Penn State loses 2 prominent faculty/researchers

April 28, 2004

Robert T. Simpson
Robert T. Simpson, Verne M. Willaman professor of molecular biology, died Wednesday, April 21, after a fall at home. Simpson was 65.

Simpson was an international leader for more than 35 years in research on chromatin, a fundamental component of chromosomes, and its role in gene regulation. His addition to the Penn State faculty in 1995 is considered to have placed Penn State and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the forefront of chromatin research and to have greatly enhanced Penn State's research and educational missions.

Simpson's research, published in more than 120 papers, established numerous precedents in the discovery of important structure/function relationships in chromatin proteins. His early biochemical and biophysical studies of chromatin structure and composition were landmark papers that are regularly cited in published articles. His work established many of the crucial parameters for the structure of nucleosomes, chromosomal subunits and the functions of certain proteins within these structures. During the early 1990s, Simpson's laboratory used yeast genetics to further explore chromatin function, resulting in what has been called "the first and best evidence of the role of nucleosome-positioning in the regulation of gene transcription and DNA replication in vivo."

Simpson was recognized as an outstanding mentor and teacher. His numerous former graduate students and postdoctoral trainees also have made significant impacts on chromatin research. During his time at Penn State, hundreds of undergraduate students have benefited from his teachings in molecular medicine, as he was able to articulate the essential points of complex issues in clear and concise terms.

He received his bachelor's degree with high honors as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Swarthmore College in 1959. He was an Alpha Omega Alpha graduate of Harvard Medical School, from which he received an M.D. degree (cum laude) in 1963. He earned a doctoral degree in biological chemistry at Harvard University in 1969, after which he joined the United States Public Health Service. He was an active researcher at the National Institutes of Health from 1969 until he came to Penn State in 1995. He had been a laboratory chief at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. During this period, he also was co-chairman of the Department of Biochemistry of the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences.

His efforts were recognized by the United States Public Health Service with a Commendation Award in 1982, the Meritorious Service Award in 1991, and the Distinguished Service Award in 1995. He retired from the Public Health Service with the rank of captain in 1995.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. May 12 in Eisenhower Chapel on the Penn State University Park campus.

In recognition of Dr. Simpson's interests in science, education, and the environment, contributions may be made to the Robert T. Simpson Memorial Fund, in care of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 108 Althouse Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802; to the Swarthmore College Scholarship Fund, 500 College Avenue, Suite 270, Swarthmore, PA 19081; or to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis, MD 21403.

Mark Young
Mark Young, who from 1997 to 2003 served as the first chairman of the Department of Health Evaluation Sciences in the College of Medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, has died at age 52. Young reportedly collapsed on a tennis court Saturday afternoon and could not be resuscitated. The specific cause of death has not yet been determined.

Young left his position as chair last year to assume greater responsibility at Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network (LVH) but continued to serve as Penn State College of Medicine's associate dean for education at LVH. At LVH, Young served in various posts including senior vice-president of community health and health studies, senior vice president for education and research, and Leonard Parker Pool chair of community health and health studies.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 5, at the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown. For directions, go to

The family requests that any contributions be made to the Mark Young Memorial Fund at Lehigh Valley Hospital, in care of the Development Department, 2166 South 12th St., Allentown, PA 18103.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009