Dafni Amirsakis, a staff scientist in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Biochemistry, passed away on May 24 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest during a spin class. She was 43.
Beloved by her family and friends for her kind, open spirit and unflaggingly cheerful disposition, Amirsakis was born in Boston on July 19, 1972 to Filitsa and Charles Amirsakis, immigrants from the Greek island of Samos. In the mid-1970s, her family moved to the Midwest, eventually settling in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. An excellent student in high school, she was active in her school’s music program, where she played bass guitar in the jazz band and French horn in the orchestra.
Amirsakis began her college career at Loyola University, 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.
In 1998 she came to UCLA as a graduate student in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, where she worked with 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 husband, during his work with the Stoddart group as a visiting assistant researcher. Her doctoral 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 and remained at UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow for two years in the department of pharmacology returning to chemistry and biochemistry as a staff scientist.
Amirsakis pursued a parallel career in music in the L.A. area. 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 L.A.’s roots/Americana scene centered around Culver City’s Cinema Bar, where she often performed. She released four albums 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, Amirsakis 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.
Amirsakis is survived by her husband, Peter; her mother, Filitsa; and her brother, George.
A funeral will be held on Wednesday, June 15 at 11 a.m. at St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church, 1324 S. Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles, followed by a burial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, her family suggests a gift to the Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Fellowship Award, which has been established in her honor to provide support to graduate students in the department of chemistry and biochemistry. A gift can be made online at the fund giving website. Please mark your gift as a tribute in memory of Dafni Amirsakis. To send a gift memorial by mail, please send a check payable to “The UCLA Foundation” to UCLA Scholarships, Attn: Dafni Amirsakis Memorial Gifts, 10920 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
This obituary was adapted from the original on the chemistry and biochemistry website.