Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Niels Bols presenting and laughing

Guest post by Marcel Pinheiro

Colleagues and former students who have worked with Dr. Niels Bols, throughout a career spanning 35 years, gathered together on Thursday July 25 for a retirement "symposium" celebrating our very own "wispy haired" cell biologist. Speakers arrived from across Canada, the United States, Europe, and as far as New Zealand to honour Niels on his retirement. Commonly seen throughout the halls and lecture halls of the Department of Biology, Niels arrived in Waterloo in the late 1970s from the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) where he worked with Dr. Nils Ringertz investigating the reconstruction of cells that had been enucleated. Building on this experience since arriving in Waterloo, Niels has become a renowned expert in the culture of continuous lineages of animal cells grown in vitro, or cell lines. He, and his students, have used cell lines developed from tissues of fish for studying various areas of toxicology and immunology. Years of research by the Bols’ lab has produced not only numerous novel fish cell lines, but also important methods for preparing culture media for establishing new fish cell lines. For his contributions to the science of in vitro biology, Niels was recently awarded the 2012 SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for In Vitro Biology. A great honour, indeed!

In addition to Niels' outstanding scientific contributions, it was the mentorship, collaborative efforts, and an infectious passion for all things science (and sports-related) that brought together past generations of students and colleagues. During his career, Niels oversaw a fervent bullpen of graduate students and undergraduate student volunteers working in his lab that one of the day’s speakers described as a "winning dynasty". Together with mentorship, Niels was an emphatic lecturer, having received the University of Waterloo’s Distinguished Teacher Award. Most famously, Niels taught ever-growing numbers of students in his Introductory Cell Biology course (BIOL 130). Here, no baseball cap was safe from being used as a teaching aid, as Niels presented cell biology to thousands of students over his career; one estimate suggested over 25,000 students taught since 1985! Finally, his long-time colleagues in the Department of Biology noted his long record of service on the animal care committee, passion when speaking about science, sports, or books, and his (sometimes strident) contributions to departmental meetings. Retired Associate Professor Wayne Hawthorn finished the collection of speakers by wowing attendees with examples of Niels’ impressive knowledge of hockey talent, which propelled the two co-General Managers to championship glory, as winners of the 1988/89 Biology Hockey Pool (a win that was reenacted as pictured below). The spirit of the symposium was summarized with Dr. Hawthorn’s words: "Niels mesmerized us with his knack to state the unexpected in such a riveting way, and we all hope he continues to rivet us". Be sure to catch Niels in his office in B1-366 before he heads to the west coast in the fall!

Niels Bols and Wayne Hawthorn celebrating a hockey victory

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