UAB Magazine Online Features
UAB Students Expose Archaeological Myths
By Jennifer Ghandhi
Sarah Parcak says debunking myths can be crucial to educating students about archaeology.
The ancient Maya have been busted. So have King Tut and the entire population of Atlantis. For that you can thank students in a UAB “Mythbusters” honors seminar led by archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Ph.D. Last fall, they went hunting for the facts behind popular archaeological myths, debunking everything from cursed Egyptian tombs to cities lost beneath the sea.
“I always wanted to take a class like this as an undergraduate, and I’ve been wanting to teach it for a long time,” says Parcak, who hopes to make the course available as a 200-level offering by spring 2011. While most academic archaeologists avoid discussing untruths in the classroom, Parcak believes it is crucial to educate students and the public about what she calls “pseudoarchaeology.” Students investigate hoaxes to identify their origins and the reasons why the myths are so believable and pervasive in modern culture.
Spreading the Word About Student Research
By Caperton Gillett
The third edition of Inquiro debuts this month. Each issue features student art on the front and inside covers (click image for larger version)
In 2007, junior chemistry major Suzanne McCluskey looked up from her lab bench and made a scientific observation: Motivated undergraduates at UAB had plenty of opportunities to conduct meaningful research but few outlets in which to share their results with the world. So she set about creating one.
McCluskey assembled an all-undergraduate editorial board, established editorial policies, and then made her case to Lowell Wenger, Ph.D., then dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (now part of UAB's College of Arts and Sciences). Wenger readily offered his support, funding the necessary computers, printers, and software, and University Honors Program director Mike Sloane, Ph.D., provided an on-campus location for the enterprise. Everything else was left up to McCluskey and her team of fellow students.
Thus Inquiro was born—a full-color, 80-page undergraduate research publication that rivals the production values of many national scientific journals. Each edition of the annual journal—the third issue debuts this month—represents thousands of hours of effort on the part of the editorial staff, faculty reviewers, and undergraduate students who conduct the research and shape it into articles to share with their peers.
Alumni Profile: Wendy Sudsinsunthorn
By Caperton Gillett
Wendy Sudsinsunthorn and RALF (click on image for larger version)
Every day, Wendy Sudsinsunthorn goes to work under the watchful eye of a three-story-tall robot named RALF. “It’s pretty cool,” she says.
There’s a lot about Sudsinsunthorn’s job that’s pretty cool. She’s a project manager in the research and development division of Birmingham-based Summit Toys. The 2007 UAB School of Engineering alumna spends her days working with toy designers, turning brilliant ideas into the kinds of playthings that will entertain and educate kids.
Sudsinsunthorn, a native of Pell City, has had a lifelong fascination with toys. “As a small child, I loved playing with Legos. I loved building things. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together,” she says. She never expected, however, to find a job making actual toys. She merely hoped for a career “that allowed me to solve problems and be able to create things,” she says.
Solutions for Distracted Driving
By Bob Shepard
A few weeks ago, a woman in upstate New York died when her car collided with a tractor-trailer. Not long before, a Texas teen was killed when her station wagon ran into another truck. Each driver was under the influence—not of alcohol, but of the glowing screens of their cell phones. Both women were texting while driving when the crashes occurred.
Those chilling tales were part of the keynote address given by United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood at the Alabama Distracted Driving Summit in Birmingham in early December. The summit was the first statewide response to LaHood’s call for a national debate on distracted driving—a practice he paints with the same brush as drunk driving.