Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Very Sad Post

For my 98th post, I'm going to write something very sad.

Remember that one time I talked about what I did over the summer? (here) Well it was all kinds of fun - I made great friends, learned lots of physics, and escaped Provo for a few months.

The biggest reason I enjoyed my summer so much was actually because of the people I met, specifically, three people: Tori, Jing, and Ethan - three graduate students who I grew to quite like.

Ethan was my mentor for the summer, helping me with the circuit I built and frequently providing ample entertainment. Jing and Tori worked on the experiment on the other side of room - something about molecules and really clean surfaces... All I know is the poor souls had to take their vacuum system down to 10^-10 Torr, ugh. But while they were waiting for their system to pump down (it usually took 3-4 days) they'd come over to the other side of the lab and talk to us and we'd laugh a lot.

I posted a picture of the entire KM research group - all 24 of us - including my three good friends. Here it is again, with some helpful labels:
Here's the sad part.

Last Sunday I received an unexpected e-mail from Dr. Murnane telling me that Ethan and Jing had been killed in a rock slide while hiking in China.

I didn't have much to say about it until today.

Having only known these two for three months, I can't claim to have been especially close. But having known them well enough, I knew that I liked them. I could see that were I to return to pursue a graduate degree that these people would become very good friends.

Tori is in Colorado and didn't go to China. I've talked to her on the phone a couple times since the accident. I imagine the rest of the research group is taking their deaths pretty hard.

Ethan and Jing were pursuing Ph.D.s in physics and were extremely intelligent - the kind of intelligence you don't find every day. There was incredible potential there, so much education and skill, so much goodness and genuine niceness - lost in one rock slide.

Perhaps the reason I liked Ethan and Jing so much was because they were so kind. Ethan actually shocked me with his kindness - he was so genuine and sincere - I haven't met many people like that. Jing was always happy, always smiling, even when her experiment wasn't cooperating.

In the week since I learned of their deaths I've spent an abnormal amount of time in my research lab here at BYU. I've really gotten into a LabVIEW program I'm working on for my experiment and countless times thought to myself, "Dang, Ethan would have known how to do this."

So that's my sad story - mostly rambling, but that's what this blog is for. For the rest of my life whenever I'm fighting with a vacuum system or bemoaning a miscreant LabVIEW program, I'll think of the two unusually kind graduate students I once knew who could have solved the problem much faster than I.

Here's to your next adventure my friends, I'm sorry it started so soon.


WC Welding said...

I am sorry for the loss of your friends. It is impossible to calculate their potential, from your words they were very real. The world lost something real.

H. L. Burkholder said...

Wow, Nick. That is really hard. They sound like spectacular people. They would be glad for your ramblings, I think.

JB Herrick said...

A poignant ending to a sad post.