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Published: 04 November 2021

Obituary: Dr Simon Park, 1964-2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr Simon Park, a scientist with an insatiable fascination for the microscopic world, and particularly the weird and wonderful properties of bacteria and other microorganisms.

Simon Park trained as a microbiologist at the Universities of Leeds and Nottingham.  Prior to joining Surrey, he had worked at the Institute of Food Research, Reading, previously the National Institute for Research in Dairying.  He joined Surrey with an established reputation in the field of the molecular biology and physiology of food-borne bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes.  He continued this work with considerable success at Surrey, supported by funding from the BBSRC and others, publishing in high impact factor journals and attracting numerous invitations for reviews and lectures in his areas of special interest.  He also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Microbiology for many years and co-authored the student text Molecular Genetics of Bacteria with Jeremy Dale.

Splendidly collegial, Simon was popular with his colleagues and students alike and an innovative teacher, taking on modules related to his background and research interests as well as venturing into areas of food science. 

He had a passionate interest in the natural world and many family holidays were spent in exotic climes pursuing their shared enthusiasm for natural history – a subject that fed into another notable activity, microbial art. For nearly 10 years he produced a blog Exploring the Invisible (exploringtheinvisible.com) presenting ‘Works from a Liberal Scientist/Artist that reveal the hidden machinations of the natural world’.  He believed that collaboration with artists can help transcend the popular misconception that microbes are simply primitive and dangerous organisms. Funded by bodies such as the Wellcome Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and with professional artists, he worked in the somewhat rarefied field of painting with bacteria, where the traditional artist’s palette is replaced by pigmented and luminescent bacteria.  His microbial art was exhibited widely from the Edinburgh International Science Festival to the London Science Museum and to many people his ideas for how to make perceptible a world that is usually invisible showed signs of pure genius!  One notable example was his collaboration with artist, Anne Brodie, on a photo booth using bioluminescent bacteria exhibited at the Royal Institution. A lot of his work can be viewed on the website microbialart.com. On a more relatable level perhaps, he also appeared on television with the performers Dick and Dom.  In 2015 his pioneering work in this area was recognised with the award of the Peter Wildy Prize by the Microbiology Society.

Click here to see Simon talk about his adventures in art and microbes. 

Simon was a fantastic lecturer and a wonderfully kind, witty, and intelligent person to work with, although he always remained modest about achievements which gained him national and international recognition outside the university. To many of his colleagues, Simon represented what true academia should always be about.

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