Innovative undergraduate degrees at UAB offer students hands-on experiences

Two new world-class degrees, a first-of-its-kind cancer biology degree and an entrepreneurship major, are now available for UAB undergraduate students.

From side, student is presenting in front of a whiteboard in the Bill L. Harbert Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bridge, 2019.Photography: Andrea MabryTwo new majors will be available for undergraduate students beginning in fall 2020 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, including a Bachelor of Science degree in cancer biology and a Bachelor of Science degree in entrepreneurship.

Building the future through new ideas and initiatives in the classroom, the community, the laboratory, the studio and the clinic is the foundation of UAB. These new majors support the education pillar of UAB’s strategic plan, Forging the Future, which focuses on “strengthening and expanding innovative academic programs.” 

“These new degree programs will enhance our efforts to continue to recruit the brightest, most talented students and provide new paths to career prospects,” said Pam Benoit, Ph.D., UAB senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. “There is a strong need for professionals with the knowledge base provided by these programs.” 

Students in each of these programs will gain an in-depth and actionable knowledge in their chosen career fields.  

First-of-its-kind cancer biology degree

The UAB College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate degree in cancer biology is the only one of its kind in the United States. Students in this program will graduate with a strong educational and research background that maximizes their chances to achieve career goals in cancer biology in particular and life sciences in general.

“The new undergraduate program is the launchpad for students who want to focus on a career in researching, treating and fighting cancer,” said Sadanandan E. Velu, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Chemistry. “The research requirement within this major will provide a unique opportunity for students to conduct research in high-profile research labs across UAB and to get exposed to cutting-edge cancer research. This will provide a solid foundation for their future studies in graduate or professional schools.” 

For more information on how you can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in cancer biology, contact Jamie Grimes at or 205-934-6135.

High-level educators in both UAB’s Department of Chemistry and School of Medicine’s Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology will instruct undergraduates in and out of the classroom. The curriculum is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of cancer cell biology and behavior. The UAB cancer biology program offers a thorough and broad understanding of cancer cell biology and behavior, including carcinogenesis, proliferation, cancer genetics, the tumor microenvironment, cell signaling and cancer immunology.

“Cancer has impacted nearly every person, causing one in six deaths globally, which is an enormous public health crisis,” said Braden McFarland, Ph.D., co-director of the UAB Undergraduate Cancer Biology Program and assistant professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology. “With the cancer biology major, students will learn about how normal cells function in the body, and then what happens when our normal cells cannot stop growing (i.e., cancer). In addition to the research experience, students will participate in a strong background core curriculum in chemistry, biology and physics. Their advanced coursework will then focus on cancer biology in depth, including genetics, treatment, risk factors and prevention of cancer.” 

As it is home to the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, students will have hands-on experience working with national leaders in both treatment and research, including areas such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, gene therapy and much more. Upon graduation, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of current cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, gene therapy and personalized approaches to cancer treatment.

NewMajor2Photography: Steve WoodPreparing students for high-impact entrepreneurial action

The UAB Collat School of Business’ entrepreneurship major supports a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Birmingham by providing students with hands-on experience and constant interactions with the local startup community. The addition affirms UAB’s commitment to educating the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to adapt and excel in today’s rapidly changing business environment. The curriculum is specifically designed to model the limited boundaries between traditional business functions in entrepreneurial ventures, a unique feature of UAB’s program.  

“We draw on and adapt concepts from world-leading resources, research, cases and scholars, for maximum positive impact on our local entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Patrick J. Murphy, Ph.D., UAB’s inaugural Goodrich Endowed Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of UAB’s entrepreneurship program. “The student academic experience will thus be distinctively tailored to one’s personal interests as well as to the opportunities in our city and in Alabama. We are thinking globally but acting locally.”

The new major builds on existing hands-on learning opportunities such as the Anvil Student Startup Bootcamp, Entrepreneurial Coding Academy, Blazer Hatchery and Hackathon, and UAB iCorps. Many of today’s students are inspired by the idea of taking action as entrepreneurs, Murphy says; but they do not know where to start. UAB’s entrepreneurship courses mimic the team-based, all-hands-on-deck environment of startups while working directly with local entrepreneurs on project-based assignments.

For more information on how you can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in entrepreneurship, contact Laura Tull at or 205-934-8812.

Distinct competencies emphasized in the entrepreneurship program include critical problem-solving, dealing with uncertainty, navigating failures, leading growing enterprises, making positive social and economic impact on communities and markets, and personal resilience. Program graduates will have a range of competencies instrumental to landing and keeping professional jobs in entrepreneurial settings in large organizations and small firms, as well as leading their own ventures. Entrepreneurial career paths span a wide range of functions and roles, such as marketing, technology, operations, generalist, sales, creative and more. 

For more information on these programs, visit the UAB Degree Portal.