Professor Harriet Jones

1966 – 2022

Professor Harriet Jones, University of East Anglia (UEA), died on 27 May 2022 after a long battle with cancer.

Harriet, also known as “Harry”, grew up in London and Chelmsford before completing a botany degree at the University of Bristol (1986-1989). She then moved to the University of Birmingham where she undertook a PhD investigating mixotrophic flagellates under the supervision of Barry Leadbeater (1989-1994). Jackie Parry was a post-doc there at that time and remembers Harry’s very inquisitive nature and how she was the first in the group to work out what these new-fangled things called the ‘world-wide-web’ and ‘emails’ were! She sent her first email to Jackie saying “I’m hungry. Is it lunchtime yet?” and although sent at 12ish it didn’t arrive on Jackie’s computer (which was only next door) until 2ish by which time they’d eaten!

It was during her time at Birmingham that Harriet joined the British Section of the Society of Protozoology (now Protistology-UK) and quickly revealed her talent as a gifted communicator through her insightful presentations. She was later to join the BSSP committee as Programme Secretary, overseeing a series of memorable meetings.

After completing her PhD, Harriet took up a position as a Research Fellow at Imperial College London (1994-1997) which involved spending time at NASA. She returned with a Green-Fluorescent Protein (GFP) expressing bacterium, which had never been seen in the UK before. Jackie worked with Harry to develop methods for using this fluorescent prey to determine protozoan ingestion rates and they published their joint paper in 2001. Now, the use of such bacteria is commonplace.

Harriet first started teaching at UEA in 1999 and was one of the first ATS (Academic Teaching and Scholarship) members of staff in the School of Biological Sciences and in the Science Faculty. She was mentored by Professor Tony Davy who remained a lifelong friend. She began her teaching career by helping to turn the postgraduate course in Ecology and Conservation into a world renown programme. She quickly became involved in teaching undergraduate students and designed her flagship module ‘Biodiversity’ which inspired thousands of students over a 20-year period. It was during these early years that Harriet began her work on school to university transition, recognising that many students were unprepared for higher education. This insight came not only from her teaching but also her pedagogical research work which has resulted in numerous publications, including some currently in press. This work on transitions not only impacted the way in which UEA approaches the crucial step which students make into higher education, but it had national impact with Harriet presenting at Westminster forums and being invited to work with A-level exam boards. Her work in this area had global reach when she designed her free open education course ‘Preparing for University’ which is still running. Her external profile in academic leadership and pedagogical work in higher education led to her becoming a National Teaching Fellow in 2019.

Other positions and awards include Intern Support at World Land Trust (2005 – 2013) and a fellow of the Royal Society of Biologists (2019).

 

Harry was given a Personal chair (Professor of Student Learning) the month before she retired which was in recognition of her outstanding work with students over many years.

Harry is much missed by her work colleagues. The following tribute from colleague Professor Fabio Arico sums this up: “Professor Jones left a huge legacy to UEA, HE and wider educational initiatives. But her most important legacy is her kindness and love”.

 

Harriet had a long-term ambition to write a children’s book on protists and in 2020 set up the independent publishing company Paramecium Press (http://paramecium-press.co.uk/) dedicated to the creation of science-based books and games for children of all ages. In the same year, Harriet realised her ambition with the publication of Aggi and the Mystic Boots, an aquatic adventure which introduces the reader to the unseen world of protists. This was quickly followed by the publication of Blake’s Small Adventure, a beautifully illustrated book aimed at 3-5 year olds. Paramecium Press is also developing protist-themed computer games such as Aggi’s Tiny Friends which is aimed at all ages 4+ and will be available from PlayStore in 2022.

Outside of science, Harriet loved playing the piano and cello, and gardening on her allotment. She was also an excellent seamstress and made curtains for Jackie’s VW camper which still hang to this day and provide a constant memory to her of such an amazing woman.

Harriet is survived by her husband, Ian (who is former webmaster for P-UK) and her children Ashleigh (24), Owen (22), and Ellen (18).

Jackie Parry, University of Lancaster
Kay Yeoman, University of East Anglia
Alan Warren, Natural History Museum

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