First and foremost our condolences go to all our our colleagues at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and others in the Huntsville science community such as Twitter friend, @girlscientist, Dr. Chris Gunter.
As we are learning, yesterday’s shooting occurred after UAH Assistant Professor of Biology, Dr. Amy Bishop, learned that she would not be awarded tenure. My sentiment is very much that of my colleague, DrugMonkey. Originally appointed as a faculty member in 2003, she had previously been an Instructor at Harvard University after earning her PhD in Medical Sciences there in 1998.
We cannot assess her tenure dossier from a distance but we can tell from ratemyprofessor.com that she had the typical profile of positive and negative reviews and was considered a tough but helpful professor. But to my eye, the ratings grew more critical over the last two years.
She and her husband had also developed a proprietary cell culture incubator and software package called the InQ cell culture system that won a local $25,000 entrepreneurial prize in 2007 and launched a company called Prodigy Biosystems. Their webpage is only a shell but local reports indicate that Prodigy had raised $1.2 million in funding around the technology. However, the state economic development enterprise, Alabama Launchpad, reported that the product launch had been scheduled for the October Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting. (scroll down at the link as it is the last story on the page).
Dr. Bishop’s publication record was modest for seven years at roughly a paper a year (although 3 in 2009), not uncommon for a school like UAH. UAH has disabled much of their website but this Google cache of Bishop’s faculty page provides the source of my information.
I mention this because not indicated in MSM press reports is that Dr. Bishop held an active R15 AREA award (1R15NS057803-01A2) from NINDS of NIH that began April 1, 2008 and ends March 31, 2011. The grant is entitled, “Elucidation of Nitric Oxide Resistance Mechanisms in Motor Neurons,” and the NIH RePORTER record can be accessed here. Clicking on the individual tabs at this page will reveal specific information about the various aspects of the award. For example, the grant has already led to one published manuscript in the Journal of Neurochemistry in April 2009.
The NIH AREA Mechanism, Area Research Enhancement Award (PAR-06-042, just reissued as PA-10-070), is a grant mechanism intended to support institutions that have not traditionally had a strong NIH funding base:
The purpose of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program is to stimulate research in educational institutions that provide baccalaureate or advanced degrees for a significant number of the Nation’s research scientists, but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. These AREA grants create opportunities for scientists and institutions otherwise unlikely to participate extensively in NIH programs, to contribute to the Nation’s biomedical and behavioral research effort.
Previously restricted to $150,000 in total direct costs over three years, the recent release of the program announcement indicates the mechanism now support projects at up to $300,000 over three years. It appears that Bishop’s award was for $219,750 and that the fund were dispersed in total in 2008 although the project ran until 2011.
I present this information for our readers because this is the only aspect of Bishop’s teaching, research, and service that has not yet appeared in the mainstream media.
It is impossible at this point to know anything about the grounds for the denial of her application for promotion and tenure.
In fact, it is largely irrelevant in light of the suffering of the university community and the families of those killed and injured in the shooting.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all touched by this tragedy.