Barbara Stay, ESA Fellows (2001)

Dr. Barbara Stay, professor of biology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, was elected as Fellow in 2001. An expert insect surgeon, she is known for investigations on the biology of the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata and the regulation of juvenile hormone (JH) production.

Stay, born in Cleveland, OH on 31 August 1926, received a B.A. degree from Vassar College in 1947 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in biology from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Radcliffe College/Harvard University in 1948 and 1953 respectively. Her advisors were professors A. B. Dawson and C. M. Williams. A thesis on histochemistry of imaginal discs in blowflies led to a Fulbright Scholarship with Dr. D. F. Waterhouse in entomology at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia in 1953–54 to study histochemistry of blowfly midgut cells. Thereafter she joined Drs. L. M. Roth and E. R. Willis, entomologists at Pioneering Research Division of the Army Quartermaster Corps, Natick, MA. Following termination of the Entomology Unit in 1959, she was a Harvard Biology Research Fellow on a Lalor Fellowship. Subsequently she became visiting assistant professor of zoology, Pomona College, Claremont, CA, 1960–1961; assistant professor of biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1961–1967; associate professor of zoology (now biology), University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1967–1977, and full professor, 1977–2008.

Roth and Willis introduced Stay to D. punctata and the regulation of cockroach reproduction. In cockroaches with embryos developing in the brood sac, they found that eggs developed in the ovary following nerve cord severance, indicating involvement of the brain and corpora allata (CA). Dr. Berta Scharrer, Albert Einstein University, New York City, taught Stay how to allatectomize and ovaryectomize cockroaches, techniques Stay used in many studies. Following introduction of D. punctata to Dr. Stephen S. Tobe, University of Toronto, the in vitro radiochemical assay for JH production demonstrated that these CA produced large amounts of JH which was tightly correlated with the reproductive cycle. These investigations made possible the 1989 identification of the chemical structure of allatostatins, the brain neurosecretions that in the 1950s Scharrer had predicted inhibited JH production in cockroaches. Using D.punctata as a model for study of insect viviparity, Stay and collaborators found that embryos are nourished by drinking  protein-rich milk coded for by multiple genes and produced by brood sac cells. Electron microscope studies characterized many of Stay’s publications. The first was demonstration of protein uptake by pinocytosis into oocytes of the Cecropia moth.

In addition to training graduate and undergraduate students in research, Stay taught seminar courses on Insect Reproduction and Development, Histology, Histologic Technique and, Introductory Biology to large classes of non-majors.  She was known for running a hard working and welcoming research laboratory, for giving lectures easily understood by non-native English speakers and, her ice dancing agility. Awards included Sigma Xi, 1950, Fellow of American Association for Advancement of Science, 1989, Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Iowa, 1999, Achievement Award in Invertebrate Neuropeptides, 2008 and, some silver-plated ice-dance trophies.