John Donnelly and Firooz Jahani were recently selected as recipients of the 2018 UAB Samuel B. Barker Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies.

“The Barker Award,” named for UAB’s first graduate dean, Dr. Samuel Booth Barker, is given each spring to one Ph.D. student and one Master’s student, both of whom expect to receive their degrees within the calendar year. The Barker Awards are given to graduate students who represent the highest level of student achievement in a UAB graduate program.


Donnelly, a doctoral student in the School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, has not only excelled in the classroom, but he has also conducted “very high impact research” on sepsis prevention. He has published 47 manuscripts as a Ph.D. student, nine of which he was first author. His work has been “transformative in identifying risk factors for community acquired sepsis.”

Donnelly also applied for and received an F31 individual pre-doctoral training grant “Immunosuppression and Risk Prediction of Sepsis after Solid Organ Transplantation” from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences that allowed him to develop and design an approach aimed at identifying the optimal immunosuppressive treatment regimen following kidney transplantation.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Donnelly has enjoyed passing on the knowledge he has gained through teaching and mentoring. He has been very active mentoring medical students, including seven students who were conducting summer research projects.

“I have advised doctoral students for over 15 years and John has been one of the most productive students who I have worked with over this time,” said Dr. Paul Muntner, Department of Epidemiology professor and vice chair. “Through his outstanding scholarship and service, John has made a great impact as a Ph.D. student and I believe that he truly embodies the spirit of this award.”

Donnelly is slated to graduate in April and has accepted a position on an institutional career development award at the University of Michigan.

""Jahani is a Fulbright Scholar from Afghanistan and a graduate assistant in the Masters of Public Administration Program in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. As a young department Associate Dean of a newly created public administration program at Herat University in Afghanistan, Jahani has been “a great ambassador for his country.”

He is one of a few selected students from Afghanistan to be awarded the Fulbright Scholarship and is a “budding scholar with great potential to improve the public service in his homeland.”

“Since the beginning of his coursework in the MPA program, he stood out to be an astute learner and always searching for answers geared towards understanding the scope of public service delivery and how it can be translated to improving public service in the war-torn Afghanistan,” said Dr. Akhlaque Haque, professor and director.

This search led him to write a thesis on “Improving the Quality of Public Service in the Developing World: A Case from Herat City, Afghanistan,” which should receive wide support from international granting agencies and could have a major impact on the country.

“Firooz is not only a great ambassador for his country, as the first MPA student from Afghanistan, he will also be an outstanding ambassador for UAB,” Haque said.

Jahani is slated to graduate in April.

“We truly have amazing students who are doing remarkable things,” said Dr. Lori McMahon, Graduate School Dean. “All of the nominees were outstanding, and the selection committee had a very difficult time reaching a decision. I would like to congratulate John and Firooz on their remarkable achievements. Their dedication and passion to improving the lives of others and passing on the knowledge they have gained here at UAB made them ideal for this award.”

Donnelly and Jahani, along with countless other high-achieving graduate students, will be recognized at the 2018 UAB Honors Convocation in April.