8 honored for excellence in postdoctoral work

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Eight postdoctoral scholars have been selected to receive Outstanding Postdoctoral Awards for their exceptional accomplishments. They were recognized Sept. 20 during the Postdoc Appreciation Luncheon.

The 2018 honorees represent eight departments, divisions and schools across UAB.

Kurt Zimmerman

Excellent Peer Award

Given to the postdoc who habitually extends their talents, patience and time to help other students or researchers

Kurt Zimmerman, Ph.D., Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology
Not only does Zimmerman do excellent research in the lab of Bradley Yoder, Ph.D., studying the role of immune cells in polycystic kidney disease, but he wants to ensure others working in the lab have the opportunity as well. He goes out of his way to help his research assistants, one nominator wrote, and often stays late working on experiments and helping others learn new skills.

“Kurt has mentored me by giving me a strong foundation in basic science and rigorously challenging me to think creatively and ask hard questions,” another nominator said. “If every postdoc paid as much attention to their research assistants, science frontiers would be progressing at a much more rapid rate.”
Katie Alexander
Katie Alexander, Ph.D. Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Alexander is known for her work on studying gastric epithelial stem cells and gastric cancer and for going out of her way to make new postdocs feel comfortable. She is grounded in her science, a nominator says, and consistently encourages positivity and production in the lab.

“Katie is bright, knowledgeable, approachable and always willing to help,” another nominator wrote. “She is endlessly supportive.”
Benjamin McManus

Community-minded Award

Given to the postdoc who is dedicated to filling the needs of a local, national or international community

Benjamin McManus, Ph.D., Department of Psychology
McManus is a postdoctoral fellow in UAB’s Translational Research for Injury Prevention (TRIP) Laboratory, which aims to reduce the rate of transportation-related deaths, injuries and resulting disabilities, particularly in the Southeast United States. McManus has worked in the lab since he was an undergraduate and is a Blazer through and through, nominators say.

“I cannot recall having worked with a more motivated student or postdoc,” said one nominator. “He has dedicated his education and professional career to bettering the local community as well as the community at large by reducing needless and preventable drowsy driving-related collisions.”
Samantha Martin

Dr. Congeniality Award

Given to the postdoc who has a disposition so kind and pleasant, their presence brightens the atmosphere of the work environment

Samantha Martin, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition
Martin is known in her lab as a people person, with a disposition and friendliness that not only helps her recruit participants for projects but also enables her to turn negative situations into positive ones by describing them as opportunities for learning, a nominator said. Martin herself was new to clinical research when she began working to identify mechanisms associated with obesity and cardiometabolic diseases and certain children, so she is quick to understand a new researcher’s nervousness.

“She is always smiling, and approaches each challenge with a happy, can-do attitude,” a nominator wrote. “She is the first to encourage those around her with a quick ‘don’t worry, we’ll get there.’”
Philipp Steinmetz

Extraordinary First-year Postdoc Award

Given to the first-year postdoc who has become an immediate asset to the lab

Philipp Steinmetz, Ph.D., Department of Materials Science and Engineering
When Steinmetz arrived at UAB after finishing his doctoral work at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, he hit the ground running in the lab of Amber Genau, Ph.D., learning things such as repairing furnaces and running electron microscopes. In 2018, he has been the first author on four published papers, with another under review, and he helps supervise and direct the other students working in Genau’s lab.

“I truly believe Philipp is a crucial part of what has made Dr. Genau's lab such a productive and friendly lab environment,” a nominator wrote. “He has done all he can to be kind, helpful and effective on every project he works on.”
Jodi Paul

Hardest-working Postdoc Award

Given to the postdoc who puts in consistently great work, but whose dedication and skill is not necessarily represented with publications

Jodi Paul, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology
Paul, who studied the suphrachiasmatic nucleus region of the brain in her graduate studies, chose to study the substantia nigra during her postdoctoral work. She has collected valuable preliminary data for a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant (R01) and conceptualized, designed and built a computer-controlled animal behavior apparatus, which will be used to test the effects of time-restricted exercise on neuronal function and survival in a mouse with Parkinson’s Disease. Not only that, but Paul’s colleagues say she goes out of her way to help train new researchers in the lab.

“Dr. Paul is always willing to help mentor graduate students in the lab,” one nominator wrote. “She is always available to help me with a technique, go over data or find great places to eat. She is a resource beyond compare.”
Ossama Ramadan

Most-esteemed Postdoc Award

Given to the postdoc with an impressive number of peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations and posters

Ossama Ramadan, Ph.D., Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering
Ramadan’s research at the Transportation Engineering and Development Laboratory (TREND Lab) focuses on mitigating traffic congestion and improving surface transportation in the United States, and he has worked on multiple projects funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. His nominators hold him in high regard as a researcher, mentor and friend, saying he goes out of his way to help young researchers become comfortable and successful in the lab.

“He welcomes the new students in our program and helps them to navigate successfully through the demands of the graduate student life,” one nominator wrote. “He has co-mentored graduate students as part of his postdoctoral assignments, built great working relationships with peers and administrators and demonstrated professionalism in all his dealings.”
Tingting Yuan

The Dory Award

Given to the postdoc who, despite setbacks and obstacles in their project, has kept pushing until successfully finishing the work

Tingting Yuan, Ph.D., Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine
Yuan studies the biology of lung development after injury and repair, a complicated research interest that sometimes requires growing miniature organs in petri dishes, which requires precision and a significant time commitment. Nominators say Yuan persevered in growing these organs until she got the procedure correct, then adapted the technique for another lab — all between two visits to the emergency department.

“Even through her pain I found her smiling and talking excitedly about her research findings,” a nominator wrote. “Her dedication to biomedical research is exemplary.”