Bernard (Bernie) Chasan, emeritus professor of physics, passed away in Boston on July 24th. Born in 1934 in Brooklyn, NY, he graduated from Columbia College and earned his PhD in physics from Cornell University.
Chasan joined Boston University’s physics department in 1962 and immediately became an integral member of the faculty. He was described by colleague and Professor Emeritus George Zimmerman as “one of the go to members who could be relied on to help whenever there was a situation that required it.” Professor Karl Ludwig shared similar sentiments, acknowledging Chasan’s mentor role and efforts to ensure others had the support they needed. “Bernie was a very thoughtful and caring mentor when I arrived at BU in 1988. [He] always looked out for others, particularly young members of the department,” said Ludwig. Chasan was also immensely respected and liked by his students, “known among [them] as a particularly devoted and spirited teacher,” according to (name). In addition to his academic role at BU, Chasan also served as the chair of the Department of Physics from 1983-85.
During his time at BU, Chasan studied nuclear physics and biophysics and became an expert Atomic Force Microscope scientist. The difficulty in successfully using an AFM was a skill that Chasan mastered. “It is really more of an art than a science,” said biophysicist Rama Bansil, who collaborated with Chasan on several projects. “Bernie’s just got the right touch.” Chasan collaborated with colleagues across BU and beyond, including working with Massachusetts General Hospital urologist Horacio Cantiello studying the chemical transition between cell membranes across protein channels.
In addition to his research, Chasan was devoted to his students and educational outreach efforts. He developed an undergraduate biophysics course in which he used physics as a way to explain biological processes, such as protein folding and membrane structures. He first taught this course as a summer course for minority students, and several outstanding undergraduate minority students majoring in physics, biology, biochemistry and engineering attended. This course gave students a firsthand look into biophysics and allowed them access to Rama Bansil’s lab.
Chasan’s connections to colleagues extended beyond just the lab and the classroom. He is remembered by several colleagues for his friendship, his love of music and great sense of humor. “He loved puns and would insert them into the conversation given the slightest opportunity,” said Professor William Klein. “Being with Bernie was always fun and interesting and he could talk intelligently about almost any subject…Bernie would always have something of interest to contribute, and it was clear that his opinions were based on a deep, rather than superficial, knowledge. That knowledge came from his inquisitive mind and his wide range of interests, “ Klein went on to say.
Bernie Chasan contributed immensely as a friend, teacher, researcher and mentor during his time at Boston University, and he will not soon be forgotten.