The Graduate School recognized five doctoral students and five master’s students as recipients of the 2020 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 graduate students who represent the highest level of student achievement in a UAB graduate program. All recipients are expected to receive their degrees within the calendar year.

Doctoral Recipients

rose creedRose Creed, PhD in Neuroscience, Graduate Biomedical Sciences -- Summer 2020

Plans after graduation: Postdoctoral Fellowship in Alexandra Nelson’s lab at The University of California, San Francisco.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Scientifically, being able to explore a Parkinson’s disease model at various levels, and using different tools, probing protein measurement to cell-to-cell commination, to answer current disease relevant questions. Non-scientifically, completing my PhD with a high level of compassion. Some of my proudest ‘me’ moments come from co-development of the neuroscience graduate student joint lab meeting with one of my peers, Mary Phillips. Serving on the Neurobiology Student Seminar selection committee, amongst others. Also, just being present throughout the experience.”


catherine scullCatherine Scull, PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program – March 2020

Plans after graduation: Postdoctoral fellowship in Nils Walter's Lab at the University of Michigan.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “This is a tough question. I feel that my growth into an independent scientist is my greatest personal accomplishment. I developed (and am still developing) the skills I need to generate interesting scientific questions and I have learned how to probe those questions with the tools that are available to me. I think the accomplishment I’m most proud of, though, is that I was able to mentor and guide younger students in their own scientific growth.”


wesley labargeWesley LaBarge, PhD in Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering – Spring 2020

Plans after graduation: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship position with Merck & Co in the Greater Philadelphia Area.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Applying for and being awarded the American Heart Association’s Predoctoral Fellowship in 2019 to assist me in my research pursuits in cardiac tissue engineering.”


katie cederbergKatie Cederberg, PhD in Rehabilitation Science, School of Health Professions – December 2020

Plans after graduation: A postdoctoral position in Sleep Science (she is currently interviewing for positions).

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “I have co-authored a textbook chapter, published 22 peer-reviewed journal articles with five first-author manuscripts on the topic of RLS. In recognition of my research in RLS, I received The Trainee Merit-based Award from The Sleep Research Society in 2019 and a Trainee Travel Award from The Center for Exercise Medicine at The University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2017. This work has culminated in what I consider to be my biggest accomplishment to date: A fellowship award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health [F31HD097903].”


sumner-harrisSumner Harris, PhD in Physics, College of Arts and Sciences – December 2020

Plans after graduation: A postdoctoral position at a national lab (that is his hope).

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “I don’t feel that I have one single, big accomplishment as a graduate student. Any success that I’ve had is a result of many tiny victories in the lab, a lot of luck and an unreasonable amount of persistence. So, if I have to say it: My big accomplishment is having many small accomplishments.”


Master’s Recipients

jessica robbinsJessica Robbins, Master of Arts in English, College of Arts and Sciences – Spring 2020

Plans after graduation: Begin a full-time job at the University of Montevallo.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “I was able to get one of my creative pieces published in February 2020. I took my first ever creative writing class summer 2019, where I wrote a short piece called ‘Bravery.’ I submitted it to a publication not thinking that I would be accepted, but they contacted me later in the fall of 2019 to let me know they were going to run it in the February edition of the magazine.”


bethany langnerBethany Langner, Master of Science in Multidisciplinary Biomedical Sciences, Joint Health Sciences – Summer 2020

Plans after graduation: Medical school at UAB this summer, pursuing a career in Neurology.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Before graduate school, I had little research experience and felt like my schooling had never truly taught me to think critically. Immersing myself in basic research and a part-time job in clinical research has allowed me to constantly learn, reason and broaden my knowledge.”


robert ezekielRobert Ezekiel, Master of Art in History from the College of Arts and Sciences – Summer 2020

Plans after graduation: Continuing his education at the doctoral level and becoming a history professor.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “In 2019, I was selected as the recipient of the David Hart White prize in history. This award is designed to recognize a student who has shown excellence in the study of history via both in class work, as well as written papers. 

The fact that that this prize is awarded by recommendation of the UAB history faculty, a group of scholars I have the highest respect for, made it an extremely rewarding achievement to have been selected for.”


trey gordonTrey Gordon, Master of Public Administration with a certificate in Nonprofit Management, College of Arts and Sciences – Spring 2020

Plans after graduation: I've established a new nonprofit organization that aims to improve accessibility for the Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and Deafblind communities. Its name is Adjacent Space.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Showing up for my very first graduate school class is my biggest accomplishment. I never thought I would be interested in graduate school, but things change, and it was surreal to think that I was working on getting my master’s.”


kory deesKory Dees, Master of Science in Biomedical and Health Sciences, School of Health Professions – Spring 2020

Plans after graduation: Attending medical school at UAB

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Getting accepted to medical school. It was a goal my wife and I have been working toward for a long time and to see our efforts finally pay off was pretty cool.”


The Graduate School also selected Rachel Jimenez, a doctoral student in the Immunology theme of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program, to receive the 2020 GBS/JHS Outstanding Student Award.

These 11 students, along with countless other high-achieving graduate students, would have been recognized at the 2020 UAB Honors Convocation in April.