In Memoriam

In memoriam: Robert B. Sanders

Arti Dumbrepatil
Feb. 20, 2023

Robert Burnett Sanders, who made seminal contributions to reproductive biochemistry and authored the book “Contributions of African American Scientists to the Fields of Science, Medicine, and Inventions” died June 17, 2022, in Sanford, North Carolina. He was 83. 

Portrait of Robert Sanders
Robert Sanders

Born December 9, 1938, in Augusta, Georgia, to Robert and Lois Jones Sanders, he attended Augusta's segregated public schools and graduated from Lucy Laney High School in 1955. He graduated from Paine College as valedictorian with a major in chemistry and then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1964. After completing his postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 1966. At KU, he served as both associate dean of graduate studies and associate vice chancellor.

Sanders’ research focused on the biochemistry of hormone action, the biochemistry of reproduction, and uterine biochemistry. His lab studied the properties of uterine adenylate cyclase in rats. His team established the biochemical events associated with the decidual cell reaction in the uterus of rodents and its association with increased concentration of cyclic adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate, known as cAMP. The Sanders lab showed that adenylate cyclase, the enzyme that catalyzes the formation of cAMP, might play a central role in decidualization, a process leading to significant changes to endometrial cells in preparation for, and during, pregnancy. He also worked on parathyroid hormone action, epinephrine action, cardiac adenylate cyclase action, the biology of uterine metabolism and amino acid transport in vivo and in vitro. 

At KU, Sanders served as chair of the Minority Graduate Student Recruitment Advisory Committee and was an active member of The Boul, an organization for professional Black men whose mission is to collectively bring about change that cannot be accomplished by individuals.

Sanders is survived by his wife 61 years, Gladys; two children, Sylvia, and husband David Schneider, and William, and wife Margaret Esselborn; and a granddaughter, Ivy.

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Arti Dumbrepatil

Arti Dumbrepatil is a freelance science writer and communicator. With her academic training plus expertise in science communication and writing, she demystifies and transforms complex, jargon-filled science into enjoyable and comprehensible content that resonates with a diverse audience.

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