UA Huntsville Dr. Amy Bishop holds active NIH R15 AREA award

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 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.


81 thoughts on “UA Huntsville Dr. Amy Bishop holds active NIH R15 AREA award

  1. It’s sorely tempting to use this tragedy to make a point about the insecurity of science careers, in particular how large and often arbitrary the assistant prof and tenure culls are… so large that even talented people with reasonably good publication and grant track records don’t get through.

  2. Yes Karen James it is tempting because it is part of the picture. Sure, it takes a person who is not quite right in the first place to go to these lengths. Plenty more contested tenure denials out there and they do not end up in shooting tragedies.

  3. Amy made a motion in the faculty senate to censure the President last year when he wanted to require all jrs and srs to live on campus; she very strongly believed many disadvantaged students could not afford this hardship.
    Her “getting along” and her mental instability were probably the tenure issues…the teaching and scholarship appear ok..

  4. This is shocking on so many levels. That the shooter is female, with a husband, no major personal disasters that we know of. Of course she must have been mentally unbalanced. No matter how wrongly treated she might have felt by the Faculty one does not take up firearms and kill ones colleagues unless there is something seriously amiss.
    This is so horrible on so many levels. I cannot express how sorry I feel for the people at UAH. And it will be hard for them for years to come.

  5. just posted on the Boston Globe website:
    “The University of Alabama biology professor accused of slaying three of her colleagues fatally shot her brother in an apparent accident in Massachusetts more than two decades ago, a local police chief said.
    Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier confirmed the 1986 shooting in his town and slated a news conference this afternoon to discuss the incident.
    The Globe reported at the time that Amy Bishop had shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth M. Bishop, an accomplished violinist who had won a number of science awards.
    John Polio, chief of police at the time, said Amy Bishop, who was 20 at the time, had asked her mother, Judith, in the presence of her brother how to unload a round from the chamber of a 12-gauge shotgun.
    Polio told the Globe that while Amy Bishop was handling the weapon, it fired, wounding Seth Bishop in the abdomen. He was pronounced dead at a hospital 46 minutes after the Dec. 6, 1986 shooting.
    “Every indication at this point in time leads us to believe it was an accidental shooting,” Polio said at the time.”
    Accident. Sure, sure.

  6. Just out of curiosity, is it necessary to be an ass on this thread?
    For me, my prayers are lamentations – expressions of sorrow for the pain and loss being experienced today in Huntsville and wherever the families of the victims reside. Honestly, I don’t expect my prayers to do anything but cultivate in me and those I touch with a sense of compassion, gratitude for what we have, and a hope that a spirit of comfort and resolution comes to those affected by this tragedy. I’m not asking a deity for anything – just a reflection, a moment of sorrow, and a remembrance for the good people lost and hurt in these shootings.
    I didn’t ask anyone else to pray. I was merely stating what my family and I are doing today.
    And please don’t let me distract you from your goal of applying your training in mathematics and statistics to amass your desired &500K in betting earnings so that you may retire.

  7. As a lifelong non-believer, I’m with Abel here. If people want to say “prayers”, well, fine. If non-religious people like, say, me prefer to say “thoughts”, also fine. The key sentiment underlying both is: “What a tragic waste… and what their families must be going through.”
    I’m not going to get exercised about the precise language.

  8. people are mourning the losses of loved ones and Cassini has to get into the meaning of prayer vs some other personal expression of sympathy and goodwill? of all the petty things to bring up at a time like this.
    i hope those involved find the support of their loved ones and their communities. what a senseless and tragic loss.

  9. Thanks so much Abel — was pointed here by Twitter comments. I appreciate the condolences and good wishes and prayers and anything else we can get at this time. I will definitely pass all of the above on to colleagues at UAHuntsville.

  10. Feel free to mention you’ll be praying for them.
    But you might as well have tossed in “we’ll draw a pentagram and stab a voodoo doll for them.”
    It just stands out to people who have had their consciousness raised concerning superstitious language.

  11. If you really want to get truly pissed off, some nut is actually trying to use this incident for some socialist-baiting:

    UPDATE: From “This class was great. Bishop makes the class interesting by talking about her research and her friends research. That speaker she had for class was hard to understand but smart. She expects alot and you need to come to every class and study. She is hot but she tries to hide it.And she is a socalist but she only talks about it after class.”
    Reader George Berryman writes: “I’m guessing the ’she’s a socialist’ part won’t get talked about much in the MSM. But if she had been a conservative it’d lead every evening news cast for two months.”

    What? The? Fuck? These people have no shame whatsoever.

  12. I was in graduate school at Indiana State University with Dr. Gopi K. Podila twenty-five years ago. He was a dedicated and talented scientist. He was also a warm and caring person with a great sense of humor. We lost touch after graduate school but I never forgot what a wonderful person he was.
    He has left a wife, daughters, mother, brother, and a large number of friends and colleagues who are mourning his death.
    Bruce Fuchs
    Bethesda, MD

  13. We still don’t know the facts of the case. Her brothers death was ruled an accident.
    Her last academic paper was on The damaging effect of SSRI’s on motorneurons.

  14. First of all, my sincere condolences to the families of those who fatally suffered from this unspeakable tragedy !
    Many thanks also to Abel Pharmboy for a very careful analysis of this extremely complicated case – this is very helpful for all those who is willing to seriously analyze the situation.
    To my mind, nothing can justify killing of anybody – whatever the reasons might be !
    But, in the flood of our positive and negative emotions, we, scientific research workers, should not forget – this story is tragic and ugly at the same time – and it’s carrying two separate lines, which should be clearly disentangled.
    1. The tragedy of people being killed, the tragedy of their families and colleagues – on the other hand: a ripe woman who is definitely talented and most probably psychotic at the same time.
    2. The disastrous situation in the universities and research organizations all over the world.
    Yes, the time should elapse, it maybe a considerable time, before all of us, who feels him/herself engaged, can come around after this overwhelming tragedy !
    But, dear Abel Pharmboy, the second point is by far NOT “largely irrelevant in light of the” first point !!! Because the first point was clearly preprogrammed by the second one.
    Yes, dear Karen James, it is not only “sorely tempting to use” the first point “to make a point”, it is absolutely necessary to trigger a world-wide discussion on the second point !
    The tremendous difficulty here has been clearly underlined by DrugMonkey – yes, thousands of colleagues are facing tenure denials all over the world, but for the present the shooting in Alabama Huntsville seems to be the only known case, where weapons started to talk …
    Who am I to tell you such things ?
    A short formal sketch of my own biography: I am theoretical biophysicist with 27 years of professional experience, more than 80 peer-reviewed papers – which received more than 800 citations – h-index = 15.
    A short informal addition to my CV: I have VOLUNTARILY left the academia, am working in industry – and holding honorary academic positions all around the world. And I know several colleagues – dedicated researchers who did just the same as me.
    One of the reasons why I have moved to industry is analyzed in my blog:
    In the latter blog, posted before the tragic events we are discussing now, I have placed some deliberations about how all our “quota-hired” colleagues may extremely easily turn into “desperados”, “mankurts”, etc …
    On the other hand, the “hunt for the social success at any price” may turn talented scientists – wonderful and caring persons – into cold and cruel landlords …
    I regret to know several examples, where casualties haven’t taken place only thanks to a fortunate chance …
    Dear colleagues, please be aware that the bells toll already since sufficiently long ago – and it is finally the time to realize that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” – and not only in Denmark !
    Respectfully yours,
    Evgeni B Starikov

  15. If you are allowed to apple for an R15, then I’m guessing that R01s are rare at Huntsville (because 4 or 5 R01s on the campus are enuf to make them ineligible for R15s.)
    and using medline, I only find 4 or 5 papers from her, does she use a middle initial?

  16. Thank you for the post, especially the sleuthing required to dig out that Google cache information and finding out what grants she had. Most things have already been said in the post or in the comments but I’d like to point out one thing: her publication record, as far as one can tell based on that cache and what little one can find on PubMed, seems to be quite a bit substandard, even for a non-first-tier school such as UAH. ‘Modest’ as you call it seems to be an understatement. It seems that she has had only 2 real research papers (plus some reviews) at all since starting her laboratory there (since publications from 2004 were certainly still based on work she did before going to Alabama). And, very weirdly so, she is the first author on both of those?! That is not alright at all, a tenure-track member of the faculty is supposed to publish as last author, so that his/her graduate students and post-docs can get the first-author publications they need for their career. Did she not have any students or post-docs? And what is this weird paper listed as ‘in press’ for 2009 where seemingly her husband is the last author – and three other Andersons are listed as authors before her. Who are those Andersons, don’t tell me those are her children? That would be seriously freaky (of course I have no knowledge to that end, but since she is otherwise so clearly troubled something like that would not be a surprise; that would, by the way, also put her husband into a very unfavorable light, if he went along with such a scheme).
    Why this matters is because obviously the publication list is one of the two most important factors when it comes to getting tenure. And this publication list is both very short and very thin (i.e. only few articles and most of them in very low-class journals) and very full of red flags. Couple this with the lack of success for the other important factor, funding (just one NIH grant, and just an R15?! Standard for getting tenure is at least one RO1 grant. I know, she had this biotech thing going but that might not have been of much benefit to her department, since while the department gets a very large share of an RO1 grant it is not clear how much if anything of the funding she raised for the company went to the University – and that is really what matters, that one can get funding to the University) and it is already pretty clear that tenure could not be granted. Then throw in that she was clearly coming unhinged and that her colleagues were certainly aware of that and it is very clear why they did not want her around any longer. So I think it is very obvious and understandable why she was not granted tenure, regardless of how good a teacher she might have been (and even there, as the blog points out, her record was far from spotless). The system actually worked really well in this case, no need to roll out the lament about all that is wrong in academia (as much as there might be of that in general).
    And of course, just to be sure and as has already been said by others, even if denying tenure to her would not have been justified and she would indeed have been the victim of some scheme (not the case at all here, but it happens elsewhere of course, and it certainly happened in her head) this wouldn’t even come anywhere close to making it “understandable” what she did. At best one could say for her that she is probably seriously mentally ill (which, again, must have been showing to an increasing amount, making the decision against her fully justified).
    That she and her husband were looked at in the pipe-bomb case at Harvard, many years ago, is quite interesting indeed. I wonder if one can dig out what her professional relationship with the Harvard Professor who received the bomb was and what in that relationship it was that made them persons of interest.
    And that she shot her own brother to death, accident or not, oh man…(see also the included URL)
    Alright, sorry about the long post, this is a very extreme occurrence so I had a lot of thoughts about it.

  17. Ah yes, the evil that is Craig Cobb of podblanc. Ol’ Craig only seems to show his face during tragedies.
    Last time he was here was when UNC student body president Eve Carson was killed, allegedly, by two black men.
    But Craig, this time we’ve got a Jewish person killing three dark-skinned people, two of whom were African-American. I’m so confused – how do you negotiate this? I don’t know who to hate here, if anyone. You must lead a very tormented life, you heartless ass.
    daedalus, I usually do delete such hateful comments but I’ll leave this one up for now to show just how much evil is out there. In fact, the creationist blog Uncommon Descent has its own post up today about how today’s Sunday church sermons might use Amy Bishop as an example of evil because she taught evolution.

  18. #22 by Evgeni is excellent. The post he links to is excellent also. It bears directly on the issues of “civility” that has been discussed on various blogs recently.
    What is “civility” but playing within the rules that the hierarchy above you (aka the Kyriarchy) has imposed upon you? What happens if you can’t win, can’t break even, or can’t even compete by playing by those rules? You have two choices, give up, or break the rules.
    Breaking the rules by using naughty words is one way. Breaking the rules by using weaponry is another. It was JFK who realized this when he said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. “
    I am not condoning what Dr Amy Bishop did, but I think I am beginning to understand it. When you put desperate people in desperate situations they do desperate things. The low NO of the desperate situation induces psychosis, and in some people extreme violence. I think it is the low NO of postpartum metabolic stress that causes postpartum psychosis and causes some mothers to become infanticidal. I see that as an evolved “feature” to shed an unsustainable metabolic load.
    Her oldest child is 18. The incident with the Harvard professor was 17 years ago. She may have been in a postpartum state, not a good time for a woman susceptible to violence to be put under a lot of stress. I have a whole blog about acute psychosis due to low NO and metabolic stress. It isn’t a “bug”, it is a “feature”.
    Abel, if it were my blog I would delete it, but maybe all that anti-nausea medication you are taking is giving you a stronger stomach than I have.

  19. Daedalus2u (and also Evgeni), what are you talking about?! That’s borderline disgusting! This is *not*, I repeat *not* the case to use as an example for what might be wrong in academia in general and with the tenure system in particular. This is a very clear-cut case. Someone was given 6 years to prove herself, she didn’t even get close to doing so, not with publications and not with research grants, which are the factors that matter by far the most for tenure (and even that biotech startup of hers was really just a shell, as the blog here says, not anywhere near something real and praiseworthy, and certainly with no impact on any tenure decision; plus she also sucked as a mentor, if you look at her publications and the lack of publication unders her tutelage for any graduate students or postdocs), which is well known, plus she did become increasingly unstable, for whatever reasons (but don’t cite the pressure of her job, that won’t fly – taking a tenure-tack position is a voluntary move, there are plenty of other things you can do with a PhD, so even if you find out after you took the job you can always leave), this is as clear-cut a case as there ever was one. “The low NO of postpartum metabolic stress…” – what?!?! Ok, fine, maybe her mental disease had something to do with giving birth, maybe it didn’t, there is no way to tell. But when you say “but I think I am beginning to understand it. When you put desperate people in desperate situations they do desperate things”, that’s borderline disgraceful. The only thing that needs to be understood here is that mentally ill people will do mentally ill things and if they have access to firearms that can and will turn deadly. End of story. No desperate situation here at all. She was not denied tenure because some cabal didn’t want her to have it even though she deserved it. She didn’t reach the minimum necessary criteria *and* she was showing signs of instability, that’s why she was denied tenure and there was no other possible thing to do for her colleagues (other than maybe call in health services to get her counseling for her instability).
    Ok, maybe you meant well with your comment, but choose your words more carefully, again, there can be no “understanding” here beyond of that as mental disease as an organic illness (which you elude to, admittedly) that strikes often without reason or even much of a warning and needs treatment, not access to firearms; and, also again, this is *not* the case to use as an example for a discussion about problems within academia or the tenure system. If anything use it as a case to discuss why people should not have access to firearms, ever (specifically because mental disease often strikes in unexpected ways and places).
    Btw: it seems that my suspicions (from post #27) were correct, on her most recent article (now in press) she seemingly did indeed list her *daughters* (under-age school children!) as co-authors, which is very seriously deranged – and her husband, who is the senior author on that paper must therefore have gone along with it, which very seriously puts into question his mental competence as well (see: Anderson LB et al., International Journal of General Medicine, 26 May 2009).

  20. Dear K. Zuse,
    Although it is a difficult move with all my heart and soul (Dr. Bishop really seems to be a true, brilliant scientist, whatever nits you are trying to pick !) – we must possibly agree, that this particular UAH case is clear-cut from the police and psychiatry viewpoints …
    But what is also clear-cut is that the system of “quota hire”, “tenure-track”, “research grants” etc. is truly devastating, especially as concerns “life sciences” … Let us now try to analyze, why.
    Yes, I agree: the “tenure-track” is “voluntary”, but in fact it is a “voluntary slavery”, which is a clear prerequisite to drive psychically unstable persons like Dr. Amy Bishop into horrible madness … The True Scientists – (if you’d ever met them, you’d know !) – are not capable to “do something else with their PhD” but solely scientific research …
    Look, the problem is that the True Researchers are well known to be somewhat “odd”, to be “loners” – at least, all of those whom I have honor and pleasure to know – are exactly like this. Yes, Dr. Amy Bishop is an extreme case, sure …
    The even greater problem is that the academia folks consist not only of the True Scientists, but also of “schmuck” who’s striving solely for their own social success at any price, without even being a shadow of a professional in their respective fields, without any moral restrictions etc. What renders the whole problem even more aggravating is that this “academic schmuck” is infiltrating the key positions which are connected with decision making (funding control) etc …
    Being a “quota-hired, tenure-track True Scientist”, you are damned to bring the social success to all this tenured “schmuck” with all your work – and after all you are in fact invisible, you are totally out, you are looser … Try to place yourself into such a situation, dear K Zuse – what could be your feelings ???
    All the “schmuck” is tenured – but not all the tenured academia colleagues are “schmuck”: and here is the true recipe for disaster ! The reports about those who were violently killed last Friday show them as True Scientists too … Most probably they were completely innocent people. Do you think, it would be better, if Dr. Amy Bishop or colleagues in similar situations would commit suicide (for Goodness sake !!!), dear K Zuse ??? Isn’t this worthwhile a serious investigation ??? Or it is better to preserve the “research grant” system, the “Fressnapf” for the “academic schmuck”, the hotbed of this dreadful infiltrate ???
    The final problem, namely what could be invented instead of “research grants” is kind of “dodgy” – I agree. But this is exactly the lesson which is taught by this horrible tragedy: there is urgent time for an open, public discussion on how to single out and change all the wrong things …

  21. K Zuse, you seem to think you know a lot more about the situation than has come out. There are reports that the denial of tenure was not due to not meeting the objective criteria for tenure, but rather through administrative whim. The tenure appeal committee ruled she was either to be given tenure or the process redone. The committee was then over ruled.
    Doing things to people in desperate situations to make them more and more desperate, will likely cause them to do desperate things. That is the nature of being in a desperate situation. Putting people in desperate situations is one method that is used to control them and to make them less effective. People in desperate situations are much less predictable than in non-desperate situation. The dynamic range of what they might do becomes very large. Desperate people become unconstrained by rules. That is what is meant by the expression “all is fair in love and war”. In life-and-death situations, people may do anything to survive.
    If you have never been in a desperate situation, then you don’t know what it is like. Usually people who use the tactic of putting others in desperate situations have never been there themselves. They are analogous to chicken hawks. Their usual practice is to simply apply more and more pressure until people “break”, and then they can be discarded, imprisoned, marginalized. Unfortunately when some people “break” the result is not pleasant.
    I think this whole situation was handled badly. I don’t know the details, but to look at it in black-and-white and attribute all “blame” to her is (I think) premature. Certainly using a gun to kill people is an inappropriate and unacceptable response, and I am not defending her in that regard. If she was not treated fairly, then those who treated her unfairly bear some responsibility for the situation. It isn’t a “crime” to treat people unfairly, that happens all the time. Good people don’t treat other people unfairly. When people treat others unfairly and it comes back to bite them, that is what the term schadenfreude is for.

  22. from Orange County (California) Register:
    Former UCI student saw mass shooting
    February 15th, 2010, 7:29 am · Post a Comment · posted by Gary Robbins, science writer-editor
    We received an email today from UC Irvine researcher Alexander McPherson that says that one of his former graduate students at Irvine, Joseph Ng, escaped the mass shooting that occurred Feb. 15 at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Police say Amy Bishop, a UAH teacher, shot and killed three people and wounded three others during a faculty meeting, allegedly because she had been denied tenure. Ng, who is now an associate professor of biology at UAH, sent McPherson an email describing the shootings, which he witnessed. Ng’s email is below. Warning: The letter is graphic.
    Dear Alex,
    Thank you for your thoughts and concern.
    The last couple of days are still unbelievable. I am still in complete shock that we were shot at during a faculty meeting. We were 12 all together (including the shooter) sitting around an oval table in a modest size conference room . There were only one door to enter/exit. The shooter was a disgruntled faculty member who didn’t get tenured after several appeals and a law suit. About 30min into the meeting, she got up suddenly, took out a gun and started shooting at each one of us. She started with the one closest to her and went down the row shooting her targets in the head. Our chairman got it the worst as he was right next to her along with two others who died almost instantly. Six people sitting in the rows perpendicular were all shot fatally or seriously wounded. The remaining 5 including myself were on the other side of the table immediately dropped to the floor. During a reload, the shooter was rushed, and we pushed her out the hall way and closed the door. Thereafter we barricaded the door and called 911. At the time, I saw 2 dead bodies already and several wounded. Blood was everywhere with crying and moaning. I was on the phone with 911 reporting what had happened and while waiting we tried to stop the bleeding of those who we thought were still alive. In about 5 min, the campus and city police, ambulance and a SWAT team arrived. We were in a pool of blood in disbelief of what had happened.
    There were 5 of us who got out relatively unscathed – I was one of them. Over the weekend, we were at the hospital looking after the 3 wounded and the family of the deceased. It is hard to have this image out of my mind and I have mixed feelings of guilt and relief that I am alive or unharmed. Now half of faculty is out of commission and we are wondering what to do. This week, the University is closed. We will attend a bunch of memorial services and funerals in the next two weeks and try to rebuild a department in the months ahead.
    Hopefully we will talk more later.
    Take care, Joe

  23. Dear adepts of the ***PATHY and other extravagant theories,
    I would greatly appreciate your educated attention. Please find below the story told by a colleague who knows Dr. Amy Bishop very well – personally – since decades.
    To get to the original URL address, just kindly click on my nick (this is one of the most recent comments to one of the blogs by Zennie62 at the
    2/15/2010 12:15:49 PM
    donquixote5, janersM and borninAL,
    Thank you for your support – the heartache and guilt that I have been feeling is keeping up at night. When I first heard about it on the news, all I heard was her name ( nothing about her degree or where she was from ) and my heart sank, I knew it has her…..
    But more importantly, I wanted to answer the question about why she picked science and “loners” in science.
    Amy didn’t choose science, it chose her. It was the only area that she truly enjoyed and was good at it. It was also an area where she didn’t need to make small talk or socialize in order to BELONG. Amy easily fit into meeting/discussions on neurons, oxidation, etc. AND PEOPLE LISTENED. It was the only place in her life in which this happened – where she existed.
    I know this because she told me. She never emoted, but one time out of nowhere she told me about this. Amy and I went to college together and then I worked at the Longwood Medical Area while she was getting her PhD an doing post-doc work. So we saw each other often. She also told me that day that I was the only person at college that even acknowledged her and because of that, that she liked me quite a bit. I nearly bowled me over ! In all our interactions there was NOTHING outwardly that would indicate she liked me. NOTHING ! But I took her word for it that day. It broke my heart. We never talked about it again, though we did talk about the “incident” as she called it ( her brother’s death ) – I know why she killed. All these headlines and news and postulating make me so sad…because it is very, very simple, and I know it deep in my heart. She was a soul that couldn’t be saved, no matter how badly she wanted to be.
    It wasn’t about being denied tenure, it was about her not being “enough” again – and having the only community that she felt a kinship with, one in which she didn’t have to emote or do small talk, banish her. Where was she going to go ? Who would have interest in her ? Where would she get the human contact she wanted so badly.
    Yes, donquixote5, there are many “loners” in science – I should tell you that I spent 23 years in molecular biology – but those scientists are either very shy, or awkward, or just so focused on their research that they become myopic. But they welcome a chance to talk about their kids or the weather or the Red Sox. Amy is and was always vacant.
    Finally, regarding the sociopath: sociopaths are usually very charming and manipulative and have no conscience. So JanersM is right in stating that she is not one. She was very blunt and didn’t have an ounce of charm. She was also not manipulative. Anything having to do with navigation the psyche was out of her ability.
    Lastly, this is the only place that I have “talked” about this – outside of with my husband and another college classmate ( who characteristically, doesn’t remember her ). This has been a real outlet for me. Thank you.”

  24. I don’t totally agree that Dr. Amy Bishop’s was denied tenure cause her publications were substandard. Even if she didn’t meet a certain criteria, it wouldn’t have been difficult for the University to realize this woman had promise – she was an exceptional scientist, she was a Harvard Grad. She brought to UAH everything that they could have hoped for. I have to believe that a University not only takes into account what a tenure applicant has accomplished in the last 6 years, but they also look at what she/he will accomplish. Her “cell incubation” invention alone would have told the University of her promise. The cell invention benefits the University cause they have intellectual rights to it. UAH is very fair concerning this, they allow the professor to keep 50%. This alone will bring in millions to the University. One of her colleagues stated that Amy Bishop has brought more money into the University than any other professor. I am speaking only of the Biology Department now. She was denied tenure for only one reason and one reason only. She was difficult to work with, her inability to get along with her colleagues was the only reason for denial. She demanded her way too often and wouldn’t give an inch. She felt she was superior and she was. It was her attitude and her frame of mind that caused her to tenure failure. She had become suspicious. She had requested that the names of the people on the committee that was blocking her tenure be removed. She was just a difficult woman to get along wit and her colleagues didn’t want her around anymore – It really is a shame cause she is a brilliant woman with so much promise

  25. Maybe it’s just me, but she seemed to have a pretty poor research record. She had a burst of pubs in 2009, but then there was a big gap in the years between pubs. The dates of the last pre-2009 pubs (2004, 2005, & 2006) suggests that that work was done when she was a post-doc. And as someone pointed out above, there is something freaky about one of the pubs (are her children her co-authors?).
    To sum it up, universities give tenure to those that have proven that they can be independent researchers that can produce work that has a significant impact on their field. That big gap suggests that she had no momentum from her post-doc, had a hard time publishing on her own, and it was only when the tenure clock started running out that she made a big push to get published. Universities don’t like that.
    At least at my university, she would not have received tenure. Not by a long-shot.
    Mitch said “this woman had promise – she was an exceptional scientist, she was a Harvard Grad.” — that’s why UAH hired her: she had promise. They gave her 6 years to prove herself, and she could not. Her publication record was substandard. That’s nice that she invented some incubator, but that does not make her a great biologist or scientist.

  26. 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.

    My heart goes out.
    Interesting article

  27. Here’s a link to her most recent paper, published in May 2009. According to published accounts, she received word that her tenure was denied in April 2009. According to other published reports, one of the elements of her appeal was that three papers published in 2009 were not included in her case.
    Now, what is “curious” about this paper? The first author is Lily B. Anderson. That’s Lily Bishop Anderson, her daughter. Probably around 5 or 6 years old. The second and third authors are Thea B. and Phaedra B. Anderson. Also her daughters.
    The research was carried out at Cherokee Systems Lab, which is owned by her husband.
    This paper is listed on her Department webpage. Did anyone in the department find it strange that the first author was a child and not the PI, a post-doc, or one of her grad students?
    This paper is a red flag. I hope someone at UAH is looking at her lab notebooks. I wonder if her research can be duplicated?
    And regarding the brother’s death… Has anyone here ever fired a pump action shotgun? You’ve got to pump the action to get the round to go into the chamber. Click-click… It may be possible to “accidentally” fire a shot gun once, but three times? She had to know what she was doing. This was not a semiautomatic revolver that “went off”.

  28. I haven’t studied her research papers. I’ll take a look at them a bit later today. I graduated from UAH, so I have a an interest cause this happened on a campus I visited everyday. The area this shooting happened was an area I frequented often. Maybe her papers weren’t up to par, maybe time was running out as you suggest. According to chemical engineering professor which Amy Bishop and him clashed often. He says that Amy Bishop brought in more money into the university than he had and he’d been there quite a bit longer. The University will receive 50% of it’s royalties. Not just today but for many many years to come ……. that will add up into millions and millions of dollars. Research and development is important, but all this cost money – grants, donations etc. Which one of the faculty members that exist in the UAH Biology department has achieved more than her in 6 years? You enjoy facts? give me some. I am not excusing what she did by no means, that was an unnecessary tragedy, obviously there was something intenally wrong with this woman

  29. Amy Bishop’s father, Samuel S. Bishop, is a Greek-American, whose surname at birth was Papazoglos. The August 10, 1985 funeral notice for her grandfather on page 15 of the Boston Globe confirms that. Anyone who thinks that Professor Bishop is of Jewish descent is not really on the level.
    LYNN – Speros Papazoglos , 96, former owner of the Hancock Market in Somerville, died at his home yesterday after a long illness.
    Born in Aitonia, Grevena, Greece, Mr. Papazoglos came to the United States at 16. He had lived in Manchester, N.H., Boston and Somerville before moving to Lynn 11 years ago.
    For a few years, Mr. Papazoglos owned and operated the Boylston Grille in Boston. For 30 years, until his retirement, he owned and operated the Hancock Market in Somerville.
    A US Army veteran of World War I, Mr. Papazoglos had been an active member of the Boston Chapter of the Pan-Macedonian Association and the Boston chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.
    He was a former member of St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church of Boston and the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Somerville. Most recently he was a parishioner of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Lynn.
    Mr. Papazoglos leaves his wife, Theano (Stavropoulos); three sons, Alexander S. Palos of California, Samuel S. Bishop of Braintree, and George Papazoglos of Manchester; a daughter, Rose Olson of Beverly; 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
    Boston Globe, The (MA)
    Date: August 10, 1985
    Edition: THIRD
    Page: 15

  30. She’ll get away with minimal punishment for her crimes. She has already been painted as “brilliant”, a “victim”, and has both the feminists and racists on her side. She will get away because white people have never gotten the death penalty for killing Brown / Black people ever.

  31. msp and Ande: thank you! I was beginning to think I’m the only one seeing those very obvious things.
    Mitch: You want facts – read what msp, Ande and I have commented re her publication record. And also consider that she had gotten only one R15 grant, while standard requirement for getting tenure (maybe not at UAH?) is an RO1.
    And also, you have several things wrong regarding the funding she supposedly raised so plentifully for the University: you mis-quote that chemical engineering professor, he said that she had more success in raising *start-up funds for her business* not that she brought in more money for the University than he ever did. And that money is just that: start-up money. We know almost nothing about that business other than that it is one of hundreds of very-early phase biotech start-ups, of which the majority won’t make it past that phase. If I remember correctly she had $1.25 million in funding, that’s not bad but also not that much for a cell culture based start-up. That amount would last maybe a year or two and several additional rounds of funding will be needed to get a product to market-readiness. But – more importantly – that’s start-up funding, there will be no royalties, zero, for the University until the company actually has a product and is selling it with a profit. From which her company was still very far away – look at their website and do some search, there is no product, not even close. So, no royalties and no way to tell when, if ever, they would have come. Thus: no reason to give her tenure for that either.
    You ask which of the biology faculty has achieved more than her in 6 years? Uh, every singly one of them.
    Da Manz: what is wrong with you?!

  32. NIH grants aren’t the only grants bio researchers get. You are forgetting about the NSF, not to mention funding from charities such as the American Heart Association, and agencies such as DARPA, NASA, etc.
    Here is a link to current NSF grants at Huntsville:
    Maria Davis (Ragsdale) is a PI on one of the grants, and Gopi Podila is a PI on an major intrumentation grant.

  33. I finally dug out a link to my patent so that people can compare what I was doing to what Dr Amy Bishop was doing. I think it was more than the loss of tenure. She has a patent application on file.
    I happen to know a great deal about the specifics of this because I have filed this patent application
    Which will do exactly what she was trying to do using ammonia oxidizing bacteria as the nitric oxide source.
    If her patent would have issued, it would have been a hyper-valuable patent, many tens of billions of dollars per year. It won’t issue because my patent has priority.
    This technique, using nitric oxide to prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases will be successful. It will stop the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. This would save millions of lives per year. This would be the boon to mankind that she was trying to achieve to make amends for killing her brother.
    This patent application was assigned to UAH. There was no one at UAH who understood it, or who could pursue it in her absence, or who could advance their academic career by working on it. Without her, it would not be pursued.
    I think it was the loss of the opportunity to give back to mankind that drove her off the deep end. Losing the opportunity to save a few billion person-years of human lives is not a small loss. Not everyone could tolerate a loss like that without breaking.

  34. To imply that Bishop was denied tenure because she did not accomplish enough as a researcher is the same as to imply that Dr. Bishop was obvious psychopath because she was bothered by the motorized scooters outside her house
    you are right, rp, the department could function without A Bishop and pursue research interests of current faculty members and hopefully their work resumes shortly after the tragedy
    Dr. Bishop was the one who could not do it without “them”, the tenure, but of course she is a killer and psychopath..
    K Zuse: not so many RO1 holders are in UAH history the only other current RO1 holder is CHITTUR, KRISHMAN who was outspoken about her achievements and personality..
    K Zuse: see
    Do you think CHITTUR, KRISHMAN is odd?
    My deepest condolences to the dead/involved faculty members and their families.
    All I am trying to say is that as a scientist Bishop appears to be at least an equivalent of the peers but of course she is a killer and psychopath..
    As a PI Maria Davis submitted three papers but only on one of them she is among the corresponding authors
    According to these papers Dr. G. K. Podila seems to be a really nice person and devoted chair and true scientist who supported the assistant profs they hired. According to U. president he was a Bishop’s supporter as well. James Anderson, her husband, said that they won the appeal but it was overruled by provost

  35. Dear colleagues and non-colleagues,
    to my mind, it’s totally fundamentally wrong to look for “stars” in the science ! It is here that a great temptation of delusion/self-delusion begins.
    Scientific research is not sports. In the latter, everybody has to carry out one and the same sequence of exercises, so that the results can easily be evaluated according to commonly accepted criteria, like time, distance etc.
    As for the research activity, can you clearly define what exactly its outcome is ? Very often you carry out very expensive and bizarre experiments, you write sophisticated theories, you run large-scale years-long computer simulations to obtain just the only answer – “the phenomenon we were studying is sheer impossible”.
    In such a case – have you rightfully spent money you have got for your research ?
    Sometimes it is absolutely impossible (even for keen professionals in the field) to clearly evaluate definite degree of usefulness some particular theory or experiment might be possessed of – years and years must elapse before the damned “informational barrier” could be overcome …
    Especially misleading is the common system in academia, where everybody’s trying to determine who is “star” and who is “not star” just by counting the number of publications – or by checking who has papers in “Science”, “Nature”, “Angewandte Chemie”, “JACS” or likewise. There may be a sole paper which is ground-breaking, but hundreds of scam papers. The mentioned “big” journals are frequently publishing scam, every specialist knows this very well.
    Every True Scientist is a star in him/herself, True Scientists are different from each other and from non-scientists !
    Therefore I completely agree with Zorean (cf. that “as a society what we need to do is to learn to embrace and help people who are “different” or who are greatly and emotionally tied to certain outcomes/situations.”
    But how to achieve this ideal state of affairs – is a big problem …
    And now let us try to consider this whole dreadful story from a quite different standpoint – namely, not from “inside”, but from “outside”.
    I guess, in this particular case, BOTH Amy Bishop AND the UAH administration bear the responsibility. However, it is extremely difficult to determine – without a fair and detailed investigation into this case – the exact ratio of these responsibilities …
    Please note also another aspect. When denying tenure, the responsible administrators follow THEIR OWN logics and are fully persuaded by THEIR OWN train of thoughts.
    That such an “administrative” logics is sometimes at odds with the conventional human one is correct. But it is exactly here that the true “blind alley” starts …
    On the other hand, Amy Bishop – as every human being – has her own logics and her own train of thoughts … Now, the two “trains of thoughts” have violently collided – there are very clear casualties !
    The both sides: Dr. Bishop and the UAH administrators have surely the right to drive their own trains of thoughts. But there must be a fair “roadmap” for these both trains, not to induce violent collisions like that horrific tragedy of the week ago …
    Again, we come to a conclusion that the modern academic system doesn’t provide – at least, for the people like Amy Bishop – the fair “roadmap” !
    It is impossible to place people into a permanent “struggle for the survival” !
    It is sheer impossible to play with “everything” or “nothing”, this play becomes a pure sadism, in the long run. This means, I would like to estimate the UAH administrators as (potential) sadists. And – as a consequence – I would like to estimate the unlucky “quota hires”, “tenure-tracks”, “postdocs” etc. as (potential) masochists.
    A couple “sadist-masochist” seems to be stable, but in fact it could exhibit a steady functioning only if the system is closed …
    But the system is open (Thank Goodness !). And exactly this fact renders the system “sadist-masochist” intrinsically unstable.
    One of the definitions of unstable systems tells us that if a system exhibits exceedingly huge reaction in response to a tiny external stimulus, it may be qualified as ‘unstable’ …
    Look, this is but exactly, what we have seen last week at UAH !
    Apart from the terrible tragedy of all those who was involved into this violent drama, there is a definite clear-cut conclusion:
    The modern academic system is vicious, it is corrupt – because of its intrinsic instability.
    This state of affairs MUST somehow be changed ! Otherwise, we’ll witness other similar collisions all around the world !

  36. I just reviewed the information about co-authors in the American Medical Association (AMA) Manual of Style, as it seems so odd that almost Amy Bishop’s whole family co-authored “her” most recent paper on her UAH Web site. If anyone is interested, that Manual has a section 3.1.5 titled Order of Authorship. Guideline number 2 in that section states that “The first author has contributed the most to the work, and the last author has contributed the least.”
    If the publisher was using AMA style, then it would seem that one of the daughters had primary responsibility for “Amy’s” last paper, and her husband had the least responsibility.
    I really wonder about two things Number one: How did the first listed daughter manage to do school and also be primarily responsible for this paper? Number two: Did all the coauthors meet the criteria for authorship?
    In sections 3.1 and 3.1.1, the AMA Manual discusses Authorship Responsibility and Authorship: Definition and Criteria, respectively, giving some excerpts from a JAMA article concerning authorship and ethics. The manual states the excerpts show “a deep appreciation of the basic ethical responsibilities of authorship and point to the basic ethical obligations of authorship…”
    The AMA Manual indicates to me that maybe having all those family members as coauthors might have been unethical. It is hard to imagine the younger coauthors having all the listed qualifications d responsibilities that the AMA Manual describes.
    This last paper that Amy was involved with was a medical, not a scientific paper, and it should have been undertaken in a serious, ethical manner. If her young kids did help out on this research and paper, it would be really interesting to know exactly what they did. I am willing to bet that whatever they did did not meet all the listed requirements in the AMA Manual of Style.

  37. Not all Universities grant tenure based on research. Actually the criteria for tenure is very ambiguous. Some Universities base tenure on one’s teaching abilities, another might base it on grants received – there is no set standards. Tenure is unique to each University. What makes tenure difficult is even the tenure applicants do not have any idea what the criteria is. There is no defininition of what is expected from the tenure applicant. Even when tenure is denied, seldom is an explanation given. I doubt seriously if Amy Bishop even knows why she was denied tenure and I bet the 50 tenure applicants before her have no idea either …. tenure is not an exact science, you can be rejected for a variety of reasons, each University has it’s criteria and that criteria isn’t well defined. I have no idea what the University of Alabama wants from their tenure applicants – I doubt seriously if the applicanst know either – One thing I do know, Amy Bishop was one difficult woman to work with. She rubbed the wrong people the wrong way, she was very demanding and very abusive to her colleagues. In her 6 years she challenged people in authority including the president of the University. I am thinking if she had been more cooperative, a sweeter woman, worked well with others – then again if she was all that she wouldn’t have murdered her colleagues even if she was denied tenure – just my 2 cents worth

  38. It wouldn’t make sense for Amy Bishop to use her children this way. Amy Bishop had to know that her colleagues and the University would explore her research papers … Possibly another explanation ? Anyways, tenure is the least of Dr. Amy Bishop’s worries now! Still like to hear the University’s side of this

  39. “The University of Alabama hasn’t responded to the media’s request for the reason of Amy Bishop’s denial of tenure.”
    A week later and they haven’t responded to the obvious burning question? That says a lot.
    Not a very transparent process if they can’t come up with why it was denied in a week.

  40. Many of you have expounded on Amy Bishop’s substandard research papers. if this was the reason for her denial. Wouldn’t it be easy for the University to state this? If she used her daughter as some suggest. Wouldn’t this be a clear reson for the University to deny tenure? They could put all the doubts to rest with just a simple explanation. The University has responded “no” to some questions of the media. When the media asked the president of the University if Amy Bishops opposition to the president’s propsal of requiring all studenst in their freshman and sophomore years to live on campus. Amy Bishop opposed the president of the university here. She felt that a lot of students wouldn’t be able to afford this. This in turn would change the dynamics of the graduating students of the school. She stood up for the studenst here but at the same time opposed the president of the school. When the media asked the president if this had any bearing on her denial of tenure – he said “NO”. So, are we to assume the school knows what didn’t cause her denial of tenure, but they didn’t know what did? gain, we don’t know the criteria for a tenure-tract applicant at the University of Alabama. This is not clear cut. each University is unique in their criteria for tenure acceptance. If her research papers didn’t meet the standards – they could easily state that. The fact they don’t state that leads me to believe there were other reasons. maybe the reasons are embarrassing to the University. Then again, maybe they want to get back to business as usual

  41. I was an undergrad at the University of Alabama. I really don’t believe writing research papers is a criteria for tenure-tract assistant professors. I saw no evidence of this while I was there. I would have to compare her research papers to other assistant professors, especially to the ones that were denied, there should be consistency. Some common factors, did the tenure-tract professors that were accepted write more papers? were those papers published in better journals? I am speaking of the University of Alabama here, other universities will have a diffrent criteria for acceptance. I am suspecting that Dr. Amy Bishop was relaxed in her research papers cause it wasn’t a big requirement. Remember, these tenure-tract professors have an advisor preparing them, telling them what they need to do. They aren’t just left on their own. As bad as Dr. Amy Bishop wanted this tenure – I can’t believe she would overlook the research papers – unless it wasn’t a requirement at the University of Alabam for tenure-tract applicants – She isn’t a dumb woman, surely she would have put that together. What is required at other Universities isn’t relevant to the University of Alabama – they have their own agenda. I saw no evidence of research being a criteria while attending this University. Still a comparison would be nice, especially assistant tenure tract professors in the biology department. Her papers may have been substandard work at another university where research papers and especially publications in a well known scientific journal, but were they substandard when compared against her colleagues at the University of Alabama? The article from new York times is right, it is hard to fathom a woman of her abilities and intelligence to do such a horrific act. There is a tendency to justify her actions. There has to be a reason for this. No intelligent person would do such a thing, especially a woman of her status. I suppose we think of the less unfortunate people of the world doing these things

  42. mitch: I’m not sure if you didn’t completely misunderstand the article? What it explains is that her work *isn’t* brilliant, *that’s* why she didn’t have the – required – publications (required at *every* university that wants to be a research university, yes, also in Alabama, because without publications you won’t get grants and then you can’t do…research). And she has clearly some personality disorder at the very least, as evidenced by the observation that SHE MURDERED THREE PEOPLE! Which cannot be excused by something as not getting tenure, even if she had deserved getting tenure, even if her work was not sub-standard (which it is); and even if she were not an unstable lunatic, which she is since…SHE MURDERED THREE PEOPLE! Which shows that she is either seriously criminal or – much more likely – seriously mentally ill, which had been showing for a while (daughters as co-authors…!), which would be reason enough to deny her tenure even if her work wasn’t sub-standard (which it is…). So the whole thing is very clear-cut, no matter how many times we go in circles over the arguments. Yet some people go on making excuses for her and go on about what is wrong with the academic system, which is totally inappropriate in this case, and insulting to the victims and their loved ones, because what this case is is that a mentally ill person MURDERED THREE PEOPLE, that’s all! And the article explains, to some extent, what is going on in the heads of such people, the people who try to find some reason for this other than her being insane (“she can’t have been using her daughters as co-authors, that would be crazy” – exactly! “Oh my god, the university must be withholding information, there must be some dark secret here”…What?!?). The article is *not* saying that, yes, there must be some complex reason for this crime, it is only saying there is at least one explanation for some people not getting it that there isn’t.
    I think the author of that article, Gina Kolata (what a cool name, ha!) must have been getting frustrated and simply exasperated by reading all those comments all over the web by people trying to make excuses for Bishop. That’s why she filed that article. That’s the only interesting question remaining here, not really what is going on in Bishop’s head (that’s for forensic psychiatrics to sort out) but what is going on in the heads of people who keep trying to find reasons other than she is just plain crazy. That’s the part of the story that is also both frustrating and fascinating to me.

  43. Amy Bishop’s past hints at a very sad New England mystery tale, tragic in the dimensions of its escalating drama. A protective shroud veils the players, but as the lace curtains are parted in the old Victorian windows, we glimpse the agony of new generations descended from proud old New England stock struggling to maintain decorum befitting their ancestral privilege in the face of crises that be smudge that well-preserved history.
    Amy Bishop’s parents came from two different cultures, two worlds. Her mother a Sanborn related to John Irving through his mother Frances Winslow, both genealogical staples in Exeter, New Hampshire, where Amy’s brother Seth is buried. Her father’s parents are identified as Speros & Theano Papazoglos who emigrated from Greece to Boston where they were shop owners who later owned a restaurant. How did Judy Sanborn meet up with the man named “Samuel S. Bishop”–a man whose brothers and sisters retain names reflecting their Greek heritage? My first speculation is that Amy’s father’s name hints at some other mystery–a sanitized ‘American’ name? Perhaps adopted, though one would wonder why he’d retain a name that so distinguished him from his new family.
    The next evident mystery is Samuel Bishop’s career history: he appears to have had one job in his life–hired as an instructor at Northeastern University in Boston, from which he appears also to have taken his terminal degree. He worked his way up to associate and perhaps full professor over a period of a decade or two (based on what I could read from Northeastern Catalogs from the 60’s. 70’s, and 80’s). These facts are themselves unusual in an academic’s career: most universities make a practice of NOT hiring their own graduates into faculty positions, and Mr. Bishop appears never to have earned a Ph.D. from what I could determine. His contributions at Northeastern, like his life, seem shuttered, private. There is an award in his name, apparently created after he retired in the 1990’s.
    From these facts, I would imagine that Amy Bishop had a number of ‘boxes’ placed around her for her own future and parental expectations. The sense of privilege and inflated view of her standing and what was due her has been documented from her interactions with students, colleagues, those who supervised her work, and innocent members of her communities who ‘got in her way.’ Amy’s sense of her right to privileged treatment has been a recurring theme. Whether that sense of self is a result of the Exeter heritage, I can only guess, but her father’s model of job securing in academia may also be apparent in her decisions and movements.
    Amy completed her undergraduate work at Northeastern. It is a standard practice that employees’ children attend at a reduced tuition rate if not altogether free. And having the children of colleagues in college classes creates its own challenges. I can find nothing that suggests Amy’s undergraduate performance was outstanding in any way–no reference to awards or successes. That she entered Harvard is another mystery, and that there is no acclaim that seems to have resulted from her work there is surprising, too. That she continued to work in the Harvard arena post doc might indicate her efforts to follow her father’s model—go to college, get a job at the school after you graduate, and stay on, working your way up into job security. Then, abruptly, Amy leaves town and state on the heels of two public ‘appearances’: a pipe bomb sent to a professor who reportedly criticized her work, and striking an unknown woman who took a child’s booster chair which Amy claimed was HER right to have at a restaurant. But where to go? Amy found a job–in her husband’s hometown.
    Other bloggers’ and reporters’ accounts have critiqued Amy’s publication record–her contribution to the profession, on which tenure is determined. Their analysis is of a lackluster career–peer reviewed articles insufficient, infrequent, co-authored with others’ names as the initial, primary author–her husband’s and even her CHILDREN’S names as participating authors I note also that others have recognized that Amy’s outbursts typically follow her being crossed in some way—striking out at someone who is in the way of getting what she wants. This is the immature behavior of a spoiled child, but that would be too simple and too pat an explanation of Amy Bishop’s behaviors.
    Instead, I look back to the hindsight scrutiny of the allegedly accidental shooting of her brother nearly 25 years ago. That shooting had followed an argument she’d had with her father–a fact she reported to the police as her first comments once they tracked her down, secured the shotgun she clung to, and took her into custody. [If you just accidentally shot someone you loved, would you run AWAY from them, instead of TO them? Would you fabricate a story to protect yourself, or would you try to comfort and make amends?] That argument had nothing to do with supposedly wanting to learn how to shoot the rifle because of a sudden Saturday morning concern about robbers who had come to the house the previous year. I posit that Seth was somehow related to what her father and she argued about, and that first explosive incident revealed Amy’s capacity to annihilate what she saw as a threat to some goal she felt compelled to achieve. Her performance at college, her work record in post doc Harvard and at Huntsville–none of it indicates a brilliant mind making important contributions to the profession or academia. They reflect a sad little girl trying to prove she could make the grade, even though her heart and talent weren’t in it–an elusive goal, not necessarily even one she really wanted, but one she wanted to have anyway. Who knows who Amy Bishop was trying to please as she feigned her way up that academic ladder, or what need she was really trying to satisfy?

  44. mitch: sorry, I meant forensic psychiatry, my typo. It will be up to those specialists to determine the nature of her condition and piece together the trajectory. Was the killing of her brother the first big episode (if it wasn’t just an accident), were there others episodes before that, and how many afterward? Did her state get worse over time or maybe even better for a while. Very importantly, was she aware of her condition, not only during the episodes but also during periods of relative normalcy. Or were there no periods of real normalcy. This will be important for the trial, in order to determine if she can be held accountable for her crimes. If she knew what she was doing was wrong then the answer will be yes. Even if she didn’t know what she was doing *during* an episode, but knew that she had those episodes and that she did put others at risk with her violent behavior during those episodes, then it would have been her responsibility to take preventative measures (i.e. not having a gun around her, certainly not practicing with it, and seeking the help of mental health professionals). It’s a bit like driving a car even though you know you sometimes have seizures that come without warning. If you then still chose to drive the car then you will be held accountable for anything that happens if you have a seizure and cause an accident even though *during* the seizure that caused the accident you were ‘not yourself’. So those will be the questions the court will have for forensic psychiatry.
    Also interesting will be to observe how the role of the husband becomes clearer. He seems to have been in on most things she did or that happened to her. Going all the way back to the pipe bomb investigation, also he signed off as senior author on the weird paper with their children listed as co-authors (and he even listed himself there as affiliated with UAH, which he is not, which is downright fraudulent). The statements he made right after the crime, most of which turn out to be not true (he did know very well that she was going to a shooting range; she was not making ‘millions’ for the university etc. He might have been in shock at that time but it can be very telling what people will say during times of stress). If *she* herself did not know that she was a danger to others but *he* did know (he was aware of the assault in the restaurant, over the booster seat, and he knew that she had acquired a firearm and was under a lot of stress, and had shown over the years to become violent when under pressure) then he, too, might be held accountable for the damage she caused, at least insofar as he was supporting her dangerous tendencies (he seemingly even took her to a shooting range to practice with the gun with which she then committed the murders).

  45. nell lee: here another tidbit that you can add to your storyline: if you look at Bishop’s list of publications and presentations ( then under presentations you will find a series of invited talks stretching from February 2002 to October 2003 (I am excluding the ones in 2000 and 10/03 as they were not at Universities). The title is always the same. What one is looking at, I think, is Bishop job-hunting for a faculty position, those are her job talks, which candidates for tenure track positions will be invited to give. And note how she started out in the Boston area, she was trying to get a faculty position at Harvard. The talk at UAH comes then at the end of the series, and presumably it is the only one that stuck. So this was kind of her ‘safety school’ after Harvard, Harvard affiliated institutions or UMass had declined to make her a job offer after hearing her speak (of course the alternative interpretation could be that they did make her offers but she chose UAH nevertheless; not the most likely scenario). That also shows what they were thinking about her at Harvard.

  46. The insanity defense is an extremely difficult defense. I am suspecting that is where Amy Bishop and her lawyer are heading. Amy Bishop says she doesn’t remember the shootings, but when arrested outside the shelby building she said “they can’t be dead” Her lawyer says that Amy Bishop is “crazy” The truth is, the insanity defense is her only shot. Premeditation will be difficult to over-come cause she brought a gun. But did she know the consequences of her act? She was denied tenure april of 2009. Even her appeal was denied months ago. This was to be her last semester at UAH. I think the prosecution won’t have any trouble convincing a jury she has had plenty of time to plan this, as zuse said, this even included a firing range. Right after the shooting, Amy Bishop called her husband and told him to come pick her up. He said her voice was calm. She disposed of the weapon in the bathroom of the second floor. This might suggest she knew this was incriminating, which suggest she knew the consequences of her act. Why else would she dispose of the gun. Personally I think this insanity defense will be a hard one to sell. She got a court appointed lawyer, yet she paid cash for her home just a few years ago. I don’t see Amy Bishop walking away from this, not by an acquittal or a insanity defense. She is going away. Now the choice is death row or life imprisonment. Can you visualize this woman in general population is a prison? Does she look like she’d fit in? She’d walk into the prison and say “I am Dr Amy Bishop.” Bet she’d be a popular woman there. I wonder how many people she would piss off in the first week? Dr Amy Bishop is a loner, most scientist are. She is not going to fit into prison where she’ll be surrounded by people that just happen not to be her equal. I personally think Dr Amy Bishop should go for death. She will be isolated from others, which would suit her personality. By the time her appeals run out, it will be 12 to 15 years from now. She is 44. She’ll be over 60 before she is executed, if even then. The thing that works to her advantage is she is separated from others. besides, they will kill her long before she reaches 60. If I was her, I wouldn’t have my lawyer try to save my life. The problem here is – she was a professor at the University of Alabama. She would be considered one of their own. They would be reluctant to execute her. The other difficulty is to execute someone you have to establish they have no redeeming qualities. I suspect this will be difficult to establish in her case. This will be an interesting trial. A side note, her employment at the University hasn’t been terminated yet

  47. The account here describes features shared by Dr. Bishop and one in a hypnotic state.
    “Webb found it odd that Bishop never thanked her or even mentioned the effort. In fact, Bishop had been acting strangely all week. For one thing, she had started yawning during class on Monday and Wednesday.
    Also, Bishop had a lazy left eye, Webb said. But in the class just hours before the shooting, it no longer seemed lazy. It seemed fixed.
    “She made continuous eye contact with me the entire time we were in there Friday,” said Webb, “and I felt so uncomfortable. I kept looking up at the projector.””
    Hypnosis can correct lazy eyes.
    I am not suggesting this has any relevance to this case, but a neuropsychologist once told me that undergoing hypnosis could be very dangerous for a person who had PTSD, particularly when repressed memories are involved. She had a client like that and though this neuropsychologist refused to do age-regression hypnotherapy for that reason, the client went to another therapist for the treatment. When she next came the see the neuropsychologist for her regular session, the patient signed in with a brand new name and delusional identity. She had severely dissociated after the hypnotherapy.

  48. I believe Amy Bishop lost tenure cause she was so difficult to work with. Yes her research papers were substandard and gave additional reasons for denial of tenure and there were some questions relating to using her children as co-authors of her reseach papers, but that didn’t cause her denial of tenure. This is the University of Alabama not Harvard. She just couldn’t work with others … here is an excerpt from a history professor at the University of Alabama that knew Amy Bishop “First, as you probably now know, Amy was unstable and violent long before she entered the workforce and in other contexts beyond the workplace. In addition to (probably) murdering her brother, and (possibly) mailing a pipe bomb to her lab supervisor, during a visit to an IHOP she punched a woman in the head over a booster seat while yelling, “I am Dr. Amy Bishop.” Many of her “publications” also indicate a certain instability, as she lists her young children as co-authors. She also had an enormously difficult time working with (male or female) graduate students in the lab, which was part of the reason she was denied tenure. A lab can’t function without grad students, and hers kept quitting or being fired.”
    A University depends on their grad students

  49. Dear Mitch, Dear Abel,
    many thanks for the truly interesting and insightful Slate story.
    Sam Thomas states: “When a colleague here in the history department heard that there had been a shooting in the science building, her first thought was, “Amy’s lost it.” The shooting was a horrible surprise, but nobody was surprised it was Amy.”
    If Amy Bishop was so well known as a “difficult case”, what is then the role of the UAH administration ? Why were they keeping silence all the time ? She had to be sent either to some anger management courses or likewise and if there was no way to normalize her behaviour – why she wasn’t fired ? (cf. the earlier comment by Victor Vyssotsky (#130) to your “collegiality” blog).
    Moreover, the picture rendered by the UAH colleagues has no clear connection to the picture rendered in the Boston Globe story:
    – as if there are two quite different persons – before her taking the UAH position – and after this.
    A propos, is there at last a release of the full account concerning her tenure denial ? If not, then it is rather symptomatic.
    To sum up, aside from her apparent volatility and berserk propensity, there was something in Amy Bishop’s surrounding that has triggered the rampage.
    Respectfully yours,
    Evgeni B Starikov

  50. Evgeni:
    “if there was no way to normalize her behaviour – why she wasn’t fired ?”
    -she was; it is called ‘denying tenure’.
    “as if there are two quite different persons – before her taking the UAH position – and after this.”
    -not sure which Boston Globe article you read, but the one you linked to has nothing new in it and describes exactly the same person as the Bazelon/Thomas piece.
    “A propos, is there at last a release of the full account concerning her tenure denial ? If not, then it is rather symptomatic.”
    -no it is not symptomatic of anything, at least not of anything sinister. If you remember, the chairman of the department that denied her tenure has recently been murdered (yes, I am being sarcastic), so he, for example, can no longer contribute to a review of what has happened, making it a bit more complicated. They are struggling to get through this semester. They have better and more urgent things to do than to put out a fast-fire statement about something that no one is any longer wondering about after all that we now know about her. There will be a thorough investigation, it is already under way, and a thorough report (if alone to make sure that Bishop does not get off at trial), you can be sure of that. But first things first.
    “To sum up, aside from her apparent volatility and berserk propensity, there was something in Amy Bishop’s surrounding that has triggered the rampage.”
    -to sum up: what triggered the rampage was something called ‘the challenges of life’ something that Bishop was not mentally equipped to deal with. Stop blaming the people at UAH for the terrible thing that has happened to them, it doesn’t make any sense and is getting quite tiring. There is no indication that they did anything wrong. If anything they were too accommodating for too long, hoping that she would settle down and become a normal member of the faculty. When it became clear that she wouldn’t, that she could not deal with the requirements of the job because of who she was, and who she had been since long before she came there, not because of anything UAH had or had not done, they denied her tenure. Then she murdered them.
    Evgeni, I respect your quest for a better academic system. (Although it would be helpful if you came up with some recommendations of how a fundamentally better system should look like. Just condemning the existing system – which admittedly has its flaws – as without hope but not saying what should replace it is not terribly useful. Have you considered that the current system is in principle not so bad, just out of tune in some respects, maybe even very much out of tune across the board, so that a re-tuning rather than a complete dismantling – without having anything to replace it – might be what is needed?)
    But (again…): the Bishop case has nothing to do with what is wrong with academia, and you using it over and over as a vehicle for your quest is getting to be, I am sorry to say, quite annoying. If you really feel that you have to discuss systemic problems that underlie this case, look at what is wrong with the mental health care system, and maybe the system (or lack thereof) of controlling access to firearms. Or just let it be and keep discussing how the academic system could be re-tuned or reformed – but using something else as an example.

  51. Dear K Zuse,
    many thanks for your detailed and critical response.
    In general, I am happy that my view is debatable and really debated – otherwise our lives would be terribly boring.
    Any argument about Amy Bishop’s personality between the both of us seems to be pointless, because neither you, nor me know her personally for a long time. But we both are reading the same stories in Internet and have quite different impressions – that’s absolutely normal.
    If you were a member of some UAH faculty for many years, I would very much value your opinion about what happens there – otherwise both your and my opinion on the internal kitchen over there are of the same value.
    As concerns the general context, Amy Bishop’s case DOES have relation to the latter, because her “going postal” is one of the possible (although – fortunately – still rather rare) human reactions to the tenure denials in general. Other possible and observable variants: heart infarctions, cerebral haemorrhages, depressions, suicides – as well as just spitting around and going to other univesrity – or even quitting academia. To my view, there is no sensible reason to omit Amy Bishop’s kind of reaction from this list (maybe you know such reasons ? Please share them with the community !).
    I see from your comments that you are faithful adept of the existing academic system. I am sorry to disappoint – or even annoy – you, but this system is largely based upon the slavery, that is, upon thousands of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Russian-speaking etc. toilers who are being brutally used and then mercilessly thrown away. What can one do in this respect ? Yes, the USA history (just to take the geographically nearest example) can provide you with some hints (and with the full listing of all the consequences as well).
    I agree that at the first glance there seems to be no direct connection between the above problem and the Bishop case. But if you try to read my blog and the comments to it, I hope you’ll catch up on the point. Anyway, you are welcome to continue this extremely interesting discussion.
    The last, but not the least: If I have somehow annoyed you personally, that was never my intention – please accept my sincere apologies.
    Respectfully yours,
    Evgeni B Starikov

  52. The Amy Bishop case is a wake up call for All American Universities and the way they treat (or better said, MISTREAT their junior faculty). And to deny tenure based on only teaching, academics need to get a clue. Oxford gave Peter Atkins FULL Professorship based on his great teaching and his many undergraduate textbooks, many of which I have been a reviewer (yes Oxford University Press has peer review of its textbooks). Atkins text books are the GOLD STANDARD, as are the Oxford and Cambridge university tutorials. I have seen many full professors in both Europe and the States give lectures which are a total disgrace to the academic community, but since they have tenure based on so-called high level research, the students and the universities are stuck with them. Many departmental chairs are stuck with finding courses where they can minimize the DAMAGE they do to the university’s reputation (poor quality lectures) and to the poor students who have to take their courses. In Europe, tenure is now HISTORY, as it should be shortly in the USA. To grant a permanent position to a professor who stops giving good lectures in addition to doing his/her esoteric research had DESTROYED many top American universities. It is no wonder that the USA has to now import large numbers of foreign trained and educated undergraduate and graduate students. The quality of the undergraduate instruction at most so-called RIU is appalling, as is the compensation to PhD students. In the Nordic countries, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, the PhD students get a salary commensurate with them having an MSc degree, get a retirement contribution like the faculty and staff and can go on unemployment if they do not find a job immediately (most of them find jobs, and many end up being hired in the States or do postdocs at top RIUs and government labs in the States or in Europe). So the USA really needs to overhaul its University Education. Now that President Obama has overhauled private medical insurance, he needs to turn his attention to the appalling state of affairs of the undergraduate education and the cost. In Europe the undergraduate do not have to pay tuition, and the quality appears to be much better than that in the States. Amy Bishop being denied tenure appeared to be one of many miscarriages of academic justice. Social engineering appeared to have occurred, as the tenure of one of her minority colleagues with a track record worse than Amy’s was planned. Surprisingly the title went from assistant professor to associate professor after the academic has passed away. It will be nice when everything comes out as it should when the news agencies submit their requests for the tenure committee’s minutes for the various candidates who have been granted tenure at UA Huntsville and their academic records are compared to Dr. Amy Bishops. It could be that many minority faculty who have been granted tenure were inferior to that of Amy Bishop’s. If so, she was correct in her assessment. Her response was wrong, but so was the University of Alabama in denying her tenure, based on similar decisions for the minority faculty who were granted tenure at UA Huntsville and many so-called RIUs.
    Consistency and reproducability in science are fundamental. If tenure decisions are LEGITIMATE, accurate and meaningful, then the metrics which are used need to be scrutinized and published. Like the H-index, a published tenure measure needs to be developed and the junior faculty need to be able to get feedback and be able to monitor their score, like faculty can with their H-index.
    Many universities are developing teaching and innovation indices which are the equivalents to the H-index for research.

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