Adam Driks, a professor in Loyola’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Stritch School of Medicine, died June 6 from an immune system disease.
Driks is remembered by his family and the Loyola community not only as an accomplished scholar and scientist, but a “hysterical” guy with never-ending curiosity.
Before Driks came to Loyola in 1995 he recieved his doctorate from Brandeis University and completed his post-doctoral training at Harvard University, according to an email sent to the Loyola community by Campus Ministry.
According to Driks’ wife of 40 years, Jean Greenberg, his love for biology started as a young child.
Greenberg shared part of an autobiography assignment Driks wrote about himself in 1995 with The Phoenix.
“My parents tell me that my interest in biomedical research started around the age of four,” Driks wrote. “I would spend long periods of time … reading anything that dealt with biology, including my father’s books on anatomy for artists, medical journals that he occasionally brought home from the printing shop where he worked.”
Greenberg said his research in microbiology was only one example of the countless things in which he invested his time and curiosity.
“Adam was a very unusual man,” Greenberg said. “He had a huge curiosity about many things, not just science. He had an intense interest in philosophy, in Buddhism and in all kinds of science that he didn’t actually study.”
Alan Wolfe, another professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, helped show Driks around Chicago when he started and worked alongside him at the university until his death.
“I couldn’t leave my office without passing by his in the evening, so there were plenty of times where I would end up spending an extra hour hanging out talking about all sorts of different things with him,” Wolfe said. “It usually wasn’t about science actually, it was about students, space aliens — you name it.”
Wolfe praised Driks’ scholarship, but above all his hilarity.
“He was an extremely funny man,” Wolfe said. “He could take any topic you gave him no matter how mundane, and he would go off on a riff. He’d have us all in stitches.”
Wolfe and Ed Campbell, another professor in Loyola’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, both recalled times when they had to sort through graduate school applications for hours on end with Driks — a typically dull task. However, by the time the stack of applications was sorted through, Driks would have them all laughing.
Campbell said Driks had a talent for mentoring and changing his mentoring style depending on the situation.
“He could be very direct without being upsetting, but he also had approaches where the mentee was completely unaware they had been mentored until well after the fact,” Campbell said in an email to The Phoenix. “He used the latter on me to great effect and I will be forever grateful.”
Greenberg said Driks had a talent for listening, and was her go-to for anything she was dealing with.
“If I was ever trying to work out how to think through a problem, he was the guy you could really get him to listen and question you deeply about different angles,” Greenberg said.
Campbell said Driks could even make arguing with him an enjoyable experience, knowing that whatever he would say next would provide some perspective he hadn’t considered before.
“I have never met anyone I enjoyed arguing or disagreeing with more than Adam,” Campbell said in an email to The Phoenix.” “His ability to have a brilliant discourse was so appealing, I often did it on purpose. … I just wanted to hear what he was going to say next, except insight and brilliance were his medium, rather than crudeness.”
Wolfe said Driks had mastered knowing when to be serious and when to crack a joke.
“He managed to figure out when he was supposed to be serious and when he could be really goofy, and he did that really well. We are all going to miss that,” Wolfe said.
Some of Driks’ most serious work occurred outside the walls of Loyola as one of academia’s leading experts on anthrax, a type of bacteria that can be used as a biological weapon.
“A lot of the work he did was behind closed doors, but it was very, very impactful,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said Driks will continue to have an impact on his life while he continues his work at Loyola.
“He’s a real scholar, and that scholarship prevailed everything and it affected his colleagues and students around him in ways that people aren’t even aware,” Wolfe said.
“I know I channel him all the time, a lot of the things that come out of my mouth, even if I have rephrased it, the idea came from Adam, at least to some degree.”