In 2005, I was unpublished, with no experience of protein folding or human cells. Despite this, Neil had the faith to employ me on his flagship grant. It took me years to appreciate what Neil’s actions demonstrated; he was committed to seeing and developing the potential in people. Neil was rarely swayed by names or showpiece publications, though he recognised them as part of the modern science reality and encouraged us to aspire accordingly. However, working in the Bulleid lab was primarily about excellent people conducting robust experiments and acquiring knowledge because it was relevant, not because we were chasing the next big thing. It was grounded and it was real; an extension of the man himself.
Neil’s reach was global. I met international postdocs and students who envied the camaraderie evident in the Bulleid lab. Many took heart from Neil’s supportive advice, which contrasted with the high-pressure, high-stakes existences they felt part of. Neil’s abilities to alleviate pressure and calmly manage individuals were among his greatest assets. It speaks volumes about his character that Neil maintained this approach while consistently securing high-quality grants and regularly producing enduring publications.
My lasting memories of Neil are from the year after we relocated to Glasgow. Neil re-populated the lab with a diverse collection of excellent scientists who were also wonderful human beings. He had a clear strategy to allow seamless continuation of research and publication in a new setting. This monumental task carried no guarantee of success, yet Neil seemed to be a man reinvented. He not only faced the challenge with relish but made it appear easy.
My final year alongside Neil remains one of the happiest of my life. I remember it fondly and often. I left Glasgow in 2011 but it feels like Neil’s passing has only now finally ended that chapter of my life. My sincere condolences go out to Susan and family. I am sure you know that Neil had (and will still have) a huge impact on so many people. I will always be grateful to Neil for taking a chance on me and I will carry his memory with me for as long as I am able to.