Graduate school honors two with 2005 Ida Green Award

Finding problems and fixing them. That is the common motivation for 2005 Ida M. Green Award winners Eileen Foy and Elizabeth Pickett.

"The Ida Green Award recognizes a young scientist for her outstanding commitment to the well-being of fellow students and her exceptional community service activities. Both Elizabeth Pickett, with her service to the Graduate School Organization, and Eileen Foy, with her dedication to the various women's groups on campus, really exemplify the female student population on campus. These two women are excellent role models for their peers," said Dr. Melanie Cobb, holder of the Rolf Haberecht and Ute Schwarz Haberecht Deanship of the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, in Honor of Olga & Max Haberecht and Anna & Hans Schwarz and the Jane and Bill Browning Jr. Chair in Medical Science.

The award is given annually to a female student or students in the graduate school for their commitment to the school and community. A $2,000 prize was presented to each winner at an April 19 reception in the A.W. Harris Faculty-Alumni Center.

Ms. Foy, a fourth-year graduate student in the molecular microbiology program, is also a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Ms. Pickett is a fifth-year student in the genetics and development graduate program.

The Ida M. Green Award was established by Southwestern Medical Foundation in honor of the late wife of Texas Instruments founder Cecil H. Green, who died in 2003. Mrs. Green, who died in 1986, championed the cause of opening new career paths for women in science. Through her will, she provided unrestricted gifts to support numerous organizations in the community, including a major bequest to Southwestern Medical Foundation.

"I'm honored to be recognized with this award," said Ms. Pickett. "The Ida Green Award is special to me because I really enjoy being involved with the UT Southwestern community."

Ms. Foy said she was surprised that she won the award.

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, Ms. Foy volunteered in a pediatric AIDS clinic. She helped the young patients with their homework and kept them busy while they waited to see their doctors. The experience, she said, helped shape the direction of her education.

"Seeing these kids who should have been in school sitting in a clinic all day was inspiring," she said. "I love research for its challenging environment and figuring out how things work, but I didn't even consider medicine until my last year of college.

"I know I want to specialize in infectious diseases because my experiences have made the research 'real,' and I think that it will make me more aware of how I need to treat my patients."

Ms. Foy, who is involved on campus in the Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee, among others, will be returning to medical school for her third and fourth years later this summer. Her graduate research in the lab of Dr. Michael Gale, associate professor of microbiology, focuses on the interaction between the Hepatitis C virus and specific proteins in liver cells, which the virus infects.

"Research is very fulfilling," said Ms. Foy. "I've always liked the nature of discovery."

Ms. Pickett's community service began at a very early age. For 16 years, she served as a Girl Scout and then was a troop leader in high school. In college at Texas A&M University, she organized badge workshops for local Brownies.

Ms. Pickett studied genetics in college and did research for several years on the genes involved in tomato ripening.

"I fell in love with genetics in the seventh grade," said Ms. Pickett. "My first research project was in high school."

As a graduate student, Ms. Pickett has held numerous offices in the GSO, including president and vice president. Her dedication to science continues off campus, by serving as a judge in the Toyota Dallas Morning News Regional Science Fair. When she is not in the lab, she attends and performs in theater and dance productions.

Her research, in the lab of Dr. Michelle Tallquist, assistant professor of molecular biology, concerns the role of the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor in early development. This receptor, when associated with its ligand, PDGF, promotes the development of several structures in the body, including the craniofacial area and the skeletal system. Ms. Pickett is studying how the failure of the signals that the PDGF receptor gives off inside the cell leads to defects like spina bifida.

Her advice to graduate students who would like to pursue service opportunities is simple: "Find a project you like, and get involved."