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Mourning the Passing of Graham Shimmield

  • January 31, 2017

It is with heavy hearts that we inform faculty, staff, donors, alumni and friends of the passing of Graham Shimmield, Ph.D., executive director of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, and a member of the MDI Biological Laboratory Board of Scientific Counselors. He died on Dec. 24 in his native United Kingdom from complications of colon cancer.

Graham, 58, was an internationally known oceanographer who was executive director of the East Boothbay research laboratory for nearly nine years, where he oversaw a dramatic expansion of its facility and mission. During his tenure, Bigelow built a $32 million, 60,000-square-foot research and education campus, significantly expanded the laboratory’s scientific staff and research faculty and invested heavily in helping to turn research into economic opportunities.

Graham was well known for his research on geochemical processes in the oceans and the effect of climate change and human activity on the oceans. He published more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles during a 32-year career in Great Britain and the United States. He earned recognition as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and a recipient of the prestigious Plymouth Marine Sciences Partnership medal.

On a regional level, however, he is known for his vision for expanding Maine’s science and technology sector through the commercialization of scientific discovery — a vision that was the foundation of our friendship.

Together, Graham and I co-founded the Maine Life Sciences Group (LSG) in 2015 with the goal of modernizing and expanding the state’s research and development economy and catalyzing the creation and growth of new life sciences-oriented businesses. The group is a collaborative partnership of the Bigelow Laboratory; the MDI Biological Laboratory; Novo Biosciences, a for-profit profit spin-off of the MDI Biological Laboratory; and Kennebec River Biosciences.

One feature of the LSG is the LSG Biotech Incubator, which offers office and laboratory space to biotech companies on the MDI Biological Laboratory and Bigelow Laboratory campuses, as well as the scientific, business and clinical expertise of all LSG partners. Since the LSG’s founding, the partners have provided incubator space for a number of life sciences start-ups.

As a member of the MDI Biological Laboratory Board of Scientific Counselors, Graham served as a valued advisor to me, helped to oversee the institution’s scientific programs and played an advisory role in faculty career development and advancement. In the latter role, he initiated valuable collaborations and relationships between the faculties of the MDI Biological Laboratory and Bigelow Laboratory.

We will miss Graham very much. Indeed, everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him will share the sentiments expressed by Herbert Paris, the chairman of the Bigelow Laboratory Board of Trustees:

“Graham’s vision, knowledge and devotion to Bigelow Laboratory, along with his ability to manage many challenges with care and gentleness, defined him as a leader,” Paris said. “Graham enriched all of us who had the privilege of working with him. He was the guiding force that brought Bigelow Laboratory to international recognition. His passing is tragic, and it left us saddened.”

The Bigelow Laboratory is planning a celebration of Graham’s life in the spring. To help support his legacy, the laboratory has established an endowment fund in his honor. Contributions to the Dr. Graham Shimmield Endowment Fund may be sent to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, PO Box 380, East Boothbay, ME 04544.


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