Centre for Integrative Physiology

A tribute to Prof Alison Douglas

Professor Alison Jane Douglas

27th September 1961- 9th May 2012

Alison first came to Edinburgh in 1986 to work with Geoffrey Walsh as a postdoctoral research fellow. In 1989 she joined John Russell’s research group at Edinburgh, funded by a link grant jointly with me, then at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge.

When I moved to Edinburgh in 1994, Alison was appointed as a temporary lecturer in the Department of Physiology, and in 1999 she was appointed to a full lectureship. She was promoted to senior lecturer in 2003, to a readership in 2008, and in 2011 to a personal chair in Reproductive Neuroendocrinology.

Alison’s PhD research in Belfast had been on uterine physiology, and in her distinguished research career she became a leading international authority on the neuroendocrine adaptations in pregnancy that lead to successful delivery.

She published prolifically, including many influential reviews, and was funded by research grants from the BBSRC, MRC and Wellcome Trust in her time here. She was a frequent invited speaker at international meetings, and built an extensive network of international collaborations and warm friendships. In 2011 she was elected Chair of the British Society for Neuroendocrinology.

For the School of Biomedical Sciences, she played an important role in teaching and administration, including as Organiser of the Honours Programme in Physiology (2001-2004) and as Chair of the Honours Exam Board in Medical Biology (2007-2011).

She led the School’s successful bid for an Athena SWAN silver award, and was the inaugural convener of the School’s postdoctoral forum, activities that reflected her commitment to fairness, for women in science and for young researchers. When I became Head of School in 2008, Alison became one of my closest and most trusted advisors in that role.

Alison was the best of colleagues, unfailingly cheerful and positive, she celebrated her own achievement and those of others with transparent joy, and she accepted the inevitable occasional frustrations and disappointments of academic with equanimity.

Conscientious and dedicated to academic life in its full and rounded nature, she treated the most junior students and the most senior staff alike with generosity and respect.

She met her final illness with the same qualities that her life displayed so amply, she met visitors with open warmth and happiness, and showed a firm resolution to enjoy her remaining time that was humbling.

Alison died at the Marie Curie Hospice on May 9th 2012. Her husband Stephen was with her at the end. Our deepest condolences go to him and to her family in Northern Ireland.

Gareth Leng, 10th May 2012

Memorial service 1st June 2012

Memorial service 1st July 2012