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Department of

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Sister Patricia Shaffer

Professor Emerita, Chemistry

Faculty member at San Diego College for Women and USD from 1959-1999

She was born in Los Angeles, CA, in 1928, the oldest of five children, and grew up there in L.A. in a middle class family.  Holidays were spent either at the beach or at Griffith Park.  At age 15 she began work in a cookie factory in Glendale, CA.  Then her family moved to a ranch near Sacramento where she learned to harvest fruit and to drive a truck.  She attended Catholic schools all of her life and in her junior year of college at San Francisco College for Women she decided to enter the convent (Society of the Sacred Heart).  She completed her noviceship in Albany, NY, made her first vows and returned to San Francisco to complete her college degree.  She taught primarily high school for 5 years at the Sacred Heart School in Menlo Park, CA.  In February, 1957, she went to Rome to prepare for her final vows made in July, and returned to Menlo Park, CA, where she studied at Stanford University.  In September, 1959, she joined the faculty at San Diego College for Women.  Except for a 3-year leave of absence to complete her doctoral degree and a few sabbaticals she has taught primarily in the Department of Chemistry until her retirement in 1999.


B.A.   Natural Sciences, San Francisco College for Women, 1952
M.S.   Chemistry, Stanford University, 1959
Ph.D. Chemistry, University of California, San Diego/San Diego  State University
Joint Doctoral Program, 1975

Scholarly and Creative Work

Her research has been primarily with fungi, Neurospora crassa and Aspergillus nidulans, studying various metabolic pathways and specific enzymes.  She published 13 papers (one more is in progress on the cloning  one of the two L-asparaginase genes in A. nidulans) and gave many presentations with over 40 undergraduates and some high school students (ACS SEED Program) who carried out research with her.  She received internal USD Funding with 4 Faculty Research Grants.   Her external funding consisted primarily of sabbaticals [NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England (1980-81), NSF Visiting Professorship for Women, U. of Georgia, Athens, GA, (1987-88)] and local research with NSF Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement (1989), NSF Research at Undergraduate Institutions (1990-1993), and Legler Benbough Foundation Student Stipends & Supplies (1994 & 1995) & Irvine Summer Science Program for a high school student (1994 & 1995).
Finally, she is co-editor of the SDE/GWIS 87th Year History written by USD under-graduate, Michelle D. Leibrand Wahlin, 2007, and published in 2009.