Sad News: Professor Emeritus Serge Timasheff

Mar. 25, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the sad news of the passing in early March of Serge Timasheff, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry. Born in Paris in 1926 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944. He received his BS (1946), MS (1947) and PhD (1951) at Fordham University where his father, Nicholas Timasheff, was a professor of sociology who studied changes in the social structure and religious life in Russia where he had been born.

After completing his PhD at Fordham, Serge Timasheff was a research fellow at CalTech and then a postdoc at Yale University. After those experiences he spent 11 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a physical chemist. While there he received in 1963 the American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Milk. He joined the Brandeis faculty as a full tenured professor of biochemistry in 1966 and retired as an emeritus professor in 1996.

Biophysical Journal did a detailed profile of Professor Timasheff in October 1996 (“Serge Timasheff: The Man with a Genius for Solutions in Biology” by JA Schellman and GN Somero). It is difficult to try capture the impact of any Brandeis faculty member in one sentence but the journal tried with this description of his work: “To our knowledge, no other physical biochemist has made contributions that can truly be said to impact significantly every discipline in biology from biophysics to protein and nucleic acid biochemistry, to renal physiology, to molecular evolution, and most recently even to applied work in the areas of cell preservation and cryobiology.”

Some of his awards that he received over his career included the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists (1993), and honorary degree from the Universite Aix-Marseille, France (1990), elected as Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989), elected as Member of Phi Beta Kappa - Fordham University Alumni Award (1986), the Frances Stone Burns Award of the American Cancer Society, Massachusetts Division (1974), the Fordham University Alumni Achievement Award in Science (1967), the American Chemical Society, Philadelphia Section Award for Creative Research (1966), the Fordham College Encaenia Award (1966), the Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Department of Agriculture (1965) and the Arthur S. Fleming Award (1964).

A former Brandeis doctoral student, Professor Rajiv Bhat from the School of Biotechnology at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India said upon learning of his passing, “He was a tall figure in the area of Physical Biochemistry and I will miss him along with many of the stalwarts of the Biochemistry department at Brandeis who are no more with us. He was a humble person, a thorough gentleman, and gave complete freedom to his associates. I remember that Chris Miller used to have several discussions with him on solution thermodynamics and general biophysical chemistry.”

Serge was a very valued member of the Brandeis community over many decades and he will be greatly missed.



Lisa M. Lynch, Provost