Octavian-Eugen Ganea, a gifted postdoctoral artificial intelligence researcher at the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Finding out in Health and fitness (Jameel Clinic) and Computer system Science and Synthetic Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) handed away in the course of a hike in French Polynesia on May perhaps 26. He was 34.
Born and lifted in Romania, Ganea joined MIT in 2019 just after getting his PhD in personal computer science from the Facts Analytics Lab at ETH Zurich. Even though at MIT, he worked with CSAIL professors Tommi Jaakkola and Regina Barzilay Ganea was centered on bringing geometric contemplating into device understanding to accelerate drug discovery, and had options to continue on this operate as a tenure-monitor assistant professor this coming slide at NYU Courant and NYU Tandon.
“Octavian was a good scientist whose study broke new floor in equipment discovering, bridging the hole in between actual physical and neural views on molecular representations,” Barzilay claims. She describes Ganea’s analysis on geometry-educated algorithms for molecular modeling as “mathematically clear, stylish and powerful methods for challenges which are typically solved with heuristic ways. The transformational affect of his get the job done ranges from material style to drug discovery.” Apart from Ganea’s specialized excellence, Barzilay was impressed by Ganea’s “kindness and treatment for others, [which] introduced mild to the life of many folks at MIT and further than. We miss him so significantly.”
Jaakkola provides that Ganea’s passion for impactful study stood out: “He liked mathematics and geometry but required the theory to rely for anything, effects men and women.” Jaakkola also observes that as a researcher, Ganea was “a pressure of character, his positive mental energy ever-current and contagious.” Even when items failed to do the job, Ganea would systematically exhaust a problem “with creativity and persistence … He had this uncommon authenticity and honesty to him as a researcher — looking at and accepting himself, many others and his science as they ended up, in no way judging,” Jaakkola remembers. “We pass up him dearly as a friend, colleague, and mentor.”
A lot of colleagues bear in mind Ganea’s remarkable modesty, even with his quite a few successes. On accepting a faculty supply from NYU, Ganea confessed that he was not sure he deserved it, but a lot of of his colleagues insist that there was no a single much more suited for the work. “I could not picture that somebody could potentially be far more experienced than he was,” next-calendar year CSAIL PhD pupil Jeremy Wohlwend states. “He was fantastic and identified, however humble and kind. He would have been an wonderful professor.”
Ganea mentored a number of learners at MIT and over and above, with quite a few recalling his mentorship as meaningful not just professionally, but also individually. He began mentoring Hannes Stärk, now a 1st-12 months PhD pupil in CSAIL, whilst Stärk was continue to in the system of completing his master’s diploma in Germany. “I experienced no papers published and no promising keep track of history,” Stärk recalls. “Just mainly because I showed fascination he determined to assist me and recommend me on a project in October of 2021. Now … I am selected that I would not be exactly where I am devoid of Octavian — without his generosity, his a must have information, and all that I could learn from him about building tips, getting innovative, paper producing, the educational entire world and study in common.” In the time Ganea put in mentoring him, Stärk normally imagined it was “astounding how much there was to find out from [Ganea] about study and on a personalized amount.”
When Ganea was known to have a contagious enthusiasm for his investigate, he was also deeply devoted to his family members. “One day I observed Octavian driving his bike with his daughter, and he stopped to chat with me and [my wife],” recounts CSAIL graduate college student Itamar Chinn. “I recall telling her that he is the type of father I would want to be. Incredibly devoted to his work and his ambitions but at the identical time building household a top rated precedence. They were being the two so content biking by way of Cambridge.” Ganea was also an avid mountaineer and a runner, two hobbies reflecting a persevering perspective that he preserved in the course of his academic job.
“Octavian was definitely a focused and prolific scientist, shown through his enthusiasm for computational biology and getting beneficial applications for the health-related field,” CSAIL Director Daniela Rus says. “He was reliable, total of positive strength, client and incredibly form and generous with his time.”