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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Prize for Creative Science Projects Endowed at Sarah Lawrence College Honoring Columbia Professor

An endowed fund to create a prize in honor of physician-scientist Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has been established at Sarah Lawrence College, Dr. Lipkin’s alma mater. Ms. Laurel Appell Lipkin, the sister of Dr.  Lipkin, established the prize to encourage the development of creative science projects at the liberal arts college.


[Photo: Dr. W. Ian Lipkin]

Dr. Lipkin, who is also professor of neurology and pathology at College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, has been named the “world’s most celebrated virus hunter,” and the Center for Infection and Immunity led by Dr. Lipkin is one of the world’s largest academic centers for microbial surveillance, diagnosis, and discovery.  In the 1980s, Dr. Lipkin identified AIDS-associated immunological abnormalities and inflammatory neuropathy, which he showed could be treated with plasmapheresis, and demonstrated that early life exposure to viral infections affects neurotransmitter function. He was the first to use purely molecular methods to identify an infectious agent, and pioneered the use of high throughput sequencing in pathogen discovery. He and his team implicated West Nile virus as the cause of the encephalitis epidemic in New York in 1999 and have discovered or characterized more than 1,000 infectious agents.

Dr. Lipkin assisted the World Health Organization and China during the 2003 SARS outbreak, Saudi Arabia in addressing the challenge of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and the Indian government on the current unexplained encephalitis outbreak in Uttar Pradesh. He also directs large programs focused on autism and chronic fatigue syndrome wherein gene-environment interactions, such as infection and intoxication, are postulated to cause disease. In 2016, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to scientific and technological innovation, Dr. Lipkin received China’s top science honor for foreign scientists, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award at a ceremony presided by China President Xi Jinping.

“We are delighted with the establishment of this prize, which recognizes the strengths of a science program like ours, firmly situated within the liberal arts,” says college president Dr. Cristle Collins Judd. “The necessity for scientists to think creatively cannot be overstated as we confront global challenges on a scale previously unimagined.”

The Ian Lipkin ‘74 Science Prize, which will be awarded annually beginning in May, 2018, is a competitive award for a Sarah Lawrence College student who proposes and designs a creative science research project. Recipients of the $4,000 prize will have the opportunity to meet with Dr Lipkin to discuss their project and possibly work with his team to complete the research.

Ms. Lipkin, who hopes the prize will ultimately lead talented students to a life and career in science, said, “I have established the prize to honor my brother and his decades of pioneering work. It was at Sarah Lawrence that he first began to consider medicine and science as a path for himself. He has used his talents and his career to contribute to bettering the world.”