Eulogies 3 Scientists 3 (in progress)
David played an enormous, important, and very positive role in the MDPhD program. He was a truly remarkable man and a phenomenal mentor to students. We have been in discussions about how to best celebrate David and his abundant contributions to the program. We are hoping that future MDPhD students will know how remarkable he was, as students past and present do.
Andrea Cox, MD-PhD
Co-Director, MD-PhD Program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Associate Professor of Medicine and Oncology
(video on memorial service 2)
Remembering David Yue
My friend and colleague, David Yue, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins, suddenly passed away in his laboratory on Tuesday December 23, 2014. This is to his memory.
On Saturday my phone rang. I went to pick it up, and was surprised that is said "David Yue". Puzzled, I thought wouldn't it be amazing if it were my dead friend calling? I answered it, tentatively saying "hi", and heard the voice of David’s wife, Nancy.
She was calling to ask if I could speak at his memorial. I said of course and asked how she was doing. She said that it gets a little better with every passing day. Just the night before she and the three boys had opened the presents that David had placed under the Christmas tree. One of the presents got the four of them laughing. "It was so David", she said. "He gave me 27 years of happiness".
David gave a quarter century of happiness to us, his colleagues and students at the Biomedical Engineering Department at Hopkins. With his hands, he constructed some of the pillars of our undergraduate education, a course called Systems Bioengineering, and a course called Ion Channels. What was it like to be a student in his class?
Joseph Greenstein writes: “I go back nearly twenty years to when I was a student taking his class on ion channels. At the time he was reading a biography of Sir Isaac Newton, and David shared his favorite bits with us in class. David took to using the phrase made famous by Newton, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” when referring to Hodgkin, Huxley, and many other pioneers of quantitative electrophysiology. Beyond his extraordinary skill and passion as a scientist, he had a rare talent for transforming explanations of biological mechanism into engaging, eloquent stories. I recall him likening a CaMKII molecule hovering over a calcium channel to the massive mother ship in the movie Independence Day hovering over a city. As I teach students how to model channel gating and pursue my own lines of research, David is the giant whose shoulders I stand on.”
Gerda Brietwieser writes: “His explanations of the electrocardiogram were the clearest and most beautiful I have ever heard. He was a stellar scientist and a wonderful human being.”
He mentored over 30 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. What was it like to be a student in his lab? Let’s hear David describe it, in this 2002 note that he wrote for his student Carla DeMaria:
“Carla, you have had a ride to remember the past few years in lab, forging friends, colleagues, science, and truth. Thank you for sharing a path of self-discovery borne of waging exciting battles together, and laboring arm-on-arm with courage. Treasure these years, as I will. They have nurtured you with a strength that will sustain you in life and work.“
Manu Ben-Johny, a graduate student in his lab writes: “He was an incredible mentor and an exceptionally kind and generous person. He was always there to help us - whether it was b/c our electrophysiology rigs weren't air-floated properly or if it was a personal struggle we needed advice on. He spoke with eloquence and enthusiasm about science that was truly inspirational. His absence leaves behind a large void in my heart but I know his memories will continue to guide my life.”
What was it like to be one his colleague? When one of his sons started taking physics at college, David began re-learning thermodynamics on his own. One morning he walked into my office, wearing his black shirt, the coffee cup from the 3rd floor cafe in his hands, the rainbow colored band that held his badge around his neck, and started telling me about a fundamental equation. I joined him at my black board, handed him a piece of chalk, and asked him to start at the beginning, because I wanted to understand it too.
Together, David and I built the PHD program from 50 students, to nearly 200. Just a couple of days ago, I was sitting in my office and thinking of ways to organize this year’s admission process. I had a thought, and like always, I wanted to bounce it off David. Does this idea make sense David? If we do it this way, would it make a difference? I was about to leave my chair and go up to the 7th floor, to find him in his office, but then I sat down.
One of the worst things about growing old is that you lose people that you love. And so it is for me.
John Keats wrote: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness." And so it is with David.
Reza Shadmehr, PhD
Professor of Biomedial Engineering and Neuroscience
Co-Director of PhD program, Biomedical Engineering
Chere Madame Yue, chers enfants
Vous ne me connaissez pas, comme je ne vous connais pas, mais j’ai toujours suivi avec attention et très souvent avec admiration les travaux de David au cours de ces dernières années. Nos domaines de recherche étaient proches et David, bien qu’éloigné et bien que, finalement, je le connaissais peu, faisait malgré tout un peu partie de la famille, scientifique mais aussi personnelle. Les discussions que nous avions autour des posters étaient si enrichissantes, si fraternelles, si dénuées de formalismes qu’elles constituaient à elle seules une raison majeur pour moi s’assister à ces congrés, et souvent étaient souvent par la suite l’objet de nombreuses discussions. Nous perdons donc autant un chercheurs de très grande renommée, qu’un ami.
C’est pour nous une perte irréparable, David était un des chercheurs les plus talentueux dans les neurosciences
Je m’associe à tous ceux qui vous témoigné leur chagrin, et je suis de tout cœur avec vous dans cette épreuve.
Centre de Recherche de Biochimie Macromoléculaire
Dear Madam Yue, dear children
You do not know me, as I do not know you, but I have always closely followed and often admiringly David's work over recent years. Our research areas were close and David, though far and although ultimately I knew little, was still a little part of the family, but also a personal science. The discussions we had about the posters were so rewarding, so fraternal, so devoid of formalism they were her only a major reason for me to attend the conference, and often were often subsequently the subject of many discussions. So we lose as a research of the highest repute, a friend.
For us it is an irreparable loss, David was one of the most talented researchers in neuroscience
I agree with all those who you testified their grief, and I heart goes out to you in the event.
Centre de Recherche de Biochimie Macromoléculaire
As profoundly sad as I am to write this eulogy, I never felt a strong need to mourn Dave's loss because I never felt Dave left me-- he has always been in my memories and heart.
I first knew of Dave's scientific accomplishments during my graduate work in Indiana when I followed his published work but did not have the right background to digest it well. When I met him in person at a scientific conference during my last year in doctoral program, I knew right there and then that I wanted to get to know him scientifically as well as personally. Luckily, Dave offered me a research opportunity in his lab, which I accepted on the spot with gratitude. I went back to my hotel that day feeling elated and full of anticipation of things to come. It was also clear to me that I was taking a big risk by switching to a new field of research under the tutelage of a scientist with whom I had no prior ties, but Dave never disappointed--he provided so much to learn and so much room to grow. For many associates, academic fellowship soon spawned career apprenticeship at its finest.
Dave's true greatness as a human being became apparent to me soon after I arrived at Johns Hopkins; I realized then that Dave was not simply going to be content that his associates became the best in the field. Instead, he pushed and prodded everyone to create new scientific questions, formulate frontier research goals, and build business platforms--thus allowing young minds to become transformative forces in their future careers and life goals. I personally left Baltimore a few years later as a different and better person in so many ways.
Many, I bet, are marveling how Dave managed to place so many young people at the front of career excellence in so many work environments and in many countries. I certainly owe him so much for what he has done to facilitate my journey.
Dave showed all of us the art of mentoring, teaching, and scientific contribution in ways that are almost impossible to replicate; there are simply no mathematical equations to model or quantify the true worth of such a human being. That is Dave's legacy and it will outlast all of us. I simply thank my lucky stars that my career path crossed his. I will always miss Dave.
Badr Alseikhan, PhD
David Yue Memorial Symposium, Nov 2015
My name is King-Wai Yau. Like many of you here, I had been a close colleague of
David Yue for very many years. I came to Hopkins about 30 years ago, and David returned to Hopkins to start his own laboratory not long after. Even before his return to Hopkins, I had already heard about David’s great scientific promise. Of course, all of that had become reality. It later turned out that my connection with David had begun even earlier, in that my wife happened to be a high-school classmate of David’s older brother John, a MIT- and Stanford-trained physicist. Our heritages also traced back to the same small corner in South China.
Being mostly a brooding character myself, especially in my younger years, David was the one who initiated most of the early interactions. He was always warm, respectful and inquisitive, and forever enthusiastic and positive. I was quickly impressed by David’s command of the English language, especially – as someone else commented – his “mastery of the lexicon”. He was no less a superb speaker – one of the best I have seen – undoubtedly a live wire. In fact, I had privately wondered, only half in jest, whether he would have made an equally great writer of
oetry or the theater. All of his gifted eloquence aside, however, he was first and foremost serious, persistent and methodical in his pursuit of the scientific truth.
David had certainly trained some of the very best students I have seen in Hopkins, many of whom I have great respect for, and they are here today.
Science, of course, turned out to be only one of David’s multi-facets. Despite long casual discussions with David over the years, I was never aware of his devotion to his religion until very late. Perhaps because David somehow could sense that I am an agnostic, he never once brought up the topic. I respect him all the more for that. On the other hand, given his eloquence and power of persuasion, I could have been converted had he tried.Finally, even though my interactions with David involved mostly technical matters, and I learnt about Hopkins gossip mostly from the outside, I did not fail to notice his great devotion to his wife and children. Indeed, David’s and Nancy’s mutual affection and respect for each other is truly inspirational – a quality that reminded me of Alan Hodgkin, the late supreme physiologist at Cambridge, England,and his wife Marni. The scrapbook I remember that Nancy meticulously
assembled with greetings from people all over the world in honor of David’s promotion to full professorship almost 20 years ago is just one tiny example, I assure you, of her devotion and moral support of David’s scientific endeavors. Over the past several days, I have gotten to know both David’s and Nancy’s extended families. Believe me, the influence of genetics and family culture is immediately obvious. David’s and Nancy’s three sons are all mature, smart and wonderful young men. Never mind the media-embellished tiger moms and perhaps tiger dads for high-achiever kids, certainly there are equally-effective alternative ways. Today’s celebration is as much for David as for the two extended families.
It is a shame that David’s life was cut short while he was in the middle of his steepest-yet trajectory to a scientific zenith. David had been nominated to the National Academy of Sciences, and would have certainly succeeded in due course, as well as garnering many more scientific honors. We cheer him!
Leaving this podium, I do still have an unanswered question, which is: where did he find the time to achieve so much?
King-Wai Yau, PhD,
Professor of Neuroscience
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine