Nature or Nurture: PTSD and the Amy Bishop Shooting

After surviving Amy Bishop shooting, UAH professor Joseph Ng launches research on PTSD

According to Eric Seemann, a psychology professor at UAH who is working with [UAH biology professor Dr. Joseph] Ng on the research project, most PTSD candidates never develop it. He estimates that only 10 to 20 percent are appropriately diagnosed with PTSD and that other candidates gradually recapture normalcy or suffer from lesser issues than PTSD.

“Most of the time, 85 percent, people do not develop PTSD,” Seeman said. “Why is that? Joe’s hypothesis is based on biological markers of resilience.”

Drs. Ng and Seemann are into some interesting stuff here.  You have the molecular biologist and the psychologist coming at the problem from the nature/nurture axes.  Who’s right?  That’s why you research.

“Every one of us has a different experience in terms of building up our immune system,” Ng said. “The day you were born, even by virtue of whether born by natural birth or C-section, will give you a different biome. So every human individual will have a different type of biome. That defines your immune system.

“So that means, why are some people more prone to getting sick? Or even to the extreme of being very sensitive to cancer? We said if that’s the case, if your immune system can be compromised or defined, is there a pattern of gene expression for immunity that may be associated with PTSD?”

Seemann brings an additional perspective to the study. In addition to possible biomarkers that Ng is searching for, Seemann said he believes environment plays a role as well in how PTSD affects a person.

I look forward to seeing what they find out.

Student Email Accounts at UAH

Back when I was getting my first1 baccalaureate degree at UAH, students were not automatically issued email accounts. This was 1997, and the University’s IT department created individual, access-limited accounts on a UNIX machine. If you knew what you were doing, you could do a lot of UNIX stuff with that email.uah.edu account. I knew enough to be dangerous and find the limits. [Somehow, I didn’t get shut down.]

Getting those accounts was an interesting process, though. Students went to the SGA office and filled out a form to get an account. We filled out a form by hand. This was peculiar to me then, and it’s a historical footnote that I wanted kept alive. After joining SGA that year, I was a part of the team that handled those requests for IT. I asked one of the staff members—who still works for UAH, so I won’t name him—why this was done, and he told me that SGA got involved because IT got overwhelmed with requests, and SGA was equipped to know which people were and weren’t students and then get information to them as appropriate.

[blackbirdpie id=”102913475147350016″]

Fast forward 14 years and the IT system now makes it impossible for me to pay them. We’re talking seven clicks after a login, and then only if you know exactly where you’re going. Maybe I should give the SGA my debit card number.


  1. I start my second on Wednesday 

On Depression in College

In a post-Virginia Tech world, it’s understandable that colleges and universities would want to watch “at-risk” students. But as NPR notes, more often these days the schools are sacrificing the student to limit their liability.

I’ve become more vocal in the last year about mental health issues, mostly because I’ve owned up to mine and sought treatment. The stigma of mental health issues is, quite frankly, right up there with sexually transmitted diseases. The difference, of course, is that STDs come from promiscuity and non- or mis-use of contraceptives, but I can’t find a single case where anyone actively causes themselves to have a mental health issue.

You might think I’m overstating the case a bit, but think about how people generally discuss mental health issues—hushed tones, furtive glances, closed-off body language. Heck, I’m pretty open about my struggles with chronic major depression, and yet I still fall into these behaviors myself. It’s just hard.

I understand that universities are worried about their students’ well-being. But I assure you that there are a lot more depressed students on your campus who need treatment, care, and concern than there are Seung-Hui Chos who will snap and kill their students. My depression extends back into my college days, including times when I certainly was ideating. I vividly remember considering killing myself in my apartment bathroom at one point in my college career, considering how I could shoot myself in the head without hurting my roommates or anyone else. Now, I was too damn stubborn and stupid to seek help then, but if I had been ready to do so and was then faced with the prospect of being put on involuntary leave from school because I needed a break from school—and I can name at least two semesters in college where I should have withdrawn and come back later—and also risk losing scholarships and my very spot in the school, I would not have sought treatment. And that, folks, is simply a tragedy.

“We’re not sitting on the porch playing banjos down here.”

When we played Colorado College to start our season, Scott Owens, CC’s radio voice and a former member of the Michigan State organization, called our coach, Danton Cole, to talk about the Alabama-Huntsville team. Cole is an MSU alum, and so the conversation was free and easy.

And then Owens asked about recruiting. And then … then I got to remixing.

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That was a fun ninety minutes last night … and now I have to mix it down to 30 and 60-second loops before tonight’s game.

Practice | Day #4




Practice | Day #4

Originally uploaded by Geof F. Morris

So the greatest amusement of my day was UAH head coach Danton Cole coming up to me and Will while we were watching UAH’s first practice and saying, “Hey, do you guys think you can help me get information out over Facebook?”

This amused the two of us greatly, as Will started the UAH Hockey Facebook group, and I, well, do this kind of stuff all the time.

I mean, really … twist my fuckin’ arm, Coach.

[For the record, I’m buying season tickets this year, including a four-pack in good seats on the penalty-box side of the ice. Obviously, I am only one man and can only sit in one seat at a time, so if you would like to use my tickets for free, you just give me a call or drop me an email, eh? First come, first served.]

Five Years

Well, today is Mother’s Day, so it means that UAH will be having commencement. [They’ve been doing this for more than the decade I’ve been associated with the school.] And so I realized this after I cleared out the cobwebs: five years ago yesterday, I graduated from college. I’ve now been out of post-secondary education as long as I was in it. [Ignoring, of course, two brief turns through graduate school.] Even goofier, five years ago today, I in-processed as a full-time, salaried employee. Today, I’ll go in to the office to build charts for a program management review with our customer; tomorrow, I fly to Houston to represent the company.

Seems like it’s all moving a bit fast, but … this is how my life goes most of the time. 🙂

Norm Has Nothing on This Guy

My friend Norm—and most anyone who went to UAH from, say, 1993-2003 knows Norm—spent ten years working on his degree; amusingly, he now works for the university. But he has nothing on Johnny Lechner, who’s spent twelve years at Wisconsin-Whitewater. I love the closing comment:

Michelle Eigenberger, an editor at The Royal Purple, said Lechner may have achieved celebrity status, but most students are tired of it.

“It’s getting old,” she said. “For the sanity of the rest of the campus, we want him to get out of here.”

It’s just how the UAH SGA folks felt about me! 😉

UAH President Frank Franz to Retire in 2007

My friend Chris Brown wrote in with the following:

UAH president announces plan to retire in 2007
Dr. Frank Franz, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville since 1991, made a surprise announcement at todays UA trustees meeting here: He plans to retire at the end of the 2007 spring semester.

Franz told trustees, who were meeting in Huntsville, that hes approaching 70 years old and, as trustees often transition off the board when they hit 70, he felt a university president should also.

The announcement took the entire board and UAH staff by surprise. Dr. Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the UA system, said the system would begin formulating a search process to replace Franz once he retires.

Frank, I raise a glass to you. You’ve been a wise mentor and friend, a steady hand on UAH’s rudder. You have your critics, and they have their points, but I have appreciated your efforts over the years. I’m surprised that you’ve stayed this long, but I’m glad you have. I wish you all the best.