In memoriam

A gray, stone wall diagonally fills the lower left corner in the foreground. Brown and yellow leaves cover the ground. A few gold and green maple leaves hang into the image from the upper right corner.
A stone wall at Beck Chapel on the IU Bloomington campus. Photo by Eric Rudd

We remember IU Biology faculty members Lucy Cherbas, Milton Taylor, and Frank Zeller.

Upon hearing of Lucy Cherbas' passing, Professor Soni Lacefield tweeted:

We were very fortunate to have Lucy as our lab neighbor for so many years. She was incredibly generous to me and my lab. We will always remember her kindness and contributions to IU and the scientific community as a whole.

I have my own memories of Lucy Cherbas' kind demeanor. During my first week in the department in November 2013, Lucy took the time to stop by my office, greet me, and make me feel welcome.

I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Milton Taylor or Frank Zeller, but I am confident there are those, as with Cherbas, who can speak of the positive impacts Taylor and Zeller had on their lives. We recall each of them below.

Terri Greene
Editor, BioNews

Cherbas, a senior research scientist, joined the department in 1985. She, along with her husband who also served on the IU Biology faculty, worked on cell lines and hormonal regulation of gene expression. Cherbas authored or co-authored many key articles on cell methods. She participated in the founding of the IU Drosophila Genomic Resource Center and built up a unique and extremely valuable collection of 135 diverse cell lines. She was instrumental in publicizing these materials and maintaining this widely used resource for the research community. When people needed expert scientific advice on tissue culture, they invariably came to the DGRC and Cherbas for help.

Cherbas was intimately involved in the modENCODE project, which provided the research community with details about the genetic expression pattern of the model organism Drosophila. The project—based on analysis of tissue culture cells in which Cherbas' expertise was essential—completely defined all of the transcribed (expressed) genes in the Drosophila genome.

In his retirement tribute to Cherbas, Kaufman provided the following quote from Cherbas to offer insight both into her and into the changing science profession, “When I entered graduate school, women were a small minority of my class at Harvard, and there were no women on the biology faculty. Female graduate students were expected to perform special duties like making cookies for the lab and taking on research projects suitable for our gender, and were the subject of frequent verbal slights. I am delighted that as I retire, things have changed: …, and since graduate school I cannot recall ever being singled out to make cookies for my colleagues. I was never active as a feminist, but I very much appreciate the change in climate.”

Retirement tribute | Obituary

Taylor initiated a virology lecture and lab for seniors and graduate students, and he reached out to non-biology undergraduate students by designing a course on the relationship between human history and viruses.

Taylor's research was multi-faceted and involved both basic research and clinical studies based upon results in his lab. He began his career studying nucleic acid chemistry as well as viruses. He and his students discovered that certain viruses could wipe out cancers in mice. Taylor also pursued research studying mammalian cell genetics and gene therapy. Another area of Taylor’s influential research was the study of a biological chemical called interferon as an anti-viral and an anti-cancer agent. He was also involved in clinical studies on hepatitis C following treatment with interferon.

Taylor was a member of the American Academy of Microbiology and obtained a long list of fellowships and awards—including two Fogarty International fellowships, visiting fellowships at Rome University, the Myerhoff Fellowship from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and The “Sword of Hope Award” from the American Cancer Society.

Retirement tribute | Obituary