Principal Sally Mapstone announced today the death of Dr Valerie Smith, known as Val, who passed away on Thursday 2 May after battling cancer.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced soon by the University of St Andrews Chaplaincy.
Dr Smith worked as an academic in the School of Biology and had gained international recognition for her work with comparative immunology, with a particular passion for crustaceans, finfish, and micro-algae.
Principal Mapstone stated of her interests, “They inspired a curiosity which drove decades of research and intellectual fulfilment. Through this work Val showed that crabs, lobsters, and shrimp have much to teach us about the effects of pollution, disease resistance, and human evolution.”
Dr Smith was published in a Nature Communications publication in 2014, her personal crowning achievement, with a paper that demonstrated how “the evolutionarily ancient process of extracellular trap formation by immune cells can be carried out by the simplest of animals and pre-dates the evolution of the coelom.”
At St Andrews, she supervised over 20 PhD students, with Facebook social media posts from students already mourning her passing.
Principal Mapstone stated, “Undergraduate students loved her teaching; she used innovative assessment techniques including memorably a ‘dragon’s den’ activity in which students presented proposals for industrial advances in marine biotechnology.”
Dr Smith earned a BSc in Zoology and Microbiology at the University of Wales, later graduating with a PhD in Comparative Immunology. She began teaching at the University of London as a lecturer in Marine Microbiology.
In 1989, Dr Smith began working at the University of St Andrews, where she spent 30 years.
Of her character, Principal Mapstone stated, “An accomplished scuba diver with a strong sense of justice, Val was well qualified to be a super-hero. She held the distinction of being deported from Mururoa by the French Foreign Legion, a consequence of spending time in French Polynesia as a scientific observer for Greenpeace.
“Val also worked unstintingly as a Union advocate to support her colleagues at the University, and was immensely resilient in the face of the adversity that was her progressive illness.”