• August 27, 2015

Huntsville Official Tried to Calm Amy Bishop in Phone Call About Her Future

The head of the technology-transfer office at the University of Alabama at Huntsville says he tried a week ago to reassure an anxious Amy Bishop that the biology professor, now accused of killing three colleagues, could keep working on potentially profitable inventions even if she lost her tenure bid.

Kannan S. Grant, director of the Office of Technology Commercialization, said Ms. Bishop called him on February 6 initially to discuss a new invention idea. But Mr. Grant said he had also spent time on the call "trying to calm her down" over her tenure dispute, which was a concern she had raised with him in the past, even though he made clear to her that it was a matter over which he had no control.

Ms. Bishop is suspected of shooting to death three colleagues on Friday, including the chairman of the biological-sciences department, Gopi K. Podila. She learned months ago that the university had rejected her bid for tenure, and since then she had pursued a series of appeals.

Aside from her troubles securing tenure, Ms. Bishop appeared to be enjoying and having some early success as an inventor, colleagues including Mr. Grant have said.

The president of the university, David B. Williams, made a point in a November 2008 blog posting of citing one of her proposed inventions, a device for studying neural cells, as a prime example of the benefits of research universities.

The device, named the InQ, will allow for nerve cells to be grown and monitored in the long term, with remotely controlled monitors and cameras, inside a single sealed unit. The idea was borne of Ms. Bishop's frustration with the century-old technology involving the standard Petri dish, which requires more hands-on care and monitoring and yet still allows nerve cells to survive only a day or two.

Ms. Bishop conceived of the InQ about four years ago, and she has been a director of Prodigy Biosystems, the company formed to build the InQ under license from the university. The company's chairman, Richard E. Reeves, has predicted net revenue of $25-million by 2014 from the InQ, due to go on sale this summer at $30,000 apiece.

But even before the shootings on Friday, it wasn't clear if such projections would be met. The chief executive of Prodigy, Aaron Hammons, said in a November 2007 interview with an industry blog that he was expecting to receive initial patents on the InQ by early 2008, and the device to be available for sale by early 2009. But the patents have yet to be obtained, Mr. Reeves said this week, explaining that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "is very slow these days."

Mr. Hammons said in the 2007 interview that optimism about sales had been strongly driven by the ability of Ms. Bishop to generate interest among her colleagues at other institutions. She is "very well connected in the community," Mr. Hammons said, and two years of her describing the idea publicly left the company regularly fielding calls about the timing of the device's availability.

Ms. Bishop was so successful in drawing such interest that company leaders began to fear that a competitor might "swoop in" and replicate the idea ahead of Prodigy, Mr. Hammons said. "The technology is not new," he acknowledged. "It's just we're putting it all together in a convenient package."

'I Did Not See This Coming'

Mr. Grant, the tech-transfer official at Huntsville, said Ms. Bishop had discussed at least two other invention ideas in the two years since he came to the university. The latest, which she called on February 6 to discuss, is a technology she calls "induced adaptive resistance," Mr. Grant said. The idea, he said, is for a compound to be applied to neurons to make them more resistant to degradation. As with the InQ, it could also be useful for patients with neurodegenerative disease, he said.

Another idea, from about a year ago, called the "neuristor," involved combining neurons with an electronic chip in a bid to mimic brain intelligence, Mr. Grant said. The idea, a possible boost to the development of robotics, did not move beyond the conceptual stage, he said.

In the February 6 call, Ms. Bishop was heavily distracted by the imminent ruling on her appeal of the denial of tenure, Mr. Grant said. "She said, 'I can't do anything until I learn what the result of the tenure process is,'" he said.

Ms. Bishop stood to collect royalties on the InQ even if she left Huntsville, and Mr. Grant said he had promised her the university would help her develop future inventions even if she moved elsewhere. Ms. Bishop said Harvard University, where she had earned her doctorate and later worked, had offered to hire her back if she failed to win tenure at Huntsville, and she said she also was considering joining a former colleague at the University of Oregon, Mr. Grant said.

Mr. Grant spoke with The Chronicle from Malaysia, where he went on vacation shortly after the February 6 telephone call. Soon after arriving in the country, he said he was watching CNN, noticed the reports from Huntsville, and called home to learn more details.

"My first reaction was, I can't believe it," he said. "I guess it was more like, Wow, I did not see this coming." Mr. Grant, who said he also had worked closely with the victims, said "nothing made any sense" about the attack.

"My conversations with Amy had always been interesting and had always been very cordial and polite," he said. "You think you know somebody, and all of sudden they do something like this."


1. nacrandell - February 16, 2010 at 03:46 pm

"Ms. Bishop conceived of the InQ about four years ago, and she has been a director of Prodigy Biosystems, the company formed to build the InQ under license from the university. The company's chairman, Richard E. Reeves, has predicted net revenue of $25-million by 2014 from the InQ, due to go on sale this summer at $30,000 apiece."

1 - How many articles will the Chronicle write each day about this?

2 - It's about money and envy. And since she is a she - no tenure!

2. sawhite - February 16, 2010 at 04:02 pm

So if she earned her doctorate at Harvard....why isnt the Chronicle using her title? Its Dr. Bishop!

3. noway - February 16, 2010 at 04:06 pm

Feminist CRAP! "2 - It's about money and envy. And since she is a she - no tenure!"

She was denied tenure because they realized she was off balance and a nutcase.

"So if she earned her doctorate at Harvard....why isnt the Chronicle using her title? Its Dr. Bishop!"

Maybe Harvard will strip her of her doctorate, they don't like having alumni on death row.

I can't belive these posts!!

4. nacrandell - February 16, 2010 at 04:12 pm

I forgot #3

3 - As reported by the Chronicle
A - A peer's son took her class and found her just ok
B - The Dean said someone acted heroically but not able to say how or who, and
C - University official tried to calm her down.

Sounds like the U of A in Huntsville is using public relation and damage control for some spinning.

5. upnemike - February 16, 2010 at 04:12 pm

Why is she now referred to as "suspected of shooting" three colleagues?

And I suppose she will plead "not guilty" too.

6. major_ray - February 16, 2010 at 04:23 pm

It is sad what Dr. Bishop did, but the tenure process is bias. I think that an impartial committee should not include members of the applicant's home department. A brilliant person like her should have known to walk away from her colleagues and start her own company. Most historical superstars had to leave their naysayers behind and chart new territories. I read about her research and I am very impressed. Trust me I know what it's like to be disenfranchised at top research institutions like MIT (research affiliate)and Harvard (post-doc) despite brilliant research ideas (no collaborators in my case). As a former decorated Vietnam combat veteran with PTSD, I walked away and found other ways to document and protect my ideas. Now I am just waiting until some famous person publishes what I already documented. Then I will come forward with my story. As a Black American, this is the way I chose to deal with bias in the science community. Incidentally, I no longer consider myself a scientist.

7. 22108469 - February 16, 2010 at 04:24 pm

#5 "suspected of shooting"
Journalism reports must use words like "allegedly" or "suspected of" when referring to crimes until the suspected is convicted in court to avoid libel.

#3 "why isn't the Chronicle using her title--Dr. Bishop"
Chronicle policy appears to reserve "Dr." for medical practitioner-Hippocratic oath types.

8. noway - February 16, 2010 at 04:36 pm

I think this comment thread has some fellow travellers with Amy Bishop.

9. drhypersonic - February 16, 2010 at 04:53 pm

Everyone seeking to rationalize Dr Bishop's actions should pause and give thanks to whatever higher power they believe in that they were not in her presence when she started shooting.

10. noway - February 16, 2010 at 05:24 pm

Finally a sane commenter, thank you drhypersonic!

11. cheri28 - February 16, 2010 at 07:46 pm

Sadly, Ms. Bishop did not deserve tenure and it had nothing at all to do with politics. It has been uncovered that Bishop falsefied information in a publication by claiming her underage children as authors.

12. nacrandell - February 16, 2010 at 08:31 pm

#11 - Bishop falsified information...

Can you provide a source? I could not an article mentioning this.

13. blackoncampus - February 17, 2010 at 01:15 am

I have to wonder whether or not the fact that the three faculty members killed by Dr. Bishop were people of color (two of them African American, including one Black woman) has caused nacrandell and sawhite to trivialize this incident. Three people are dead, two are in the hospital with gunshot wounds to the head, and your concerns are that she was denied tenure because she was a woman (nacrandell) and that the Chronicle isn't calling her Dr. Bishop (sawhite)??!!??

14. monkeydoc - February 17, 2010 at 01:28 am

Here's a link to the recent paper in which Bishop and her husband list three of their daughters as co-authors:

15. meganmccullen - February 17, 2010 at 02:22 am

@monkeydoc - her oldest child is in college. Read the article, it looks very much like a straightforward science fair project. With 2 scientist parents you can turn that into a pub for an obscure journal. I don't think it's anything but that.

16. nacrandell - February 17, 2010 at 08:22 am

Race and trivializing the event...
No - it was reported that she started on one side of the table and began to move down a line and I was not aware of colors.

Tenure versus death...
No - the tenure review process, which is why the Chronicle is publishing articles on Amy Bishop like a tabloid (?), is already mired in controversy and should not be ignored because of this act and murders. Rather, the process should be reviewed to prevent future similar acts and level the playing field.

Comments on the site...
Several commentators have chosen to ignore analytical thinking when making brash statements, usually found in teenage chat rooms. Keep in mind Kipling's 'Six honest serving men': Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.

17. kadair - February 17, 2010 at 08:58 am

For free information on how to survive an active shooter situation go to http://www.activeshootersurvival.wordpress.com

18. redweather - February 17, 2010 at 10:36 am

I'm surprised at how quickly some posters have jumped from Amy Bishop's "alleged" execution of three professors to the unfairness of the tenure process. It gives me the uncomfortable feeling that some people think Amy Bishop was justified in doing what she did. Yikes! Memo to self: never agree to serve on a tenure committee.

19. las1979 - February 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

re: sawhite: "So if she earned her doctorate at Harvard....why isnt the Chronicle using her title? Its Dr. Bishop!"

A quick glance at other Chronicle articles and it's easy to see that they don't generally use titles. Even university president's go by Mr. or Ms.

It is actually possible to be Dr. and Ms. at the same time without getting so upset about it. Revolutionary concept, I know.

20. ms_annie - February 17, 2010 at 05:54 pm


Events which occurred in the past FOR WHICH BISHOP WAS CLEARED should NOT be brought up now as way of poisoning Ms. Bishop's character. They have NO BEARING on the recent crime, which should be judged by relevant information ONLY.

STOP THE WITCH BURNERS NOW!! I grieve for the lost lives and I grieve for Dr. Bishop.

No civil person should want to see Dr. Bishop executed, but is seems like the press is hell-bent on achieving just that. She is being portrayed by the press as the embodiment of whackdom and/or evil. We cannot not allow that to happen. It is WRONG and UNETHICAL and MAY COST BISHOP HER LIFE.

Again, please, colleagues, I beseech you:

21. drhypersonic - February 17, 2010 at 06:02 pm

Memo to ms_annie (no. 20): She is, to use your words, "the embodiment of whackdom and/or evil." You are letting your radical feminist sympathies get in the way of your common sense. Judging from what we know, if you had been sitting next to her in that room, you would have been shot as well. This wasn't a male-female thing. She was on the verge of gunning down a woman when she ran out of ammunition. Wise up.

22. wisernow - February 17, 2010 at 11:41 pm

You blame women for a troll's blather just because of the 'ms' in his pseudoname? Tricked you into showing your true stripes though, good on him.

23. jkherms - February 18, 2010 at 04:19 am

Am. Psychiatric Assn., Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed. text rev. 2000); American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry (Robert E. Hales et al. eds., 5th ed. 2008).

DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern ... beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts .... [The individual generally]
1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions);

Clinical features
... [P]ersons with narcissistic personality disorder ... are vulnerable to intense reactions when their self-esteem is damaged.... [T]hey react by becoming devaluative or rageful.... They are likely to feel that those with whom they associate need to be special and unique because they see themselves in these terms; thus, they usually wish to be associated only with persons, institutions, or possessions that will confirm their sense of superiority.

24. jkherms - February 18, 2010 at 04:34 am

Apparatus & Method for Incubating Cell Cultures, U.S. Pat. Application No. 20060275896 (filed May 12, 2006), http://appft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html

Inventors: James Anderson & Amy Bishop. [No issuing date]


U.S. Pat. & Trademark Office, FAQ p220026 (2003).

Currently, the average patent application pendency is 24.6 months.

25. kerr7920 - February 18, 2010 at 06:57 am

I just became a Chronicle subscriber, and was assuming that the reader commentary for such a publication would be high-minded and reasonable. it is shocking how many imbalanced people are posting on these boards. I guess I had some false assumptions about who subscribes to the Chronicle.

26. willismg - February 18, 2010 at 07:22 am

kerr7920 -- This event has brought out the ugly edges on a lot of folks' personalities. While I'd like to say that it's an aberration, I'm afraid it's not. On any given topic, you'll have many who present cogent opinions on many aspects, and many myopic folks who seem to be stuck on a single, oftentimes ridiculous, issue that steer all their comments in that direction, be it racism, damned Obama, damned GW, damned tenure system, damned guns,... you get the idea. If you take the time to wade in here for a while, you get a sense of their usernames and can kinda skip through them to more useful ideas.

27. ms_annie - February 18, 2010 at 04:29 pm

@ drhpersonic who wrote: "You are letting your radical feminist sympathies get in the way of your common sense."

Why, of course! Isn't that what all "radical feminists" do?

And how generous of you to write "wise up"! How wise you yourself must be!

Now if only you would notice the disparity in the amount of violent crimes committed by women as compared to men, and in the way women's crimes are reported...Ahh, but that would be asking A LOT, wouldn't it??

28. willismg - February 18, 2010 at 07:18 pm

kerr7920-- See what I mean? (Re: #27)

29. getwell - February 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Murder is murder - no matter one's mental capacity, idealogy, religion, or political view.

Taking INNOCENT human lives because you are angry about something is not okay for any reason.

Sad that we humans can't seem to agree on that one simple fundamental truth:(

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