Members of the Fordham University community on Sept. 16 paid tribute to the memory of Asit Mukherjee, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, at a memorial service at the Rose Hill campus.
Mukherjee, who joined Fordham in 1972 and rose to the rank of full professor before retiring in 2010, died on May 31 after a long illness.
He taught genetics to undergraduates in Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), as well as masters and doctoral students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). His specialty was chromosomal abnormalities associated with human cellular aging.
Mukherjee earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D in genetics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His research collaborations included work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute Laboratory of Cancer Genetics in New York. He authored more than 50 papers on these various projects.
Growing up on a farm in Benghal, India, he was first drawn to the fields of botany and zoology. Upon arrival in the United States in the 1960’s, he found his calling in genetics.
His collaboration at Memorial Sloan-Kettering led to the development of a technique for identifying an abnormal chromosome in non-dividing and dividing cells in culture.
He devoted equal time to students, teaching a genetics course every semester up until his retirement, and overseeing a four-hour lab taught by a graduate assistant.
“The students have fresh minds and are inquisitive. The information flow is a two-way street,” he said in an interview in A Creative Life: The Young Person’s Guide, (Franklin Watts, 1999).
“I learn from my students, and they are looking for guidance and creativity. It’s quite satisfying.”
In the same interview, Mukherjee also expounded on how scientific investigation is a process of seeking truth.
“It’s already going on in nature whether we think about it or not, and we, as scientists, want to know why it happens so we can understand and perhaps improve things,” he said.
“A scientist’s work is to comprehend information accumulated over many years and to use good judgment on how to assimilate it into the final interpretation.”
He is survived by his beloved wife Stephie and his son Deepro.