Raised so far
Neil Mackenzie was a post-doctoral fellow at UBC’s Centre for Blood Research (CBR) who tragically passed away in a climbing accident at Joffre Peak on Sunday, January 11, 2015. Neil was a wonderfully unique person. He passionately embraced life through his explorations in science and the outdoors, infecting others with his enthusiasm, anxious to learn and always happy to teach and encourage others.
Neil completed a first post-doctoral fellowship in his home country of Scotland. Although he flourished in that position, his love of the mountains led him to consider becoming a full-time climbing instructor in Canada. However, when the opportunity came to take on another post-doc at UBC’s Centre for Blood Research (CBR), Neil decided to stay in academia and pursue outdoor adventures as a leisure activity. At the time of the tragic accident, Neil was well on his way to making major strides in the lab toward understanding some of the mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease.
Vascular calcification is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease and causes significant damage to the blood vessels. Neil was trying to define the role of cathepsins in vascular calcification, in the hopes of identifying new avenues for developing therapies for cardiovascular disease. His friend and colleague Alexander Westbye says, “Neil happily shared ideas and advice with fellow scientists. Working in a lab close to his, I often met him in the hallways or by the lab bench. Regardless of whether an experiment had succeeded or not, he was always in a good mood and optimistic about the next experiment.” In his much too short career, Neil received multiple awards for his work, and published more than 20 papers on vascular calcification. Although his life was brief, he left an important legacy for others to follow.
Neil’s passion for science was only matched by his love of the mountains and all his friends. One of the most active members of the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC), Neil could be found climbing practically every weekend. He was known to support any beginner and was happy to show them the ropes. He had a unique talent to connect with people thanks to his disarming and self-deprecating sense of humour that put people at ease in any kind of situation.
When Neil wasn’t climbing, skiing, snowboarding, sailing, biking, canyoneering, hanging out at the beach or doing just about any other outdoor activity one can think of, Neil was an easy-going, laid-back guy who loved to be around people. As a proud Scotsman, he loved whisky and of course, haggis! He was an avid music fan, in particular of hip-hop and bluegrass. With all these talents and interests, his housemates describe him still as a very modest person, and with a bright and bubbly personality. He is sorely missed by all.
The impact of your support
As a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Blood Research (CBR), Neil was a dedicated and caring mentor, whose encouraging and motivating words and actions were sincerely appreciated by all those whom he touched – colleagues, friends and students.
In recognition of Neil’s devotion to the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) community, your donation will support the CBR Summer Studentship Program, which is one of the largest and most progressive of its kind at UBC. The success of this program relies entirely on the mentorship talents of post-doctoral fellows and/or research assistants who are dedicated to creating a gratifying and successful experience for the summer student, one that stimulates excitement and a quest for more knowledge. Your gift will also go towards the recognition of an individual at the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) who, like Neil, demonstrates an outstanding commitment to mentorship and the development of others. In an annual ceremony, the Neil Mackenzie Mentorship Excellence Award will be bestowed each year by members of the CBR to the successful nominee.