Decker’s ‘been there, done that’ experience benefits microbiology

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julie decker sizedAfter serving as a research assistant for more than 20 years, Julie Decker moved into a program manager role in the Department of Microbiology, and her expertise has proven essential to renovation of the Bevill Biomedical Research Building.

“Julie has played, and continues to play, a key role in the renovation process as she coordinates the renovations in each lab,” said Frances E. Lund, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department. “She set up temporary lab facilities so the faculty and staff can continue their work while their labs are being renovated or when various utilities are temporarily shut down in parts of the building.”

For her work, Decker has been named Employee of the Month for February. Lund said she is the conduit between the residents of the building, the dean’s office, the Animal Resource Program and the contractors who are performing the renovations.

“In short, having Julie as our point person has made what could have been a very disruptive three-year renovation into a manageable process for everyone,” Lund said.

Decker came to UAB in 1993 and did HIV research with George Shaw, Ph.D., and Beatrice Hahn, Ph.D., both former professors of medicine. In 1997, she left UAB, but remained on campus, for about 10 years to continue working with Shaw, who was appointed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She returned to UAB with Shaw in 2007 and managed his and Hahn’s labs until accepting her current position in 2013.

“I’m on the other side of the bench as a program manager, and I have a whole lot more appreciation for what goes on this side to make the research happen,” Decker said. “It was quite a switch at first, and I felt like a fish out of water, but everyone was really encouraging and helped show me the ropes.”

All 34 nomination letters written on Decker’s behalf cite her leadership in the building’s renovation and the many other hats she wears in her role.

Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at

“Julie consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of her and really does the work of two people,” said Peter D. Burrows, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and genetics. “She arrives very early and stays as late as necessary until the job is done.”                                    

“Each time I run into any problem, Julie is always the first person I can think of to ask for help,” said Mengxi Jiang, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology. “Her past research experience and knowledge made her even more valuable in helping not only me, but all the research investigators in the department.”

“Apart from her organizational skills, she is responsible for the best planned and smoothly run protocol in the extensive faculty recruitment drive in the Department of Microbiology that I have seen,” said John F. Kearney, Ph.D., professor of microbiology. “Her friendly nature in welcoming potential recruits and her tireless shepherding of them around for their daily interviews have undoubtedly had a strong influence on recruits with respect to how they regard UAB as a potential employer.”

Decker said it’s her prior experience as a research assistant and lab manager that drives her to go the extra mile as a program manager.

“My heart goes out to the researchers, graduate students, post-docs and technicians who are still in the research trenches at the bench, adding to our knowledge,” Decker said. “Though it is still quite challenging to secure funding, anything I can do to make it easier for them to do their work, I’m happy to do. I’ve definitely been there and done that and know what it feels like to get good data, get published, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to keep resubmitting grants to keep their labs funded.”

She said in all of her career she’s proudest of her work in HIV research.

“I was very blessed to have been a part of hard-working research lab that published in some of the top tier journals and had a great impact on the HIV field, which, hopefully, has improved the lives of those infected,” Decker said.