UAB Magazine Online Features
The Original Graduate Reflects on 40 Years at UABBy Jo Lynn Orr
Ronald Acton has seen UAB grow from an extension center to a worldwide scientific power.
But soon after he was awarded a doctorate in microbiology at UAB’s inaugural graduation ceremony, Acton was making history once more. In 1973, after postdoctoral training at UAB, the California Institute of Technology, and Oxford University, Acton came back to Birmingham and joined UAB’s faculty, positioning him to take part in the rise of the university’s research enterprise.
“My primary appointment was in the Department of Microbiology,” Acton says, “but I had joint appointments in medicine, genetics, and epidemiology in the School of Public Health.” Today Acton is an active researcher and adjunct professor of microbiology, and he serves on the School of Medicine’s admissions executive committee, interview committee, and selection committee.
Acton also is writing a book on the history of UAB’s microbiology department—a success story he witnessed firsthand. “Several years ago the department had evolved into the number-one National Institutes of Health-funded department nationwide,” he says.
UAB Researcher Aims to Build a Better Gunsight
By Grant Martin
Timothy Kraft, Ph.D., is looking down the barrel of a gun. A small, black target stands 150 feet away, but Kraft isn’t focusing on the target. He’s focusing on the pistol in his hand; not the part of the gun he can see, but the part that isn’t there at all.
Kraft, an investigator in UAB’s Vision Science Research Center, is developing a new kind of gunsight that relies on a trick of the eye to improve a shooter’s aim. In this slideshow, he explains how the secret to better marksmanship may be to let the mind fill in the blanks.
After 13 days and 221 orbits, Larry DeLucas returned to Earth with more than 300 crystal samples, which helped lay the groundwork for dramatically improved drugs for diseases from AIDS to diabetes
It was a small step for man, but a giant leap for protein science when UAB researcher Larry DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D., shot into orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia on June 25, 1992. DeLucas—the first optometrist in space—conducted experiments on protein crystal growth that were an important step in the drug discovery process for treating AIDS and other devastating diseases.
Crystallizing proteins allows scientists to study their structures in three dimensions using X rays—and thereby gain a greater understanding of their biological function and roles in various diseases. UAB has long been a leader in the field; in 1985, UAB biochemist Charles E. Bugg, Ph.D., founded the UAB Center for Macromolecular Crystallography, and it was Bugg who made the NASA connections that started DeLucas on his journey for the stars.
Building a Better Teacher
Donna Jones, a recent graduate of UAB's Urban Teacher Enhancement Program, at Birmingham's Robinson Elementary School
In some Birmingham-area school districts, up to a quarter of new teachers leave within the first three years, frustrated by crowded classrooms, inadequate funding, and other challenges. The problem is echoed in urban areas throughout Alabama, but UAB’s Center for Urban Education has developed an innovative solution: the Urban Teacher Enhancement Program (UTEP). The initiative, which is unique in Alabama and one of the few in the United States, actively recruits education students, second-career seekers, and school paraprofessionals with the traits proven to succeed in urban schools. In addition to UAB’s core teacher-training curriculum, UTEP students learn classroom-tested strategies in courses team-taught by School of Education professors and master teachers working in urban school districts. After graduation, mentors from those schools continue to help young teachers thrive in their chosen career.