David Y. Gin (1967-2011)

David Y. Gin (1967-2001)

David Y. Gin was born on May 16, 1967 and raised in Ashcroft, British Columbia. He received his BSc in Chemistry at the University of British Columbia in 1989, where he performed summer undergraduate research under the direction of Professor Tom Money. In 1989, he began his graduate studies in synthetic organic chemistry at the California Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Andrew Meyers. Professor Jeffrey Moore, a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech while Dave was a student there, recalled their first interactions, saying, “My first memories of him are as an eager student, full of life and an amazing love for chemistry.”

After earning his PhD in 1994, he held a two-year Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) postdoctoral appointment at Harvard under the guidance of Professor E.J. Corey (Illinois faculty 1951-1959), Dave began his independent academic career in 1996 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he remained for 10 years in the Chemistry Department, establishing a research program in the synthesis of natural products and the development of new synthetic methodology.

Professor Peter Beak remarked that Dave was a remarkable scientist, bright, hardworking, productive, a leader in his field, an excellent mentor for his students and a generous colleague. He added, “Above all else Dave was dedicated to his family. I remember early on at Illinois when we were flying out of Champaign together I asked how he was doing. With a huge smile he said, ‘Wonderful, I am heading to Cal Tech to see Mary.’ ”

In 2006, Dave left the University of Illinois to join Sloan-Kettering Institute’s Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program. His work was at the nexus of synthetic chemistry, clinical trials, and research to develop new, safer, and more-potent immunological and therapeutic agents for cancer and infectious diseases. Professor Wilfred van der Donk, who began at Illinois one year after Dave did, spoke of Dave’s research saying, “He was a brilliant synthetic chemist that devised ingenious routes to complex natural products, including molecules that are currently under development for anti-cancer vaccine therapy. Considering his remarkable scientific accomplishments he was truly humble and modest and did not seek the attention that his accomplishments warranted. He let his science speak for itself.”

Dave’s research was recognized a number of times and he was the recipient of numerous professional awards, including most recently the Hoffmann-La Roche Excellence in Organic Chemistry Award. Additionally, his dedication to teaching the next generation of chemists was recognized with awards such as the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and the School of Chemical Sciences Teaching Excellence Award during his time at University of Illinois. Many of the faculty still use Powerpoint slides that are derived from those initially developed by Dave during his time at Illinois. “He was absolutely one of our most committed and gifted teachers,” noted Steve Zimmerman, “But as much as he enjoyed teaching, Dave was passionate about his research, and particularly the opportunity to develop his synthetic oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates for anticancer and anti-viral vaccine therapies. Most importantly, he was a great friend, colleague, and family-man.”


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