In 1972, I completed my internship, and headed to the NIH to serve as a fellow in the Public Health Service, doing research with Dr. Ned Feder. However, I had developed an interested in Neuroscience, and Ned elected to send me instead to the laboratory of Milton Brightman and Tom Reese. I had never heard of them, and certainly they were not expecting me. Still, they found a desk for me. It had a microtome on it, but no one really liked that microtome, so I was undisturbed. I set about finishing some projects from medical school and internship.
I didn’t break anything. One day, Tom sidled up to me and in his own diffident way asked if I would like to look at the cerebellum in a new way. That was the beginning of our collaboration on synaptic structure in the mammalian central nervous system, using a variety of freeze fracture techniques. Later, I joined John Heuser and Tom in their work on transmitter release at the frog neuromuscular junction. Things went well; we generated the data for 7 publications. Toward the end of the two years, Tom invited me to stay at the NIH. I was sorely tempted. However, the ‘dark side’ was strong in me, and I elected to return to my clinical education.
To my surprise, there was not much that I had to do during the second year of residency training in Neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, so I traveled to nearby Woods Hole, and joined Tom in his laboratory there during the summer of 1976. We continued our research, and I helped in teaching the Neurobiology Course at MBL. That was the beginning of an extraordinary mentorship and collaboration. We worked together at Woods Hole in the summer over the next 13 years. Techniques and questions changed. Tom never pushed, nor pulled, but always gave me the sense that we were working together.
Even good things have a time course, and after 1988, it was not feasible for me to continue to travel to Woods Hole in the summer. Over the interval 1972-1989, we wrote 20 papers together.
Tom has wonderful biological intuition. He has been central to our understanding of three major biological issues: the structural basis of the blood brain barrier, the release of transmitter at synaptic junctions, and the mechanisms of axon transport. He is still working on a fourth, the organization of proteins in and around the postsynaptic membrane.
The gathering of students and collaborators in Woods Hole in July, 2015, in celebration of Tom’s work, bears testimony to his character and inspiration. I will always thank him for the infectious and persuasive enthusiasm with which he viewed the importance of our science together.