IN REMEMBRANCE

"As Aaron said to the Science Journal, 'When asked last year by the Bowdoin College (where he majored in chemistry) magazine, what was the most rewarding part of his job,' he responded: 'Seeing students and others I've mentored at CABM (Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) and elsewhere become independent, accomplished researchers and leaders in their fields in many different countries.' I wish I am one of such students. I really appreciate Aaron's help during my Ph.D. study at Rutgers University. I met with Aaron two years ago when he was visiting Shanghai, and I will miss him..."

Zuoren Wang
Investigator
Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Student at Rutgers

"Aaron was my scientific mentor and friend. He has greatly influenced my career and my life, and I will be forever grateful for his friendship, support, and kindness. I miss his intelligent conversation, critical scientific thinking, and great sense of humor. He will always be, for me, the role model of a great scientist and teacher."

Gaetano Montelione
Jerome and Lorraine Aresty Chair
CABM, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM

"Dear Aaron, Thank you so very much for your kind help. We all love you and we all miss you..."

Fang Liu and Xiaolu Wang
CABM, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM, Friend

"Aaron possessed many great personal qualities that made him a valued friend, colleague, leader, and scientist. I will always miss his wit, his warmth and his ability to see issues from multiple sides. These traits have been been imprinted on those he interacted with and they will forever make the world a better place."

Steve Brill
Professor
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM

"I am so grateful for Aaron's wonderful friendship and mentorship over the past 25 years. He was a great leader who cared deeply about everyone around him. Aaron's enthusiasm for life and science was infectious and inspirational and he is sorely missed."

Eddy Arnold
Professor
CABM, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM

"Aaron can best described as 'a gentleman and a scholar'. He was outstanding in each of these roles. Along with a few of us, he was one of the original members of the Roche Institute and was instrumental in building its scientific reputation in spite of the dire predictions of academic research supported by industry. He was a warm, modest, fun loving and caring individual which was only surpassed by his scientific contributions. All of the accolades only represent a small fraction of what a special individual he was. He was unique and it was an honor to have been his colleague and friend."

Nat Brot
Professor
Department of Microbiology, Center for Molecular Biology
Weill Cornell Medical School, Florida Atlantic University
Colleague at Roche

"Dr. Shatkin was a very special individual. He was kind, compassionate and caring and always found time to listen to your problems. His understanding and guidance helped me through a few difficult administrative situations. And although the conversation was serious, Dr. Shatkin invariably interjected his wonderful sense of humor to lighten the situation. Dr. Shatkin's love, not only of science, but of people created an environment at CABM of congeniality and camaraderie, making the work experience pleasurable. I feel very fortunate that our paths have crossed and he is deeply missed."

Madeline Frances
Senior Department Administrator
CABM, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM

"Aaron was a wonderful scientist and a gentle, compassionate individual with utmost integrity. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had him as a mentor, colleague and friend over the last 25 years. He will be sorely missed by many."

Peter Lobel
Professor
CABM, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Colleague at CABM

"You will live forever in our memories as the benevolent supervisor, supportive mentor, and caring friend."

Guannan Wang
Postdoctoral Researcher
Neurobiology, Boston Children's Hospital
Student at CABM

Date: 1/16/12, 11:01 AM
From: Aaron Shatkin, (shatkin@cabm.rutgers.edu)
To: me
Congratulations, Pragnya, and good luck!
Best, Aaron

"This was the last communication between me and Dr. Shatkin, at the beginning of this year after I shared one of my successes with him. Little did I know that he was struggling against life's most challenging job: to survive. I had no clue that he was fighting out one of the most debilitating diseases, to which so many of his students that he had mentored and many of his coworkers who worked in this demanding field, had so far not found a solution yet.

"I am no extraordinary scientist but a mediocre postdoc who like thousands of others have come from different parts of the world to this country to get advanced training and to fulfill their dreams of becoming a scientist of Dr. Shatkin's caliber. My interaction with Dr. Shatkin was very crisp, brief, memorable and sweet (May 2005-October 2006). He never knew me personally nor did he ever remember me by my name, but whenever we met by chance either in the CABM parking lot or in the lunchroom, we exchanged very big and broad smiles. In my first interaction, he asked me 'So everything is solved?' to which I had shyly replied yes, and thanked him for writing a strong recommendation letter along with my then postdoc supervisor, towards my H1B visa application, which was messed up by the administrative staff. Thereafter, whenever he would see me in the lunch room we would talk endlessly not about science, but about Bollywood movies. He would describe how honored he was when he was invited to have a special dinner with Mr. Satayajit Ray, an Indian movie maker who had just won an honorary Oscar. He would keep repeating how honored he felt having got a chance to dine with this legendary character. While he talked, I would stare at him and silently admire his personality as a 'modest scientist' who in spite of being so famous felt honored in the presence of another non-scientific/non-academic personality who hailed from India and was a lesser known face in the Great country of the United States of America. I could very well judge that it was not science that had made him great, but it was his modesty and simplicity that had made him rise way above his peers. As postdocs we interact with several scientists of mixed personality, but he was very different from the common breed. One day I remember, after I was successful in doing an immunofluorescent staining for one of his postdocs, he was so excited that he called me from the back 'Hello Doctor, I liked your staining. It is beautiful.'

"That was Dr. Shatkin . . . pleasing, friendly, amicable and approachable. When it was time for me to apply for my permanent residency application, I wrote to several scientists whom I knew, for recommendation letters: some were kind enough to give a positive nod, while others were 'I am sorry.' But in the year 2011 (five and half years after I had left CABM) when I requested him, the reply that I got 'Send me the draft and I will edit it,' and in fact he edited it with a more personalized touch. And he did this when he was in his 'Green Mile' of life.

"The fact that I want to emphasize here is because he was different, he never asked any questions, and over the years I have realized that people who want to do something for others, just do it. It is only those ones that offer excuses who do not have the flair to do something positive. I cite an anonymous quote here: 'you do not remember the names of Nobel laureates all the time, but you do remember your neighbor who gave you a piece of bread.' I cannot even count how many people were trained under him, how many students he mentored and tutored; only one thing I will ever remember is he helped me make a place for myself in this alien land. That was Dr. Shatkin who made a difference in the lives of postdocs coming transatlantic/transpacific to the land of America.

"When he wrote the last email to me, I did not know that he was ailing and was undergoing therapy in Boston living with his sister Marla and brother-in-law Henry. Incidentally and ironically I was in Boston that very time working in a lab adjacent to Henry's lab. Wish I had known about him before hand. I consider myself overwhelmed and lucky having been interacted with such an amazing and wonderful person as Dr. Shatkin. He might be a great scientist, but for me his smile made a difference in my life."

Pragnya Das
Research Staff
Forsyth Institute, Harvard Dental School
Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CABM

"Aaron was a founding Member of the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology (RIMB) which was established in 1967. His research at the RIMB on mRNA capping was a major factor in building the scientific reputation of the Institute in those early years and he was the first Member of the Institute to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences based on work done at the RIMB. But his science, spectacular as it was, was only rivaled by his personality. He was a modest, humble, warm human being, respected and well liked by everyone who knew him. His scientific legacy will be all of the scientists he advised and mentored throughout his career and he will be remembered fondly by all of us who knew him."

Herb Weissbach
Director and Distinguished Research Professor
Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Florida Atlantic University
Colleague at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology

"Aaron was a senior scientific colleague who encouraged the contributions of a younger scientist and became a mentor. He was a great scientist of the highest caliber. I offer my condolences to his loved ones and will greatly miss him."

Phillip Sharp
Professor
Koch Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Colleague and Friend

"Aaron will always be remembered fondly. He had that rare combination of attributes, a great leader yet humble man. Aaron led by example, may we all merit to continue his legacy of combining uncompromising science with a soft human touch. May the good Lord grant Aaron an eternal life in peace."

Isaac Edery
Professor
CABM, Rutgers University
Colleague at CABM

"Aaron was a warm, considerate and respectful man who made CABM a wonderful place to work. I always felt welcomed in his presence and he was never too busy to have a conversation. Aaron was a great leader."

John Drudy
Director of Finance and Operations
CABM, UMDNJ
Colleague at CABM

"Aaron's passion for science, his integrity and humble nature, and his mentoring and promotion of young scientists have provided me with both inspiration and motivation. I would not be where I am today without his guidance and encouragement, and importantly, I would not have had such an enjoyable journey. I consider myself both lucky and privileged to have worked with Aaron. He created an extraordinary environment in which to pursue research – beautiful facilities, enthusiastic and collaborative colleagues, and a culture of caring and sharing. The CABM reflects the things that Aaron valued. It is his legacy and I hope that it lives on as he envisioned, long into the future."

Ann Stock
Associate Director and Professor
CABM, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Colleague at CABM