Remembering Dr. Dafni Amirsakis

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Please help us to support the Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Fellowship Award, which provides fellowship support to graduate students in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

Give to Dafni Amirsakis Fund

We are sad to report that UCLA alumna and staff member Dafni Amirsakis – chemist, musician, and exercise enthusiast – passed away on May 24, 2016.

Beloved by her family and friends for her kind, open spirit and unflaggingly cheerful disposition, she passed away at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest during her favorite spin class. She was 43.

Dafni was born in Boston on July 19, 1972 to Filitsa and Charles Amirsakis, immigrants from the Greek island of Samos. Her family soon moved to the Midwest, eventually settling in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in the mid-70s. An excellent student, Dafni was also active in her high school’s music program, where she played bass guitar in the jazz band and French horn in the orchestra. She began her college career at Loyola University in Chicago before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she graduated in 1997 with a B.Sc. degree in chemistry and psychology. During her time in Madison, she first picked up the guitar and started writing songs to perform at the student union’s open mic nights.

Dafni at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena in 2013.

Having taken part in a summer research program at UCLA where she fell in love with the California sunshine, Dafni did not hesitate to return in 1998 when she was offered the opportunity to continue her studies as a graduate student at the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She was welcomed into the research group of Professor (Sir) Fraser Stoddart, with co-supervision from Professor Miguel Garcia-Garibay. In 2000, she met Dr. Peter Glink, who would become her future husband, during his stay at the Stoddart group as a visiting assistant researcher. During her graduate student years, Dafni’s research in supramolecular chemistry focused on approaches for the dimerization of stilbene derivatives in the solid state and in solution. She received her Ph.D. in 2002, with the completion of her dissertation titled, “Template- and Structure-Directed Approaches for the Preparation of Tetraarylcyclobutanes.” She then continued her time at UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow for two years at the UCLA Department of Pharmacology with Dr. N. Satyamurthy, before returning to UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry as a staff scientist – a position she held until her passing – in the Molecular Instrumentation Center, headed by Dr. Jane Strouse.

While in Los Angeles, Dafni pursued a parallel career in music. She became a proficient fingerstyle guitar player and wrote and performed songs both solo and with several iterations of her own band. Her music combined folk, jazz, country, and pop influences and she became a fixture in LA’s roots/Americana scene centered around Culver City’s Cinema Bar, where she performed often. Dafni released four albums during this period, and had been working on a fifth. Most recently, she focused her talents on playing bass in the Modern Skiffle Quartet (MSQ). Her most popular song, the original composition “Dimes,” became a signature of both her own shows and those of the MSQ.

A lifelong devotee to exercise and healthy living, Dafni was in the cross-country running team in college and enjoyed strength training, yoga, and spinning at the gym. She was especially interested in the science of fitness and wanted to find a way to use it to help others. She had recently completed her personal trainers certification.

Dafni is survived by her husband, Peter; her mother, Filitsa Amirsakis; and her brother, George Amirsakis. Dafni married Peter in 2003, and enjoyed visiting his native Australia, most recently in April of this year. She delighted in cooking for her friends and opening her home to guests, hosting many house concerts and holiday dinners, including a celebration last month for Greek Easter. Her family was overwhelmed by the number of people – scientists, musicians, friends, fans, and workout partners – who came to visit her in the hospital, and by the deluge of support that came from around the world.

Dafni’s funeral will be held on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. at:

St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church
1324 S. Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Followed by her burial at:
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
1712 S. Glendale Avenue, Glendale, CA 91205

Everyone is welcome to attend.

In lieu of flowers, to honor Dafni’s memory, her family suggests you consider a gift to the Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Fellowship Award, which provides fellowship support to graduate students in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  A gift can be made online at the fund giving website.

Please remember to mark your gift as a tribute in memory of Dafni Amirsakis. If you would like to send your memorial gift by mail, please post a check payable to “The UCLA Foundation” to the following address:

UCLA Scholarships
Attn: Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Gifts
10920 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 900
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Donations are tax-deductible. UCLA’s federal taxpayer ID number is 95-6006143.

The Dafni Amirsakis Fellowship Award was established to honor Dafni’s life, music, and achievements, and to continue her life’s work by providing the opportunity for future graduate students to follow in her footsteps. An award of $1,000 shall be given each year to a Chemistry graduate student who goes above and beyond all expectations in his/her research, teaching, and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and who has a great love of music. Other criteria include helping others and reaching out to the community while displaying the characteristics of kindness, generosity, determination, joyfulness, sweetness, and good humor – all traits that Dafni had in excess.

This remembrance of Dafni was written by her husband Dr. Peter Glink.