Friends remember distinguished biologist
Prof. John Lisman (BIOL) may have been a scientist by trade, but by all accounts he was an ardent supporter of the arts, a talented lecturer and a dedicated researcher.
In an email on Monday, University Provost Lisa Lynch informed the campus community that Lisman had passed away on Friday from a lung infection. He was 73.
Lisman taught at Brandeis for 43 years, returning to the school after graduating with a B.A. in Physics in 1966. During his brief period away from the school he received his Ph.D. in physiology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.
During his extensive career, Lisman made important strides in understanding the brain. His research lab specifically focused on the formation of memories and on the abnormalities that underlie schizophrenia, according to Lisman’s website. His research significantly influences new studies on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and ALS, according to Lynch’s email.
In 2013, Lisman was elected to the rank of fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2014, Lisman and his team were awarded $1.95 million to advance their research by the National Institutes of Health under former President Barack Obama’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, according to an Oct. 14, 2014 Justice article.
His commitment to science was unwavering. While in the intensive care unit shortly before his death, Lisman delivered a remote talk to the Volen Center retreat, an annual conference which facilitates conversations between Brandeis University and the Volen National Center for Complex Systems scientific communities. He began his presentation: “It’s really exciting for me to give this talk because it’s a quest of over 30 years; I don’t think that’s very common these days, to have such a long quest. In any case, that’s how long it took to almost settle this question: what is the molecular basis of memory?”
Beyond his scientific achievements, Lisman was a great supporter of the arts, particularly at Brandeis. He served on the faculty advisory committee for the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts and was part of the search committee that recruited Chris Bedford as director of the Rose Art Museum, according to a Oct. 11, 2011 Justice article. Bedford left the Rose in 2016.
As a teacher, Lisman was a favorite with Brandeis students. He brought his first-hand research experience into the classroom in an engaging way.
“We are, and still will be, so influenced by your stunning thoughts and ideas. Will never forget the discussions we had,” colleague Kei Igarashi tweeted.
Lynch promised that Lisman’s legacy will be celebrated later this week; details will be included in a forthcoming email according to Lynch’s original email.
Lisman is survived by his wife Natasha and their two children.