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Tunji Toogun Memorial Award

The UIUC community remembers Tunji Toogun, a dedicated Ph.D. student in CDB.

Tunji Toogun Memorial Awards

The Department of Cell and Developmental Biology is pleased to announce recipients of the Tunji Toogun Memorial Award. This award was created to recognize a CDB graduate students for their outstanding research achievements, in memory of a PhD student who tragically passed away in 2007.

Award Recipients

2015
Frank Echtenkamp (Brian Freeman Lab)
Nimish Khanna (Andrew Belmont Lab)
2016
Sumanprava Giri (Supriya Prasanth Lab)
2017
Keaton Schuster (Rachel Smith-Bolton Lab)
2018
Harini Iyer (Phillip Newmark Lab)
2019
Mahdieh Jadaliha (KV Prasanth Lab)
To donate towards the CDB Tunji Toogun Memorial Graduate Fellowship Fund please visit the CDB Giving page.

About Tunji

"Tunji Toogun was an excellent scientist, friend, and person. I could not have asked for a better first graduate student. He is dearly missed."

-- Brian Freeman, Ph.D

"Tunji was such an amazing individual and there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not briefly think of him and smile."

-- Diane (DeZwaan) McCabe, Ph.D.

"I knew Tunji when he was still an undergraduate, when I was his TA for Developmental Biology (then CSB 301). He constantly worked to improve himself, always asked excellent questions and often challenged me to be a smarter teacher. His energy and ethic were an inspiration to us all."

-- Adam D. Wolfe, MD, PhD

"I TA'd a class for incoming graduate students while I was a slightly more senior graduate student.  Tunji was a student in that class. My only impressions of him were that he was everything an instructor could want in a student.  He was friendly (always), engaged, bright, enthusiastic and worked hard. I had only positive experiences and memories of Tunji.  His loss was tragic on so many levels. If this Memorial Fund provides support of future students with even a part the promise, dedication and personable, enthusiastic amiability Tunji displayed so naturally, it will be a fitting tribute."

-- Scott Siechen, Ph.D.


Tunji thumb-up and smiling

Tunji Toogun, a Cell and Developmental Biology Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, died August 3, 2007 at the age of 26 after falling into Lake Shelbyville and drowning. Within his career, Tunji was best known for his hard work and boundless enthusiasm for research and learning.

Born in Nigeria on October 15, 1981, Toogun studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign receiving his B.S. in 2001 and a posthumous Ph.D. in 2007. Tunji first arrived to UIUC as an incoming freshman in 1997 at the age of sixteen to begin a long and fruitful academic career. He left an immediate impact on those around him with his strong Nigerian accent and his always friendly and persistent demeanor.

Friends and teachers of Tunji characterized him as a bright, kind, and enthusiastic individual who was also a great friend.

A year after Tunji’s death, a fund was established in his memory, with contributions from Tunji’s friends, classmates, and faculty. The Department of Cell and Developmental Biology has decided to use this fund to recognize and support outstanding graduate students in our program in the form of awards and fellowships. The Tunji Toogun Memorial Award will be offered annually to a CDB graduate student at any stage of the graduate program for his or her outstanding research accomplishments.

Tunji sitting & smiling Tunji in stadium with friend Tunji outside smiling Tunji filling autoclave Tunji explaining poster Tunji sitting with friend Tunji at picnic Tunji answering questions