Researcher Banerjee Mourned
Dr. Soojay Banerjee, a long-time researcher at NIH, died Oct. 23 after a 2-year battle with cancer, 4 days past his 50th birthday.
Banerjee earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Delhi in India in 1990, and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1995. Following a decade of research in academia and industry, he came to NIH in 2005 to join the laboratory of Dr. Richard Youle in NINDS.
In 2012, he also joined the laboratory of Dr. Sriram Subramaniam at NCI part-time, splitting his biochemical research between the two groups. He was also a part-time faculty member at Montgomery College in Rockville from 2005 until 2017.
Banerjee was a skilled biochemist, specializing in the purification of proteins for structural analysis. In Youle’s group, he played a key role in the identification of the first ubiquitin kinase. In the Subramaniam lab, he led a project that resulted in the first high-resolution structure of the AAA+ ATPase p97 with cryo-electron microscopy and the discovery of a mechanism by which a small molecule inhibitor of the protein blocked function. He also played a key role in projects that advanced the field of cryo-electron microscopy, including his participation in the FEI-NIH Living Lab, a successful public-private partnership and in the determination of important structures that were referenced in the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
But perhaps Banerjee’s greatest contribution to the NIH community was his spirit—he was kind, generous and unfailingly optimistic, mentoring countless trainees and other scientists over his 12 years at NIH. Likewise, his chemistry students at Montgomery College praised not only his skill at teaching, but also his willingness to answer any question at any time.
“I never heard Soojay utter a single unkind thing about anyone. I never knew him to turn anyone away that came to him for help,” said Subramaniam.
“I have never worked with anyone so innately happy as Soojay,” agreed Youle. “He was kind, fun, funny and extremely generous. He would move mountains to help others.”
Banerjee is survived by his wife Nese Sari and sons Burak and Emre.—Lesley Earl