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Paul Paolini was the past chair of SDSU Biology, a bioinformatics specialist and Founding Director of the SDSU Heart Institute


Dr. Paul Paolini, past chair of SDSU Biology


Dr. Paul Paolini, past chair of SDSU Biology, has died.

Paolini was a bioinformatics specialist who, in addition to teaching, served as Founding Director of the SDSU Heart Institute and Director of the Rees-Stealy Research Laboratories. His accomplishments were many as was his unwavering support, advocacy and mentorship of students, particularly those from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

Earning his B.S. and M.S. in physics and biophysics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of California, Davis, Paolini came to San Diego State University in 1970 as an Assistant Professor. 

Quickly moving through the ranks, he was promoted to Professor in 1976. In 1983, he became the Chair of Biology and served in that role until 1991. He also served as the Associate Dean in the College of Sciences from 1993-2001. 

In this role, he initiated and directed the College’s Summer Science Bridge (SSB) program. The program functioned as a pathway for preparing high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to enter the University, fostering over 300 students at its peak. 

“We are very sad to share that Paul has passed,” said Jeff Roberts, College of Sciences dean. “He has contributed greatly to the College and the University as well as to the field of biology as a whole.”

Retirement and appointment as an Emeritus professor in 2003 did not slow down Paolini’s continued and significant contributions to the College of Sciences. With Dr. Jose Castillo, he served as the Associate Director of the Computational Sciences Research Center from 2004 to 2018. He was also a Professor and Graduate Advisor for that program, authoring numerous grants to support its graduate students in the Computational Science Doctoral Program.

In 1983, he founded the San Diego State University Heart Institute, serving as its director as well as the scientific director of the Rees-Stealy Research Foundation Laboratory and director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Biology Education Initiative from 1991 to 1998. In addition, he served for a time as the President of the San Diego Chapter of the American Heart Association.

“Paul facilitated the careers of many faculty and students on campus and generously offered his support and counsel to so many,” said Cathie J. Atkins, Associate Dean and Professor of Psychology Emerita.

His extensive involvement in funded student support initiatives was legendary. Some examples include service as the Director of Bridges to the Baccalaureate program at the program’s inception from 1993 and later, as Co-Director with Dr. Jose Castillo. He also directed an Eisenhower K-12 Science Teachers Training Program from 1999 to 2003.

He served as Co-PI for the University’s NIH MARC and MBRS programs for many years and helped direct the NSF Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering for Minority Scholars (CMEMS) program, the NSF Research Careers for Minority Scholars (RCMS) in the Physical Sciences, the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates in Molecular Biology, and the NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). 

Paolini was 81. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Claudia who died in 1991 and his son Michael, who died in 1997. He is survived by his wife, Maureen Paolini, three sons, Chris, Sam and Paolo, and grandchildren James and Phoenix. He will truly be missed by his family and all who knew him.

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