Gina Sosinsky (1955 – 2015)

Gina Sosinksy

Gina Sosinsky, professor-in-residence in the neurosciences department at the University of California, San Diego, died in September of complications from a bone marrow transplant. She was 60. A leader in the field of high-resolution microscopy, Sosinsky made significant contributions to the understanding of gap junctions.

By deciphering their molecular structures through electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and other techniques, Sosinky’s research led to the elucidation of submolecular structures of gap junctions composed of connexin 26. (Connexin 26 is the smallest of the family of proteins that make up gap junctions.) Her work also extended to nodes of Ranvier and their relation to gap junction structure.

For her manifold contributions to science in general and to microscopy in particular, she was awarded the Morton D. Maser award in 2012 from the Microscopy Society of America.

Sosinsky’s longtime collaborator, friend and fellow UCSD professor Susan S. Taylor called her “A gifted scientist, a special friend and … a special mentor to each of us in so many ways … With her magical tools she taught us to see the world of biology in ways that we had not imagined.”

Sosinsky was born on April 15, 1955, in New York city. The daughter of a bookkeeper and a college chemistry lecturer, she developed an early interest in science and medicine. The family left New York for the Chicago suburbs, where Sosinsky finished high school. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1983. According to her husband, Berkeley is where she first began to work as an electron microscopist interested in visualizing macromolecular specimens.

Sosinsky’s postdoc research at Brandeis University, on gap junctions and their imaging, took place in the laboratory of Don Caspar and David DeRosier and involved a collaboration with Dan Goodenough at Harvard University. Sosinsky met her husband, John Badger, when he too joined Caspar’s lab as a postdoc. The couple married while still at Brandeis and moved together to San Diego. Sosinsky became an assistant professor at UCSD in 1995.

Sosinsky served as the assistant director of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at UCSD, was biological director of the Microscopy Society of America from 2010 to 2012 and was an advocate for women in science and engineering, spending seven years as co-chair of the UCSD Women in Science Committee. She also served on the editorial board for the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Sosinsky was a movie buff who enjoyed old-time musicals and science fiction movies. She also loved to swim, hike, ski and snorkel. In the last decade of her life, she had overcome several recurrences of ovarian cancer and in her final weeks made efforts to ensure members of her lab would be OK. She left behind her husband and three teenage sons.

Samarpita Sengupta Samarpita Sengupta is a postdoctoral fellow in the pharmacology and neuroscience departments at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.