In Memoriam

Philip J. Fay, Ph.D. (1953-2014)

We are very saddened to relay the passing of our colleague and friend Phil Fay, Ph.D, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Phil passed away Wednesday June 25th after a long and courageous battle with cancer. His incredible strength of character through a most difficult time remains an inspiration to us all.

Calling hours will be 3-6 pm Sunday June 29 at Anthony Funeral Chapel, Brighton, 2305 Monroe Ave. Rochester, NY, US, 14618. His Funeral Mass will be 11 am Monday June 30 at St. Louis Church, 64 S Main St, Pittsford. Burial will follow at White Haven Cemetery, 210 Marsh Road Pittsford, with a reception to follow at the Country Club of Rochester. His Obituary can be found here.

Among numerous awards and significant accomplishments in an esteemed career, Phil and research assistant professor, Hironao Wakabayashi, M.D., Ph.D. were recently nominated for the 2014 RIPLA Distinguished Inventor of the Year Award given by the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association (RIPLA). They were nominated for their work in the field of Factor VIII technology for treatment of hemophilia A patients.

On July 8th, 2014 the flags at the University of Rochester will be lowered in honor of Dr. Fay.

Fred Sherman, Ph.D. (1932-2013)

Courtesy, URMC Newsroom (Sept 18, 2013) & Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Fred Sherman, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scientist and a faculty member at the University of Rochester Medical Center since 1962, died on September 16 at the age of 81. Sherman, who served as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and then the merged Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics from 1982 until 1999, was one of only three URMC faculty members appointed to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Sherman performed groundbreaking research on the structure of genes and the effects of genetic mutations on proteins in yeast. He was also a proponent of the use of baker's yeast as a genetic model system. Research using yeast is now conducted at virtually all research centers worldwide, largely due to Sherman’s efforts and his teaching of many leaders in the field.

Fred Sherman was responsible for countless scientific advancements in the field of molecular biology — and also certain anti-food fight prohibitions at a summer research institute on Long Island. Born in Minnesota, Sherman arrived in Rochester in 1962 and never left, retiring well into his sixth decade of teaching and research. He was best known for his mind but loved for his sense of humor.

His famous yeast seminar at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island was an essential crash course for young scientists in the field — and also a time for late night dancing and enough dining room shenanigans that cream pies were ultimately stricken from the menu in an attempt to curb the culinary warfare. He did science with a flair, said his wife and URMC colleague, Elena Rustchenko-Bulgac. He'd always say, 'Let’s dance.' And that was the thing I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, so it was perfect.

It’s hard to overstate Fred’s contribution to modern genetics. His insights into how genetic mutations affect protein coding and his foresight of the utility of the yeast system quite literally changed the course of biological research, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics at URMC. Beyond his scientific accomplishments, Fred’s quick wit and sense of humor were legendary. It was always enjoyable to be in a room with Fred. He will be terribly missed.

For more infomation on Dr. Sherman and his research please continue reading the D&C article as well as Science Magazine's retrospective and browse the list of his publications. Additionally, in an article appearing in the Feb 2, 2014 Democrat and Chronicle, Steve Dewhurst, Vice Dean for Research and Professor and Chair of the Microbiology & Immunology Department at UR Medical Center comments on why Fred was a brilliant scientist. Also, in an article appearing in the March-April 2014 Rochester Review magazine, Mark Dumont, Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics, pays tribute to Fred’s life and work.

Please also see Fred's collection of Yeast-Genetics inspired T-shirts here.

Below you will find links to two of Dr. Sherman's books.

An Introduction to the Genetics and Molecular Biology of the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Modified from: F. Sherman, Yeast genetics.
The Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology and Molecular Medicine,
pp. 302-325, Vol. 6. Edited by R. A. Meyers, VCH Publisher, Weinheim, Germany, 1997

Getting Started with Yeast

Modified from: F. Sherman, Getting started with yeast, Methods Enzymol. 350, 3-41 (2002).

William A. Bernhard, Ph.D. (1942-2012)

Courtesy, Radiation Research (175, 101-103)


Dr. William A. Bernhard, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester, and past president of the Radiation Research Society, died peacefully May 9 at his home in Mendon, NY. Dr. Bernhard was an internationally known expert on the effects of ionizing radiation on the chemical structure of DNA.

Dr. Bernhard earned his B.S. degree in Physics at Union College in 1964, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in Biophysics at Penn State University in 1966 and 1968. Dr. Bernhard then received postdoctoral training at the Argonne National Laboratory from 1968–1970. He joined the faculty of Biophysics at the University of Rochester as an assistant professor in 1970 with an NIH Career Development Award. He was appointed professor of Biophysics in 1985. He served as associate chair or co-chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics from 1996 to 1998.

Dr. Bernhard was a biophysicist of the highest order, working at the forefront of understanding how radiation damages our genetic material. His unique command of both the biological and physical aspects of radiation damage earned him the respect and recognition of colleagues worldwide. The longevity of his research program, funded by the National Cancer Institute for 37 consecutive years, and the successful careers of his many trainees are testaments to the consistent high quality of his work, the high regard his peers, and his commitment to training future scientists. Bill also was a wonderful person and colleague. His kindness to his colleagues and passion for his work made him a trusted friend and ideal colleague.

His renowned research program has focused on understanding the physical and chemical processes by which radiation affects biomolecules, especially DNA. His results have helped guide industrial and government policies regarding radiation risk assessment and have provided critical details to predict the biological consequences of radiation and understand DNA damage mitigation and repair processes.

Throughout his career, Bill was committed to mentoring and developing young scientists, and he felt strongly about investing in people and their careers. Bill was the Ph.D. thesis supervisor for 14 students. He had 9 post-doctoral students, and worked with 2 research assistant professors. Many of these former co-workers have moved on to academic positions and are doing research in radiation damage studies in DNA.

Bill’s contributions to radiation chemistry went beyond his published works. His presentations at meetings and conferences were always models of clarity and insight. It was impossible to attend one of his talks without learning something new. This, in a way, was also a show of respect and affection for both his colleagues and for his field of research.

Bill was a biophysicist of the highest order, working at the forefront of understanding how radiation damages our genetic material. His unique command of both the biological and physical aspects of radiation damage earned him the respect and recognition of colleagues worldwide, said Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. The longevity of his research program, funded by the National Cancer Institute for 37 consecutive years, and the successful careers of his many trainees are testaments to the consistent high quality of his work, the high regard his peers, and his commitment to training future scientists. Bill also was a wonderful person and colleague.

For more infomation on Dr. Bernhard and his research please continue reading the Radiation Research article, browse the list of his publications and visit the William A. Bernhard Memorial Lab.

Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D. (1944-2012)

Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D.

Longtime Biochemistry & Biophysics member, Sayeeda Zain, Ph.D. passed away in late November after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Sayeeda did her Ph.D. work at Glasgow University, Scotland then came to USA to work with Sherman Weissman in the Dept of Human Genetics, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University where she carried out some of the very earliest and pioneering nucleic acid sequencing experiments, determining the sequence of parts of the SV40 virus. She then took a position at The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories where she collaborated with Richard Roberts' group, by applying her knowledge of sequencing to both adenovirus transcripts and and genomic DNA. Through these efforts, she co-discovered, with Louise Chow, the phenomenon of mRNA splicing. Roberts later received the Nobel Prize for this work, with Philip Sharp (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, see here for Robert's description of Sayeeda's work.

In 1978 Sayeeda took a faculty position in the Microbiology Department at the University of Rochester and later was hired into to the Biochemistry Department by Fred Sherman. Sayeeda's research program focused on eukaryotic gene expression with specific emphasis on proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease and molecular mechanisms of metastasis. She collaborated with industry as well as other leading research institutions in the US and abroad, and licensed her transgenic mice and antibodies research. She is named co-inventor on six US Patents and several foreign patents. She remained an active member of the department, teaching in Molecules-to-Cells, until last year.

For more information about Dr. Zain's research program see here.