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Retirement of Professor Timothy James Foster

12th February, 2015


Professor of Molecular Microbiology Timothy James Foster retired from College in September 2014 following a Trinity career that stretches back to his BA in the mid-1960s. After graduating with a first-class degree in Bacteriology in 1969, Tim moved to Bristol University to pursue his PhD on chloramphenicol resistance mechanisms in Gram-negative bacteria under Dr Gilbert Howe.  Immediately thereafter, Tim was appointed to a lectureship in Trinity's Department of Microbiology by Professor Stanley Stewart. Tim’s early research focused on mechanisms of resistance to tetracyclines and heavy metals. Whilst on sabbatical with Nancy Kleckner in Harvard University Tim gained first-hand knowledge of the newly emerging recombinant DNA technologies.

On his return to Dublin Tim continued to investigate mechanisms of microbial resistance to antibiotics and heavy metals. However, he also pursued an emerging interest in the pathogenesis of the Gram-positive bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus and his lab quickly emerged as the international point of reference for those pursuing S. aureus molecularbiology. Over the following thirty years a small army of PhD students, postdocs and visiting researchers worked with Tim to reveal, the molecular secrets of S. aureus virulence. His research generated new knowledge disseminated in over 200 published articles; he earned millions of Euro for the College in research grants and generated lucrative royalty income from patentable discoveries and inventions. Among these were new medicines with potential for use in the fight against Staphylococcal infection, providing a textbook example of basic research being translated into practical benefits in society. His seminal contributions to S. aureus biology and the wider reaches of microbiology have been recognised by election to Fellowship of TCD (1981) with co-option to Senior Fellow in 2011, promotion to Associate Professor (1986) and to an ad hominen chair in Molecular Microbiology (1997); Tim was elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy in 2010.

Tim's scientific contributions and impact cannot be overstated, but he has also contributed to College life, taking a particular interest in the formation and education of graduate students. Additionally, he has served his Department and School as Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate) for many years. Tim has also made invaluable contributions to undergraduate education: despite his 'super-star' status on the research stage, Tim carried a full teaching load over the entire course of his academic career with his lectures and laboratory practical classes becoming cornerstones in the education of thousands of Trinity graduates. Through all of these busy years Tim always found time to play and to watch his favourite sport, cricket.

A wine reception in honour of Tim’s retirement will be held at 5.00 p.m. on Friday, 27th February, 2015 in the Moyne Institute. The reception immediately follows a symposium honouring Tim’s contribution to research.