Biology professor dies after emergency surgery

Ashley Soley-Cerro

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>>>Correction: Coyle-Thompson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree at CSUN and PhD at UCLA.

Courtesy of Biology Department

CSUN biology professor Cathy Coyle-Thompson died Tuesday morning after an emergency surgery Monday night to fix a tear in her stomach, according to her sister in an e-mail sent to the biology department. She was 52.

Randy Cohen, CSUN biology professor, emailed faculty Tuesday expressing the department’s sympathy and appreciation for her work.

“Cathy was a true CSUN Matador in every sense, having earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degree here,” Cohen said in the email.

Coyle-Thompson graduated CSUN with a dual degree in chemistry and biology in 1982 and continued to earn her master’s in biology at UCLA.

She began teaching as a lecturer at CSUN in 1995, teaching a variety of classes and recently worked in the research labs of CSUN professors Peter Bellinger, Joyce Maxwell and Steve Oppenheimer.

Coyle-Thompson and Oppenheimer did research together for decades, focusing on sea urchin cellular interaction and its embryo system, which has been designated as a National Institute of Health (NIH) model system because it’s a simple system that helps scientists understand humans’ more complicated system.

Oppenheimer shared one of his fondest memories of Coyle-Thompson.

“One day long ago, I said to her, wouldn’t it be great if we could micro dissect the sea urchin embryo?” Which is so small one could fit 10 embryo’s on the head of a pin.

She responded, I could do that, and Oppenheimer said “I’ll be a monkeys uncle if you do it.”

The next day there was a banana on Oppenheimer’s desk.

“This is typical of Cathy, she is really a whiz at very difficult technical projects,” he said.

Oppenheim said Coyle-Thompson was tremendously talented at working one on one with students and was instrumental in the careers of many students.

“She was a great mentor for literally hundreds of students and an asset to her to her colleagues,” he said.

Coyle-Thompson was scheduled to teach B575 Biological Imaging and Lab this semester. The class will be canceled because she is currently the only CSUN faculty member qualified to teach the course. The class will most likely be reinstated for the Fall 2012 semester, Cohen said.