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.