Remembering Dr. Jackson Nteeba

Written by Aileen Keating

August 28th, 1985 – January 7th, 2021


The concept of academic families was introduced to me when I moved to the US and specifically when I started my postdoc with Dr. Patricia Hoyer. I learned that I was academically related to the legendary Dr. Gordon Niswender and Dr. Phil Dziuk through Pat and there are websites that you can use while waiting for an experiment to incubate to figure out your scientific ancestry! When I started my independent lab, I heard several more senior faculty say that the contribution they were most proud of was the graduate students they trained and it took my graduating my first students to appreciate what they really meant. Dr. Jackson Nteeba became involved with Iowa State University when he was an undergraduate student at Makerere University in Uganda through the School Gardens Program, a collaboration between ISU and Makerere University. Jackson joined my fledgling research group in the Fall semester of 2010 as a rotation student in the Interdepartmental Genetic Graduate Program at ISU. At that time, another student, Dr. Jill Madden was already in the group and a third, Dr. Shanthi Ganesan joined soon after. Jackson was a stellar student, both academically as well as in the lab. He told me one day that he was allergic to rain – this still makes me laugh because I come from the West of Ireland where it rains continuously. As a group, we socialized often and he was truly a part of our family. He experienced the Iowa corn harvest in a huge combine harvester with Dr. Jill’s family. When we went to conferences, Jackson used to amaze Jill, Shanthi and I by managing to pack the smallest travel bag imaginable and yet, every day he had a different outfit! He served on the trainee affairs committee for SSR and was a regular volunteer at the meetings. We also ran the fun run together on multiple occasions (I never beat him). Jackson graduated with his PhD in 2014 and he, Jill and Shanthi made me fully appreciate my own academic family.  After ISU, Jackson did postdoctoral work at KUMC where he became part of another academic family.

On Monday before this past Christmas, Jackson called me to tell me about some health issues that he was experiencing and we talked in detail about what was going on. Within a few days, we found out that he had severe liver cancer and he passed away on January 7th, 2021.  Almost everyone that I have spoken to over the past few weeks has mentioned Jackson’s smile – he was always happy and was a very peaceful person. Jackson overcame extremely difficult odds in his life, he lost both of his parents at a very young age and his young son was born with several health issues. He deserved better from life and his academic family and friends are heartbroken. Dealing with the loss of one of your first graduate students is something that your post-doctoral training does not prepare you for. Jackson was repatriated to his family in Uganda and he arrived to his mother-land on January 25th, 2021.

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