Jaemin Rhee PhD ’01 was found dead in her Cambridge apartment over the weekend. Rhee, 33, was a McDonnell-Pew postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The cause of Rhee’s death is still being investigated.
Rhee worked in Professor of Brain and Cognitive Science Steven Pinker’s lab for the past several years. According to Pinker, Rhee was using magnetoencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging to “study language processing in the brain.” Rhee’s work “inspired” Ned Sahin, a graduate student in the lab, Pinker said. Sahin, along with Pinker and Eric Holgrin of the Massachusetts General Hospital, have plans to publish Rhee’s work in a journal.
Ole M. Nielsen G, who was a member of the Ptolemy players, a chamber music ensemble founded by Rhee in 1998, said that Rhee was an “extremely bright person” who was “very gifted ... [in] music and research.”
Nielsen said that Rhee originally founded the musical group under the name “Fluff” because they played “fluffy music.” As the group’s programs came to focus on 20th century music, Rhee changed the group’s name. “‘Fluff’ was no longer appropriate ... because the music we played changed to modern music,” Nielsen said.
Rhee was “extremely cultured ... and read an enormous amount of literature.” For the first performance the group made under their new name, Rhee printed only the hieroglyphs for the name Ptolemy.
“She was a good friend,” Nielsen said.
Originally from Vienna, Rhee went to Harvard for her undergraduate degree. After graduating from Harvard in 1993, Rhee earned her PhD in cognitive neuroscience from MIT in 2001. Rhee is survived by her parents, a brother, and a sister.