The Graduate School recognized five doctoral students and five master’s students as recipients of the 2021 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 creedSabrina Heiser, PhD in Biology, College of Arts and Sciences – Fall 2021

Plans after graduation: “I would like to stay in research and academia, eventually having a tenure track position at a R1 (or European equivalent, if I end up moving back to Europe). My next step to achieve this goal will be to find a postdoc position in a research lab where I can broaden my skill set and apply the skills I have learned during my PhD.”

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Besides my academic and research skills that I have gained, I feel that I have been able to gain a lot more confidence and gone through personal growth, which is helping me to become the person I need to be a successful leader and eventually mentor and inspire others.”

catherine scullValene Garr Barry, MS, PhD in Nutrition Sciences, School of Health Professions; Graduate Certificate in Mentoring and Leadership, the Graduate School – Spring 2021

Plans after graduation: “I have accepted a position as a postdoctoral research scholar in Dr. Linda Peterson and Susan Racette's labs in the Department of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, and in the WUSTL Transdisciplinary Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Program in Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease. My research objective is to contribute to advancements in the way we understand the role of obesity in women’s health during the perinatal period and to discover novel methods to identify and mitigate cardiometabolic disease risk among women across the lifespan.”

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “By far my biggest accomplishment as a graduate student has been finding and cultivating my passion to mentor and inspire the next generation of researchers. About halfway through my graduate school journey, I began to actively find ways to mentor undergraduate students and more junior graduate students. The joy and fulfillment that I have gleaned, in addition to the friendships and sense of community that I built from mentoring and leadership have made me a better graduate student and will ultimately make me a better researcher, faculty member, and leader in my future positions.”

wesley labargeMacy Stockdill, PhD in Nursing, School of Nursing – Summer 2021

Plans after graduation: A post-doctoral fellowship to continue and develop her program of research.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “My biggest accomplishment as a graduate student was being the first doctoral student in the UAB School of Nursing to apply for and be awarded a F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award, which funded my predoctoral training. It was also a great accomplishment for my research team who worked with me and who have been a strong source of support during my predoctoral training.”

katie cederbergRiley Hightower, BSN, RN, PhD in Graduate Biomedical Science, Neuroscience, Department of Pediatrics – Spring 2021

Plans after graduation: “Directly following graduation, I will be taking a short leave of absence from academia to work as a nurse at the UAB COVID vaccine clinics to help accelerate vaccine distribution in our communities. In the fall, I will join the UAB Precision Medicine Institute as a postdoctoral fellow under the leadership of Dr. Matt Might investigating neurological signs and symptoms in patients with undiagnosed diseases.”

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “Being awarded the NINDS F99/K00 predoc to postdoc career development grant has been one of the accomplishments that I have been most proud of as a graduate student. To see years of work culminated into a single grant proposal that will become the foundation for the rest of my academic career is something that I worked exceptionally hard for. I am proud and grateful to be a part of this amazing community that will help foster my academic growth.”

sumner-harrisLeland Fleming, PhD in Graduate Biomedical Science, Neuroscience, School of Medicine – Summer 2021

Plans after graduation: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Neuroscience (still in interview process)

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “The accomplishment that I'm most grateful for is the F99/K00 D-SPAN award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). However, that award, and anything else I've been fortunate enough to achieve, partially belongs to all the professors, mentors, peers, lab mates, and family members that have supported me along the way. I'm so thankful to have had so many people propelling me forward throughout my graduate educational experiences.”

Master’s Recipients

jessica robbinsAudra Gottier Weber, Master of Business Administration, Collat School of Business – Spring 2021

Plans after graduation: “To continue to make a difference. As a leader in my profession, I not only want to see our organization succeed but I want to see our employees succeed as well. Using the additional skill sets I have learned through the MBA program will allow me to perform at a higher strategic level in my organization and be an even stronger leader in the years to come.”

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student“The majority of my graduate time was spent during COVID. Being able to quickly pivot our organization to keep our employees safe while still providing service to our members, all while balancing my MBA studies and my family has certainly been an accomplishment that I am quite proud of.”


bethany langnerAldric Gardiner, Master of Science in Management Information Systems, Collat School of Business – Spring 2021

Plans after graduation: Continue in the IT field, advancing the IT-business relationship and driving value for clients.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “I knew that UAB's MS MIS program was highly regarded. And once I was enrolled, my high expectations were quickly exceeded. The knowledge, guidance, and encouragement of my professors have been so valuable in my studies and work role. I applaud the exceptional efforts of the faculty, staff, and IS Advisory Council for sustaining a top-notch program. It has been a truly enriching experience collaborating with many talented and supportive individuals. If my fellow participants benefit from my contributions to the extent that I have from theirs, that would be a happy accomplishment for me.”

robert ezekielBlake Beaton, Master of Science in Criminal Justice, College of Arts and Sciences – Summer 2021

Plans after graduation: Attend one of the several PhD School in Criminology and Criminal Justice Programs he has been accepted into starting Fall 2021.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “My biggest accomplishment as a graduate student would be the completion of my first research paper “Accounting for Microdosing Classic Psychedelics,” which resulted in a publication in the Journal of Drug Issues, as well as an award from the Southern Criminal Justice Association for Most Outstanding Student Poster when I presented in a conference in Nashville, Tennessee back in 2019.”

trey gordonAngela Richardson, Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences, Lifestyle Management & Disease Prevention/Dietitian Education Program, School of Health Professions – Fall 2021

Plans after graduation: “My goal after graduation is to become a registered dietitian, and I am excited to contribute to the field of dietetics in manifold ways. In addition to working one on one to help clients develop informed and successful wellness plans for their various medical and lifestyle needs, I will advocate for policy changes that decrease disparities, improve access to nutritious food in low-income communities and promote healthy food consumption in any neighborhood. I also want to drive advances in research and methodology that will impact future dietary strategies and potential medicinal applications as societies continue to evolve. Ultimately, I hope to motivate, support and lead others to live a happy, balanced life.”

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “As a dietetics intern, I am driven to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives through nutrition and am thrilled for the opportunity to learn and take part in building a healthier community. In my internships thus far, I have worked closely with clients of governmental WIC and SNAP programs, educating families about how to choose and prepare healthy meals given their individualized circumstances. As part of the Flowing Wells School District food services team, I prepared and served nutritious meals daily for those in need during the school shutdowns that occurred as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. Currently, I am working as part of the Banner Health care team, and my role as a student dietitian is to help patients achieve a better quality of life through lifestyle and diet modifications. As a member of the Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AZAND) conference committee, I am also currently engaged in the planning and execution of this year’s virtual conference in June 2021.

kory deesSam Phillips, Master of Arts in English, College of Arts and Sciences – Spring 2021

Plans after graduation: I'll be starting my doctoral work in Rhetoric and Composition this Fall.

Biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: “My biggest achievement in the program has been having three of my papers accepted for conference presentations.

The Graduate School also selected four students to receive the 2021 GBS/JHS Outstanding Student Award: Ashlyn Anderson, a doctoral student in the Immunology theme; Brian Czaya, a doctoral student in the Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology theme; Jonathan Roth, a doctoral student in the Neuroscience theme; and Mackenzie Davenport, a doctoral student in the Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics theme.

These 14 students, along with countless other high-achieving graduate students will be recognized in April.