book class I’m teaching this semester. This course is a rollicking ride from papyrus scrolls through illuminated manuscripts through Kindle e-books. Recently, I asked students to visit UAB’s medical history library, choose a book from before 1500 (that’s right, before 1500), and then create a digital microsite that chronicles what it’s like to handle pages and bindings that are half a millennium old.

    I smile wryly to myself as I compare this assignment to the ones presented me as an undergraduate. I don’t mean that my History of the Book assignment is better just because it has a sparkling, digital shine. My college essays—which I bet were the traditionally stodgy five paragraphs—taught me a prodigious amount about wrestling complex ideas into disciplined sentences. But there were things those assignments didn’t teach me. I want our students to be presented with writing and critical thinking challenges that I did not face and to emerge with digital and technical proficiencies that took me half a career to develop. If my colleagues and I can do that—and we’re getting better at it every year—I think we’ll have done admirable work.


    Alison Chapman, Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of English.

    Read more...
  • Bishop in a Bucket: Southerners Bless Solar Energy

    Solar panels are a blessing in the South. Nonetheless, despite this advantage, resistance to change, bottom-lines, politics, and indifference have conspired to impede progress in solar energy.

    Jim McClintockOn a recent Wednesday evening, 50 people gathered in the parking lot of Saint Stephens Episcopal Church in Birmingham. A hint of humidity tinged the early-fall air and those milling about ranged from grade school to retirement age. Church events are as routine as clockwork on Wednesdays in the South: supper is served and there are Bible lessons, prayers and song. Nonetheless, the event that was about to take place at Saint Stephens was anything but ‘routine.’

    On the far side of the parking lot, adjacent the steeply pitched roof of the parish hall rested a bucket truck with its hydraulic boom resting on the pavement. In the bucket stood an operator and Rt. Reverend Glenda Curry, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Dressed in ceremonial garb, the bishop sported a full-length red-velvet cope, and on her head sat a tall bishop’s hat, or miter. As the bucket was hoisted skyward the bishop waved joyfully at the crowd below, then extended her right arm and pointed her index finger toward the large cluster of solar panels that covered the parish roof. Equipped with holy water, olive branch, pastoral staff, and prayer book, Bishop Curry hovered above the solar array. Then, with a nod and a prayer, the bishop in the bucket sprinkled holy water and blessed the solar panels.

    Solar panels are a blessing in the South. This is especially true for Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, where a high incidence of sunny days makes this geographic region among the best in the nation for the clean generation of electricity from sunshine. Nonetheless, despite this advantage, resistance to change, bottom-lines, politics, and indifference have conspired to impede progress in solar energy. This is surprising given the growing cost-savings of solar energy to consumers (who doesn’t like to save money?), coupled with benefits for the climate and our respiratory health. Think about it, each solar panel installed offsets some of the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and particulates generated when burning coal and natural gas to make electricity.

    Yet, there are early signs of movement in solar energy in the South. Utility grade solar installations are beginning to appear in states that have been behind the curve such as Alabama. Wells Fargo Bank, Walmart, and Facebook are among a growing number of companies in Alabama that have installed solar fields or solar arrays to reduce costs and contribute to a more sustainable and healthy environment.

    Homeowners in the south have yet to embrace solar rooftops at levels commensurate with regions such as southwestern U.S. Georgia is a bit of an exception, as Georgia utilities owned by Southern Company facilitate affordable marketing of solar to residential homes. In Alabama, however, the major electric utility, also owned by Southern Company, curiously imposes steep financial barriers to discourage residential solar installations. This disparity may change pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center against utilities imposing high fees on residential solar.

    In the meantime, we can pray that more solar energy projects will be blessed.


    Jim McClintock, Ph.D., is the Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology in the Department of Biology.

    Read more...
  • Lila Miranda (“Randa”) Graves – In Remembrance

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences and the English Department are saddened by the passing of Dr. Lila Miranda (“Randa”) Graves, emerita associate professor of English.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences and the English Department are saddened by the passing of Dr. Lila Miranda (“Randa”) Graves, emerita associate professor of English. Graves received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Auburn University with a focus on 18th-century literature, and she began teaching at UAB in 1975. A respected reviewer, author, and presenter in her area of scholarly expertise, Graves was especially valued for her complete commitment to the UAB community. She was a deeply dedicated teacher, and even after retirement, she continued to teach because she couldn’t bear to be out of the classroom. Graves was also known and admired for her institutional good citizenship, as exemplified by her service as the UAB Faculty Senate secretary and then president. She was a woman of exceptional integrity and, above all, good humor with a smile always ready for everyone. The UAB community is lessened by her absence, and we extend our sincerest support to the Graves family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Therein lies the problem.

    When it rains, it pours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read more...