In memoriam: Patti Erickson
Patti Taranto Erickson, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Salisbury University and the faculty adviser of Salisbury’s American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Chapter, died Dec. 24 at home in Salisbury, Maryland. She was 54 and had been fighting breast cancer for 16 months.
Born Nov. 13, 1967, in New Jersey, to Alfred and Patricia Taranto, Erickson moved with her family to Shelby, North Carolina in 1975. She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a public residential high school for high-achieving students, and then went to Virginia Tech, where she earned an honors degree in biochemistry. She interned for a year at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany before earning a Ph.D. in plant biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1998.
Erickson worked as a bioeducation scientist at Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, California, until she and her husband moved to Maryland. For several years, she was a stay-at-home mother and ran Patti’s Handmade Chocolates. She joined the Salisbury faculty in 2008.
In her lab, Erickson investigated responses to oxidative stress, including whether nordihydroguaiaretic acid, a lipid-soluble compound with antioxidant properties, protects the creosote bush from environmental stresses or inhibits germination of competing plants. The lab also used RNA interference to knock down target genes in Caenorhabditis elegans and test for altered oxidative stress responses.
Erickson often mentored SU students in collaboration with colleagues at George Washington University and the J. Craig Venter Institute where she did genomics research during a sabbatical year. She took groups to national scientific conferences where, according to an obituary, she excelled in getting her students to meet and take selfies with Nobel laureates.
As SU chapter adviser, Erickson used a Student Chapters Outreach Grant to bring elementary school students to the university, where they did experiments and toured the science facilities, and also helped chapter members organize science activities for children at local libraries.
Erickson’s parents created a scholarship fund at Salisbury to support students who are dedicated to the pursuit and application of knowledge in the biological sciences.
She is survived by her husband, Les Erickson, and son, Spencer, as well as her parents, a brother and a sister.
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