Dr Jim Caunt, 1976-2017
10 February 2017
Dr Christopher James (Jim) Caunt, a Bristol graduate and former Research Associate at the Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, passed away in January. Professor Craig McArdle and Dr Gavin Welsh offer a remembrance.
We are saddened to report the loss of our colleague and friend, Dr Christopher James (Jim) Caunt, who died on 6 January 2017.
Jim was a Lecturer in Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, but had a longstanding association with the University of Bristol, having obtained his BSc in Cellular and Molecular Pathology here in 1997. He then completed his PhD in Molecular Immunology at the University of Sheffield, and returned to Bristol as a postdoctoral RA between 2002 and 2007. In that time, he worked initially on signalling of gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptors, which are major therapeutic targets for assisted reproduction and for treatment of hormone-dependent cancers, and then increasingly on mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling.
Jim was an excellent scientist whose work was characteristically creative and thorough. His remarkable talent for developing novel molecular tools and models led to the publication of over 40 papers. He had a contagious enthusiasm for his science and would happily chat for hours about MAPK phosphatases, their role in cancer and their potential as therapeutic targets. At Bath he established himself as an excellent lecturer and PhD supervisor, and supported his discipline, acting (for example) as a local mentor, a committee member and meeting organiser for the Biochemical Society.
Jim had an amazing ability to connect with people very quickly. Whether it was welcoming a new arrival to the department, or meeting a potential collaborator for the first time, it didn't seem to take long before he was offering to pass on a favourite recipe or arranging to go running together. This reflected both his warmth and genuine interest in people, and his desire to include them in the activities that he enjoyed so much. In the lab, Jim was always generous with his time and advice, his enthusiasm for scientific research extending far beyond his own projects. His approachability, humour and patience in explaining complex concepts is why many at Bristol have their fondest memories of working collaboratively with him. Away from the laboratory Jim was a keen walker, climber, runner and photographer, an avid reader, a demon Scrabble player and a BBQ connoisseur. He had a truly unique sense of humour that was often very dry, but equally often quite surreal!
Jim was not only an excellent scientist, but also a wonderful friend and colleague. He was remarkably kind-hearted and considerate, and it was this combination of ability, enthusiasm, wit and willingness to help that made him such a pleasure to know and to work with. In his sadly short academic career Jim made a real impact far beyond his many publications. His work and the fond and lasting memories his friends and colleagues will always have of him are a fitting legacy for someone who will be greatly missed.
Jim was married last year, and our thoughts are with his wife Lindsay, his parents, brothers and sister.