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May Zhou ...04

Mengyao “May” Zhou ’04 was a young woman whose enthusiasm was “infectious,” said Jyoti Tibrewala ’04, and who was definitely “one to know.”

Zhou, 23, was found dead in the trunk of her car Thursday, Jan. 25, after disappearing from the Stanford campus the Saturday before.

Tibrewala, who knew Zhou in McCormick Hall’s Resident-Based Advising during her freshman year and, like Zhou, previously wrote for The Tech, also remembered Zhou as always having a “sympathetic ear.”

People were drawn to her not because of her academic success, but “because of her sympathy her smiling, her maturity, her way of dealing with people,” said Zhou’s colleague and classmate at Stanford, Fernando Gomez Pancorbo.

A member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Zhou graduated from MIT with an SB and MEng in Computer Science in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Known as a stellar student, Zhou went on to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, where she was awarded the prestigious Gabilan Fellowship. According to records from the US Patent and Trademark Office, Zhou, in collaboration with QUALCOMM Inc., had applied for at least three patents on camera phone technology.

Although police have said her cause of death is likely to have been suicide, those who were close to Zhou say they find this explanation difficult to believe.

According to Gomez Pancorbo, most people in the EE department have problems that “are either academic, funding related, or advisor related,” none of which concerned Zhou. Indeed, thanks to her fellowship, Zhou had funding available for 12 quarters; she was sought after by multiple professors who wanted her in their research group, he said.

Zhou’s exceptionality was apparent at a young age. As a student in La Jolla High School in California, she had many friends, not only because she was kind, but also because she knew everything, said her father, Yitong Zhou. She was “smart, good-looking, and always working hard,” her father remembered.

Zhou also had a competitive instinct, always wanting to be the best in what she did, her father said. She did “everything,” was never afraid, and liked to work very hard, he continued. Also, according to her father, she was very organized, writing down what she needed to do and checking it off once she completed it.

“She enjoyed life very much,” said Yitong Zhou, adding that during her spare time, she enjoyed watching TV and movies. About her time at MIT, her father said that “she was really happy there.”

Zhou is survived by her parents and younger sister. A memorial will be held for Zhou tonight at 9 p.m. in the MIT chapel.