• December 7, 2021
In Memoriam: Michael Menaker, Groundbreaking ‘Giant’ in Study of Circadian Rhythms

In Memoriam: Michael Menaker, Groundbreaking ‘Big’ in Research of Circadian Rhythms

The College of Virginia’s Division of Biology and the bigger scientific group is mourning the demise this month of just lately retired professor Michael Menaker, an internationally famend researcher and a beneficiant mentor.

A large within the subject of circadian rhythms, Menaker was extensively thought of one of many pioneers within the physiological evaluation and identification of circadian pacemakers within the vertebrate nervous and endocrine methods.

He was recruited to UVA in 1987 from the College of Oregon to chair the Division of Biology, and his laboratory’s groundbreaking discoveries included the primary single-gene circadian mutation in mammals and the existence of widespread circadian oscillators in peripheral tissues in mammals. The Nationwide Science Basis Middle for Organic Timing, conceived and established by former UVA Provost Gene Block, occurred underneath Menaker’s watch and lively help, functioning because the headquarters of a multi-university institute that made pioneering discoveries, it positioned UVA on the middle of the circadian rhythms universe.

Menaker died Feb. 14, in response to an announcement launched by the Society for Analysis on Organic Rhythms. He was 86.

“Mike was an internationally famend researcher, a beneficiant colleague and good friend,” Division of Biology chair Deborah Roach mentioned. “When individuals all over the world considered UVA Biology, the primary person who got here to thoughts was Mike Menaker. He was a mentor for many people, as he was a superb listener, but additionally very prepared to share his opinions with a smile.”

Born on Might 19, 1934 in Vienna, Austria, Menaker acquired his B.A. in biology from Swarthmore School in 1955. He married his Swarthmore sweetheart, the late Shirley Lasch Menaker, that very same yr. He went on to Princeton College for graduate faculty and acquired his Ph.D. in 1960 earlier than serving as a postdoctoral fellow with Donald Griffin at Harvard College from 1959 to 1962. Menaker started his tutorial profession as an assistant professor within the Division of Zoology on the College of Texas, Austin and rose by way of the ranks to professor. In 1979, Mike was recruited to the College of Oregon, the place he served as director of the Institute of Neuroscience. After becoming a member of UVA, he served as Commonwealth Professor of Biology till his retirement final yr.

The notable awards and recognitions earned by Menaker included election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Photobiology; a Virginia’s Excellent Scientists: Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Peter C. Farrell Prize in Sleep Drugs from the Harvard Medical College Division of Sleep Drugs.

Professor Ignacio Provencio, who was a graduate scholar within the Division of Biology throughout Menaker’s tenure as division chair, returned to hitch UVA’s college in 2005, drawn partly by the prospect of working intently with Menaker, Block, Carla Inexperienced and Jay Hirsh.

“As my friendship with Mike grew, I by no means forgot what an enormous he was within the subject,” Provencio mentioned. “I by no means took without any consideration the occasions Mike would enter my workplace simply to shoot the breeze, realizing it was a possibility others would like to have.” 

Provencio mentioned he and his colleagues bear in mind fondly the heat that Menaker and his late spouse Shirley confirmed in opening their residence to everybody.

“Events on the Menakers’ have been all the time occasions to not be missed. As Mike would mingle, I might discover that he would spend as a lot time talking with a first-year undergrad as he would with a scientific colleague,” Provencio mentioned.

One other of Menaker’s achieved college students, Joe Takahashi, wrote a tribute to him for the Society for Analysis on Organic Rhythms.

“Mike was an distinctive particular person who had an uncommon expertise for revolutionary discovery and perception in biology. Throughout his profession, he was in a position to stimulate and foster the analysis careers of a considerable variety of people who’ve gone on to contribute considerably to the fields of neuroscience and biology. … He was charismatic and a delight to be round. He was very open and readily shared each his mental and political expertise and opinions along with his college students and friends. All of those qualities contributed significantly to this success,” wrote Takahashi, the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience on the College of Texas Southwestern Medical Middle. “However maybe his most essential expertise was his perception in his personal judgment and his ‘nostril’ for attention-grabbing organic questions. He was a uncommon and treasured chief and pioneer. Mike will actually be missed by all his buddies, colleagues and household.”

Menaker is survived by his daughter, Ellen Briones; his son, Nicholas Menaker; and three grandchildren.

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