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  • Writer's pictureKristina Lang

Professor Sir Tom Blundell – Symposium/Profesor Sir Tom Blundell – Simpozijum


Professor Sir Tom Blundell giving a speech at St John's College Cambridge

A few days ago, I was a participant in a symposium organized in honour of my first mentor in England, Professor Sir Tom Blundell. The organizers of the symposium are Tom's former students and members of his group, now also eminent scientists and professors at the University of Cambridge. I was lucky enough to join Tom Blundell's group as a visiting scientist back in 1999, which now seems such a long time ago. At that time, my colleagues were either young post-doctoral scientists full of scientific enthusiasm or talented, promising PhD students.

Professor Marko Hyvonen and me

The main organizer of the symposium is a Finish man, Marko, whom I met twenty-something years ago. Marko was a self-confident post-doctoral scientist whom I remember mainly because he lectured our boss Tom at a group meeting. Namely, Tom liked to employ scientists from all over the world, and it sometimes happened that there were too many people in the group. Marko didn't hesitate to say this publicly, and Tom did not resent this constructive criticism, proven by the fact that Marko is one of his two successors, a professor at the Department of Biochemistry in Cambridge.

Apart from Marko, my friend from those old days, Frank, with whom I lost contact over the years, also attended the symposium, so my recent meeting with him brought me joy. Frank, at the time I knew him, was a talented PhD student who stood out for his enthusiasm and scientific ethics twenty and more years ago. Frank believed that science must be transparent, he did not like commercial science in companies, and his scientific achievements and positions have shown that he has remained consistent with himself. He is a professor at Oxford University and one of the leading scientists at the synchrotron Diamond in Oxford. For Frank, I have memories of a wonderful friendship. From twenty years ago, when my English was still quite bad, Frank always found a way to communicate with me and to explain things that I did not understand, both in science and in life in general.

My colleagues from Astex Pharmaceuticals, the biotech company started by Tom Blundell and the late Professor Chris Abell together with the current CEO Harren Jhoti, were also present at Tom's symposium. Although many years have passed since then, I was happy to see Mark, Tom, and Harren. My friend Joe Patel, who also worked with me at Astex, now lives in Boston, and it was great to catch up.

Two other dear friends, Luca and Dima, are working in the Biochemistry Department at Cambridge University. Luca is an Italian with whom I have remained in contact for many years both privately and professionally, and this business cooperation has resulted in several highly ranked scientific publications. I haven't seen my Russian friend Dima for years. And when we met, he asked me if I had stopped smoking. Namely, we are both ex-smokers, and luckily both of us got rid of those bad habits over the years, Dima much before me. At the symposium, I also met my dear friend Bojana, who came to Cambridge from Bosnia many years ago, which we always bonded over. I got to sit next to my Mexican friend Viktor for the dinner and he reminded me of our warm friendship which has lasted for decades.

Tom is eighty years old today and is still an active scientist who leads his group. Unfortunately, the Department of Biochemistry has decided that Tom's time at the Department is up. Tom does not give up and moves his group to a new location. I have endless admiration for Tom's scientific enthusiasm, and I am only sorry that he is not staying at his Department of Biochemistry where he spent the last 25 years of his scientific career. Age should by no means be a reason to prevent people like Tom, and there are not many of them, from continuing their scientific production and research unhindered.


Kristina

Sunday, December 18th, 2022



Top left: Dr Bojana Popovic (right); Top right: Dr Tsuyoshi Inoue (middle); Bottom right: Dr Victor Bolanos-Garcia


Profesor Sir Tom Blundell – Simpozijum


Pred nekoliko dana bila sam učesnik simpozijuma organiziranog u čast mog prvog mentora u Engleskoj Profesora Sir Toma Blundella. Organizatori simpozijuma su Tomovi bivši studenti i članovi grupe, sad već također eminentni znanstvenici i profesori Sveučilišta u Cambridgeu. Imala sam sreću da sam se grupi Toma Blundella pridružila kao gostujuća znanstvenica, sad mi se čini davne 1999. Tada su moji tadašnji kolege bili ili mladi posdoktoranti u naponu znanstvenog entuzijazma ili talentirani, obećavajući doktoranti. Glavni organizator Simpozijuma je Finac, Marko kojeg sam upoznala, pred dvadest i nešto godina. Marko je bio samouvjereni postoktorski znanstvenik kojeg pamtim uglavnom po tome što je našem šefu Tomu na sastanku grupe držao lekciju. Naime, Tom je volio zaposljavati znanstvenike iz čitavog svijeta, a znalo se desiti da je u grupi bilo više ljudi na premalom prostporu. Marko je to uočio i nije se ustručavao da to javno kaze i ja sam mu se zbog toga divila. Tom mu tu konstruktivnu kritiku očito nije zamjerio, a to dokazuje i činjenica da je upravo Marko jedan od njegova dva nasljednika, profesora na Odsjeku za Biokemiju u Sveučilišta u Cambridgeu.

Osim Marka na simpoziju je prisustvovao i moj prijatelj iz tih davnih dana Frank, sa kojim sam tokom godina izgubila kontakt pa mi je nedavni susret sa njim donio radost. Frank je u vrijeme kad sam ga poznavala bio talentirani doktorant koji se već i pred dvadeset i više godina isticao svojim entuzijazmom i znanstvenom etikom. Frank je smatrao da znanost mora biti transparentna, nije volio komercijalnu znanost u kompanijama, a da je ostao dosljedan sebi pokazuju i njegovi znanstveni dosezi i pozicije. On je profesor na Sveučilištu u Oxfordu i jedan od vodećih znanstvenika na sinhrotronu Diamond u Oxfordu. Za Franka me vežu sjećanja na jedno divno prijateljstvo. Iz vremena od prije dvadest godina dok je moj engleski jezik još bio prilično loš, Frank je uvijek našao način da samnom komunicira i da mi objasni stvari koje nisam razumjela kako u znanosti tako i u životu općenito.

Na Tomovom simpoziju našli su se i moji kolege iz kompanije “Astex Pharmaceuticals” koju su startali professor Sir Tom Blundell i pokojni profesor Chris Abell zajedno sa trenutnim CEO kompanije Harrenom Jhoti. Iako je od tada prošlo već puno godina bila sam sretna vidjeti Marka, Toma i Harrena. Moj prijatelj Joe Patel koji je radio samnom u Astexu sada živi u Bostonu i jako sam se obradovala sto smo se opet sreli.

Na biokemiji rade jos dvojca dragih prijatelja, Luca i Dima. Luca je Talijan sa kojim sam tokom godina ostala u kontaktu privatno i poslovno, a poslovna je suradnja rezultirala sa nekoliko vrlo, visoko-rangiranih znanstvenih publikacija. Mog ruskog prijatelja Dimu nisam vidjela godinama i kad smo se sreli pitao me dal sam prestala pušiti. Oboje smo naime bivši pušači i te smo se ružne navike srećom tokom godina oboje riješili, Dima znatno prije mene. Na simpzijumu sam srela i dragu prijateljicu Bojanu koja je u Cambridge došla iz Bosne pred puno godina i sa kojom uvijek nalazim mnoge poveznice. Uz svog meksičkog prijatelja Viktora sam sjedila ne večeri i tu sam se prisjetila našeg toplog prijateljstva koje traje decenijama.

Tom danas ima osamdeset godina i još je aktivni znanstvenik koji vodi svoju grupu. Nažalost Odsjek za Biokemiju je odlučio da je Tomovo vrijeme na Odsjeku isteklo. Tom se ne predaje i seli svoju grupu na jednu novu lokaciju. Beskrajno se divim Tomovom znanstvenom entuzijazmu i samo mi je žao što ne ostaje na svom Odsjeku za Biokemiju na kojem je proveo posljednjih 25 godina svoje znanstvene karijere. Godine nikako nebi smjele biti razlog da se ljudima kao što je Tom, a nema ih mnogo, onemogući da nesmetano nastave svoju znanstvenu produkciju i istraživanje.


Kristina


Nedelja, 18. prosinca 2022.

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