Remembering: Neeru Sharma, PhD

by John Keenan, UNMC strategic communications | February 18, 2021

Image with caption: Neeru Sharma, PhD

Neeru Sharma, PhD

Neeru Sharma, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, was known by her friends and colleagues at the university for two things: her love of science and her love of teaching.

Dr. Sharma, who died last month after a battle with cancer, was compassionate and empathetic to everyone who came in contact with her, said Kaushik Patel, the A. Ross McIntyre Professor and Dr. Sharma's supervisor for than past 12 years.

"Neeru was a person who was full of life and enthusiasm with a genuine smile, always," Dr. Patel said. "She made everybody who came to our laboratory welcome."

A trained biochemist who became an exceptional physiologist while working at UNMC, Dr. Sharma taught physiology at UNMC and Creighton University in addition to her research work.

"She was always so very helpful, and she was passionate about her work and her students. She went to great lengths to teach and mentor students and post-docs in the lab," Dr. Patel said.

Colleague Matthew Zimmerman, PhD, also spoke of Dr. Sharma's commitment to teaching.

"She lectured in our Redox Biology in Human Disease course," he said. "Every year, she did an amazing job of incorporating new, hot-topic cardiovascular research with historical data as she taught students about nitric oxide signaling in cardiovascular disease. The students always enjoyed her lectures."

He also spoke about her perseverance in the face of challenges.

"If a grant received a less-than-favorable review, Dr. Sharma was always eager to get the reviewers' comments so she could get to work at improving the grant," he said. "She worked so hard in the laboratory to uncover novel molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of heart failure. She did science the right way; she followed the data. I will miss her, our department will miss her, and UNMC will miss her."

Irving Zucker, PhD, Theodore F. Hubbard Professor of Cardiovascular Research, called Dr. Sharma one of the most collegial and pleasant people he's worked with.

"Our scientific interests overlapped, and we often crossed paths and discussed experimental details and career issues," Dr. Zucker said. "Her biochemical expertise was of enormous benefit to several labs in the physiology department, including my own. Over the years she made major contributions to the Patel lab and to the field of neural control of cardiovascular function. She loved the science and worked hard. She was a genuine and caring person."

That caring attitude extended beyond the workplace, said colleague Erika Boesen, PhD.

"Neeru was such a kind, warm, giving and supportive person. Her enthusiasm for organizing and participating in K-12 outreach activities was one of the many places where these qualities and her love for science really shone through," Dr. Boesen said. "Neeru was so accessible and showed how accessible science and scientists can be. I'm sure that part of her legacy will be to have given some budding young scientists the confidence that this is something they can aspire to be, too.

"On a personal note, Neeru was so welcoming when I joined UNMC as an assistant professor," she said. "Being at similar career stages in what was then such a 'top-heavy' department, it was good to have someone else to mutually cheer on and commiserate with while going through that battle of landing those early independent grants."

Readers are invited to share their memories of Dr. Sharma in the comments section below.


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Seema Singh
February 19, 2021 at 7:17 PM

What a lovely person and a friend who will be deeply missed.

Traci Clemons
February 18, 2021 at 7:53 AM

My deepest condolences to Dr. Sharma's family, friends and co-workers. She was a wonderful person to work with and she will be missed greatly.

Sharon Morais
February 17, 2021 at 7:49 PM

Dr. Sharma was a bright and smart person. Besides all her competence and enthusiasm in science, she was a kind soul. Always smiling and approachable. I was pleased to participate and help her organizing outreach activities at middle schools in Omaha. It was so fun being with her and explain science to kids. We were always in the same group. I’ll miss those moments, our talks and others get together. It’s just hard to walk at the hallway and not see her around. She also did a great job educating her kids; she was such a lovely mom. She will be very missed. Rest In Peace! Sharon Del Bem Velloso de Morais, PhD, Researcher, UNMC, Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology.

Cassie Hays
February 17, 2021 at 7:27 PM

She did make me feel welcome in Dr. Patel’s lab! I learned a lot from her, science and otherwise-like that the freckle on my palm meant I was lucky and would have a good marriage! She had a genuine interest in my well being and always asked about my daughter, and always remembered her name! She will be missed.