BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) senior Aaron Thomas Neal, 21, of Madison, has been selected for an esteemed biomedical scholars program that is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and accepts only the field's top 15 U.S. university students on average each year.
Neal becomes the first UAB student to be chosen for the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. Just 100 U.S. students have been invited into the program since its founding in 2001.
As a selected scholar, Neal will participate in an individualized doctoral training program and earn his Ph.D. on an accelerated four-year fast track. The program format will enable him to undertake a collaborative project in any area of biomedical research involving two mentors - one at the NIH intramural campus in Bethesda, Md., and one at either Oxford or Cambridge University. The program also may provide opportunity for field research in Africa to supplement Neal's lab work.
"This is an amazing opportunity to continue what has been a very exciting collegiate career to date," Neal says. "UAB has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to participate in undergraduate research and to seek out answers in a very entrepreneurial way, helping equip me scientifically to pursue the scholarship"
Neal, a biology major set to graduate in May, was recognized for his UAB undergraduate research into vaccine development to prevent the contraction of malaria, a potentially deadly infectious disease spread by mosquitoes that is most common in the warm climates of Africa.
"The current best defense against malaria is mosquito-control methods," Neal says. "An effective vaccine would be another tool in our arsenal to combat infections; a tool that potentially would have the greatest impact on the malaria burden."
Neal, a 2009 Goldwater Scholar, is a student in the UAB Science and Technology Honors Program with a 3.85 GPA. He is the son of David and Michelle Neal.
About the UAB Department of Biology
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center. The UAB Department of Biology is a dynamic academic partnership that provides a broad-based graduate and undergraduate curriculum with research interests in comparative biochemistry, physiology and environmental microbiology.