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Dedication to Ron Pace

Abstract

Ron Pace (6 July 1946 to 4 January 2021) was a scientist of deep intellectual pursuits, an eager debater of the laws of nature, and an admired teacher, whose generous character and humorous spirit was a gift to his colleagues, collaborators, and students.

Ron Pace, Professor of Chemistry at the Australian National University, Research School of Chemistry was a highly respected scientist who had wide professional interests inside and outside of photosynthesis. He saw deep physical insights within biological phenomena and was not content with mere admiration of its complexity. He applied theoretical and physical concepts to a broad range of scientific questions ranging from chemical sensors, ionic conductance, spectroscopic methods, interpretation of protein crystallography, the photochemistry of natural and artificial photosynthesis. He was highly collaborative and engaged in many international projects in photosynthesis, notably Photosystem II optical spectroscopy of native pigments and redox cofactors (with J. Anderson, J. Barber, R. Burnap, W. S. Chow, N. Cox, E. Krausz, A. W. Rutherford, M. Seibert), the nature of the manganese catalyst for water oxidation in PSII (with K. Ahrling, G. C. Dismukes, M. C. W. Evans, G. Hanson, J. H. Nugent), computational studies of the mechanism of catalysis of water oxidation by Photosystem II (with S. Petrie, R. Stranger), and artificial photosynthesis (with W. Hillier, R. Stranger, G. Swiegers, T. Wydrzynski) among other topics (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
figure 1

Ron Pace (courtesy of Elmars Krausz)

Reminiscences


Charles Dismukes, Rutgers University

Ron was renowned for this encyclopedic knowledge of the vast literature covering spectroscopic and crystallographic properties of PSII. This skill and his relentless search for self-consistent interpretations set him apart as adjudicator of controversial interpretations. Whether you were on one side of the debate or the other, we all sought his opinion as we knew that he was most broadly knowledgeable of the subject literature. He was unique in this capacity. At conferences and in his writings, he would bring up for discussion interpretations given by one set of authors/techniques that were not consistent with other authors/techniques. His personable character welcomed us all to seek his opinion at conferences. He clearly was thrilled by a good debate, his form of camaraderie. He will be missed for his quick mind, eager smile, and classic Aussie humor.


Rob Stranger, Australian National University

I first met Ron when I arrived at the ANU in 1995 to take up an academic position in the Department of Chemistry. Right from the outset he struck me as a very colorful, witty, larger than life character—everything was done with a lot of humor, often with complete disregard for political correctness. Ron was extremely knowledgeable, not only in chemistry and the sciences in general, but he also had a great love for the arts, history (in particular, Greek and Roman history), and Latin. Ron had been working on the photosystem since the 1990s but it was not until 2006 that he and I began what was to be a very successful research collaboration. It was through this interaction that we became very close friends. I’ll miss him dearly but will always treasure the time that I spent with him and our scientific endeavors together.


Paul F. Smith, Valparaiso University

As a grad student, it was often easy to be intimidated whenever a research professor visited campus. These are, after all, titans of chemistry—the best of the best, sometimes managing millions of dollars of funding and dozens of students, peer reviewing the most in depth and complex literature and proposals, writing uncountably many manuscripts and debating their contents, scheming new ideas, etc. Trying to converse with these people, as a 22-year old still reading textbooks following a dinner of Ramen noodles, was often an exercise in “Can I keep an interesting conversation going for more than 3 min?”. Ron Pace's visit was so very exceptionally the opposite of this experience. He was refreshingly down to earth, easy going, and dare I say normal! He did not give off an ego—instead he brought passion and enthusiasm, genuine curiosity in science, and an ability to talk about anything for a time that always seemed too short. As someone who disagreed with a lot of prominent photosynthesis research—often, he suspected, to his disadvantage—not once did I ever get a sense of anger or resentment from him. Ron showed me a completely new way that a scientist could carry himself, and I truthfully try to emulate his poise when I can. So grateful to have met him and so sorry he’s gone.

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Correspondence to G. Charles Dismukes.

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Dismukes, G.C., Stranger, R. & Smith, P. Dedication to Ron Pace. Photosynth Res (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11120-022-00928-5

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