Lizzy Sunderhaus can thank her parents for her caring nature and willingness to volunteer time.
The 21-year-old Cedar Crest College senior and star basketball player always gives a shout-out to Stephen T. Badin High School in Hamilton, Ohio, for giving her a rich education in the sciences.
But at some point in the next six years, when she is engrossed in studying forensic sciences and researching genetic diseases, she's hoping to have a better understanding of the one meaningful person in her life whom she hasn't been able to connect with: her brother, Louis.
Lizzy Sunderhaus has never seen the NBC drama "Parenthood," but her relationship with Louis appears to be playing out each week in the characters Haddie and Max.
Asperger's main symptom is severe trouble in social situations. Those with the disease function to a varying degree of success in everyday life.
Louis is on the higher end. He recently earned a secondary education degree from the University of Cincinnati, got married and is headed to Fort Sill, Okla., as a member of the Army ROTC.
The Sunderhaus brother-sister relationship, much like the one on "Parenthood," is a rocky one.
"It's a very confusing relationship," Lizzy Sunderhaus admitted. "It has gotten better over the years. It had been very strained to begin with."
But it is a relationship important enough to her that she's going to dedicate a large part of her life to studying Asperger's and other complex diseases such as autism and Alzheimer's.
Sunderhaus once dreamed of being a lawyer. But high school science classes changed her focus. Now she is among the country's most successful and well-rounded student-athletes.
Last year, she became the first junior to win the Jostens Trophy, which encompasses athletics, academics and community activity. Her bulging resume ballooned Thursday when she was again named to the Capital One Academic All-District team.
The biochemistry/forensic science major with a chemistry minor is interviewing for Ph.D. programs at Johns Hopkins, Colorado-Denver, Washington and Oregon Health & Science University.
She is gathering career advice from anyone willing to give it. A renowned geneticist made herself available.
"I was fortunate enough to talk with forensic scientist Mary-Claire King," Sunderhaus said. "She teaches at the University of Washington's medical school. She was one of the first to work on the BRCA gene for breast cancer. She does work with schizophrenia and does forensics on the side.
"She's the one who gave me the idea of going to get a doctoral degree so I could do a variety of things."
That was music to Sunderhaus' ears. She loves to put on her headphones and work in the labs at Cedar Crest. She also looks forward to teaching at the college level.
It was in junior high school that she thought she was going to be a lawyer because of her debating skills. While that goal changed, her work ethic never did.
Sunderhaus said she never wanted to be a difficult child.
"I was always striving to be my best," she said. "I wanted to be less of a problem to my parents, who were having a tough time with my brother."