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Advances in Research

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NOVEMBER 2015

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UAB RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS FUNDING FOR AGING RESEARCH CENTER

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been named one of the country’s six Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. The prestigious award, which amounts to more than $2.5 million over a five-year period, will support the establishment of UAB’s Nathan Shock Center. The grant is the result of a collaborative, campus-wide effort including researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Health Professions, School of Medicine, and the School of Public Health.

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UAB STUDY: TUGS AND PULLS – HOW A MOLECULAR MOTOR UNTANGLES PROTEIN

E. coli ClpB is a bacterial enzyme that untangles proteins. Such tangles are hallmarks of neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A study led by UAB’s Aaron Lucius, Ph.D., offers new insight on this amazing molecular machine, and could eventually point toward new treatment approaches.

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KING CRABS THREATEN ANTARCTIC ECOSYSTEM DUE TO WARMING OCEAN ACCORDING TO UAB STUDY

King crabs may soon become high-level predators in Antarctic marine ecosystems where they have not played a role in tens of millions of years, according to a new study on which University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers worked in conjunction with the Florida Institute of Technology and other institutions. This study is a continuation of previous work in the field of Antarctic marine ecology done by James McClintock, Ph.D., paper co-author and professor in UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology, along with his colleagues.

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UAB TO LEAD $9.4 MILLION TRIAL TO IMPROVE BLOOD PRESSURE IN THE BLACK BELT

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been awarded a $9.4 million grant to lead a trial in an effort to improve blood pressure in the Black Belt of the United States. The central objective of the “Collaboration to Improve Blood Pressure in the U.S. Black Belt – Addressing the Triple Threat” is to rigorously compare two strategies designed to improve blood pressure control in primary care practices serving rural Southeastern African-Americans with low socio-economic status. The project was developed in response to a call for proposals that focus on hypertension control among rural dwellers, minorities or people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

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UAB RESEARCH FINDS AUTOMATED VOICE IMITATION CAN FOOL HUMANS AND MACHINES

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found that automated and human verification for voice-based user authentication systems are vulnerable to voice impersonation attacks. This new research is being presented at the European Symposium on Research in Computer Security, or ESORICS, in Vienna, Austria.

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UAB PART OF NEW MULTIDISCIPLINARY CLINICAL CENTER FOR CARE, DIAGNOSIS AND STATE-OF-THE-ART RESEARCH

The Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Seahorse Bioscience announced the creation of the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine Program at UAB – a comprehensive clinical program for the diagnosis of neuromuscular mitochondrial diseases using precision medicine models for monitoring therapeutic interventions. The shared academic, philanthropic and medical mission of the clinic is to revolutionize the treatment and diagnosis of mitochondrial diseases by establishing and integrating state-of-the-art techniques in bioenergetics and therapeutics using a precision medicine approach.

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UAB PROFESSOR DISCOVERS POSSIBLE CONTRIBUTOR TO THE VIRULENCE OF THE 1918 FLU PANDEMIC

While yearly outbreaks of flu kill about 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide, the 1918 “Spanish” flu infected one-third of the world’s population and killed 50 million to 100 million. Chad Petit, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, has discovered a novel mechanism for one 1918 flu virus protein that may help explain the virulence of that unusually deadly pandemic. This discovery identifies a new interaction that has the potential to be exploited as a target for antiviral treatment of virulent strains of influenza. Funding for the research came from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health. The UAB Central Alabama High-Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources.

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 UAH FINANCE PROFESSOR HAS PAPER ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

Tingting Que, UAH Assistant Professor of Finance, co-authored a paper entitled, “The Effect of Labor Unions on CEO Compensation,” which was accepted for publication by the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis.

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UAH MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROFESSOR HAS PAPER ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

Dr. Laird Burns, Assistant Professor of Management Science, had a paper entitled “An Extended Framework for Supply Chain Risk Management: Incorporating the Complexities of Emerging Industries and Large Scale System Engineering Projects” accepted for publication in the International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management.

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UAH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF NURSING PUBLISHED

Dr. Ellise Adams, Associate Professor of Nursing at UAH, published two chapters entitled “Complications of Pregnancy” and “Anatomy & Physiology of Pregnancy” in Women’s Gynecologic Health. She also published an article entitled “Living the NLN Life Through Member Engagement” in Nursing Education Perspectives.

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UAH NURSING DEAN SERVES AS CO-SPONSOR OF RESEARCH ROUNDTABLE

Dr. Marsha Adams, Dean of Nursing at UAH, served as a co-sponsor of the 2015 national nursing research round table “The Nexus of Practice, Research, and Education for the health of the nation.”

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UAH NURSING FACULTY CO-AUTHOR ARTICLE

Clinical Assistant Professors, Drs. Lori Lioce and Kristen Herrin, published “Case Study 3-1: Academic Partnership and Team Cohesion” in Management and Leadership for Nurse Administrators.

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UAH GRADUATE STUDENTS FROM THE COLLEGE OF SCIENCE RECEIVE 2015-2016 NASA EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE FELLOWSHIP

Anthony DeStefano, a graduate student in the Department of Space Science, and Yi-Yin “Ian” Chang, a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Science, were each awarded the prestigious NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, which provides up to $30,000 a year in funding.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE PROFESSOR RECEIVES GRANT

Space Science Professor Dr. Nikolai Pogorelov received a $75,000 grant from the University of Illinois through the NSF Blue Waters Petascale Application Improvement Discovery (PAID).

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UAH BIOLOGY CHAIR RECEIVES NSF GRANT TO RESEARCH STEM STUDENT RETENTION

UAH Department of Biology Professor and Chair Dr. Debra Moriarity, in partnership with the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, was awarded a $638,777 grant through the NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or S-STEM, program. This grant will be used for recruitment and retention of high school students interested in pursuing a career in biotechnology.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE RESEARCHER WINS NSF CUBESAT AWARD

Dr. Michael Briggs won a $376,686 NSF CubeSat award, Observing Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash (TGF) Beams with a Pair of CubeSats, in partnership with Auburn University.

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UAH PROFESSOR AND INTERIM CHAIR RECEIVES NSF RESEARCH AWARD

UAH Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Carmen Scholz, received an NSF award of $199,878 for her collaborative research into biodiesel-derived butanol lipid membrane vesicles.

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UAH COLLEGE OF EDUCATION DEPARTMENT AWARDED $110,000 GRANT

The newly formed Department of Kinesiology received a $110,000 grant from the Alabama State Department of Education for the development of an adapted youth sport league.

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UAH PROPULSION RESEARCH CENTER RECEIVES $300K GRANT

Propulsion Research Center (PRC) Professor Dr. Jason Cassibry received a $300K grant from Boeing for UAH fusion propulsion research.

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UAH PROPULSION RESEARCH CENTER RECEIVES $500K GRANT

UAH Eminent Scholar in Propulsion, Dr. Philip Ligrani, with Drs. Robert Frederick, Kader Frendi, Keith Hollingsworth, William Seidler, and Richard Tyson receive a $500K grant from the Alabama Department of Commerce for new supersonic wind tunnel capability.

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UAH ROTORCRAFT CENTER AWARDED A $57K SUPPORT CONTRACT FOR CUBESAT

The Rotorcraft System Engineering and Simulation Center (RSESC) was awarded a Task Order (TO) for approximately $57k from Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) via Teledyne Brown Engineering to support MSFC with the power profile model for a CubeSat called iSAT (Iodine Satellite). The task will include accurately modeling iSAT’s power generation via solar cells and its power consumption to determine the battery depth of discharge to ensure iSAT maintains sufficient power margins throughout the mission.

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UA STUDYING HOW TO MAKE LONGER, MORE DURABLE BRIDGE GIRDERS

Engineering researchers at UA are testing massive concrete girders in a campus laboratory to find ways for bridges to span longer distances with fewer supports underneath. Longer, more durable concrete girders would mean fewer support structures under-neath the bridge, and that could lead to lower construction costs. Besides cost saving, longer spans would mean fewer disturbances over water, wetlands or other natural habitats. In urban areas, such as interstates that sit over city streets, fewer supports would mean less disruption of traffic and business below. The two-year project with the Alabama Department of Transportation should end with recommendations on how to design and build concrete girders that can span 180 feet, about 15 feet longer than the longest concrete girders currently used in the state.

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UA STUDENT, VETERAN SEEKS PARTICIPANTS FOR COMBAT STRESS STUDY

Mike LaRocca, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at UA, is seeking military veterans to participate in a survey-based study about how positive psychology may predict psychological distress among combat veterans. LaRocca seeks to measure the effects of transformational leadership, which can include a squad or unit leader who actively encourages new ideas or mentors soldiers, and how it may serve as a predictor for symptoms of depres-sion or PTSD. While other combat stress studies have focused on leadership, few have looked at transformational leader-ship, which is more commonly associated with the psychology of business. LaRocca, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, Purple Heart recipient, and Tillman Military Scholar, served as an executive officer of a cavalry troop during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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UA RESEARCH REVEALS U.S. HAS DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF WORLD’S MASS SHOOTINGS

A country’s civilian gun ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its rate of public mass shootings, a correlation that is reflected in the United States’ disproportionate percentage of public mass shootings relative to its population, according to new research at UA. The United States was the site of 31 percent of the world’s public mass shootings from 1966-2012, despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population, according to research by Dr. Adam Lankford, associate professor of criminal justice at UA. In that span, the U.S. had more public mass shooters (90) than the next two countries on the list, the Philippines (18) and Russia (15).

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FLOODING’S IMPACT ON WETLANDS MEASURABLE VIA LOW-COST APPROACH, UA-LED RESEARCH SHOWS

Scientists designed a new, on-site method for studying potential impacts rising sea levels can have on vital wetlands. Primarily using materials available at the local hardware store, the scientists, including UA biological sciences associate professor Dr. Julia Cherry, designed, constructed and tested low-cost enclosures, called weirs, to realistically simulate three flooding levels on coastal wetlands. The research was published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, and co-authored by George Ramseur Jr., of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; and Drs. Eric Sparks, of Mississippi State University; and Just Cebrian, of Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the University of South Alabama.

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UA RESEARCH FOUND SIMILAR NEURAL REACTIONS AMONG DRINKERS, ABSTAINERS

College students who are light alcohol drinkers or abstainers react the same when they see alcohol as those who drink regularly or binge drink, according to a researcher at UA. Dr. Philip Gable, associate professor of social psychology at UA, recently completed a follow-up study to 2014 findings in which he concluded that alcohol cues, like pictures of alcoholic beverages, can cause the same myopic state, or narrowing of focus, in college students as drinking alcohol. Gable found that, as with the previous study, the alcohol cues caused greater attentional narrowing than neutral cues. In this round, though, he found that brain activity in the left frontal lobe was greater in both drinkers and non-drinkers, which signaled equal motivation toward the visual cues of alcohol.

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UA PROFESSOR DISCOVERED MERGERS DON’T HELP THE LARGEST BANKS

Dr. Daniel Henderson, professor of economics in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, recently co-authored a study on bank mergers. Henderson’s research finds that most banks can benefit from mergers, but the largest banks don’t benefit because they have exhausted their potential gains. Henderson said the majority of banks right now are operating under increasing returns-to-scale, meaning that they can shed costs as they get larger. This means that average operational costs of the bank will go down, leading the bank to become more profitable as it grows. What Henderson and his colleagues have discovered, however, is that this principle does not apply to the largest banks. Those banks have already maxed out their gains in efficiency and are operating at what is known as constant returns-to-scale.