Robert J. Kadner Obituary

Robert J. Kadner

With the unexpected death of Robert J. Kadner at the age of 63 on August 7, 2005, the scientific, and especially the Microbiology, community has lost one its greatest ambassadors. The son of a college professor, Bob was educated in the catholic schools of Los Angeles and received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Loyola University of Los Angeles. His roots in a classical education never left him. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1967 from UCLA investigating alkaline phosphatase regulation in Neurospora crassa, and carried out postdoctoral studies at NYU studying the the genetics and regulation of arginine biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. In 1969, he joined the faculty of the University of Virginia and quickly rose through the academic ranks being appointed a full Professor in 1980. In 1994, he was appointed the Norman J. Knorr Professor of Basic Medical Sciences.

Bob was an internationally recognized microbiologist whose research on microbial physiology spanned four decades. He made significant contributions to the understanding of two E. coli transport systems, the Uhp system for hexose phosphate and the TonB/ExbB,D-dependent system for vitamin B 12. Initially using genetic approaches, his laboratory revealed that the uhp genes are regulated through the complex interactions of a two-component response system, while B 12 transport through the outer membrane BtuB transporter is driven by the proton motive force via interactions with TonB. As the components were identified, he also became interested in the molecular mechanisms of the regulation as well as the transport processes. More recently he has played instrumental roles in obtaining a high-resolution crystal structure of BtuB and characterizing the dynamics of BtuB-TonB interactions using sophisticated spectroscopic approaches. He authored over a hundred research articles, reviews and several book sections including the comprehensive chapter on “Cytoplasmic Membranes” in Escherichia coli and Salmonella, and the widely used medical text Essentials of Medical Microbiology. His contributions to the field were also felt at conferences. He was the organizer of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) National Meeting Symposium on Transcription Regulation by Response Regulators in 1998 and the chair of the BLAST VII International Conference on Bacterial Locomotion and Signal Transduction held in Florida this past January. As an active member of ASM, he was the chair-elect of Division K, Microbial Physiology.

He was a leading figure in fostering graduate and medical education, for which he garnered numerous University teaching awards. In 1998, Bob was the first recipient of the ASM Graduate Teaching Award. Because of this, he was chosen to Chair the previously defunct ASM Committee on Graduate Education and help found the ASM Institute for Graduate and Postdoctoral Scientists in Preparation for Careers in Microbiology. He held several positions for the ASM and the Academy for Microbiology, served on many government and national society advisory boards, and until his death was an editor of the Journal of Bacteriology.

As colleagues, we will remember Bob as a scholar and the consummate teacher, whose standards were high and uncompromising. As a teacher, Bob was unmatched in the Department. His lectures challenged medical students to understand the fundamental concepts of microbiology and infectious diseases. He was a superb teacher of graduate students, a caring and conscientious mentor of students, fellows, as well as other faculty members. His knowledge was encyclopedic (literally, having authored the entry on “Bacteria”” in the Encyclopedia Britannica) but he was more interested in enlightening, rather than pointing deficiencies or enhancing his own ego. Through these interactions he encouraged an “enthusiasm for science—the zest for learning about the unknown”. He has trained more than 30 students and fellows, many of whom are now leading scientists in academia, industry, and government laboratories.

Bob’s passing leaves a huge hole in the field of Microbiology, as it does in the lives of his family and friends. However, his spirit and passion for science, his composed excitement for understanding the unknown, his high standards of scholarship will remain with us for many years—inspiring faculty, students and fellows continue in his footsteps.

Joanna B. Goldberg, Department of Microbiology, and Robert K. Nakamoto, Department of Physiology, University of Virginia