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Barham is ‘the heart’ of Materials Sciences and Engineering

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  • April 10, 2018

barham insideCynthia Barham, administrative associate in the Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering, has worked at UAB for 18 years — 17 of those in the department she now calls home. During that time, she’s worked for four department chairs, including current Chair Brian Pillay, Ph.D., and she says that their commitment to making UAB a great workplace made it easy for her to thrive.

“They are and were great to work with and have contributed to much of my success in the department,” she said.

Those successes have included impressing her colleagues so much that 10 of them nominated her for Employee of the Month. Barham, almost all of them say, does a job that was originally spread between three different employees — and does it all without a complaint.

“I can fully attest to the value she brings with her energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, integrity, selflessness, hard work, humility and dedication,” Pillay said.

“She always has a smile on her face,” echoed K.K. Chawla, Ph.D., professor emeritus. “Not only does she work cheerfully, she does it very efficiently, most of the time well before the deadline.”

As the organization changed, Barham’s workload increased — “exploded,” as Robin Foley, Ph.D., associate professor and the Electron Optics Lab manager, put it — but she still performs to the best of her ability.

“Everything that Cynthia does is done well,” Foley said. “Everything. Cynthia’s quality remains higher than almost everyone I work with. She is the heart of our department.”

“Everything that Cynthia does is done well. Everything. Cynthia’s quality remains higher than almost everyone I work with. She is the heart of our department.”

Barham said she has a few tips and tricks up her sleeve when it comes to producing good work and working well alongside her colleagues. The first, she said, isn’t really a secret; she just enjoys her job and the people with whom she does it.

“I love what I do most days,” she said. “I work with a great team of people, and they usually make sure I have what I need to complete my work.”

Beyond that, she relies on her faith and those around her to keep her inspired even during the stressful work moments.

“I balance it all by praying before I come to work, keeping a good attitude and working with people who are willing to help resolve issues,” she said.

Associate Professor Amber Genau said one of Barham’s most unique skills is as a hostess. Barham is in charge of ordering and serving food for department events and often can be found pouring ice tea for everyone who comes through the food line.

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

“Cynthia always remembers that I like my tea half-sweet, and pours me a mixed glass accordingly,” Genau said.

As Barham’s role has changed during the years, so has the department. During a near-complete turnover in faculty several years ago, Barham’s institutional experience was invaluable, Genau said, and she continued to perform her original duties excellently for colleagues old and new.

“Every single thing I have ever asked Cynthia to do, she has done quickly and well,” Genau added. “She follows up on things I would otherwise forget about. She helps me do my job better.”