The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

UAH CON faculty and staff volunteer to support Tyrosinemia Society

(Tyrosinemia Society/Contributed)

Nursing faculty and staff members at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, are giving back to both their community and the world by supporting the Tyrosinemia Society and its new partnership with an organization called PatientsLikeMe.

The Tyrosinemia Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in the tyrosinemia community. Tyrosinemia comprises a group of rare genetic disorders that prevent the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. Usually detected in infancy through newborn screening tests, tyrosinemia occurs in one out of every 50,000-100,000 births worldwide. Without treatment, the condition can lead to liver failure, but with early detection and lifelong management, people with tyrosinemia can develop normally and live healthy lives.

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UAH faculty and staff came to be involved with the society when they saw the chance to make a real difference in the lives of people with this condition.

“Faculty in the college of nursing saw a need for a non-profit advocacy organization to support the needs of families and patients affected by the four types of tyrosinemia,” says Dr. Elizabeth Barnby, Clinical Associate Professor in the CON and president of the society. “The Tyrosinemia Society supports patients and families with all four types of tyrosinemia: transient tyrosinemia, tyrosinemia type 1, tyrosinemia type 2 and tyrosinemia type 3. Type 1, 2 and 3 are rare hereditary diseases caused by enzyme deficiency on the tyrosine catabolic pathway. Transient tyrosinemia is more common, but only a transient condition that occurs most frequently in babies born prematurely. The most severe type of tyrosinemia is type 1, and it is a life-threatening disease that can take the life of a child very early in life, but if identified and treated it can become a manageable disorder.”

This year, the Tyrosinemia Society has joined forces with PatientsLikeMe (PLM), the world’s largest integrated community, health management and real-world data platform. This collaboration will give visibility to the society and its members, enabling them to learn from their peers living with tyrosinemia, and provide an opportunity for the tyrosinemia community to share their lived experiences by contributing patient-generated data. This data will ultimately be used to increase researcher knowledge of the condition through a natural history study.

“All types of tyrosinemia will benefit from a natural history study to improve our understanding of the basic disease pathophysiology,” Dr. Barnby explains. “I am very grateful that my colleagues at UAH and other institutions throughout the country and the world have chosen to volunteer their time and energy to make the non-profit Tyrosinemia Society possible. Their efforts are truly selfless and humanitarian and will make the lives of children and caregivers impacted by tyrosinemia and related disorders better.”

The society partnering with PLM represents an important leap toward providing a solid body of data that would otherwise be difficult to obtain about this relatively rare disease, significantly benefitting families affected by tyrosinemia. Developing an online community to support tyrosinemia patients and caregivers represents the first time a pediatric rare disease community has partnered with PLM, laying a foundation for other rare disease communities to follow.

Along with Dr. Barnby, other UAH volunteers supporting the society include board member Dr. Jerome Baudry, webmaster Hunter Cowing, board chair Dr. Kader Frendi, board member Dr. Angela Hollingsworth, secretary Preston Miller, vice president and treasurer Dr. Mark Reynolds and medical/scientific advisory board chair, Dr. Darlene Showalter. Dr Gordon MacGregor and Dr. Casey Norris, previous faculty at UAH, will continue to serve as well. The volunteers have become essential to supporting this cause by performing a myriad of tasks and services.

“These volunteers give their time, their talents and their hearts to the cause willingly and accept no reimbursement,” Dr. Barnby notes. “They are truly the most wonderful thing about the Tyrosinemia Society. They are making a huge difference for children throughout the world! They are building a non-profit structure of support for the families with financial grants from key stakeholders. They build web pages, answer questions, educate the public about tyrosinemia and network with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) and the NIH/Office of Rare Disease Research (NORD) to improve outcomes for patients with tyrosinemia. Some even translate, since people from all over the world contact the Tyrosinemia Society on a regular basis. We are a leader in the care of tyrosinemia doing what we can in our free time to help. And none of this would have been possible without the support of the UAH College of Nursing administration as well.”

The Tyrosinemia Society is a community of advocates, caregivers and health professionals dedicated to educating and inspiring individuals to improve health outcomes and advocate for adults and children with tyrosinemia and related disorders. The society has earned a global reputation for transforming healthcare outcomes for those affected by this disorder through education and research in collaboration with universities and healthcare industry professionals. To learn more about the society and its mission, please visit tyrosinemia.org.

PatientsLikeMe enables its members to monitor symptoms of their condition(s), share their disease experiences and treatment outcomes and learn how to improve their care through peer-to-peer interactions. Members can put their disease experiences in context and find answers to their questions by easily connecting directly with members who have the same conditions, individuals who are experiencing the same symptoms or have used similar treatments. For information about PatientsLikeMe, visit patientslikeme.com.

(Courtesy of UAH)

3 weeks ago

UAH alumnus and NASA inventor Jonathan Lee is driven to battle COVID-19 after losing his father

(NASA/Contributed)

For NASA inventor Jonathan Lee, an alumnus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of The University of Alabama System, the global pandemic could not be more personal: it took away his father last year, spurring Lee to join the battle against the virus himself.

Lee earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from UAH in 1982 and 1984, respectively. He joined Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1988, and since 1990 has worked in the Materials and Processes Laboratory’s Metallic Materials Division. An avid inventor, he co-invented NASA 398, a lightweight, high-strength aluminum alloy suitable for high-temperature applications in everything from outboard motors, motorcycles, scooters and Arctic Cat snowmobiles to blades in emergency ventilation fans in underground streets and traffic tunnels in cities across the globe. Lee has supported NASA’s space flight programs as well, including the Orion Launch Abort System that will be part of the Artemis I and II lunar missions. The inventor was inducted into the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2018.

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But it was the tragic events of 2020 that have driven the alumnus to create the innovations that are likely closest to his heart. Last spring Lee’s father, David V. Lee, was hospitalized in critical condition and later succumbed to the virus. Due to hospital safety protocols, the elder Lee was not allowed visitors and died alone. When NASA requested suggestions to help fight COVID-19, his son seized on the opportunity to channel his grief and shock into ingenuity, submitting six ideas aimed at combating the virus.

“My inventions explore the usage of novel sterilization techniques from certain electromagnetic wavelengths and anti-microbial materials,” Lee explains. “These ideas are relatively low-cost methods to kill many common bacteria and virus, including COVID-19, and to prevent the transmission of diseases through high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, elevator buttons, gas pump handles, bathroom fixtures, etc. A person could potentially get infected with harmful pathogens if they touch a contaminated surface and then later touch their mouth, nose or eyes. In a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine (2020), it was found that the COVID-19 virus was able to live up to three days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces, which are usually the material of choice for design of common high-touch surfaces in modern society.”

Lee’s experience and lively curiosity enabled him to successfully apply a wide range of skills in materials and alloys as a structural materials engineer into methods to help reduce bacterial and viral transmission.

“I have a keen interest for studying unique material properties that can be exploited for different applications beyond the structural-strength purpose for NASA space vehicles,” the alumnus says. “For example, I want to share a little bit of what I learned about the anti-microbial properties of copper, which has been exploited by human civilizations for centuries. The ancient Egyptians used copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water between 2600 and 2200 B.C. The Aztecs gargled with a mixture containing copper to treat sore throats. In the 19 th century, a new awareness of copper’s antimicrobial was spawned by the observation that workers in copper factories appeared to be immune to a cholera pandemic that occurred in Europe around 1832, and subsequent outbreaks in Paris, France. Recently, copper has been proven scientifically to kill a host of pathogens, including the influenza Type-A virus.”

Some of these inventions have a dual use for commercialization and for NASA’s in-space sterilization to minimize the risk of exposure of the flight crew to harmful pathogens.

“Previous NASA research has given some indication that bacteria and viruses may be more virulent in space, and crew immune systems may be weakened, in response to the human bodies being exposed to the long-term microgravity environment and cosmic radiation from deep space, which could potentially make the crew more susceptible to infections,” Lee notes. “All of my ideas have to do with the usage of novel anti-microbial sterilization techniques and advanced materials, which can be implemented on the International Space Station (ISS). Some of these ideas could be applied to discarded materials such as cutlery, utensils and even medical devices, with the view to re-purpose or recycle what previously was disposed as waste from the ISS.”

Some of Lee’s ideas are already in the process to be commercialized and business plans are in the making.

“I was asked to support a collaborative effort with The University of Alabama. In this collaboration, a group of college MBA students was presented with the opportunity to gain real-world work experience by exploring the commercial potential from my inventions. Essentially, NASA is providing an opportunity for college students to be young entrepreneurs with the benefits of using NASA innovative technologies for commercial applications. I’ve learned recently that UAH also has a STEM collaborative program with NASA.”

Originally from Vietnam, Lee’s family made a fortuitous connection to Huntsville that led to their being settled in north Alabama after the war.

“In the spring of 1975, my family was airlifted from Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, to America, and there we spent our first four months at two refugee’s camps,” he recalls. “The first one was at Camp Pendleton Marine Base in southern California and the second at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Through the Vietnam Humanitarian Assistance & Evacuation Act of 1975, our family was sponsored by an American family that happened to be in Huntsville. So, we finally departed our refugee camp in Florida and were excited to make Huntsville our new home. Our settlement effort was sponsored by the Grace Lutheran Church in Huntsville.”

The government program proved to be a godsend for the Lee family as they strove to make their way in a new world.

“I have been told that on April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell, there were dramatic and painful scenes of South Vietnamese trying to flee with the last U.S. personnel,” Lee says. “That month, President Gerald Ford set up a taskforce to resettle up to 120,000 refugees over the coming months. He was committed to making sure that we just didn’t abandon the Vietnamese, who were innocent victims, and many had been allies of the U.S. Unlike most of the foreign-born from Asia, those from Vietnam came to the United States mainly as refugees and political asylum seekers. President Ford also gathered a coalition of church groups, humanitarian organizations, etc., to secure housing and jobs for the resettlement. When my family left the refugee camp in the summer of 1975, it was a well-organized effort done by many good people.”

Getting used to a new country as an asylum refugee brought certain challenges, but Lee reports that he was able to adapt quickly to his new home.

“Research has shown that the younger you are, the easier it would be to adapt to new things or even to a new way of life,” he says. “I was only sixteen years old and was being “Americanized’ rather quickly while attending Huntsville High School. Like most American teenagers, I loved eating fast foods, listening to rock and roll music, and playing basketball after school. I also was befriended by several American students, who were kind enough to help me along the way with my English and getting used to new things. Many of them also went to UAH with me after we graduated from high school. Even after 46 years since I first came to Huntsville, I still see some of them on a regular basis. It has been said that there are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family.”

As for academics, UAH soon became a natural choice for a budding engineer pursuing a degree.

“UAH was ranked quite high among the nation’s top 10 engineering schools, as I recall from the U.S. News & World Report. So, my decision to choose UAH for an engineering degree was obvious.”

The NASA inventor turns once more introspective when pondering the new path his life has taken since the onset of the pandemic and the loss of his father.

“At first, I didn’t really know how I should feel,” he muses. “I just plunged myself into this whole inventive work only to use it as a mental therapy to cope with the sudden loss of my father due to COVID 19. Along the way, I realize that my strong desire to do something to help fighting this global pandemic has promoted in me a deeper sense of gratitude of what is already a great blessing for me, to live in America and to have an opportunity of giving back and contributing to the society. There is a saying that goes something like this: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Well, I must agree that there is a lot of truth to this wisdom, because I do feel very blessed, indeed.”

(Courtesy of UAH)

1 month ago

UAH alumna Dr. Kimberly Robinson named U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO

Courtesy NASA/UAH)

Dr. Kimberly Robinson, an alumna of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of The University of Alabama System, has been named Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC). The hiring was announced by the Alabama Space Science Exhibition Commission, which oversees the operation of the center.

Dr. Robinson earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from UAH in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering and is a 31-year veteran of NASA. She is also the recipient of numerous NASA performance awards, including an Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Silver Snoopy.

She began her career at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1989 as a Project Engineer in the Propulsion Laboratory, became an astronaut trainer, served as an Executive Intern to the Center Director, was the Project Integration Manager for the Ares 1-X test flight, served as the Payload Mission Manager for Artemis 1 (the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft) and most recently led Utilization for all Artemis missions for NASA HQs/Advanced Exploration Systems.

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Needless to say, the decision to make such a pivotal move at this time in her career is an intriguing one, fraught with change and challenges. “This was a major change to my life plan,” she says, smiling. “I had never planned to leave NASA prior to retirement and wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do while I was still building my NASA career. But now that it’s happened, it totally makes sense to me.”

One only needs to spend a few minutes with Dr. Robinson to feel the energy, enthusiasm and drive she is ready to throw at any obstacle in her way. “I know that I have a lot to learn, and I’m very upfront about that,” she says. “It goes beyond STEM education and space exploration. There are other roles that come along with this position: we run a museum, gift shop, restaurants and a large number of camp programs under Space Camp. Those areas are all new for me, and it’s fun for me to learn.”

Dr. Robinson’s background makes her particularly well-suited for her new role in ways beyond her technical qualifications. The alumna is fully versed in sharing the future of human space exploration with the public through her work in various NASA posts, such as SLS Strategic Communications Manager at MSFC.

“You have to be able to communicate, talk to the public and your team, explain where we are going, and how we will get there,” she says.

It doesn’t take complicated analysis to determine the source of many of the challenges she is facing. “The Center came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic,” notes Pat Ammons, the Senior Director of Communications at USSRC. But Dr. Robinson is walking into this job with her eyes wide open and a finely honed sense of how to help an organization surmount the difficulties it is facing to get back on track.

The most pressing need to be addressed would almost certainly be the financial impact brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.

“It would have been easier to step into this role had the Rocket Center been in a better financial situation rather than in a recovery mode after the pandemic,” the new CEO says. “But it wouldn’t have appealed to the part of me that enjoys the challenge. I had a mentor at NASA who said if you want to be valuable to an organization, you go to where they need you. You don’t go where you want to go or go for the best pay or the best title; you go where someone needs you, and do the best job that you can – that’s how you prove your value.”

Officially on the job since February 15, Dr. Robinson has hit the ground running, anxious to put her personal philosophy to work reshaping USSRC operations.

“At NASA I learned important lessons, like how to manage risk and how to make decisions with people’s lives depending on it. Here we are having to adjust and adapt and assess as the situations unfold. For example, we made a decision that we would only operate Space Camp at 50% capacity this summer to safely maintain distance and follow the health guidelines. We had to make that decision early on in order to stabilize our planning. To try to switch on a dime would not provide the quality experience that we want to give our visitors here.”

Dr. Robinson is quick to point out that one of the most important factors in supporting her vision for the Center is the people behind it all. “It’s mostly about team building. That’s what I enjoy, and what I did at NASA – developing a plan, executing the plan, keeping the team safe and secure, motivated and challenged. I believe I can do almost anything with the right motivated team, solve any problem, move any mountain. That’s how we landed on the Moon!”

One important part of leading is helping the team define and share a vision. To this end, Dr. Robinson is working with the Executive Team to develop a Strategic Plan for the Space & Rocket Center to outline the strategic goals of the Center for the next three to five years.

Originally from Birmingham, Dr. Robinson has always been fascinated by the space program. “I loved the space program, airplanes and space ships – but I never knew that was anything I could be a part of. That was for test pilots and German rocket scientists. It wasn’t until I received an award from the Society of Women Engineers presented to me by a female NASA astronaut that I learned it was something I could do too. It felt like the world opened up to me.”

In what has become a kind of lifelong modus operandi for the UAH alumna, it soon became evident, however, that she would have to knock down quite a few barriers to accomplish her goals.

“From that time on, I wanted to work at NASA, wanted to be an engineer and preferably an astronaut. I was a senior in high school, and I started interviewing everywhere for scholarships. I sometimes had people say, ‘You’re a woman, you won’t last as an engineer!’ One interviewer questioned why I deserved a scholarship, when I would probably just get married and leave school after the first year! Well, I stayed with it and now I have a real passion for encouraging women to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I want them to know that if it interests you, don’t let anyone tell you you don’t belong.”

The choice to come to UAH to further her education was an easy one. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Robinson moved to Huntsville to work at NASA while pursuing an advanced degree at night. “I took one class at UAH, loved it, and said this is the place for me! It’s a wonderful university,” she says.

Now that she has had time to settle in, how does she feel about her first six weeks as head of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center?

The alumna grins. “I must look like a drowned rat, because it’s like drinking from a firehose! But just coming in the door, it was love at first sight. The team is wonderful, the mission is solid and appealing, and everything about it has felt right. It’s rewarding, fulfilling, challenging and exhausting, all at the same time.”

Lastly, Dr. Robinson fully understands the importance of helping this cherished Huntsville landmark thrive once more.

“It is a solemn responsibility that I take seriously. It is human nature to explore the unknown and push the boundaries, and space exploration is one way we have done that to a magnificent degree. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center showcases those human achievements that have expanded technologies, opened new frontiers and discovered new worlds. The story itself is the compelling narrative, and we’re here to make sure it shines in a way that connects to each visitor who walks in the door.”

(Courtesy of The University of Alabama in Huntsville)

2 months ago

Bryant Bank scholarships ease path for UAH nurses to emergency room, ICU roles

(Katarina Ahmed/Contributed)

Bryant Bank’s Excellence in Nursing Scholarships helped pave the way for December 2020 Nursing graduates to develop the skills necessary to take up roles in the emergency room and trauma ICU, reports The University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing (UAH CON), a part of The University of Alabama System.

The Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship was established in 2015 to award in-state students admitted to the Early Promotion into the UAH Nursing Program (EPNP). The EPNP is an honors program being offered by UAH’s College of Nursing. Highly qualified students who enter UAH as freshmen declaring nursing as their major, and taking all of the lower division nursing coursework on the UAH campus, are guaranteed a slot in upper division nursing courses.

Not only is the program a timely one, aiding students entering the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, the scholarship is renewable. A full-time course load (12 hours) must be maintained each semester with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 on all lower division Nursing and Charger Foundation-required courses given in the BSN lower division program of study.

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One of those scholarship recipients is UAH CON cohort Rachel Collins, who reflects on how she arrived at her decision to enter the nursing field.

“The dream to become a nurse is something that came to me later in life. I always knew I had an interest in science and learning about the human body, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fuel that interest. I was recruited to play collegiate soccer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and heard of UAH’s incredible nursing program, and decided nursing was the route I wanted to take. With each semester that passed, I gained a stronger understanding and love for the nursing profession.”

For fellow 2020 graduate Katarina “Katy” Ahmed, the same choice represented more of a lifelong dream.

“The first recollections I have of planning to do nursing was at four years old,” she says. “I knew I was going to be just like my mom. I distinctly remember how she taught me how to properly clean and bandage wounds. In my last semester of nursing school, I grew into the nurse I wanted to be. I had knowledge behind me, but the experience gained from precepting helped me put my knowledge to the test. My desire for direct patient care was solidified as I helped care for my grandmother as she slowly passed away from ovarian cancer. I got to serve her in a tangible way and witness the Hospice Family Care nurses show me how much care families should be treated with during one of the hardest times of life. If I can be even half as comforting, loving and passionate about my patients and families as those nurses, I will have accomplished my desire in this field.”

Cohort Laura Bowman reveals that her own journey had striking parallels to Ahmed’s, but reports her personal path was unique as well.

“As a child, I was extraordinarily squeamish,” she says. “I got very grossed out by the sight of blood and could not stand anything medically related! I always said I would never have what it takes to be a nurse. However, my grandmother began having a series of strokes when I was a young teenager, and over the next few years I helped care for her. The longer I cared for her, the more I adapted to blood and other bodily fluids. The week before she died she called me her ‘little nurse.’ That statement really stuck with me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I do have what it takes to be a nurse and inspired me to pursue that passion.”

When it came to furthering her education, Collins recalls, “I was looking for a university that wasn’t only going to help me achieve my goals in my soccer career, but would also push me academically and give me a great education. As soon as I visited UAH, I knew it was the perfect college for me. I was able to be a student athlete while simultaneously getting an incredible nursing education. I loved the campus, and I loved the city of Huntsville.”

It was a family connection to the school that helped Ahmed make her selection.

“I heard a lot about the program growing up, since my mom is an alumna of the UAH College of Nursing,” she notes. “Although I considered other universities, UAH remained my top choice. Not only did UAH allow me to live at home through college, but I was able to stay with my home church and remain with my closest friends. I was also able to stay out of debt throughout my collegiate career, because UAH offered me the Charger Distinction Scholarship and the Bryant Bank Scholarship. My spot in the Upper Division Program in the CON was solidified as I was offered and accepted the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.”

Bowman was blessed with a similar familial connection that helped her narrow her choice as well.

“My dad is actually a UAH alumnus. I grew up in Huntsville and always heard about how amazing the UAH College of Nursing is. Between that and the scholarships UAH offers, it was a no-brainer for me to attend the UAH College of Nursing. UAH Nursing has prepared me to critically think in the real world. Real life patients are so different than textbook ones! However, UAH gave me the building blocks to translate textbook knowledge into real-world applications.”

The graduates are especially grateful to the Bryant Bank Scholarship and the profound impact it had on their lives and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.

“It meant the world to me!” Collins says. “It really instilled in me the confidence to know that people believed in me. It helped me to study hard and push for the highest academic excellence I could pursue. The scholarship also meant I could graduate without any student debt! Receiving the Bryant Bank Scholarship and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program further validated that I was going to be part of such a special profession that is valued and appreciated by so many people. Knowing I had this support gave me confidence to go fearlessly into the nursing profession.”

Ahmed wholeheartedly agrees. “The Charger Distinction Scholarship, Bryant Bank Scholarship and the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program were, above all, an answer to prayer! All the perseverance and tears in high school paid off, and those three opportunities allowed me to go to UAH without the fear of going into debt. The Bryant Bank Scholarship meant a lot, because it is specifically for nursing students and was an incredible asset to earning my degree. People outside of my family and friends were actively investing in me and my studies! The EPNP allowed my mind to be at peace, knowing that I had a place in the Upper Division Program. These three incredible blessings were affirmations that determination, perseverance and a strong work ethic pays off with high rewards later down the road.”

All three nurses feel the rigorous UAH Nursing academic program has prepared them well for the work they are doing now.

“UAH Nursing pushed me to a limit academically that I couldn’t have ever imagined,” Collins says. “While it was difficult, I came out of it knowing I was going to be able to add something special to the nursing profession. UAH Nursing empowered me to be a lifelong learner and to always question the status quo. While I knew it would be a challenge coming out of nursing school and going straight into the intensity of the Pediatric ICU, I never doubted I had the knowledge and capability to someday excel in such a challenging unit.”

“I feel like I thought nursing would be much more straightforward as a student,” Bowman says. “The emergency room is a very stressful and fast-paced environment. You can fall behind so easily if you do not have good time management skills. You have to adapt quickly to changing situations. You also have to use interpersonal communication skills to interact effectively with both patients and providers. I love the fast paced environment, even though I was not anticipating it being quite as hectic as it actually is.”

“I feel the UAH CON fulfilled its objective in giving me a solid base to build on in my chosen specialty,” Ahmed adds. “Overall, nursing school requires scheduling and prioritization. These skills are applicable in the nursing profession as well, as nurses must ensure all aspects of patient care are done appropriately and in a timely manner. Classroom changes due to COVID-19 taught me flexibility, which is also applicable to nursing. I must credit and thank Dr. Anna Aultman and Dr. Sharon Coffey, who instructed me in the Critical Care course. Daily I recall the information, advice and critical thinking skills they persistently pushed during each lecture. I would also be remiss if I breezed over the Pathophysiology and Pharmacology courses. I use all of that information now to help process complex disease processes and medication effects.”

Collins is working in the Pediatric ICU at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, and admits that her first days on the job were challenging.

“Starting off, orientation in the Pediatric ICU initially intimidated me because I knew the expectations would be higher for me as a licensed RN compared to when I was a student,” she says. “However, I quickly learned that it’s okay to admit you are unsure how to do something, even as an RN. Most everyone is willing to teach you new things and walk you through unfamiliar procedures. One difference I’ve noticed is the expectation to manage my time. I’ve had to learn quickly how to manage hourly assessments, charting and giving meds simultaneously. I have loved my time so far working in the Pediatric ICU. I love the challenge of caring for such critically ill patients and getting the opportunity to critically think every shift I work.”

Ahmed, on the other hand, found her start at Huntsville Hospital in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU).

“As a new hire, I tried to go in with an open mind, ready to learn a specific patient population, new skills and drastically increase my understanding of complex patients and critical thinking,” she says. “I expected the unit to be a challenging environment to begin in, and it has not yet disappointed. However, I have been extremely welcomed. I truly enjoy the unit, my coworkers and what I get to do each day. Every nurse has been willing to help me and explain procedures and patients’ situations so I will have a deeper understanding of critical thinking and patient care. This information is building on the foundation that I received while at UAH, especially in the Critical Care course.”

As for what it is like to go into their first nursing jobs in the middle of a pandemic, the recent grads stress their understanding of what this commitment really means during a time of so much uncertainty.

“It is honestly extraordinarily stressful,” Bowman admits. “Walking into an environment where everyone is already exhausted can be discouraging. However, I am glad we are able to provide some relief to those who are already so overworked. As nurses, we care for patients equally, regardless of their diagnosis. So, COVID patient or not, they all receive the same quality of care. I am glad to be able to provide that care. Hopefully, this will all be behind us sometime soon.”

Collins chimes in: “It’s a difficult and simultaneously rewarding time to be a part of the healthcare field. Limiting visitors, especially in a pediatric unit, is hard on the families and the kids we care for. While it’s a hard time emotionally and financially for many people, I am empowered to know that I get to be in a profession that is making a difference throughout this pandemic.”

“COVID-19 has affected every career in some form or fashion, but especially the healthcare field,” Ahmed points out. “Although those in the medical and nursing professions have made a vow along the way to help those under their care regardless of the diagnosis, COVID-19 has been an incredible hurdle that everyone is still dealing with every day. Although I love the unit and my job, it can be scary to go into work! I have been exposed to COVID-19, and even with all of the precautions in place, will most likely be again.”

Then, after a pause to reflect, the young graduate goes on:

“But, from four years old to now, my dream has never changed! I made it through an incredibly rigorous nursing school. Through all of my education, I have also been learning the skills, both physical and emotional, to be the best nurse I can be. Starting a career in nursing during a pandemic was nothing I ever expected could happen. Sometimes I am scared and overwhelmed, but ultimately I have peace of mind. I know I was put into this role for a reason. This career is not easy, but in the end when I go home, I know that I did everything I could for my patients. I am thankful to UAH and my professors who taught me more than what can be found in a textbook. They lead by example, and I hope one day I can be an example for the next generation of nurses.”

Bryant Bank was founded on the belief that Alabama needs a bank that is focused on the needs of Alabamians. It was granted a charter by the State of Alabama Banking Department in 2005, and the company maintains 16 branches in Alabama, including two in Huntsville. The first Huntsville branch opened in 2007. For more information about the Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship Program, visit here.

(Courtesy of UAH)

3 months ago

UAH Nursing faculty take student groups to administer COVID-19 vaccines

(Miranda Smith/Contributed)

Nursing faculty and their students from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, have joined the front lines in the fight against the global pandemic by working to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to recipients in six north Alabama counties.

“The UAH College of Nursing (CoN) has always been invested in the community. In fact, community engagement and outreach is a major component of the CoN strategic plan,” says Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, CoN dean and professor. “Providing nursing support to North Alabama counties and academic institutions during this pandemic through the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine has been one of the most fulfilling clinical experiences our nursing students have had or will ever have.”

“I am very proud of the work our students and instructors have done during this crisis period,” adds Dr. Amelia Lanz, associate dean of undergraduate programs.

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With much course work being done online and normal hospital clinicals temporarily on hold due to the virus, CoN administrators saw this project as an innovative way to provide their students with vital hands-on experience, while at the same time performing a life-giving service for people in Jackson, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall and Morgan counties.

“We were unable to go into the hospital, and so our dean was approached by the health department and asked if our students could participate in administering the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Miranda Smith, a clinical instructor in the UAH CoN. “We thought it would be a great service for our students to provide these communities, and so we started scheduling the students in our clinical groups to work with the health departments.”

The vaccination experience was included as part of the clinical work in a course known as NUR 308: Nursing Care of Adults. Lead instructors in the UAH CoN organized the schedules for the inoculations and were responsible for overseeing students in small groups deployed throughout the region. For her part, Smith supervised the field work, assisted by Dr. Rebecca Davis, a clinical assistant professor, as well as clinical instructors Charles Reynolds and Amy Darnell.

“I’m the manager of this course, and all three of these full-time faculty are on my team,” Smith explains. “We also have part-time clinical faculty as well as graduate teaching assistants participating in this initiative. Each of these faculty take a group of eight students to the county health departments, and they [the recipients] come to the health department to receive their vaccine.”

“Huntsville Hospital has had so many COVID patients, that all nursing programs were not able to go into the hospital until February 15,” Davis says, explaining why the UAH faculty had to think outside of the box to provide needed training for their students.

“We replaced a couple of weeks of clinicals with the COVID vaccinations so students could still get some patient interaction,” Smith adds. “Pretty much all of our students are really proficient at administering injections and other nursing skills. But this gave them a lot of interaction with people in the community, the health department and working with other health care professionals.”

The faculty report that when their nursing students learned they were going out in the community to administer vaccines, they saw the experience as a wonderful opportunity to help out and did so without hesitation.

“The majority of them, from the feedback I got, liked working during the pandemic and felt it was their way of giving back to the community,” Smith says. “They would say things like they were able to put a smile on a person’s face, that they were making a difference. Many of the people were elderly.”

“We worked in small groups,” Davis notes. “In my group we got to vaccinate most of the teachers in Limestone county! We liked the opportunity to help make them safe, and the students liked that these teachers were having to take instructions for a change rather than giving them. They were having a lot of fun with it.”

The students were involved in the prescreening, completing all the paperwork and performing the actual administration of the COVID vaccine. They also monitored each recipient for 15 minutes after they received their vaccination. In all, the student teams inoculated over 1,000 people seeking a dose.

“A couple of groups did more than 150 per day,” Smith says. “We were focusing on the above-70 population.”

“My lowest day was maybe 50,” Charles Reynolds chimes in. “How many got the vaccine all depended on the patient plan.”

At times the workers found the response to the vaccination program to be almost overwhelming. The four instructors say that cars were backed up for miles in Morgan county alone.

“Sometimes we had a batch of vaccine come in all at once, and we’d put the sign out that we were doing walk-ins, and then it would get crazy!” Davis says.

“In Morgan county we were set up outside under a tent, and we would administer vaccines to people in their cars,” Smith says. “But in Limestone county they had their own separate rooms, so that would dictate how many we could do a day. We’d go administer their injection in the car and monitor them. If they were older, we could do everything in the car, the pre-screening, the paperwork, administering the vaccine and then monitoring them.”

All in all, there was plenty of hands-on interaction to go around and provide the students with valuable experience. Speaking of which, one might wonder what those first moments were like for the students giving their first injections. Were they nervous?

“Not really nervous, but it was a different environment, so they had to learn the protocol,” Smith says. “None of our students had ever administered vaccines before. At first it was just learning the steps, what do you do to make sure all the paperwork is correct, etc. They were scared of hurting the patient, but once they got the confirmation that it was okay, that helped. They’d say, ‘Give me another one, give me another one!’ They really worked hard to track what time they got it, did I do this right, did I do the follow-up? And they took lots of pictures! They’re probably never going to experience anything like this ever again, so they were very excited.”

“They definitely had this sense of how this was going to go, but they didn’t let it stop them, thinking, I’m just going to make the best of it, do the best I can,” Reynolds adds.

“I was more scared of doing the paperwork,” Amy Darnell says. “But the director at the health department would say, ‘you’ll be fine, you won’t mess anything up.’”

Davis smiles and says, “Mine mostly were saying things like, ‘I can’t believe we are doing this! We are actually helping to fight the pandemic!’”

The fact that many of the students were serving in their own communities across north Alabama became a special point of pride for the nursing students.

“It helped that there were lots of students from those areas. They live in those counties!” Reynolds says. “So when we went there, and they were able to do this where they lived, it gave them a sense of community building, thinking, I know some of these people! They are from my neighborhood.”

The program has also had a special impact on just what it means to be a nurse and to train nurses in a time of challenges and uncertainty.

“A lot of them have become more gracious about what they are doing,” Smith says. “They actually understood how people have to work together during times of crisis. We have become so fluid in the CoN. We just do what we have to do. Many of my students said to me, this has all made me realize as a nurse we have to be prepared for anything, and that teamwork and flexibility is so important!”

And what has been the reaction of the people receiving the vaccine?

“The patients were grateful,” Smith says. “There were some who would cry. They loved having the students there. They would take pictures with them to save as mementos. They would say things like, ‘You didn’t hurt me.’ You could tell they were saying it to make us feel good. Every student said things like ‘that person left with a smile.’”

“They told us things like a lot of people in their community have died from COVID-19,” Davis notes. “There were some really grateful people.”

Considering all that has happened over the past year, one might ask how different has it been for these four as faculty compared to expectations they might have had in the past?

“Everybody just kind of pitches in,” Smith says. “We did a lot of in-class activities anyway, so when we went totally online, all lectures were prerecorded, and we’ve actually continued that in class. We do have high expectations for our nursing students. It’s just a different way of teaching for the students, but we’ve had great feedback from what we’ve been doing.”

“We’re always trying to adapt and be creative anyway,” Davis explains. “So it was different, but we’re always kind of practical in how can we provide all the learning experiences.”

Do the instructors have any plans for helping with future vaccinations?

“We’re also going to be helping Alabama A&M and UAH on a volunteer basis to administer the vaccine,” Smith says.

(Courtesy of UAH)

4 months ago

deciBel Research pledges $90,000 to name UAH Engineering space

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, announced that deciBel Research has pledged $90,000 to name room ENG 264 in the Engineering Building. This space will be called the “deciBel Research Communications and Signal Processing Laboratory.”

The announcement was made in conjunction with a room-naming plaque presentation on the UAH campus.

“UAH’s College of Engineering is grateful to deciBel Research for its generous gift to our Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department,” says Dr. Shankar Mahalingam, Dean of the College of Engineering. “This gift will enable hundreds of electrical and computer engineering students to gain valuable hands-on experience in radar systems, antenna design, signal processing using ultra-wideband devices and control systems.”

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“When we were provided the opportunity to contribute to the Communications and Signal Processing Laboratory, we felt this was a good fit for our company to give students an additional hands-on learning environment and enable them to apply radar systems design principles,” said Jeff Gronberg, deciBel Research, CEO and President. “deciBel Research has a rich history in radar signal processing and analysis, and we are honored to invest in this great engineering program.”

deciBel Research, an employee-owned company, is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, and has offices and personnel supporting customers in Dayton, Ohio; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Wallops Island, Virginia.

“By investing in the future of our outstanding engineering graduates, decibel Research’s legacy will be a huge boost to Huntsville, Madison, the north Alabama region, and the United States,” Dr. Mahalingam notes.

deciBel Research, an employee-owned company, was founded in 2002 to support radar system and sensor technologies research, development, integration and advancement with an emphasis on modeling and simulation analysis; sensor and system test and evaluation; algorithm development; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and sensor and system engineering.

(Courtesy of UAH)

5 months ago

UAH College of Business MS-IS Program ranked #26 by U.S. News & World Report

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, announced that the UAH College of Business Master’s Program in Information Systems has been ranked number 26 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

The ranking appears under the classification “Best Online Master’s in Information Technology Programs” and represents a significant validation of the quality and value of the College’s online MS-IS curriculum.

“I would like to recognize and thank our faculty for doing such an outstanding job with our information systems graduate program,” says the Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Jason Greene. “They have championed this online program and ensured that each and every course was designed specifically for online learning. I am grateful that we are able to provide our students with a high-quality program that provides flexibility as they become leaders and subject matter experts within their information systems careers.”

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UAH graduates in MS in Information Systems are readily positioned to take advantage of one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country. This online option affords students the capability to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in a managerial or executive IS role.

“Our MS IS program has been available fully online for several years,” Dr. Greene notes. “We are building on this experience in our recently launched fully online MBA program, which has the same high standards for quality, flexibility and value in serving working professionals in Huntsville and throughout the region.”

The UAH College of Business faculty is uniquely connected to local industry through strong community partnerships to bring both professional experience and advanced research to this coursework. The new ranking demonstrates that COB IS graduates are obtaining in-demand technical skills and essential business knowledge, while providing opportunities for real-world experience with leading companies and agencies in the area.

(Courtesy of UAH)

5 months ago

UAH Honors College receives $100K bequest to fund Prevost Scholar Program

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, announced that Stanley E. Prevost presented the UAH Honors College with a $100,000 gift to fund the UAH Prevost Scholars Program. Prevost is a co-founder of Phase IV Systems Inc., in Huntsville where he also served as Vice President until its sale. He is a longtime benefactor to the Honor College’s mission and programs.

The Prevost Scholar Program was developed by the donor along with Dr. William Wilkerson, Dean of the UAH Honors College. It is designed to function as a kind of “Honors within Honors program” to attract the top STEM students to the College by providing an exceptionally rigorous educational experience, based on intensive course work and undergraduate research.

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“The Stanley E. Prevost Honors Scholarship will allow the Honors College to attain one of its most important goals by effectively creating a higher caliber of Honors Student within an already rigorous Honors curriculum,” Dr. Wilkerson says. “This is a unique and singular program that sets the UAH Honors College apart from all others. To my knowledge, there is no other ‘Honors within Honors’ program that includes both a scholarship and a link to graduate education. We can never express all of our gratitude for this gift which will, in total, amount to $1 million and eventually fund an entire cadre of Prevost Scholars.”

The program is intended to target top STEM students within the Honors College, following the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) definition of STEM fields. These students will have the opportunity to apply in their second year and must submit a plan of study, a thesis field, a potential graduate/career path and an essay as part of the application process. In addition, students must have accrued at least eighteen Honors hours by the beginning of the third year and a minimum 3.75 GPA to be considered. Students who transfer from another Honors College may be eligible as well if they have obtained the equivalent number of Honors hours. Each application will be reviewed by the Executive Council of the Honors Council.

“Prevost Scholars (as they will be known) must go on to do a more involved Honors Thesis and complete 50% more hours than the standard Honors student,” Dr. Wilkerson explains. “For this more rigorous demand, they receive a generous scholarship in their junior and senior year with the potential to renew for their first year of graduate work at UAH.”

The Prevost Scholar Program will make a significant impact on student learning in the College. The scholarship will be an incentive to Honors students to apply for and to stay in the Program. Prevost Scholar awards will be given in addition to any scholarships students already receive; therefore, this honor will not replace student scholarship amounts already established. Students will also have the option of seeking a third year of scholarship assistance for a graduate degree if they have already begun graduate course work through UAH’s Joint Undergraduate Master’s Program (JUMP) and their honors thesis is approved and accepted.

The curriculum for Prevost Scholars will comprise:

  • 36 hours Honors credit total
  • 9 hours upper-level credit
  • 6 hours of capstone/thesis
  • Must maintain a 3.75 GPA
  • Student must do a research thesis
  • HON 201 required

(Courtesy of UAH)

5 months ago

SAIC continues to support the UAH College of Business with $100K gift

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, announced today that Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) presented the UAH College of Business (COB) with a $100,000 gift as part of a continuing effort to support UAH SAP, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), SAS, BA, and Information Systems (IS) programs.

“We are incredibly grateful to SAIC for their continued generosity and the opportunities their gift creates for our business students,” says Dr. Jason Greene, Dean of the UAH College of Business. “This donation provides critical resources that enable us to feature SAP in our curriculum so that our students gain hands-on experience with relevant business tools as they earn their degrees. SAIC continues to be a key partner with the UAH College of Business, and we appreciate their important role in helping us launch the careers of our students to meet the workforce needs of corporations and federal agencies, such as NASA and the Army.”

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This continuing support has proved vital to the growth, versatility and quality of the UAH COB curriculum. Significant progress has been made to design, develop and provide new courses and programs that include SAP, the most popular and comprehensive ERP software in industry. SAP has been integrated into 12 different course curricula in support of the College’s SAP and IS programs. In 2020 alone, approximately 600 students registered in various courses that include SAP instruction.

The funding helps bring world-leading SAP Enterprise Resource Planning to the University’s business majors and ensures that the College’s curriculum stays current with industry standards.

SAIC, a technology integrator with over 25,000 employees, is a longtime supporter of the College’s SAP program. In 2006, after receiving a grant from SAP University Alliances to access the software, UAH reached out to SAIC for additional assistance to train faculty to develop and teach courses with SAP content. SAIC immediately recognized the benefit of partnering with UAH to help grow a local workforce of trained SAP professionals. SAIC supports both the NASA and Army missions at nearby Redstone Arsenal.

(Courtesy of UAH)

7 months ago

UAH hockey program receives $10K gift from former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has announced former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer has made a gift of $10,000 to the UAH Charger hockey program. This commitment was made in person on the UAH campus.

“We are so grateful for Ms. Spencer and her gift to the hockey program,” says Dr. Cade Smith, UAH Director of Athletics. “As we work to better fund this program for the future, it is so important to have community support from people like her. We are truly grateful for this generous gift.”

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A longtime supporter of both UAH and the Huntsville community, Spencer served as the 66th mayor of Huntsville for three terms from 1996 to 2008 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce in 2007. A resident of Huntsville since age seven, she graduated from Huntsville High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Alabama. Spencer was the first woman mayor of Huntsville and the first woman mayor of one of Alabama’s four largest cities. Before becoming mayor, she was a teacher in the Huntsville City School System.

(Courtesy of UAH)

7 months ago

UAH College of Nursing receives $100K gift from Bryant Bank

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has announced Bryant Bank has made a gift of $100,000 to the UAH College of Nursing for this year. This current disbursement to the college is an annual gift as part of a total pledge of $3 million over 30 years. Bryant Bank’s continuing commitment to UAH nursing goes to support a nursing scholarship plan called Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program (EPNP).

“The UAH College of Nursing is so appreciative of the support Bryant Bank has shown us over the years and for continued support in the future,” states Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, dean and professor of the UAH College of Nursing. “This scholarship has had a major impact on the lives of our nursing students by promoting their ability to be successful in our nursing program.”

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Established in 2014, EPNP is an honors program offered by the College of Nursing to highly qualified students who enter UAH as freshmen and declare nursing as their major. Through this program they may take all the lower division nursing coursework on the UAH campus and are guaranteed placement in upper division nursing courses.

“This scholarship has been a major source of support for a number of our EPNP students,” Dr. Adams says. “EPNP provides students an opportunity to have enriched freshman and sophomore years in the UAH Honors College in preparation for admittance into upper division nursing coursework.”

“Today, we are very proud to provide another $100,000 gift to the UAH College of Nursing for the ‘Excellence in Nursing’ scholarship program,” says Ken Watson, Bryant Bank Huntsville Market President. “Including this contribution, Bryant Bank has now given $700,000 over the past seven years to help UAH recruit outstanding undergraduate nursing school students. UAH College of Nursing students are not only high achievers academically, but also become very important members of our healthcare community upon graduation. We are grateful for this opportunity to support UAH and the College of Nursing, and we have a deep appreciation for the development of the students who declare nursing as their preferred academic and career path.”

About Bryant Bank: Founded in 2005 by Paul W. Bryant, Jr., Bryant Bank’s vision is to see every Alabamian experience a financially stable future and live in a thriving community. Bryant Bankers put care into action to help Alabamians invest in their full potential every day. The Bank offers 16 branches and one loan production office in five of Alabama’s six largest markets and employs over 260 bankers. Bryant Bank provides personal, business, and mortgage banking services, as well as Treasury Management Services, Correspondent Banking, and Capital Markets.

(Courtesy of UAH)

8 months ago

UAH and Calhoun announce creation of Dual Nursing Degree Program

(UAH/Contributed)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of The University of Alabama System, announced a partnership between the UAH College of Nursing (UAH CON) and Calhoun Community College (CCC) Nursing to offer a Dual Nursing Program which will begin admitting students for spring 2021.

The UAH CON/CCC Dual Nursing Degree Program provides students the opportunity to obtain both an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) simultaneously in five semesters of full-time study. Through this program of study, students admitted to the Dual Nursing Program will graduate with an ADN from Calhoun Community College and a BSN from the UAH CON. The ADN will be offered on the Calhoun Campus, while the BSN Coursework is offered completely online through the UAH College of Nursing.

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“This collaboration will help move the nursing profession forward by working to meet one of the Future of Nursing recommendations, to promote seamless academic progression so that nurses can achieve higher levels of education, including knowledge, abilities and skills,” says Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, Dean and Professor of the UAH College of Nursing.

Through a virtual ceremony, administrators from both institutions signed a formal agreement allowing students to attend UAH and Calhoun simultaneously. Included in the signed documents was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as well as the course pathway schedule that is required to complete the program.

“The established pathway is extremely important, as it will make the course selection process easier for students to remain on track and complete the program,” says Dr. Lynn Hogan, Calhoun Nursing Department Chair.

The year 2020 has been dubbed the Year of the Nurse by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report entitled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health which addressed the following recommendation: to increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses to 80% of the workforce by 2020. Many healthcare organizations require a BSN as minimal preparation to practice nursing.

The Dual Nursing Degree Program offers a number of additional advantages to students. A BSN degree is necessary to continue to graduate school for advanced practice degrees, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse administrator and nurse researcher. The program also will provide students interested in nursing an advantage over their peers from other programs as they enter the job market.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Burke and our counterparts at Calhoun Community College for their role in helping us to forge this important alliance,” says UAH President Dr. Darren Dawson. “This new partnership highlights the innovative ways our two institutions are working together to provide our students with a wonderful pathway to the finest nursing education we can offer. The dual program will ensure that we continue to supply our regional healthcare providers and organizations with the most qualified nurses as well.”

“I am most appreciative of the long and very successful partnership Calhoun and UAH has established over the years and the many academic options we are able to provide our students,” says Calhoun Interim President Dr. Joe Burke. “With the signing of this brand-new program, we are not only helping our students to achieve their academic goals more quickly, but we are providing our communities with well-trained and educated healthcare professionals.”

According to the MOU, students that plan to enter the program must be highly motivated and are held to the highest standards. In total, the program consists of nine semesters and is split between the two institutions. Students will complete their general education courses at Calhoun, which consists of four semesters, and will complete their last five semesters, focused on nursing, at UAH.

“The unique thing about this program is that we use one curriculum,” Dr. Hogan explains. “The faculty at Calhoun and UAH are working very closely to ensure the learning process is seamless, and that students won’t have any issues when they transition to UAH to complete their final semesters.”

Students interested in the new degree program will pay tuition and fees according to the rates in place at UAH and Calhoun. Financial aid is also available at both institutions to those who qualify.

To learn more about the program, please visit https://www.uah.edu/nursing/degree-programs/adn-bsn-dual-nursing or www.calhoun.edu/dualnursing. For additional questions, please contact Laura Mann at 256-824-6742.

(Courtesy of UAH)

9 months ago

UAH awarded $3.7 million Department of Defense grant

(DOD/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has been awarded a $3.7 million Department of Defense (DoD) grant under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (DMCSP) by the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). As part of the Alabama Defense Advanced Manufacturing Community (ADAMC), UAH is tasked with utilizing this grant to undertake a $6.2 million project to focus on the visibility, workforce training and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies in the region, with an emphasis on the modernization of aviation, missiles and ground vehicle systems.

This award follows a competitive selection process culminating in Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s designation in August 2020 of six Defense Manufacturing Communities (DMC). UAH served as the lead for proposal development and grant funding and will act as the spokesperson presenting the consensus opinion of the consortium, as well as coordinating strategy implementation for the ADAMC that has just been designated as a DMC.

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The ADAMC comprises 22 counties that will focus on supporting and growing the capabilities of the defense industrial base (DIB) in Alabama. UAH will lead the ADAMC to pull together existing programs throughout the region, as well as establish a facility for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Integration Center (AMIIC) in Huntsville.

A key objective of this strategy will be to support visibility, awareness, technology adoption and workforce development and education in advanced manufacturing technologies that are vital both to current needs and future requirements to enhance the readiness and modernization of U.S. Army aviation and missile weapon systems. This DMC encompasses the majority of aerospace and defense manufacturing, defense installations and associated industries in the region.

The implementation strategy to achieve these goals consists of two Enabling Activities, including:

  • The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) will establish the initial operation of the AMIIC facility.
  • UAH will be responsible for examining needs, gaps and barriers to effective workforce development and technology adoption.

The implementation will be further supported by three Thrust Areas, each with a lead organization:

  • UAH will develop new and enhance existing education and workplace development programs.
  • Auburn University will conduct pilot technology adoption projects with industry.
  • The University of Alabama will be responsible for initiating a technology development program.

These efforts are designed to strengthen the innovation and manufacturing base in designated DMC Communities, a consortium composed of members of academia, defense industry, nonprofit organizations and State and local government organizations. This presents a revolutionary step forward for the region with regard to positioning the DoD presence within a rich environment of industry, academia and DIB Small-to-Medium Manufacturer (SMM) expertise, benefitting Army Modernization priorities through product, process, human capital and the STEM educational experience.

The combination of achieving DMC status and the subsequent enhancement of advanced manufacturing capabilities will strengthen Alabama’s DIB and further contributions to the DoD, positioning Alabama for continued growth and retention of its defense installations. The State has a strong history in manufacturing and is growing exponentially in advanced manufacturing-related jobs.

To achieve these program goals, the ADAMC will implement an execution model that drives interaction and collaboration amongst partners. The educational process will begin early in K-12, with a focus on STEM needs and manufacturing education, and carry forward through both two-year and four-year academic career paths.

Industry will have the opportunity to engage prospective students and employees at multiple levels, while demonstrating product and process advancement on key technologies. The existing, displaced and military veteran workforce, in collaboration with local and state programs, will be able to undergo retraining, skills enhancement or continuing education/certification to reenter the workforce or obtain position advancement.

By working collaboratively with government, industry and academia, existing education programs will benefit as new workforce development programs are created to supply a pipeline of qualified and capable individuals.

This award is one of six DoD grants announced across the country totaling $25 million made by the OEA. The awards derive from Fiscal Year 2020 appropriated funding and leverage an additional $12.6 million in non-Federal funding for a total investment of $37.6 million to enhance critical skills, research and development and small business support.

The OEA works with states and communities to help them respond to changes driven by the DoD throughout the U.S. Some are home to military bases, while others manufacture the products and provide the services necessary for national defense. The Office leverages the capabilities of state and local partners through grants and technical assistance to enhance readiness of installations and ranges as well.

For more information, please contact Brian Tucker in the UAH Office for Operational Excellence at  256.824.2697 or email brian.tucker@uah.edu.

(Courtesy of UAH)

1 year ago

UAH scientists brave curses, spooky anomalies to unravel secrets at Skinwalker Ranch

(Prometheus Entertainment/Contributed)

Two intrepid explorers from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), Matt Turner, who holds a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering graduate Kaitlin Russell, visited an extraordinary place last summer to perform experiments for a research team participating in a docu-series called “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch.”

The name of the place alone conjures up creepy thrills for dedicated fans of the paranormal. Situated in northeastern Utah, this 512-acre parcel of picturesque desolation is famed as a hotspot for everything from poltergeist phenomena and crop circles, to UFO sightings, dangerous electromagnetic forces, dancing fireballs, and cattle mutilations.

If that’s not enough, the ranch is also said to be cursed by an ancient Navaho spell that summons terrifying werewolf-like shapeshifters called ‘Skinwalkers’ to menace interlopers.

Featuring UAH PhD Aerospace Engineer and Astrophysicist and TV veteran, Dr. Travis Taylor, the program is produced by Prometheus Entertainment and airs on the History Channel Tuesday evenings at 9 p.m. (CST).

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“The billionaire Brandon Fugal has been investigating the ranch since he bought it in 2016,” Dr. Taylor says. “His first three years was a plan of observation only. When he decided to move to the next phase, he asked the History Channel what that should be. History asked Prometheus, who produces The Curse of Oak Island, Ancient Aliens, The UnXplained, The Tesla Files, and others, for History to talk with Mr. Fugal about next steps. Prometheus knew me from those other efforts and had me come meet with Mr. Fugal and the team. They were very intrigued by the ideas I brought to them (although maybe nervous in becoming active with the ranch rather than just observing), and in the end they asked me to come in and lead a new phase of research.”

Given his UAH background, it was natural for Dr. Taylor to look to homegrown expertise for help when it came to investigating Skinwalker Ranch.

Dr. Turner and Russell both support the STEM Projects Advancing Research & Collaboration (SPARC) Lab division of the Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP). As a Principal Research Engineer, Dr. Turner focuses on supporting contracts for the Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and NASA, while Russell is a Research Associate who works primarily with the CubeSat (U-class spacecraft) miniaturized satellite program.

“[Matt] and I had graduate classes in AE together,” Dr. Taylor says. “Funny, he was also on my second PhD committee. I trust Matt’s work and pretty much daily work with him on other space program experiments.”

When a complementary set of measurements were required, it was again an easy choice for Dr. Taylor to tap the wealth of talent available at his alma mater.

“Kaitlin is an employee of SMAP that works on my space efforts also,” he says. “I have seen her work for a couple years now and am impressed with her enthusiasm and academic rigor.”

The particular expertise Dr. Turner brings to the show is in ballooning, while Russell brings a wealth of experience in amateur rocketry. To avoid audience spoilers, the precise details of their stays on the ranch are a closely guarded secret protected by a non-disclosure agreement. In general, they involved measuring the bizarre electromagnetic anomalies that plague the property.

“I’ve known Travis for 20 years,” Dr. Turner says. “We had grad school classes together at UAH. He wanted to do some testing out there that he couldn’t do by himself. That’s how it evolved. I’ve never launched a rocket; they don’t trust me with propellants,” he says, laughing. “That’s Kaitlin’s thing. But I’ve launched a couple hundred balloons. That’s what I did. And then Kaitlin came after me and launched her rockets.”

“I asked a room full of undergrad and grad students if they’d be interested in designing and building rockets for some experiments,” Dr. Taylor adds. “And Kaitlin is the one that took the initiative and did it. And she did a great job!”

“While I was a student at UAH I got into rocketry,” Russell says. “Not just the smaller kit rockets, but the ones you take out for certification. We did small model rocket type things [on the ranch], but they were heavily modified. I didn’t provide the instrument part, I just provided the ride.”

Dr. Taylor knew from personal experience that his two colleagues would be walking into a truly unique setting that could present serious challenges to the investigators, including potentially perilous conditions.

“I was excited to offer them an opportunity to get to see the very guarded location and what might be experienced there,” he says. “I was also a bit apprehensive and nervous, as the place can be quite dangerous. I warned them as best I could, but until you are there and exposed to the place, you truly don’t take the warnings serious. I didn’t. Believe me, I do now!”

Both of the new investigators did their best to prepare for operating in a place with such a foreboding reputation. “I started doing some research,” Dr. Turner says. “And then actually made a conscious decision to stop, because I wanted to make a measurement without any kind of preconceived notion about the results. I was expecting this very medieval type thing,” he goes on, making a spooky Twilight Zone noise and chuckling. “And when I got out there, they had trailers for television crews and stuff – it was very ‘business.’ I mean, it was a ranch, so there were dirt and animals, but it was not as mystical as I anticipated.”

Russell agrees. “I expected it to be creepier. I had never been in that area of the country. I was just taking in the sights, saying, oh, that’s cool, I want to go walk on the mesa! I’d never done anything like this before, and the whole TV crew thing was very new to me.”

For the TV novices, filming proved challenging, with a tightly packed schedule of activities. Though, like the underwater portion of an iceberg, most of the footage will never be seen.

“My first day alone we were outside doing stuff for a good 10 hours,” Dr. Turner says. “It was probably like two-and-a-half total days of filming. They got hours and hours of footage that I’m sure they didn’t use. There were multiple cameras working the whole time. It was all unique and kind of surreal.”

Both investigators had to adapt on the fly when adjustments were needed in a hurry.

“The stuff I did dovetails into stuff Kaitlin did,” Dr. Turner says. “What Kaitlin did is much more complex. She needed more time to prepare, and there was more hardware as well.”

“Not being able to know certain things until I was out there was kind of stressful,” Russell says. “There were a lot of on-the-field modifications before they got launched.”

Discussing what it was like to be on camera while trying to do the science, she grins, saying, “I’m still stressed! What is it going to look like? What are they going to put in there?”

Dr. Turner had his own qualms about being under the constant watchful eye of the TV lens.

“Absolutely! It was very intimidating and nerve wracking,” he says. “There were several times where they would say, let’s do this or measure that, or let’s change this to do this. And you’re like, okay, I’ve got to change everything about this payload now, and we’re out here in the middle of nowhere. Having 50 people looking at you with cameras the whole time and knowing this is costing money while you’re doing it is just asking you to sweat.”

Dr. Taylor offers a more seasoned perspective. “I am used to the cameras now, as I’ve done this type of experiment for years,” he explains. “But it does put a bit of pressure on you to be successful!”

Both of the newcomers appreciated having a friend who is also a TV veteran on the scene to lean on and enthusiastically power them over any bumps in the road.

“It was very high-energy,” Kaitlin says with a smile. “‘Let’s get this data,’ ‘let’s look at the data,’ ‘this doesn’t look right,’ that sort of thing.”

“It’s always a crazy ride with Travis,” Dr. Turner adds. “We’ve worked with him professionally at UAH for years. He’s data driven, which is why you’ve got to be on your toes. If something anomalous happens, you’ve got to say, let’s figure this out, and you’ve got to be able to change gears on the fly. Which is good, and I’m sure it’s great TV, because Travis is very inquisitive. But sometimes you’re like, ah! I don’t have all my stuff! I’m not ready to take that measurement!” he says, laughing. “So it’s always that kind of a ride.”

Dr. Taylor says he has learned to value the process when it comes to experimenting.

“I like having the cameras around from a scientist standpoint, in that it helps me document every little thing we do,” he explains. “Even with all the cameras, every now and then we do something that gets missed, and I can’t figure out how to reproduce it.”

One of the most exciting aspects of a docu-series is depicting how the cast deals with challenging setbacks, adding drama and fun for the viewer. “But from an engineer’s perspective, I like things to be just boring and predictable and for everything to work out,” Dr. Turner says. “That’s not always the case, especially when you’re in the field. I had several things that went wrong, and I’m curious how they are going to show that. Ultimately we made some good measurements.”

Asked if he sensed anything otherworldly at work, he says, “I had something occur with a sensor that has never happened before or since. So that was strange, and has yet to be explained. I’m an engineer: if I can’t measure it, if I can’t see it, then prove it to me. But something happened out there that’s never happened before.”

Russell hints her visit produced chilling surprises as well. “We had like two things happen,” she says. “One of them happened multiple times. But yeah, there was some weird stuff, and I can’t explain it.”

Dr. Taylor has seen enough of these mishaps and oddities to convince him something truly uncanny, whether curses or cosmic forces, is afoot on the property.

“In some cases, it was because the ranch affected the camera equipment and caused them to fail,” he says. “I know that’s hard to believe, but it happens all the time out there for no reason we’ve been able to find yet. Just ask Matt where that balloon went once it reached a mile high? As far as we can tell, it just disappeared!”

“I wasn’t creeped out,” Dr. Turner says. “Something happened that bothered me. That’s one of the reasons Kaitlin was out there – she can make more thorough measurements than I can. Because of all the mishaps and the anomaly that occurred, I’m insanely curious how they are going to put it all together.”

In describing her brush with the eeriness of Skinwalker Ranch, Russell offers yet another take. “Ours wasn’t reading-based, it was like stuff we visually saw that I couldn’t explain,” she says. “I don’t know if one of them was captured on film. It happened really quickly.”

Did the UAH colleagues ever fear for their safety?

“Not any more than being in southern Tennessee or northern Alabama, out in the woods,” Dr. Turner says. “We had a mishap with a balloon, where we were separated from it, and had to try to cross streams. But I never really thought I was in danger.”

Russell finds that kind of thing exciting. “But my sense of danger isn’t like…it’s not really regular,” she says, laughing. “I go sky diving. I like scuba diving, caving. I like exploring.”

“She fires off rockets a lot, so she’s got a high bar,” Dr. Turner says with a smile.

Would either of them ever do it again?

“I’d love to go back,” Dr. Turner says. “It’s a beautiful area. It was fun, it was hectic. I don’t know if I could do it as much as Travis. They work insane hours. But I really like being outdoors.”

Russell agrees. “It would be neat to go back and see more.” But when it comes to future TV stardom, she has certain stipulations: “I prefer shows like that where it’s mostly science-based. I am no actor!”

(Courtesy of University of Alabama in Huntsville)