A Q&A with new Waisman Center investigator Lauren Bishop-Fitzpatrick.
How did you get into your field of research? Like many people who pursue social work degrees, I always knew that I wanted to spend my career helping others. Although I first volunteered with children with autism when I was 15, it was not until I took a job working as a social skills group leader with adolescents with autism and saw how few services were available to them after they aged out of special education that I decided I wanted to dedicate my career to working with adults with autism. In graduate school, I had the opportunity to conduct research on young adults with autism. However, I knew that I wanted to expand beyond my graduate training to focus on older adults because we know so little about autism in midlife and beyond. My research now focuses on helping adults with autism to achieve better health and quality of life as they age.
What attracted you to UW–Madison? The UW–Madison School of Social Work and the Waisman Center have some of the best resources in the world for studying aging in individuals with developmental disabilities. Not only does this make it easier to do better work, but it’s a true honor to join the faculty at an institution that has historically been an international leader in the field. My family and I were also looking to move to a small city in the Midwest or South with a big state university, and Madison certainly fit the bill.
What was your first visit to campus like? I was a scholarship athlete in college, and I attended a week-long rowing camp at UW–Madison and stayed in a dorm during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school as part of preparation for college athletics. Although I chose to attend a different university, I fell in love with State Street, the Memorial Union Terrace, and the beauty of Lake Mendota that summer and always knew that I wanted to come back here.
Favorite place on campus? I love walking on the bike path along Lake Mendota from the boathouse to Picnic Point.
What are you most enjoying so far about working here? I have really enjoyed being immersed in the research community at the Waisman Center. So many of my colleagues are doing interesting and meaningful work, and I feel as though my own ideas and expertise have grown as a result of this.
What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties? Autism is a relatively new diagnosis: most people do not know that the first individual diagnosed with autism is currently in his eighties. Because the first people diagnosed with autism have only recently reached old age, we do not know much about what the normal life course looks like for people with autism.
Hobbies/other interests: I spend most of my free time enjoying the company of my husband and 2-year-old daughter. I also enjoy cooking, swimming, and playing board games.
This Q&A first appeared on the UW-Madison news website. You can access it here.