The University Record, April 1, 1998

Two receive first Susan Lipschutz Award

By Paula Saha



Jennifer Fredricks, a fourth-year graduate student in the combined program in education and psychology, and Sarah Ross, third-year graduate student in physiology, were named co-recipients of the first Susan Lipschutz Award for Woman Graduate Students at an Afterglow reception on March 27 following Ursula Oppens' "Beethoven the Contemporary" spring concert. The performance benefited the Susan Lipschutz Fund for Women Graduate Students.

The family of Susan Lipschutz established the Fund in memory of Lipschutz, who had been with the U-M for a number of years, most recently as associate provost from 1993 until her death in April 1997. According to Graduate School Dean Earl Lewis, income from the endowed fund will be used to support women graduate students who "are exceptional scholars and who exemplify Susan's sense of social responsibility and concern for the welfare of others." The $5,000 award is intended to support summer dissertation research and travel.

Jennifer Fredricks

"What has struck me most is that so many people have said what an honor it is," says Fredricks. "Susan Lipschutz really stood for women's issues."

It's a stand that Fredricks identifies with in both her personal life and her academic pursuits. She is currently working with Jacquelynne Eccles, professor of psychology and of women's studies, to identify what 'contexts' motivate females to enter so-called "male domains" such as sports, science and math.

A self-described "math person" and a competitive swimmer since the age of 7, Fredricks wants to explore what her research will mean for an intervention at a family level. She does not anticipate this being an easy process.

"Theoretically, I'm trying to say, 'Is there such a thing as a good environment for girls?' People in psychology talk about 'contexts' all the time. But no one knows how to measure context."

Fredricks completed her undergraduate degree at Columbia University in psychology and economics. She then worked in New York City for two years running research projects. She came back to school because teaching and education were areas in which she had always wanted to be involved.

"My dream is to start a school," Fredricks says. "I want to put into practice all the good education research that is out there."

Fredricks will use the funds to further her dissertation work in the summertime. The additional funds will allow her to concentrate more on her academic work and less on earning money.

"I didn't know what Susan Lipschutz has done for the University. Because of this award, people will know what she did. It's nice to know there are people fighting for things at the University."

Sarah Ross

Sarah Ross loves her work.

Animated about her research and eager to teach, she reaches over to sketch diagrams and better explain the ways in which proteins turn "on" and "off" to regulate the differentiation of unspecialized cells into fat cells. Currently working in the lab of Ormond MacDougald, assistant professor in physiology, Ross is trying to understand the regulation of the protein that instigates this process.

"I would love to dispel the myth that fat people are fat just because they eat too much--new research suggests that's not the case," she says. The implications of biological proof along those lines is significant, Ross says. It would mean a better understanding of obesity and diabetes, and may have some effect on body image and self-esteem issues.

Ross is honored by her selection as one of the first recipients of the Susan Lipschutz Award, particularly because of the number of people she knows who knew Lipschutz. "People in the department have spoken very highly of her. It is really hard to find somebody who hasn't met her or wasn't impressed by something she'd done."

Ross completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. After an undergraduate research experience that led to a summer position and a jointly-authored manuscript, Ross became "hooked on research and the sense of discovery associated with doing experiments."

"I'd like to be able to direct my own research program--there is so much impact with people you're working with directly. I want to have students in my lab and share with them my enthusiasm for science."

Ross is somewhat disheartened by the attitude many students take toward science today. "It's sad how people feel about science. I think it's because of the competitive environment during the undergraduate years. Everyone is geared toward medical school.

"I'd like to change that. I'd like to encourage people to go into science without medical school--there are so many rewarding careers in science."