In memory of Prof. Kat Gaus

This post is a collection of remembrances to celebrate the life and scientific career of Prof. Kat Gaus of UNSW Sydney.

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On March 3, 2021, the scientific community lost a bright star, Prof. Katharina Gaus. Prof. Gaus, or Kat as many knew her, was a brilliant scientist who made invaluable contributions in super-resolution microscopy and immunology. She was the type of methods developer who also pushed her tools to making new biological discoveries, and this love of both aspects of scientific advancement shows clearly in her body of published work and in the diverse interests of her former trainees. 

As an editor, I had numerous opportunities to work with Kat over the years. Each time we interacted, she struck me as a meticulous, clear-thinking scientist who pursued meaningful questions with curiosity. She was an exceptional referee, who knew the literature extremely well and could quickly see to the heart of a paper and identify strengths and weaknesses. She was also fair-minded and constructive, essentially an ideal person to talk about science with and get advice from.

I finally met Kat in person in early 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic brought all business travel to a halt. She and her colleagues at the Single Molecule Science Centre hosted me for a visit at UNSW Sydney. It was immediately clear from meeting with the scientists there what her vision was for this diverse and talented group of scientists and what a lasting impact she was already poised to make. It was at that in-person meeting where I was also able to get a glimpse of her as a person. She was quick to smile and laugh and spoke very lovingly of her family. My deepest condolences are with them now.

We at Nature Methods wanted to honor her memory with a tribute on our community page. In it, we’ve collected stories and remembrances of Prof. Gaus from her colleagues, current and former trainees, and family. Taken together, these paint a brilliant portrait of her personality and life. We hope to honor her memory and celebrate her life and her indelible contribution to those close to her, science, and the scientific community. An obituary for Prof. Gaus published in Nature Immunology can be found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41590-021-00915-3.

We would love to hear your stories as well in the comments.

- Rita Strack, Ph.D. Senior Editor, Nature Methods

I am the lucky one. I don’t feel lucky as I sit here grieving the loss of the love of my life, my soulmate, the one I yearn to be with at all times. But I am. The many glowing many tributes for my beloved Kat confirm it. These tributes emphasize her intellect, bravery, kindness, generosity and her unshakable belief in you. These are all part of what made her inspirational and I got to experience these every day. It certainly made me a better person. We were so incredibly compatible. From the art we liked, what we liked to do for leisure and how we did our science together and independently.  A microscopist and cell biologist working with a surface chemist with expertise in biointerfaces is a scientific match made in heaven; especially with the development of superresolution light microscopy.

We both knew we were incredibly privileged and with that privilege came a responsibility to help make the world better for others. Kat, with her incredible courage and selfless belief she could make a difference, did this by smashing straight through the barriers to change, allowing her to quickly and dramatically alter the research landscape both locally and internationally. This was all done with no thought for herself and only the desire to make things better for others. She was amazingly relentless and successful but it really took its toll on her. Battling the system is no easy feat. We both realized this was unsustainable and had planned to take a few months off together to recharge and then maybe launch a new initiative together. With overwhelming sadness, I now know this next journey I have to do alone. Breaking the barriers down had taken too much of a toll on her.

One of my team members told me her abiding memory of Kat, was Kat and I walking ahead, side by side, talking passionately about science, totally focused on each other. I like that imagery. As I now walk alone I imagine Kat talking to me, helping to guide me, helping to make me braver and more generous to others and helping me to change our world to allow others to thrive as we have. I only hope I can stay true to her legacy and make her proud. 

- Justin Gooding 

Kat was an exceptional person with outstanding abilities and an enormous enthusiasm and passion for everything she did. And with all of that, and most importantly, she was very kind and caring. Kat’s contribution to the Scientific community was international, but her most important impact was in building teams of tremendous people with tremendous capability, along with building exceptional infrastructure for research in her field at UNSW that will remain as her legacy for many years to come. Her greatest legacy will be the people she mentored and supported, who she cared about very deeply and were enriched by her.

I was fortunate to know Kat both through her academic work and as a friend outside academia. We went hiking together, and we so much loved her cheerful nature and supportive approach at all times – when it was tough going as well as when it was just fun. She never approached things in half measure, which made doing things together great fun.

I will always remember and miss her big, happy and captivating smile. It was a privilege to have spent time with Kat, she has left us too soon and we will not forget her.

- Barbara Messerle

I first heard of Katharina Gaus during my literature review at the beginning of my postgraduate studies. Throughout my PhD, Kat’s work on membrane microdomains and Laurdan was inspirational and much of my PhD work mirrored hers – I was always just a couple of years behind. Since a good fraction of my thesis was taken up citing her work, I thought where better to apply? I joined Kat’s group in 2008 immediately after my PhD. During just over 4 years in Australia, she taught me a lot about how to be a group-leader as I watched her manage the expansion of her lab from about 5 to maybe 20+ postdocs, lab techs and students. I was struck by how well she made connections across the university, from physics to chemistry, biosciences and medicine and in that regard, I still see her as a role-model. 

Academically, I think she’ll be known as the person who really first pushed to use tools like super-resolution to learn something new about important biology. The message was always “what can we learn now?” not “how can we show off this fancy kit?” and I think that’s good advice for anyone working at the interface of biology and method development. I was also struck by her commitment to the social side of her group. Lab Christmas outings were always a must, but she didn’t leave her competitiveness in the lab, as we discovered at some reasonably terrifying climbing wall and kart track experiences. She leaves behind an enormous legacy in Australia – from whole academic centres to microscopy facilities as well as the ongoing careers of numerous group leaders who once passed through her lab. Academically, I suppose it’s to her credit that I can’t decide if she leaves a bigger hole in the fields of microscopy or immunology. Either way, her passing is an enormous loss to both as well as everyone who had the privilege to know her.

- Dylan Owen

The first thing many noticed about Kat was her smile. She was charismatic, engaging and very enthusiastic about science. When I first spoke to her, she immediately drew me in. I decided, for the sake of working with her, to make the big move from Germany to be her first PhD student in Australia. She had just started her group at the Centre for Vascular Research at UNSW. At the beginning it was just her, her research assistant and myself. She had an unrelenting work ethic and expected the same of her people. Her determination to make her ideas become reality quickly saw her being successful with her grant applications and growing her group at a rapid speed. We went from a group of three to a group of more than 15 people within less than two years. Kat was an innovative creator. She strived for scientific excellence and did not accept mediocrity from her students and postdocs. At the same time, she had a big heart and wanted to give everyone in whom she saw potential a chance to become the best scientist they could. She was the master of lateral thinking and had the ability to pull countless data sets together to transform them into high impact publications. Her fascination with the endless possibilities of microscopy led to her becoming the driving force to develop one of the first commercially available superresolution microscopes. She was greatly amused when one of the first algorithms of the microscope’s software determined that our blinking molecules were localised to earth.

But there was not only work and science. We were a tightly knit group of lab members. We had many lab outings and conference trips that Kat loved. In true Kat style she would not settle for comfy and relaxing group activities. We went rock climbing, down-hill skiing (black, almost vertical slopes were her favourite) and go-kart driving. Even then she was so driven to ‘win’ that she ended with blisters on her hands from gripping the steering wheel so tightly in order to overtake anyone who challenged her. Her drive was combined with a great sense of fun and she never failed to make a joke.

Kat’s quality as a leader in combination with her inquisitive mind led her to create an international network of collaborators, colleagues and friends. Her spirit, her passion for science and her sharp intellect left a lasting impression not only on the many students and postdocs she trained and mentored. Her legacy will be carried on in the hearts of the countless lives she has touched. Kat will be greatly missed.

- Astrid Magenau



Kat was a formidable mentor who had a ‘go big’ philosophy to science that inspired me and those around her to aim high. I first heard of Kat in 2013 when I was looking to move back to Australia after a post-doc in the USA with Prof. Enrico Gratton, University of California, Irvine. I was keen to continue exploring fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy, and I was told by several people around the world that ‘if you want to do microscopy in Australia, Kat Gaus is the person to contact’. After emailing Kat, she offered to help me write a fellowship to join her group at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, and from the moment I arrived in her lab, Kat taught me how to think like a cell biologist and gave me the opportunity to define an independent research program with unlimited support. Kat pioneered super-resolution microscopy in the field of immunology and in Australia built a critical mass in single molecule biophysics via establishment of the EMBL Australia node in Single Molecule Science at UNSW. The key to Kat’s success in building this great legacy, which will continue to thrive, was her open mindedness toward all research that was innovative, irrespective of whether it fell within her field, as well as her willingness to invest in new and novel technologies. I will always admire Kat’s capacity to lead with no fear and greatly miss her dry sense of humour.

- Dr. Elizabeth Hinde

 

Memories of Kat 

‘I've always thought that love thrives on a certain kind of distance, that it requires an awed separateness to continue.’

Siri Hustvedt, What I Loved

There are many reasons we loved Kat and one of them was our tussles during book club, which were never dull, especially when Kat was there. What I Loved was one of her favourites. 

Over many years we enjoyed meeting over wine and cheese and very, very robust conversation. Kat had a unique perspective and encouraged us to look at stories in ways we never had. She also insisted on a rigorous scoring system, that was well calibrated, especially to reflect her score! 

She was also very funny and just when we thought she was being serious, she would sneak in a joke and it would make us laugh with her dry delivery and concise observations.

We loved that Kat was a deep thinker, with a fresh and fiercely intelligent way of seeing the world, which sometimes made things difficult for Kat but also made her unique. 

Kat was a passionate walker and meticulously planned her adventures. We were lucky to join her on a few hikes, one in the Northern Territory of Australia on a trail called Jatbula and another on Hinchinbrook Island off the coast of Queensland. 

Jatbula was desert country. It was wild and rugged and at the end of each day, when we were hot and dusty, there was a waterhole, where we swam and read and made dinner under a blazing orange sky. We’d stop at sign-in boxes along the route and fill out a log book to let the rangers know we were safe. It was Kat who filled out the form for us because she was so much fitter and stronger and always reached the box first. Other walkers recorded their thoughts or observations from the trail. In Kat’s economical and precise way, we were simply known as ‘Gaus, group of 8’.  Sometimes she’d even reach the end of the day’s walk with her husband Justin and generously backtrack to help others with their bags. Hinchinbrook Island was a different kind of walk..beaches, cliff tops and inland waterfalls. It was equally as beautiful and we were so lucky that we experienced these special places with Kat. 

We are so sad that her death now makes the greatest of distances between us, but we continue in awe of our lovely friend and hold her close in our memories.

- By Geraldine O’Neill, Alaina Ammit, Todd Decker and Deborah Abela

My move to Sydney and Kat’s lab was totally unexpected. Although I knew her work on membrane order, I wanted to stir my career towards neurosciences and had not considered contacting her. Until I read her postdoc job offer by chance on Nature Jobs. Then I realised that understanding membrane organisation in T cells was just what I wanted to do! Kat had this ability to make everything sound so exciting, even a job ad. I only wanted her to confirm that this project would not support the idea that membrane rafts are driven by lipid organisation, as I was (and still am) so convinced that proteins come first. She answered with some sort of “whatever”, which totally illustrates the freedom she gave her students and postdocs. Although she had a clear vision of where her research should go, she trusted the people she worked with and was always happy with exciting data, even if they could prove her wrong.

Kat was the best supervisor and mentor for scientists who knew where they wanted to go. Her amazing grant writing skills provided a first-class research environment, she had this magic touch to turn a boring first draft into a ground-breaking story and would fight like a warrior to get your manuscript through rounds of revision. What was so great about her mentorship was that she would happily share all her tricks, explain all her skills and coach you when facing tough decisions. Just to make sure you could step to the next level, secure funding, get corresponding authorship and become independent.

Kat’s contribution to immunology and cell biology is undeniable, powered by a unique instinct to apply the latest advances in light microscopy to understand how membrane organisation regulates immune cell functions. But her most generous contribution to science is the huge support she gave me and many other young scientists. Many of those are now independent and keep fostering her vision of science.

- Jérémie Rossy

There will undoubtedly be many tributes to Katharina (Kat) Gaus that tell of her many scientific achievements.  I expect there will be even more that tell of her as a great person. I'd like to offer one such tribute, on behalf of myself and my family. Kat put her proverbial neck on the line to support me during a very difficult time, and I won't ever forget it.

Roughly three years ago, I was offered a job by Kat: to come to Sydney and start my own group as part of the EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory Network. I accepted immediately, and as we drank the champagne that Kat had brought along, I revealed that my wife, Fran, was newly pregnant with our third child. Kat met this with characteristic enthusiasm, of course. An attitude that I was glad of when subsequent scans revealed that we were, in fact, having twins!

But the happy news rapidly turned sour when Fran was diagnosed with the serious perinatal condition, Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), which frequently results in the death of one or both of the twins. The immediate impact was that we could no longer visit Sydney as we had planned, and that our broader relocation program had to be put on ice. Kat remained unfazed and stoically supportive throughout.

She continued in this vein even when it became apparent that visas would become an issue: should they survive, the twins would need to receive a health check at 6 months before being granted a visa. The problem here was that I had finished my previous job and I needed to support my family (it now looked like we would be there an entire year before even being in a position to apply for a visa).

Now, I want to emphasise that during this time I repeatedly said to Kat that I would not hold her to our initial handshake, that she had no contractual obligations to me, and that it was best that I found a new position in the UK. Kat completely ignored this. Instead, and without a fuss or commotion, she somehow managed to get me a contract on the basis of working from home, in the UK –  on the other side of the planet –  until we were ready to come to Australia (whenever that may be).

Anybody who has any experience with universities or large organisations will know that this must have required significant political will, and incurred plenty of risk on her part. (What if I had not come, for instance?).

But this was my experience of Kat, professionally. When she gave her backing, it was 100%. Kat was the entire reason that we came to Australia. That tangible support helped us get the medical care we required, and moreover gave us the feeling of unwavering support that is needed to move a family across the globe to a new city. The twins survived TTTS, were declared healthy, and issued visas alongside the rest of the family. We now live a happy (but chaotic) life in Sydney with our four daughters. The twins, now toddlers, are blissfully unaware of their trajectory, and of Kat, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.

- Richard Morris

 

Vale Professor Katharina Gaus, a shining star in Single-Molecule Science.

After graduating as a chemist and taking a rather peculiar route to biomedical research, I stumbled upon Single Molecule Science (SMS) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney and was strangely fascinated by the extent of super-resolution microscopy applications and its utilisation in biological research. It was simply “seeing is believing” and at the heart of it was Professor Katharina Gaus. As a world-renowned scientist, she was at the frontier of bridging physics and biological sciences and pushing their boundaries to better understand our immune system. Her work in T cell biology, in particular visualising and understanding the early stages of T cell activation, which then initiate adaptive immune responses marked the culmination of her interdisciplinary research. This remains to be a perfect example of her vision to push the limits of current technology to unravel the mysteries of cellular functions. I was tremendously fortunate to work in her lab as an early career researcher for more than three years (2018-2021). It was always in her nature to support budding scientists and guide them towards thinking “outside the box”, a necessary quality to be developed by many of us that is not limited to tackle difficult questions in science but also to boldly face perils in life. The vision of Professor Gaus extended beyond Science. The flourishing culture she created within the institution of SMS is a testimony to her tremendous capacity as a great human being. I have no doubt that these qualities of Professor Gaus have nurtured a whole new generation of young scientists like myself and I will strive to emulate her professionalism throughout my research career. Vale Professor Katharina Gaus, you are forever to be remembered as a shining star in Single-Molecule Science. 

- Sachith D. Gunasinghe

 

I remember my first interaction with Kat during my job interview at the Single Molecule Science at University of New South Wales. Eventually, I joined UNSW and in the next five years, I came to know Kat as a friend, a colleague, a boss, and a mentor. She would occasionally drop in to go for coffee walk—sometimes to see how I was settling in the new place, or how my projects were going, or to chat about upcoming imaging technologies and broader visions of how science in the next decade may look like.

If you have known Kat, you would know that she always strived for a bigger cause, which used to be apparent with her interactions with younger scientists. While I worked at UNSW in her department, she came across as a tough boss and a generous mentor at the same time. Kat could play those roles simultaneously. Often, I had my disagreements with Kat, and I was open about it. Yet she was generous, kind and provided support in many ways that I learnt about much later. She had an eye for technology, and she ensured that new microscopes were acquired, in some cases, much ahead of time, tested out, and utilized to push forward everyone’s research.

Kat played the boss when required and played the mentor at other times. My years with Kat certainly taught me to toughen up, and keep doing what one is supposed to do, irrespective of whatever may come on the way. I learnt, through watching her make decisions, managing goals as a small specialist department, discussing aspects of managed-science vs curiosity-driven science, to think beyond oneself, and how one can choose to play the leader for larger goals. Kat put herself forward for leading in endeavours that were not traditional and saw goals that no one else could in starting a new imaging department, in recruiting young researchers across various disciplines and in devoting time to mentorship. Beyond her stunning academic career, these are contributions to the scientific community, especially in Australia that are immeasurable. Kat used to pick metaphors from movies, books, and stories and enjoyed sharing them. Kat’s indomitable mind and spirit will continue to live through the various people she has mentored and as quoted in one of her favourite books that she gifted me, ‘So it goes.’

- Senthil Arumugam

 

“A cell—the smallest unit of life—is essentially a bag full of molecules. But simply putting molecules together in a bag will not create a life. So where is the magic? What brings a bag full of molecules to life?”

This intro to Kat’s elevator pitch about what we do in Single Molecule Science (SMS), the interdisciplinary research centre she created, makes me reflect on the following:

A successful research centre is essentially a laboratory full of productive researchers. But simply putting productive researchers into a laboratory will not create great science. So where is the magic? What brings a research centre to life?

I have had the privilege to accompany Kat on her journey from the inception of SMS to the vibrant centre it has become. And in this light the answer is obvious to me. Kat was the magic. Through her determination to make the world a better place, her unwavering belief in the people around her, her courage and energy, she opened my mind to being part of something bigger that has developed a life of its own and will continue to grow. I also had the even bigger privilege of her friendship full of warmth, her love of adventure and travel and her witty humour. I will miss her as a mentor and a dear friend, but her spirit will live on.

- Till Böcking

 

My first impressions when I first met Kat were strength, intellect and resolve. It seemed that she could make anything happen out of sheer will. That was true of her science, changing paradigms and creating things that did not exist. What I found most remarkable is that she used her magical power not to her own profit, but to benefit others, changing the institutions and ultimately the world. The department she created is the embodiment of a vision, not only a scientific direction, but an ideal workplace where people can thrive, a perfect mini-society. This was another strength of Kat, she did not bend the rules, she wanted to straighten them to fit both the ideal and the reality they served. Yet, as you got to know her, she revealed an unexpected candor and even fragility, freely sharing her mistakes, struggles and limitations. Then you realized that there is no magic in the power of resolve; it is hard work, and tireless effort to change things. As this time, will was not sufficient and disease won, it is up to us to keep the visions alive and take up the burden of changing the world. We will miss you, Kat. 

- Emma Sierecki

I first met Kat in 2017 a few months before I joined Single Molecule Science at UNSW. Our paths had never previously crossed. Our fields of interest barely intersected. I was a structural biologist and virologist, Kat a renowned T-cell expert and microscope builder. Yet at our first meeting, it was clear that Kat was someone who would go above and beyond to fight for me. Why? I’m not sure I’ll ever really know, but it was the greatest gift I have received in my professional life. As I grew to know Kat over the following years, it was clear that I was not alone. Those who worked at SMS didn’t just have a line manager, colleague, mentor and friend, they also had their very own champion. While Kat’s scientific achievements are undeniable, I will remember her as someone with a seemingly unique ability to enable those around her. While the untimely loss of a mentor and friends can be incredibly hard to comprehend, especially when so many had so much more to learn from her, I know that those who knew her will carry on her legacy of championing visionary science. Vale Kat. 

- David Jacques

 

It is with deep sadness that I write this tribute to Katharina Gaus – Kat to those who knew her. I would not be where I am today without her support and guidance, but I am by no means unique in this as Kat was a fantastic mentor to so many. Kat was a highly ambitious and successful scientist, but what really set her apart was how extremely generous she was with her support. She had a passion for building the careers of junior researchers and was so often more focused on selflessly creating opportunities for those around her rather than aggrandising her own career. Moreover, the way in which she provided support firmly reflected how much she valued diversity. Where so many just talk the talk on this issue, Kat truly walked the walk. If she believed a junior colleague had a contribution to make to science, rather than mould them into her own image, she would give them space and support to grow into the researcher they wanted to be. In my experience these are uncommon traits in those that have reached the pinnacle of their profession. 

In short, Kat showed me that it was possible to be highly successful, passionate about your work, true to your core values and still have a sense of fun and adventure. She even made it look effortless. I will miss her greatly and always remember fondly the extraordinary, but far too short, time I spent in her mentorship. 

- Jesse Goyette

 

In 2017, Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus hired me as Business Strategy Manager at the EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science at UNSW Sydney (SMS) and changed my life forever.

Indeed, my last 4 years at SMS have been quite exhilarating. I found an amazing team of smart, driven and motivated young researchers, who all shared a desire to build a research centre above all industry standards. As the Director, Kat had a very clear vision that she articulated and communicated effectively, gathering followers behind her. She had amazing abilities to lead, convince others and think forward; and a great ambition to cultivate research excellence.

I remember my first day when she seemed so excited that I had joined. I felt that I fitted right away. Since then, Kat has always been an inspiration. She listened and supported me when times were tough, way beyond my expectations. She always had my back. She fought hard against the system and bureaucracy when they constrained my ability to give my best for SMS.

Kat was positive and let me experiment and try new things, even if it ‘wasn’t part of my Position Description’. She allowed me to make mistakes to learn and grow! Kat’s vision was to open the doors of SMS to a diverse range of external (and internal) partners, including under-represented community members, investors and business leaders. Together, we created a new spin-out company to commercialise technology invented at SMS and participated in our local accelerator program to establish our startup. I especially remember the last Demo Night, presenting the team’s work to hundreds of academic and business leaders. It wasn’t a traditional academic activity, but it was for the benefit of SMS and our community.

One year ago, Kat supported my idea to create and host a new podcast discussing research impact with thought-leaders. She believed in me and in the potential to make research more accessible and impactful.

People at SMS will extend Kat’s work and will carry on her legacy with determination, pride, vision and great leadership. SMS will continue to be a leading research centre that trains and inspires future researcher leaders.

 I am very privileged to have worked with Kat to expand SMS by recruiting group leaders, staff and students; and to design new initiatives and strategies to improve research. Kat was an extraordinary leader, supervisor, mentor and friend. She will be missed immensely.

- Romaric Bouveret

 

Kat Gaus : Mission Impossible 

When I first saw the advert for the EMBL Australia Group Leader positions, I was happy for one of my colleagues working at UNSW, the job description seemed written specifically for him. When I congratulated him, he told me that the position was only opened to external applicants. I think I applied mostly as a courtesy initially; we're not that many people working on single molecule techniques in Australia and not participating would have somehow seemed rude. I remember telling my team in Brisbane that they shouldn't worry- there was no way we would move to Sydney. We just bought our dream house 6 months ago. 

As part of the 3-day interview process we had dinner with Kat and she was just magnetic, just so switched on mentally. She could change from light topics to serious ones in a flash and there seemed to be an intense conviction about everything she was saying. She wasn't trying to recruit someone that would serve her interests and her own research, but just seemed to enjoy the idea that she could change someone's career for, the better, in a flash. After a single day, the idea of not coming to Sydney, and missing that opportunity became terrifying. When I learned that I got that golden ticket, I knew Kat had changed my life. Six years later, I still have that feeling like walking on clouds as I enter the lab. That's a debt I'll never be able to repay. 

She impacted on so many lives - for me, the most amazing thing is the way she built up our department so fast within five years. I still don't know how she did it. At every recruitment round, she managed to convince multiple candidates to join, via one recruitment scheme or another.  Every addition of a new group leader was exciting and the route via which they joined didn't matter. We were all equal in Kat’s eyes once we were here. We all had a sense that this was bigger than the sum of each of us. Kat helped us understand that papers and grants were less important than our own conviction that our science was good. As the department grew, I never felt competition between groups, and this was all thanks to her design and vision. Kat never separated EMBL Australia or UNSW groups, she only talked about Single Molecule Science (SMS) groups, our department, our own little ecosystem. She talked about culture, and how we were the ones making decisions for ourselves – she empowered us. I had an absolute blind trust in her, and I knew that whatever happened she had our backs. Unconditionally. 

A couple of days ago, during a group leader meeting, as I was looking around the room, something became obvious. We were all the same. My partner and group co-leader Emma was telling me a few days earlier that whether we wanted it or not, science was defining us- that without science, our very personalities would be different. Kat had an inner flame burning bright and nothing could turn it off. As I was looking at my colleagues, I could see the very same in them, and this is what unifies us. The love of science, the passion, the thirst for discovery, and yes, the same burning flame is in us all. 

- Yann Gambin

 

Like so many people have said before, it has been a great privilege to be a part of Kat’s life. I will dearly miss this. I particularly miss the friendly way she greeted us with a big cheery ‘Hello”.

I met Kat when she first arrived in Australia. While our lives would become intertwined over the next 20 years due to my career path and that of my partner’s, it is Kat’s friendship that I remember most fondly. Sharing was something she was great at, and story-telling was one of many ways she captivated our attention, whether it was about remodelling a home, travelling to exotic destinations, or building a research unit with teams led by emerging investigators. Kat was a lot of fun and her tales were usually told with the enthusiasm of a grade schooler. Stories were not the only things Kat loved sharing. For instance, it was very common to be offered a taste of a meal she was enjoying, and she relished sampling our food just as much. She just embraced every aspect of life with the same gusto and welcomed people around her to be a part of it.

I’ve found great comfort in reading the many touching tributes that have poured in for Kat over the past month. It’s been heart-warming to hear how much of an impact she has had in different fields of research and on individual researchers. But my favourites have been ones remembering a great teacher and mentor, and recounting how invested she was in the success of others, and how generous she was with her knowledge and enormous intellect. 

Many in the field will be familiar with how Kat pushed the limits of technology to develop new methods, but she also pushed against barriers that held people back. She did this usually with little reservation. She frequently pushed back against ‘the establishment’, challenging them to do better. Kat was always striving to be better and make the environment better for everyone.

- Sue Min Liu

 

 

 

 

 

 









Rita Strack

Senior Editor, SpringerNature

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