The University of Alabama

UA Pair Earn ‘USA Today’ All-USA Academic Student Recognition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A University of Alabama student and a recent UA graduate have been named to this year’s “USA Today” All-USA College Academic team, placing them among some of the nation’s top college and university students.

Sarah Adair, a junior at UA from Hartselle, was named to the prestigious academic list’s Third Team, while Thomas Lee, a December 2001 graduate from Greensboro, was named Honorable Mention.

Students selected for this “best of the best” list were chosen as representatives of all outstanding undergraduate students for their grades, awards and activities, leadership roles and their ability to use their academic skills outside the classroom. Since 1991, The University of Alabama has placed 17 students as either First, Second, or Third Team, or Honorable Mention. The 104 students chosen this year were selected from some 600 nationally who were nominated.

Adair, a microbiology major in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, has a 3.89 grade point average (on 4.0 scale) and is part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Intern Program at UA. Her undergraduate research, working alongside Dr. Guy Caldwell, assistant professor of biological sciences, includes gaining a molecular understanding of an inherited birth defect in the brain called lissencephaly. Promising results from Adair’s research, funded by Caldwell’s grant from the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, was among the work presented from UA at an international meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology in Washington, D.C. in December.

Children born with lissencephaly have smooth brains rather than brains with multiple ridges and valleys. They suffer from severe mental retardation and epileptic seizures and often die by the age of two. There is no known cure but learning more about gene function is the first step toward developing more effective drugs, countermeasures and potential cures.

Adair, along with another student, is also leading the establishment of a new undergraduate research journal. The publication would provide a forum for students to publish their own research, serving to inform and motivate other undergraduate students interested in research. In 2001, Adair was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar, one of only 302 students selected, nationwide, for this premiere undergraduate award for study in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

Within the community, Adair has volunteered for two years at the Good Samaritan Clinic. The clinic is free and serves patients in the Tuscaloosa area who have no insurance and limited income. While a freshman student at UA, Adair testified before an Environmental Protection Agency’s hearing committee in an effort to protect the nation’s groundwater supply.

Lee, who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) from the mechanical engineering department in UA’s College of Engineering, participated as a student in a real-life NASA experiment aboard a KC-135A aircraft. Lee and the other student-team members, working alongside Dr. Beth Todd, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, designed and built a leg exercise device targeted for astronauts to use in performing exercises during space flight. Without gravity’s presence, it is needful for astronauts to undergo leg workouts daily to prevent bone mineral density loss. Lee and the students tested the device in the NASA jet, which provides a micro-gravity environment. Results from the experiment were given to NASA for further evaluation.

The engineering graduate lists his career goal as becoming a fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps, and he has been commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. While a UA student, Lee attended the Corps’ officer candidates’ school in the summers of 2000 and 2001.

As an Ambassador for the College of Engineering, Lee gave presentations on the College and the engineering field and served as a tour guide for high school students interested in exploring the engineering profession and the school. He also served as an officer in the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity.

During his college career, Lee participated in UA’s Cooperative Education Program, working with engineers at Mead Containerboard. He was also a teaching assistant in the mechanical engineering design clinic and was a tutor and grader in the mathematics department. Within his community, Lee coordinated a recycling drive as a fundraiser to help leukemia patients at a Ronald McDonald House.

Note to Editor: For contact information for Sarah Adair and Thomas Lee or to reach faculty members who can comment on their work, call Cathy Andreen or Chris Bryant in Media Relations at 205/348-5320. Photos are also available upon request from Andreen or Bryant.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Chris Bryant, Assistant Director of Media Relations, 205/348-8323, cbryant@ur.ua.edu