January 25, 2008

Grad student’s passion for life, science recalled

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Anne Karpay

Grad student’s passion for life, science recalled

Anne Karpay, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry, died Jan. 5 after a four-year struggle with breast cancer. She was 26.

“Anne had an absolute passion for science that was matched only by her passion for friendship and life in general,” said her graduate school mentor, Charles “Chuck” Sanders II, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry. “She was the sort of person who would work hard all day, go to the Ryman for a show with her friends in the evening, and then return back to work afterward.”

Ms. Karpay's research project was focused on determining the structure of a G protein coupled receptor, a member of the family of hormone and neurotransmitter receptors that are targets for about half of all currently prescribed drugs.

“This is one of the most challenging and difficult problems in structural biology,” said Richard Breyer, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Biochemistry, a member of Ms. Karpay's dissertation committee, at a memorial service held last week in Light Hall.

“I came to appreciate that … Anne chose this problem precisely because it was a formidable challenge, and because solving this problem would have great impact.

“I remember Anne with a big smile and sparkling eyes, popping into my office with a 'Got a sec?' to discuss the latest result she had or science paper she had read. She was an incredibly quick study, gifted in the lab, and a really, really nice person,” Breyer said.

Ms. Karpay grew up in Land O'Lakes, Fla. She was a champion athlete, setting swimming records in high school that still stand, and graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class in 1999. She graduated with honors in Biology and History from Vanderbilt University in 2003.

As an undergraduate, she was a Vucept board member and president of the Vanderbilt Hillel.

Ms. Karpay is survived by her parents, Dr. Richard and Barbara Karpay, her grandparents, Bobbie and Irwin Karpay and Evelyn and Harold Canfield, and her special friend and classmate, William Bush.

Donations may be made in Ms. Karpay's memory to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center SPORE in Breast Cancer Research Fund.