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Julie Fisher

Dr Julie Fisher

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 5 August 2015, of Dr Julie Fisher, Reader in Biological NMR and Director of the Graduate School in the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.  Julie’s colleagues in the School of Chemistry have contributed the following obituary:

Julie grew up on Merseyside.  She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Lancaster, where she graduated with first class honours in Chemistry in 1983.  She returned to her roots to work on her PhD on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy under the supervision of Professor Ray Abraham at the University of Liverpool. After postdoctoral experience at the SERC Biological Centre in Leicester and at Southampton University she moved to Leeds in 1989, joining what was then the Department of Organic Chemistry. Julie was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1997 and to Reader in Biological NMR in 2007.

As Chemistry in Leeds struggled to define itself in the early 1990s, Julie contributed enormously to its development from a loose federation of three separate departments to a unified School.  She was instrumental in designing and delivering the first cross-sectional course to unify the teaching of spectroscopy across the Inorganic, Organic, and Physical Sections.  Hitherto the approach to teaching the subject was so different in the three old departments, this was a time when the undergraduates would ask “but is that inorganic, organic or physical NMR?”  Julie also played a number of important administrative roles as Undergraduate Admissions tutor, Programme Manager for the Chemistry and Mathematics degree and, most recently, Faculty Director of Postgraduate Studies.  She took on each of these jobs with a good heart and did them well.  She also cared passionately about teaching and those she taught.  In her pastoral roles as Postgraduate Studies Progression Tutor and as Year 2 Tutor, she supported innumerable students through difficult periods, for which she will be fondly remembered by many.

Julie had a real passion for science that stemmed from the optimism of the decade into which she was born.  On her office wall she had a poster of the famous earth rise shot from the window of Apollo 8 as it circled the moon.  She can only have been eight years old when the Eagle landed but it still inspired her.  From her PhD work onwards, Julie’s research focused on the application of high resolution multi-nuclear NMR spectroscopy to a wide range of problems.  She made significant contributions to nucleic acid chemistry, where she worked on the conformational analysis of amino acid based nucleic acid analogues for gene therapy.  She also worked on designing and characterising novel DNA architectures with applications in pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology.  She had a number of productive collaborations across the University but particularly with St James’s Hospital and the Leeds General Infirmary where she made NMR studies of body fluids and tissues to establish biomarkers for various diseases and medical conditions.  Her work in this area combined metabolic profiling and multivariate statistical analysis to identify biomarkers for pre-eclampsia, peripheral arterial disease, and environmental exposure to mycotoxin contaminants in food.  Using the same methodology, she was most recently working with surgeons to assess the status of post-operative kidney transplantation.  Another facet of Julie’s collaborative work was to use NMR to analyse the solution phase properties of specific supramolecular assemblies in solution.

Julie will be remembered by students and colleagues alike as someone who really cared.  She was a lovely lady utterly committed to both her job and her family.  She worked hard to promote the cause of women in science and contributed to developing the “family friendly” policies of the University with respect to scheduling meetings and its promotion procedures.  Julie was a mentor and role model for many female postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows throughout the twenty-six years she was in the School.

To her husband John, and daughters Elizabeth and Abigail we offer our heartfelt sympathy at the loss of our great friend and true colleague.


The funeral service will take place at 1 pm on Wednesday 2 September at Lawnswood Crematorium, Otley Road, Adel, Leeds LS16 8AA, followed by a reception in the School of Chemistry.  The family has issued an invitation to all to attend both events.  The flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half-mast in Julie’s memory on 2 September.