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Obituary for Dan Tawfik

Obituary for Dan Tawfik by Michal Sharon

Danny, you left us at the peak. The peak of a mountain and also the peak of your life. You found happiness and love with Ita, you won the appreciation of the scientific community with the Emet prize, you published an amazing eight experimental papers this year alone, and this during corona, you peaked in your contribution to the institute as the forthcoming head of the scientific council.

But perhaps the greatest mountain of your achievements is the incredible number of people who loved you, really loved you, and feel a huge void in your absence. When we get together and try to understand the secret of your magic, we use words like “unique” “irreplaceable”, “brilliant and yet humble”, “expert and at the same time knowledgeable about many fields of life”, “driven, but ego-free”, “inspiring”, “mentor”. You were my scientific mentor. Someone I admired and at the same time an approachable wise friend. I came to you with my disasters and you gave me perspective and turned them into opportunities. And I know you did that for many others.

Your path was never conventional. Very few start their Ph.D. like you after seven years as a chef and as a construction contractor. Perhaps that’s why you always spoke your mind, always stood up for what is right, and always fought to recruit, promote and help young scientists.

For fourteen years we shared the same corridor. Within this physical corridor, gradually and remarkably, our discoveries converged into the same scientific corridor. Instead of your office, whenever I looked for you I found you talking at the bench with a student. You did your science by talking, but you didn’t talk only about science.

Yesterday, looking at our WhatsApp conversations I realized the blend of science, life events, and funny comments that we exchanged that made me laugh to tears. A specific sentence caught my eye, you wrote: “I am climbing in Sinai, and it makes enzymes look easy. “


Danny, you have made a change. You pioneered the field of directed evolution. You changed our understanding of the origin of proteins. You changed our department which will never be the same again. You transformed the careers of your students, that came from across the world to work specifically with you. It is a double blow for you, Danny's students. We promise to take care of each of you. And Danny you have made a change in me, as a scientist and a human being. I miss you terribly.