Sydney Govons Kustu was born in 1943 in Baltimore, Md. She earned a B.A. at Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from UC Davis, and did post-doctoral work at UC Berkeley until 1973, when she was appointed to the UC Davis Bacteriology faculty. She remained at UC Davis until 1986, when she joined what was then Berkeley’s Microbiology and Immunology faculty, with a dual appointment in Plant Pathology. She retired in 2010.
In addition to being a National Academy of Science member, Kustu garnered a large number of other awards during her career at Berkeley. She was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Microbiology. She also held a number of national and international professorships, including a prestigious Gauss Professorship at Universität Göttingen. For more than a decade, her work was supported by National Institutes of Health MERIT Awards.
Kustu is best known for her seminal contributions on the responses of intestinal bacteria to nutrient limitations, particularly nitrogen.