In Memoriam: Dr. Karl A Wilkinson (1981-2017)

Karl WilkinsonIt is with the greatest sadness that the Department has learned of the death at the age of 36 on 25 August 2017 of Dr. Karl Wilkinson, a double alumnus from this department.

Karl started his MChem studies at the University of Sheffield in 2000, graduating in 2005 with an upper second degree. That same year he started his PhD in the group of Dr. Anthony J. H. M. Meijer. In 2009 he graduated as the first-ever PhD graduate from the Meijer group. The title of his thesis was: "Theoretical Investigations into the Host-Guest Behaviour of Heterometallic Metallomacrocycles." After graduating from Sheffield, Karl spent some time as a post-doc in South Africa at the University of Cape Town and at the University of Southampton. Following a short stint back in Sheffield as a visiting researcher, he returned to South Africa as a lecturer in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cape Town and was still actively collaborating with the Meijer and Thomas groups in Sheffield.

Dr. Meijer said: "Karl was my first PhD student and one of the best ones at that. He was smart, a hard worker, and most importantly he was willing to challenge his own thinking and knowledge and therefore come up with new solutions to problems. But also he was imaginative, which allowed him to go beyond current thinking into areas which had not been explored experimentally and theoretically." He added, "It was great fun to host him as a visiting researcher in 2015, to see how he had grown and to put our collaboration on a new level. He was full of plans and ideas, some of which were starting to come to fruition. He told me a few weeks back that he had to have an operation, but appeared quite relaxed about it, so it came as a massive shock to hear the news. A very promising researcher has been lost to us."

Karl not only collaborated with the Meijer group, but also with the Thomas group. Prof. Thomas said: "I got to know Karl when he did a PhD with my colleague Anthony Meijer, based around computational studies on compounds members of my group were making. Indeed, Karl was a co-author on a recent paper showing that these compounds are potentially novel leads as anticancer therapeutics. Karl was always friendly, thorough, open to new ideas, and great at producing solutions to difficult problems. I also appreciated his understated sense of humour. When he got his faculty position in Cape Town, he contacted Anthony and me to develop a collaboration and we were all really excited to gain funding from The Royal Society (the prestigious UK National Academy of science) to allow members of our groups to travel between S Africa and the UK and exchange expertise. It was only at this point that, in his low-profile way, Karl revealed that our plans may have to be put on hold as his previous health problem had returned. I am genuinely shocked at this news: he had a great career as a research scientist and teacher ahead of him."

The department wishes Karl's family and loved ones all the best in these difficult times.

Written by Joe Clarke with contributions from Dr. Anthony Meijer and Prof. Jim Thomas.