Students celebrate the life of Oxford lecturer who announced his impending death on Twitter
‘As soon as I think of you, I think of your wide, cheeky grin and a feeling of comfort’
Students and staff have celebrated the life of Oxford neuroscience professor, Dr Mark Stokes, after he posted a moving tweet announcing he “only has a few days left”.
Professor Stokes, who is an associate professor in cognitive neuroscience had been battling cancer for the past two years and told his followers poignantly: “I’m afraid it’s time for me to say goodbye. Not just leaving Twitter, but the whole show.”
“Thank you wonderful people, I leave this crazy world with much love in my heart,” he added.
The tweet, which was published on Sunday morning, has since gone viral. It’s been retweeted more than 30,000 times and has over 700,000 likes as people around the world have taken the time to pay tribute to Mark’s life and found comfort in his powerful message.
Among the thousands of well-wishers, students who were taught and mentored by Mark have shared their memories of him.
One student who was taught by Professor Stokes wrote: “Mark, thank you so much for sharing your kindness, curiosity and passion with us.
“It hasn’t dimmed in these last years, which is all the more inspiring to me. Thank you for everything.”
Another added: “Thank you, Mark, for your extraordinary mentorship and friendship! You’ll be so missed.”
Earlier this month, a group of students taught and mentored by Mark came together to publish a piece of work in his honour.
Titled, 10 Simple Rules for a Supportive Lab Environment, the piece of work was “inspired by Professor Mark Stokes, who modelled these characteristics and goals in his own lab, we, his students and mentees, attempt to capture here what makes a lab not only successful, but also a place for emerging scientists to thrive.”
Among the 10 rules, the students highlighted encouraging critique but not competition, being approachable and celebrating honesty. They spoke of the importance of building a social lab to foster a sense of community and to create an environment whereby all students felt they had “an equal say” and where there were minimal barriers to asking questions.
In their acknowledgements, the students wrote: “We would like to thank Professor Mark Stokes for his guidance, mentorship, and friendship over the years. We are grateful for the support he gave to us and many others throughout his career. Thanks are also due to all the other great mentors with whom we continue to share our love of science.”
Online the paper has been heralded by other academics as “a wonderful list for nearly any work environment” as well as “the best tribute written by trainees to a great mentor”.
In another tribute to Mark, a student wrote: “As soon as I think of you, I think of your wide, cheeky grin and a feeling of comfort. I think you put pretty much everyone you talked to at ease.
“What’s more, you actually cared about science, about getting to the bottom of important questions, not just buzz words and spin.
“You’re an exceptional role model Mark, and I’m really lucky to have met you. Thank you for everything you’ve given this world.”
Featured image via Twitter/@StokesNeuro.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
• AJ Tracey launches fund to help support and mentor Black students at Oxford University
• Tributes pour in for beloved Warwick University professor Thomas Marsh who died in Chile