UA Leads Nation with Five Students Named to USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Five students from The University of Alabama have been named to this year’s USA Today All-USA College Academic Team – the most of any school in the nation.
This year’s team brings UA’s total for the last three years to 14, a figure that also tops all other colleges and universities. Four UA students were chosen for the 2004 team and five for the 2003 team.
A total of 84 students nationwide were selected for this year’s team. Yale has three students on the team, the second highest total for a single university.
For the past two years, Harvard or Alabama has had the most students selected. This year Harvard had two students on the team.
“Placing five students on the USA Today All-USA College Academic team underscores the important point that our best and brightest students can compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime,” said UA President Robert E. Witt.
UA students named to the Second Team were Cody Locke, a junior biology major from Boaz, who hopes to become a molecular and cellular biology professor and who is a two-time USA Today Academic All-American; Mary Katherine “Katie” Marchiony, a senior management information systems major from Hoover, who hopes to become a business systems analyst at a Fortune 100 company; and Stephanie LeeAnn Wilson, a junior chemical engineering major from Vestavia Hills, who hopes to be a physician.
Jason Spruell, a senior chemistry major from Dothan who hopes to be a university research professor, was named to the Third Team, and William Norvell Jr., a senior banking and financial services major from Florence, received Honorable Mention. Norvell plans a career in investment banking.
Students selected for this annual “best of the best” list are chosen 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 had 31 students recognized.
Cody Locke, USA Today All USA College Academic Second Team member
Career Goal: Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
This marks the second time in as many years for Cody Locke to be named to a USA Today All-USA College Academic Team. Locke researches the molecular basis for epilepsy in the lab of Drs. Guy and Kim Caldwell, UA biology professors in the College of Arts and Sciences.
During the fall of 2004, Locke presented research, for which he was the lead author, at the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting, the world’s largest conference in the cellular biology field. It was the second year in a row that research in which Locke was intricately involved was presented at the conference.
The previous year, the work he co-authored was selected from this meeting of over 10,000 cell biologists as one of 15 works highlighted in the society’s international Press Book for media release and for use in high school education nationwide.
Locke’s research, which involves the development of an animal model system – a microscopic worm called C. elegans – for epilepsy, has been published in a top human disease journal, Human Molecular Genetics. It received more international recognition via a news release by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. More than 50 percent of all human hereditary diseases have been linked to genetic components also found in the worm.
For the scientific paper, Locke performed convulsion analysis on the worm, recorded time-lapse videos of seizure-like activity in the worm, and manipulated those videos with the aid of computer scripts he wrote.
In 2003, Locke was one of only four students nationwide selected to receive the Benjamin Cummings Biology Prize, a scholarship awarded annually by the Benjamin Cummings Co., a division of a biology textbook publisher. He was also awarded a National Society of Collegiate Scholars Merit Award, a national scholarship awarded to 50 new members of this honor society that has chapters at more than 170 campuses.
For his Computer-Based Honors project, Locke used information from the human genome project to design and build a novel bioinformatics database. It integrates Internet-based computational resources directly with laboratory experiments involving a method for genetic analysis called RNA interference. The database, at www.carpedb.ua.edu, is
included in the National Center for Biotechnology Information Molecular Biology Database Collection, published by the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
In a letter of recommendation, one of Locke’s nominators, UA biology professor Guy Caldwell, called inviting Locke to join his lab “one of the finest decisions of my career. I can best describe his personality as having a calm fervor,” Caldwell wrote, “Not a day goes by wherein I don’t see him working diligently in the lab, actively assessing web-based information on epilepsy (or science in general) or hovering thirstily over a scientific paper. Students like Cody embody the reason I entered this profession.”
Active in campus organizations, Locke is editor in chief of the Journal of Science & Health at The University of Alabama and president of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society. As an incoming freshman, Locke mentored environmentally at-risk students at a local elementary school, while painting the cafeteria and leading an effort to install new computers in every classroom through Alabama Action, a service learning experience for freshmen in UA’s University Honors College.
A first generation college student, Locke is the son of Mickey and Patsy Locke.
Mary Katherine “Katie” Marchiony, USA Today All-USA College Academic Second Team member
Major: Management Information Systems
Career Goal: Business Systems Analyst at Fortune 100 Company
While tackling full academic course loads, working at University Medical Center and assisting with student recruitment efforts, Katie Marchiony designed and implemented an academic peer mentoring program that is being applied in courses across The University of Alabama campus and has drawn the attention of a panel of chief information officers representing Fortune 500 companies.
As a sophomore, Marchiony excelled in her computer science courses but noted that many of her peers struggled with the complexities of the material. So, she coordinated a planning session with faculty in UA’s Computer Science and Management Information Systems departments.
“In that meeting,” writes Dr. Edd Mansfield, department head of information systems, statistics and management, “Katie suggested student-led help sessions to provide problem solving guidance in a low-key, non-threatening environment.”
Marchiony “developed the training materials, lesson plans, sample problems, example programs and step-by step solutions,” Mansfield continued in his letter of recommendation.
She also marketed the program campuswide and coordinated all the logistical planning and recruiting of her classmates. Marchiony acted as the conduit between the class instructors and the mentors, Mansfield indicated.
Since implementing Marchiony’s program, enrollment in UA’s Management Information Systems program increased. Many students who participated in the peer mentoring program reported increasing their grade point averages by at least one letter grade. Marchiony later participated in a forum where the mentoring program was discussed by a panel of Fortune 500 chief information officers for their consideration as an alternative to their company’s instructional meeting styles.
An ambassador for UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, Marchiony is a recipient of the Lucy Blankenship Piper Memorial Scholarship and is a Management Information Systems Faculty Scholar. She helped facilitate UA’s Computing Olympiad, a state-wide academic competition for high school students and was a member and webmaster for Alabama Students for Constitutional Reform.
She has had internships with The Home Depot, where she managed a $170,000 budget project from beginning to end, and Ernst & Young. She was on a team that recently completed a project for Procter & Gamble.
Marchiony is the daughter of Bob and Mazie Marchiony.
Stephanie LeeAnn Wilson, USA Today All-USA College Academic Team Second Team member
Hometown: Vestavia Hills
Major: Chemical engineering
Career Goal: Physician
During an internship with the Southern Company, Stephanie “LeeAnn” Wilson researched and expanded a methodology for calculating ammonia releases from power plants. This College of Engineering junior’s method, which she outlined in a soon-to-be published paper, is expected to become the industry standard for ammonia emissions calculations, according to a nomination letter written by a principal research engineer at Southern Company.
“Upon publication, this estimating method will form the backbone of not only Southern Company’s environmental reporting of ammonia, but of the majority of the electric utility industry nationwide,” wrote Keith E. Harrison, in the letter.
Wilson’s project consisted of in-depth research on nine pieces of power production and pollution control equipment as well as the ammonia chemistry associated with the equipment and different power plant configurations.
In 1998 ammonia was added to the list of pollutants the EPA requires all power plants to report under its Toxic Release Inventory. Utility companies had not developed an extensive method to calculate ammonia releases, and Southern Company gave Wilson a skeleton theory and method and allowed her to develop it.
In addition, for four consecutive semesters Wilson, through her memberships in the University Honors Program and the Computer Based Honors Program, has conducted prostate cancer epidemiology research under the direction of Dr. John Higginbotham, associate dean for research and health policy in The University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa campus.
By first taking old data and looking for trends in prostate cancer using the Alabama Tumor Registry, Wilson revived and expanded research initiated by Higginbotham. She also broadened the research to include breast cancer data.
“She reshaped the existing research project into a more statistically and locally prevalent project by geo-coding and pinpointing exact street locations of cancer incidents,” Higginbotham wrote in his nomination letter. “This improvement to the project is being used to create maps that visually display cancer clusters throughout the state of Alabama and allow for spatial analyses to be performed on this information.”
Wilson is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and is an Honors College ambassador involved in the recruitment of the best and brightest students to UA. She has been a member of the Alabama Women’s Chorale and is the chair of the Student Government Association’s Capstone Event Committee, a position in which she is organizing and orchestrating a day of community service this spring for some 1,000 student participants.
The daughter of Rick and Donna Wilson, LeeAnn Wilson led a medical mission trip to Mexico during last year’s Spring Break and participated in a medical mission trip to Brazil.
Jason Spruell, USA Today All-USA College Academic Team Third Team member
Career Goal: University Research Professor
Jason Spruell’s undergraduate research has given the chemical industry insight into more practical ways of achieving desired chemical reactions in an environmentally friendly manner.
Working alongside Drs. David Dixon and Kevin Shaughnessy, two UA chemistry professors, Spruell used supercomputers to perform mathematical calculations leading to a better understanding of water soluble catalysts and which will help in the design of new catalysts.
Companies that produce chemical goods, such as plastics and pharmaceuticals, use catalysts to increase the rate and efficiency of chemical reactions, thereby using less energy. These catalysts have traditionally been dissolved in organic solvents. Replacing these organic solvents with ones having less environmental impact, or even with water, is a major goal of researchers. Water has often not worked well as a solvent for certain types of reactions, but a particular class of catalysts, known as water soluble palladium catalysts, are effective in water. In analyzing these catalysts, Spruell has discovered more about their properties and how they work.
“Jason’s work will have an impact in the area of ‘green’ chemistry as we develop chemical processes with less environmental impact in terms of waste production and energy consumption,” wrote Dixon in his nomination letter.
During the summer of 2004, Spruell performed chemistry research abroad at Universitaet Muenster in Muenster, Germany. He competed for and won an international award, given to only two undergraduate students worldwide, which funded his research, travel and living expenses. In the spring of 2004, Spruell was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Excellence in Education Program Scholarship, worth $7,500 annually and given to roughly 300 university juniors and seniors nationwide.
Spruell, who has been accepted into graduate schools at Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia and UCLA, is a member of the Blount Undergraduate Initiative in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences and participates in UA’s Computer Based Honors Program. He serves as president of the Student Affiliates to the American Chemical Society. He has also volunteered at University Place Montessori School and with the Boys and Girls Club of America.
“Jason is one of the most impressive students I have encountered, including those I’ve worked with at Stanford and Yale,” wrote Shaughnessy in his nomination letter.
Spruell is the son of Ken Spruell and Barbara Pearson.
William Norvell Jr., USA Today All-USA College Academic Team, Honorable Mention
Major: Banking and Financial Services
Career Goal: Investment Banking
Working to overcome stereotypes of the Greek System, William Norvell Jr., president of UA’s Interfraternity Council, negotiated an agreement between University administrators and UA’s 23 fraternities on how disciplinary action is handled. He developed a “Hazing Protocol” empowering Greek presidents to strictly enforce a “no tolerance” policy related to hazing violations.
“It is unbelievable how much change his leadership has made to the Greek community here at The University of Alabama,” wrote Tim Hebson, associate dean of students at UA, in his nomination letter. “….All Greeks understand that if an individual in a chapter does haze, he is held immediately responsible for this by the chapter and the University.”
In the past, charters could be revoked when one or two individuals violated policy, but Norvell’s work to empower the individual fraternity presidents has reduced problems, Hebson wrote. Norvell’s initiatives also reduced the amount of hours pledges can be at a fraternity house and set deadlines for initiations to occur.
Norvell, who serves as president of the Blue Key National Honor Society and was a member of UA’s Multicultural Center Task Force, has been actively involved in Greek Links for the past three years, including, as a junior, coordinating the collective charitable efforts among all Greek organizations.
Over the last three years, Greek Links has raised more than $400,000, with proceeds going to benefit Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Miracle Network, Kid One Transport and the Literary Council of Central Alabama. After Hurricane Ivan devastated Gulf Shores and other areas, Norvell organized about 30 of his fraternity members to help in the relief effort. Coordinating with Gulf Shores’ representatives, including the mayor, Norvell and the fraternity members made the five-hour drive to the destructed areas and worked approximately 330 hours in the relief effort.
During his UA career, this Culverhouse College of Commerce student has worked as an intern at Merrill Lynch and completed research on warrant pricing models at the request of Dr. Robert Brooks, a UA professor of financial management. Norvell developed a program that Brooks has now incorporated into the curriculum for his financial engineering class.
Norvell is the son of Bill and Anne Norvell.
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.