Russell Sage Women Influence Science
A member of the team that completed the first bone marrow transplant…
A respected researcher turned professor turned executive in Boston’s thriving biotechnology hub…
And a recent grad screening babies for life-threatening genetic disorders that are treatable with early detection…
All are part of RSC's long record of preparing graduates for careers on the cutting edge of science.
“I have often been asked why I chose a research career. To me research is highly creative,” said Delta Uphoff ’44, now deceased, in the spring 1964 issue of the Russell Sage Alumnae Quarterly, describing the satisfaction she felt when absorbed in a research program “which is conceived, developed and exists almost entirely by one’s own effort.”
After graduating from RSC, Uphoff pursued a master’s degree at the University of Rochester—where she directed drosophila (fruit fly) genetic research for the University’s branch of the Manhattan Project (later to become the Atomic Energy Commission). She earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley and went on to join the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md.
During her 40-year career at NIH, Uphoff’s lab was attached to units studying biophysics, genetics, carcinogenesis and leukemia, but she is most renowned for her contributions to the field of transplantation immunology. A member of the research team that completed the first bone marrow transplant, Uphoff’s research led to drug treatments that reduce risks associated with organ rejection in transplant patients. In 1976, the International Society of Experimental Hematology gave her a special award for her contributions to the field.
Uphoff’s contributions to science extended outside of the laboratory. A prolific writer, her 1949 report, “The Genetic Effects of Low Intensity Radiation,” was accepted as a “substantial contribution to the field of radiation genetics.”(She credited Professor Geneva Sayre’s scientific writing class with “making the difficult job of communication easier.”)
In a 1982 memo to U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell—whose name is synonymous with college financial aid “Pell Grants”—Uphoff lobbied for more opportunities for women in the sciences and was candid with her criticism of the government’s support for the education of foreign scientists at the expense of science education for Americans.
Throughout her career, Uphoff had a strong affection for RSC, telling classmates that she “realized how really good her Russell Sage education in the sciences had been” when she entered graduate school. The RSC Alumnae Association honored Uphoff with the Crockett Medal in 1971 and the College bestowed an honorary doctorate on her in 1982.
A solemn footnote: Through her research, Uphoff had been exposed for many years to the damaging effects of radon and always felt she would develop cancer because of it. Cancer did claim her life in 1992. She was 70 years old.