Marilyn Loeb, Medical Center research scientist, dies

Aug. 29, 2012

Marilyn Rosenthal Loeb, Ph.D., a researcher in childhood disease and vaccines at the University of Rochester Medical Center for almost 20 years, died Aug. 24 from complications of thyroid cancer first diagnosed in 1989.

Dr. Loeb, who was 82, had been in home hospice but died in the Sussman Palliative Care Unit of Strong Memorial Hospital. In spite of her illness, friends said, her interest in science and the research of others continued to the last days of her life.

An open house gathering to honor Dr. Loeb’s life and work will be held from 1 p.m. to 6.p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Cloverwood, 2 Trumbull Lane, Pittsford.

Dr. Loeb joined the Department of Pediatrics faculty as an assistant professor in 1978. She became an associate professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology in 1984. After her cancer diagnosis in 1989, she continued to work as a scientist at the Medical Center until 1996.

“Marilyn was a deeply committed scientist and a compassionate human being,” said Mark E. Dumont, professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. “She was interested in fundamental aspects of biochemistry and microbiology, as well as the application of these disciplines to understanding and preventing bacterial infections. She maintained, and actively pursued, these interests well past her formal retirement from the University."

“Marilyn also was acutely aware of the social context of science,” Dumont said. “This was obvious both from her involvement in political and environmental issues and from the intense thought and effort she devoted to improving the lives of her family, friends, and co-workers, even extending into her last illness.”

Francis Gigliotti, M.D., the Lindsey Distinguished Professor for Pediatric Research, first met her as one of his laboratory mentors when he was a fellow in the infectious diseases training program.

She was a clear thinker, expert experimentalist and very dedicated teacher. I learned much from her,” Gigliotti said.

Dr. Loeb’s research centered on the role of cell surface molecules in diseases caused by bacteria that infect young children and in the characterization and evaluation of vaccines used to prevent such often deadly disease, resulting in 30 publications. Through one of her projects, Dr. Loeb studied the role of the outer membrane proteins of Haemaophilus influenzae type b in enabling the organism to produce invasive diseases, such as meningitis, publishing papers with the late David H. Smith, M.D., and Porter W. Anderson, Ph.D.

She also assisted in the evaluation of grant proposals written by other scientists.

From the start of her career, Dr. Loeb was an advocate for women in science.

Born in the Bronx, Dr. Loeb earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Barnard College and a master’s degree in biology at Bryn Mawr College. She received her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, working with the eminent virologist Seymour Cohen.

Her husband, Alfred Loeb, died in 2006. The couple enjoyed music, theater and dance, and also outdoor experiences. Their travels for canoeing and hiking took them 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, through the canyons of the Green River in Utah, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to the Adirondacks and Canadice Lake. Almost every September, until 2001, they camped at Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park.

Dr. Loeb is survived by three children, Emily Loeb, Judith Whitaker and Andrew Loeb, and three grandchildren.