Brains Without Borders

Three researchers
Informal collaboration between researchers—including microbiologists in the lab of internationally renowned DNA investigator Roy Curtiss III in 1977—has been a hallmark of UAB's success.

When UAB was searching for a mascot in the 1970s, a popular suggestion was “the Cranes.” Not the birds, but the metal monsters seen towering over campus as UAB expanded from a handful of blocks to dozens. Despite this decades-long building boom, however, the university’s leaders have always believed that tearing down walls is as important as putting them up.

It all began in the late 1940s, when the deans of the young, cash-strapped schools of medicine and dentistry in Birmingham agreed to jointly fund their basic science departments and share faculty members. By the time UAB came into being as an independent campus in 1969, the interdisciplinary approach was an integral part of the culture. There are now more than 100 research centers at UAB, each bringing together the best minds from multiple schools to tackle everything from AIDS to youth violence.

UAB’s interdisciplinary spirit is not confined to the lab, either. Students at the School of Public Health can pair a public health master’s degree with a School of Business M.B.A. or doctoral training from the School of Optometry, among other options. The university’s programs in medical psychology and medical sociology have been national leaders for decades. And the undergraduate biomedical engineering program, the first in the Southeast, is still the only one of its kind in Alabama. By taking advantage of unique strengths across campus, UAB offers students the opportunity to get ahead in an increasingly interconnected world.