In Memoriam: Retnoningrum, Debbie

In Memoriam: Retnoningrum, Debbie


Dr. Debbie Retnoningrum (1956-2020), Biotech consultant and mother of four, died from complications of Breast Cancer. Dr. Retnoningrum was a member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

In 1987, Retnoningrum ventured from her home in Bandung, Indonesia, with her young son, and arrived at the Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota to participate in a Midwest University of International Activities initiative with the Indonesian Government to advance Microbiology and Biotechnology in their universities. During the next five years, Retnoningrum studied molecular biology in Professor Pat Cleary’s laboratory, published several papers, and enriched the lives of fellow students and postdocs by educating them on the Indonesian – Javanese Culture.

After finishing her Ph.D. degree, Dr. Retnoningrum returned to the Institute of Technology Bandung, the “MIT of Indonesia,” to investigate the active ingredients in native medicines and their impact on bacteria. There, Dr. Retnoningrum initiated a Masters Degree program in Biotechnology that produced dozens of graduates who went on to help build the Biotech industry in Indonesia. She traveled to Germany on several occasions for collaboration with Dr. Andreas Podblieski and returned to Dr. Cleary’s laboratory in 2013 with her family for six months of scientific collaboration as a Fulbright Scholar.

Dr. Retnoningrum was an ambitious, dedicated, exceptional teacher of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, who over the years fed the curiosity and aspiration of many young scientists.

Written and Submitted by: Dr. Pat Cleary