Another complete underachiever
Sometimes, good things also happen to good people.
As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning, I came upon the beaming face of someone with whom I used to work, albeit in an extremely peripheral capacity. "Hello," I said to myself, "that doesn't half look like Mike Houghton." That was because it was.
Despite being a Chelsea fan, Mike Houghton is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. He's engaging, interested, funny and charming. He's also incredibly smart. It is more for his "smarts" than his charm that he has today been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Mike and his team identified and sequenced the Hepatitis C virus, and it is thanks to his work that our blood supplies are much safer.
Mike was one of the group of 19 scientists called "Canada Excellence Research Chairs" or "CERCs" who were brought to Canada in 2011 to help develop centres of excellence in Canadian universities. Mike ended up at the University of Alberta (along with Thomas Thundat, who is next to him in this picture). The programme was brilliant, and I was extremely fortunate to be responsible for communications for the programme.
One of my favourite stories about Michael comes from a time when I was trying to organize a research summit in Ottawa back in 2015. When it came to the time to promote it in the local media, I tapped into my personal knowledge and realized he was a Chelsea supporter, the same as the local CBC radio station's morning show host Robyn Bresnahan.
A couple of phone calls later - and an interview is all set up for the morning of his presentation at the summit. I pat myself on the back for a good bit of inside knowledge, and placing an interview in one of the government's target media markets.
Anyway, what with all the madness surrounding the organization of a summit for several hundred people, I forgot about the interview. The day before the summit is due to start, I get a panicked phone call from Mike. I remember it vividly.
"Ah!" it started. "Ottawacker. How are you?" He then proceeded to remind me how Chelsea had beaten Liverpool in the more recent matches, tell me that until we found a reliable central defender we'd never win the league (he was right about that too) and ask about my family and the book I was writing.
"Listen Mike," I said. "Let's meet up for a pint. I've finished everything at this end, and we can catch up in a more convivial environment."
"Ah," he said. "Yes. That's why I am calling. I have just received a phone call from a Robyn Bresnahan at the CBC. She's a Chelsea fan, did you know? She wanted to do an interview. A lovely woman, very good questions. I think I did OK and we'll see what comes of it. I mentioned the program, as you asked, and we talked a little about why it is so good."
"That's great," I said. "Thanks."
"She said something quite extraordinary at the end, though, which got me a bit worried. She said 'see you tomorrow'," he added. "So I looked in my diary and there was nothing there at all for tomorrow. Quite unusual. So I was going to go fishing. Then she said 'at the summit in Ottawa'. So I checked my emails, and this is the thing, Ottawacker, I copied the date down wrong and, well, I'm here in Edmonton, and you're there in Ottawa, and I am not quite sure what to say, except 'Sorry'."
"So, your keynote speech...?"
"Ah. I'm so sorry, I'll make it up to you, I really will."
He did today. Well done Mike.