3 months ago

Dr. Rebecca Boohaker is a 2019 Woman of Impact

In a quiet lab in downtown Birmingham, a team of scientists are engaged on the front lines of one of the world’s most deadly battles — the battle against cancer.

Right at the center of that war is Dr. Rebecca Boohaker.

As an assistant fellow in the oncology department at Southern Research, an organization that has already been involved in the discovery of seven FDA-approved cancer drugs, Boohaker’s lab continues to build upon that success through a commitment to creating generational change within the science community and beyond.

Founded in 1941, Southern Research (SR) is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research organization with more than 400 scientists and engineers. SR supports the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries through the pursuit of entrepreneurial and collaborative initiatives to develop and maintain a pipeline of intellectual property and innovative technologies that positively impact real-world problems.

Solving real-world problems is what fuels Dr. Boohaker. What began as a love for research, quickly developed into a passion after she became directly impacted by the cruel effects of cancer when her grandmother and aunt were both diagnosed.

Like so many others, she watched as the diagnosis changed their lives in ways she wouldn’t wish on anyone. Her grandmother worked through a “brutal,” yet successful, treatment plan, but her aunt lost her life to breast cancer several years after her original diagnosis due to a lack of advancement in treatment at the time.

Dr. Boohaker recalls those experiences shaping her career path in a meaningful way.

“Thankfully, my grandmother lived a long life into her 90s without recurrence,” she said. “But after my aunt’s passing, my research shifted from basic science to a disease-based approach. That tragedy gave purpose to everything we were doing in the lab. In my capacity as a cancer biologist working in drug discovery, I have learned that understanding why something is broken – a pathway, a protein, a gene – is so critical in the rational design of the fix.”

Dr. Boohaker’s love for science began in early childhood. Rather than playing with dolls and coloring books, she recalls her mother and aunt equipping her with pocket microscopes and chemistry sets.

Her interest in science grew when she had the opportunity to learn from Dr. John Kearney as a student at John Carroll High School. Dr. Kearney said, “I’d say that what struck me the most was that Rebecca had a very well-developed work ethic at a very early age/career stage.”

Dr. Boohaker’s experiences in the John Carroll lab led her to study biology and chemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and later obtain her graduate degree from the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Boohaker joined Southern Research in 2013 to complete her postdoctoral fellowship. In 2016, she became a research scientist in the Oncology Department within the Drug Discovery division. She is currently interested in investigating the processes by which cancer cells exploit their own regulatory machinery to promote tumorigenesis as a means to develop novel therapeutics.

For Boohaker, diversity is a crucial element for success.

“That’s where my success in my education and career has come from: working in a diverse environment where multiple perspectives contribute to solutions. So many of my experiences, from learning under the great Ada Long at the UAB University Honors Program to working at Southern Research, have been reinforced by a philosophy that different perspectives open the door to better solutions,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.

Art Tipton, Southern Research president and CEO, said about Dr. Boohaker, “Rebecca is emerging as a significant oncology scientist for Southern Research as part of our notable cancer research efforts.  The discovery of seven FDA-approved cancer drugs cemented SR as a national and global resource in this field and I am enthusiastic about the role Rebecca is playing to further our ongoing advancements.  Her research program, interests and accomplishments without a doubt make her one of our state’s Women of Impact and I am proud to have her as part of our organization.”

When asked about her personal life, she shared about the joys of teaching an annual immunology class at John Carroll and preserving time for her family with a special beach trip each summer. She applied to the NASA astronaut program making it all the way to the second tier but says rejection from NASA was the “coolest rejection letter” she’s ever received.

In her spare time, Dr. Boohaker said she enjoys the Star Wars franchise and even builds lightsabers as a hobby.

“Carrie Fisher is a personal hero and Princess Leia is the best Disney Princess,” Boohaker stated.

Reflecting on the notion of making an impact in our community, Dr. Boohaker mentioned her gratitude for several people who made an impact on her life, saying, “When I think about the women of impact in my own life, I think of my mother and her sisters who all immigrated to the U.S. and found success through their own determination, and their willingness to outwork anyone.”

“I also think of the late Janet Houghton, a pioneer in cancer research and a woman of impact in her own right, who came to Southern Research in 2016 and was so supportive of me and my fledgling career – so supportive that she essentially willed her lab to me before her passing. If I were to try to encapsulate the traits of these women that I emulate, I would say that a Woman of Impact is persistent in the pursuit of a goal and maintains a vision of positive change to her community in achieving that goal,” she told Yellowhammer News.

Dr. Boohaker wishes to share some inspirational words with the next generation of leaders following in her footsteps: “Whether or not it’s in the classroom, any opportunity to learn has value, and even in failure, when the path to success isn’t always clear, there is always a way to a solution.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Dr. Rebecca Boohaker a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

2 hours ago

Alabama high school students’ experiment set to launch to International Space Station

One local public education system in Alabama is helping give a new meaning to the phrase, “The sky’s the limit.”

Students from Winfield City High School are set to have their experiment launch on Sunday to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

SpaceX-18 is set to depart Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:32 p.m. EDT on July 21 with the payload designated “SSEP15 – Gemini.” This signifies SSEP’s 15th overall flight opportunity and is the 13th SSEP mission to the ISS. NanoRacks handles stowage of the payload on the spacecraft.

The launch will come the day after the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Student experiments were chosen from around the Western Hemisphere through a process that began in the fall of 2018.

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Entitled “Purification of Water in Microgravity,” Winfield’s experiment will join experiments from 39 other communities in being tested in a laboratory setting aboard the ISS over an approximately four-week period.

Winfield’s proposal summary as follows:

The recent discovery of water on Mars has opened a possibility of new ways that the life sustaining liquid can be obtained in space travel. This new method would rely on collecting water from space bodies that are not our own. The only problem with this method is determining if this water would be safe to drink. Our team is proposing to study if microgravity has any effect on the purification of water. We would collect water from a non-sterile source, like a pond and mix it with purification tablets. Next, we would test the water to see if anything harmful survived.

The Winfield 12th grade students designated as co-principal investigators on the experiment are Luke Clark, Tanner Edmond, Davis Holdbrooks, Luke Jungels and Savannah Williamson. Jennifer Birmingham is their teacher facilitator.

Winfield’s SSEP students precisely measuring the amount of iodine tablet for their Water Purification experiment. (Contributed)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), whose district includes Winfield, told Yellowhammer News that he is proud of his young constituents.

“It’s great to see these students engaging in this type of science,” the congressman said. “I congratulate them and their teachers at Winfield for participating in this program.”

“It also shows how space applications have a direct impact on the quality of life back here on earth. I look forward to following their experiment and seeing its outcome,” Aderholt concluded.

SpaceX-18 is slated to berth at the ISS one to four days after launching.

Read more about “SSEP Mission 13 to ISS” here.

Winfield City Schools also was represented on “SSEP Mission 12 to ISS” last year, when Winfield Middle School students saw their experiment make the trip.

Watch:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Mobile Bay reefs project aims to help renew aquatic habitats, vanishing shoreline

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

If you were able to travel back a couple of hundred years and visit the edge of Mobile Bay near where Helen Wood Park is today, you’d see miles and miles of marshland, veined with tidal creeks and teeming with fish and other marine creatures that look to the safety of the marsh to spawn.

At low tide, there would be vast mounds of oysters around the edge of an estuary that was about 30 feet deep at its deepest point. The marshes and oyster beds of the past didn’t only serve as havens for creatures. They reduced the ability of storm tides to erode the mainland.

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But a lot can change in a pair of centuries. The oyster reefs that used to encircle the bay have dwindled, and there is more ship traffic. As a result, waves eroded the marshes and shore.

“We’ve changed the dynamics of the bay,” said Judy Haner, marine and freshwater programs director for The Nature Conservancy, which is leading the charge in rebuilding Mobile Bay. “What we’re doing now is trying to give that shoreline a fighting chance. We want to help boost those habitats, not only for fish and birds and wildlife, but also to protect the shoreline from erosion.”

In this effort, the Alabama Power Foundation provided resources to build reefs in the brackish waters off Helen Wood Park, in Lourdes on the west side of Mobile Bay, and the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) provided manpower.

In May 2018, some 60 APSO volunteers – aged 12 to 70-plus – rolled up their sleeves, put on their boots and clamdiggers and went about the business of reef building.

In the past, The Nature Conservancy had attempted to build replacement reefs using bags of spent oyster shells – the same ingredient nature uses for reefs. But the erosive power of waves proved too intense, scattering the bags of oyster shells. Now, the conservancy opts to use “oyster castles” to construct new reefs.

Oyster castles are a relatively new way of constructing artificial reefs, using interlocking 35-pound concrete blocks. APSO volunteers developed a system using plastic “barges” to move the blocks along a human chain that snaked out into the rich brown marsh waters adjacent to a bridge over the Dog River.

Over the course of eight hours, the team of Nature Conservancy and APSO volunteers built seven artificial reefs.

“This was a new project for us,” said Erin Delaporte, an Alabama Power Customer Service manager in Mobile who is the APSO chapter president and coordinated the project. “It was a very labor-intensive day, but it was a wonderful day. It was tough work. I heard someone say they had worked eight hours on the project, but it took 48 hours to recover.

“It was worth it,” Delaporte said. “It was one of the most unique projects we’ve ever done in Mobile.”

As for the reefs, the positive effect was instantaneous.

“We wanted to restore the vertical topography of that reef and restore the waves, and you see that pretty much right away,” Haner said.

While there will be future scientific measurement of the growth of the reefs, native fish and crabs found them soon after completion of the APSO project.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Montevallo named Tree City USA

Montevallo was named a 2018 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the city’s commitment to effective urban forest management.

Montevallo met the program’s four requirements of having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance or proclamation.

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Tree City USA has been around since 1976, providing a framework for cities to keep their communities green and full of trees.

“Tree City USA communities see the impact an urban forest has in a community firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Additionally, recognition brings residents together and creates a sense of community pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”

Montevallo also has Orr Park, a preserve along Shoal Creek known for tree carvings by local artist Tim Tingle.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, more than 3,400 communities have committed to becoming a Tree City USA. Several cities in Alabama have made the commitment, including Auburn, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. The total population of Tree City USA communities nationwide is about 145 million.

Trees serve a great purpose, increasing property values and wildlife habitat, while reducing home cooling costs and air pollution, said Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost.

“Our natural world is at the very core of our existence. In Montevallo, we are a proud tribe of tree-huggers,” Cost said. “Being named a Tree City USA is a distinct honor, which we wholeheartedly embrace, appreciate and celebrate.”

To learn more about Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, visit https://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/about.cfm.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

VIDEO: McConnell’s Alabama relatives were slaveowners, big money being raised in the U.S. Senate race, citizenship question on census impacts Alabama and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Does Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) ancestors make him responsible for reparations?

— What does a surprising $300,000 in fundraising by State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) say about the Republican 2020 U.S. Senate primary?

— Now that Trump has caved on the citizenship question, what happens to the reapportionment lawsuit that has been brought by Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by criminal defense attorney Jake Watson to discuss the Jeffrey Epstein case and its fallout.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at the national media’s desire to have extremely flawed candidates on the ballot in Republican states solely so Democrats will have a chance at winning.

Guerrilla Politics – 7/14/19

VIDEO: McConnell's Alabama relatives were slaveowners, big money being raised in the U.S. Senate race, citizenship question on census impacts Alabama congressional seat lawsuit and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

16 hours ago

State Sen. Chris Elliott: After Coastal Alabama, Toll Authority legislation could be next used in Birmingham, Huntsville

The use of tolls to fund part of the estimated $2.1 billion price tag for the proposed I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge has been the hot-button political issue for Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Not only has it become a major topic in Alabama’s first congressional election campaign underway in southwestern Alabama, but it has also become one for the 2020 statewide U.S. Senate election campaign also underway.

Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law legislation that according to State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) could cut between $100 million and $200 million off that $2.1 billion price-tag for the project. During an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” that aired Friday, Elliott touted the SB154 bill’s cost-cutting effect.

However, he argued that beyond its use in Coastal Alabama, the bill could be used in other parts of the state, which suggests more tolled roadways could be on the way for Alabama.

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“It’s going to be utilized,” Elliott said. “And when we realized this is where ALDOT was headed, we knew we needed to update the legislation. We needed to make sure we did everything we could to make efficient as possible so that if a toll was necessary, and ALDOT seems to think and probably is correct in saying a toll is necessary because of the lack of federal funding, then we do everything we can to drive the price down as much as we can to make sure that the cost to the folks in Alabama is as low as possible.”

“And that toll authority legislation, while it is probably going to be rolled out for the first time in coastal Alabama, could be used in other parts of the state as well, which is why I think it ultimately passed both houses and had the governor’s signature on it because the next time it gets used is going to be in Birmingham, or it’s going to be in Huntsville between Huntsville and Decatur, or some other area like that,” he added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.