Obituary: Barbara G. Pickard, professor emerita in Arts & Sciences, 83

Barbara G. Pickard
Barbara G. Pickard (left) with a student at the McKelvey School of Engineering in February 2017. (Photo: Whitney Curtis/Washington University)

Barbara G. Pickard, professor emerita of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Dec. 6, 2019, in St. Louis from complications related to hip surgery. She was 83.

Pickard came to Washington University in 1966 and remained on the biology department faculty for more than five decades. Promoted to professor of biology in 1987, she was a pioneer and tireless advocate for the fields of mechanobiology, plant sciences and cellular electrophysiology.

She played a foundational role in ideas that helped shape the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB) and was a faculty fellow at CEMB since its inception.

Pickard began her career in plant science as a master’s research assistant at Stanford University, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. She earned her PhD at Harvard University in 1963 and completed postdoctoral fellowships at both Harvard and  MIT before joining Washington University.

Her research helped shape the fields of mechanosensing in plants, especially as related to electrical responses of plants to hormone, protein and external stimulation or stress.

She became professor emerita of biology in 2004 after a terminal cancer diagnosis. After beating that diagnosis, she joined the CEMB as affiliate faculty at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Pickard is survived by her husband, two children, a grandson and two brothers. The Pickard family asks that in lieu of flowers or donations, those wishing to honor Pickard’s memory do so by “remembering her profound enthusiasm for life and for her work, and by trying to emulate the same.”

CEMB plans to hold a memorial symposium in the coming months. To read more about her life and work, visit the CEMB website.

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