It seemed like a simple request to Victor Yu and Janet Stout.

It was the first week of January 2006, and the two longtime colleagues and respected Legionnaires’ researchers went together to the office of Mona Melhem, who oversaw the Pittsburgh Veterans’ Affairs laboratories.

By then, it had been 26 years since Dr. Stout, a former Navy brat with a calming personality, had come to work as a graduate student with Dr. Yu, the son of Chinese immigrants known for his prickly personality and tenaciousness. In the interceding years, Dr. Stout had gotten her master’s degree, her doctorate and a great deal of recognition for making — in partnership with Dr. Yu — some of the most important discoveries in the detection and prevention of the often-deadly Legionella bacteria.

Because of all of that, Dr. Yu believed his friend and research colleague deserved a raise.