J.K. and Tripti Bhattacharjee

October 28, 2011

Endowment to benefit microbiology grad students

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A retired microbiology professor who received initial inspiration for his research work from mentors at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has decided to return the favor at his alma mater.

Jnanendra Kumar Bhattacharjee, a graduate student in SIU Carbondale’s Department of Microbiology, 1961-1965, studied yeast genetics under the guidance of the late Carl Lindegren, a professor and department chair at the University.  Bhattacharjee credits Lindegren for laying the groundwork for a distinguished career in which he conducted yeast genetics research for 45 years.

In appreciation for his experience at SIU Carbondale, Bhattacharjee, and his wife, Tripti, have established the Dr. Jnanendra K. and Tripti Bhattacharjee Endowment to support various endeavors of SIU Carbondale’s microbiology graduate students.

“The educational and research opportunities I received at SIU Carbondale were invaluable.  And consequently, the professional success and accomplishments I’ve enjoyed occurred as a result of that experience,” Bhattacharjee says.  “Additionally, my wife and I were quite impressed with the wonderful hospitality and the advances in the microbiology department during our visit to campus.

“Therefore, establishing this endowment presented me with an opportunity to give back to the department so that other graduate students can receive the same opportunities and encouragement that benefited me.”

Doug Fix, chair of the SIU Carbondale biology and microbiology department, says the endowment will provide funds for professional development activities.  It will support graduate students interested in attending major conferences, which enables them to present their research and meet fellow researchers in the field to discuss future employment possibilities. 

“Dr. Bhattacharjee has always been a contributor to the microbiology program.  We are particularly grateful to him for providing this support for our graduate students,” Fix says.  “And most recently, we are honored by his incredibly generous donation that has created a new endowment.  The proceeds from this endowment will allow us to provide our graduate students with opportunities that have become increasingly difficult in these uncertain financial times when state and federal funding seem limited or dwindling.  This is one of the most important ways we can help our students succeed and we thank Dr. Bhattacharjee for making this possible.”

Jeff Lorber, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of development for the SIU Foundation, says: “Dr. Bhattacharjee clearly treasures his experience at this institution and is pleased with the advances in its microbiology department.  He values the mentors who guided him along the way, and aspires to support the educational and professional endeavors of young people who follow him.”

Bhattacharjee, a professor emeritus of microbiology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, received his doctorate in microbiology from SIU Carbondale in 1965.  He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research under the late Murray Strassman at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and ascended to assistant member, 1966-1968.  Bhattacharjee joined Miami’s faculty in 1968, where he mentored a large number of undergraduate, M.S., Ph.D. students, and postdoctoral fellows until his retirement in 2005.

Bhattacharjee’s career is highlighted by numerous published research articles, several U.S. patents, grants, awards, honors, and memberships in professional organizations.  A life member of the SIU Alumni Association, Bhattacharjee is grateful for his experience at SIU Carbondale.

“The University presented me with outstanding opportunities.  I’m forever grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Lindegren, who were both scientists; other SIU Carbondale microbiology professors, and President and Mrs. Delyte Morris, as well as foreign students advisor Ms. Mary Wakeland who provided a welcoming environment for international students,” he says.  “My successful family and professional life really goes back to the education and experiences I received at SIU.

“I relish that period in my life.  I have a great deal of gratitude and I’m humble for the experience.”