Prof. Susan Lindquist 1949-2016

October 28, 2016

To the members of the MIT community,

With a profound sense of personal sadness and of loss for our community, I write to share the news that Professor Susan Lindquist, a Member and former Director of Whitehead Institute, died of cancer last night.

After earning her PhD in biology from Harvard, Sue spent 23 extraordinarily productive years at the University of Chicago. She joined our Department of Biology and MIT’s affiliated Whitehead Institute in 2001, infusing both communities with her scientific fearlessness, creativity and drive, and her great personal warmth. Sue collaborated widely and led an exceptionally interdisciplinary lab; the wide range of her connections is now mirrored in the broad network of those who feel her loss.

A pioneer in the study of protein folding, Sue demonstrated that changes in protein folding can have profound and unexpected influences in fields from human disease to evolution and nanotechnology. Her contributions were of fundamental importance to both basic science and biomedicine. For her scholarly achievements, she received, among many honors, the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award in the sciences; for her brilliance and devotion as a teacher and mentor, she won the love and admiration of hundreds of young scientists, many now themselves rising scientific stars.

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Sue was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the British Royal Society. An esteemed member of Johnson & Johnson’s corporate board, she also played a key role in several start-ups. In the heights of her scientific achievement, her equal passion for connecting basic science to real-world solutions and her enthusiasm for helping young scientists thrive, she represented an MIT ideal.

You can read more about her extraordinary accomplishments here ]

As plans emerge to commemorate her, they will be added to the MIT News obituary.

Our hearts go out to Professor Lindquist’s family, students, colleagues and friends as they absorb this heartbreaking loss, which reminds us so vividly of how much influence one individual can have in the life of our community.

In deep sympathy,

L. Rafael Reif