Piracy, captives, and ransoms not just the stuff of Hollywood movies

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High-seas misadventure, pirates, ransoms! Those may sound like the plot points of Tom Hank's latest blockbuster movie "Captain Phillips." But according to American Slaves and African Masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776-1820, American sailors have faced peril at the hands of Africans who sought to capture them since the nation's earliest days.

"Sailing was one of the better paid jobs at the time, but it was really dangerous," says author Dr. Christine Sears, associate professor of history at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. "One sailor, John Foss, was captured in 1793 and released in 1796, only to have his ship pulled over by privateers another five times before making it home!"


MusicBridge: Making a connection one note at a time

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There's food to eat, and then there's food for the soul. But as of this past fall, Lisa Schneider is helping to provide both to the less fortunate members of the Huntsville community through her MusicBridge initiative.

Schneider, an oboist and adjunct professor of music at UAH, originally conceived of the idea while volunteering for Manna House, a Huntsville-based public charity that provides daily food assistance to those in need.

"The thought came into my head that it would be really nice if the people waiting to be served had some music to listen to," she says. "Then I thought, perhaps we can make that happen!" And who better to ask for help than UAH's own students?


College of Engineering alumna Dr. Jan Davis on UAH, space, and tomorrow’s astronauts


When Dr. Jan Davis was growing up in Huntsville, Ala., in the 1960s, there simply were no women astronauts. So it wasn't something UAH alumna ever considered becoming.

But in 1978, when the first female candidates were selected to be part of NASA's Astronaut Corps, Dr. Davis began to rethink her career path. And in 1984, while working as an aerospace engineer at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and attending UAH, she applied to be an astronaut.

"I think having a graduate degree - and my pilot's license at that point - it just seemed like I might have the qualifications, so I might as well give it a shot," she says. "I knew it was a long shot but I realized it could happen. It was a possibility."

Needless to say, Dr. Davis was not chosen from among the 5,000 people who applied that year, but she was selected three years later. And since becoming an astronaut in 1987, she has logged more than 673 hours in space over three flights: STS-47 (1992), STS-60 (1994), and STS-85 (1997).


UAH professor honored for service to others

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Dr. Derrick Smith, an assistant professor of education at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has been named Faulkner University's 2013 Alumnus of the Year.

Smith recently won a National Science Foundation grant, in partnership with CANnect and gh LLC, to help improve the way in which the visually impaired interact with their math teachers. He is also co-author of the MathBuilders series, a supplemental math program for Braille users in kindergarten through third grade.

"Derrick embodies the mission and heart of Faulkner University. He has dedicated his career to service to others and has served those around him in extraordinary ways," said Adam Donaldson, Faulkner's director of alumni relations. "We are pleased to honor Derrick as this year's Alumnus of the Year."


UAH civil engineering professor tapped by city officials to review traffic study


When it comes to expertise in everything from foreign languages to physiology, The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has the market cornered. So it's no surprise that when Rocket City officials needed help, they called on UAH civil engineering professor Dr. Michael Anderson for assistance.

At issue was a recent traffic study to determine whether the construction of a new 24-hour Wal-Mart on Drake Avenue east of Memorial Parkway would negatively impact traffic flow at the proposed location. The conclusion was that it would not, but residents were not convinced.

"The big concern was that Wal-Mart paid the consultants to do the original study, and that the same consultants have done the previous 30+ Wal-Mart studies in the state of Alabama," says Dr. Anderson. "So the residents were nervous there was some sort of bias; they wanted someone who could speak more freely."


UAH French Club elects president with unique credentials

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As a child, Myriam "Mimi" Brasseur grew up in a multi-lingual household in which her mother, who grew up in France, taught French. "I heard French spoken from the time I was very young," says Brasseur, who is now a senior double-majoring in French and Communications at UAH.

That early start soon proved to be the beginning of what would become a life-long interest in languages. When Brasseur was 8 years old, her military family moved to Belgium, where Brasseur began speaking Belgian French. "It's just a little different from classic French," she says. And several years later, another move to the French- and Arabic-speaking country of Tunisia prompted her to add Arabic to her repertoire.


UAH Invitational Honor Band returns for sixth year

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UAH is pleased to announce the return of the UAH Invitational Honor Band to Randolph School's Thurber Arts Center for its sixth year. The two-day clinic, which comprises 175 carefully selected middle and high school students from across the Tennessee Valley, will be held Thursday, Nov. 14, to Saturday, Nov. 16.

Over the course of the two days, the students will rehearse with guest composer Rob Grice of Troy University and guest conductor Catherine Rand of the University of Southern Mississippi, and partake in master classes hosted by the UAH Music Department faculty.


CMSA director contributes to new IEEE standard


Dr. Mikel Petty, director of the Center for Modeling, Simulation and Analysis at UAH, has contributed to a new Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standard for distributed simulation as Drafting Group editor of the Product Development Group.

Distributed simulation systems offer more flexible computational power that can work in larger systems that evolve rapidly.

"Using the new standard will reduce the overall effort required to develop complex simulation systems involving multiple architectures," Dr. Petty said. "It will also increase the interoperability, which is the ability to communicate within and be reused in different systems, of individual simulation applications developed according to the standard."


UAH piano majors invited to present posters at Piano Pedagogy Symposium


The Collegiate Chapter of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) at UAH has been selected to present two research posters at the third annual MTNA Collegiate Chapters Piano Pedagogy Symposium.

Held this Nov. 8 and 9 at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, the symposium brings together collegiate chapters and their advisors from across the country for lectures and workshops. This year's event will also feature a presentation from Peabody Award-winning radio host, author, and Juilliard faculty member David Dubal.


Engineering a more balanced future


When Maria Lee received a perfect score on the math portion of her ACT test, she had many options of colleges. But the Huntsville, Ala., resident - and South Korean native - chose UAH.

"I wanted to stay close to my family, and I received a full scholarship to the university," she says. Her plan? To do "something in the STEM fields," she continues, referring to the acronym used for science, technology, engineering, and math.