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Gregory Downey

Associate Dean, University of Colorado
IMS Associate Director, 2001-2006
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost,
National Jewish Health
Professor of Medicine and Immunology and Microbiology,
University of Colorado

Years Active in the IMS: 1991 - 2011

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of my career has been my association with the IMS and the opportunity that the IMS gave me to interact with and contribute to the careers of many graduate students at the University of Toronto. What a joy!

I moved to Toronto from a very large, busy, and somewhat chaotic laboratory at the University of Colorado.  I was assigned laboratory and office space in the Medical Sciences Building on the main campus.  I remember vividly opening the door to my new but completely empty laboratory and thinking to myself ‘it is too quiet in here to think or work – I need to be able to interact with other scientists and students’.  I therefore set out to find colleagues and collaborators.

I had the good fortune of meeting several individuals who would shape my career. Among them was Mel Silverman, then Director of the IMS.  I also met Sergio Grinstein, a brilliant young PhD scientist, who welcomed me into his busy and well-equipped laboratory at the Hospital for Sick Children.  Additionally, Art Slutsky, Hugh O’Brodovich, Charlie Bryan, and Eliot Phillipson all provided me with much needed advice and support. It was Mel and Sergio who encouraged me to participate on the graduate committees of several students and in 1991 I applied to become a member of the IMS.  Thank goodness, they accepted me!

Over the next several years I participated as a member of the graduate committee of several outstanding young students including John Brummell and Roy Zent, both of whom went on to their own highly successful scientific careers.  In 1994, I was elected as a full faculty member in the IMS and was finally able to supervise PhD students on my own. A series of bright and energetic young graduate students including Lea Fialkow, Tom Waddell, Joshua Kruger, Hedy Ginzberg, Eric Vachon and Theo Moraes completed their PhD studies in my laboratory. Each of these individuals contributed their boundless energy, innovation, and hard work to the laboratory.  We also got to share in the each other’s lives and experienced joy, laughter, comradery as well as sadness and of course a beer or two at the local pubs after a long day in the lab. I also served on the graduate committees of Jane Batt, Chung-Wai Chow and Warren Lee who have all gone on to their own successful scientific careers in Toronto.

As I reflect on this time, it was one of the most exciting times of my career. From 2001 through 2006, I served as the Associate Director of the IMS under the leadership of Dr. Ori Rotstein and this gave me the opportunity to learn about the administrative aspects of the IMS and SGS. This was one of my first administrative experiences and has served me well over the years.  To conclude, the IMS provided me with a scientific home and trained me in scientific rigor and how to provide a supportive learning environment for graduate students.  The IMS shaped my early career and provided me with the tools for success in academia.