In Memoriam: Jill Adler-Moore


Beloved Professor Emerita Jill Adler-Moore, who dedicated 47 years to teaching and mentoring students at Cal Poly Pomona, died on June 14 after a recurrence of pancreatic cancer. 

She is survived by husband Larry J. Moore; son and daughter-in-law Matthew M. Moore and Tina L. Moore; daughter and son-in-law Laura J. Moore-McClelland and Sean G. McClelland; grandchildren Colin A. and James E. Moore; and nephews and nieces-in-law Pattabi and Viona Seshadri, and Raghu and Jaleen Seshadri. 

Adler-Moore earned her doctorate in medical microbiology from Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City. She joined the Department of Biological Sciences faculty at Cal Poly Pomona in 1974. She chose to work at CPP because she found the students to be highly motivated, and the smaller class sizes would allow her to get to know her students.  

Professor Nancy Buckley who was a colleague, collaborator, and friend recalls, “I remember when I was interviewing for my job, the committee wanted me to meet her. She was warm and welcoming, and generous with her time. She was a perfect example of a teacher-scholar, the idea that research and teaching could coexist.” 

“She was a mentor to countless students, and she was my mentor. She was there when I doubted myself and offered moral support and encouragement. She pushed me to go further,” Buckley added.

Adler-Moore was a mycologist, and in 1983, during her sabbatical, she consulted with a biotech firm on an antifungal drug. The work she began there, and finished in her lab at CPP, resulted in the development of the drug AmBisome®, a safe antifungal drug that has saved countless lives worldwide. Her innovative approach made the treatment less harmful to patients by using liposomes to deliver the drug amphotericin B.

Over the years she provided invaluable experience to students who conducted research in her laboratory. Adler-Moore’s contribution to the College of Science and those whose lives she touched will not be forgotten.

Since 2009, Adler-Moore led the NIH-funded Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (RISE) program at CPP. The RISE program provided research experiences and faculty and peer mentoring to prepare underrepresented minority (URM) science students to pursue Ph.D.’s in biomedical research.

That program and the opportunities it provided to students were important to Adler-Moore. “When we got together, a lot of our conversations centered on our RISE students and the progress they were making,” Buckley said.

RISE administrator Airan Jansen (’08, MS biology) said, “Adler-Moore loved the RISE program above all others. She did more than mentor students, she was their friend.”

“I know I wouldn’t be a Ph.D. student at USC right now if it weren’t for her and the RISE program. She helped a lot of people discover their passion for science,” said Jennifer Rubio (’17, MS biology).

Unlocking people’s potential and helping them believe in themselves was her unique gift. Her husband Larry Moore (‘76, microbiology) who was a first-generation college student, shared that it was his wife who convinced him he could pursue an advanced degree. He went on to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

When she wasn’t working, she enjoyed dancing. She also liked to camp, backpack, snowboard, and ski.

In 1990, Adler-Moore was instrumental in getting the biotechnology major added to Cal Poly Pomona. It was the first biotechnology major offered in the CSU system.

“There had been a microbiology major and a medical technology emphasis, but that didn’t reflect the kinds of jobs that students were finding after graduation,” Jon Olson recalls (’79, BS microbiology; ‘83, MS biology). Olson managed Adler-Moore’s two labs and worked with her for 43 years.

“I took her immunology class and after taking the midterm she asked me to see her after class. I thought I’d failed. Instead, she asked me to join her lab,” Olson said. “Working with her was a challenge that uplifted me. Her dynamic personality drew people to her. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic she had nine graduate students conducting research.”

One of her former grad students is Janam Dave (’18, BS biotechnology, ’20, MS biology) who first began working in Adler-Moore’s lab in 2016. The research he conducted with her focused on whether AmBisome® could be delivered through an aerosol formulation to treat Aspergillosis, a fungal infection that usually affects the lungs. 

Dave plans to continue that research and will start a Ph.D. program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas in the fall.

Dave will pursue biomedical research and also teach. He’s especially interested in the commercialization of what’s developed in the lab. “I see it as a way to fund other research that might get overlooked,” he said.

“Dr. Adler-Moore helped me grow and mature. She had high standards. I got my work ethic from her,” Dave said. “She was an ethical and compassionate researcher. From her, I learned how exciting helping others could be. That’s the importance of biomedical research. Whatever good things I might be able to do, Dr. Adler-Moore had a hand in it.”

Rubio said she wants to become a professor and help others who are first-generation college students like herself or URM students. “I learned how to be a mentor from her. Being a good mentor to others is how we pay it forward. That’s how she lives on through her students.”

The family held a private memorial on June 21 but is planning a memorial event for the CPP community and her colleagues, at Gilead Sciences, Inc. in LaVerne tentatively scheduled for Saturday, August 28, 2021. Gilead is the firm that manufactures AmBisome®. (Please contact Matthew Moore at 3m.moore@gmail.com for further details.) The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, or gifts, a donation be made to the Biological Sciences Scholarship Fund at CPP.