Helen R. Whiteley Center

Helen Riaboff Whiteley


Helen R. Whiteley Helen R. Whiteley immigrated with her parents from Harbin, Manchuria, to the United States in 1923 following the revolution in Russia. She lived in Seattle, later moved to San Francisco, and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley.  Helen, as a student, and Arthur Whiteley, as teaching assistant, began their careers together in a course in cellular biology in the Department of Zoology.

Helen completed her bachelor's degree at Berkeley in Microbiology, Chemistry, and Zoology, worked in the laboratory at Children's Hospital, San Francisco, then was head of the Public Health Lab in Flagstaff, Arizona.

During a six month period when Arthur was a post-doctoral at the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston, Helen earned an M.A. degree in Microbiology and Dermatology at the same institution. Thereafter followed a year in Pasadena, California, where Arthur was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Albert Tyler at Cal Tech, and Helen did research in a microbiology laboratory in Pasadena.  In the summer of 1947, when Arthur started as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Washington, Helen enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Microbiology of the newly formed School of Medicine.  Her Ph.D. was completed in 1951 under Dr. Howard Douglas followed by postdoctoral research with Dr. Erling Ordal, both of the UW Department of Microbiology.  She studied further with Dr. C. B. Van Niel at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University.

Her career progressed through an NIH Career Development Award, an NIH Research Career Award, Professorship at UW in the Department of Microbiology, Chairman of the Division of Physiology of the American Society for Microbiology, Vice President and President of the American Society for Microbiology, and then 10 years of service as Chairman of the Publications Board of that important society. She served as Chairman of the US side of the US-USSR Joint Working Group in Microbiology for five years.

With Helen's attainment of the NIH Research Career Award, which required issuance of tenure from the University of Washington, the University changed its long standing policy prohibiting employment of husband and wife as faculty members - a removal of restrictions that has benefited many facets of this academic community.

Helen's research focused on several aspects of bacterial physiology, most recently on transcriptional control, structure of RNA polymerases, and determination of the molecular structure, the control, and the expression of the crystalline protein gene in Bacillus thuringiensis.

The Whiteley's careers were intimately involved in the remarkable growth of the Departments of Microbiology and Zoology, and of the Friday Harbor Laboratories where they frequently combined their efforts in study of molecular problems in sea urchin development, and to which they retreated for thinking, analysis, planning and writing.