For many, Patricia Doherty was much more than the director of Boston College’s Institute for Scientific Research (ISR). For Associate Director Keith Groves, she made the ISR a family.
“She had that kind of a motherly approach and attitude toward pretty much all the people in the ISR, which is why it felt like a family,” Groves said. “We want to maintain that.”
Doherty, who was also a principal investigator and senior research scientist at the ISR, died on July 14 at age 72.
At the time of her death, Doherty was involved in various international organizations, serving as vice president of the International Union of Radio Science, scientific secretary for the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics, BC’s representative to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), and a member of the USRA board of trustees, according to her BC profile.
“She’s recognized internationally as a leader in the ionospheric sciences and in her abilities to communicate and teach these sciences,” said senior research physicist Kathleen Kraemer.
According to Kraemer, Doherty loved working with other scientists and traveled around the world to teach and develop infrastructure to better understand the ionospheric sciences—the study of the region in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and its impact on communication and navigation.
“Building new ways for scientists to collaborate and to bring new people into the field was very important and rewarding for her,” Sean O’Connell, senior technology and IT compliance manager, said.
Groves said encouraging and supporting women in the sciences was also very important to Doherty—she often held workshops for women all across the globe, he said.
“Lots of young women scientists that have been through those meetings have gone on to careers [in the sciences] and I think she deserves a lot of credit for that as well,” he said.
Despite her work around the world, Doherty remained deeply involved with the ISR.
In 2005, she became co-director of the institute and eventually became the sole director in 2008. Doherty organized numerous seminars and brought both researchers and students to the ISR, promoting the institute within the BC community and internationally.
“We have a really strong recognition in the international community,” Groves said. “We’ve been involved in a lot of outreach and she was a big part of that. All of that is part of her legacy as the director.”
Doherty also cared deeply for each and every one of her colleagues, Groves said—going out of her way to engage with her colleagues and supporting them in reaching their goals.
“She was great to work for,” Kraemer said. “She wasn’t just our boss—she was our mentor and our friend.”
Kraemer said Doherty always kept her door open, ready to help her colleagues with anything coming their way.
“If you ever had a problem, she was able to fix it,” she said. “She kept us all together.”
David Webb, senior research physicist and principal investigator, remembers Doherty for her generosity and willingness to help others.
“She was a generous, caring person, easy to work with and yet able to accomplish so much both at BC and in the wider scientific community,” Webb said.
The ISR will be holding its Beacon Satellite Symposium in August in Doherty’s honor, according to Kraemer.
“She was such an integral part of ISR that it will take some time for ISR to recover from her passing to maintain the strong foundation that is her legacy,” Webb said.
Despite such a huge loss, Groves said the institute will continue on and work to maintain the family-like environment that Doherty created.
“We know that we’re going to be okay coming through this, and I give Pat a lot of credit for that,” Groves said.
Beyond the ISR, Doherty’s death has been felt worldwide—Groves said he has been contacted by people from different parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe remembering her and the difference she has made in their lives.
“[Her death is] going to leave a void that will be not soon forgotten,” he said.