10/15/12: UNC Neuroscience Community Mourns the Loss of Larysa Pevny, PhD, 1965-2012

Larysa Pevny, PhD, Associate Professor of Genetics, member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, and Director of the UNC Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, passed away on Sept. 30, 2012. She was a pioneer in the fields of neuroscience and stem cell biology and is remembered as a brilliant, generous and supportive colleague.

Dr. Pevny began her career at Columbia University, where she earned her B.A. in Biochemistry in 1987, followed by a Ph.D. in Genetics in 1992.  She completed her Postdoctoral training in Developmental Genetics in Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge’s Lab at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London, U.K. In 1999, Dr. Pevny was appointed as a Lecturer in Developmental Genetics at the University of Sheffield, U.K. In 2001, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recruited her as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics and the UNC Neuroscience Center.

Dr. Pevny’s work as a graduate student at Columbia delineated the genetic underpinnings of haemopoiesis. Her later work is singularly important for the identification of a gene family (the SoxB1 genes) that is essential for the identity and functions of neuronal stem cells. The mouse genetic tools she developed for the study of Sox2 are widely used by laboratories all over the world to study stem cell biology in all different organ systems. Many of the recent landmark publications on stem cells relied on these tools.  Her genetic dissection of Sox2 functions in the nervous system development and in particular on neural stem cells and the development of the eye stood out for their experimental rigor and elegance. Dr. Pevny’s studies provided biomedical researchers with an essential framework for studying stem cells as building blocks of the nervous system and for their use as therapeutic tools in regenerative medicine.

Larysa was adored as a colleague in every institution she worked at: Columbia, Mill Hill, Sheffield, and UNC. Larysa was passionate about promoting stem cell initiatives at UNC.  She mentored seven PhD students and several postdoctoral fellows and clinicians.  She was very well known for her enthusiastic support and hands-on training of her students. Absolutely determined to give back what she valued: education, commitment, sheer hard work, she lectured in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Mouse Embryology course for several years and then as Assistant Director and Director from 2007 to 2011, where she trained the next generation of developmental geneticists. She served on several NIH panels that shaped the future of stem cell science. She was a generous and supportive colleague for everyone at UNC. Throughout, unassuming.  Throughout, driven.  Throughout, utterly professional.  Throughout, giving more than she ever took.

Dr. Pevny will be greatly missed by her colleagues at UNC. She is survived by her mother Chrystyna Pevny, her sister Olenka Pevny and her brother Taras Pevny and his wife Maria. A memorial service will be held on  Sat., Oct. 6 at the Saint George Ukrainian Catholic Church on East 7th Street, New York, at 9:30 a.m. A memorial at UNC will follow at a later date.