Advances in Research
PANEL , WHICH INCLUDED UAB, SAYS UNIVERSITIES SHOULD CONSIDER PATENTS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT WHEN ASSESSING FACULTY TENURE AND PROMOTION
A group of senior university officials suggests it is time to add faculty research activities that translate into patents, licensing and commercialization of products to the traditional model for faculty tenure and career advancement, which for years has been based primarily on research and publication in scientific journals. The university leaders, from institutions around the nation including a vice president at UAB, highlight their ideas in “Changing the academic culture: Valuing patents and commercialization toward tenure and career advancement,” a paper published in the current issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
UAB-DEVELOPED VIRAL THERAPY SHOWS PROMISE AGAINST BRAIN TUMORS
Researchers at UAB report a genetically engineered herpes simplex viral therapy is safe when used in conjunction with radiation in the treatment of malignant gliomas, one of the most deadly forms of brain cancer. The virus, G207, is a modified herpes simplex virus that in two previous UAB studies has been shown to be safe when used as a sole therapy. The new findings, published in April in Molecular Therapy, indicate the virus is also safe when used in combination with low doses of radiation therapy. James M. Markert, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, was the study’s first author.
OFT-ASSUMED REASONS FOR RACIAL OBESITY DISPARITIES MAY NOT BE ONLY CAUSE, UAB STUDY SAYS
Racial disparities in obesity rates among the third of U.S. adults considered obese are often blamed on socioeconomic status because of its influence on diet and physical activity, but new findings from UAB published in Obesity suggest otherwise, particularly for women. Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., associate professor of health care policy at UAB, used health behavior data for whites and blacks from Alabama and Mississippi taken from the national Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and took a method used in economics to analyze gender wage disparities.
NEW REGARDS DATA AT UAB SHOW HEART ATTACK, STROKE RISK EQUATIONS ARE ACCURATE DESPITE INITIAL CRITICISMS
Since their release in November 2013, cholesterol treatment guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have drawn concern from the medical community. One of the issues raised was with risk equations to predict heart attack and stroke, but new findings from UAB published in the Journal of the American Medical Association support the accuracy of the equations.
UAB PRODUCES THE FIRST-EVER ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HEALTH, ILLNESS, BEHAVIOR AND SOCIETY
A collaborative effort among UAB faculty has produced the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary and international reference work on all aspects of the social scientific study of health and illness. Distinguished Professor William Cockerham, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Sociology, is editor-in-chief for The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior and Society, which is now available in a five-volume set and online. Cockerham and his department took the lead on the project, but also collaborated with many UAB departments and schools, including Anthropology, Social Work, Public Health and Medicine. This collection represents “the most authoritative resource covering concepts, theories and substantive topics relating to the study of health in our globalized, 21st-century world,” according to the publisher. The collection of work has an author team from across North America, Asia and Europe, all of whom represent a variety of health-related disciplines.
UAB DATA REVEALS ANOTHER MAJOR INCREASE IN DIAGNOSES OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
The incidence of autism spectrum disorders is rising in the United States, and the latest estimates reveal one in 68 American children is affected. New findings released March 27 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, include data collected by UAB researchers who lead the Alabama Autism Surveillance project, a part of the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. The ADDM Network data help the CDC direct research into potential risk factors and help communities direct outreach efforts to those who need it most.
UAB RESEARCHERS FIND COMPARABLE EFFICACY IN TWO TRANSVAGINAL SURGICAL APPROACHES FOR APICAL PROLAPSE
Research from UAB and other medical centers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has determined that neither of the two most common surgical procedures for apical vaginal prolapse is significantly superior to the other for anatomic, functional or adverse event outcomes. Little was known about procedures’ comparative efficacy and safety prior to this trial, says study co-author Holly E. Richter, Ph.D., M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology, J. Marion Sims Endowed Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and director of the UAB Division of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery in the School of Medicine.
UAB TO TAKE RADICALLY DIFFERENT APPROACH TO DRUG ADHERENCE IN THE BLACK BELT
Monika Safford, M.D., professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine, and her research team will engage 500 people in Wilcox, Sumter and Pickens counties living with diabetes who report having trouble with medication adherence. Participants will be randomized to either receiving usual care, or working with a community health adviser and watching educational DVDs that include stories of other people from their community who have accepted their disease. This is a radically different research approach that is made possible by a three-year, $2 million grant awarded to Safford by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which helps people make informed health care decisions and improves health care delivery and outcomes by producing and promoting high-integrity, evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers and the broader health care community.
UAH CHEMIST PUBLISHES 300TH PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATION
Chemistry Professor Will Setzer, published his 300th peer reviewed publication “Phytochemical investigations of Lonchocarpus bark extracts from Monteverde, Costa Rica” Caitlin E. Deskins, Bernhard Vogler, Noura S. Dosoky, Bhuwan K. Chhetri, William A. Haber, and William N. Setzer. Natural Product Communications, 2014, 9(4), 507-510.
UAH BIOLOGIST HAS EXPERIMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
Biological Sciences Professor Joseph Ng has an experiment that is ready to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment, which explores protein crystal growth in microgravity, will be a part of the cargo flying to the ISS. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) biology professor’s experiment, that is set to fly to the International Space Station, is about the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission.
UAH PROFESSOR WINS PRESTIGIOUS NSF GRANT
Dr. Udaysankar Nair, an assistant professor in UAH’s Atmospheric Science Department, has been awarded an almost $750,000 Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation. The 5-year grant will support both a study of land use and land cover changes on Asian islands, and how those changes might be altering weather patterns. It will also support a multi-disciplinary project to develop new tools for teaching atmospheric dynamics. Nair is the first atmospheric science faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER award. One of the NSF’s most prestigious awards, grants through the CAREER program support junior faculty who are establishing their careers in research and education.
UAH DEVELOPING SYSTEM TO PREDICT LIGHTNING
Millions of people who work or play outdoors might one day soon have a new tool to help them reduce the risk of being struck by lightning. Supported by a two-year research grant from NASA, scientists in the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville are combining data from weather satellites with Doppler radar and numerical models in a system that might warn which specific “pop up” storm clouds are likely to produce lightning and when that lightning is likely to begin and end.
UAH RESEARCH TEAM PARTICIPATES IN INTERNATIONAL SPACE MISSION
Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) was originally conceived by Professor Yoshi Takahashi. UAH currently has a NASA research grant to participate in this international space mission. The principal investigator for this grant is Dr. James Adams and it includes Prof. Massimiliano Bonamente, Dr. Michael Briggs, Dr. Valerie Connaughton, Mr. Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Mr. John Watts. Currently a balloon-borne prototype of the EUSO instrument is being prepared for its first flight in August from Canada. The UAH team is preparing to conduct tests on the balloon instrument in France in May and to fly a xenon flasher under the balloon during its flight to Canada using a helicopter. In preparation for this helicopter flight, the UAH team will conduct test flights arranged by the UAH Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center in May and June. Two papers from this research have been published in refereed journals. In addition three talks on EUSO were presented at the April 2014 American Physical Society Meeting.
UAH RESEARCH SCIENTIST DEVELOPING A MODEL FOR NASA’S SPACE RADIATION ANALYSIS GROUP
The Probabilistic Model for Solar Energetic Particle Models project is designed to develop a model for NASA’s Space Radiation Analysis group that will provide a description of the most severe solar energetic particle environment that can be expected to occur during a space mission at a specified confidence level. The Space Radiation Analysis group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center is responsible for the radiation protection of space crews. The model being developed by UAH will be used to plan for crew radiation protection during future space missions. The principal investigator for this grant is Dr. James Adams. The project has developed a probabilistic model for episodes of elevated solar energetic proton flux and delivered it both to NASA and to NASA’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. A talk on this project was presented at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, Netherlands and a poster on it was presented at the Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, CO.
UAH RESEARCH SCIENTIST DEVELOPING A NEUTRON SPECTROMETER TO BE FLOWN ON CREWED DEEP SPACE MISSIONS
The Advanced Scintillating Fiber Technology for High Energy Neutron Spectrometers for Exploration project is developing a neutron spectrometer to be flown on future crewed deep space missions. The principal investigator for this grant is Dr. James Adams and the grant includes Mr. John Watts and Mr. Evgeny Kuznetsov. In order to estimate the radiation dose to space crews from neutrons generated in the walls of a spacecraft, it is necessary to know the neutron energy spectrum. UAH is developing an instrument to measure the neutron differential energy spectrum within a large crewed spacecraft operating in deep space. The environment within such a spacecraft includes charged particles, gamma rays and neutrons. In addition to measuring neutron energies, the spectrometer must be designed to have a low probability of misidentifying charged particles and gamma rays as neutrons. A prototype spectrometer has been built and tested both in the laboratory and on neutron and proton beams on the Indiana University cyclotron. A second prototype is now in construction for a second series of tests. A talk on this project was presented at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, Netherlands. A second talk was presented on this project at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center and a third talk is scheduled for October at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
UAH RESEARCHERS CONDUCT PILOT STUDY FOR A LWS PROPOSAL
During March and April, Drs. David Falconer and Igor Khazanov conducted a pilot study for a LWS proposal to investigate how well the total magnetic flux of an active region can be nowcasted from STEREO EUVI coronal images. In the pilot study, a conversion curve was found to translate coronal luminosity into total magnetic flux with a multiplicative variance of 1.5x (i.e. 67% of the active region in the sample was within a factor of 1.5). Since the range of active regions total magnetic flux extends over 2 orders of magnitude, this is a useful nowcast; better than far-side heliosmology, and with both STEREO spacecraft presently looking at the far side of the Sun with 360 degree longitudinal coverage. We can develop better nowcasting, by knowing that an active region has emerged on the far side of the Sun, by estimating its size and threat level and by using known forecast curves converting total magnetic flux to predicted event rate.
UAH SENIOR EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCE MAJOR PRESENTS FINDINGS
Kel Markert, a senior Earth System Science major, presented findings from a summer 2013 research project with the NASA DEVELOP program in a special session at the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing annual conference in March in Louisville, KY. Markert, who is also the program lead for the NASA DEVELOP program in Huntsville, will present information on a project using NASA Earth observations that monitor threats to protected forest areas in the Chittagong Hills Tracts of southeastern Bangladesh. This work was done in conjunction with NASA DEVELOP’s affiliate in Nepal, the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development.
UAH CENTER FOR SPACE PLASMA & AERONOMIC RESEARCH (CSPAR) RECEIVES GRANTS
- The NASA proposal “Probing the Physics of the Heliopause Region” with Principal Investigator Jakobus A. le Roux from the Department of Space Science/CSPAR was successful and a total amount of $396,020 over a three year period 3/12/2014-2/11/2017 was awarded. The award includes funding for a 50% GRA position.
- NASA Heliospheric Grand Challenges Program: PI Pogorelov, N.V., Multi-scale Investigation of the Energetic Particle Behavior in the Vicinity of the Heliopause, 2014-2017, $1,050,000.00.
- NSF Solar Heliospheric and Interplanetary Environment (SHINE) Program: PI Pogorelov, N.V., Solar Wind with a Time-dependent, MHD, Interplanetary Scintillation Tomography, 2014-2017, $343,400.00.
- NASA Heliospheric Supporting Research Program: PI Borovikov S.N. Analysis of Heliospheric Transient Events at Earth Orbit from Multiple Spacecraft Observations, $406,395.00.
UA ENGINEERING PROFESSOR AWARDED NSF CAREER AWARD FOR ROBOTIC PROSTHESIS
The National Science Foundation selected Dr. Xiangrong Shen, a UA mechanical engineering professor, for a CAREER Award for his research into a robotic prosthesis that could help amputees walk better. The CAREER Award is NSF’s most prestigious recognition of top-performing young scientists beginning their careers. Shen was awarded nearly $424,000 to assist his innovative work into a biologically-inspired, powered prosthesis that mimics natural joints. There are more than 400,000 people with a leg amputated below the hip in the United States, and this number is expected to double by 2050, according to Shen. His system is proving to be lighter, more powerful and more compact than current designs.
UA’S MOUNDVILLE MUSEUM CELEBRATED 75 YEARS
UA’s Jones Museum at Moundville Archaeological Park celebrated its 75th anniversary. It began as an idea of former state geologist Dr. Walter B. Jones. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, that idea became reality. Construction of the museum began in February 1937 with only a small side camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps. When the 200-man Corps unit arrived in June the following year, the museum’s foundation had been completed, and, in less than a year, the project was finished. In 1999, UA Museums began a comprehensive effort to rebuild and redefine the museum, resulting in a $5 million renovation completed in 2010. Today, the museum combines the latest technology with more than 200 stunning artifacts to describe one of the most significant Native American archaeological sites in the United States.
UA-INVOLVED STUDY SHOWED SMALL CHANGES COULD SAVE STRUCTURES, LIVES DURING TORNADOES
Dr. Andrew J. Graettinger, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at UA, is the lead author of a report on the study of damage left behind by a powerful tornado in Moore, OK. The team of researchers from six institutions traveled to Moore at the end of May 2013 as part of the National Science Foundation Rapid Response Grant for Exploratory Research awarded to UA to investigate and gather data about the damage to, and performance of, wood-frame structures in the affected areas due to strong winds. As part of the grant, the research team also studied whether social media and engineering can combine to influence future building practice. The researchers’ goal is to better understand the forces generated by large tornadoes and the distribution of wind force across a tornado’s path, as well as make recommendations for design code improvements and general safety guidelines.
UA SELECTED FOR NATIONAL VEHICLE CONTEST
Students from several disciplines across UA will compete nationally over the next four years to design an advanced, energy-efficient vehicle, the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. recently announced. UA is one of 16 institutions selected for the EcoCAR 3 competition that challenges students to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles without compromising real-world performance or safety. Students will conceive, design and integrate an innovative, state-of-the-art powertrain into a Chevrolet Camaro, donated by General Motors, with the objectives of maximizing vehicle fuel efficiency, maintaining federal emissions and safety standards, and improving vehicle performance, all while satisfying consumer demands for flawless drive-ability and affordable cost.
HUNDREDS OF UA STUDENT RESEARCHERS DISPLAYED, DISCUSSED FINDINGS
Some 600 UA students representing a cross section of campus presented research findings during UA’s annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference at the Bryant Conference Center. The 7th annual event, hosted by UA’s Office of the Vice President for Research, registered a record number of student participants this year. Oral presentations were made throughout the day in various rooms within the Bryant Conference Center. Students competed for cash prizes and earned experience presenting or defending their research projects before judges in both the poster and oral presentation categories. Throughout the research efforts leading up to the conference, students were paired with faculty mentors. UA’s Office for Sponsored Programs, a unit of the Office for Research, coordinated this undergraduate conference.
UA SCIENTIST EMPHASIZES METABOLITES’ ROLE IN UNDERSTANDING DISEASE
Overreliance on genetic-centered approaches in predicting, diagnosing and treating disease will lead to few future scientific breakthroughs, cautioned Dr. Laura Reed, a UA geneticist and lead author of an article in the online issue of Genetics that advocates for a greater emphasis on the body’s metabolites in understanding illnesses. Using fruit flies as animal models in the research publishing in Genetics, the multi-institution team demonstrated how genetics, in combination with meta bolomics and gene expression – how genes are turned on – can be used to predict heart disease and the organism’s response to environmental change, said Reed. In one of the project’s aspects, headed by UA, 187 metabolites were measured in flies to determine which ones’ levels changed in correlation with weight changes in the flies.
UA STUDENT WON NSF DISSERTATION GRANT FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF LOUISIANA SALT TRADE
Paul Eubanks, a doctoral student in UA’s anthropology department, has received an $18,000 Dissertation Improvement Grant by the National Science Foundation for a project that explores the history and impact of the salt trade in northwestern Louisiana during the 18th century. Eubanks’ project, “Caddo Salt Production in Northwestern Louisiana,” focuses on highlighting the role that the Caddo Indian salt makers played in the development of Louisiana’s history in the post-Columbian world. His interest in pursuing this topic was sparked, in part, by the small number of documented archaeological investigations conducted on the Louisiana salt trade, despite its importance in helping to forge economic and political ties.
UA STUDENTS PRESENTED RESEARCH FINDINGS AT NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Eleven UA undergraduate students presented their research findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. The event is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity in all fields of study, according to the conference’s website. Each of the UA students, whose research ranges from naming patterns among slaves in 17th Century Barbados to alternatives to conventional solar cells, work with UA faculty mentors on their research projects. Accompanying the students were Drs. Ann Webb, director of UA’s Emerging Scholars Program, Andrew Goodliffe, assistant dean of UA’s Graduate School, and Susan Burkett, Alabama Power Foundation Endowed Professor. The popular Emerging Scholars Program, designed specifically to attract freshmen to research, is in its 7th year.
UA PROFESSOR DETAILED HOW CHEMICAL DUMPING AFFECTS ANNISTON
The Monsanto Co. held its cards close to the vest, refusing to publicly acknowledge the damage its PCB pollution was doing in Anniston, even though internal memos revealed the company knew about the dangers of its chemical dumping since the 1960s. Now a UA researcher has written a book that sheds new light on a pollution scandal that resulted in a $700 million legal settlement and – according to the EPA – still affects the bucolic southern city today. Dr. Ellen Griffith Spears’ new book, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution and Justice in an All-American Town, looks at a more than 140-year period in Anniston, and it traces how a combination of chemicals, money and people transformed the city into “one of the most toxic towns in the United States,” according to a 2002 “60 Minutes” report.
UA’S SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING LIBRARIAN NAMED ‘MOVER AND SHAKER’ BY LIBRARY JOURNAL
UA’s Dr. Vincent Scalfani was named one of 2014’s “movers and shakers” by the Library Journal. Scalfani, UA science and engineering librarian for the Rodgers Library, collaborated with Drs. Stephan A. Ohnmacht and Stephen Neidle, professor, both researchers at the School of Pharmacy at University College London in the UK, to convert laboratory X-ray crystallography data of a G-quadruplex molecule, and the drug targeting it, into a 3D digital model suitable for 3D printing. The model is potentially a leap forward in the fight against cancer. With a doctorate in chemistry from Colorado State University, Scalfani has been able to share his love of the research end of the scientific process through a career in librarianship. The 2014 list of “movers and shakers” recognizes 50 librarians across the United States with a passion to meet the needs of patrons, as libraries continue to evolve in the digital age.