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Tributes - Dr. Swarup K Mukherjee (1955 - 2002)

Tribute from Bharat R. Char, Ph.D., Principal Scientist
Biotech R&D, Mahyco Research Centre

I first met Dr. Mukherjee in mid-1999 upon joining Mahyco after a long stint in the US. He had recently moved bag and baggage from Bangalore and was in the process of settling down in Jalna. We shared a lab and office space for about three years. I remember him mostly for two things - his intellectual ability and his sense of humour. I found him to be a great senior colleague for a greenhorn like me in the sense of giving advice as to how to negotiate the shoals of corporate life. He was also a supremely practical man, which allowed him to deal with crises at work very effectively.

I cherish the many discussions we had about our projects in molecular biology and genetics. He had a phenomenal memory for obscure references, plasmid maps, restriction maps etc. and could work out complicated cloning schemes in his head, while I was still fumbling for the maps of constructs he was talking about!

We also had numerous discussions on things outside work, such as the state of the nation and life in general. I remember once we were talking about our population and how to control it, and came up with this wonderful scheme of spreading a contraceptive through houseflies (or was it mosquitoes?)...

Swarup was a man with a social conscience and tried his best to make a difference. We all miss him deeply, both as a colleague and a friend.

Bharat R. Char, Ph.D., Principal Scientist
Biotech R&D, Mahyco Research Centre, Dawalwadi
Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Jalna 431 203, India
Tel. 91-2482-236830, 236838 Fax 91-2482-234621

Tribute from Clarence A. Ryan
Charlotte Y. M
artin Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Plant Sciences, Washington State University, USA

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Swarup. He was a very bright and lovely man who was dedicated to science and who worked very hard as a postdoctoral fellow in my lab.  He had a disability in using his hands, apparently because of events in his youth, which made it a very difficult sometimes for him to carry out experiments in the laboratory. But he made up for that with his intelligence and perserverance, and always stuck with the
experiments to somehow see them through.  Swarup left my lab to take a position in India before any publications resulted from his work.  I pretty much lost touch with him after he left except for an occasional Christmas card,  but every so often a colleague visiting in India would meet him and he would send his regards.  He apparently became a successful administrator in a private company.  With his high intelligence and personable character, I am sure that his career must have been successful and meaningful, especially to be considered for having a chair named after him.  It is always difficult to lose someone you love and respect, and everyone in my lab loved and respected Swarup.  Those that worked most closely with Swarup were Dr. Barry McGurl, Gregory  Pearce and Willis Brown. I will forward your email to them.


Clarence A. Ryan
Charlotte Y. Martin Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Plant Sciences.

Tribute from  Post Doc Colleague

My name is Barry McGurl and I was a fellow post-doc with Swarup Mukherjee at Washington State University in the late 1980s. Professor Bud Ryan gave me the sad news that Swarup died recently, and he told me that you are trying to establish a University Scholarship in Swarup's honor.

My strongest memory of Swarup is his integrity and sincere commitment to using science to improve the lives of the poor in India and elsewhere.  I remember him not just as a laboratory scientist, but as someone who thought carefully about the role of science in the modern world.  It was my impression that he was motivated by deeply held spiritual beliefs.  It would certainly be a fitting tribute to Swarup's memory if you established a Scholarship in his name.

Dr Ryan mentioned that you wanted to know if Swarup published during his time at WSU.  Swarup published the following publication with Bud and me:

B. McGurl, S. Mukherjee, M. Kahn and C.A. Ryan.  Characterization of two proteinase inhibitor [ATI] cDNAs from alfalfa leaves (Medicago sativa var. vernema):  expression of ATI genes in response to wounding and soil microorganisms.  Plant Mol. Biol. 27 995-1001 (1995).

I do not have a copy of this publication, but it would be my pleasure to obtain a copy for you if that will help your efforts.

I should also mention that I remember Swarup for his wonderful sense of humor.  In the early 1990s (1992 I think) I received some mail from him that included only two photographs--one photograph showed Swarup and his bride in traditional Indian clothes, sitting on some cushions and looking very solemn. Swarup had written on this photograph "Before".  The other photograph showed Swarup and his wife standing, and Swarup was smiling broadly.  Swarup had marked this photograph "After".  That was Swarup's way of telling me that he had got married.

I have not seen Swarup for many years, but I am deeply saddened to learn of his death--my own life has been impoverished now that he has passed on.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance in you efforts to establish a University Scholarship in Swarup's honor.


Barry F. McGurl
Christensen O'Connor Johnson  Kindness, PLLC
Suite 2800, 1420 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101-2347
direct dial:  206-695-1775
fax:  206-224-0779

Tribute from  Dr. Usha Zehr Barwale - Joint Director of Research, Mahyco

Dr. S K Mukherjee's career at Mahyco started with the establishment of a molecular biology lab in Bangalore.  For a private seed company this certainly was one of the first such labs in India.  The objective of the lab was very simple in it that it was felt that persons in the company should understand the basics of molecular biology so as to participate in future opportunities.  Dr. S K Mukherjee had an exceptional aptitude for science.  In this also he was one of the rare individuals who was interested not only in the very fundamental issues of science but also interested in the application of the technologies for practical use.

His research interests were primarily in the area of biotic stress in plants.  He initiated number of projects to look at native Bt genes in India even before Mahyco joined hands with Monsanto to introduce commercial products.  Due to his preexisting interest in this topic, he was able to provide the much needed technical support for the Bt cotton program.  Dr. S K Mukherjee continued with his own research work, trying to understand how the different domains worked and by fusion could a more effective gene could be obtained.  In addition to the Bt cotton and Bt work in general, Dr. S K Mukherjee was also interested in looking at unique approaches to address fungal pathogens.  Many of
these programs  continue on at Mahyco today.

In addition to his basic interest in the molecular biology related area, Dr. S K Mukherjee engaged himself in all aspects of the project, starting from laboratory going all the way to the dealer's shop to understand what the farmer's concerns may be and how that can be addressed.  With his basic aptitude for problem solving, he would soon know more about the new subject than the person who had been working on it for many years in some cases.  Many times, persons who have interests in very basic sciences one finds that they do not wish to deal with down stream activities, but this was not the case here.  His primary purpose was to see that the project came to bear fruits.  If
he needed to become the breeder to do that then he was willing to do so.  Such was his remarkable commitment.

Many of you would know Dr. S K Mukherjee much better than me and this may not come as a surprise to you.  He was a "no nonsense" man.  He had high expectations from himself and expected the same from others. When it came to science, he was critical if there was a flaw in the design and would not accept a partly correct comment from any one.  It did not matter who the person was!!  This again reflects his commitment and also basic principal that he applied.

At one time, Dr. S K Mukherjee expressed to me that going forward he wondered if I would provide him a greenhouse so he can stop his full time job and become a teacher to create an interest in high school students in biology and science in general.  I hope that this scholarship will encourage the spirit that he had of using science for betterment of mankind and our country and create a pool of scientists who will take his dream forward.

Usha Zehr Barwale
Joint Director of Research,
Mahyco Research

Tribute from  Dr. S C Prabhu

My  association wiith Dr. Swarup Mukherjee  goes back to 1989 when he joined Mahyco to initiate the biotechnology work. I visited his laboratory at Hulimavu village near Bangalore in connection with initiating a project of developing resistant lines of Sunflowers for Alternaria disease. We had a good discussion on technical front  and
the meeting paved a way for a strong friendship. What touched me most was his simplicity and humbleness, but also his level of self confidence, boldness,  will to achieve, positive attitude and problem solving skills.  At a small village of Hulimavu, he was able to establish full pledged biotech lab, train the staff and start his work
withhin a short period.

I developed a strong personal relationship with Dr. Mukhherjee after he joined Mahyco Research Centre at  Dawalwadi and started staying at Jalna. He was also associated with my offcial work of production department in developing system for growers selection,  seed quality improvement and inbuilt quality and other process improvements. He was also involved in the Bt cotton breeding and conducting trials. He used to contribute very relevant points during  disucussion for any projects or presentations.  Personally, I considered him as my best friend and guide.  He was affectionate, trustworthy and always helpful during need. He used to give patient hearing to any type of problems and suggest practical solutions. He was outspoken and never tolerated injustice and always expressed his true feelings in front of any type
of audience. I liked his presentation skills and also the huge knowledge he had gathered by his voracious reading and other means. He was a very intelligent and  hard worker and used to finish his assignments with great dedication. He had a great sense of patriotism and wanted to serve the farmer community.  He was a self made man and
by his achievements in the academic field and in industry he proved that the physical disability would not be a limiting factor if one makes up his mind and moves ahead with firmness, dedication and missionary zeal. In one line if we summarise, I feel, "WE LOST A GOOD HUMAN BEING".

Dr. S.C. Prabhu
Director - QA
Mahyco Research