Professors Vasso Episkopou and Steve Gentleman pay tribute to the late Professor Jackie de Belleroche, who died after a short illness on 3 July 2019.
Jackie will be sorely missed, not only by her family but also by all her students, past and present, and her research colleagues around the world. She was a very modest and private person but her achievements in research and teaching were outstanding. Jackie was a fantastic colleague, a meticulous researcher and a passionate teacher. She always had time to listen to people’s problems, to offer wise advice and practical help. In times of crisis, Jackie kept a cool head and, if she was annoyed, we might get a characteristic: “Oh how odd”!
Jackie had a prolific research career spanning four decades, producing around 200 peer-reviewed publications. She started her academic journey as a Lecturer at Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School in 1980. After a series of promotions, she became a Professor at Imperial College in 1996, where she served as Head of the Neuromuscular Disease research group (1997-2006) and then as Non-clinical Dean for the Faculty of Medicine (2006-2009). She was also a Fellow of several national and international distinguished societies.
Jackie’s research, on the genetics and biochemistry of disease, covered diverse disorders such as stroke, schizophrenia and motor neuron disease (MND/ALS). However, it was the identification of some of the faulty genes causing familial ALS that was perhaps her most important and well-recognized scientific contribution. This involved her participation in international ALS research consortia and collaboration with a wide range of clinicians and fellow scientists around the world, together with a resource of materials and medical histories from 200 ALS families that she established. To date, she managed to identify causative mutations in approximately 70% of them. She was always grateful, considerate and caring, providing feedback and encouragement to these families.
One of Jackie’s greatest strengths was her remarkable ability to explain in lay terms the meaning of her research and how research could help us understand disease. It was this talent as a teacher which makes up a huge part of her legacy. She loved teaching and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from her students. Over the course of her career, she inspired thousands of medical and biomedical students. She supervised more than 20 PhD students who graduated from her laboratory, several of whom have remained in academia and continue the research she started.
Jackie, you will remain in the memory of your numerous students who are carrying the torch of your life’s achievements and follow your advice: “Just be yourself, follow your dream”. We, your colleagues, will endeavour to keep the same devotion and high ethical standards that you have shown throughout your academic career.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Professor Vasso Episkopou
Department of Brain Sciences
Leave a comment
Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.