Włodzimierz Szer (1924-2013)

Kazimierz L. Wierzchowski


Włodzimierz Szer, professor emeritus in the Biochemistry Department of New York University Medical School, passed away in San Diego on August 31, 2013. Born and educated in Poland (Faculty of Chemistry, Łódź University, 1949), he received his PhD (1961) and Doctor Habilitatus (1964) degrees from the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, in Warsaw. In 1967 he emigrated with family to the USA and joined the Department of Biochemistry of New York University Medical School on the invitation of Professor Severo Ochoa. There he continued his scientific career, chairing the Department (1975-1979) and becoming known as one of the best faculty teachers. His early work on the complexing properties of model polyribonucleotides greatly contributed to better understanding of the forces responsible for the stability of nucleic acid double helix structures. Subsequent studies on the mechanisms of initiation of protein biosynthesis in cell-free systems with the use of model polyribonucleotides and viral RNAs as messengers led him to the discovery of protein S1, responsible for their binding to ribosomes in the form of unstructured single chains. Later on, he became interested in heterogeneous nuclear proteins (hnRNP), known to be involved inter alia in post-transcriptional maturation of pre-mRNA. His work in this field contributed significantly to isolation and functional characterization of a number of hnRNP proteins, demonstration of their evolutionary conserved domain structure and sequence-dependent specificity of mRNA binding. Professor Włodzimierz Szer was a broad-minded man, a lover of history, music, art and literature, a devoted chess player, good companion and a true friend. Włodek will be greatly missed by his family and friends. His scientific achievements, however, will survive as part of the history of molecular biology. Non omnis moriar.


Włodzimierz Szer; polyribonucleotides; protein biosynthesis; hnRNP proteins

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