Stella Y. Botelho, 96, of Blue Bell, who had a distinguished career as a researcher and teacher in the field of physiology, died Wednesday, March 11, of renal failure at her home in Normandy Farms Estates.

Reared in Wayne, Dr. Botelho graduated from Radnor High School in 1936. She was a Girl Scout and a member of the National Honor Society, and participated in glee club, the debate team, school plays, and the school newspaper. She also excelled in athletics, lettering in tennis, swimming, basketball, and hockey.

Dr. Botelho earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and a medical degree from Women's Medical College, now Drexel University School of Medicine, in 1949.

While in medical school, Dr. Botelho contracted tuberculosis and spent nearly a year recovering at the Eagleville Sanatorium, according to an inventory of her personal papers at Drexel.

She joined the faculty of Penn's School of Medicine as an instructor in 1949, was named a professor in 1969, and retired in 1981 with the title of emeritus professor of physiology.

At Penn, Dr. Botelho taught courses in applied and medical physiology and maintained an active research lab, studying respiratory physiology, neuromuscular physiology, the spinal cord, and secretion of exocrine glands.

"She did a lot of work with tear ducts," said Mary Murphy, a longtime friend.

Dr. Botelho was the principal investigator on numerous scientific grants and mentored dozens of pre- and postdoctoral students. Her research was funded by the National Council to Combat Blindness and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Dr. Botelho was the author or coauthor of 80 papers and abstracts in scientific journals. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, she was a visiting professor or lecturer at universities in England, India, Panama, and Japan.

She sat on scientific review panels for the National Science Foundation, National Research Council, and National Institutes of Health. She was awarded membership in the medical honor society Alpha Omega Alpha and the scientific honor society Sigma Xi.

In 1968, Dr. Botelho received the Alumnae Award of Merit from Penn and the Alumnae Achievement and Commonwealth Board Award from the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

She was a member of the American Academy of Neurology, Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, and College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Dr. Botelho was born in Tokyo to Francis Martin Botelho and Emily Yates Evans. She and her brother, Eugene, moved to the United States with their mother in 1920; their father followed in 1921. The family settled in Pennsylvania, to be near the Evans family. Neither she nor her brother ever married. He died in 2009.

Dr. Botelho traveled for pleasure to Western and Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, and Africa. She was active in nature-related and zoological causes and enjoyed photography, cooking, and entertaining.

She signed on as a docent at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1981 and continued until her death.

Murphy said Dr. Botelho was a good, giving friend, though very private.

There were no survivors. Services and interment were private.

Donations may be made to the Philadelphia Zoo at