Robert Bittman

1941 – 2014

Robert Bittman

A native of Queens, Robert Bittman was raised in Flushing, graduated from high school at the young age of 16, and stayed in town to graduate from Queens College as a chemistry major in 1962. He did graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley where he was mentored by another Queens native, Andrew Streitwieser. After earning his PhD in 1965, he received post-doctoral training at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen with Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen.

Bob returned to New York and his alma mater as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1966 and rose through the ranks to become Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1988. During his career, Bob was the mentor of 25 Ph.D. students and the supervisor of more than 35 postdoctoral researchers. Dr. Bittman taught a course in Membrane Lipid Biochemistry at the City University of New York for many years, hosting leading investigators from across the country as guest speakers.

Bob’s scholarship and capabilities as a writer were recognized early. His undergraduate professor, Harold Blatt, recruited Bittman to the Editorial Board of Organic Reactions shortly after Bob’s return to CUNY in 1968. Bob replaced Blatt as secretary in 1980 and remained as co-secretary of the Board until his passing. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1995.

Bob Bittman’s research program, which led to more than 320 papers in refereed journals and to many book chapters and patents, was funded by external support from 1967 to the present. Bob was highly sought after as a collaborator because of his excellent scientific methods and insight in the area of lipid research. More than this, he was a most constructive colleague who always maintained a high level of concern for his students.

Bittman received numerous awards. He was a MERIT awardee of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute from 1986 on and was continuously funded by NIH grants from 1973 until the beginning of 2014. Much of his effort was dedicated to providing novel reagents to lipid biochemists and chemists conducting federally funded research. Bob served on numerous NIH Study Sections, including the Biophysical Chemistry Study Section for two terms, the Panel on Minority Biomedical Research Support, the Panel on the National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group, and a Program Project Review Panel.

Bob was an avid tennis player and a fan of the performing arts. He would never miss the US Open Championship held in Flushing Meadows and had an exquisite understanding of the game and the players.

Bob is survived by his wife Marlene, two children, two stepchildren and two grandchildren. The Dr. Robert Bittman Scholarship fund has been established to provide support for qualified undergraduates conducting research in chemistry at Queens College, CUNY.