Advances in Research
UAB STUDY SHOWS BLACK ADULTS WITH HIGHER URINARY ALBUMIN EXCRETION HAVE INCREASED RISK OF CORONARY HEART DISEASE
A higher urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio is associated with greater risk of incident but not recurrent coronary heart disease in blacks compared with whites according to a study by UAB researchers and colleagues published in the August 21, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Increased urinary albumin excretion is an important marker of kidney injury and a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Black individuals have higher levels of urinary albumin excretion than do white individuals, which may contribute to racial disparities in cardiovascular outcomes. The study included black and white U.S. adults, ages 45 and older, who were enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study between 2003 and 2007 with follow-up through December 2009.
UAB STUDY EXPLAINS HOW THE BRAIN REMEMBERS PLEASURE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR ADDICTION
Key details of the way nerve cells in the brain remember pleasure are revealed in a study by UAB researchers published in Nature Neuroscience. Brain circuits have evolved to encourage behaviors proved to help our species survive by attaching pleasure to them. The study is the first to illustrate that reward memories are created by chemical changes that influence known memory related genes in nerve cells within a brain region called the ventral tegmental area.
NEW STUDY AT UAB SHOWS CHANGING BREAKFAST HABITS MAY NOT AFFECT WEIGHT
A new study from UAB shows that, while an association exists between breakfast and weight management, the question of whether eating versus skipping breakfast affects weight has not been answered by research. A team led by David Allison, Ph.D., associate dean for science in the UAB School of Public Health, said that studies designed to find links between two things, like breakfast habits and obesity, often do not prove that one causes the other. Andrew Brown, Ph.D., first author of the new study published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, spear-headed the examination of 92 studies about the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity.
UAB PAPER SUGGESTS MOBILITY IS KEY TO HEALTHY AGING
A clinical review from geriatricians at UAB suggests that mobility limitations are a litmus test for healthy aging and urges primary care physicians to take a more aggressive role in ascertaining the mobility of their older patients. The study was published September 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association as part of the continuing series “Care of an Aging Patient.” The authors, Cynthia J. Brown, M.D., MSPH, and Kellie Flood, M.D., of the UAB Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, conducted a clinical review of academic papers published between 1985 and 2012 dealing with mobility issues in a general aging population.
UAB RESEARCH: KEY PROTEIN ACCELERATES DIABETES IN TWO WAYS
The same protein tells beta cells in the pancreas to stop making insulin and then to self-destruct as diabetes worsens, according to a UAB study published online in Nature Medicine. Specifically, the research revealed that a protein called TXNIP controls the ability of beta cells to make insulin, the hormone that regulates blood-sugar levels.
SPINAL CORD INJURY PAPER WRITTEN BY UAB DIRECTOR EMERITUS MOST CITED’ IN 2012
A paper written by Michael DeVivo, Dr.P.H., director emeritus of the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, housed in the UAB Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, was the most cited paper published in Spinal Cord in 2012. The paper titled, “Epidemiology of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury: Trends and Future Implications,” is based primarily on data from UAB’s Spinal Cord Injury Model System Database and was prepared for the State of the Science in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation: Informing a New Research Agenda conference held in 2011.
UAB PROFESSOR BRINGING HIV/AIDS STUDY, PROGRAM TO LOCAL BLACK CHURCHES
The black church can be a powerful tool in HIV/AIDS education and prevention, according to Magdalena Szaflarski, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Sociology who plans to replicate in Birmingham an innovative program that found success under her leadership in Ohio. Szaflarski led a survey in the Cincinnati area of religious organizations to investigate their involvement in talking to congregations about HIV/AIDS prevention. The data from her study, “Faith-Based HIV Prevention and Counseling Programs: Findings from the Cincinnati Census of Religious Congregations,” was recently published in AIDS and Behavior.
UAB RESEARCH SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON RNA POLYMERASE
Scientists at UAB report surprising findings regarding the enzymes that make RNA, called RNA polymerases, in a study published August 29, 2013 in Cell Reports. The findings suggest a new strategy to identify potential targets for controlling rampant cell growth, a hallmark of many cancers.
UAB STUDY FINDS EXERCISING ONE DAY A WEEK MAY BE ENOUGH FOR OLDER WOMEN
A study by UAB researchers reveals that women over age 60 may need to exercise only one day a week to significantly improve strength and endurance. The study, in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, monitored 63 women performing combined aerobic exercise training and resistance exercise training for 16 weeks. One group performed AET and RET one time per week, a second group two times per week and a third group three times per week. The study found significant increases in muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and functional tasks in each group, but no significant differences in outcomes among groups.
UAB STUDY SHOWS SLEEP DEPRIVED TEEN PEDESTRIANS MORE LIKELY TO GET HIT
UAB researchers have published a study showing that sleep deprived adolescents are in greater danger crossing the street than their better rested peers. The study, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, revealed that when restricted to four hours of sleep the previous night, subjects in a virtual pedestrian environment took more time to initiate crossings, crossed with less time before contact with vehicles and experienced more close calls than those who slept for 8.5 hours. “This study suggests that adolescents’ ability to cross the street can be compromised after only one night of acute sleep restriction,” said study author Aaron Davis, Ph.D., psychology postdoctoral fellow in the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health program in the UAB Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
FERRITIN PLAYS CENTRAL ROLE IN KIDNEY DAMAGE BY CONTROLLING IRON ACCORDING TO UAB RESEARCHERS
A protein, ferritin, protects kidneys against a damaging after effect of injury, heart failure or hardened arteries by controlling levels of iron, according to a study published recently by UAB researchers in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The research team genetically engineered mice that clarified the role of ferritin in iron metabolism, setting the stage for research into future treatments that prevent acute kidney damage caused by iron.
UAB RESEARCHERS IDENTIFY PROTEINS THAT MAY HELP BRAIN TUMORS SPREAD
Scientists at UAB have identified a molecular pathway that seems to contribute to the ability of malignant glioma cells in a brain tumor to spread and invade previously healthy brain tissue. Researchers said the findings, published September 19, 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE, provide new drug discovery targets to rein in the ability of these cells to move. Gliomas account for about a third of brain tumors, and survival rates are poor; only about half of the 10,000 Americans diagnosed with malignant glioma survive the first year, and only about one-quarter survive for two years. The study was led by Hassan Fathallah-Shaykh, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology.
UAH CBA PROFESSORS RECEIVE $212K GRANT
Eric Fong, associate professor of management; and Al Wilhite, professor of economics, received a $212,000 grant from the Office of Research Integrity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) for their proposal, “Measuring the Extent of and Reactions to the Practices of Honorary Authorship and Coercive Citation in Academic Publishing and Grant Writing.”
UAH COLLEGE OF SCIENCE PHYSICISTS OBTAIN KEY COSMOLOGY RESULTS
Professors Richard Lieu and Lingze Duan, along with Thomas Kibble have published or submitted results on inflation and the flatness of the universe, density fluctuations in the universe, and the measurement of the dispersion of light from very distant parts of the universe.
UAH ATMOSPHERIC SCIENTIST DEVELOPS DEVICE FOR LIGHTNING INVESTIGATIONS
Professor Phillip Bitzer is co-developer of the Huntsville Alabama Marx Meter Array (HAMMA) device and lead author of the study showing its usefulness. The device has become a valuable tool in researcher’s quest to determine how lightning is spawned in clouds, to map strikes from beginning to end and to better predict severe weather.
UAH FACULTY MEMBER RECEIVES EPSCOR AWARD
Chemistry Professor John Gregory (Director of the Alabama Space Grant Program and Alabama NASA EPSCoR Program) was awarded a one-year renewal of the Space Grant Award ($575,000), an EPSCoR research award ($750,000), and a one-year renewal award of the EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development ($125,000).
UAH CENTER FOR APPLIED OPTICS
Dr. John Williams (UAH-CAO/NMDC) secured additional funding from SMDC to support graduate student research in high energy lasers. The research involves the design, assembly and testing of a unique laser system, and issues in beam propagation through the atmosphere.
UAH-CAO RESEARCH SCIENTIST SECURES FUNDING TO SUPPORT TESTING OF SPACE TELESCOPE
Dr. James Hadaway (UAH-CAO) has secured a new funding increment from ITT Exelis to support the upcoming full Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) testing of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Dr. Hadaway has been working on the JWST effort since the mid-1990s, designing the yardstick telescope, then leading the effort for cryogenic testing of the large primary mirror segments which will eventually be launched into operation in 2018.
UAH-CAO PRINCIPAL RESEARCH SCIENTIST RECEIVES FUNDING IN DEVELOPMENT OF X-RAY MIRROR
Dr. Patrick J. Reardon has received a new funding increment from NASA/MSFC in the development of an advanced x-ray mirror, being produced on the UAH-CAO Zeeko IRP600X free-form polisher. The Zeeko IRP600X was acquired through an NSF-MRI Award, and is capable of grinding and polishing complex optical surfaces and elements in virtually any shape or any material. Additionally, Dr. Reardon has secured funding for a graduate student in the OSE program to support NASA-MSFC efforts in hardware for x-ray science.
UAH-CAO SUPPORTS UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS ON OUTREACH PROGRAM
The UAH-CAO/NMDC support-ed a number of undergraduate students over the summer on an NSF-funded Outreach program, funded through Dr. Robert Lindquist (UAH-ECE/CAO). The students performed laboratory experiments in the Nano & Micro Devices Laboratory in a number of photonics related areas, including Dr. Yongbin Lin’s (UAH-CAO/NMDC) technology of depositing nano-scale gold patterns on the end of an optical fiber for biological sensing application.
UAH ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING FACULTY AND STUDENTS IDENTIFY MEANS OF DELIVERING OPTICAL PULSES IN SPACE
Novel physics and engineering by a team of UAH faculty and students has identified a means of delivering energetic ultrashort optical pulses in the vacuum of space from a moderate size co-orbiting spacecraft over order of a kilometer distance adequate to deflect a “Chelyabinsk” scale asteroid. The method requires average power accessible in the near term applied for several months. Much of the required technology could be developed using resources available at UAH and within the Huntsville area.
UAH COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS
Christina R. Steidl, assistant professor of sociology, has had an article accepted in the flagship sociology journal of the American Sociological Association, the American Sociological Review. This is the first time a full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty member has published in ASR as a sole author. The article, entitled, “Remembering May 4, 1970: Integrating the Commemorative Field at Kent State,” was published in October 2013.
NEW UA FOODS LAB OPENED THIS FALL
The new $1.5 million foods lab in UA’s Doster Hall will give the more than 1,200 students enrolled in the human nutrition and hospitality management program access to state-of-the art equipment. Human nutrition and hospitality management are not culinary programs. The courses focus on the science behind food and how principles of food preparation impact nutrient content, taste, texture and appearance. Last year, the program received a grant from Nestle USA to evaluate the sensory attributes of a protein-enhanced soup. The science behind the grant included evaluating the differences in taste, texture, flow, aroma and overall preference between the tested soups and standard flavor-matched, non-fortified soups. As a result of the data collected, the tested soups will be marketed to long-term care facilities as a means of increasing the protein content in diets of older adults.
UA PROFESSOR AUTHORED “FIRST TRUE SURVEY” OF FANTASY SPORT LEAGUES
Dr. Andrew Billings, a sports researcher whose academic home is UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, has released a book he believes to be the “first true survey” of fantasy sport leagues in the United States. Billings, the Ronald Reagan Endowed Chair of Broadcasting in the telecommunication and film department at UA, co-wrote The Fantasy Sport Industry: Games within Games with the University of Cincinnati’s Dr. Brody J. Ruihley. The book explores the ins and outs of fantasy sport as an industry game changer. The book includes data from surveys of more than 1,000 fantasy sport players, interviews with industry leaders and provides a history of fantasy sport. Billings said around 35 million Americans play fantasy sports each year, even more than the number of people who have active Twitter accounts.
CITIZENS HELPED ASTRONOMERS CLASSIFY 300,000 GALAXIES, UA RESEARCHER CO-AUTHORED DESCRIPTION
More than 83,000 volunteer citizen scientists partnered with professional astronomers to examine more than 300,000 galaxies in an online project that would have taken approximately 30 years of full-time work by one researcher to complete, according to Dr. William Keel, UA professor of astronomy. Keel co-authored a paper detailing the project that published recently in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The project, named Galaxy Zoo 2, is the second phase of a crowd-sourcing effort to categorize galaxies in the universe. Within weeks of the original Galaxy Zoo’s July 2007 inception, Keel became one of several professional astronomers intricately involved in the project. When volunteers were asked why they got involved in the project, the most common answer was because they enjoyed contributing to science.
UA PROFESSOR EXAMINES CULTURAL IMPACT OF BARBECUE ON ALABAMA
Dr. Joshua Rothman, UA professor of history and African American Studies, received an $18,000 grant from the Southern Foodways Alliance to study barbecue in the state of Alabama as well as the state’s foodways — meaning how the regional cuisine of Alabama developed over time. As a professor of Southern history and director of the Summersell Center for Study of the South, Rothman said he tries to take in as many aspects of the South and Southern culture as possible. Researching and writing about Alabama foodways is an under-developed venture, which is why the SFA and the state of Alabama funded the project. Rothman and his two associates, doctoral candidate Mark Johnson, of Chicago, and graduate student Dana Alsen, of Palantine, IL., will publish two papers: one on barbecue in Alabama and one on Alabama foodways.
UA TO GAIN REMOTE ACCESS TO CANARY ISLAND TELESCOPE
UA faculty and student astronomers are gaining remote access to a telescope on one of the Canary Islands, off Africa’s coast. Starting in 2015, UA astronomers may access the remotely operated 1.0-m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma, which is off the coast of Morocco. The telescope has sat idle since 2003. In late 2011, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom invited submission of proposals to take over telescope operations. UA will acquire access to the telescope through its participation in an 11-member consor-tium known as the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. Members of the consortium have similar goals for the education of astronomy and astrophysics students. Having access to a nighttime sky during daylight hours in Tuscaloosa opens more teaching opportunities during traditional class times.
UA ENGINEERING PROFESSOR GRANTED PATENT FOR CARBON-CAPTURE PROCESS
An innovative method for stripping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from industrial emissions is potentially cheaper and more efficient than current methods, according to a United States patent based on research by Dr. Jason E. Bara, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at UA. Nearly all commercially-available efforts at scrubbing green-house gasses, GHG’s, from emissions use a liquid solution of water and amine, derived from ammonia, that contacts the stream, removing carbon dioxide, CO2, or other unwanted gases. The system patented by Bara would replace much of the water in the aqueous amine solutions with a promising class of molecules known as imidazoles, organic solvents with a low vapor pressure, or boiling point.
UA PROFESSOR USED TECHNOLOGY, SCIENCE TO TREAT BOYS AT DYS FACILITY
Dr. Randy Salekin’s mix of technology, science education and positive psychology is impacting the behavior of troubled youth at the Alabama Department of Youth Services. Partnered with the Alabama Department of Youth Services, Dr. Salekin, UA professor of psychology, has led a team of graduate students in implementing positive psychology interventions with more than 70 boys – ages 12
to 18 – per week since spring. Salekin and his team have developed a system that combines science education, technology and positive psychology as well as positive reinforcement that he says has been more effective at reaching troubled youth at the facility than typical methods, like empathy training or strict discipline. The treatments were tested at UA’s Disruptive Behavior Clinic ahead of Salekin’s partnership with DYS.