In Memoriam: Oppenheim, Joel

In Memoriam: Oppenheim, Joel


Joel Oppenheim, Ph.D. was a professor emeritus of microbiology at NYU School of Medicine. He served on the NYU School of Medicine’s M.D. and M.D/Ph.D. committees and chaired the Ph.D. admissions committees for over 20 years.

Oppenheim supervised a National Institutes of Health-funded research lab and served as a graduate advisor for the department of microbiology, senior associate dean for biomedical sciences, and Director of the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. He served on many national advisory committees (AAMC, NIH, NRC, NSF, ASM, Leadership Alliance and UNCF/Merck), grant study sections (NCATS, NIAID, NIGMS, NSF, Sloan Foundation, UNCF/Merck) and as a reviewer of numerous NIH, NRC, NSF and NAS reports involved with graduate education, pipeline issues and the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students to graduate programs.

In 2010, Oppenheim was the recipient of the American Association of the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Lifetime Mentoring Award, one of the nation’s highest mentoring awards. Oppenheim was also one of the founding members of the Leadership Alliance in 1992, which, in 2010, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

We recognize and honor Oppenheim’s tremendous contributions to not only ASM, but also the microbial sciences at large. Oppenheim was heavily involved in the Society's professional development programming, serving on ASM’s Minority Education Committee. During his leadership of the Robert D. Watkins Fellowship (formerly the Minority Predoctoral Fellowship Program), Oppenheim advanced mentorship and professional development for scientists from historically excluded backgrounds. Even after Oppenheim rotated off of the ASM’s Minority Education Committee, he remained involved in mentorship and development efforts. This was shown in his constant participation in the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS), as well as his service as a mentor in the Future Leaders Mentoring Fellowship Program. In addition to his commitment to mentorship, Oppenheim was a key leader in building a more inclusive and equitable field in STEM, which was demonstrated by his service as a founding member of the IDEAA Committee of the Board.

Oppenheim’s legacy lives on in all the lives he has touched, not only at ASM and across the microbial sciences community, but also with his loving family—wife, Susan, 2 daughters, Gena and Lisa, 2 grandchildren and a loving sister.

The full obituary is available on the New York Times website.