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Zhenxiu Mao

Zhenxiu Mao, a first year graduate student in mathematics, was found dead in his apartment on Feb. 28.Huadong Pang G, a friend who took classes with Mao, said he was an “excellent guy” who generously donated money to poor elementary and high school students in China even though he did not have much money. >

Mao was incredibly smart, Pang said. He had high expectations for himself and would read books for ten hours at a time, barely eating or sleeping.

Zhou Zhang G and Fangyun Yang G, who shared an office with Mao, described him as a cheerful, hardworking, friendly, and easygoing person who liked table tennis.

Although he did not necessarily take the first initiative to meet new people, Mao was a lively, kind, and good friend who was easy to work with, said Xuhua He G, a friend.

Mao was ambitious and “more advanced than most” first-year graduate students, making excellent progress toward a thesis although he was only in his second semester at MIT, said Mathematics Professor Pavel I. Etingof. “He was a wonderful student, academically very successful.”

Funeral services will be planned when Mao’s parents arrive, pending clearance of their visas, Yuhua Hu G said. Services will probably be held early next week, she said.

Mao’s friends and Chinese colleagues in the mathematics department had first suggested holding a fundraiser for his parents, but Mao’s parents and wife told Hu that he was a considerate person who would not have wanted to burden his friends, Hu said. However, they mentioned Mao’s wish to support scholars from his high school in China, and contributions in his memory will likely be directed there. Hu has created a memorial Web site which can be found at

On the Web site, Mao’s parents posted a message in Chinese expressing their sorrow at his passing and praising his unselfishness, successes, and dedication to his family.

Mao is survived by his wife, Jingqi Sun, parents Peijing Mao and Shui Liu, and brother Zhenyi Mao, all of whom live in China, said Hu, a member of the Chinese Students & Scholars Association. Mao had married Sun last summer, He said.