The world has lost a legendary figure. The field of theoretical chemistry lost a giant, a pioneer. We, as his students, lost a teacher, a role model. His contributions to the world of science are uncountable. Our loss is unmeasurable.
The first day I came to his lab, Bob gave me two rules. 1. I do not care how many hours a day you work in office. 2. The least junior person in the lab makes coffee! These two rules guided the everyday life of my Ph.D experience. I worked all day and night and I got really great at making coffee.
Jokes aside, Bob is the reason why I am standing here today. Not only did he grant me the honor of working under him as his student, but he was also the reason that I kept staying in Chapel Hill. When my spoken English was bad, Bob taught me to talk out. He said to me Your English is much better than my Chinese!, which was certainly true even to this day. For me, coming to a new land at the age of 30 was not easy. But with Bob's support, encouragement and guidance, I was able to navigate the rough waters of learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture, and having a family of my own.
During my postdoc days with Bob, he often came to office in the afternoon and we then started talking and writing on blackboard for two to three hours. At the end of each conversation, his last sentence was always the same: It's fun, isn't it? While I'm sure he was referring to the joy he got from the arguments between a professor and his student, that period of time was one of the happiest times of my life. That's the period of time when I learned not only how to speak English, but also how to conduct research and most importantly, how to be a good person. All thanks to Bob.
About 5 years ago, my family invited Jane and Bob to have dinner together. My older daughter, Caroline, asked Bob a question: What is the secret of success? Bob paused for a few seconds. His reply was one simple word: open-mindedness. As all of his students and postdocs may relate, this answer is oddly similar to Bob's giant scissors that he always kept in his office. It was short, a little bit harsh but life-changing nevertheless.
Bob, thank you for all the wisdom that you have blessed us with, for your influence that has changed our lives forever. The science you left behind will never be forgotten. You will be always remembered in our mind, in our papers and books.
Goodbye Bob, you will forever live in our hearts!