LIVES LIVED: An indomitable spirit

LIVES LIVED: An indomitable spirit

By Anne Topper and Lynann Clapham

February 20, 2015


Geoff Lockwood was born in 1961 in Toronto. Throughout his early life he was fascinated by flight, and planned to be an aeronautical engineer. But medical imaging turned out to be his calling – and after obtaining an electrical engineering degree from the University of Toronto he went on to become one of the early pioneers of high frequency ultrasound, obtaining a PhD from the U of T in medical biophysics.

[Geoff Lockwood]
Geoff Lockwood

Geoff was a gifted researcher. He left Canada to become a scientist at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in the United States, while also holding adjunct positions at Ohio State and Case Western Reserve universities. While in the US his expertise attracted a number of high-profile NIH (US National Institute of Health) and Department of Defence grants. But his real passion was teaching – he wanted to work with students, and in 1999 this passion brought him, along with Anne and their two boys, back to Canada and Queen’s Engineering Physics.

Geoff continued his work in high-frequency medical ultrasound imaging, and his research group worked on everything from designing miniature integrated circuit beamformers to real-time 3D ultrasound imaging. Over only 15 years, Geoff won over $3.3 million in research funding from US and Canada granting agencies and developed five patents. His early work at the U of T formed the basis for VisualSonics – an ultrasound micro-imaging technology company founded by Dr. Stuart Foster (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre). Upon the recent sale (2012) of this company, Dr. Foster recognised Geoff’s significant accomplishment by establishing a $900K endowed scholarship in his name at the University of Toronto.

But despite his enormous research talent and insight, Geoff’s heart was primarily with the students. His teaching methods were simple – a piece of chalk and a blackboard – but his lectures were delivered with an intelligence and care that deliberately left no student behind. He loved teaching so much that he asked to return to the classroom even after his first devastating round of brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. He spent hours re-learning his own ENPH239 lecture notes, and even typed them up for the students in case he had to miss a class. It is no surprise that year after year after year he won the teaching award in Engineering Physics. 

Geoff’s wisdom and thoughtful, caring nature also made him a wonderful Engineering Physics undergraduate chair (for five years) and eventually the Physics Department head.

As parents, Geoff and Anne believed that life is to be experienced, not simply observed. There was never a TV in their home – there would have been no time to watch it anyway. The boys enjoyed (or sometimes maybe not!) competitive swimming, ice skating, family camping (including a yurt in Algonquin Park one Christmas), wilderness canoe trips, rock climbing, windsurfing, sailing.

Above all, Geoff had an amazing, and rare, strength of spirit. His illness never defeated this amazing spirit. Every time the cancer, or the treatments, knocked him down and closed a door, he would simply open it again, or try a new door. He re-learned how to walk; re-learned how to talk. He re-learned his lecture material. When he couldn’t snowboard anymore he re-learned how to ski. He re-learned how to rock climb, even though his feet were numb and he couldn’t feel the footholds.

To his family, to his friends and colleagues, to his students… Geoff continues to be an inspiration. Words cannot express how much we will miss him.

Lynann Clapham is a professor and Anne Topper is an associate professor in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy.