Six faculty receive inaugural Exceptional Innovation Awards

Innovative thinkers break new ground with creativity, contributing to their academic fields and the public’s quality of life.
Rebecca Bach. Download image

From late Renaissance English literature to space archeology to advances in biology directed at improving medical care, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s first winners of its new Exceptional Innovation Awards cover the gamut of arts and sciences at UAB.

The novel, ongoing faculty awards program was rolled out earlier this year as a way to recognize recipients for the impact they are having or will have on an academic field or quality of life.

Named as inaugural award recipients by the Office for Research and Economic Development were: Rebecca Bach, Ph.D., Department of English; Louis Dale, Ph.D., vice president for Equity and Diversity; Michael Miller, Ph.D., Department of Cell Biology; Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology; Casey Weaver, M.D., Department of Pathology; and Bradley Yoder, Ph.D., Department of Cell Biology.

Louis Dale. Download image

Each of the winners was recognized with an honorarium of $1,000; they also will be feted with a reception at the UAB president’s home, Woodward House.

“All of these honorees have contributed superlative projects, ideas or accomplishments to their academic field or our quality of life,” says Richard Marchase, vice president for Research and Economic Development. “We are so fortunate at UAB to work among many great thinkers and innovators. These faculty all have broken new ground with creativity, which is what we sought to honor with these awards.”

Michael Miller. Download image

Nominations were initiated by department chairs or fellow faculty members and subjected to a screening process culminating with a review by a distinguished panel of university and community leaders. That group made the final recommendation to UAB President Carol Garrison.

The honorees’ achievements include the following:

Sarah Parcak. Download image

Rebecca Bach has demonstrated exceptional innovation in her research on 16th- and 17th-century English literature. She has attained national and international recognition in her field and is a highly productive and admired scholar at UAB.

Louis Dale has demonstrated exceptional innovation in his efforts to foster participation by minority students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — called the STEM disciplines.

Casey Weaver. Download image

Michael Miller is affiliated with the Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology Program and Cancer Cell Biology Program in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has established an outstanding and innovative research program in the area of signal transduction in C. elegans. His lab has defined the major sperm protein as a signaling molecule that interacts with members of the Eph receptor family and the role of this signaling pathway in reproduction and nervous system function.

Sarah Parcak is pioneering the use of satellite infrared imaging to transform archaeology and advance public health studies. Her research has led to the discovery of Egyptian pyramids, tombs and an entire city hidden beneath the earth.

Bradley Yoder. Download image

Casey Weaver’s research on a new class of T cells, called Th17 cells, has revolutionized the research community’s understanding of immune-mediated diseases and offers great promise for development of new therapies for a broad range of autoimmune diseases and cancer.

Bradley Yoder has engaged in seminal research that has unequivocally reversed the long-held view that primary cilium — a microtubule-based antenna-like structure that emanates from the surface of virtually all cells in the mammalian body — was a vestigial organelle with no clinical relevance to human health.