UAB senior and National Merit Scholar reflects on her time at UAB

Kelly Walters relishes her access to scientists, clinicians and research opportunities unavailable to undergraduates at many other universities as she builds toward a career in medicine.  

Kelly WaltersAs a National Merit Scholar from Huntsville, Kelly Walters had a wide-open chance to attend any number of colleges.

Three years later, the rising University of Alabama at Birmingham senior is sending her applications to eight medical schools and says she made the best choice for her college career: UAB.

“I don’t think I could have gone to a better place,” she said.

Walters has shown excellence throughout her path at UAB. She joined the UAB Chemistry Scholars Program in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences as a freshman; she is also a member of the UAB Honors College.

“They take eight to 10 people a year,” she said. “I teach labs and recitations, we get first dibs on research projects, and the faculty talk with us. Research has been the kicker for me.”

Walters has been able to work for a year and a half in the metabolomics lab of Janusz Kabarowski, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology in the UAB School of Medicine. From that lab experience, she has attended scientific meetings at Vanderbilt and in Atlanta, and recently she was a co-author of a research paper on early renal lipid changes in acute kidney injury, published in the American Journal of Physiology’s Renal Physiology. Acute kidney injury is a leading cause of hospital illness or death in critically ill patients.

President’s Summer Research Scholarship

The UAB Office of Undergraduate Research awards up to 10 scholarships for UAB students that pay $4,500 to each student and provide each summer mentor $500 for supplies. The students must:

  • Have a UAB GPA of 3.5 or higher.
  • Have completed at least one semester of faculty-mentored research.
  • Devote 30 hours per week for 12 weeks from May through August doing research at UAB.
  • Present a poster at the UAB Summer Expo.

Walters has also been able to shadow Nathan Erdmann, Ph.D., M.D., on medical rounds at UAB Hospital. Erdmann is an instructor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “My passion is people, and medicine has always fascinated me,” Walters said. “When you see patients, you feel that compassion.”

This summer, Walters was one of 10 UAB students receiving a prestigious UAB President’s Summer Research Scholarship. At the recent UAB Summer Expo, she presented the results of her three months of research, and she reflected on her decision to come to UAB.

“I wouldn’t have had this research opportunity and mentorship anywhere else,” Walters said. “Between research and teaching, I have grown professionally at UAB. I feel really prepared to go to medical school.”

It is not all science, all the time, for Walters. One of her favorite UAB classes was a survey of world literature from 1600 to the present, taught by William Hutchings, Ph.D., professor of English. “He is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking teachers I have had,” Walters said.