Peter Curtin made his passion, warmth, and energy felt by everyone he worked with and befriended.
Curtin, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at MIT who passed away after collapsing while running the Baltimore Marathon on October 10, produced journal-worthy research less than two years into his chemistry PhD program, but still found time to compile and play mix CDs, brew fresh pots of coffee, and maintain office supplies for his lab.
Curtin came to MIT after graduating with highest honors from Princeton in 2008. Daniel G. Nocera, a professor of chemistry and Curtin’s MIT advisor, said Curtin had already made enough contributions as a researcher that his name will appear on articles to be published in the future.
Nocera described the traits that made Curtin such a promising young scientist: “Take somebody with that strong work ethic, raw smarts, and meticulous attention to detail, and you had one powerful researcher,” said Nocera.
A group of colleagues wrote in an essay remembering Curtin, “He always seemed genuinely happy to be doing his work, whether it was cleaning dirty dishes, writing and grading homework problems, or if he had to ‘run a quick NMR’ he was always on the move.”
Curtin’s energy and enthusiasm did not stop outside the lab: “If we ever needed another guy for basketball he would drop what he was doing, play with us, come back and finish his work late, and was always the fastest one on the court.”
Fellow graduate student Emily McLaurin remembers, “Pete was an all around great guy. He was always smiling and pleasant.”
Nocera also said, “I never got a sense of anything negative from him. He only saw the good in people, ignored the bad, and capitalized on the good in terms of what he valued.”
Nocera said that, most of all, he will remember Curtin’s smile.