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In memoriam: Emeritus Professor Dennis Lohr

Dennis Lohr

Dennis Lohr

January 22, 2021

Dennis Lohr, an emeritus professor with Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences, died at his home in Honolulu last month. 

Lohr began his career at ASU as a research assistant professor in 1978 after earning his PhD at the University of North Carolina and completing postdoctoral research at Oregon State University. In 1979, Lohr was promoted to assistant professor, five years later to associate professor and in 1989 he achieved the rank of full professor.

Lohr did important work on the structure and function of chromatin and how it relates to transcription. Transcription must occur by unfolding the compact and periodic structure of the chromosome and he studied how this process was related to the structural organization of chromatin, specifically, the nucleosomes. Focusing primarily on expression of the GAL family of genes, he studied the factors responsible for the specific initiation of transcription in eukaryotic organisms. Studies of the 5S rDNA gene of the sea urchin allowed Lohr to study how histone loads on DNA and is released, and how histone acetylation controls these processes.

Lohr was a sought-after collaborator, working with Neal Woodbury to develop AFM and fluorescence spectroscopy techniques as tools to understand the mechanistic details of transcription, and with Stuart Lindsay, with whom he obtained the first dynamical images of individual chromosomes unfolding.

Lohr contributed many important research articles in professional journals and was on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

“Dennis was a highly respected member of the faculty from 1979 until he retired in 2008," said Ian Gould, interim director of the School of Molecular Sciences. "He did important work on the biochemistry of chromatin and is remembered as a dear friend and a valued mentor to many of his colleagues in the early stages of their careers.”

While working as ASU, Lohr loved to spend summers in Oregon, fishing, windsurfing and doing research at Oregon State University. Between the fall and spring semesters at ASU he traveled to Baja, California, to windsurf in the Sea of Cortez. 

After retirement, Lohr and his wife, Nita, moved to Hawaii. He continued to be active, taking climate classes and attending seminars at the University of Hawaii School of Oceanography. Lohr loved to participate in water sports, including surfing, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. He traveled extensively, spending time in Greece, Holland, Spain, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba and several countries in Africa, writing a book about his adventures in the Peace Corps in the 1970s.

Lohr is survived by his wife, Nita; sister, Diane Patterson; and brother-in-law, Toby and his wife, Kristen.

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