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Advances in Research

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JUNE 2015

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UAB REPORTS FIRST NATIONAL KIDNEY GRAFT SURVIVAL STUDY OF HIV-POSITIVE RECIPIENTS

Jayme Locke, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of surgery in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Transplant Institute, and her colleagues report the first national study of five- and ten-year outcomes for HIV-infected recipients of kidney transplants. Kidney recipients infected only with HIV do as well as uninfected recipients, but HIV-infected recipients co-infected with hepatitis C virus have poorer outcomes.

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UAB RESEARCHERS FIND AUTISM DETECTION IMPROVED BY MULTIMODAL NEUROIMAGING

Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., has brought a similar approach to the classification, and eventual diagnosis, of autism. Kana and colleagues
are the first to combine three different measures of the brain –anatomy, the connectivity between different brain regions, and levels
of a neurochemical – to distinguish people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from matched, typically developing peers.

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UAB RESEARCHER PROBES ROLE OF A MASTER GENE IN SKELETAL FORMATION

Amjad Javed, Ph.D., has taken a major step forward in understanding the bone development function of a gene called runx2, which could lead to future ways to speed bone healing, aid bone bioengineering, stem osteoporosis and reduce arthritis. Javed says the results will contribute to future personalized medicine.

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UAB ROLLS OUT NEW TECHNOLOGY TO HELP USERS COMBAT MOBILE MALWARE ATTACKS

Researchers have developed simple but effective techniques to prevent sophisticated malware from secretly attacking smartphones.
This study from researchers within the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Center for Information Assurance and
Joint Forensics Research explains how natural hand gestures associated with three primary smartphone services – calling, snapping and tapping – can be detected and have the ability to withstand attacks using motion, position and ambient sensors available on most smartphones as well as machine learning classifiers.

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UAB STUDY TO EXAMINE COMPUTER-BASED DECISION AIDS TO HELP IN LUPUS THERAPY

Researchers are enrolling patients for a study designed to help minority women with lupus nephritis make informed decisions on their treatment. The study is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

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UAB STUDY SUGGESTS OIL DISPERSANT USED IN GULF OIL SPILL CAUSES LUNG/GILL INJURIES TO HUMANS AND AQUATIC ANIMALS

New research suggests that Corexit EC9500A, an oil-dispersal agent widely used in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon
oil spill, contributes to damage to epithelium cells within the lungs of humans and gills of marine creatures. The study also identifies an enzyme that is expressed in epithelial cells across species that has protective properties against Corexit-induced damage.

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UAB SECURES $11 MILLION DOD GRANT FOR COPD STUDY

Researchers at UAB will lead a multi-site study of the role of beta blockers in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The study is funded by an $11 million grant from the United States Department of Defense.

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UAB STUDY POINTS TO POSSIBLE NEW TREATMENT FOR HER2+ BREAST CANCER

A paper by UAB cancer researcher Eddy S. Yang, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues has found that a significant portion of one of the sub-types – called HER2-enriched or HER2+ – has elevated expression of two proteins called PARP1 and phospho-p65. This basic biology finding paves the way for a future human clinical trial to see if drugs called PARP inhibitors can better treat women who develop HER2+ breast cancer, a cancer with a fairly poor prognosis.

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UAB STUDY FINDS RESOLVIN D1 REDUCES POST-HEART-ATTACK HEART FAILURE

A UAB-led research team has now found that mice that are given the lipid “Resolvin D1” after experimental heart attacks have substantially reduced amounts of inflammation and heart failure.

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NEW UAB RESEARCH TO STUDY EFFECTS OF STIGMA ON WOMEN’S ADHERENCE AND OUTCOMES IN HIV CARE

The National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $2.7 million R01 grant to fund “Mechanisms and Longitudinal Effects of Stigma on Women’s Adherence and Outcomes,” led by Janet M. Turan, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Health Care Organization and Policy.

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NEW UAB RESEARCH LABORATORY TO STUDY CONCUSSION BIOMARKERS, RECOVERY

A new research laboratory, the first of this kind in Alabama and one of only a few in America, could lead to a better understanding of the effects of concussions. The Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Laboratory, or VORLab, is conducting research to identify markers of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as concussion, in athletes.

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GRANT GIVEN TO FUND NEW UAB AND SOUTHERN RESEARCH ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH

UAB researchers and Southern Research are launching a new study to identify a novel therapy for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Funded by a grant of $250,000 from the BrightFocus Foundation, the new study grew from preliminary work funded by the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance.

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UAH COLLEGE OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION ECONOMICS LECTURER PUBLISHES ARTICLE

Economics lecturer Richard White published an article entitled, “Death and re-birth of Alabama Beer,” in Business History, Taylor & Francis Online.

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UAH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS PUBLISHES ARTICLE

Wafa Hakim Orman, Associate Professor of Economics, had a paper titled “Trust & Trustworthiness of Immigrants & Native-Born Americans,” coauthored with James C. Cox, accepted for publication at the Journal of Behavioral & Experimental Economics.

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UAH COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RECEIVES FUNDING

Dr. Jason Cassibry, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has received an ARPA-E award in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, HyperV Technologies Inc., and University of New Mexico, to study plasma liner formation for a promising thermonuclear fusion concept. UAH will be conducting smooth-particle hydrodynamic modeling in support of the experiments. The duration of the award for UAH, totaling $384,000, is three years.

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UAH COLLEGE OF NURSING DEAN RECEIVES FUNDING FOR PROPOSAL

Marsha Adams, Dean and Professor of Nursing, submitted a proposal to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation. The proposal for the Learning and Technology Resource Center was accepted and funded for $30,000.

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UAH CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR RECEIVES FUNDING

Chemistry Professor Dr. John Gregory received a NASA grant for $1,375,000 and a $375,000 Research Infrastructure Development grant for the Alabama Space Grant Consortium.

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UAH ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HELPS DEVELOP EDUCATIONAL APP

Dr. Divya Chandrasenan, a visiting scholar from India, and UAH Atmospheric Science Assistant Professor Dr. Udaysankar Nair developed curriculum for the Public Environmental Education and Research App (PEERA), an app that can be used to document environmental problems and track land use changes.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE PROFESSOR RECEIVES FUNDING

Dr. Jacob Heerikhuisen, Associate Professor in Space Science, received funding from the NSF for 5 additional years to support the CSPAR REU Program.

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UAH RESEARCH INSTITUTE STAFF PUBLISHES BOOK

On April 16, CRC Press published Affordable Reliability Engineering: Life-Cycle Cost Analysis for Sustainability & Logistical Support coauthored by Dr. Bill Wessels and Daniel Sillivant, who are staff in the Reliability and Failure Analysis Lab within the UAH Research Institute. The book provides a framework for managers and engineers to develop and implement a reliability program. It also provides the tools for meeting reliability requirements while optimizing the life-cycle sustainment cost.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RECEIVES NASA GRANT

A 3-year NASA grant of $438,229 entitled “Particle Acceleration in Inner Heliospheric Regions with Multiple Contracting and Reconnecting Magnetic Islands” was awarded in March, 2015 to Jakobus le Roux, Associate Professor in the Department of Space Science and CSPAR PI.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RECEIVES NASA GRANT

Dr. Gang Li, Associate Professor in the department of Space Science, received a $407K Grant from NASA on May 1. The title of the grant is “Using IRIS Observations to Search for Fast Mode Shocks in Magnetic Reconnection Outflows in Solar Flares” and it was submitted to the NASA-GI program.

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UAH SPACE SCIENCE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RECEIVES FUNDING TO SUPPORT REU PROGRAM

Dr. Jacob Heerikhuisen, Associate Professor in Space Science and CSPAR PI, received funding for 5 additional years to support the NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program run through the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR).

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RANDALL RESEARCH PROGRAM HONORED 31 UA STUDENTS

Thirty-one UA undergraduate researchers received recent recognition through the Randall Outstanding Under-graduate Research Award Program. The program recognizes the best research activity conducted by UA undergraduates, who are nominated by faculty and staff research directors. In 1997, the Randall Publishing Co., now Randall-Reilly Publishing, and the H. Pettus Randall III family created the Randall Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award Program in memory of Henry Pettus Randall Jr., a distinguished UA alumnus and creator of Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

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UA SCHOLARS SEEK TO BRIDGE GAP BETWEEN COMMUNITIES, RESEARCHERS

A team of UA scholars aims to strengthen the relationships between researchers and the communities they study via a new grant. Without a well-established relationship, researchers may miss opportunities to improve surveys and gain accurate data. The UA research team seeks to bridge that gap in a pair of in-state communities through a Eugene Washington PCORI Engage-ment Award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The approximate $250,000 contract will support development of community stakeholder groups and allow UA team members to learn their advice on research and experiential learning opportunities in their communities. The project, titled “Sharing Opinions and Advice about Research (SOAR) in the Deep South,” will be based in Sumter County and Holt and will last for two years.

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UA TO CONDUCT WHEELCHAIR STUDY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH TUSCALOOSA SCHOOLS

When Dr. Margaret Stran was fitted for her first manual wheelchair, she remembers her first and lasting impressions: it was heavy, bulky and uncomfortable. Stran, assistant professor of kinesiology and associate director of UA’s Adapted Athletics program, faced an ergonomic issue many people, particularly children, encounter when they receive their first wheelchairs. Over the next year, Stran will conduct a manual wheelchair study in which she’ll adjust chairs of students in Tuscaloosa City Schools. The study will be funded by a $21,362 grant from the Christopher Reeve Foundation and will cover the costs of loaner chairs, maintenance tools and clinics. Stran will be assisted by her UA College of Education colleagues Drs. Michael Esco, assistant professor, and Phillip Bishop, professor of kinesiology.

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UA RESEARCHERS STUDY SOUNDS FROM COLLIDING FOOTBALL HELMETS

When football helmets collide, they produce an unmistakable sound. UA student Brandon McChristian hopes his research of those sound waves begins the process of better understanding the forces involved in those collisions and, perhaps one day, enables inexpensive sensing methods for a safer game. Dr. Steve Shepard, a UA engineeering professor, recently incorporated data from McChristian’s proof-of-concept research into a grant funding proposal to the National Science Foundation. The University has already filed a patent application on the tech-nology, and, if additional research funding is secured, Shepard hopes to further develop methods for assessing helmet impact severity using sound. McChristian, a sophomore from Nashville, TN, majoring in mechanical engineering, was one of more than 700 students who presented research findings during UA’s annual Under-graduate Research and Creative Activity Conference.

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HUBBLE FINDS PHANTOM OBJECTS NEAR DEAD QUASARS IN UA ASTRONOMER INITIATED PROJECT

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a set of wispy, goblin-green objects that are the ephemeral ghosts of quasars that flickered to life and then faded. Dr. William Keel, UA professor of astronomy, initiated the survey. The glowing structures have looping, helical, and braided shapes. The ethereal wisps outside the host galaxy are believed to have been illuminated by powerful ultraviolet radiation from a super-massive black hole at the core of the host galaxy. The most active of these galaxy cores are called quasars, where infalling material is heated to a point where a brilliant searchlight shines into deep space. The beam is produced by a disk of glowing, superheated gas encircl-ing the black hole.

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UA PARTNERS WITH MSU, AU ON WATER RESOURCE ISSUES

Researchers from UA, Auburn University and Mississippi State University are formally collaborating to advance water resource issues in their respective states and around the globe. Representatives from each institution recently signed a memorandum of agreement to advance various water issues, including interdisciplinary water science, policy and law research, economic development, ecosystem management and capacity building. UA’s role in the collaboration will be led by its Water Policy and Law Institute.

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UA STUDENTS PRESENTED AT NATIONAL RESEARCH CONFERENCE

Six UA undergraduate students presented their research findings this spring at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. The annual event, held this year at Eastern Washington University, is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity in all fields of study, according to the conference’s website. UA student presenters were Christine Kim, psychology, Auburn; Taylor Sheeran, English and commu-nication studies, San Antonio, TX; Erin Hein, biochemistry and art history, Wheaton, IL; Genevieve Miller, biology, Biloxi, MS; Madison Hunter, commu-nicative disorders, Memphis, TN; and Maggie Chavez, early childhood educa-tion, Sacramento, CA.

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METHANE IN ARCTIC LAKE TRACED TO GROUNDWATER FROM SEASONAL THAWING, UA CO-AUTHORED RESEARCH SHOWS

Global warming may ramp up the flow of methane from groundwater into Arctic lakes, allowing more of the potent greenhouse gas to bubble out into the atmosphere, according to a new study co-authored by Dr. Natasha Dimova, a UA assistant professor of geological sciences. Scientists have long known that Arctic lakes emit methane, which comes primarily from the action of microbes in the water and lake sediments. Although numerous studies have monitored and documented these emissions, few have examined the effects of seasonally thawed ground-water, which also contains methane and flows into the lakes. Dimova was one of a team of researchers whose findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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ECONOMIC FORECAST FROM UA’S CBER OPTIMISTIC AS STATE JOB GROWTH CONTINUES

Alabama job growth continues to pick up from the slow pace seen in the first half of 2014, according to data from the Center for Business and Economic Research at UA. The state gained a net 28,600 jobs from March 2014 to March 2015. Goods producing firms added 1,300 workers while service providing firms gained 27,300. Economists from the Center for Business and Economic Research in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce have improved their annual forecast for inflation-adjusted Alabama gross domestic product – GDP in 2015. The state’s GDP is expected to increase by 2.5 percent to around $190 billion, up 2.0 percent from 2014. Industries such as automotive manufacturing, aerospace, tourism, healthcare and biotechnology are expected to re-main major economic drivers. Alabama employment is expected to increase by about 1.5 percent in 2015, a stronger gain than the 0.7 percent increase seen in 2014. The state should create about 30,000 to 35,000 new jobs this year.