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Honoring His Mentor -- Robert Silkman, M.D. (BS '42)

When Robert Silkman was an undergraduate biology major at Purdue from 1938-1942, he learned from Dr. Raymond Cable both in the classroom and in the lab. Cable made such a lasting impression on the future surgeon that Silkman established a fellowship in his honor. The Cable-Silkman Fellowship supports undergraduate research in parasitology, the field in which Cable was nationally known.

Silkman worked for Dr. Cable "for the magnificent sum of 50 cents an hour," he recalled. He accompanied Cable on field trips and mounted and made slides of the specimens that he used for teaching. Silkman found Cable to be a conscientious and knowledgeable teacher and a real mentor. "Throughout medical school and after," Silkman said, "I never found another person like him."

Raymond Millard Cable was born in Campton, Kentucky in 1909. He received a B.A. from Berea College in 1929 and a Ph.D. from New York University in 1933. He taught at his undergraduate alma mater for two years before joining the faculty of the Purdue Biology Department in 1935. He became a full professor in 1947.

By the time Cable retired in 1975, he was a nationally recognized leader in parasitology. He had identified a large number of parasites and their life cycles. In addition, he had founded the Annual Midwestern Conference of Parasitologists.

The Cable-Silkman fellowship provides students with an experience similar to what Silkman had in the Cable lab. The current parasitologist on the faculty, Dr. Dennis Minchella, said, "The award has allowed seven undergraduates to conduct full-time independent research in parasitology during the summer. This experience has been an important component of their academic training at Purdue and useful in their career paths." Cable-Silkman fellows have gone on to medical school, graduate school, and the biotechnology industry.

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