Gert-Jan Zwart G
Gert-Jan Zwart G, a first-year graduate student in the Program in the Media Arts and Sciences, died of cancer two weeks ago in his native Holland. He was 25.
Zwart was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October and had returned home in November.
During his time at MIT, Zwart worked as a research assistant for the Object-based Media Group in the lab headed by Professor Nicholas Negroponte, the director of the Media Lab. He participated in research dealing with digital television and image processing.
"During his brief time here, he had useful comments and contributions to make on a number of projects," said V. Michael Bove '83, a principal research scientist at the Media Lab and Zwart's academic and research advisor. "All of us are on the one hand really shocked and really saddened, and on the other hand we're very glad we got to know him."
Despite his short stay at MIT, memories of Zwart will remain. "He was a very talented young man," said Ingeborg L. Endter G, Zwart's friend, who also worked at the lab and attended his funeral. "He was very scientific and analytic, and was also a very warm and gentle person."
"It was a great loss to many people here to have such a promising young person die," Endter said.
"He had a very constructivist outlook on life, very driven, very ready to change and challenge, to improve," said Joanna M. Berzowski G, a friend of Zwart who worked at the lab and attended the funeral. "He was becoming known around the lab for his unusually imaginative ideas."
"He was so clearly determined to contribute," said Janet E. Cahn G, a friend who also attended the funeral. "He was also so comfortable to talk to and so alive, which is why he made an impression in the short time he was here."
Zwart was previously employed at IBM and was hired by Michael Lucente '86, who encouraged him to study at MIT. After working as an intern during the summer of 1996, Lucente was very impressed with him. "He was so brilliant and capable and enthusiastic, I kept him indefinitely," Lucente said in a letter to President Charles M. Vest.
"He was very enthusiastic about coming to the Media Lab," said Pascal R. Chesnais G, Zwart's officemate and friend. "He really wanted to be a part of MIT. He's extremely friendly and people really loved him here. He had a lot of friends here at the Media Lab and integrated very well with the things that went on here."
Three MIT students attended the funeral on January 24. Even in the last days of his life, he helped to plan his funeral. "Even in the end [after learning of his sickness], he was so dynamic and so involved with everything that went on," Chesnais said.
"His strength and courage while dealing with his cancer left many of us in deep awe," Berzowski said. "I will never forget nor cease to admire his objective, scientific approach to the disease, and the strength of his will."
In his self-written obituary, Zwart said "Gert-Jan still had so many plans."
"The media lab administration was very, very supportive for the family," Endter said. "I know that the family is very appreciative of the kind of support and compassion that the Media Lab people have given."
A web site in his memory has been set up by his friends and family.
Zwart is survived by his parents, Jan and Hanny, his sister Marlies, and his twin brother Loek.