Marianne Wessling-Resnick

The Department of Molecular Metabolism mourns the loss of Marianne Wessling-Resnick, 61, who died of complications of breast cancer on November 12, 2019. Professor Wessling-Resnick joined the department in 2003 and was an important presence in the school, recognized for her science, for her pioneering career, and for her dedication to mentoring. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and students.

Wessling-Resnick received a BS in chemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1980, an MS in biophysics and theoretical biology from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1988. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School before joining the Harvard Chan School (formerly Harvard School of Public Health) in 1990 as Assistant Professor of Nutrition. She became the Department of Nutrition’s first tenured woman faculty member in 2000, and three years later she became a founding tenured faculty member in the newly formed Department of Genetics and Complex Disorders (now the Department of Molecular Metabolism). She was a member of the PhD Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health (BPH), directing it from 2010 to 2014. Previously, Wessling-Resnick served as director of the Division of Biological Sciences and as a member of the Program in Quantitative Genomics.

Professor Wessling-Resnick’s research covered wide territory including biochemical, molecular, and cellular mechanisms of iron transport and homeostasis, manganese transport and neurotoxicity, and endocytic vesicle trafficking. Recently, she was known in the nutritional biochemistry community for her many contributions to our understanding of how iron status and genetic factors regulate iron and manganese uptake via intestinal, pulmonary, and olfactory pathways. Her lab conducted groundbreaking studies on the role of iron in genetic disorders and neurotoxicity, including a possible role in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease.

During her academic career, professor Wessling-Resnick trained over 30 students and post-doctoral fellows.  She was highly regarded as a supportive and caring mentor to the next generation of scientists, and to the faculty, staff, and students with whom she worked. She left a lasting mark on the BPH program, and particularly on the students who were in the program when she directed it. In 2013, she was awarded the Harvard Chan’s Junior Faculty Mentoring Award, and the Committee for the Advancement of Women Faculty (CAWF) Mentoring Award in 2019. In presenting her with this award, CAWF wrote, “Dr. Wessling-Resnick has had a major positive impact on the careers of many faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and students. She is a generous coach to those under her mentorship who have difficult decisions to make, and she is especially appreciated for the understanding and respect she shows for colleagues and mentees balancing their roles as caregivers and professionals.”

The Department of Molecular Metabolism has named the Professor Marianne Wessling-Resnick Conference Room in her honor.