Obituary: Mary Jo LaDu

Mary Jo LaDu

Mary Jo LaDu, professor of anatomy and cell biology whose work focused on investigating the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative processes, died March 28. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College, LaDu received her PhD in physiology and biophysics and exercise physiology at UIC. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago before launching her own research program and becoming a principal investigator at Northwestern University in the department of medicine at Evanston and Northwestern hospitals. She was a significant contributor to the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University.

LaDu joined UIC in 2005 as an associate professor and became a professor in 2014. She was a physiologist and biochemist whose research investigated the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative processes by focusing on the structure/function interactions between the human isoforms of apolipoprotein E and amyloid-β peptide, particularly Aβ42.

She was a life member of the University of Illinois President’s Council, a University Scholar, a member of the Faculty-Administrator Leadership Program, an Innovator of Today winner, an Honors College Fellow of the Year, and a life member of the College of Medicine William W Root Society.

She was deeply involved in the governance of UIC and the College of Medicine: She was elected a member of the Executive Committee for the UI College of Medicine for 10 years and was a member of UIC Faculty Senate for 10 years, serving on the Executive Committee for eight.

“She was a proud UIC alumna and worked very hard to defend, advocate and promote UIC,” wrote Simon Alford, Sweeney Professor of Basic Sciences and head of anatomy and cell biology.

LaDu ran a large lab focusing on treatments and biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, and her research has generated more than 100 publications, numerous research grants as a primary investigator with continuous NIH funding since 1995. Among other accolades, she received the Alzheimer’s Association Zenith Award, the College of Medicine Innovator of the Year Award, the Mentor of the Year from the UIC Honors College and the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and the new DPI Phase-2 Innovation Award. She was passionate about her research and continuously worked toward her goal of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Her science was truly impactful,” Alford wrote.

“Among MJ’s many legacies are that of an educator and mentor par excellence, an individual who lit the spark of discovery and creativity in her trainees. She had a special talent for recruiting bright undergraduate students, novices of science, and instilling in them the importance of critical thinking, rigorous methodology and commitment while triggering their intellectual curiosity.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to LaDu’s research program. To donate, visit UIC Online Giving and enter “College of Medicine, Dr. Mary Jo LaDu Memorial Research Fund” in the “Other Donation” field.

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