Dear physics family
It is with great shock and the deepest sadness that we inform you that our chair, Jim Brooks, passed away suddenly over the weekend due to natural causes. He was at home with Janet Patten, his long-time partner, and his beloved Austrian shepherds. Appropriate words cannot be found for how we all feel right now but we will keep you informed as we learn more about the plans for a memorial service.
Dr. Eden Stevens, one of Brooks’ postdocs, who gave such a fantastic colloquium last week, has written the following tribute:
"Dr. Brooks was the best and the most dedicated mentor I have had. He worked very hard including the weekends to make sure we will be successful. He always made sure we had the best environment to excel and be creative. He took us in when we couldn't even use an ohmmeter yet. And his mentorship has made us better than we can ever be all because of him. A lot of us are not the brightest and the most talented, but he can truly see our passion and help us achieve our dreams. His group is always very diverse, yet with his outgoing personality and kindness in his own way, he managed to get his group to be cohesive and have great teamwork. Besides his wild research ideas, he also always offered his support when we had problems outside of work. These are just a few example. No words will be enough to describe his positive impacts to people around him. We all will miss him greatly and I regret not having a chance to say thank you to him one more time."
And Greg Boebinger, Professor of Physics and Director the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory writes:
"As you may know, I’ve known Brooks since 1982 when I was a grad student and he was an Assistant Professor at Boston University. We shared the same lab, sliding the magnet back and forth on rails depending on who had magnet time during any given week. Circumstances and personalities cast us as both friends, but also occasional competitors, because he was assigned to host Emilio Mendez, head of the IBM group working on the fractional quantum Hall effect. I was in the Stormer/Tsui (i.e. Bell Labs/Princeton) group. During one of their magnet runs, I was making alterations on our dilution refrigerator. As soon as I powered up the drill, electrical spikes showed up on their data, ruining the mobility of delicate two-dimensional electron system in their sample for the rest of the day (until they could thermally cycle the sample back to room temperature). Emilio was shouting at me. I felt terrible. It was Brooks who saw the humor and turned things into a teaching moment. In the 32 years since then, Emilio and I have laughed over the story over several beers several times (I typically had to pick up the tab!). For some reason, I told that story on Friday. Jim Brooks. What a great professor, mentor, and man."
Dr. Steven Hill, Professor of Physics at Florida State University echoed with the following:
"This is a terribly sad time for FSU, for the MagLab, for the wider international research community Brooks worked with, and for the many people whose lives he touched. I would like to echo everyone else's comments about Brooks’ endless enthusiasm, his work ethic, his love for science, and his love of teaching/mentoring. Everyone in Tallahassee will be aware of the huge impact he has had at FSU. But what many of you may not realize is that he has been just as active in the international scientific community, constantly traveling to Asia, growing scientific networks, and mentoring tons of young people from all around the world. Just last month, Brooks and I attended the first ever Gordon conference on Conductivity and Magnetism in Molecular Materials, an event that resulted from many years of planning by Brooks. International participation at this conference was remarkable, especially in terms of students and postdocs. I know that there will be many people all around the globe who will be deeply saddened to learn of his passing. Of course, Brooks’ connection to the MagLab was well known. All of his friends around the world are a part of the MagLab family.
Perhaps not everyone will know that I, too, was a postdoc under Brooks, and I can attest to everything that Eden wrote. Brooks was also the reason I moved to Tallahassee in 1995, where I soon met my wife (he and Janet attended our wedding), and where we now live happily with four wonderful children. Brooks touched our lives in so many special ways. We will truly miss him."
A memorial website where you can upload reminiscences and testimonials has been established for Jim Brooks at: http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=James-Brooks&lc=2326&pid=172613193&mid=6137593
Memorial arrangements are still pending. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dr. James Brooks name to: WFSU and NPR, 1600 Red Barber Plaza, Tallahassee, FL 32310 or your favorite charity.
A MagLab press release containing a small fraction of the many responses from Brooks’ friends can be found at: http://www.magnet.fsu.edu/mediacenter/news/pressreleases/2014/2014sept29.html
Jim loved his physics family and we loved him. He, of course, would want us to carry on having fun, to continue to do great physics and to keep the sciences at FSU moving forward with maximum possible momentum. As he wrote, in the soon to be published departmental newsletter, “If you want a challenge for the future, consider this: Jack Crow, when he was in Physics/MARTECH, managed to move the MagLab from MIT to FSU in the early ’90’s. It’s now almost 2015. What should Physics do for an encore? Let’s think about it!”