THE PATRICIA BERNINSONE SCHOLARSHIP
We are saddened by the passing of our beloved friend Patricia Berninsone. Please read below to see a message from her colleagues and a tribute from her son, Ariel. To honor Patricia's memory, we would like to create a scholarship that reflects her dedication to students.
We are gathering contributions to fund a scholarship for an undergraduate doing reseach in the Biology Department at UNR. To contribute, please follow the instructions below.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
Paper checks made out to UNR FOUNDATION can be sent to Donna Knotek, UNR/College of Science, MS 0424, Reno, NV 89557, with a note in the check’s memorandum line: Berninsone Fund.
You can also donate on-line by following the steps below:
First go to https://www.unr.edu/giving .
Click on GIVE TO THE CAMPAIGN (all donations count as part of UNR’s campaign).
Scroll down and click on College of Science.
Click on College of Science Memorial Gifts
Enter donation amount and click on Add To Cart
Use pull down menu to designate In Memory Of
In the box Honor/Memorial Name enter Patricia Berninsone
Then continue the prompts to enter your contact and payment information
From her colleagues
Patricia was a fantastic colleague. She studied the molecular mechanisms of glycosylation and glycoprotein processing in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Her high quality research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her many papers included two in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. Patricia’s devotion to students (both undergraduate and graduate) was one of the reasons that she received the College of Science’s Outstanding Service Award in 2018. Patricia was a kind and joyful person, an indefatigable worker, a committed teacher, an enthusiastic supporter of undergraduate research, and a dedicated and effective graduate program director. She was especially interested in supporting undergraduates who pursued research in the department. To honor her memory, her colleagues ask you to consider joining them in establishing the Patricia Berninsone scholarship for undergraduates in the Biology Department.
Story by Ariel Castro, Patricia's son:
Last week the world got a little darker. My mom, Patricia Berninsone, passed away from lung cancer. She was surrounded by family and not in any pain. I held her hand as she passed. She was 59 years old. I am going to tell her story.
My mom was born in 1959 in Zárate, Argentina. She was school valedictorian for her entire childhood. In 1976, when she was just 17 years old, her father Juan Jose Berninsone was taken from the house by a hit squad from Argentina's fascist government, was taken to a detention facility, tortured, and his body was dumped in a field. My mom was never able to talk to me about this. It hurt too much. She buried herself into school and work to try to numb the pain. It worked. She became very successful.
My mom decided to get the hell out of Argentina for obvious reasons, so she finished her PhD and applied for jobs all over the United States. The year was 1990. She got a job offer in Massachusetts.
She left behind the country she grew up in and everyone she ever knew to move to the United States. We showed up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts with one suitcase full of clothes and $300 in cash. We lived in a one-room basement apartment and slept on a bare mattress on the floor. We used cardboard boxes as furniture. During a heavy rain, our apartment flooded and ruined all our belongings. We slept together on my mom's coworker's couch while the flood water was cleaned out of our apartment. We had to start from scratch a second time.
My mom pursued the American Dream with vigor. She worked nights and weekends every single week for the last 25 years. We bounced around apartments in Worcester and Shrewsbury, and she lived frugally while saving for a down payment on her first house. When she finally got a job at Boston University, she commuted 2 hours each way for over 8 years to build her career there. She believed in the American way of life; a place where she could be free to pursue her passion for research unimpeded and slowly build her empire.
Her career really exploded when she got a job at the University of Nevada, Reno. She got a tenure track position and given her own large laboratory. Back in 2008, I had dropped out of college for the 3rd time and was really depressed. I knew my life was going nowhere. She invited me to visit her in Reno and clear my head. We road tripped through Monterey, Big Sur, King's Canyon, Sequoia National Park. I fell in love with the rugged natural beauty of the American west coast. History repeated itself: I quit my job and left behind everyone I knew to move to a new place to build my life.
My mom sacrificed a lot to build her empire and support me and my family. My life has been wonderful thanks to her. She got to see me graduate from college, start several businesses, get married, and have a child. Mom was so proud of me. She loved her grandson Will and called him "Mr. Chubbo". She only got to spend 6 short months with him, and she fought her cancer until the very last minute to spend more time with us. Not even once did she ever give up or concede her independence to her illness. Just days ago, she was eating Christmas dinner with us at the table, fighting the fatigue and pain, smiling and laughing, enjoying the moment and being grateful for the time we shared.
She taught Genetics at UNR, a fundamental class that allowed tens of thousands of students to go to medical school. She ran a laboratory where she helped students do independent research, get their names on publications, and get into graduate programs. She also was the director of a graduate program and I understand was on the short list for promotion to university leadership.
One of the most constant memories I have is her sitting at the dining room table in front of her laptop and writing grant submissions. She wrote dozens of peer-reviewed research papers about her "worms", the nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans (Google it, they're cool). She would sit at the table late into the night in her pajamas, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while she burned the midnight oil. I don't remember any week where she worked less than 60 hours.
The most important lesson she taught me was one of radical independence. She did not care what anyone thought of her. She never sought approval for her actions, validation for her successes, or pity for her failures. She taught me that each person has within them the strength to build the life they want and the ability to choose their destiny. She taught me that dreams take decades to build. She proved with her actions that the American Dream is still very much alive for those brave enough to go out and build it.