Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sad Passing: Mihai Patrascu

[** UPDATE **]

Dear friends of Mihai,

We made a blog in Mihai's memory. Celebrating Mihai's energy and
spirit, please cheer him with a glass of wine (or other spirits), and
send in a picture to be posted on the page:

Best regards,
Mikkel and Alex

[** UPDATE END **]

Mikkel Thorup just sent me the following to post regarding Mihai Patrascu. 


Mihai Patrascu, aged 29, passed away on Tuesday June 5, 2012, after a
1.5 year battle with brain cancer. Mihai's carreer was short but
explosive, full of rich and beautiful ideas as witnessed, e.g., in his 19
STOC/FOCS papers.

Mihai was very happy about being co-winner of the 2012 EATCS Presburger Young Scientist Award for his ground-breaking work on data
structure lower-bounds. It was wonderful that the community stood up
to applaud this achievement at STOC'12. Unfortunately he will not make it to the award ceremony on July 10 at ICALP.  Mihai's appreciation
for the award shows in the last post on his blog

I was fortunate enough to be one of Mihai's main collaborators. One of
the things that made it possible to work on hard problems was having
lots of fun: playing squash, going on long hikes, and having beers
celebrating every potentially useful idea.

On this last note, Mihai's wife Mira tells me that she does not want
any flowers and that his funeral will be back in Romania.
However, she wants people to have a glass of wine in Mihai's memory,
thinking about him as the inspired and fun young man that he was.


Anonymous said...


A very sad loss. Rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Mihai, rest in peace.

Yajun said...

such an unexpected sad news. rip.

Ankur Moitra said...

This is quite shocking news. I missed my chance to see Mihai at stoc, and he had to cancel a trip to Princeton last semester. With someone like Mihai, you always expect to see him sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

Very sad news. RIP, Patrascu.

Anonymous said...

This is truly a great loss of our community. RIP.

Christian said...

RIP, Mihai!

Anonymous said...

also missed my chance to see Mihai at stoc, and thought it would take much longer:(

Anonymous said...

3 years ago I begin my theory study&research by reading Mihai's PhD thesis, and he has always been the example I used to convince other peers how brilliant theorists are...

spiritz said...

Rest in peace :(

jhs said...

Mihai was so present during my time at MIT that I'm having a hard time imagining him being gone. He was a brilliant scientist and a warm human being.

I'm greatly saddened by this news, and will be finding an excellent bottle of red with which to remember him.

Venkat Guruswami said...

I am deeply saddened and shocked by the news; I was hoping against hope that the grim prognosis I heard about would turn around. A terrible loss to the theory world -- who knows what further amazing things he would have proved.

I regret missing Mihai at STOC. I didn't see him in the sessions and had no idea he would be at the business meeting.

I feel privileged to share the Presburger award with Mihai.
Mihai - my thoughts will be with you when I accept the award.

Rest in peace, Mihai Patrascu. You were one of the very best researchers the theory community has seen.

Anonymous said...

This so shocking and saddening ...
I will miss his fun-loving personality and unique voice in our community.

Anonymous said...

What a terrible early loss of a great talent! I'm very sad to hear this. I didn't quite believe it when I heard that this might be coming, so it's quite a shock. --Amit C (coauthor)

Anonymous said...

tragic loss.

Unknown said...

This is terrible, we lost a star. I'm drinking a glass of wine in his memory.

Prasad Raghavendra said...

Very sad news and a big loss to theory. While I heard about Mihai not keeping well, I always hoped he would get better -- its hard to believe he is gone.

Kasper Green Larsen said...

Rest in peace my friend. You have without doubt been the most inspiring person I have yet come across. Your beautiful ideas attracted me to the area of data structure lower bounds, and in that way you have completely shaped my everyday work. Besides work, I feel most fortunate to have had you as a good friend, but unfortunately for a much too short time. I will miss your warm personality and will most certainly have a glass in your memory.

zaumka said...

What a sad day for the theory community. It was a privilege to be one of Mihai's co-authors, and even a bigger privilege to be one of his friends.

Debmalya said...

An indescribable loss. When I came to MIT, Mihai occupied the office next to mine. It was inspiring to see him work, lying on the couch outside our offices and thinking hard... images that I will never forget. I came to know him better over the years, and found him an amazingly passionate yet extremely friendly person. A deep sense of regret that I couldn't meet him during STOC last month. If only I knew this would be my last chance... Mihai, it was a privilege to have known you.

Anonymous said...

This is sad news.

My first contact with Mihai in meatspace was at a summer school about cell probe lower bounds. He presented an older result I had been involved in, and I remember sitting there, fist-pumping, thinking “Yes! This is exactly what I meant.” It was so much clearer and better expressed than anything I had done — my first encounter the Mihai’s almost magical ability to identify the essence of an argument.

Cristian Strat said...

This is very sad news! :( Mihai was an extraordinary person.

Prahladh Harsha said...

This is shocking. I had heard he was not doing well, but did not realize it was this serious.

I knew Mihai since his undergrad days at MIT. He was so full of life and energy. One of the best researchers, we have had.

An immeasurable loss to the entire theory community and to all of us who knew him.

Matthias Gallé said...

This is unexpected.... rest in peace and my condolences to his wife.

Lars Arge said...

Although I knew about Mihai's illness, it makes me really sad to hear about his passing. Mihai visited us here at MADALGO numerous times and all the interesting and fun times with him - here and at other places around the world - are flashing before my eyes. Mihai was not only a *brilliant* researcher, but also a very nice and fun guy to hang out with. One particular situation comes to mind: Mihai was visiting and had to leave one day in the afternoon to catch the train to Copenhagen where he would spend the night in a hotel to catch a very early morning flight home. The same afternoon there was a PhD defense followed by a reception, which here in Denmark usually is a lot of fun and involves a lot of drinking. When Mihai's train time came he asked us to rebook the train for an hour later.... and this repeated itself an hour later, and an hour later, ..... and eventually he ended up catching a night train that brought him to the airport just in time for the flight. Needless to say a lot of fun was had in the extra hours.

Its really a sad day for computer science in general and for the data structures community in particular. My thoughts go to Mihai's family.

Anonymous said...

A great loss of a brilliant mind.

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Mihai, a great loss at a very young age, may God bless him.

Rafee Kamouna.

Rasmus Pagh said...

I also had the privilege to co-author papers with Mihai, and not least enjoy his company on numerous occasions. As a scholar, I will remember him mostly for his incredible ability to identify optimal algorithms by simultaneously studying both upper and lower bounds. As a friend, I will miss Mihai's warmth and sense of humor. Lars already shared a story of beer-sleep tradeoff. During one of Mihai's visits to Copenhagen, I invited him to sightseeing and dinner in Lund. We rushed to the train, and Mihai jumped onto the train just as the doors were closing. Unfortunately, the ticket machine on the station had not accepted any of his credit cards, so he was ticketless. But as it turned out, tickets were never checked on that particular departure, so Mihai had in fact found a path to Lund of cost 0 DKK. Optimal, of course.

My thoughts go to his wife and family.

Kamal Jain said...

i am deeply saddened and shocked. i did not know his struggle with this tough illness.

Qin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Qin said...

Very sad news.

I remember that I had spent almost a whole year reading Mihai's papers on data structure lower bounds when I was a PhD student, and enjoyed the reading at every second. Later we had several enjoyable discussions in Aarhus and various conferences.

Last December I knew Mihai's illness. But this news is so quick and so unexpected. This is great loss to data structure community and TCS in general.

Rest in peace!

Unknown said...

Rest in Peace. So sad for us all, the professionals in theory, personal friends and family. My condoleansces to his family. A very sad day.

Anonymous said...

Dumnezeu sa il Odihneasca in Pace!
Pr. Nicolae
Wakefield, MA

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry to hear this news. RIP mihai.

Anonymous said...

Such an unexpected news! Really sad loss. RIP Patrascu

Alex Lopez-Ortiz said...

I first heard of this very bright student from Romania when visiting Erik at MIT in 2002. Not long after he had quickly made progress on a couple of problems that had stumped Erik and myself.

Over the years we got to spend many a good time together at Dagstuhl workshops and dinners at conferences the world over (particularly SODA) where he would often join our group.

Much like Mohammad Taghi, I often found myself explaining to friends and colleagues who had not had the fortune to meet him what a truly nice person he was.

The last time we coincided was when visiting MADALGO last year. I was feeling rather ill at the time so I overslept and missed his talk on lower bounds. By the time I managed to make my way to campus I was already rather upset about having missed his talk, and hearing the effusive comments from other attendants at lunch time only made me regret even more not having made it in time to the talk.

We quickly caught up and chatted over a cup of coffee, before he left that day to travel elsewhere, if memory doesn't fail me.

He will be missed.

Moses Charikar said...

This is terrible news. I only learnt of Mihai's illness after seeing him at STOC just two weeks ago. It's so hard to digest the news that he is gone. Mihai was such a colorful personality - outspoken in his writing and incredibly nice in person. We've lost a brilliant researcher and the crazy energy and enthusiasm that was so characteristic of Mihai.

Anonymous said...

Rest in peace, Mihai!

Sergey Yekhanin.

Marios Hadjimichael said...

Rest in Peace, Mihai.

Unknown said...

I can't believe it. I don't want to believe it!

Dear Mihai, thanx for all your ideas and results you managed to steal from the Book of Supreme fascist! Thanx for sharing them with us - they will stay here forever and you with them.

Thanx also for all beautiful moments I had honor and luck to spend with you!


Anonymous said...

Rip, Mihai!

EmilPrager said...

Very sad and shocking news! ;-(
Mysterious are the ways of God! :-|
My condolences to his family and friends!

PS 1: What could I say more than this researcher said on another related blog comment (pasted here just in case):
I don’t know why the news shocked me. I even didn’t know him at all and never seen him before.
Maybe just feeling guilty for being approximately the same age, contributing nothing to the world and still being alive!

PS 2: [For the blog author(s)]: Probably not appropriate to suggest that here and in such moments, but for the sake of the accuracy, you might want to correct the misspelled word "Romanania" by "Romania".

Anonymous said...

I knew Mihai while a student in Romania, just after he moved to MIT. I was always impressed by his energy and motivation in pursuing his work. No idea he had brain cancer, so I'm shocked to read these news. RIP, Mihai!

Unknown said...

Very sad. Odihnestete in pace, Mihai.

Anonymous said...

Humankind lost big that day and I don't mean just in terms of theory / programming.

If only more of us could be like him - it is not fair at 29 ... to be taken from us on such weird grounds !

I know probably most of you are in his fieldwork and I don't want to offend no one, but this news shocked me and I simply cannot comprehend. How come ?? Is there an answer ?? Have mercy, God ...

I do appreciate 'though having to read somewhere so far - this blog I mean - a thoughtful initiative from all helping hands.

I'll finish my Master Thesis Paper and I will have that drink tonight !

Such a pity .. Mihai: LIVE ON !

a fellow compatriot,
'though nowhere near him ... by far

Anonymous said...

Very sad and shocking news.

Sa-i fie tarana usoara !