After I finished my study for a Master of Applied Science degree from University of New South Wales, I was looking for a supervisor for my PhD study. I was interested in wine fermentation so I asked Prof. Graham Fleet. I didn’t know then that he will continue to be my mentor long after I graduated and well into my working life.
Above: He already accepted me as his student when I attended graduation ceremony for my master degree.
During my PhD research, everyday he would stop by to see us in the lab before he went home. He regularly summoned us to his office to report our progress. His way of pushing students was subtle but we always felt that something must be achieved before he caught you in the lab again.
However, some Fridays he would provide sparkling wine for us to enjoy. But we could not enjoy it too much because right after the drinks he would call some students into his office to discuss their progress.
One thing everybody knows was that Graham never blamed or discouraged anyone. He swore with interesting phrases just like all Aussies do but these were never insulting.
Actually I like how he spoke.
Sometime later, when I started attending scientific conferences, Graham told me that “sometimes you have to invest by going to these meetings so people get to know you.”
I literally took his advice. I went to conferences and meetings sometime entirely with my own expenses and sometime only partly funded by my office.
So he not only gave me higher learning in the field of yeast research but also mentored me how to lead my working life.
Above: My first conference after returning home from studying in Australia; International Food Microbiology, the Netherland in 1999.
After that I attended many Yeast Symposiums until the International Commission on Yeasts had accepted me as a commissioner.
Above: Side by side with Graham during photo session with the International Commission on Yeasts at 26th Symposium on Yeasts in Sorrento, Italy, 2007.
Then in September 2010 I hosted the 28th International Symposium on Yeasts in Bangkok. It was attended by about half the number of regular attendees because of political troubles earlier in April when buildings in Bangkok were burnt down by protesters.
However, most of my dearest colleagues in yeast research came, including Graham Fleet, in spite of warnings by various governments against visiting Thailand.
Above: Graham talked with other researchers at ISSY28 in Bangkok.
Above: I needed him most in Bangkok when I organized ISSY28.
As for our private lives, Graham was like an uncle. I know many of his students who invited him to their homes. I also took him to visit my mother while he was once in Bangkok. In photo below, the girl my mother was holding was my first daughter.
At the time of writing, he is sleeping peacefully in the hospital, waiting for his family to be ready to let him go. He has chosen to best way possible to leave this world. No pain, no injuries. His life has accomplished so much. So many people around the world have benefited from his contributions. Knowledge of the microbial ecology of fermented foods is forever recorded in the literature. Along the way, he enjoyed it and his students and colleagues enjoyed working with him.
Everybody loved Graham Fleet. And they forever will.