Sydney Govons Kustu, a distinguished bacterial physiologist and trailblazer for women in science, died in Berkeley, Calif., on 18 March 2014. At the time of her death, she was a Professor Emerita in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Born in 1943 in Baltimore, Md., Sydney skipped three grades of school and entered college at age 15. She was among the fırst women to obtain a degree from Harvard University (B.A. in General Studies in 1963), and earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1970 while working in the laboratory of Jack Priess at the University of California, Davis. After a postdoctoral traineeship with Giovanna Ames at UC Berkeley, Sydney was appointed to the faculty in the Department of Bacteriology at UC Davis in 1973. She remained at UC Davis until 1986, at which time she joined what was then the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC Berkeley.
Sydney made numerous contributions to the fıelds of microbial genetics and physiology during her decadeslong career. She is best known for her pioneering work on the regulation of nitrogen metabolism in enteric bacteria. Sydney’s research group was among the fırst to discover an alternative sigma factor, σ54, and a two-component regulatory system, the histidine kinase NtrB and response regulator NtrC. Her laboratory’s subsequent characterization of these three proteins led to the unraveling of the complex and interconnected mechanisms that regulate nitrogen utilization in bacteria. Driven by her enduring interest in physiology, Sydney eventually turned to questions of how bacteria obtain and metabolize various nitrogen-containing compounds. These studies led to important insights into the transport mechanism of the Amt family of ammonium channels as well as the discovery of a new central metabolic pathway, the Rut system for the degradation of pyrimidines.
A dedicated and skilled teacher, Sydney was a powerful advocate for young scientists, particularly women. She mentored numerous students and other researchers, and considered these people her most important scientifıc legacy. That many of her trainees are now leading researchers in academia and industry is a testament to her teaching and mentoring. As one former student recalled, Sydney’s “expectation for excellence was always inspiring, and her keen joy in science and the world was a great pleasure and privilege to share.”
Sydney garnered a large number of awards during her career. She was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Microbiology. She was awarded a prestigious Gauss Professorship by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and a Miller Professorship by UC Berkeley. Sydney was particularly proud of her inclusion in the National Academy because, in her own words, “at one time it was forbidden fruit for women to do science.” In addition to research, teaching, and mentoring, Sydney was passionate about the arts and nature. She was very supportive of those in need of comfort and assistance and will be missed by those whose lives she touched. Sydney is survived by her son, Saul Kustu of Aptos, Calif., and two sisters, Roberta Glassman of Calabasas, Calif., and Marica Govons of Belmont Shores, Calif. The UC Berkeley Department of Plant and Microbial Biology has established an endowment to support a Microbial Physiology Lecture in memory of Sydney Kustu. Questions should be addressed to Bernadette Powell at
or call 510-643- 9903.
University of California, San Diego
Portland State University
David S. Weiss
The University of Iowa
Harold Lloyd Sadoff
Harold Lloyd Sadoff, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Public Health and teacher of many graduate and undergraduate students who trained in the Department of Microbiology and Public Health (now Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) at Michigan State University in East Lansing, died 5 June 2014 at the age of 89 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. A native of Minneapolis, Minn., Harold served three years as a radio electronics airman in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Postwar he completed his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, which he had already started at the University of Minnesota prior to military service. He then worked several years as a research chemical engineer for the International Milling Company. He returned to academia at the University of Illinois graduate school, receiving his M.S. in Bacteriology and Ph.D. in Bacteriology- Biochemistry under the mentorship of Professor H. Orin Halvorson. Following his graduate studies he went to Michigan State University in 1955, where he served on the faculty of the Department of Microbiology and Public Health), progressing from Assistant to Full Professor by 1965. He held two Special NIH Fellowship appointments, one at the University of Washington’s Department of Biochemistry under J. Kraut in 1961–1962 and a second in the laboratory of Nobelist Arthur Kornberg at Stanford in 1971–1972. He also was a visiting Scientist in J. Szulmajster’s laboratory, CNRS, Gif-sur- Yvette, France. He was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health until his retirement in 1987.
During his early research career, Harold studied bacterial endospore dormancy with particular emphasis on thermoresistance of spore enzymes. In the 1970s and later he focused on Azotobacter encystment. Much of this work was published in numerous papers in ASM journals, especially the Journal of Bacteriology. In addition, he published 13 book chapters and a monograph. With Department chairman Phillip Gerhardt and close colleague Ralph Costilow he edited Spores VI of the well-known series of spore symposia. He served as major professor for 10 Ph.D. candidates in various areas of microbial physiology as well as numerous postdoctoral fellows who came from China, England, India, Japan, Turkey, and the United States to work in his laboratory. He taught a course on microbial physiology which was very popular with undergraduates.
Harold loved his laboratory in Giltner Hall and thrilled in even small discoveries. He always told his students that if they didn’t enjoy their work, they needed to fınd something else to do. He and his wife Gertrude entertained many of those who worked in his lab, students, technical staff, and others, to wonderful dinners and parties. He was a “bear of a man” who played tennis on the University courts for many years. His hobbies were woodworking and gardening. He loved music and the arts, and he passed these interests on to not only his family but also to his students, reminding us all that there was life outside as well as inside the lab.
Harold leaves his beloved wife Gertrude of almost 68 years as well as his four children, David, Barbara, Daniel, and Mark and their families to celebrate his life and mourn their loss.
Helen L. Engelbrecht Ownby
American Red Cross, Southeastern Michigan Blood Services
Victoria M. Koo Hitchins
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Silver Spring, Md.
Anthony D. Hitchins
U.S. Food and Drug Administration College Park, Md,
Richard W. Gilpin