Eulogies 1 Scientists 1

 

     I am writing with deep sadness but also deep gratitude to have known David and to have benefited from his contributions as a scientist and teacher. I am one of many colleagues who work on Calcium Ion Channels and who placed David on a special pedestal. I was constantly in awe of his creativity, insight, and limitless energy. David was brilliant and also so very generous. He was inevitably a step ahead in his capacity to process observations but he always took the time to step back and share with others the beauty of his discoveries. Even a few brief minutes discussing our data with David would leave me pondering for months about the depths of his insightfulness. David also used his special gift of eloquence in speaking and clarity in writing to captivate young and old., leaving us enthralled. David understood more about the intricate workings of ion channels in his short lifetime than most of us could ever dream of. He has left us a treasuere trove of discoveries and ideas that generations of scientists can build on, dig through, and wonder how it is that one person could have contributed so much.

 

Diane Lipscombe, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience, Brown University

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      Like so many, I feel a deep loss with the passing of my warm and dear friend. During the ~2 years that I worked very closely with David at Hopkins, I got to experience, like others, how gifted, kind and remarkable David was as a Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering.  I have always characterized David as THE world's top Biophysicist.  Besides his talents in Science, what I remember so well about David was his passion for understanding the world beyond science.  David and I had many (often prolonged) discussions on issues related to humanity, metaphysics and religion.  No matter what subject, David always showed same enthusiasm, passion and deep thoughts.  Equally admirable characteristics always-always shown by David, which (i think) made him so revered and loved by his students and colleagues, was his deep respect for others and his focus on the positive qualities of all those around him. David never shared negative thoughts and he was THE MODEL of what we should all aspire towards in our lives.  I will miss David and i will cherish always his ideas, his kindness and the incredible example he set for all of us.  I extend my deepest sympathy to Nancy and the Yue-Boys, as well as to David's other many friends for the loss of a remarkable man.

 

Peter Backx, PhD, DVM

Professor of Physiology and Medicine, University of Toronto

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I interviewed David for the Md-PhD program, taught him Neuroscience, and mentored him in his early years here at Johns Hopkins. I am looking into a void today, saddened at the thoug t of going on without David. For years, he set an example of how one should live a life of work and service. That example did not die with David. It is part of his legacy that equals his legacy in science.  It lives on and sets a high standard for all of us. I know that David would be disappointed if we did not charge ahead, doing our best and finding satisfaction and joy in what we do. So we shall and in doing so honor his memory. 

 

Larry Schramm, PhD

Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins

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I was in graduate school at Hopkins with David, who finished up before me and was back on the faculty before I was even done. Our children are the same ages, with our youngest sons both graduating from high school this year. I loved attending David's lectures and hearing his analogies. He described the electrical depolarization of the heart as initially traveling along the superhighways (bundle branches), and then going much more slowly through the neighborhood (cell to cell). He was always so energetic and enthusiastic about whatever topic he taught. He was brilliant. He could think through complex problems quickly and develop a well-reasoned solution.

 

Eileen Haase,PhD

Senior Lecturer, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins  

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     I have known David as a scientist and as a colleague for many years. I have followed his carreer from the the beginning, and have occasionally contributed in reviewing his work and supporting his promotion at Johns Hopkins. I had great admiration for his work, and for him as a scientist with bright and original ideas. He was able to move his field of research in original directions that required not only imagination but also higly innovative technical skills that are not commonly found in our sphere. I saw him last in November, at the AHA meeting in Chicago, in a scientific session in which both of us were speaking. The news of his sudden death is a great shock and fills me with deep sadness. I share the sorrow of his family and friends. We will miss you David.

 

Rodolphe FISCHMEISTER, PhD

Signalisation et Physiopathologie Cardiovasculaire, University Paris-Sud

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Dear friends and family of Dr. Yue,

     I guess you don't know me, but I am an undergraduate BME who took Systems Biomedical Engineering I last year with Dr. Yue.  I just wanted to offer my condolences because despite the short time that I knew him, he became one of my favorite teachers and I know the impact that he's had on many of us students. Although his material was stuff of legends among us BME's for its hellish difficulty, Dr. Yue always kept us intrigued with his humor and charisma. But more than his presence in the lecture hall, I remember how friendly and engaging he was in person when he willingly spent much time after lectures helping me with problem sets. His emphasis on a deep understanding of the subject reminded me what our goal as scientists and engineers should be and I always admired his passion and drive. I know that my fellow classmates felt similarly and he was truly a role model for us all. He will be dearly missed and I hope that knowing the positive impact he's had on our lives could bring you some peace as well. 

 

Jason Park '15

Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate , Johns Hopkins 

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    I am David’s fellow scientist who, like many others, did not have a chance to work closely with him. But I still feel the urge to express my condolences, although we do not know each other, and I guess that this probably does not help a lot in the present circumstances. David and I worked in the same field and often on the same issues, and naturally sometimes competed and sometimes jointly sought for a solution of problems. We met many times, usually at meetings and once or twice on other occasions. And yet I have never considered David as just a remote (and brilliant) colleague, but as a real friend. Somehow a feeling of unconditional support, humane attitude to everyone, and just warmth and good humor, was instantaneous and persistent at all occasions that I have met, talked or just chatted during a “business” lunch with David. David was not only a great scientist but what we in Israel call “a mensch” – a great human person. Please accept my condolences on your untimely and unexpected loss.

 

Nathan Dascal, Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology

Sackler School of Medicine,Tel Aviv University

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I have known David Yue since joining the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2008 and I am deeply shocked and saddened by his sudden passing. The Johns Hopkins University has lost one of its intellectual giants. Much more importantly, you have lost a dear and precious member of your family. I grieve for his passing and your loss.

 

David and I shared general research interests at the intersection of biophysics, engineering, and cell biology and interacted regularly though both the Biomedical Engineering (BME as he always called it) Department and the Center for Cell Dynamics. Early in my time on the faculty, he took an interest in my career and invited me to participate regularly in BME events and in the selection of incoming Ph.D. students. It was though this admissions committee work that I came to work with David most closely. Two things really struck me each year: first that despite his seniority and years of service on the committee that each year he was visibly excited to read the new applications and to meet the enthusiastic prospective students and, second, that he always sought to understand and evaluate the whole person behind each paper application. Each year he would find someone special, a diamond in the rough, who had real potential to be a significant scientist despite a blemish or two in the transcript. Equally, he could be very critical of candidates he felt were strong on paper but had no demonstrated ability in the research laboratory. What I have learned about how to be a fair and effective gatekeeper to our graduate programs, I learned from David. He truly believed in the tripartite mission of Johns Hopkins, of education, research, and clinical care. He challenged me personally last year to stretch beyond my research responsibilities and to take a more active role in the teaching of Hopkins students, a challenge I accepted as a part of my appointment to the BME Department. He really was the complete professor, recognized for his research, his teaching, and his administrative work.

 

Regarding his research, I think it is important to distinguish two levels of accomplishment. The role of a scholar at the university level is to expand the realm of human knowledge, to increase what is known about the world. You cannot achieve the rank of professor without accomplishing this goal and David certainly expanded our knowledge of biological function. However, the truly exceptional among the scholars, those like David, go beyond that first level and expand our conception of what is knowable. It is no exaggeration to say that David knew more about the function of voltage gated calcium channels than anyone on Earth. His research revealed, literally at the atomic level of resolution, how these huge protein complexes could be made selectively permeable to calcium ions and how that molecular function controlled physiologic functions in the human body, such as the beating of cardiomyocytes in the heart. What we need to remind ourselves is that in the 1980s, when he began this work, it was not obvious that these channels could be understood at this level of mechanistic detail. Therefore, his pathbreaking work demonstrated not only how this specific class of channels functioned but also, and potentially more importantly, that similar efforts could yield a similar level of understanding of other molecular systems. His influence will therefore be felt both within his subfield and more broadly throughout biological research, for years to come. Dr. David Yue was a scholar of the first rank. There are never many at that level of insight and accomplishment. Even fewer that remain as humble and human throughout their careers. He gave a major lecture in the last academic year, a retrospective on his career and accomplishments. In addition to being awe-inspiring for the level of accomplishment in his research, it was a singular achievement of performance and story-telling.

 

Over the past several days I have revisited my memories of David. Remarkably, though the contexts varied greatly, in every single one the signature feature is his smile. He could and did literally light up the room. True to form, in my last conversation with him, about a month ago, he was meeting with senior leadership at the Medical School on behalf of myself and Takanari Inoue, working to make sure that we would have every opportunity in our careers. My only solace in this whole situation is that what turned out to be my last words to him, at the end of that meeting, were thank you.

 

Andrew J. Ewald, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Departments of Cell Biology, Oncology, and Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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This is such a meager summary of David’s influence on me, but this is what I wrote in 1988, in the Acknowledgements section of my PhD thesis:

During my early years as a graduate student, I was fortunate enough to work closely with Dr. David Yue, one of the finest scientific minds I have ever known.  His gentle, unassuming intellect was so comfortable and accessible that I was not afraid to make mistakes in his presence.  In fact, many of the ideas presented in this document germinated from discussions with him.  Yet, he could easily switch from ‘analytic mode’ into a dreamy, introspective state.  We had many discussions about life and science, occasionally enriched by his fine jazz piano playing.  In the ensuing years, as our paths have diverged, I still delight in asking him to review my work.

 

Jon Peterson, PhD

co-graduate student , Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins

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When I think about David, despite the countless interactions I have had with him as a colleague in recent years, I always go back nearly twenty years ago to when I was a young 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. The inspiration he drew from it was evident. 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 once 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. David was, and will continue to be, a captivating and inspiring presence on many fronts. 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. May his memory be a blessing.

 

Joseph L. Greenstein, PhD

Assoc Research Scientist, Institute For Computational Medicine, Johns Hopkins

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     I have known David for many years as a colleague and a friend. David and I have shared an interest in ion channels , their regulations and physiological roles. David’s approach was mostly experimental; mine theoretical. David was one of the first invited speakers to the Cardiac Bioelectricity Research and Training Center at Case Western Reserve University when I was there. His presentation and entire visit were inspirational. It was not only the science and amazing insights that David shared with us, but also his excitement about the process of scientific discovery, which was contagious. David was an amazing thinker, with a probing mind. He was also a gentle and warm person, considerate of others, loyal and supportive of his students and members of his lab. On his recent visit to Washington University, we had a “philosophical” discussion of experiments vs. theory in science; we also talked about the role of science in present day society – it was so much fun and thought provoking! This was typical of my conversations with David when we met and over the phone – always inspiring, always making me think for days, and always positive and exciting – he will be sorely missed!

 

Rudy Yoram, PhD

Director, Cardiac Bioelectricity and Arrhythmia Center (CBAC)

The Fred Saigh Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology & Physiology, Medicine, Radiology, and Pediatrics

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     David was high on my short-list of favorite and most trusted colleagues—a sentiment shared by many in our field. He was unique. His profound intellectual curiosity, combined with his childlike sense of wonder and prodigious analytical abilities, made him the unquestioned leader in the calcium channel field. In my opinion, no one before him had been quite so insightful or as influential. Equally impressive was the genuine humility with which he accepted his well-deserved accolades, typically crediting his coworkers with the essential insights. Thismade him beloved, respected, and trusted by students and peers alike.

 

     As a calcium channel physiologist, I was often asked to review David’s manuscripts. Their quality invariably made for pleasurable and educational reading. I was fascinated seeing the results of each new study he reported. Providing useful suggestions or criticisms for improvement, on the other hand, was always a daunting task; my comments to the editor were, as often as not, “accept as is”.

 

     David’s love of science was equaled by his love of the lexicon. He appeared to choose each word as carefully as the experimental paradigms he designed and described. Given his expressive gifts, we scientists are additionally fortunate that he didn’t choose humanities (or art or music or theology for that matter) over science!

 

     I will miss him terribly. So will our field. Although our journey together was too short, we are so grateful for his having led us along the way.

 

Kathleen Dunlap, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Tufts University

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       I have known David for his entire scientific career. He was a great scientist combining the highest level of creativity and scientific honesty with being a great teacher. He was a wonderful colleague. It was an honor to serve on the BME faculty with David. We will miss him profoundly.

 

Sasha Popel, PhD

Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins    

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David's shoes will be very hard to fill.

He was a warm and caring human being in addition to being a brilliant scientist. He treated each person that he met as if they were truly special people. That's hard to do-- but he was genuine about it.

 

I had the privilege of working with him when I was Secretary-Treasurer of the Membrane Biophysics subgroup when he was the Chair. He was so easy to work with and set a high standard for everyone after him in that regard.

 

Carol Beck, PhD

Thomas Jefferson University

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David was one of the best scientists I ever knew.

 

 

Dr. Frederick Sachs
Center for Single Molecule Biophysics
Distinguished Professor, Physiology and Biophysical Sciences

SUNY Buffalo

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