Obituary Jure Piskur (1960 – 2014)

JP

On 18 May 2014, Professor Jure Piskur died at his home in Lund following a short struggle against advanced cancer. He leaves behind his lifelong partner and wife, Judita Gartner, and their sons, Jan and Jure.

Jure was born in 1960 in Slovenia, at that time part of Yugoslavia. He was proud to have participated in the (peaceful) Slovenian independence movement, which led to its international recognition in 1991. Even when Jure’s research led him to Australia, the USA or Scandinavia, he always kept close contact with his home country. Jure’s contribution to Slovenia’s scientific internationalization was recognized in 2012 when he was named Ambassador of Science of the Republic of Slovenia.

As an undergraduate, Jure studied chemistry and biology. After a short research visit to Stockholm, he moved in 1986 with Judita and their newborn son Jan to Canberra to pursue his Ph.D. studies at the Australian National University. According to his own story, it was here that he became a true molecular geneticist by learning to utilize yeast as a model organism.

In 1988 Jure with family moved on to Denmark, where he first worked at the Carlsberg laboratory, and later at Copenhagen University and the Technical University of Denmark. Here he extended his scientific tools by learning to work with another model organism, the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

When Jure was appointed professor of molecular genetics at Lund University in 2004, his main research areas were well outlined. First, he was interested in how the building blocks of DNA are formed and restructured in different organisms, ranging from bacteria through plants to humans. His aim was to understand fundamental cellular functions, but he was also confident that basic science could lead to breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. Secondly, Jure explored the genetics and chemistry of yeast species other than Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the standard yeast used for bread and beer making. Here his aim was to understand their biology, particularly their genetics and biochemistry, but again he was convinced that advances in basic science could lead to improved applied processes, for example with respect to ethanol production.

At the Biology Building in Lund, Jure formed a large international research group. Many undergraduate and graduate students, as well as post-docs and visiting scientists, benefited from his enthusiasm and capabilities as a mentor. He was also an excellent lecturer with a great interest in teaching students about the applied possibilities of research. For example, when Jure planned a course in Molecular Biotechnology he specially invited researchers with direct experience of patent law.

At the end of 2013, Jure was invited to establish a new laboratory in Copenhagen; he also wished to extend his activities at the University of Nova Gorica in Slovenia. However, fate hit him hard. In the beginning of 2014 he was diagnosed with advanced cancer. With all his remaining energy he worked to safeguard the scientific future of his students and co-workers and to provide as good as possible for his family. On 18 May 2014, Jure died peacefully in the garden of his and his family’s home in Lund.

Jure wanted to live with intensity. So he did, and we – his colleagues, friends and co-workers – miss him deeply.

Bengt O. Bengtsson
Marita Cohn
Wolfgang Knecht
Christer Löfstedt
Torbjörn Säll

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