Jerzy Jurka: June 4, 1950 – July 19, 2014
© Jurka; licensee BioMed Central. 2015
Received: 11 December 2014
Accepted: 11 December 2014
Published: 14 January 2015
Jerzy Jurka, biologist, pioneer in the field of mobile DNA, and the founder, President and Director of Research at Genetic Information Research Institute (GIRI) from 1994 to 2014, died on July 19 at his home in Los Altos, California. He was 64.
Following the death of Pauling, Jerzy founded Genetic Information Research Institute (GIRI) in 1994 after securing initial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program and the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. For more than two decades, he tirelessly built and maintained Repbase, the fundamental database of mobile DNA elements, and continued to publish original research on newly discovered mobile DNA elements, their mechanisms, and their evolution. He authored more than 120 scientific papers, as well as book chapters and encyclopedia articles on repetitive DNA elements. Repbase Update, developed under Jerzy’s direction since 1990, has become a pivotal resource for the mobile DNA research community and has been used in genome sequencing projects worldwide as a reference collection for the masking and annotation of repetitive DNA. In 2001 Jerzy established the electronic journal Repbase Reports, with the goal of providing the research community with a rapid publication devoted to organizing, studying, and permanently recording the diverse and rapidly growing information on repetitive DNA. Jerzy’s passion and enthusiasm inspired many younger scientists to embark on careers to study mobile DNA, and he helped foster the mobile DNA research community by organizing three international conferences at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on Monterey Peninsula in California (Figure 2). Over the course of more than two decades, Jerzy served as a member of the editorial boards for a number of scientific journals including Journal of Molecular Evolution (member of the Editorial Board 1989–1998; Associate Editor 1998–2006), Biology Direct, Gene, and Mobile DNA, and presented numerous invited lectures at scientific meetings and universities around the world.
Jerzy was known for his generosity, and he helped countless young academics start their careers, many of them immigrants like himself. He was a passionate amateur historian and was known to energize any discussion about history, science, or religion. He was also an avid chess player and connoisseur of music. Most of all, Jerzy was a loving husband and father to three sons, Michael, Matthew, and Timothy.
A Requiem Mass was held on July 26, 2014 at St. Simon Catholic Church in Los Altos, CA, with Prof. William Mahrt leading the St. Ann choir in Gregorian chants.
This obituary was originally posted on the GIRI website ( http://www.girinst.org/about/jjurkabiosketch.html ) and has been republished in Mobile DNA by permission of Elzbieta Jurka.
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