Staff Retirement News

Jan Walker

Jan started as a graduate trainee in 1983 with the Department of Zoology in insect physiology, followed by a move and promotion to parasitology. After a short break away from Aberdeen, she returned in 1995 to Medical Microbiology working on E. Coli, then onto the Aberdeen Fungal Group in proteomics. A move to chemical Engineering in 2010 saw a return to the Old Aberdeen campus and then most latterly in 2013, Jan was promoted to Technical Resources Officer for the School of Natural & Computing Science and the School of Geosciences.

Throughout her career she has worked in internationally renowned facilities with many high-profile researchers and in several cases saw them develop from PhD to chair and onto senior management roles in the University.

She could often be seen with her overalls or lab coat on, getting stuck into clearing labs and areas, or dealing with cleaning following incidents in her areas of responsibilities. Her developments and improvements in facilities and laboratories have seen substantial benefits to a multitude of users including students, technicians, academic teachers and research staff across the University. Jan’s personal commitment to sustainability has seen both Schools benefit from reduced waste and improved recycling – a flag she has flown and persuaded us all with. This also saw a reduction in costs to Schools by reusing equipment and furniture.

Jan has worked closely with most University services – in fact it would be easier to name the ones she hasn’t worked with over her 35 years! Perhaps most notably, she worked with Estates & Facilities for the buildings improvements she helped to lead, and the Health, Safety & Resilience team where her passion for health, safety and wellbeing contributed to new policies and procedures. She could be relied on not only in her management role but also in her voluntary role as H&S Representative for Unite the Union.

Rita Briede

Fellow technicians, chemistry academics and students gathered over coffee and home bakes to thank Rita for all her hard work and dedication over the past 18 years of working at the University.

Rita started in chemistry 2005 to support 1st year undergraduate practical teaching.  Over her years she has probably helped around 8000 students with 1st year, S6 lab days for Advanced Higher pupils, summer schools and outreach activities.

She found a way to engage with first year students in a non-academic way when she introduced the map of the world to the lab and asked “her” students to place a pin on the map showing where they came from. Over the years this map has shown over 60 nationalities and is often mentioned by students who got to pin their flag in the map.

We all wish her a happy and healthy retirement.

Gordon Stables

Gordon Stables taking picture standing on a ladderColleagues said a fond farewell to Gordon Stables, who is perhaps best known for his captivating photographic images, on 20 December 2021.

Gordon joined the University’s Geography department in 1984 as a trainee technician. He worked initially for Professor William Ritchie under the supervision of Chief Technician Jim Livingston. His main tasks included working on the anthropogenic changes to coastal and nearshore areas and photographing the Scottish coastline.

He then joined the then Queen Mother Library where his duties included printing George Washington Wilson prints from the original glass negatives and providing the E6 processing for the entire University.

Gordon’s next move was to the Department of Medical Illustration, then led by Director Keith Duguid. He received training from medical illustrator Nigel Lukins and in 2005, he was made head of graphics / illustration and team lead for the medical and public relations photography unit. The department has since grown and covers all areas of the University while still maintaining core NHSG services.

Gordon said: “It’s been a pleasure to work for the University of Aberdeen and NHSG. It has enabled me to work alongside such talented colleagues and I will miss their camaraderie.”

Brian Henderson, Director of Digital & Information Services, said: “Gordon’s talent and open, friendly manner will be much missed by his many colleagues and friends here at the University. From covering events like May Fest to working closely with Schools, Gordon has had a rich and varied career which has been a tremendous service to the University and NHS Grampian.

“I’d like to thank Gordon for his professionalism, dedication and hard work and wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement.”

Gordon Stables (second from the left)

Couple retire after combined service of 74 years

Christine and Kevin Mackenzie

A couple who have dedicated a large part of their working lives to the University are to retire after a combined service of 74 years.

During their years with the University, Kevin and Christine Mackenzie have seen five Principals, five University Secretaries, six University logos, and have carried out numerous different roles.

Kevin joined the University in 1979 aged 17 as a trainee histology technician in the Department of Anatomy. After 10 years he moved to Plant Science for a year then Zoology to look after the Electron Microscope Unit. After 15 years, he moved to the IMS and from 2008 to the present, he has been the Microscopy and Histology Core Facility manager.

Christine joined the University in 1989 as a graphic designer in the Central Printing Service. In 1998, she joined the nascent Web Team as a web designer, and in 2004 moved to become documentation officer in the IT Training Unit. Over the following 10 years Christine’s role and remit flexed and adapted to the restructuring of Library and IT Services. In 2014, she became leader of the IT Training and Documentation Team, and in 2016 her line management role was extended to include the Toolkit Team.

Christine Mackenzie in a wetsuit on a beachChristine said: “It is a lovely campus to work on with an amazing community spirit and I think that’s why people stay. We’ve made many friends – at the end of the day, it’s the people we’ve met that have made the University such a great place to work. We’ve both had the opportunity to change jobs several times, transferring skills from one area to another area and gaining new skills in the process. There is always more to learn and that’s what keeps it interesting.”

Kevin added: “The real buzz for me is from giving advice, training people, and seeing what they go on to achieve. Working for the University is a bit like working for a large family. When you have been here as long as we have you get to know people really well and it is inspiring helping people to achieve their goals.”

Debbie Dyker, Director of People at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I would like to thank Kevin and Christine for their 42 and 32 years dedicated service respectively to the University. Their knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed by their many colleagues and friends.

“They are a credit to the University, and I am delighted that they leave armed with many fond memories from the numerous departments and projects they have contributed to over the years.

“During his long years of service with the University, Kevin has been recognised as the leading expert on microscopy and has supported many research groups, delivered training to researchers and PhD students, carried out public engagement in Mayfest, Techfest and other events, hosted school work experience, and much more. His enthusiasm for photography together with his microscopy skills has led to national recognition and awards and his images adorn meeting rooms across the campus.

“Although perhaps best known for her current role in IT training and documentation, Christine’s previous roles have seen her as the ‘go-to’ person for digital design creation and advice, both within IT and across the University. She always has time to answer questions and has been a fantastic mentor and support to many colleagues.Kevin Mackenzie wearing a raincoat near a body of water

“Colleagues will miss Kevin and Christine’s enthusiasm and can-do attitude, but we all wish them both a very long, happy and healthy retirement.”

Kevin and Christine’s finish work at the end of this year, after which they plan to pursue their many and varied interests in retirement. From fly fishing to wild swimming, and live music to travel – when the world opens up again, of course!

Sue Barr

Sue BarrSue Barr was appointed as the University’s first full-time Named Veterinary Surgeon in 2006 and is well known to users of the MRF and the Zoology BSU. She helped to define this role and, with her real interest in the scientific projects, to create partnerships with academic and research staff to help realise their ideas.

Sue organised and ran the UoA ScotPIL training course for those who want to work with animals and was a massive help when writing new project licences, commenting on drafts and giving advice on models and monitoring.

In the words of one staff member she always made time if you had questions about anything (including advice about pets – thanks Sue!). Her cheeriness and smiles will be particularly missed. For all who came into contact with her, Sue’s professional skills and experience have been invaluable in helping to develop the services, good practice and relationships over the years. Her last day was Wednesday 8 December.

Professor Graeme Murray

Professor Graeme MurrayGraeme Murray, the holder of the University’s Regius Chair in Pathology, retired on 31 August 2021 after a lifetime of service in the University.

Graeme completed his medical degree and PhD at the University of Aberdeen and has had a long and successful 37-year career with the University as a clinical academic and with NHS Grampian in an honorary position. Graeme was appointed to a Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Pathology in 1994 and to a Personal Chair in 2002.

We are fortunate that Graeme chose to remain in Aberdeen following graduation and specialist training, during which time he has made a major contribution to both organisations.

Amongst a broad range of activities, Graeme has been a stalwart in delivering Pathology teaching within the medical curriculum and has been hugely supportive of students. He has supervised many PhD students and run a research team, investigating bowel cancer to understand how this common type of cancer develops and progresses. He was the Clinical Lead for the Grampian Biorepository since 2011 and, in his Consultant Pathologist role within NHSG, he was the Lead Consultant Pathologist for gastro-intestinal, hepatobiliary and pancreatic pathology.

Graeme has been a prolific collaborator, with international as well as Aberdeen based researchers, bringing his clinical expertise to many partnerships on grants, in supervising PhD students and medical student projects. He has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, one of the leading academic pathology organisations, attending and presenting at many meetings as well as serving as Honorary Treasurer.

To crown off his career, Graeme was appointed to the prestigious Regius Chair of Pathology in 2019. It was founded in 1882 and is the only Regius Chair of Pathology in the UK. Also in the past couple of years he was invited to deliver the Doniach Lecture of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. This accolade celebrates the lifelong contribution of a Senior member of the Society to the science of Pathology and to the Scientific activity of the Pathological Society and illustrates his respect and stature in the pathology field. He was the first Aberdeen pathologist to receive this award.

I know that I speak on behalf of his colleagues and students in wishing him a long, happy and healthy retirement.

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya

Professor Kath Shennan

Kath Shennan retired on 31 August 2021 after 27 years' service to the University.

Kath joined the University in 1994, as a lecturer in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, at that time located in Marischal College. There Kath set up her research group to study the secretion of polypeptide hormones such as insulin, and specifically mechanisms by which cells direct proteins into the regulation secretory pathway. This was soon followed by a move to the newly built IMS on the Foresthill campus. There she was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2003 and to a Personal Chair in 2014. Alongside her research, Kath, has been a major contributor to teaching biochemistry across all undergraduate levels, both as a lecturer and course coordinator, and to research training through the supervision of many PhD students and research technicians.

As many of you will know though, Kath's contributions have not been confined to research and teaching within the School. In 2010, she took on the role of Admissions Selector for the BSc Science degrees, a post she held until 2019. She was Convenor of QAC from 2011 and became Dean for Quality Assurance/Enhancement in 2016. To all of her roles, Kath has brought knowledge, wisdom, dedication, patience and, above all, a voice of reason.

Colleague, teacher, tutor, mentor, advisor, counsellor, friend. We will miss all the 'Kaths' but wish her well and send her off with the very best wishes for a long and joyful retirement.

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya

Jim Wyllie

James WillieJim joined the University in January 1979, as a Lecturer in International Relations, becoming SL in 1992 and Reader in 2002.

During those 40 years, a great deal has happened in the world of politics and IR – the Thatcher era and legacy; the Falklands War; the end of Apartheid; the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; almost constant turmoil in the Middle East; and most recently the rise of populist movements across the globe including the phenomena of Trump and Brexit. For successive generations of students and young scholars, Jim has been pivotal in helping them understand these globally significant events. He has challenged and nurtured them – helping them develop critical thinking skills and challenging them to develop and defend their analysis of these global trends. Those students have gone on to apply that expertise in professional settings around the world, in many cases involved in responses to those events in areas such as academia, the military, international organisations, and civil service departments in the UK and further afield.

Jim has contributed to the University in many ways but there are two contributions of particular note. First, since 1979 he has been Director of the MLitt/MSc Strategic Studies; he has sustained, adapted and expanded this successful programme over four decades and established a world-wide reputation. Over the years this has evolved to include a suite of Master’s degrees: Strategic Studies, Strategic Studies and International Law, Strategic Studies and Management, and Strategic Studies and Energy Security. Jim has steered and ‘owned’ these programmes, contributing the majority of the teaching and supervision and providing continuity throughout.

Jim’s other major (and, at Aberdeen, incomparable) achievement has been in doctoral supervision, with over 25 successful candidates, including eight in the past four years. Very few academics can boast such success, both in the numbers of supervisees, and in the nature of the relationships he has developed with students (as is evidenced by the number of bottles of whisky he receives as gifts!). Many past doctoral and Master’s students are now in positions of great responsibility, for instance as senior public servants in the FCO, MOD and national intelligence agencies in the UK and overseas; high performing academics in the UK, US and at other universities around the world; leading security officials for international banks; key staff for blue-chip risk assessment companies; and senior officers in the UK and other national militaries. These are the words of two of Jim’s former students:

“For our generation of strategic studies students, having studied as undergraduates during the turmoil of the early 1990s, we wanted a postgraduate course that could help us begin to make sense of the emerging world order and consider the new challenges we were going to face in our preferred professional arenas. Jim’s Strategic Studies course did just that – helping us begin to identify a new type of trans-national security challenge, query what power now meant after the demise of a superpower, and to reflect on whether history had really ended.” (Fraser Lovie, who graduated with a Master’s in 1995)

“'My Strategic Studies class used to joke that Jim had a cult of personality, but the truth is simpler than that. He inspires intense loyalty and affection in his students because he never offers anything less in return.” (David Walsh, who completed a PhD in 2018)

Jim’s other contributions are manifold – there are too many to list fully – but include highly respected academic publications; University committee work; consultancies over 30 years for UK MOD and FCO; taking the University of Aberdeen name around the world, delivering lectures in South Korea, Hong Kong, Oman, UAE, Jordan, Cyprus, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Gibraltar, Canada and the United States; for ten years, delivering the annual ‘European Security’ lecture at the Royal College of Defence Studies, London; and dabbling with real-world politics.

His place within the department is a special one. Words used to describe him as a colleague include professional, reliable, dedicated, supportive, mischievous and argumentative (in a good way). As Head of Department, I cannot express how thankful I have been for his kindness, help and professionalism. And all these characteristics have been evident even at times when he has faced great personal challenges – most recently a knee operation which did not stop him undertaking any of his departmental responsibilities. Previous Head of Department Mervyn Bain (now Head of School) writes:

“The completion of 40 years continuous service at the University is a fantastic achievement and throughout this time Jim has adhered to the ethos of investing time with students and colleagues. This is evident in the popularity of his programmes, courses and number of PhD students. It is a highly rare occurrence to pass Jim’s door without seeing him spending time with students. Personally, I would also like to thank Jim for his counsel which I have found invaluable during my own time at the University.”

All of this has been done with a certain inimitable style. Jim is known for his independent and challenging views, not necessarily the most liberal and mainstream in an academic context. Which is no bad thing, as he confronts the lazy thinking and analysis of students and staff. He forces us to understand events like the election of Trump as US President and Britain’s departure from the EU, not simply express despair that these events are happening. Stuart Durkin from PIR observes: “Even if you don't agree with Jim's analysis, there is a rigour and quality to what he does and he is not afraid to challenge received wisdom. I only hope his new knee bears up, given that he opted to have it done under the Communist system.” All in all, Jim has served the University with integrity and professionalism, for which his students, colleagues and friends are very thankful.

Lynn Bennie, Head of Politics and International Relations, January 2019.

Carol Wallace

Carol WallaceColleagues said a fond farewell to Carol Wallace when she retired on July 31, after 24 years of service.

Carol joined the University in March 1997, working as a technician in the Department of Ophthalmology. She then went on to work with Gordon Brown in the Aberdeen Fungal Group and prior to her retirement was carrying out vital COVID -19 research within Nikki Mutch’s group, resulting in an extensive and well cited publication list.

Carol was extremely resourceful and able to adapt. This was particularly clear when she successfully balanced her technical role in IMS with that of an administrator’s role in the Institute for Education in Medicine and Dental Sciences. Over the years, Carol has passed on her knowledge and skills to countless students and post docs, as well as fellow members of staff and we have all benefitted from her patience and kindness.

Along with her excellent lab work, Carol was always very willing to help organise and to participate in many social events and we will miss her organisational skills and her willingness and ability to party!

Carol has enjoyed many memorable years at the University and can regale with many a tale. She is an excellent work colleague and friend and will be greatly missed by us all and in particular at coffee time in the Atrium. We wish Carol all the very best with her future plans.