Pioneering Women in UAB Biology: Janice Roberts

In August 1971, Janice Roberts became the second woman to graduate with a master’s degree from UAB’s Department of Biology.

One of the First Women to Graduate with a Ph.D.

Upon graduating from nearby Judson College, Janice Roberts took a research position at Birmingham’s Southern Research Institute. Confident in her desire to pursue a career in research, she enrolled in graduate school at the Extension Center for the University of Alabama (soon to become UAB) researching ribosomes under Dr. Donald Fattig’s mentorship. During that time, something unexpected happened: Janice developed a love of teaching. Since childhood, she declared she would never become an educator, but the teaching assistantship that helped fund her graduate studies sparked her passion for teaching and changed the trajectory of her career. In August 1971, Janice became the second woman to graduate with a master’s degree from UAB’s Department of Biology.

Later that year, Janice accepted a position as an instructor in the Biology Department at Jefferson State Community College (known then as Jefferson State Junior College). She thrived in the classroom, teaching courses in microbiology and freshman biology, as well as the interdisciplinary honors science course. In 1980, Janice took a leave of absence from JSCC to return to UAB to pursue her Ph.D. Janice’s doctoral research, performed under Dr. Patrick Dagg’s mentorship, studied caffeine-urethane interactions in mouse embryos. She was happy to be back at UAB among the close-knit group of graduate students. In 1983, Janice received her doctorate from UAB’s Department of Biology (only the second woman to do so) and then returned to her teaching career at JSCC. During her time at JSCC, Janice received many local, regional, and national accolades, including a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Fellowship in England, as well as the state of Alabama’s first ever Outstanding Junior College Faculty Award.

Janice retired from Jefferson State Community College in 2010 after 38 years of service. A long-time supporter of Birmingham’s arts scene, Janice is a docent for the Birmingham Museum of Art and leads tours of the museum. As a lay member of the Board of the American Pulmonology Medicine Institute, she helps promote scholarship programs for medical students. Since retirement, Janice has indulged her love of travel and has visited six of the seven continents. In her down time, she enjoys playing bridge and spending time with her family, especially her great nieces and nephews.

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