3 UAB students receive 2012 Goldwater honors

Half of Alabama’s 2012 Goldwater Scholars studying at UAB.

University of Alabama at Birmingham students Amiya Ahmed of Homewood, Ala., and Kenneth Gray of Birmingham were named 2012 Goldwater Scholars by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in Excellence in Education Foundation.

In addition, UAB student Caleb Jones of Huntsville, Ala., received Goldwater Honorable Mention.

“I congratulate Amiya, Kenneth and Caleb on winning these highly competitive honors,” says UAB President Carol Garrison. “These awards speak volumes about the caliber of our students and the quality of our academic programs that now have produced 11 Goldwater Scholars and five honorable mentions in the past five years.”

Amiya_Ahmed_2012_storyAhmed, a sophomore, is pursuing a double major in molecular biology and philosophy with a minor in chemistry. He has a 4.0 GPA and is involved with several epidemiological studies at the UAB Center for Aging in the Geriatric Heart Failure Program under the supervision of Ali Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H.

“Our research has focused on examining the impact of prior smoking and income on the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular events in community-dwelling older adults,” says Ahmed. “My goal is to be a physician-scientist specializing in pediatric oncology at a leading medical research university. I have strong ties to Bangladesh, where my parents grew up, so I also hope to train talented and motivated young people from developing countries in research.”

Ahmed is a member of the University Honors Program and the Biology Scholars Program and works part-time at the McWane Science Center as a facilitator/teacher for the UAB Center for Community Outreach Development Program. He is on the editorial board for Inquiro, UAB's undergraduate research journal, and is treasurer of the UAB Green Initiative. He is the son of Ali Ahmed, a professor and associate director of the UAB Center for Aging, and Momanna Ahmed, a volunteer in the Department of Medicine.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by the receipt of one of the most prestigious national undergraduate-level scientific scholarships,” Ahmed says. “I have been involved in research since I was a senior in high school and this honor is an acknowledgement of my efforts thus far as a researcher.”

Kenneth_Gray_2012_storyGray, a senior after two years of schooling, is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish. He has earned a 4.0 GPA and plans to earn a doctorate in a biomedical science, preferably pharmacology. Gray researches in the lab of Etty Benveniste, Ph.D., chair of the UAB Department of Cell Biology, working closely with postdoctoral candidate Braden McFarland.

“I am concerned with understanding the role that a protein called STAT3 has in glioblastoma, an extremely deadly and incurable form of brain cancer, because the inhibition of the action of this protein seems to have a therapeutic potential,” says Gray. “After I finish I would like to have my own research lab and teach at a major university and ultimately I would like to help develop more effective and less toxic treatments for cancer.”

Gray is a member of the UAB Science and Technology Honors Program as well as the Fifth Year Master’s in Biology Program — though he will finish his undergraduate and graduate and degree in four years. He is the son of Lisa Gray, an executive assistant to the provost at UAB, and Gary Gray.

“I don't mind admitting that I work very hard and this honor is a major source of validation for me,” says Gray. “I allow myself little or no free time so when I get this sort of recognition I'm very grateful because it means someone else thinks that my accomplishments are noteworthy and that I can allow myself at least a little self-pride.”

Ahmed and Gray are the 14th and 15th UAB students to win a Goldwater scholarship. They are two of only four in Alabama to win the award for 2012.

caleb_jones_2012_storyJones, a third-year senior with majors in chemistry and biology, was awarded honorable mention for 2012. He is a member of the Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity, for which he has served in several leadership positions, and has been a representative to the Inter-Fraternity Council. He also is treasurer of the Honors College Experiential Learning Scholars Program, senator and chair of the Undergraduate Student Association Services Committee, a peer mentor with Career Services and president of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.

He is a member of Gamma Sigma Alpha Honors Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honors Society, Golden Key International Honors Society, National Society of Leadership and Success and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He also started a UAB chapter of Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honors Society.

Jones researches with J. Edwin Blalock, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care in the UAB School of Medicine, and Patricia Jackson, Ph.D., associate professor in the same division. His Goldwater work is looking at the consequences of the reactive aldehydes acrolein and acetaldehyde in the mechanisms of chronic inflammatory lung diseases specifically related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. Jones, who holds a 3.75 GPA, hopes to earn medical and doctoral degrees and continue his research while working in a clinical setting. He is the son of Kenneth and Pamela Jones.