Judy Lieberman

Born: September 5, 1947 | Boston, MA, US

Judy Lieberman was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Until about tenth grade Judy wanted to be a historian, but an excellent biology teacher and a summer science program at Cornell turned her to science. Judy studied physics at Harvard University, then pursued a PhD in physics at Rockefeller University, where she studied with Bram Pais. But after a few positions in physics labs, Judy realized she was unhappy and decided to become a doctor. She obtained her MD from a joint program at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Judy has decided to devote her skills to research, specifically immunology. She continues to seek an immunotherapy for AIDS and other diseases, believing an AIDS therapy can be found, if not a cure. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0566
No. of pages: 81
Minutes: 401

Interview Sessions

Andrea R. Maestrejuan
29 and 31 January 1997
Center for Blood Research, Boston, Massachusetts

Abstract of Interview

Judy Lieberman, the second of three daughters, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but grew up in a New Jersey suburb of New York City. Her father worked for Maidenform Incorporated, and her mother was an elementary school teacher. The three girls had an intensely cultural and educational childhood and family life; they were expected to excel at school and to study science or mathematics or music or art in their spare time. Judy attended summer programs in science at Columbia University and physics at Cornell University. She loved to paint—she still paints—and also attended an art camp at Cornell University one summer. The family celebrated the Jewish holy days with family but were otherwise atheists. Until about tenth grade Judy wanted to be a labor historian, but an excellent biology teacher and the Cornell physics program turned her to science. Although she loved biology in high school, she thought perhaps physics would be more challenging and elegant, so Judy entered Harvard University intending to be a theoretical physicist. She found it an intellectually stimulating discipline, but a solitary one, and she was not sure she had made the right choice. Nevertheless, she decided to pursue a PhD in physics at Rockefeller University, where she studied with Bram Pais. During her second year as a graduate student she married Edward Greer, who had been her betrothed since her last year in college. She then spent three years at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University; from there she moved to Chicago to a job at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in nearby Batavia, Illinois. Judy was not happy as a physicist and decided to become a doctor. She obtained her MD from a special joint program in Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during which time she bore her first son. She did her internship at the New England School of Medicine and her residency at Tufts University School of Medicine and then accepted a postdoctoral position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Cancer Research. It was during her residency that she bore her second son. After the postdoc she moved to hematology/oncology at Tufts University School of Medicine, where she held several positions until she moved back to Harvard's Center for Blood Research. Because it is difficult to do both science research and clinical practice well Judy has decided to devote her skills to science, specifically immunology, where she believes she can make a greater difference to more people. There she continues to seek an immunotherapy for AIDS as well as for other diseases. Although she says that finding the immunotherapy for AIDS has turned out to be much more difficult than she had originally thought, she does believe that there will be good therapy, if perhaps not a cure. In this oral history Judy discusses, in addition to her work, women in science; ethics; lab management; raising children; translational research; funding. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1969 Harvard University AB
1974 The Rockefeller University PhD
1981 Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology MD

Professional Experience

School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study

1974 to 1976
Member

Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory

1976 to 1977
Research Associate

Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1984 to 1986
Postdoctoral Fellow

Tufts-New England Medical Center

1981 to 1982
Intern, Internal Medicine

Tufts University School of Medicine

1982 to 1984
Resident
1986 to 1987
Clinical Fellow, Hematology-Oncology
1986 to 1987
Instructor, Medicine
1987 to 1995
Assistant Professor

Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University

1991 to 1995
Member, Program in Immunology

New England Medical Center

1994 to 1998
Program Director, Strategic Program in Innovative Research for AIDS Therapy at New England Medical Center, Center for Blood Research, and Massachusetts General Hospital

Center for Blood Research, Inc.

1995 to 1998
Senior Investigator

Harvard Medical School

1996 to 1998
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics
1996 to 1998
Member, Ph.D. Program in Immunology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1965 to 1969

National Merit Scholar

1968

Phi Beta Kappa

1969

Summa Cum Laude, Harvard University

1969 to 1972

National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow

1989 to 1992

Special Fellow, Leukemia Society of America

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Born in Boston, Massachusetts. Grew up in New Jersey. Parents' backgrounds and employment. Intense family life. Always studying. Summers spent in special academic programs. Jewish atheists. Two sisters. Loved to paint.

College Years
12

Matriculated into Harvard University, majoring in physics. Women in academics then and now. Harvard University students too sullen. Meets husband-to-be senior year.

Graduate School Years
20

Rejects Princeton University as too stodgy. Rejects Harvard University as too sullen. Obtains PhD in theoretical physics from Rockefeller University. Marries during graduate school years.

Practicing Physics Years
24

Accepts three-year position at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study. Goes to Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. She and husband alternate commutes for several years.

Medical School Years
36

Decides to become a doctor. Rejected by University of Chicago. Enters special MD/PhD program, Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Health Sciences and Technology Program. Bears her first son. Internship at New England School of Medicine; residency at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Tufts University Years
53

Worked on T-cell receptors in Herman Eisens lab. Interested in HIV. Fellowship in hematology/oncology. Sheldon Wolff's lab. Progressed to instructor and then assistant professor. Immunology in Sackler School of Graduate BiomedicalSciences at Tufts. Became member, then director of Strategic Program in Innovative Research for AIDS Therapy.

Center for Blood Research and Harvard Medical School
71

Recruited to Center for Blood Research. Assistant professorship at Harvard Medical School. Senior Investigator. Lab set-up. Leaving clinical practice for science research. Immunotherapy for HIV and other infectious diseases. Women in science. Women in medicine. Women in academia. Grants. Tenure. Ethics.

Index
79

About the Interviewer

Andrea R. Maestrejuan