Kathryn Ferguson Fink, who became an award-winning biochemist despite being told as a child that the erudition of science was beyond the grasp of young farm girls, died Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center.
She was 72 and most recently had been assistant dean for student affairs at UCLA School of Medicine.
Dr. Fink died of cancer, said her daughter, Suzanne Coppenrath.
Dr. Fink, born in State Center, Iowa, a hamlet of 1,000, had been honored with dozens of awards, among them UCLA's 19th Woman of Science Award for being among the first on the faculty to become proficient in the use of radioactive "labels." Those trace biochemical pathways and combine paper chromatography and radioautography in which an object or tissue is recorded by means of its radioactivity.
With her husband Robert, whom she met while both were graduate students at the University of Rochester in New York, she contributed to discoveries in the fields of thyroid biochemistry, amino acid and purine metabolism.
She had arrived at graduate school after settling on a career in chemistry allied with medicine, which she had first envisioned when a high school valedictorian in State Center. She recalled in 1971 that she was to become the first of the State Center girls to pursue a career in the sciences. Or any career at all, for that matter.