Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mentors

I've been pretty lucky during my young career when it comes to mentors. Most of the time I've thought I knew what I needed to know and many times it didn't fit with what they were telling me. As time has passed, I've come to realize that most of the time they were right and I was wrong.

Today, I got the sad news that one of my mentors had passed away. He was my second postdoctoral advisor. I wasn't really warm to the idea of going to work in his lab, but at the time, my first postdoctoral advisor was convinced it was the place I needed to be. When I went on the interview, Paul sat me down with my CV and told me we needed to write the job ad for the position I wanted whenever I left his lab. We wrote one out. Then he looked at my CV and asked, "what do we need to do to this (CV) so you can get that (job)?" Together, we figured it out and he decided I could do that in his lab. So, I went. I must admit that my time in the lab wasn't the most memorable. However, we managed to coexist and find a happy medium where I could do things interesting and he went along because in the end, it resulted in publications, which are the things that keep grants funded. I managed to publish 8 papers from that time and it did indeed lead to the job that we wrote up on my interview. I suppose that would be considered a success on its own. However, I learned something much more valuable from Paul H. Over the 2+ years I spent in his lab, I watched him interact with the grad students and postdocs on a daily basis - the frequency which caused much consternation amongst the group. I saw how he constantly used the situations that came up in the lab every day as a tool for teaching some deeper principle. It was as if he always saw a situation as an opportunity to teach. He taught me that no matter what we're doing, we're always on the job of teacher.

Six years ago, Paul was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was a private person, and I don't think that many people outside his circle actually knew of this. I think he was only given a couple of years to live at the time. He endured a couple of transplants and fought hard. He even managed to make it back into the lab and keep it running. Last week, his fight ended and now he's at rest.

The Mourner's Kaddish, in memory of Paul H.

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.