Tuesday, December 29, 2015

R.I.P., Mike Davidson

Mike Davidson (image snagged from 
Nikon Small World's Facebook post here)

I am in tears and on the verge of sobbing.

Such an enormous loss to the scientific community in so many ways, not least of which the humanity. He was an awesome person that I always felt comfortable talking to, and who always went out of his way to be nice to me and offer me help, even when I had just met him at Woods Hole.

My first “interaction” with Mike was actually long before I met him in person: Mike created the definitive educational website for learning how microscopy works. I learned the basics of what I spend most of my professional life doing from this man’s freely available website, which everyone should visit at some point or another, whether they plan to do microscopy or not (see here: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu).

Among many other things, Mike was quite simply the most generous collaborator I've ever met. His contribution to science via collaborations and providing enormous resources to the community is incalculable. He generated and freely provided >3000 fluorescent protein constructs while constantly working to generate better ones. Those plasmids will now be available for almost free through Addgene (see here: https://www.addgene.org/fluorescent-proteins/davidson/).

Most importantly, Mike helped a huge number of young people along the way (he hired over 500 technicians over his 20 year career!). I will never forget the awe I felt when he told me how he hires people for his lab: “I look for smart people. I don’t care what their GPA is. If they messed up and didn’t get good grades, I give them a chance to prove themselves. It turns out a lot of those types of people are some of the hardest and most creative workers.” I later learned this was an understatement - he actually *sought out* people who suffered from previous mistakes (and correspondingly low GPA’s).

Mike was also inspiring to me because of his unorthodox method of funding his work. He made millions by selling microscopy images, and he shunned federal funding. Thus, his creativity was boundless and went beyond the technical aspects of science, to rethinking everything about how science is done. 

Here are a couple great "recent" articles about Mike and how he touched the lives of so many:



May his memory be a blessing.