Professor Austin joined the faculty of the School of Nursing in 1981 after completing graduate degrees in nursing (M.S.N. and D.N.S.) at Indiana University. She also holds adjunct appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology in the School of Medicine and in the Department of Psychology in the Purdue School of Science, IUPUI. Professor Austin is an international expert in the area of adaptation to childhood epilepsy and focuses her research on the quality of life of children with epilepsy and their families. Her seminal research on the importance of family and children's perceptions in understanding adaptation outcomes has improved the clinical care of these children. Her work on behavior problems in children with first seizures has served as a model for new areas of investigation.
Her research has led to many honors, including election to fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing (1990), selection as an exemplary nurse researcher for the CAMEO Video Series of Sigma Theta Tau International (1992), the Distinguished Contributions to Research Award of the Midwest Nursing Research Society (1993), and the Distinguished Contribution to Nursing Science Award from the American Nurses Foundation (2004). Professor Austin also was the first behavioral scientist and only nurse to receive the American Epilepsy Society/Milken Family Medical Foundation International Research Award for contributions to clinical research (1993), which involved a $50,000 prize. Dr. Austin also has been recognized as an excellent teacher. In 1997 she received the Outstanding Teacher Award in the IU School of Nursing Graduate Program. In 2000, she was inducted into the Institute of Medicine and also received the Jacob Javits award for research in neurosciences from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Professor Austin became the first nurse to take office as president of the American Epilepsy Society in 2005.