Faculty, staff, and students at the KAUST Computational Bioscience Research Center (CBRC) have joined together to remember and pay tribute to Professor Vladimir Bajic who passed away after a valiant battle against lymphatic cancer on 31 October 2019. Vlad, as he was affectionately known by all, was a founding professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the founding director of CBRC. As noted recently by Professor Donal Bradley, Vice President for Research at KAUST, Vlad "led the center with vision, diligence, kindness, and integrity."
As the longest-serving center director at KAUST and one of the most prolific advisors, Vlad graduated KAUST's first PhD student as well as 51 additional master's and doctoral students. PhD graduate Othman Soufan remembered Vlad for his human touch. "Prof. Vlad gave me his trust, which was an invaluable prize for a student going through many research and life challenges," noted Othman. More importantly, "he taught us that while doing research, we should care about our emotions and others."
Another PhD graduate recalls the powerful impact Vlad had on all his students' lives. "No words are enough to describe Vlad's influence on me and on all his students," said Wail Ba Alawi. He explained further that Vlad always said, "'You can always count on my full and unwavering support' and that the success of his trainees was the basis of his success." Wail concluded, "We owe it to Vlad to do the best we can, both personally and academically, to positively impact the world. Indeed, unwavering support, genuine advice and leading by example were Vlad's ways to push his students and group members to pursue success in life, both personally and academically."
"I knew Vlad for only a brief time," remarked current postdoc Christophe Van Neste. "But I am grateful for the time I did get to spend with him. What you hear from many," he explained, "is about the support he gave to the people around him, and that applies equally to me. Vlad was my first supervisor to motivate me to aim for a faculty position. At the very least, that is one thing I'll carry with me for the rest of my life, wherever I end up."
Prior to becoming a leading bioinformatician, Vlad was trained as an electrical engineer. His bachelor's and master's degrees were in Electrical Engineering from the University of Belgrade and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering was from the University of Zagreb. Before joining the faculty at KAUST, Vlad was the Deputy Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute at the University of the Western Cape. His primary contributions came in facilitating biomedical discoveries using computational systems combining data modeling and artificial intelligence. His work in modeling and artificial intelligence resulted in the development of knowledge-discovery software that found commercial applications. A prolific researcher, he authored or co-authored more than 400 research publications, over 100 bioinformatics and machine learning software products, and 19 patents.
"Vlad was a world-class researcher in our relatively new field," said Professor Takashi Gojobori, Acting Director, CBRC. "More important to all of us in CBRC, he was a world-class leader and human. His legacy is CBRC. We will all double our efforts to conduct leading-edge research as we keep Vlad in our memories."