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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Longtime Scientist, Administrator Mathieson Mourned

Dr. Bonnie Mathieson holding a puppy.

Dr. Bonnie Mathieson

Dr. Bonnie Mathieson, who had a long and distinguished career at NIH spanning 43 years, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 8. Mathieson, who retired from NIH on Dec. 29, 2017, was snorkeling in Aruba when she had a massive heart attack. She had been recognized for 40 years of service at the NIH Office of the Director 2017 Honor Awards Ceremony in November.

Mathieson most recently served as a health scientist administrator in the NIH Office of AIDS Research. During her tenure as the lead for HIV/AIDS vaccines at OAR, she was instrumental in advancing the NIH AIDS vaccine program in countless ways. She lent her expertise, wisdom, advice and support to numerous vaccine trials and helped develop a vaccine scholars program to train the next generation of scientists.

Prior to joining OAR, Mathieson was a program officer in the Vaccine Branch of NIAID’s Division of AIDS, where her immunology expertise was vital to NIH’s mission of developing and testing an HIV vaccine.

Before joining NIAID, she made seminal contributions to the field of basic T cell immunology as an investigator at NCI. Mathieson also served on review boards for the World Health Organization, European Commission, Canada and the Gates Foundation. She published more than 125 articles and chapters and routinely received performance awards during her tenure at NIH. Mathieson also won an Alumnus Award from Weill Cornell Medical College, where she received a Ph.D. in biological sciences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in medical microbiology from Stanford University.

Mathieson was a tireless advocate for young people, women and early-career investigators. Her colleagues knew her as an international leader in the HIV vaccine field and a devout supporter of research to prevent HIV and improve the health and outcomes of people living with HIV. According to coworkers, those fortunate enough to know Mathieson lost a dear friend.

“Bonnie possessed a genuine passion for bench science and dedicated the later part of her career to guiding HIV vaccine research at NIH,” noted Dr. Maureen Goodenow, OAR director. “She was a well-respected member of the NIH community who enthusiastically supported, advised and questioned her colleagues in equal parts. The keen perceptions and insights Bonnie contributed to the field of HIV science cannot be overstated and her passing is a deep loss to the field.”

Mathieson is survived by her husband Donald, their daughter Cynthia, their son Daniel and his wife Jessica, 2 grandchildren, Cash and Nathaniel, and 5 sisters and brothers. She was preceded in death by one sister.

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